Plans to end the 300-year-long ban on Roman Catholics taking the throne and on eldest daughters succeeding as monarch are being seriously considered by Downing Street, it was reported today.
The Guardian said the constitutional reforms were included in proposals drawn up for Prime Minister Gordon Brown by Labour MP Chris Bryant.
According to the newspaper, which has long campaigned for the changes, the Government would like to see them implemented quickly if Labour won a fourth term at the next general election.
Legislation including the 1701 Act of Settlement bars all Catholics and anyone married to a Catholic from reigning and forces any monarch coming to the throne to reject Catholicism.
The proposals also include limiting the powers of the privy council, in particular its role as arbiter in disputes between Scotland or Wales and the UK government.
The plans were drafted by Chris Bryant, the MP who was charged by Gordon Brown with reviewing the constitution. They are with the prime minister's new adviser on the constitution, Wilf Stevenson.
Sources said No 10 would like the legislation to be passed quickly in a fourth term and Bryant briefed constitutional pressure groups on the plans at a private seminar in Manchester this week.
Ministers have long thought it anomalous that it is unlawful for a Catholic to be monarch but have not had the political will to risk reforming the law.
The 1688 Bill of Rights , the Act of Settlement in 1701 and Act of Union in 1707 - reinforced by the provisions of the Coronation Oath Act 1688 - effectively excluded Catholics or their spouses from the succession and provided for the Protestant succession.
Neither Catholics nor those who marry them nor those born to them out of wedlock may be in the line of succession.
The law also requires the monarch on accession to make before parliament a declaration rejecting Catholicism.
Though the Act of Settlement remains a cornerstone of the British constitution, critics have long argued about its relevance in the 21st century, saying it institutionalises religious discrimination and male primogeniture.