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Is There A Need For Constitutional Reform?

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Is There A Need For Constitutional Reform? No government in modern times has ever been elected with such a commitment to reforming the constitution as the Labour administration that won office in May 1997. Within months of its election, Scotland and Wales were on the road to devolution. Within a year, although in a very different context, the framework had been set for a devolved, power sharing government in Northern Ireland. A year after that the process was well under way for reform of the House of Lords, eliminating, in the first instance, peers whose place in the legislature was by inheritance. In May 2000, London elected its first mayor. In early 2003, there was the affirmation of a commitment to allow English regions to choose to elect assemblies. Then in the Cabinet reshuffle of June 2003 it was signalled that the post of Lord Chancellor would be abolished and the judicial functions of the House of Lords transferred lo a Supreme Court. Above all, the government held out the promise of Britain signing up to a European constitution sometime in 2004-5, which would formally subjugate British law to European law and have many other consequences for political accountability in Britain. ...read more.


Only time will tell whether this is really so. However, the immediate perception is that this extra layer of government has so far achieved little except to enrich the politicians who serve in it. The English taxpayer is subsidising the exercise, and nothing has yet been done to correct constitutional unbalances. Matters on which the English have no say in Scotland are matters on which Scottish MPs at Westminster have a when they concern the English. Scotland is overrepresented at Westminster, although that be partially rectified by the time of the next; general election, when representation is to be on the same basis as in England. Despite the establishment of administrations in Wales and Scotland, there are still ministers with responsibilities for those parties of the kingdom in London. The British Cabinet is more than a quarter Scottish. Both the Health Secretary, John Reid, and the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, have responsibility for policies that do not - because they represent Scottish seats affect their own constituents. It seems as the one set of constitutional injustices - if, indeed, is really what the old system amounted to - merely been replaced by another, although replacement is one in which the rights of majorities no longer (unlike in most democracies) ...read more.


Unsurprisingly, the party that now expresses the greatest enthusiasm for radical constitutional change - English regional government, elected mayors, proportional representation, an elected second chamber and an unspecified reduction in the few remaining powers of the monarch - is the Liberal Democrats, who have no realistic chance of forming a government. The Conservative Party, which despite being so against constitutional change has engineered more than its share of it over the years (such as the peerage reforms of 1958 and 1963, and the 1972 European Communities Act), still has to take a defined position on many of these questions, although it has announced its outright opposition to the proposed European constitution. The significance of the European proposals is that they must now take centre stage in the government's programme of constitutional reform. They will also, though, take the whole question out of the government's hands to some extent as the pace is being dictated by an external power. The government refuses to consult the electorate on them. The prospect was not included in the 2001 Labour manifesto. This pursuit of vast constitutional change without a mandate could yet derail not just the programme of reform but even the whole government. ?? ?? ?? ?? Daniel Jenkins 12Et ...read more.

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