A Debate on Whether a Constitutional Reform is Needed in Great Britain

Published: 2021-09-23 16:50:13
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There are many arguments for both whether the British Constitution is in need of reform or not. Arguments against include the introduction of acts such as the Human Rights Act and the Freedom of Information Act to protect and strengthen the rights of the British people and also to give the public access to official documents. These points suggest that the constitution is not in need of reform however arguments for reform of the constitution include strengthening these Acts and making the government more democratic, e.g. by introducing an elected cabinet in the House of Lords.
One argument for the need of constitutional reform is that the Freedom of Information Act is seen as too weak and therefore a disappointment to the people, who’s information is not completely protected. By it being weak, the government is allowed to remain over-secretive by keeping documents secret, and therefore the public are being mislead by this as the public’s right to see public information/official documents is codified in the Freedom of Information Act, yet this is not entirely true. However this Act has proved to be one of the most important constitutional reforms of recent times as it has been significant in areas such as health care, defence procurement and local authority procedures. This suggests that the Freedom of Information Act may need reform in order to fully achieve what it is stated as, but not gotten rid of completely as it has been beneficial to British society.Another argument for reform is that the House of Lords Reform has not been fully completed by the coalition government even though it was in their manifesto upon taking up position in government. Because of this, some people feel conned by the government and that they just wanted a renewal of hereditary peers, but not an elected cabinet. Thus, the decisions made by the House of Lords are still not legitimate as there is not an elected cabinet but rather the people who make decisions were automatically placed in Parliament. However, Tony Blair did remove most hereditary peers which shows progress, however more needs to be done in order to ensure a more democratic government that is properly accountable, authoritative and representative.
An argument against constitutional reform is that the Human Rights Act protected, strengthened and clarified the human rights of the British people. It also provided many new opportunities for interest and pressure groups to assert their interests. This Act allows minority groups to apply to the courts to seek a judgement that protects it from oppressive legislation, which was not as easy to achieve before the Act was implemented. However the Act is seen by critics as failing to deal with the power of central government and its almost complete control over Parliament due to the preservation of parliamentary sovereignty. This could be reformed by making the Human Rights Act binding on parliamentary legislation to represent a major check on governmental power, therefore pointing out that the British Constitution does in fact need reforming.
Devolution could be said to be a part of the constitution that doesn’t need reform as it has made decisions be made closer to the people and this cannot be undone, meaning this control will remain for the British people. For example, decisions affecting Scotland and Wales are made in these countries, separate to the English Parliament, thus emphasising how the people in these individual states can make decisions representing them more accurately than the whole of the British public. Although it may be the case that people are able to have a greater influence on decisions for where they reside, nationalists argue that devolution does not go far enough as the British government has retained all the important powers for itself, rather than dividing them equally between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
The independence of the judiciary has been strengthened by the Constitutional Reform Act. This is said to be a good feature of the constitution as if the judges are not independent, there is a danger that the government will exceed its powers without legal justification, potentially resulting in tyranny of the majority. Independence also implies that judges are selected on a neutral basis to prevent collisions between the judiciary and the government. However some people argue that because judges are not elected and not accountable, they should not be allowed to make decisions with political consequences and also that judges are beginning to challenge parliamentary sovereignty. Also, although the judiciary is more independent now, it is still tied to the government in the form of the Ministry of Justice, which although it does not constitute direct control, it suggests a good deal of interference from the government, meaning decisions may be biased. Based on these arguments, if judges were elected, they would therefore be accountable and decisions made would be more reliable as the judges represent the people.
On the one hand some parts of the UK Constitution are not in need of major reform such as the Freedom of Information Act’s helping with health care and local authority procedures and devolution meaning power is devolved to different parts of Britain. On the other hand, however, the British Constitution is in need of reform as the judiciary still has ties to the government meaning decisions and laws can be interfered with, also Parliament is not fully legitimate nor democratic as hereditary peers still remain in the House of Lords and they make decisions that are not a full representation of the British public’s thoughts and beliefs as they are not elected and are all highly educated, whilst most of the British public are not.

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