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Recent reforms have brought the UK and US closer constitutionally. Discuss.

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´╗┐Synoptic Essay Kitty McCargo-Walklate To what extent have recent reforms brought the UK closer to the US in constitutional terms? There are many difference between the UK and US constitutions. Most evidently, the UK Constitution is uncodified meaning that there is not one single document that states all of the laws, rules and principles that the UK system is based on. This differs from the US, who?s codified and entrenched Constitution which, produced in 1787, establishes the roles and powers of all branches of their system. However, recent constitutional reforms in the UK have aligned its political system closer to that of the UK. For example; the Human Rights Act (HRA), devolution, the House of Lords reforms and the Freedom of Information act (FOI). Due to the absence of an entrenched constitution in the UK, these changes have been easily made and allow the system to adapt naturally especially over recent years. The most important change than had brought the UK and US closer constitutionally is the HRA. Introduced in 1997, the HRA requires British government to ensure that legislation is compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights which aims to protect fundamental rights such as ?the right to life? and ?freedom from discrimination.? Therefore the Act has the potential to clarify and redefine the relationship between the individual and the state. ...read more.


Although both systems have clearly decentralised, there is a distinctive difference between devolution within a unitary system and a federal system. The difference being that, the powers that are vested in the US states are a lot more significant than those that were given to the devolved power in the UK. Another way in which the UK is becoming closer to the US constitutionally is due to the Parliamentary reform of the House of Lords. The House of Lords Act of 1999 abolished the right of all but 92 hereditary peers to sit and vote in the upper house, thus, making the system more democratic. In doing so the second chamber is beginning to reflect the US Senate which is the equivalent of the House of Lords in US government which is a fully elected chamber made up of 100 senators ? 2 elected from each of the 50 states across America. However, contrastingly, despite attempts to reform under Blair, the House of Lords remains unelected, with the ability to elect a life peer given to the PM. Irrespective of the fact that all three main parties made commitments to pursue Lords reform in their 2010 manifestos in September 2012 the coalition decided to withdraw the House of Lords reform bill, preventing any further reform in the near future. ...read more.


The effort to expand presidential power accelerated after the 9/11 terror attack in New York, taking advantage of a national consensus that the president should have additional powers to use judiciously against terrorists. In particular, the introduction of the 2001 Patriot Act which theoretically allows the US government to intercept any messages that are relevant to ?an ongoing criminal investigation.? Clearly this is controversial act as it breached the 4th Amendment giving all citizens a right to privacy. In conclusion, in recent decades there have been numerous reforms that have brought the UK closer to the US in constitutional terms, most obviously the powers of the PM and President, however, there are also still great differences between them. The most politically significant of these reforms is the Human Rights Act as is a direct mirror of the US Bill of rights. However with recent discussions on an in/out referendum of UK membership in the EU, the future of the HRA is at potential risk. But the reputational damage that would follow such a move has been noted and thus makes it rather unlikely. In comparison, the process of reversing devolution is near to impossible and would have to involve another referendum. This means devolution as a constitutional reform is a much more substantial move towards the US system as it is a long term alteration that will inevitable continue. ...read more.

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