Politics: Evaluation of UK Constitutional Reforms since 1997

The different reforms, why they were put in place, and did they go too far or not far enough, with both sides of the argument.

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Reform Justifications Reform has been inadequate ­ Reform has gone too far ­
'liberal' view 'conservative' view
Devolution ­ -Concerns about over-centralisation. -Parliamentary Sovereignty -Concerns about disintegration of the
Scotland, NI and -Laws were being made in Westminster means that devolved powers UK
Wales given their but applied to whole nation. can be taken back. -Unfairness between laws made in
own assemblies -Majority party in Britain as a whole -Devolved powers should be different states e.g. students in
and some form of might not reflect majority party in safeguarded. Scotland have no Uni tuition fees
primary Scotland/Wales, so representation -Uneven power distribution whereas they have been increased in
legislative concerns. between devolved states ­ England.
powers. between the Scottish and Welsh -Creates a demand for further
Assemblies for example. powers for devolved states.
-West Lothian question ­ MPs from
devolved states can vote on issues
affecting England but not the other
way round.
Electoral reform -Lack of proportionality and perceived -Improved representation in -Having numerous different electoral
­ Alternative unfairness associated with the FPTP some areas systems for different assemblies
voting systems for voting system. -Nothing has been done about creates confusion.
devolved most important elections at
assemblies. Westminster, Labour failed to
address it.
Human Rights -Uncodified constitution means rights -Human Rights Act not -Offers too much power to judges
Act ­ European aren't adequately protected. entrenched, can be removed by who are unelected, over politicians
Convention of -Government had broken ECHR numerous future parliaments. who are elected and accountable.
Human Rights times (corporal punishment, telephone -Doesn't constitute fill bill of -Creates danger of politicising the
written into tapping etc) rights; judges can only issue a judiciary.
statute law. -Expensive and complex to appeal to the declaration of incompatibility, -Creates potential for conflict
ECHR Strasbourg courts. not overturn legislation. between judges and politicians.
-Reform advocates sensed a real need for -E.g. controversial rulings over
means of protecting rights through UK anti-terrorism legislation.

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Abolition of role -Post goes against the principle of -Supreme Court still only holds -Lord Chancellor had been one of the
of Lord separation of powers; Lord Chancellor very limited powers due to oldest roles in UK political system
Chancellor and was cabinet member, speaker of Lords Parliamentary sovereignty. without any real problems - 'If it ain't
creation of a and most senior UK judge. broke, don't fix it'.
Supreme Court. -Compromised judicial independence.…read more

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Some issues are too politically
complex to offer a vote on (e.g. In
or out of the EU.…read more


Old Sir

This a useful, brief and concise summary of recent constitutional reforms which students might find useful as a starting-point for more in-depth learning of case studies in order to address assessment objective 2, (evaluation and analysis). However, in the section referring to devolution I would advise that the word states (referring to Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland) is replaced with regions. (At least until after the outcome of the 2014 Scottish referendum.)

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