• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12
  13. 13
  14. 14
  15. 15
  16. 16
  17. 17
  18. 18
  19. 19

How is Britain's constitution changing in the 21st century?

Extracts from this document...


How is Britain's constitution changing in the 21st century? Introduction: Tony Blair's inception as Prime Minister in May 1997 prompted constitutional change due to manifesto commitment. Labour's first term introduced the first wave of alterations to the traditional document. Subsequently the return of the Labour government in June 2001 heralds a second wave of changes to the British constitution. I believe that the onset of this century will introduce a new phase for the British constitution as 'the momentum continues' (Hazell et al., 2000, 260). This is why I have chosen to investigate such a topic, as it is so relevant on the contemporary stage. A constitution is a body of fundamental laws of a state, which lays down the system of government and serves to define the relations of the legislature, executive and judiciary to each other and the citizen. The UK constitution does not exist as a single document but as an amassment of customs and precedents, together with laws defining certain aspects. In the essay I am going to focus on changing spheres which I believe will influence most upon the constitution. My first focus will be Europe, as it covers such a wealth of potential to modify the constitution. Europe acts as a supranational body on Britain and has assent over some British legislation. Subsisting under the umbrella of the European Union (E.U.) has certainly impinged upon the British constitution in the twentieth century and will continue to do so. Some parts of Europe have suggested a European super state with a federal organisation, which essentially challenges the unitary notion of which the constitution exacts Britain to be. Calls for a European constitution by some E.U. members challenges the notion of Britain having an unwritten and subsequently uncodified constitution. Therefore Europe has consequences on the British constitution. Demands for a Bill of Rights in the British constitution may have been secured by the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which acts as an international guideline on human rights. ...read more.


It smacks of a McCarthy stained state, and is in direct contention to a democracy and ultimately the idea of a constitution. Devolution and the Scottish Parliament A favoured part of New Labour's constitutional reform programme was devolution to Scotland, Wales and the Greater London Assembly. This has changed the form of Britain. Arguably Britain is still an unitary state though certain amounts of power have been devolved to these sub-national bodies, yet Westminster retains parliamentary sovereignty. As easily as this power was devolved, it can be retained. The main focus of constitutional implications will be the Scottish Parliament, though Wales does have some extent of power. Devolution is in direct contrast to the question of Europe usurping Britain's sovereignty. Westminster has been active in dispensing power to national administrations. The capital also has a measure of power issued to it; that of the Greater London Assembly. The moves to give away power does have huge consequences. Westminster 'retains absolute sovereignty, it can choose to legislate on whatever it likes' (Cowley, 2000, 121). However this can be questioned by the use of referenda. If a government is deemed to be legitimate, the use of referendum means that its result is likely to be binding. It is unlikely that central government would retain the powers now vested in the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Greater London Assembly, especially as devolution has been consecrated by referenda. The people have voted, and the government would be unwise to challenge this validity. Therefore I cannot agree with Bogdanor when he claims that 'too great a concern was shown to preserve the shell of parliamentary sovereignty' (Bogdanor, 2001, 148). I think that it would be unlikely that a government would take back power it has given away, especially when Europe seems to intensified national feelings for some kind of independence. Studlar recognises the Scottish National Party's committal for independence in Scotland. ...read more.


The ECHR has been fostered but skirted in some cases post-September eleventh. Power has been devolved beyond the Celtic borders, but not to England or its regions. The House of Lords has faced part change, but the power-wielding Commons has been excused. The liberal first draft of legislation relating to F.O.I. was discarded, and in its place was a rather more restricting document. Evidently, the constitution is moderately changing to the Prime Minister's strategy. Johnson considers that there has been a rejection of reforms that would threaten to impose genuine checks on the political discretion of an over-mighty executive acting in the name of a plaint parliamentary majority in the House of Commons (Johnson, 2000, 348-349). Rather than reforming the constitution, I believe Blair is renewing it to his advantage. It would be ludicrous for Blair to impose constitutional reform that would serve to expose and threaten his firm grip on power. The twenty first century has seen Blair assure his second term in power. Sweeping constitutional reform has been avoided, whereas limited changes are observable. Until a political party is courageous enough to push for reforms that will significantly alter the nature of the constitution, it will be plied as an instrument to ensure an executive's dominance. The contemporary political climate is far removed from that in 1997. When New Labour took power, the constitution was ripe for change. Respect for Parliament had fallen to an all-time low; Scotland was estranged due to a foisted Conservative dominance; civil rights were unguarded and above all, Britain's constitution had for too long instated too much power in the unchecked executive. Blair's changes have worked to appease these original problems, however as his popularity wanes, it will become apparent of his cautious reforms. As Western Europe integrates further, its implications on Britain will be profound. Europe has the ability to change the constitutional structure of Britain, but it is not presented as imperative at the moment. At present the constitution serves to preserve Blair's administration. However as a new political era in Europe approaches, I believe the British constitution will be regarded as defunct. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level United States section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level United States essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    "The Main Difference Between the UK And US Constitution Is That One Is Flexible ...

    4 star(s)

    Tom Bright In theory legal sovereignty resides in parliament, but there is some debate on how much legal sovereignty has been transferred to the European Union (EU) because EU laws are superior to UK law. The arguments for an unwritten constitution in the UK are that the government would loose its power to act.

  2. Federalism essay

    In the last of his federal features, Blondel asks the critical question: Where is the location of constitutional power going to rest? Who is going to provide the answers to all the questions? If constitutional power rests on one government, the other government is dependent on that government.

  1. Why did it take so long to ratify the American Constitution?

    They felt that such a diverse and large population needed more people to represent them, the smaller the number of representatives the more power each of those 91 people controls. It is these matters that were prevalent in the Anti-Federalist papers.

  2. An 18th Century Strait-jacket - Is this a fair description of the Constitution?

    or the Legislature (in effect the largest political party) to gain more power, preventing gridlock and indeed allowing either branch of government "to impose effective gun control or establish comprehensive health-care provision". It must be remembered that the interpretation of the Constitution will affect its adaptability.

  1. To what extent has the Constitution protected civil liberties in America?

    The Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional and in 1945 only paid for the train fair home. Eventually the court case Korematsu V's USA disagreed and in 1988, $1.6 billion pounds was given out as compensation. This shows that even the USA were willing to admit that what happened

  2. Does the UK have a 'constitution'

    but prevent the power of the Government from being too centralised, which is presently a major criticism of the Government. Even when, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister she agreed that the Government power was too centralised, and needed some sort of restraint.

  1. The British Constitution

    The British Constitution, in contrast with other states, is the product of mostly peaceful evolution. It was the Plantagenet period that saw three major conflicts at home and abroad. It was from this period Parliament emerged and grew, while the judicial reforms that begun in the reign of King Henry ??

  2. To what extent is the American Constitution an elitist document?Why then did the framers ...

    Other instances of elitism within the Constitution are the sections that deal with slavery: "No person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work