Constitutional reform under New Labour (1997-2010)

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  • Constitutional reform under New Labour (1997-2010)
    • Parliament
      • Lords reform saw all but 92 hereditary peers lose their right to sit and vote in the vhamber (the House of Lords Act (1999). A second stage of Lords reform stalled in 2003 when Parliament rejected all eight models for a reformed chamber. Attempts to revive the reform process in 2007 again ran aground when the Commons voted for an entirely elected second chamber and the Lords gave its support to an entirely appointed model. As New Labour left in 2010, Lords reform was still essentially where it was following the House of Lords Act (1999).
    • Elections and referendums
      • The Jenkins Commission's suggestion that AV+ should be adopted for general elections was not acted upon, though hybrid systems were instituted in other UK elections (AMS) in elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Labour made extensive use of referendums. It also established an independent Electoral Commission under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA (2000). This body was charged with the task of monitoring elections, regulating party funding, expenditure and organising referendums.
    • Rights and reform of the judiciary
      • The Human Rights Act (HRA,1998) incorporated most of the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. This meant that citizens could seek redress in UK courts without having to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA (2000) gave citizens the right to request information held by public bodies. The Constitutional Reform Act (2005) established a new UK Supreme Court which took on virtually all of the judicial roles previously performed by the House of Lords. This new court opened for business in October 2009. The Act also saw changes to the way in which most senior judges are appointed, with the establishment of an independent Judicial Appointments Commission.
    • Devolution
      • A Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly were established. London was given an elected mayor, a strategic authority (the Greater London Authority) and a 25 member elected assembly (The Greater London Assembly). The Northern Ireland Act (1998) established a Northern Ireland Assembly and power-sharing executive.
    • Manifesto
      • Labour's return to office in 1997, following 18 years in opposition, brought the prospect of a wide-ranging programme of constitutional reform. The party's general election manifesto in 1997 promised a number of significant measures, not least the possibility of House of Lords reform and a change to the first-past-the-post (simple plurality) system under which UK general elections are held. The sheer scale of Labour's victory in 1997 - the party was returned with a 179-seat Commons majority - gave it a massive popular mandate to carry such proposals into law.
    • New constitutional settlement
      • For many on the liberal left, Labour's return to office in 1997 appeared to offer the prospect of an entirely new constitutional settlement, perhaps comprising of a codified constitution, a UK bill of rights, an upper elected chamber, a more proportional system for use in elections to the Westminster Parliament, state funding of political parties, reform of the monarchy. Set against such high expectations, the reforms introduced by the party during its first decade in office were likely to be judged as one of disappointment - far too many halfway horses and unfinished projects.However, one should not underestimate the significant changes that were made.


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