The Rule of Law in Blair's Britain

By Tomkins, Adam | University of Queensland Law Journal, December 2007 | Go to article overview

The Rule of Law in Blair's Britain


Tomkins, Adam, University of Queensland Law Journal


I INTRODUCTION

Blair's Britain came to an end in June 2007 when, after ten years and one month, Tony Blair stepped down as Prime Minister. His decade in office will be remembered for many things: for ending eighteen years of electoral wilderness for the Labour party, albeit only by re-branding it as 'New Labour'; for delivering unprecedented Labour majorities in the House of Commons; for the ruinous foreign policy misadventure in Iraq; for a curious and from no point of view altogether satisfactory combination of continuity and change in domestic public service reform; and for historic constitutional change. It is with this last feature that the present paper is concerned. Blair never wanted his legacy to be constitutional reform. He was never much interested in it and he inherited Labour's commitment to deliver important parts of it from his (Scottish) predecessor, John Smith. Had Blair felt able to escape from these commitments, it is likely that devolution, at least, would not have been delivered under his premiership. As it is, however, constitutional reform might turn out to be the single most positive achievement of his decade in Downing Street. That said, two caveats need immediately to be entered. First, only bits of the British constitution have been reformed: much remains largely as it was before. And secondly, it is not only under Blair that the British constitution has recently been reformed. Previous Prime Ministers, too, have pushed through particular policies of constitutional reform, albeit not to the same extent as during the Blair years (thus, Edward Heath took Britain into the European Union (as it now is) and Margaret Thatcher transformed the size and governance of the civil service, to give just two examples).

The highlights of Blair's constitutional reforms are as follows: (1) the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporated most of the substantive provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law; (2) the devolution legislation, devolving various combinations of legislative and executive power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland Act 1998, Government of Wales Act 2006, Northern Ireland Act 1998); (3) the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which radically reduced the powers of the Lord Chancellor, transferring many of them to the Lord Chief Justice, which made some reforms to the appointment of the judiciary and which provides for the establishment of a new Supreme Court, currently due to commence operation in October 2009 (replacing the appellate committee of the House of Lords); (4) the House of Lords Act 1999, reforming the composition of the House of Lords through the removal of the vast majority of hereditary peers from Parliament; (5) the Freedom of Information Act 2000; and (6) the Greater London Authority Act 1999, creating a new Mayor of London and a new Greater London Authority. At the same time there have been reforms to local government, to the funding and conduct of political parties, to executive powers (see especially the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006), and to civil liberties (see especially the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Terrorism Act 2000, the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 and the Terrorism Act 2006). (1)

At the same time, further constitutional reforms have been effected through the judicial development of the common law. The decade from 1997-2007 saw a remarkable series of cases in which senior judges--inspired at least in part, no doubt, by measures such as the Human Rights Act 1998--handed down decisions that both complemented and furthered aspects of the legislative reforms just listed. We will encounter numerous examples in the pages that follow. Among the most important are R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Simms (2) and Jackson v Attorney General. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Rule of Law in Blair's Britain
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.