- Term Papers and Free Essays

To What Extent Have Constitutional Reforms Introduced Since 1997 Made the Uk More Democratic? (01/13)

Essay by   •  September 12, 2016  •  Term Paper  •  1,409 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,344 Views

Essay Preview: To What Extent Have Constitutional Reforms Introduced Since 1997 Made the Uk More Democratic? (01/13)

Report this essay
Page 1 of 6

Democracy is a system in which power resides with the people either directly or where power and influence is exercised through representatives. While some of the reforms since 1997 have made the UK more democratic, such as the use of referendums, devolution, accompanied by new electoral systems; the incorporation of the ECHR into UK law as the Human Rights Act; the Freedom of Information Act; and the introduction fixed term parliaments, it can be argued that reforms have not gone far enough and democracy could be strengthened further as the constitution remains uncodified and there remains undemocratic elements such as the House of Lords and the prerogative powers of the PM, the ‘unfair’ FPTP electoral system.

One of the constitutional reforms introduced that have made the UK more democratic is the Devolution Act (1998). In this reform act the power to govern was decentralised from London to allow wales and Scotland to partially self-govern. The Scotland Act of 1998 decentralised a series of governmental powers to the newly created Scottish Parliament, and allowing Scotland to carry out its own policies varying from those at Westminster and being able to make its own decisions. For example, the Scottish Parliament decided to abolish tuition fees and provide free long-term care to elderly people. Wales and Northern Ireland have the same rights and are able to make decisions for their constituents even if they differ from those put forward at Westminster, which shows that the UK was demonstrating decentralisation and democratisation. Devolution dispersed power from the hands of Parliament through the means of Devolution and therefore creating a more democratic constitution. Therefore, Devolution as a whole has been a major constitutional reform since 1997 that has made the UK more democratic as it has enabled government to be more aware of issues at a local and regional scale, better representing the citizens of these areas.

Another constitutional reform introduced was to the unelected House of Lords Act in 1999 which removed all but 92 hereditary peers. the House of Lords itself contained 1330 members, half being hereditary peers; meaning that they had received ‘peership’ through their families rather than being appointed themselves. In ‘stage one’ of the reform, the number was reduced to 669 members, of which 92 would be hereditary peers, thus making parliament more democratic as it reduced the number of unaccountable and unrepresentative members that could influence government policy without even being elected or even having a mandate unlike the House of Commons; this therefore makes it a more legitimate chamber.

A third constitutional reform introduced were the Human Rights Act 1998, which for the first time gave citizens of the UK positive rights and liberties. These rights included the Right to Life, the Right to a Fair Trial, and the Right to Marry and Start a Family. These rights were famously exercised under the Blair government, by a man named Abu Hamza, a Muslim cleric, famous for his extremist views and terrorist affiliations. After facing deportation, he argued that it would infringe his right to marry and start a family if this took place. Judges found this infringement to be valid and his deportation request was denied. Further to this, Tony Blair introduced the Freedom of Information Act of 2000 which aimed to create a more transparent government by allowing citizens to request information about certain public institutions and also oblige the public authorities to publish certain information about their activities. These reforms both make the UK more democratic as they have shown a commitment to protecting our rights as a whole, and further to allow us to hold government to account through other means.

A fourth democratic constitutional reform includes the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005 which affected the role of the Lord Chancellor. This conflict came as a result of the Lord Chancellor (Robert Reid) was a law lord and also the speaker, thereby entitled to sit in the House of Lords, the unelected half of the legislative body. There was a crossing of the judicial and legislative branch, and this also undermined the theory that in order for the judiciary to safeguard the citizens, it must remain an independent body that isn’t influenced by politics. Therefore, by removing the law lords from the House of Lords and into a separate and individual body - the Supreme Court - the Constitutional Reform Act created a clearer Separation of Powers thereby making the UK more democratic as it prevents an over-mighty executive.

However, the House of Lords reform can perhaps be seen as rather undemocratic as the chamber remains both unelected and unrepresentative. There have been proposals to make the House of Lords a wholly elected chamber, but seem to have been delayed since the 2010 Coalition came to power. It could also be said that an elected upper chamber would cause further delay in passing bills and could easily cause a lack in effectiveness of Parliament and would not be able to act effectively as a



Download as:   txt (8.3 Kb)   pdf (49.1 Kb)   docx (10.6 Kb)  
Continue for 5 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2016, 09). To What Extent Have Constitutional Reforms Introduced Since 1997 Made the Uk More Democratic? (01/13). Retrieved 09, 2016, from

"To What Extent Have Constitutional Reforms Introduced Since 1997 Made the Uk More Democratic? (01/13)" 09 2016. 2016. 09 2016 <>.

"To What Extent Have Constitutional Reforms Introduced Since 1997 Made the Uk More Democratic? (01/13).", 09 2016. Web. 09 2016. <>.

"To What Extent Have Constitutional Reforms Introduced Since 1997 Made the Uk More Democratic? (01/13)." 09, 2016. Accessed 09, 2016.