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Evaluate The Case For Using Referenda To Decide Important Issues In The Uk

1438 words - 6 pages

When a major issue is needed to be tackled within the UK, and only the Government at the time are able to make the yes/no decision, we in the UK have a voting system in place to deal with this. This is known as Referenda. The official dictionary definition of Referenda states that ‘• noun (pl. referendums or referenda /reff rend /) a general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision.’ (Oxford English Dictionary 2007). This definition can be interpreted as a form of direct Democracy. Usually the issues for holding a Constitutional Referendum equate to major issues such as passing new laws, or a specific government policy. This means the Constitutional Referenda is a rare event within the United Kingdom.There are only two types of Referenda used in the United Kingdom. We have Pre - Legistlative & Post – Legistlative. As a Referendum is NOT legally binding, the current appointed Government do have the option to ignore the results if they see fit. Also, due to the Local Government Act 1972, small communities may call a meeting and if necessary the local council must have called a referendum within 14 – 25 days. This does not make the referendum legally binding, but it can possibly lead to being influential (Wikipedia 2007).It can be said that the Referendum helps to strengthen Democracy by allowing the public to participate in the Government decisions, and ensure that people feel as thought they have some power over the way those decisions are made. Referendums are also very advantageous as they set out to enlighten and educate the public on individual issues. This enables people to still feel involved and voice an opinion especially in the decline of the turnout of voters.Referenda’s, whilst very rare, have been around within the UK Government since the Local Government Act 1972, and only one has been held to cover the whole of the United Kingdom. This was the United Kingdom Referendum 1975. This was a post-legislative referendum to decide if there was enough support for the UK to stay within the EEC. This resulted with the UK staying within the EEC, however we can look at this sceptically as the Referendum was part of a pledge if Howard Wilson came to power with the Labour Party. He was elected in February 1974 and set about ensuring the Referendum was called as soon as possible, however controversially, Wilson was in ‘Yes’ party along with the majority of the Conservative Party. The majority of Wilsons Labour Party strongly opposed the UK staying within the EEC. (BBC News – 06/06).This use of the Referenda to involve the whole of the UK worked well as the general public felt involved with the Government.On a national scale, effective Referenda are few and far between due to their rarity, however many local councils hold Referenda on a more regular basis. A stellar example of effective Referendum is the 1998 Milton Keynes Referenda....

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