The Great Debate UK

Why Britain must deliver enduring constitutional reform


lester- Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC is a leading constitutional and human rights lawyer. The views expressed are his own -

Almost alone on the democratic world, we British have no written constitution protecting our basic civil and political rights. We have no constitutional charter defining the scope of the powers of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government or the relationship of these branches with the European Union (EU). Parliament struggles to assert its power while the government uses its ancient monarchical authority — that is the prerogative power vested in the Queen — to exercise its executive powers.

There is now widespread discontent with our system of government, and a massive loss of confidence in politics and politicians.

The early days of the “New Labour” government were times of promising reform. Major changes such as devolution for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, removal of most hereditary peers from the House of Lords, abolishing the role of Lord Chancellor and creation of a Supreme Court were accompanied by measures directly empowering individuals, in particular the Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information Act.