United Kingdom

   

Quality of Democracy

#18
Key Findings
Despite increasing polarization and tension related to Brexit, the United Kingdom falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 18) with respect to democracy quality. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

The debates over the impending Brexit overshadowed other political projects in the UK’s political system. The uncertainty has been of great concern to the business community, and the post-Brexit status of 3 million EU citizens living in the UK had not been clarified by the end of the review period. Vocal calls for a second referendum were largely resisted by the leaders of the two main parties.

For ordinary elections, paid television campaign advertising is banned, but major parties are granted free ad time. Donation-based party funding has produced abuses. The government occasionally seeks to restrict press freedom for security reasons, but such instances trigger considerable backlash. Media concentration is significant.

Civil rights are generally adequately protected, but anti-terrorism measures have become increasingly harsh. The “Snooper’s Charter” expanding the government’s surveillance powers was declared unlawful by a court. The Windrush scandal, in which government employees destroyed the legal documents of citizens with Caribbean roots, showed disregard for individual rights, but prompted a rapid political response.

Electoral Processes

#28

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

10
 9

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
 8
 7
 6


A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
 5
 4
 3


Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
 2
 1

Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
Candidacy Procedures
9
In the United Kingdom, procedures for registering candidates and parties can generally be considered fair and without regulatory discrimination. The process of registration is uncomplicated, and the information required is offered by the state and easily accessible. No restrictions or regulations exist on party programs, but there are regulations limiting the choice of party name, which must not be obscene, offensive or misleading. The party emblem should also avoid these qualities. Registration as a candidate requires a deposit of £500 and the support of at least ten voters. Support from a party is not necessary, as candidates can run as independents, and many candidates do take advantage of this provision. Very occasionally, a candidate standing on a single issue achieves election, even in national elections.

Members of certain groups are not allowed to stand for election, namely those in the police, the armed forces, civil servants, judges and hereditary members of the House of Lords who retain a seat there. While this may be considered reasonably necessary in a democracy (although no such restrictions are in place in many similar democracies), it seems harder to justify the exclusion of people who have undergone bankruptcy or debt relief restriction orders because this is tantamount to a second punishment for financial mismanagement and thus discriminating against them.

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

10
 9

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
 8
 7
 6


Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
 5
 4
 3


Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
 2
 1

Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media Access
7
The media play a central role in political campaigning, and the importance of coverage has further increased in recent years through the rise of social media and the internet. Television remains the most important medium for campaigning in general elections. Paid TV advertising is prohibited for political parties, who can only advertise in newspapers. However, major parties are granted a certain amount of free time for TV advertising, a concession that is not available to minor parties and which could be construed as a deterrent to them.

Coverage on television is fair and balanced, and policed by Ofcom, the industry regulator. Broadcasters are required to be balanced in their coverage of parties, especially at election time. No such restrictions exist for the print industry and indeed there is strong tradition of crass partiality, especially by some newspaper groups that are prominent in national political life, visible once more during the Brexit referendum campaign of 2015 and the ensuing political quarrels. There is therefore a marked imbalance between print and broadcast.

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

10
 9

All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
 8
 7
 6


The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
 5
 4
 3


While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
 2
 1

The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
Voting and Registration Rights
9
In general elections, British, Irish and qualifying citizens of Commonwealth countries can vote. In local and devolved parliament/assembly elections, EU citizens resident in the United Kingdom can also vote. Entitlement to vote thus extends beyond British citizenship. However, the aforementioned nationalities can vote only if they have leave to remain in the United Kingdom.

In order to be entitled to vote, voters must be on the electoral register, which is maintained by local authorities and updated annually. The Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 also introduced individual electoral registration, which is intended to improve the security of the registration process. Registration statistics show regional and social discrepancies. There has been some concern that in certain localities where a significant proportion of the population do not speak English as a first language the registration process has been abused. Sporadic complaints are made about excessive (and possibly manipulated) use of postal votes.

A restriction on the right to vote in national elections applies only in three cases, namely criminal imprisonment, mental disability and membership either of the House of Lords or the royal family.

