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(c) Assess the arguments in favour of introducing a codified constitution for the UK. (25 marks)
A codified constitution is one that is collected in one document. It also means that it is superior to all
other laws and political bodies and that it is entrenched, meaning that it is protected from easy
amendment. The British Constitution is not codified and this has led to many criticisms. The Liberal
Democrats in particular wish to see a codified constitution. This essay will examine the arguments
and balance these against criticisms.
The main argument is that the current constitution, which is a mixture of sources such as conventions,
statutes, principles, traditions, common law and EU treaties, is very difficult to understand. Because
citizens do not understand it, it is much easier for it to be abused. In addition its vagueness means it
often has to be established and interpreted by judges in court cases and it is not satisfactory that
unelected judges should determine the constitution. Having said this, the constitution of the USA is
codified and they have little difficulty with the Supreme Court regularly interpreting the constitution.
Most Americans do know about their constitution because it is part of their education system. It is
doubtful if British schoolchildren would be so interested in a British Constitution because people are
less patriotic in this country.
Another argument is that we need a strong, codified and entrenched constitution for two important
reasons. The first is that there is a gradual drift towards the prime minister having more power --
socalled presidential government. This is because the powers of the prime minister are unwritten
conventions and so can be abused or extended without any parliamentary sayso. If we had an
entrenched constitution it would prevent the prime minister taking powers to which he is not entitled.
It would also firmly establish the division of power between government and Parliament which is
very vague at the moment. The only argument against this is that it might make government too weak
if there were constant constitutional challenges to its authority, as happens in the USA.
Thirdly, a codified constitution would help to preserve the rights of citizens by putting them in a
codified form. At the moment our rights are contained in a confusing and vague mixture of statutes,
European law and common law. A real Bill of Rights in a constitution would prevent government and
Parliament abusing civil rights and freedoms.
So we can see that there are several strong arguments for a codified constitution for the UK -- to
educate the citizens, to prevent too much power falling into the wrong hands and to better protect
our rights. There are strong arguments in the other direction, but on the whole there is a very strong