Benn revives Bill to replace monarch with a president

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Indy Politics
AN ELECTED president would replace the Queen as head of state under the Commonwealth of Britain Bill, which is to be reintroduced in the Commons on Monday by Tony Benn.

The Bill, which would also sweep away the House of Lords, lower the voting age to 16 and set up national parliaments for England, Scotland and Wales, stands no chance of becoming law but covers issues, notably the role of the monarchy, which a growing number of MPs want to discuss.

One Shadow Cabinet member said such a debate would be 'very useful'. The monarchy had been 'cocooned in mystery and false pretension' he said, although he stopped short of advocating Mr Benn's republican alternative.

But Government whips have ruled out allocating any time for a debate on the monarchy.

A leading article in Tribune, the Labour independent weekly, published yesterday, condemned the 'sycophantic expressions of concern' from all MPs, except a handful of left-wingers, after Wednesday's statement on the separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales. In an implicit rebuke to John Smith, the Labour leader, the newspaper said that however repellent they found 'the candyfloss and waste' of the House of Windsor, politicians of all parties felt they had to pander to what they perceived as widespread royalism among voters.

Mr Benn's Bill would establish a commonwealth of England, Scotland and Wales. Its parliament would comprise the Commons and a second chamber called the House of the People. Judges would have to be confirmed and magistrates elected.

British jurisdiction in Northern Ireland would end, Church and state would be separated and the Honours List would be replaced by a means of recognising service to the community.

The former Labour Cabinet minister always emphasises that he has no personal animosity to the Queen and, indeed, under his plan she could continue to live in Buckingham Palace - but with no constitutional role.

Since his Bill was presented in the last Parliament, one of its clauses requiring the Queen to pay income tax on her earnings has, in effect, been conceded. According to Mr Benn, the original Bill has been distributed worldwide and is even a set text for some college courses.

(Photograph omitted)