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R. Brazier, Clarendon Press, 1991, 172pp., pb 5.95 [pounds].
In the run-up to the 1992 General Election there was an increase in the number of proposals for constitutional reform. From these there appeared to be quite a broad consensus which included: a Parliament for Scotland, an elected second chamber at Westminster, greater protection of civil liberties/human rights, a Freedom of Information Act, and reform in the machinery relating to the appointment and monitoring of the judiciary. There was less agreement on substituting proportional representation for first-past-the-post as the voting system for Parliament, with only the reformed second chamber clearly marked down for such a change.
The Conservative Party held on to power with promises of minimal constitutional change (which included the Maastricht Treaty on European Union!). It has addressed parts of the reform agenda by means of White Papers or announcements of changes in practice. On Scotland, a White Paper proposed increasing the responsibilities of the Scottish Office, which would then produce an annual report to be debated by the Scottish Grand Committee. Greater openness in government will be promoted without a statute, and monitoring/enforcement would be conducted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration rather than by the courts. Before the election, the Lord Chancellor's Department had become a Ministry of Justice in all but name, with a minister in the House of Commons and subject to a degree of oversight by the Home Affairs and Scottish select committees. Subsequently, the Lord Chancellor has announced that there will be advertisements for judges to sit in the lower courts, and encouragement of women and members of the ethnic minorities so as to improve their representation on the bench, but there will be no independent commissions.
Clearly, the reformers' fox has not been shot by these proposals and the ~chartering classes' will, no doubt, continue their projects. It is instructive to look at the principles underlying plans put forward by some of the reformers. Brazier, in his …