THE NEW CONSTITUTIONAL SETTLEMENT
The previous chapter explained, in a fairly abstract way, the principles of liberal democracy underpinning public law. Before going further, we need to consider in outline the practical constitutional arrangements of the UK. So many changes have been made to the structures of law making and government in the past few years that it is no exaggeration to say that there has been a new constitutional ‘settlement’. Many of them have come about as the direct result of a programme of constitutional reform implemented by the Labour Government since the 1997 general election. Other changes stem from broader and deeper transformations that are taking place in the way governments operate – many of them associated with the processes of globalisation and the creation of the ‘new world order’ (see below, 2.12). Some of the most significant developments include the following: (a) the continuing evolution of the European Union, most recently with the
revisions made by the Treaty of Amsterdam which came into force in May 1999;
(b) new devolved legislative and executive institutions have been established in the three smaller parts of the UK (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and this will have an impact on the whole of the UK, including England;
(c) the Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into the legal systems of the UK. This will affect not only the constitutional relationship between individuals and the State, but also between the judiciary, legislatures and executive bodies of the UK.