To what extent is private and public party financing and electoral campaign financing transparent, effectively monitored and in case of infringement of rules subject to proportionate and dissuasive sanction?

10
 9

The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring to that respect. Effective measures to prevent evasion are effectively in place and infringements subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
 8
 7
 6


The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring. Although infringements are subject to proportionate sanctions, some, although few, loopholes and options for circumvention still exist.
 5
 4
 3


The state provides that donations to political parties shall be published. Party financing is subject to some degree of independent monitoring but monitoring either proves regularly ineffective or proportionate sanctions in case of infringement do not follow.
 2
 1

The rules for party and campaign financing do not effectively enforce the obligation to make the donations public. Party and campaign financing is neither monitored independently nor, in case of infringements, subject to proportionate sanctions.
Party Financing
6
The Electoral Commission oversees all political financing in the United Kingdom. The commission is an independent institution set up by parliament, which publishes all its findings online to make them easily accessible. Although all donations above a certain threshold must be reported to the commission, the fact that political parties are largely dependent on donations for their ever-increasing spending on national campaigns has repeatedly led to huge scandals in the past. There have also been highly publicized cases where individual party donors have been rewarded by being granted honors. Changes have also been made to prevent donations from individuals not resident in the United Kingdom. Although these cases have generated considerable media interest, there is not much evidence that donations have influenced policy.

In 2011, the Committee on Standards in Public Life published a report recommending a cap of £10,000 on donations from individuals or organizations. This recommendation was welcomed, at the time, but has not been introduced.

Contributions from party members or local associations (through local fundraising) are relatively minor, though still useful to parties, compared to the amount parties receive from institutional sponsors (trade unions in the case of the Labour Party, business associations in the case of the Conservative Party) and individual donors. There is also some state financing of parties (known as “Short Money” after the politician who initiated it in the 1970s), which will be cut following the latest government expenditure review. The previous coalition government pledged to reform party financing but made no substantial progress on the issue. The Conservative government elected in 2015 passed a Trade Union Act, which includes new restrictions on trade union financing for political parties. This will reduce the Labour Party’s income.

Do citizens have the opportunity to take binding political decisions when they want to do so?

10
 9

Citizens have the effective opportunity to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums. The set of eligible issues is extensive, and includes national, regional, and local issues.
 8
 7
 6


Citizens have the effective opportunity to take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through either popular initiatives or referendums. The set of eligible issues covers at least two levels of government.
 5
 4
 3


Citizens have the effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure. The set of eligible issues is limited to one level of government.
 2
 1

Citizens have no effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure.
Popular Decision-Making
4
It may seem strange at a time when UK politics is almost completely determined by the result of a referendum, but formally referenda play a small role in UK governance. They are rarely called in the United Kingdom, although they have been used in a handful of cases in recent years, including at local level to decide on whether to establish an elected mayor. Referenda also only follow from a government decision, rather than a citizen initiative, and require a specific legislative initiative to be enacted instead of being a routine process. The legal foundations for calling a referendum and binding the government to its outcome are weak, as the results are not legally binding. Citizens can, via an online petition, call for a parliamentary debate on any topic. Yet, the House of Commons is not obliged to agree to the debate and high-profile proposals can be – and frequently are – ignored. However, the outcome of the Brexit vote shows that they can become politically decisive and may lead to major changes in the United Kingdom’s political system. Despite their lack of constitutional standing, referenda in the United Kingdom have a de facto influence on policy decisions, but this is rather ad hoc.

Referenda are often more a part of politics and agenda setting than a structural part of the United Kingdom’s policymaking process. The central government may use a referendum to unite the population behind a controversial position and by that silence their critics for good. Tony Blair’s devolution referenda in 1997 and 1998 or David Cameron’s referendum to keep the traditional “first past the post” voting system in 2011 are good examples, as was the 1975 referendum which was used by then Prime Minister Wilson to counter opponents of the European Union in his party. By contrast, in the 2016 referendum, a majority of voters declared their wish to leave the European Union against the advice of the leaders of the mainstream political parties, although several leading figures in these parties, in and out of government, opposed their party lines. Recently, the case for a second referendum on the results of the Brexit negotiation has been loudly pushed by the People’s Vote initiative, but has been strongly resisted by other politicians, including the leaders of the two main parties.

