Extracts from the Manifesto of the Labour
Party for the General Election of 1997, pp 32-33
NEW LABOUR BECAUSE BRITAIN DESERVES BETTER
The Conservatives seem opposed to the very idea
of democracy. They support hereditary peers, unaccountable quangos
and secretive government. They have debased democracy through
their MPs who have taken cash for asking questions in the House
of Commons. They are opposed to the development of decentralised
government. The party which once opposed universal suffrage and
votes for women now says our constitution is so perfect that it
cannot be improved.
Our system of government is centralised, inefficient
and bureaucratic. Our citizens cannot assert their basic rights
in our own courts. The Conservatives are afflicted by sleaze and
prosper from secret funds from foreign supporters. There is unquestionably
a national crisis of confidence in our political system, to which
Labour will respond in a measured and sensible way.
A Modern House of Lords
The House of Lords must be reformed. As an initial,
self-contained reform, not dependent on further reform in the
future, the right of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House
of Lords will be ended by statute. This will be the first stage
in a process of reform to make the House of Lords more democratic
and representative. The legislative powers of the House of Lords
will remain unaltered.
The system of appointment of life peers to the
House of Lords will be reviewed. Our objective will be to ensure
that over time party appointees as life peers more accurately
reflect the proportion of votes cast at the previous general election.
We are committed to maintaining an independent cross-bench presence
of life peers. No one political party should seek a majority in
the House of Lords.
A committee of both Houses of Parliament will
be appointed to undertake a wide-ranging review of possible further
change and then to bring forward proposals for reform.
We have no plans to replace the monarchy.
An effective House of Commons
We believe the House of Commons is in need of
modernisation and we will ask the House to establish a special
Select Committee to review its procedures. Prime Minister's Questions
will be made more effective. Ministerial accountability will be
reviewed so as to remove recent abuses. The process for scrutinising
European legislation will be overhauled.
The Nolan recommendations will be fully implemented
and extended to all public bodies. We will oblige parties to declare
the source of all donations above a minimum figure: Labour does
this voluntarily and all parties should do so. Foreign funding
will be banned. We will ask the Nolan Committee to consider how
the funding of political parties should be regulated and reformed.
We are committed to a referendum on the voting
system for the House of Commons. An independent commission on
voting systems will be appointed early to recommend a proportional
alternative to the first-past-the-post system.
At this election, Labour is proud to be making
major strides to rectify the under-representation of women in
Unnecessary secrecy in government leads to arrogance
in government and defective policy decisions. The Scott Report
on arms to Iraq revealed Conservative abuses of power. We are
pledged to a Freedom of Information Act, leading to more open
government, and an independent National Statistical Service.
Devolution: strengthening the Union
The United Kingdom is a partnership enriched
by distinct national identities and traditions. Scotland has its
own systems of education, law and local government. Wales has
its language and cultural traditions. We will meet the demand
for decentralisation of power to Scotland and Wales, once established
Subsidiarity is as sound a principle in Britain
as it is in Europe. Our proposal is for devolution not federation.
A sovereign Westminster Parliament will devolve power to Scotland
and Wales. The Union will be strengthened and the threat of separatism
As soon as possible after the election, we will
enact legislation to allow the people of Scotland and Wales to
vote in separate referendums on our proposals, which will be set
out in white papers. These referendums will take place not later
than the autumn of 1997. A simple majority of those voting in
each referendum will be the majority required. Popular endorsement
will strengthen the legitimacy of our proposals and speed their
passage through Parliament.
For Scotland we propose the creation of a parliament
with law-making powers, firmly based on the agreement reached
in the Scottish Constitutional Convention, including defined and
limited financial powers to vary revenue and elected by an additional
member system. In the Scottish referendum we will seek separate
endorsement of the proposal to create a parliament, and of the
proposal to give it defined and limited financial powers to vary
revenue. The Scottish parliament will extend democratic control
over the responsibilities currently exercised administratively
by the Scottish Office. The responsibilities of the UK Parliament
will remain unchanged over UK policy, for example economic, defence
and foreign policy.
The Welsh assembly will provide democratic control
of the existing Welsh Office functions. It will have secondary
legislative powers and will be specifically empowered to reform
and democratise the quango state. It will be elected by an additional