Discuss the view that the British constitution has been subject to fundamental change since 1997
When it comes to the British constitution it has undergone a colossal change and it’s still not over. Examples of the changes are Devolution; in Scotland, which is the most recent event. Cameron has agreed to allow a referendum on for the independence of Scotland. The vote for Scotland’s independence will be held in 2014 to decide whether Scotland will be separated from the UK. Another significant difference with this referendum is that when the vote will take place 16 and 17 year olds will also be able to vote. In the past this has been unheard of. This is a fundamental change to the way the constitution is run. The devolution of Scotland would take power away from the Westminster government which would challenge the sovereignty of the government.
Another change is Decentralisation; the electing of a Mayor for London. This has had more of an impact than the government expected. Boris Johnson brought an unexpected amount of popularity and publicity to the role. The addition of a mayor is quite a fundamental change to the London assembly because of the impact that Boris has had on the role.
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Another change that’d be apparent would be for rights, especially to the Human Rights Act of 1998. This was a change to Statute Law as it clarifies any grey areas by putting the rights of citizens on a stronger statutory footing. The Human Rights Act states that people can be held for 40 days without charge if suspected of terrorism. As this was now made concrete the rules can’t be misinterpreted now. Arguably this isn’t a huge change as the law already existed before. However the law is now written down and has been made into a more clearly black and white law.
Some would argue that there haven’t been that many changes to the British constitution in that the Devolution of Scotland hasn’t actually happened yet and it still may not as the vote will take place in 2014. This only shows signs that people are challenging the constitution and as of yet nothing serious has really happened for it to be known as a fundamental change; after all it could be just talk.
Another debatable change would be for the Electoral reform in that it hasn’t happened yet. It is only really a slight change to the constitution. The Jenkins report didn’t go through and the voting system still remains the same as it was before and so it is still arguable that even though there were new electoral systems for developed assembly’s for the EU parliament and elected mayors.
Some people will also argue that the change to Rights isn’t enough to be considered a fundamental change in that the only change to before be that it was now written down. The law already existed before. However, it did have a few grey areas which had now been cleared up, but whether that’s enough for it to be considered a fundamental change is debatable as not much was changed.
Over all I think that the Devolution of places such as the Scottish Assembly, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly could have a huge affect on the government if any go through, even more so if all end up being carried out. However, at the moment it is just a small change and is an evolutionary not a revolutionary change. It is an unfinished process and the power still lies with Cameron. Together when everything is taken into account things can be considered as a fundamental change but separately they are not as strong. Yet laws are still changing and rights are being strengthened. However, there have been role changes to the constitution but none are considered as fundamental and we still do not have a codified constitution.