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Constitutional Reforms and the UK Government

            A constitution is a set of rules, processes and principles, describing the political institutions of a state. Since 1997 New Labour aimed to prove they had become a modern party and proposed constitutional reforms (amendments to the constitution), both to modernise the UK and to garner support from welsh and Scottish voters. These reforms were also introduced as the labour party felt there had been a drift towards excessive power under the conservatives since 1979.
             In 1998, the labour government introduced the Scotland and Wales Act, this transferred powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. Both acts were implemented after a pre legislative referendum in Scotland and wales in 1997. The introduction of these acts has weakened government powers as it means they have fewer jurisdictions over some laws in Scotland and wales. Having said that, this transfer of power also known as devolution, is not a transfer of sovereignty – ultimate power and often referred to as quasi federalism as the powers distributed can be regained by parliament, who remains sovereign, however also described as quasi sovereignty as the powers distributed are unlikely ever to return.
             The introduction of the Human Rights Act, has also reduced the powers of government over civil liberties. The Human rights act 1998, codified the European convention on Human rights into UK law. This requires that every proposed law must be compatible with the act, and if a law breaches the act, a citizen may appeal, that their rights under the act have been breached. If the judiciary rule in favour of the citizen, government may be forced to reverse or change the proposal. The introduction of the Human Rights Act has led to greater conflicts between the Judiciary and government over security of state vs civil liberties. For example, the Belmarsh case, in which 9 foreign nationals were held in Belmarsh Prison under the anti-terrorism legislation 2001, the judiciary ruled this was an intrusion on civil liberties article 5 in the human rights act, right to liberty.

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