• Bernard Burrows
  • Geoffrey Denton


This book arose out of the dissatisfaction evident on all sides about the likely outcome of the Devolution Acts. For a variety of reasons, many of which emerge later on, the legislation failed to satisfy either the supporters or the opponents of devolution. This result may to some extent be written off as the normal outcome of democratic politics, where the best compromise is often the one that completely satisfies nobody. But there are strong reasons for believing that the constitutional structure emerging from the devolution debate is far from being optimal. The most solid opposition in Parliament to devolution came from the Conservative Opposition. It is therefore appropriate to quote as the starting point of this paper from a speech by the then Conservative spokesman on devolution. Mr Pym was reported (Financial Times, 24 July 1978) as fearing that the Devolution Bills could lead to ‘federalism by stealth’, and that the ‘quasi-federal system’ that would be introduced would ‘bear the hall-marks of instability, inconsistency and confusion’. Mr Pym was at pains to emphasise that, in calling for a discussion of federalism, possibly by an all-party Conference, he was not himself advocating federalism, but that: ‘if we are to end up with quasi-federalism I would rather we did so on the basis of a scheme founded on federal practices and principles than one that is internally inconsistent’. It is in this spirit of concern about the consequences of the half-baked approach to devolution, and of a desire to investigate the merits, and the problems, of a fully worked out federal system, that this paper has been written.


Federal System Democratic Politics Constitutional Change Constitutional Structure Constitutional Arrangement 
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  1. 1.
    For an excellent and balanced examination of various constitutional alternatives for Northern Ireland, see John Oliver, Ulster Today and Tomorrow (PEP: London, March 1978 (Broadsheet no. 574)Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    See, for example, Roderick MacFarquhar MP, ‘The Community, the Nation State and the Regions’, in Bernard Burrows, Geoffrey Denton and Geoffrey Edwards (eds), Federal Solutions to European Issues, (Macmillan/The Federal Trust: London, 1978).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bernard Burrows and Geoffrey Denton 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Burrows
  • Geoffrey Denton

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