Act of Settlement

I represent Arundel, sometimes described as the seat of Catholicism in England, home to the nation's premier lay Catholic, the Duke of Norfolk, and a magnificent Catholic Cathedral.

No doubt many of my constituents are Catholics, too.  So I respectfully hesitate before saying this, but I really don't think that the Government's plans to amend the Act of Settlement - which bars the Monarch from being a Catholic, or marrying one - is a good use of time.

This week the Scottish Secretary, Jim Murphy, suggested that Jack Straw, my opposite number, is "working hard" on changes to the Act.  I would suggest that, with serious prison overcrowding leading to the early release of over 40,000 prisoners, the Justice Secretary has better things to do.  But apparently he is "pretty focused" on changing the law of succession.

Of course it sounds more than reasonable not to discriminate against Catholics.  But this is to ignore our history and not a little bloodshed that made it.  The implications for our established Church of England are profound.  Another complication is that, since the Monarch is head of the Commonwealth, amending the succession would also require the consent of those nations.

Tony Blair's overnight attempt to abolish the ancient office of Lord Chancellor, without even consulting senior judges, failed.  He didn't understand the implications of what he was doing.  Too often the Government has pulled blindly at the wires of our constitution, oblivious to what they might disconnect.  This isn't careful reform - it's constitutional vandalism.

As if saving the world wasn't enough, we're told that the Prime Minister's Special Adviser, no less, is now looking at this issue.  This week the pound has plummeted further, the economy has shrunk again and 30,000 Woolworths employees now see their jobs at serious risk.

The economy is in deep trouble, and I suggest that dealing with it should be the Government's priority, not casually unpicking 300 years of history.

Michelle Taylor