The conduct of the 2016 EU referendum has elicited legal action regarding the use of personal data and breaches of spending limits, as well as allegations of Russian influence. These concerns highlight the pitfalls of an instrument with which the electorate and the political system generally have little familiarity.

Access to Information

#10

To what extent are the media independent from government?

10
 9

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
 8
 7
 6


The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
 5
 4
 3


The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/market access for private media.
 2
 1

Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
Media Freedom
8
In the United Kingdom, television channels both in the public and the private sector are required by law to be politically neutral. The public regulator, Ofcom, oversees the sector. No such requirement exists for print media. The BBC, the main public-service broadcaster, is financed by a television license fee, which is effectively a poll tax. It is overseen by a board of governors and enjoys almost complete political independence. However, recent scandals may have weakened the BBC’s standing, although there is as yet little evidence of that in its behavior, and it remains the case that TV and radio journalists often subject government and opposition politicians to very tough interviews. Politicians of all persuasions frequently accuse the BBC of bias, arguably highlighting the fact that it is outside political control. The aftermath of the News of the World scandal in 2011 (which led to the Leveson Inquiry and its 2013 report) exposed the overly close relations between politicians and the press. After a lively debate on whether stricter press regulation should be adopted to prevent excessively intrusive journalism, a new consensus seemed to emerge that formal regulation should not be introduced and the government has proved to be uneasy about acceding to demands for tougher statutory regulation.

Security reasons are sometimes given for restricting press freedom and, as in the case of government attempts to clamp down on disclosures by Edward Snowden, tend to cause considerable political and public backlash. Such incidents can tarnish the relationship between the UK media and the government. The journalists’ resistance to intimidation and their reporting of government surveillance practices are a shining example for civil journalism. Several media actors expressed concerns about the libel laws in the aftermath of the 2013 Defamation Act, which was meant to protect freedom of speech, but there have been no more recent cases in which the underlying freedom of the press has been questioned. However, a recent assessment by the Paris-based NGO Reporters without Borders (RSF) is critical of the UK record. As in many other countries, the unfettered freedoms of social media are being challenged.

Citations:
https://rsf.org/en/united-kingdom

To what extent are the media characterized by an ownership structure that ensures a pluralism of opinions?

10
 9

Diversified ownership structures characterize both the electronic and print media market, providing a well-balanced pluralism of opinions. Effective anti-monopoly policies and impartial, open public media guarantee a pluralism of opinions.
 8
 7
 6


Diversified ownership structures prevail in the electronic and print media market. Public media compensate for deficiencies or biases in private media reporting by representing a wider range of opinions.
 5
 4
 3


Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize either the electronic or the print media market. Important opinions are represented but there are no or only weak institutional guarantees against the predominance of certain opinions.
 2
 1

Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize both the electronic and the print media market. Few companies dominate the media, most programs are biased, and there is evidence that certain opinions are not published or are marginalized.
Media Pluralism
7
The strong concentration of newspaper ownership has long been a feature of the United Kingdom’s media market and that continues to be the case. The BBC as a public-service broadcaster has a dominant position, especially with regard to broadcast and online news. There is a long tradition of powerful individual owners, such as Rupert Murdoch (News Corporation), dating back to the 19th century. This coexists with a lively regional newspaper scene. However, regional newspapers have little influence in terms of national opinion.

The electronic media and television market, in contrast, is much more balanced and also required by regulation to be politically neutral.

