Letter: Advice on the future of the Queen

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Sir: Matthew Symonds ('John Major's duty to his Queen', 10 September) is to be congratulated on his sensible suggestions for reforming the monarchy. However his ideas - that the Civil List should be restricted and that the Queen's immunity from taxation on her private income should be ended - do not address the central issue. The real question is: how can democratic people living in the last decade of the 20th century possibly justify the principle of heredity as the basis for selecting their head of state?

The fact is, we cannot. So, instead of tinkering with the system, in an attempt to keep the old monarchical show on the road, we should instead start now the process of thinking about Britain as a republic. We need to think about how a transition to a republic can come about; about which type of republic (US? French? German? Irish?); about how republican principles such as the separation of powers, the separation of church and state and the entrenching of citizens' rights, can be practically implemented; and about how it all fits into the evolving institutions of Europe.

Planning for this necessary and inevitable modernisation of our constitution should be one of the primary tasks of this generation of politicians. However, MPs have been strangely dumb on the question of criticising (let alone replacing) the monarchy - even to the point of agreeing, in this 'forum of the nation', to a 'code of silence'. However, now that public opinion is changing, we should pressure our legislators to institute a great debate on the issue. In this great debate I hope they will resist Mr Symonds's tinkering.



Chairman, Republic

London, W14

11 September