UK royal succession challenge passes first test

Tue Jan 18, 2011 1:20pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters) - A bid to abolish a 300-year-old law asserting the primacy of male heirs to the British throne passed its first parliamentary hurdle Tuesday but the government played down hopes any resolution would come soon.

The provisions of the 1701 Act of Settlement would discriminate against any daughter born to Prince William and his fiancée Kate Middleton, who are due to marry in April.

Lawmaker Keith Vaz, from the opposition Labor Party, used a special parliamentary procedure to win permission to introduce draft legislation to remove the distinction between the sexes in determining the royal succession.

Vaz's measure stands little chance of becoming law because of limited parliamentary time.

Even if it gained parliamentary approval, the government warned that changing the ancient law would not be straightforward.

Any amendment to the succession legislation would also need the agreement of 15 independent British Commonwealth countries which share Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign.

Prince William, 28, is the eldest son of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. As such, William is second-in-line to the crown.

(Reporting by Tim Castle, editing by Paul Casciato)

<p>Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton (L) pose for a photograph in St. James's Palace, central London November 16, 2010. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett</p>