The Queen admits monarchy must evolve to survive

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The Independent Online

Parliament and the monarchy must evolve if they are to serve the needs of Britain in the 21st century, the Queen said yesterday in her golden jubilee address to the two houses of parliament.

Parliament and the monarchy must evolve if they are to serve the needs of Britain in the 21st century, the Queen said yesterday in her golden jubilee address to the two houses of parliament.

She acknowledged the need for reform and vowed to serve the nation "through the changing times ahead".

Speaking in Westminster Hall to a rare session of both houses, the Queen praised traditional values "etched across our history". But in a speech interpreted as radical and progressive, she praised the richness of Britain's multicultural society, referring to the nation's "pride in our tradition of fairness and tolerance". She told the 1,800-strong audience that "the consolidation of our richly multicultural and multifaith society, a major development since 1952, is being achieved remarkably peacefully and with much goodwill".

The speech, the fifth address to both houses in the Queen's 50 years on the throne, marks the official start of her jubilee celebrations.

She spoke of constant change over the past half century, but pointed to the "long and proud history" that provided a "trusted framework of stability and continuity".

She said: "What endure are the characteristics that mark our identity as a nation and the timeless values that guide us. These values find expression in our national institutions, including the monarchy and Parliament, institutions which in turn must continue to evolve if they are to provide effective beacons of trust and unity."

Her comments provoked calls for a national debate on reform of the monarchy.

Michael Jacobs, the general secretary of the Fabian Society, called for talks on the role and funding of the monarchy, while Graham Allen, the Labour MP for Nottingham North and a campaigner on constitutional issues, said: "The Queen's speech this morning showed a radical edge which, had it been made by a Labour backbencher, would have precluded them from a Blair cabinet. Talk of a need to reform the monarchy and Parliament needs to be acted upon not only by MPs but by the Royal Family itself."

The Queen's statement that she would not abdicate was welcomed. Lord St John of Fawsley, a constitutional expert, said: "There was speculation that she mightn't continue on the throne, and the Queen clearly decided it was much better to dispose of it, rather than let it rumble on. I am delighted she is to continue. The down side of this is that Prince Charles's reign would look as though it might not be a long one, which would be a great pity, as I think he is liable to be one of our greatest kings."

Lord Blake, a constitutional historian, said: "I think she has regarded it as her duty to carry on with the trust she has been given by the nation, as long as her health is good and she is capable of doing so."

In her speech, the Queen said she had "witnessed the transformation of the international landscape through which this country must chart its course: the emergence of the Commonwealth; the growth of the European Union; the end of the Cold War; and now the dark threat of international terrorism".

She added: "Change has become a constant; managing it has become an expanding discipline. The way we embrace it defines our future."

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, referred to the death of Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother. "We hope that the sadness of the early months of this year will begin to fade in the warmth of the affection of your people," he said. The Speaker, Michael Martin, said the monarchy was a "beacon of stability".

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