This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
The UK Constitution Click to edit Master subtitle style
The UK Constitution 1
• Definitions • A constitution refers to the way in which a country is governed. It covers the main framework of government and the relationship between the state and the people including individual rights. • •
The UK Constitution 2
• A constitution can be defined in two ways:• 1. "A document having legal sanctity setting out the framework of the organs of government.“ E.G. S. Wade, Constitutional Law, London, 1931, • This covers those countries which have a written document called the constitution. Almost all countries have such a constitution but such a document needs to be supplemented by other legislation and practices.
4 ." (The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary .The UK Constitution 3 • The UK does not have such a document and therefore tends to prefer a wider definition:• 2. state or body politic is constituted and governed. • This is a wider definition that fits the UK.Dicey "The Law of the Constitution" 1885).V.a paraphrase of A. "The system or body of fundamental principles according to which a nation.
This is something of a misnomer.The UK Constitution 4 • Unwritten Character • The UK has no one written document called the constitution and it is often described as unwritten. It is mainly written down but not in one document. The UK constitution is located in various places:• 5 . It would be better to describe the UK constitution as uncodified.
g. Laws a) Statute Law Laws passed by Parliament about the organs of government e.g. the Parliament Act 1949.The UK Constitution 5 Sources of the Constitution 1. the Human Rights Act 1998. or individual rights e. the Peerage Act 1963. 6 .
The UK Constitution 6 b) Case Law or Common Law Cases decided by judges many of which determine individual rights e.g. E. the Social Charter.g. Chief Justice Lord Phillips 7 . and rape in marriage. the common law wife. c) Community Law EC legislation has become part of our constitution insofar as it affects the system of government or individual The Lord rights.
The chief privileges today are:i) The Commons regulates its own procedures and can punish members and the public for breach of privileges or contempt of Parliament.The UK Constitution 7 d) Parliamentary Privilege (the law and custom of Parliament) This refers to certain rights which Parliament has which protects their freedoms and procedures. ii) MPs are exempt from action for defamation for words spoken in Parliament. 8 . This preserves their freedom of speech.
The UK Constitution 8 • e) Delegated legislation • Parliament passes some statutes in skeleton form and allows ministers to fill in the details. • 9 . Where these affect individual rights or government institutions they could be said to be part of our constitution.
g.The UK Constitution 9 2 a) Historic Documents Certain documents have become accepted as part of our constitution because they contain important principles e. 10 . Magna Carta 1215 (the right to a fair trial – it also limited the power of the monarch) and the Bill of Rights 1689 ( the rights of Parliament against the Monarch).
The UK Constitution 10 b) Advisory Opinions Certain writers are considered to have written authoritative works on the constitution e. Dicey "The Law of the Constitution" (1885) and Walter Bagehot "The English Constitution" (1868) 11 .V. A.g.
Dicey defines them as:." 12 .The UK Constitution 11 3. Conventions These are rules of political practice that cannot be enforced in courts of law."An obligation which compels obedience in the absence of the ordinary means of enforcing a legal rule through the orders of a court.
The UK Constitution 12 Conventions derive from custom. 13 . It is this aspect of the constitution which has led to Britain's constitution being called "unwritten" though in fact they are written down and consistently followed. and agreement. though they are not always precise. expediency.
14 .The UK Constitution 13 • The importance of conventions • In the UK and other countries conventions fill in the gaps which are not filled by law. • "Conventions provide the flesh that clothes the bones of law" Sir Ivor Jennings “The Law and the Constitution” (1933).
15 . – the position of the monarchy – the relationship between government and Parliament – the relationship between the two houses and – the machinery of government •are all mainly governed by convention.The UK Constitution 14 Britain is unique in the extent of its conventions.g. •They cover much of the central relationship between our institutions of government e.
• The US constitution was written using the doctrine of separation of powers. Congress's job is to make the laws and the President's is to make sure they are carried out. The Constitution does not say who should suggest draft legislation.The UK Constitution 15 • Other countries have conventions e. Each Congressional session he presents a program of legislation that becomes its main source of legislation. 16 . • The US President is regarded as the legislative leader.g.
the Congress drafted. but is free to suggest one and ask that the legislators pass it. • Around the turn of the twentieth century the US president became accepted as legislative leader. as well as passed. Early presidents were not very active in the legislative process. nearly all legislation.The UK Constitution 16 • The President has no power to pass a law. • 17 . During the nation's first century.
In a good year he may get 2/3rds of his legislation passed in a bad year only 1/3rd.The UK Constitution 17 • In other words the US Constitution gives the President no role whatsoever in making the law but by convention he is very much involved. . • A British PM would normally get 99% 18 passed. • However he cannot ensure that legislation is passed.
