Francis Maude: historic change to Succession law

Last week I wrote about the New Year Honours List. I try to vary the focus of this column between my two roles, that of MP for Horsham and Minister for the Cabinet Office, and I thought this week, readers might be interested in some other news from 70 Whitehall.

The first of which is historic – the Succession to the Crown Bill. This piece of legislation, which was introduced to the Commons before Christmas, will change the rules as to who can become or marry a monarch.

Back in October 2011, David Cameron announced that, with the agreement of the 15 other Commonwealth Realms of which the Queen is also Head of State, the rules would be changed, putting an end to the system of male preference primogeniture and also putting an end to the bar on those who marry Roman Catholics from succeeding to the throne.

The necessary stages of the legislative process will be fast-tracked in the coming months and mean that any future heir to the throne – including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby – will not be displaced simply because she is a girl and will be free to marry a Catholic.

We really are watching history unfold before our eyes and it’s a fascinating issue.

Just before Christmas we published a report called ‘Public Bodies 2012’ which shows the progress we’ve made on our quango reform programme. It’s now half way through and, across Government, we believe it will save the public purse at least £2.6bn by 2015. This has been achieved by reducing duplication, waste and unnecessary bureaucracy and it’s great for the economy.

In all, since May 2010, the number of quangos has been reduced by 200 and we’re looking at reducing the total workforce of these bodies by 29 per cent - even more than expected.

For the first time, the report is being released with an e-searchable form of the directory of quangos, meaning members of the public can quickly search for information about public bodies. It’s so much more open and transparent.

I just thought I’d make clear, though, that public bodies or quangos are not inherently bad – many public bodies are already implementing innovative measures that are leading to increased savings and better quality services to taxpayer. To take one example, the responsibility for running the country’s canals and waterways has been transferred to a charity, the Canals and Waterways Trust. A radical move but it means that volunteers and local communities have been able to take more responsibility for their local stretches of water.

Next week, I’ll give readers an account of a day of visits in and around Horsham.