The Making of Modern Britain 1951-2007; Section 6 The ear of New Labour, 1997-2007


Section 6 (1997-2007)- 


  • Devolution-

    • Blair committed his party to devolution for Scotland & Wales if their populations wanted it

    • Both held referendums in 97 60% socts favour but 1% majority favour in Wales 

    • 1999 saw created of Scotish & Wlesh Assemblies: both run own domestic affairs

    • Scotland has more control over taxes 

  • House of lord reform-

    • Before, it was selected & seems an anachronism in the 21st century 

    • Reform began in 2000, Hereditary peers no longer allowed to sit in Lords but replaced by more and more life peers appointed by the Blair administration

    • Despite various suggestions of a “people's chamber” with peers somehow elated by popular choice, the situation remained 

    • House of Lords was at best partially reformed

  • Citizen’s rights-

    • A freedom of Information Act was passed in 2000

    • This gave people the right to request information from public bodies, by 2006 over 100,000 requests were being made each year 

    • Blair later described this as a mistake and himself as a ‘naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop’ for passing it, he argued that he had not realised its implications because he had only just become prime minister but that its existence would prevent politicians from making difficult decision because they feared their actions would become public knowledge

    • The Europeans Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into British law through the Human Rights Act in 1998 however some difficulties in interpreting it by judges eg in 2004 the gov was forced to amend anti-terrorist legislation which allowed the indefinite detainment of UK non-nationals suspected of terrorist activities because the House of Lords ruled that this was incompatible with the Act 

  • NI: 

    • Wanted to bring peace

    • Good Friday Agreement signed 1998

    • NI stay in UK if citizen wanted, Irish Republic remove all claims to NI

    • A NI assembly set up to power share a government 

    • All paramilitary prisoners be released within 2 years 

    • Made possible by:all govs working together, Sinn Fein accepted need to decommission weapons

    • Problems:IRA breakaway group killed 28 ppl in Omagh bomb, DUP did not join assembly, assembly suspended due to lack of trust

    • However St Andrew’s agreement 2006, better power sharing and DUP involved


  • Seemed to manage the economy well - led by Gordon Brown, time of low inflation & unemployment 

  • Made Bank of England responsible for setting interest rates – reduced gov interference

  • Although income taxes remained low, various benefits were removed & other taxes increased

  • The gov accepted the Social Chapter, introduced a minimum wage & higher pensions

  • Spending in education & healthcare was maintained

  • Brown took over more controversial decisions:

    • When the value of gold fell on international markets (between 99-02) – Brown sold 13mn ounces of British gold – this was a mistake as the value was recovered (Britain had lost US $3bn by 2005)

    • to meet the shortfall in gov spending he borrowed heavily from the banks – this meant problems in the later years when recession hit & banks demanded repayment

  • Economic development was put on the backfoot by:

    • an outbreak


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