Constitutional Reform Since 1997 Has Not Gone Far Enough

1546 words - 7 pages

Constitutional reform is the process whereby the fundamental nature of the system of government is changed, or change is proposed. Following their strong victory in the 1997 election, the Labour party have made moves and provisions towards constitutional reform. The two prime ministers; Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have made much progress in reform in the life span of the Labour government from 1997 to 2010, for example devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as the Human Rights Act. They made provision for reform in four main areas: modernisation, restoration of rights, democratisation and decentralisation. The coalition formed in 2010 between the Conservatives and the ...view middle of the document...

The coalition government have also failed to make moves towards modernising the House of Lords and so it remains an unaccountable, undemocratic aspect of the government. Therefore, there is much that can be done towards constitutional reform.
However, the modernisation process has done much in recent years. This can be illustrated by the separation of powers by creating the Supreme Court, which was set up in 2009. The removal of the 12 law lords to become Supreme Court justices means that the House of Lords are no longer the highest court of appeal. In addition, since 2005 there has been reform of the position of the Chancellor. This once united the three branches of the state, yet it has now been separated. The Chancellor is now merely a member of the executive. Furthermore, there have been significant modernising reforms within the House of Commons in recent years. These have included the increase in use of Westminster hall for debates, with the publication of bills two weeks in advance to increase scrutiny. Therefore these reforms have strengthened the UK constitution. In addition, there has been weak reform with the protection of rights. Indeed, the human rights act (1998) is merely semi-entrenched. This means that its provisions can be put aside by Parliament, which has been done through the Declaration of incompatibility. The government can ask Parliament to pass legislation which infringes with the human rights act, under cases of national security. This was the case with the Terrorism act (2001) - emergency legislation passed in two days which suspended the Habeas Corpus Act and could have someone imprisoned indefinitely. In addition, the Freedom of Information Act (2000), was to allow for the government to become more open and transparent by allowing for citizens to see documents which affect them. An infamous example of this is the parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009 in which it was revealed by the Daily Telegraph the expenses claims made by MPs over a number of years. However, the Justice Secretary can veto requests if they believe that it hinders with national security. This was the case with the cabinet meetings over the Iraq War and Devolution. Therefore it is clear that more can be done for the protection of our rights, possibly by creating a Bill of Rights, which would entrench citizen’s rights clearer. The coalition government made moves to modernise the electoral system by having a referendum vote in 2011 to ask the public if it should be changed to the Alternative Vote as opposed to the current First Past the Post system. The public said a resounding ‘NO’ and so no reform took place. Furthermore, the coalition government also introduced fixed term parliaments in an effort to bring the British constitution up in line with that of other developed countries in the world. It is clear that reform of the constitution has not gone far enough, as our rights are still at risk as they are not entrenched like they are in other...

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