Devolution in the United Kingdom
Indrumator: Cristea Ileana
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INTRODUCTION Devolution is a major part of the Government's ambitious programme of constitutional reform. It has been described by the Prime Minister as "the biggest programme of change to democracy ever proposed". In a lecture to constitutional experts in December 1998, the Lord Chancellor - Lord Irvine - outlined the Government's programme. As well as devolution it includes: the creation of a city-wide authority for London; the strengthening of regional government in England; the reform of local government; the modernisation of the House of Lords; the reform of the House of Commons; commitment to a Freedom of Information Act; and the modernisation of the machinery of government. The paper is based on the political phenomenon called "devolution", the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a state to government at national, regional, or local level. It differs from federalism in that the powers devolved may be temporary and ultimately reside in central government, thus the state remains, de jure, unitary. This phenomenon caught my attention, as I was interested to find out what was the extent to which the states were independent, and in which way they decided to collaborate in order to remain under the governance of the monarchy, the queen. I based my paper on the legislation written during and after the devolution, mainly placing focus on the changes brought to the political status, dependence on Westminster, changes occured in the educational system, official language and mentality. I decided to deal with devolution as a phenomenon, its characteristics, countries where it occured, and in the second chapter of my paper, with devolution in the United Kingdom and its consequences there. The next two chapters are two of the main branches where the phenomenon made an important change. The educational system and the official language were debated in what concerns their maintenance or alteration. Devolution is a process of innovation, an opportunity to change the old system with something new, with something revolutionary, but at the same time, this is not a sudden change, it is something that has been going on for a while, a change that people wanted to adopt for a long time, but the legislative milieu was not the best one. 1. SYSTEM OF DEVOLUTION - GENERALITIES A unitary state is a state whose three organs of state are governed constitutionally as one single unit, with one constitutionally created legislature. The political power of government in such states may well be transferred to lower levels, to national, regional or local elected assemblies, governors and mayors (devolved government), but the central government retains the principal right to recall such delegated power (for example Farum Municipality was ruled by the Danish Government for a while). In a unitary state, any sub-governmental units can be created or abolished, and have their powers varied, by the central government. The process in which sub-government units and/or national or regional parliaments are created by a central government is known as devolution. A unitary state can broaden and narrow the functions of such devolved governments without formal agreement from the affected bodies. Most federal states also have unitary lower levels of government. Thus while the United States itself is federal, the U.S. states are themselves unitary, with counties and other municipalities having only the authority given (devolved) to them by the state constitution or legislature. The majority of the world's countries are unitary states. Many of the non-unitary states of the world are very large in size, particularly Mexico, Canada, Russia, United States, Brazil, India and Australia. This does not imply that large size will invariably result in non-unitary government; China, for instance, due to its political and socio-cultural history, has not seen the rise of a non-unitary arrangement, though certain economists argue that the current political and economic situation in mainland China constitute a unique form of Chinese federalism. Other counter-examples are Belgium and Switzerland, which despite a small territory have developed a complex federal system.
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