The support of the Murdoch media empire has been considered politically crucial over the last two decades. The firm has been very influential particularly in terms of the United Kingdom’s position toward European integration. Following the News of the World scandal and the enquiry into corporate standards at News Corporation, Murdoch’s influence may have been weakened, but that of the Daily Mail Group remains strong. In addition, the Leveson Inquiry has demanded higher diversity in ownership and tighter regulation on media mergers, both of which (if enacted) could also work toward more diversity of opinion. The press, collectively, has strongly opposed attempts to circumscribe the freedom of opinion, and the matter remains unresolved.

To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

10
 9

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
 8
 7
 6


Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
 5
 4
 3


Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
 2
 1

Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
Access to Government Information
9
The United Kingdom has a long tradition of official secrecy. However, in recent years successive governments have very actively tried to capitalize on the transparency and cost-savings potential of making government information available online. Together with the Freedom of Information Act 2005, this has contributed to easier access for citizens and, often in a very high-profile way, the media. The restrictions on what information can be provided under the Freedom of Information Act (cost limits; national security restrictions; state financial interests) are largely in line with the respective regulations in other countries. More recently there has been a debate about restricting the right to freedom of information. However, the former head of the civil service and the Cabinet Office minister responsible for the civil service have both opposed any restrictions on access, although former Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose government introduced the Freedom of Information Act, has said that he regrets doing so.

The United Kingdom has also been at the forefront of making government data available for commercial use and citizen inspection (“open data”). Recent efforts to simplify and render government information more accessible have seen the replacement of a profusion of web sites with a single government portal (gov.uk) and it is clear that the government now regards the provision of information as a high priority. It is noteworthy that the United Kingdom is now mentioned internationally as a leader in open government and access to data. In the World Justice Project’s 2015 Open Government Index, the United Kingdom ranked 8 out of 102 countries, behind the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Canada.

Citations:
http://worldjusticeproject.org/open-government-index/open-government-around-world

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#26

To what extent does the state respect and protect civil rights and how effectively are citizens protected by courts against infringements of their rights?

10
 9

All state institutions respect and effectively protect civil rights. Citizens are effectively protected by courts against infringements of their rights. Infringements present an extreme exception.
 8
 7
 6


The state respects and protects rights, with few infringements. Courts provide protection.
 5
 4
 3


Despite formal protection, frequent infringements of civil rights occur and court protection often proves ineffective.
 2
 1

State institutions respect civil rights only formally, and civil rights are frequently violated. Court protection is not effective.
Civil Rights
6
In the United Kingdom, civil liberties have long been protected despite the absence of a written constitution and an accompanying bill of rights. The country thus shows that effective protection is possible if support for civil rights is firmly rooted in society and therefore is expected of the government of the day. However, UK citizens have been afforded additional rights of protection from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Events of the last decade such as terrorist attacks have also demonstrated that the balance between state interests and individual rights can be more easily tilted if there are no institutional protections at hand. Various anti-terrorism acts (2000; 2001; 2005; 2006; 2008) have given the UK government more and harsher instruments to fight terrorism. For most citizens, these anti-terrorist measures are not an issue, but for the very small minority that they affect, they can be a source of dismay. In the past, governments had objected to rulings from the ECHR, to the extent that some government ministers advocated a UK withdrawal from the court. The absolute national sovereignty of British courts was a crucial argument to the campaign to leave the European Union.

While courts and public pressure have from time to time succeeded in stopping practices like the indefinite detention of non-nationals, the state has usually succeeded in reintroducing them after some time under a different name, for example when replacing “control orders” with “terrorism prevention and investigation measures.” However, it does so under quite intense media scrutiny. The files leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) subcontractor and system administrator Edward Snowden disclosed a degree of digital surveillance in the United Kingdom that far exceeded expectations. The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), with its Tempora and MUSCULAR programs, as well as the NSA/GCHQ PRISM joint venture, tracks and evaluates a very large share of national and international electronic communications. But despite the initial media outcry, public opposition to these programs has been relatively mild. Furthermore, wider society is well aware of the proactive tradition of its national intelligence services, and criticism tends to be limited outside the context of libertarian pressure groups. The most sustained opposition today comes from communication firms whose servers were hacked by government agents to access private data.

