How effectively has the UK constitution been reformed since 1997? 2

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How effectively has the UK constitution been reformed since 1997 (40 marks)
Draft 2
The following reforms were made after 1997 -- devolution to Scotland and Wales, the passage of
the Human Rights Act and the Freedom of information Act, the reform of the House of Lords and the
introduction of electoral reform in the devolved systems. This essay will examine how effective they
have been.
Devolution was the most important reform. This transferred lots of powers to Scotland and Wales.
This was designed to prevent Scotland and Wales breaking away from the UK because of an upsurge
of nationalist feeling. This has been an effective reform because Scotland and Wales are still part of
the UK and the nationalist parties have been doing badly in elections. There are also no possibilities
that these reforms will be repealed. On the other hand there is still the West Lothian Question to
consider, so this has been less effective. Some people also claim that this is effective because they
use proportional representation and PR is a much more effective electoral system.
The Human Rights Act has been the most successful and effective reform. This has extended and
safeguarded rights in Britain. Now citizens can take cases to the courts if they feel that their rights
have been infringed. Before the Act it was difficult and expensive to take cases to the European
courts but now it is possible to go to the UK High Court and have the case heard. The only problem
with the HRA is that it does not apply to Parliament and so it is still possible for laws to be passed
which will abuse our rights, for example the detention of terrorist suspects who have not been tried
properly. But many people have reason to thank the Human Rights Act.
The reform of the House of Lords has been a total failure and so has been ineffective. The politicians
have failed to introduce a properly elected second chamber and we still have hereditary peers and
appointed life peers who are mostly political cronies. The Lords is still dominated by the House of
Commons and it has very little impact on legislation or on government power. It is also a totally
undemocratic institution.
The most effective reform, strangely, has been electoral reform, at least for the devolved
governments. As we know, the referendum on AV failed and so was a failed reform. However, in
Scotland and Wales proportional representation has been very effective. It has created more
proportional systems in those countries and has meant that small parties such as the SNP, Plaid Cymru
and the Lib Dems have had their fair share of representatives. The systems are also very popular.
We now have to ask how effective the reforms have been. The problem is that so many important
things have not been done. The Lords has not been properly reformed and electoral reform for
general elections has completely failed. The Human Rights Act has been quite successful but it is still
not strong enough and causes many problems for government. There is also the question of why the
constitution has not been properly codified. Because the constitution is uncodified it is not properly
safeguarded and is far too flexible.
The constitutional reform programme has therefore mostly failed because so many necessary
reforms have been omitted.


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