At the 1997 election, Labour won a “landslide” majority after numerous years of conservative ruling by winning 179 seats. During the conservative power, the Labour party campaigned on the idea that parts of the constitution needed great change. In this essay I will be exploring the constitutional changes made since the 1997 election, and within this I will be discussing whether these reforms have gone far enough. Particularly I will be discussing Blair's first government from 1997 to 2001, as this was where the most constitutional reform took place.
The first reform I would like to discuss, is the reform of the House of Lords. The House of Lords Act passed in 1999, consisted of two stages, the first stage was completed successfully by removing over 600 heredity peers, leaving 92. This was proved to be successful and significant change to the constitution, as the House of Commons were less threatened by the House of Lords, so it could be argued the constitutional reform did go far enough. On the other hand, there was also plans for the second stage of the House of Lords reform, the idea was that the House of Lords members would be either partially or fully elected, until this was done it was argued that the House of Lords is not democratically legitimate, as all policy making decisions must have legitimacy. Over the past 15 years this second stage still hasn’t been completed; there was an inquiry in 2010 for a bill to be introduced that would state the House of Lords would have 300 members with 80 per cent of its members elected by proportional representation every 5 years. This was rebelled by 91 Conservative M.P’s and therefore was not passed. So this supports the statement that the constitutional did not go far enough and can still go further within this topic.
As soon as Tony Blair was made Prime Minister in 1997, a number of referendums took place concerning the issues of devolution in Scotland and Wales. The Scotland Act of 1998 established the Scottish Parliament, where 74.3 per cent of Scottish citizens voted yes for their own parliament. Also, the Government of Wales Act of 1998 gave Wales their own assembly, even though the only 50.3 per cent of Welsh citizens voted yes for this devolution in the referendum. Similar to this the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 also granted devolution to Northern Ireland by also giving them an independent assembly. All assemblies could create their own laws and bills on issues concerning education, health and transport. This could then be argued in favour to the proposition that constitutional has gone far enough, also due to the fact that this devolution would take some of the strain of Westminster.
However, this can be contradicted by the fact that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still have to abide to the Westminster policies on defence and security, so Westminster still has over all power which some argue is not good, enough and devolution still needs to go further. The devolution is argued by some, like the conservatives to lead to threatening the unity of the United Kingdom, this can be supported by the recent referendum concerning Scottish Independence, the voting was “too close for comfort” from the Scottish citizens as only 55 per cent said “no” to an independent Scotland. In addition some reacted to the devolution by the West Lothian Question, which asked why Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh M.P’s were still getting a say on issues only specific to English citizens, and whether there should be an English Assembly put in place to resolve this issue, this would involve lots of constitutional reform, and therefore this supports the idea that constitutional reform has not gone far enough.
A sufficient amount of modernisation of the constitution has taken place since 1997. One of the many examples of modernisation is the separation of powers by creating a Supreme Court; the removal of 12 Law Lords…