In October 2016, the investigatory power tribunal, which is the only court that hears complaints against the intelligence agencies (i.e., MI5, MI6 and GCHQ), ruled that the mass collection of private data as committed by the security services between 1998 and 2015 failed to comply with Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights and was therefore illegal. Although the government has announced plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a new Bill of Rights, it is unclear what will change and how court decisions based on EU law will be made when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Nevertheless, 17 years of unlawful spying makes a clear case for an infringement of civil rights.

After being declared unlawful by the Court of Appeal, significant parts of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, better known as the “Snoopers’ Charter,” need to be overhauled by the legislators. Various codes of conduct were published by the government following a public consultation concluded in 2017. However, since the judges based their verdict largely on citizens’ rights protected by EU law, it is currently one of many topics that will remain in limbo until a dependable idea of a post-EU United Kingdom emerges. The outcome remains uncertain as explained in the cited article.

Citations:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/668943/Response_to_the_IPA_codes_consultation.pdf

https://www.computerworlduk.com/security/draft-investigatory-powers-bill-what-you-need-know-3629116/

To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

10
 9

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
 8
 7
 6


All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
 5
 4
 3


State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
 2
 1

Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
Political Liberties
8
Without a written constitution and the protection it affords, citizens of the United Kingdom have no fundamental rights in the sense of enjoying special protection against the powers of the executive and parliament. Citizens’ rights in the United Kingdom can thus be said to be residual and negative in nature. Citizens can do anything not expressly prohibited by law, but there are no positive rights to assert against the government unless the government concedes them. In practice, UK citizens enjoy considerable freedoms, although the police have recently acquired powers to constrain protests. Even so, demonstrations do take place.

Since disputes about political liberties always arise over contested issues, UK citizens have little recourse within the political system, especially when compared to continental European political systems. The Human Rights Act of 1998 (HRA) represented an attempt to create a “higher law” to which all other laws must conform. It offers individual and minority rights, and empowers judges to hold the executive to account and review acts of parliament. But its effectiveness is constrained by the fact that the government can temporarily annul the HRA, if it considers this necessary for the benefit of the country, and it remains contested.

The relative informality of civil rights in the United Kingdom is often justified by the strong tradition of a fair and open public discourse, which forms the very heart of the United Kingdom’s political identity. Some elements of the Brexit campaign, not least the murder of Jo Cox, may have cast doubt on this, although the strong public and political reaction to this tragedy highlighted a national determination to defend civil liberties. The saga of the Labour Party’s inability to counter allegations of systematic anti-Semitism continues.

How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

10
 9

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
 8
 7
 6


State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
 5
 4
 3


State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
 2
 1

The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
Non-discrimination
7
Over the last 15 years, measures to combat discrimination have entered the political agenda, the statute books and, perhaps most tellingly, have become cultural norms. Starting with the Race Relations Act 2000, all public authorities have been obliged to promote race equality and tackle discrimination. In 2006, this was extended to cover gender and disability discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 has added further areas, such as age, gender identity, pregnancy and maternity and religion or belief. Political pressure is being exerted to add “caste” in order to fight discrimination still common in the Asian community. The legal framework is therefore very robust in countering discrimination and has had a significant impact on social attitudes, with the result that incidents of discrimination are rapidly and loudly condemned.

The state has made a serious attempt to end discrimination and abolish inequalities by reacting to a number of scandals in, for example, the police force with its alleged “institutionalized racism.” Relatively minor incidents on the football field become headline news and the mainstream view is very strongly anti-discriminatory, to the extent that even populist political parties appealing to indigenous groups have to be very careful to avoid any hint of overt racism or other forms of discrimination. The perception that the indigenous population is crowded-out from public services and social housing has contributed to concerns about the impact of immigration, on which right-wing political forces and the right-wing press are capitalizing. There is still a massive imbalance in the national DNA database (40% of the black male population is registered, but only 13% of Asian males and 9% of Caucasian males), and anti-terrorism laws sometimes entail racial profiling, but these phenomena are motivated primarily by security concerns, not explicit discrimination. Moreover, support for equality measures is evident in how public opinion reacts to cases of discrimination.