The UK Constitution 18 The reasons why conventions are followed:1 A belief that it is right to obey them because they are reasonable rules or are part of a reasonable structure of rules which ought to be preserved and upheld. 19 .
g. A fear of disrepute in public opinion and its political implications. • 20 .The UK Constitution 19 2. It would be politically inadvisable to break them e. the position of the Monarch and the Government and Opposition.
The UK Constitution 20 3. 21 .g. if Parliament did not meet every year then two thirds of taxation and spending would become illegal. Age enhances their authority. 4. In a very few cases if a convention was broken then as consequence a law would be broken e.
The UK Constitution 21 5 Expediency – collective responsibility is followed to maintain party unity and to present a united front to the Opposition and the nation.g. • Occasionally conventions have been converted into law if broken e. 22 . 1911 Parliament Act.
The UK Constitution 22 Continuity of Development • The constitution has developed over centuries . 23 .there has been unbroken development since 1689. This is the major reason why we have not had a written constitution.
24 .g.The UK Constitution 23 • Written constitutions are normally adopted because there has been some major change. India 1950 – Major upheaval e. France 1940 & 4th Republic Germany 1949 – Independence US 1787. – Revolution e. French 5th Republic 1958 • UK has had nothing like this since 17th century. French Revolution 1789 – War e.g.g.
Changes in the UK constitution can come about through changes in the law or through changes in conventions. • The UK is said to have a flexible constitution. 25 .The UK Constitution 24 Flexibility and Rigidity • A flexible constitution is one where there are no special procedures necessary in order to change it and it is consequently easy to change.
g. • 26 .The UK Constitution 25 • A rigid constitution is one which is difficult to change. • There are special procedures to change it e. in the US a constitutional amendment needs a two thirds majority in both Houses of Congress and then it has to be ratified by three quarters of all the States Legislatures.
• The prominent Conservative Lord Hailsham called for a written constitution in 1975. • Subsequently the Liberal Democrats have called for a written constitution. • The Liberals and the Alliance supported wholesale constitutional changes. 27 .The UK Constitution 26 • A Written Constitution for the UK • In recent years there has been a greater call for constitutional change in the UK.
• A pressure group Charter 88 (Now Unlock Democracy) was set up in 1988 to campaign for constitutional change and a written constitution. 28 .The UK Constitution 27 • The Labour and Conservative parties have not advocated such change though the Labour party supported a large number of constitutional changes in the period 1997 – 2010.
• The creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies • A referendum on voting reform.The UK Constitution 28 • The Coalition Government has a large number of constitutional proposals including • Fixed-term. • Give voters power of recall of MPs. 29 . 5 year parliaments.
Proponents of a written constitution want a rigid constitution which would be difficult to change and would preserve our rights and system of government against change. They argue that our constitution is too vague and that there is a need for clarity e. 30 . the position of the monarch over calling a general election.Arguments in favour of a Written Constitution 1 1. 2.g.
31 • .Arguments in favour of a Written Constitution 2 3. In 1975 Lord Hailsham described the government as an "elective dictatorship" by which he meant that once elected the government had almost no checks upon it and could do almost as it liked. The Lords is not an effective check because it has limited powers and it is afraid to use them. The Commons is an insufficient check since a government with an overall majority can push through the legislation that it wants. There are insufficient checks upon the government.
The courts are not an effective protector of individual rights because they are bound by statutes. The Human Rights Act only goes part of the way to protect rights. 32 .Arguments in favour of a Written Constitution 3 4. The supporters of a written constitution would see a need to protect rights by a Bill of Rights as part of a more rigid constitution.
Arguments against a Written Constitution for the UK 1 1. 2. A rigid constitution would limit a democratically elected government. A flexible constitution can change with the moods and ideas of the time. 33 . A rigid constitution is essentially conservative in nature and would not change with the times.
e.Arguments against a Written Constitution for the UK 2 3. if the only way of changing the constitution is via a change in the interpretation then there will be a temptation to appoint judges on a party political basis. 34 . There is also the danger of politicisation of judges i. Judges are accused of being conservative in nature and are unelected. A written constitution would be interpreted by judges.
The system of checks and balances includes:i) The Official Opposition in the Commons. 35 Arguments against a Written Constitution for the UK 3 . ii) The actions of backbench MPs and the limitations of the loyalty of party members. There is no need for a written constitution because the present system of checks and balances are sufficient safeguards.4.
A variation on this argument is that there is no need for a written constitution whilst the constitution is being adhered to. vi) The Supreme Court. 36 .Arguments against a Written Constitution for the UK 4 iii) The Lords. the Opposition and the media. viii) The European Court of Justice. The government wishes to win the next general election and is therefore sensitive to the opinions of pressure groups. iv) The effect of public opinion. vii) The European Court of Human Rights.
• 37 .Arguments against a Written Constitution for the UK 5 5. The best defence of personal and political liberties is the vigilance of the politicians and the public.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.