Succession Bill clears the Commons

New laws allowing a first born daughter to succeed the throne have cleared the Commons after only two days of debate in the House of Commons.

The Succession of the Crown Bill, which also permits an heir to the throne to marry a Catholic, received an unopposed third reading and will go to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

The changes will mean that if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first child, expected in July, is a girl, she can become monarch even if she later has younger brothers.

But while an heir to the throne will be able to marry a Catholic, the new laws will still exclude Catholics from succeeding the throne.

Tory North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg earlier tried to change the Bill so that Catholics could succeed the throne. He described the current rules as a "grating unfairness", adding that he thought the Church of England could still be protected as the established church in the UK.

But Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith said there was no public support to allow Catholics to succeed to the throne. Introducing such a fundamental change would also undermine the Church of England at a time when "instability was not welcome", she said.

Moving the Bill's third reading, deputy Commons leader Tom Brake said it was a "remarkable achievement" the Government had managed to bring the changes in across the Commonwealth so quickly.

He said: "The Succession to the Crown Bill is about equality. The prime ministers of the 16 Commonwealth nations of whom Her Majesty the Queen is head of state agreed during their meeting in Perth in 2011 to work together towards a common approach to amending the rules of succession to their respective crowns.

"The effect of the proposed change is if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a daughter and then a son, the daughter would precede the son in the line of succession.

"I'm proud this Bill will remove two long-standing pieces of discrimination and modernise and affirm the place of our constitutional monarchy. As we look forward to the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's child, we can also celebrate that whether the baby is a boy or a girl, they will have an equal claim to the throne."