The Windrush scandal in 2018, in which Home Office employees destroyed legal documents of British citizens with roots in Caribbean countries (see “Integration Policy”), is an interesting test case. On the one hand, it revealed an administrative disregard for the rights of those affected. Yet, on the other hand, the rapid political reaction and public dismay testified to an underlying support for anti-discrimination policies.

Rule of Law

#19

To what extent do government and administration act on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions to provide legal certainty?

10
 9

Government and administration act predictably, on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions. Legal regulations are consistent and transparent, ensuring legal certainty.
 8
 7
 6


Government and administration rarely make unpredictable decisions. Legal regulations are consistent, but leave a large scope of discretion to the government or administration.
 5
 4
 3


Government and administration sometimes make unpredictable decisions that go beyond given legal bases or do not conform to existing legal regulations. Some legal regulations are inconsistent and contradictory.
 2
 1

Government and administration often make unpredictable decisions that lack a legal basis or ignore existing legal regulations. Legal regulations are inconsistent, full of loopholes and contradict each other.
Legal Certainty
6
In the United Kingdom, the government and public administration apparatus act in line with legal provisions. This is facilitated by the government’s extensive control over the legislative process, which enables the government to alter provisions if they constitute a hindrance to government policy objectives. Media and other checks on executive action deter any deviation.

However, the government has struggled to implement Brexit and (at the time of concluding this assessment) uncertainty about how it will unfold persists, despite bold promises made in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 referendum. A “Great Repeal Bill,” the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 promises to bring all legislation derived from the European Union back into the UK legal system. However, parliament has still not approved the bill. Further, the act, being a national British law, is limited to EU laws that apply only to UK territory and will therefore be unable to replace international deals previously included in the United Kingdom’s EU membership. The uncertainty is a source of great concern for the business community and international investors in the United Kingdom. An unusually harsh remark came from Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of Keidanren the largest Japanese business association, who deplored the lack of clarity about what the UK government expects the future UK-EU relationship to be.

Similarly, the post-Brexit status of the three million EU citizens currently living and working in the European Union has still not been reliably clarified. Even though the UK government has signaled its willingness to uphold EU citizens’ residential status beyond March 2019, no law has been passed to ensure the pledge. Statements given by Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes when questioned by the Home Affairs Committee have not helped to clarify the situation.

There is also a lack of legal certainty regarding the many statutory instruments still to be scrutinized by parliament that are necessary to give force to certain provisions of the EU Withdrawal Act. There are strong doubts that these statutory instruments will all be passed in time for the 29 March deadline for the United Kingdom to exit the European Union. More generally, the all-consuming nature of Brexit has inhibited the conduct of other areas of policy, including the roll-out of Universal Credit, and the necessary reforms of health and social care, and transport policies.

Citations:
https://www.gov.uk/eu-withdrawal-act-2018-statutory-instruments

Fore Keidanren source: https://www.ft.com/content/37e87630-a9eb-11e8-94bd-cba20d67390c

To what extent do independent courts control whether government and administration act in conformity with the law?

10
 9

Independent courts effectively review executive action and ensure that the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 8
 7
 6


Independent courts usually manage to control whether the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 5
 4
 3


Courts are independent, but often fail to ensure legal compliance.
 2
 1

Courts are biased for or against the incumbent government and lack effective control.
Judicial Review
8
The United Kingdom has no written constitution and no Constitutional Court, although the supreme court fulfills this function. Consequently, the United Kingdom has no judicial review comparable to that in the United States or many other European countries. While courts have no power to declare parliamentary legislation unconstitutional, they scrutinize executive action to prevent public authorities from acting beyond their powers. A prominent example was the ruling of the High Court of Justice in November 2016 that the British government must not declare the United Kingdom’s separation from the European Union without a parliamentary hearing. The United Kingdom has a sophisticated and well-developed legal system, which is highly regarded internationally and based on the regulated appointment of judges.

