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Succession: here comes the urgency
Britain's House of Commons has published a briefing paper on the Succession to the Crown Bill. It includes a number of hints on how the succession law change is going to play out, not just in the UK but also in New Zealand. It seems the UK government wants to get the succession issue out of the way as quickly as possible. The paper includes an extensive discussion on how to fast-track the changes.
No doubt this means the states where the British monarch remains head of State will then follow suit, also under urgency. For New Zealand, this is likely to mean amending section 5 of our Constitution Act 1986:
Under section 5 of New Zealand’s Constitution Act 1986 the succession is explicitly linked to the UK Act of Settlement 1700, but with reference to other laws on succession:
- The death of the Sovereign shall have the effect of transferring all the functions, duties, powers, authorities, rights, privileges, and dignities belonging to the Crown to the Sovereign's successor, as determined in accordance with the enactment of the Parliament of England intituled The Act of Settlement (12 & 13 Will 3, c2) and any other law relating to the succession to the Throne, but shall otherwise have no effect in law for any purpose.
If New Zealand were to adopt a new rule of succession, it would presumably have to rely on the phrase “any other law relating to succession to the Throne,” or else amend this provision. In principle, amendment would be a simple matter of a majority in the House of Representatives voting for an amendment bill. It would be open to the Government of New Zealand to hold a referendum on this if it wished, though there is no requirement for it to do so.
Great - a rush job to patch up our constitution, to suit the British royals. It's not hard to figure out why they're doing this - for Kate and Wills baby, due in the middle of this year. Of course, we can't dispute the changes. But the amount of effort that has gone into drafting the law (including, as I predicted, the Government of Canada finding a way to dance around the issue of making changes to the "office of the Queen" - I wonder how many hours the lawyers took to come up with an argument for that one?) should have gone towards giving one of the babies born in New Zealand a shot at being head o State - or at least giving us the right to choose.