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Royal Succession Bill
Token changes are about to be made to the British monarchy to help its chances of survival. Changes to the succession to the throne will mean there’s no more feudal discrimination against female royals while some minor changes are being made to the rules around religion. The changes are too little, too late. They still mean that no New Zealander can ever be head of State of New Zealand. They will leave in place discrimination against Catholics. They mean New Zealand won’t have an independent head of State.
What’s this got to do with New Zealand?
The changes in the UK affect New Zealand’s constitution because the British monarch is New Zealand’s monarch, the “Queen of New Zealand”. When the reigning monarch dies or abdicates the throne, special rules come into play. These rules are set out in section 5(1) of New Zealand’s Constitution Act 1986:
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, c. 2) and any other law relating to the succession to the Throne, but shall otherwise have no effect in law for any purpose.
What this means is that the person who succeeds the Queen as monarch is determined by an old law known as The Act of Settlement, which is part of New Zealand law under the Imperial Laws Application Act 1988.
To enact the UK’s changes to the succession rules, the Act of Settlement as part of New Zealand law will need to be amended. A House of Commons report on the UK legislation states:
If New Zealand were to adopt a new rule of succession, it would presumably have to rely on the [Constitution Act 1986] 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.
The Bill doesn't amend our Constitution Act 1986.
- Our blog posts on the succession law changes
- Parliament's page on the succession changes
- Text of the Royal Succession Bill
- Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet annual report 2012, discussing succession advice costs.