Additional judicial oversight is still provided by the European Court of Human Rights, to which UK citizens have recourse. However, as a consequence of several recent high-profile ECHR decisions overturning decisions made by the UK government, some political figures called for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the court’s jurisdiction even before the referendum. The role and powers of the ECHR in the British legal system in a post-EU United Kingdom remain unclear.

In recent years, courts have strengthened their position in the political system. In cases of public concern over government action, public inquiries have often been held. However, implementation of any resulting recommendations is ultimately up to government, as the public lacks legal power. Judge-led inquiries tend to be seen by the public as having the highest degree of legitimacy, whereas investigations by members of the bureaucracy are prone to be regarded more cynically. Many such inquiries tend to be ad hoc and some drag on for so long that there is limited public awareness of the subject by the time their final reports are published. The extensive delay in publishing the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, finally made public only in July 2016 several years after it was supposed to be completed, was widely criticized by the government, media and citizen groups.

To what extent does the process of appointing (supreme or constitutional court) justices guarantee the independence of the judiciary?

10
 9

Justices are appointed in a cooperative appointment process with special majority requirements.
 8
 7
 6


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies with special majority requirements or in a cooperative selection process without special majority requirements.
 5
 4
 3


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies without special majority requirements.
 2
 1

All judges are appointed exclusively by a single body irrespective of other institutions.
Appointment of Justices
7
The judicial appointments system reflects the informality of the constitution, but it has undergone substantial changes in recent years, which formalize a cooperative process without a majority requirement. Since the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, the powers of the Lord Chancellor have been divided up. Furthermore, the supreme court of the United Kingdom has been established, which replaces the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords and relieves the second chamber of its judiciary role. The queen appoints 12 judges to the supreme court based on the recommendation of the prime minister who is advised by the Lord Chancellor in cooperation with a selection commission. It would be a surprise if the prime minister ignored the advice or the Lord Chancellor or selection commission or the queen ignored the recommendations of the prime minister. The queen has a formal, ceremonial role and she is bound to impartiality. In contrast, the Lord Chancellor has a highly influential role and consults with the legal profession.

There is no empirical basis on which to assess the actual independence of appointments, but there is every reason to believe that the appointment process will confirm the independence of the judiciary.

To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

10
 9

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 8
 7
 6


Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
 5
 4
 3


Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 2
 1

Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Corruption Prevention
8
The United Kingdom is comparatively free of explicit corruption like bribery or fraud, and there is little evidence that explicit corruption influences decision-making at national level. Occasional episodes arise of limited and small-scale corruption at local level, usually around property development. The delinquents of recent scandals in UK politics mostly acted within the law. However, these scandals point to a continuing gap between politicians’ attitudes and the public’s expectations. Regulations against corruption have already been formalized to strengthen them, with the 2004 Corruption Bill consolidating and updating regulations into one law. On most international comparisons, the United Kingdom comes out with strong scores.

The members of parliament expenses scandal of 2009 provoked a call for more transparency in this field, but is an example of an informal “British” approach to the political problem of not wanting to raise the salaries of members of parliament. Instead, there was a tacit understanding that they could claim generous expenses. The rules were tightened very substantially in the wake of the scandal, and an independent body was set up to regulate member of parliaments’ expenses. Codes of practice, such as the Civil Service Code and the Ministerial Code, have been revised (the latter in October 2015, following the election) and are publicly available. The volume of material published has been overwhelming, with examples range from lists of dinner guests at Chequers (the prime minister’s country residence) to details of spending on government credit cards. The most recent report (December 2016) from the independent adviser on ministerial interest appears to present a clean bill of health and notes that no reason to investigate any breaches of the ministerial code since 2012.

At a more subtle level, influence based on connections and friendships can occur, but rarely with direct financial implications. However, some regulatory decisions may be affected by the exercise of such influence.

Citations:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/468255/Final_draft_ministerial_code_No_AMENDS_14_Oct.pdf
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