The House of Lords is no longer the highest court in the land. After delivering its verdict in the Debbie Purdy case, the Law Lords packed their bags and shipped out of the Houses of Parliament. From October, they will be known as 'Justices' in a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
Untangling the judicial and legislative branches of government represents another landmark in British constitutional reform. But what additional change can we expect?
1. House of Lords
Parliament's upper chamber is unelected. Even its name harks back to feudal times. It has 725 members, of which 26 are Lords Spiritual and 699 are Lords Temporal. The Lords Spiritual consist of 26 Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England; while the Lords Temporal comprise 608 appointed life peers and 91 aristocrat hereditary peers. As a next step in the drive to modernise British democracy, the Lords might be renamed the "Senate" and periodic elections held to determine its composition.
Britain belongs to a dwindling group of nations whose governments officially endorse one religion over others. But the movement to separate government from religion has grown apace of late, particularly in light of the schism within the Church of England over gay rights and ordination of women.
3. Written Constitution
The UK stands alone among developed nations in not having a written constitution. Instead, the country relies on a mixture of parliamentary conventions, statutes and court judgments - the so-called "unwritten constitution" - to provide a buffer between freedom and tyranny. Given other proposed reforms, now seems the perfect time to commit the constitution to writing.
4. Voting Reform
Currently, members of the House of Commons are elected using the first-past-the-post system. But a recent ICM poll for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggests most people favour electoral reform. Proportional representation, which would give parties seats in Parliament in proportion to their share of the votes, is already used in European Parliament, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly, London Assembly, and Scottish and Northern Irish local government elections. And the Guardian recently reported that Labour plans to hold a referendum on the voting system to coincide with next year's general election.
In May, the House of Commons Justice Committee published a report on devolution. This month, it criticised the Government's approach to constitutional reform as "ad hoc and piecemeal," and recommended a constitutional convention to resolve a number of key issues, including devolution.
6. New Parliament Building
David Hayes believes Parliament should move from the Palace of Westminster, which he describes as a "deadening gothic monstrosity," to build anew "and let light, air, ideas, energy and people into a [more] modern Parliament." This follows Paddy Ashdown's suggestion a few years ago to turn the Palace into a museum.
Critics of the current building say it's ill-suited to modern, transparent democracy: public access is very limited; parties sit opposite one another, which only serves to promote histrionics and yelling matches rather than sincere discussion and consensus-building; and during major debates the Commons chamber does not have enough space to seat all MPs.
7. End Hereditary Rule
At present, constitutional reform of the executive branch of government seems a long way off. The Royal family has expended a significant amount of money to improve its public image over the past 10 years. That said, the Republic campaign for an elected head of state continues to attract members, and it is conceivable that a referendum could be held on the issue one day.