Sources of the UK Constitution

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  • Sources of the UK Constitution
    • Works of authority
      • Lack legal authority and their status can be subject to debate
        • Helps to define what is 'proper' and 'correct' and to interpret different sources
        • Examples include
          • Walter Bagehot The English Constitution(1867) discusses role of PM and Cabinet
            • AV Dicey An Introduction to the study of law of the Constitution (1885) defines parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law
              • Thomas Erkskine , Erkskine May (1884) practices and procedures/ rules of parliament
    • Acts of Parliament
      • Also known as Statue
        • Formal Laws which are written down and have passed through the proper procedure in the Houses of Parliament
        • Seen as the most important and will override other sources due to parliamentary sovereignty
        • Examples that are significant to the constitution  include
          • Parliament Act 1911 and 1949
            • Scotland Act 1998
              • European Community Act 1972
                • Human Rights Act 1998
            • Government of Wales Act 1998
              • House of Lords Act 1999
                • Constitutional Reform Act 2005
    • Major Constitutional Documents
      • Historic documents which guide our way of life
        • Includes
          • The Magna Carta 1215 (monarch should be answerable to the citizens of the country; right to trial by jury) (Rule of law)
          • Bill Of Rights 1689 (human rights of Uk citizens- up until HRA 1998
    • Royal Perogatives
      • Powers of the crown
      • Usually exercised by the Prime Minister and other Ministers now, or subject to parliamentary consultation
        • Includes
          • Power to appoint, reshuffle and sack ministers
            • Power to declare war
            • Power to resolve and recall parliament
            • Power to ratify (sign) international treaties
            • Power to exercise mercy (Home Secretary)
    • EU Law
      • Is Supreme above UK law since the European Communities Act 1972
        • Significant treaties include:
          • Treaty Of Rome 1957 (founded the EU)
            • Single European Act 1986 (established single European market free trade and free movement of workers)
            • Treaty on European Union/ Maastricht Treaty 1993 (established the euro currency- UK opted out)
              • Treaty Of Lisbon 2007 (decision- making  arrangements in the EU
    • Common Law
      • Laws based on tradition and Precedent decided over the years by the courts on a case-by-case basis.
      • Judges have to follow the decisions of superior judges in previous cases- this is called Precedent
        • Includes:
          • The Law on Murder
            • Royal Perogative
              • Rights of Citizens (until Human Rights Act 1998)
    • Constitutional Conventions
      • Defined as a rule of conduct or behaviour based on custom and prior actions
        • Includes:
          • Government will resign/ call an election if defeated in a 'major bill' in The House of Commons or lose the confidence of The House of Commons
            • Cabinet proceedings should be kept secret
          • UK does not declare war without a parliamentary debate (Gordon Brown 2007)
            • Collective Ministerial responsibility (for the cabinet)
            • PM should be chosen from The House Of Commons
          • Royal Assent is always granted (not rejected since 1707)
          • Individual Ministerial responsibility (for their department)
      • No legal standing and no repercussions if not followed
  • Books written by experts on Constitutional issues
    • Lack legal authority and their status can be subject to debate
      • Helps to define what is 'proper' and 'correct' and to interpret different sources
      • Examples include
        • Walter Bagehot The English Constitution(1867) discusses role of PM and Cabinet
          • AV Dicey An Introduction to the study of law of the Constitution (1885) defines parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law
            • Thomas Erkskine , Erkskine May (1884) practices and procedures/ rules of parliament

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