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The Constitution
What is the Constitution?
A constitution is the system or body of laws, customs and conventions that define the composition
and powers of the main offices and institutions of the state. It regulates their relations with each other
and with the ordinary public.
"Offices of the State"
· The judiciary
· Parliament (House of Commons and House of Lords)
· Local Government
· Devolved Governments
· Central Government (Ministers and Prime Minister)
· The civil service.
Constitution may be written (codified) or unwritten (uncodified), a written constitution encompasses
all constitutional law into one singular document. Unusually, Britain does NOT have a written
constitution. This doesn't mean no parts of the constitution is written down, they just are not in a
single document.
E.g.. There is a document on the powers of the devolved governments but none for that of the
powers of a prime minister
Codified Constitution Uncodified Constitution
· Rules and principles on governing the state are · There is no single authoritative document,
gathered into one document instead the rules and principles governing the
· Constitution has the status of state are found in a number of sources, both
FUNDAMENTAL LAW making it superior to written and unwritten.
all other law. · It has the status of ordinary law. By no means
· It is entrenched (hard to change) superior to any other law passed.
· The courts (especially the Supreme Courts) use · Easier to change, amended simply by passing
it to determine whether laws are constitutional. an act of parliament.
· Clear document to form decisions from. · Judicial review is limited, there is no single
authoritative document to help determine if
actions are unconstitutional.
Positives Negatives
· Flexibility - The constitution can be easily · Lack Of Clarity - Because the constitution is
changed as circumstances change. unwritten, it lacks clarity. Sometimes, it may
· Evolution - The constitution has evolved over not be clear what should happen when a new
time. problem arises.
· Strong Government - The constitution · Concentration of Power - The constitution
provides for strong and effective government. provides very few checks against all-powerful
· Accountability - The constitution ensures that government.
the government is responsible · The constitution can be seen as outdated and
undemocratic…read more

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Case For A Written Constitution The Judiciary
· A written constitution would constrain the What is the Judiciary?
power of the government Those individuals and bodies (primarily judges
· A written constitution couldn't be changed and courts) involved in administering and
to suit the whim of the government interpreting the meaning of laws.
· A written constitution would better protect
citizens' rights The Composition of the Judiciary
· Ambiguous aspects of the constitution Crown Courts ­ deal with criminal crimes
could be clarified County Courts ­ deals with civil offences
· Outdated aspects of the constitution could The High Courts ­ consists of two divisions:
be updated the Divisional Court, which handles appeals
from county courts and the Chancery Division
Case Against a Written Constitution which only considers the most complex of
· A written constitution would be very hard to The Court of Appeal ­ hears appeals of the
change. Britain's unwritten constitution is high court
flexible, and can be easily changed as The Supreme Court ­ the highest court of
circumstances change appeal. In recent years, the Supreme Court
· It would be hard to get an agreement on the cases have often been brought under the Human
contents of a written constitution Rights Act and EU law.
· A written constitution would erode
Parliamentary sovereignty What Do Judges Do?
· A written constitution would give more · Preside over criminal trials
power to judges ­ who are unelected, · Deliver sentences
unaccountable, and may not be impartial · Resolve civil disputes
· The concept of parliamentary sovereignty ­ · Uphold the will of the legislature,
whereby Parliament can make or unmake interpreting and enforcing the laws
any law that it likes, and therefore a parliament have passed
Parliament can not bind its successors -
makes it hard to introduce a written Judges Political Power
constitution · Responsible for reviewing public officials to
· An unwritten constitution is un-necessary. see if they've acted beyond their powers
There are a number of constraints that (ultra vires)
prevent all powerful government, and rights · Asked to interpret law
are adequately protected by the Human · Declare legislation incompatible with ECHR
Rights Act · Suspend and act of parliament breaching EU
Political Role
· Make public speeches
· Publish articles
· Lead inquiries
Why this is Controversial
· Unelected therefore unaccountable
· Judges may not be impartial politically…read more

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Has The Judiciary Become More Politicised In Sources of the Constitution
Recent Years? · Convention ­ customs and political habits that
have developed over a number of years and
YES have become accepted practice.
· Since the incorporation of the European · Legislation ­ Some parts of the constitution are
Convention on Human Rights into British written down, in Acts passed by Parliament
law, judges have had the right to suggest · Common Law ­ ancient rules and customs that
changes to legislation if it conflicts with the are now seen as common practice.
ECHR. Judges can make a declaration of · Classic writings on the constitution ­ do not
incompatibility. have the force of law but are used by judges in
· The number of judicial review cases has difficult cases or by the HOC speaker
increased in recent years. Judges are · Treaties and Laws of the EU ­ Form a written
increasingly responsible for reviewing the part of the constitution.
actions of public agents (including
Ministers) to find out whether their actions
are `ultra vires' ­ beyond their powers. Separation of Powers
· Judges can suspend an Act of Parliament
which appears to infringe EU law, pending a
final ruling from the European Court of L E The separation of
powers is based on
Justice. This follows the Factortame Case
the idea that these are
· Politicians have often broken with
three separate organs
convention, by publicly criticising rulings
handed down by senior judges
J of government.
· Legislative
· The creation of the Supreme Court.
function ­ makes
NO True Separation of
the laws
· The creation of the Judicial Appointments Powers
· Executive function
­ creates the laws
· The downgrading of the role of the Lord
· Judicial Function
Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor is no L E ­ enforce the law
longer the head of the legal system.. It
therefore ensures the independence of the
Motesqeui argued to
judiciary J safeguard freedom,
· The creation of the Supreme Court means
those making the
that judges are no longer members of the
Fusion of Powers laws should remain
House of Lords, and therefore ensures a
in Traditional separate from those
separation of the legislature and the
Britain creating them and
those enforcing them.
· Increased conflict between judges and
Each power should
· This could be seen as a good sign. It shows L E act as a effective
that the courts are willing to challenge the
check on the others,
government when it appears to be
and this cannot occur
threatening our civil liberties. This shows the
whilst there is a
independence of the judiciary.
· Judges security of tenure and guaranteed
J fusion between these
· This ensures that judges are protected from Judicial
pressure from politicians Independence…read more

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House of Commons Representation
Functions of the House of Commons: Specific Representation
· Individual constituents
· Providing the personnel for government: · Groups within the constituency
Most members of government will be members of · The constituency as a whole
the House of Commons (others in the House of
Lords) by convention the Prime Minister will be a Constituency work levels have increase
member of the House of Commons. massively since the 1950's, by 1992 the number
· Representation of letters received by an MP had risen from 12-20
Collectively, the House of Commons fulfils to over 300. Now even more so through email
representation, representing a nation and each MP and social media. This could be due to:
individually represents their constituency. · Growth in the public sector ­ more grievances
· Forum for Debate · Greater political awareness
Provides a forum in which important issues can be · Increased professionalism of MPs
debated either in question time or other debates.
· Legitimising the Government In order to redress constituent grievances MPs:
Made legitimate by the overall majority in the · Provide professional advice or direction
House of Commons, legislation is passed by a · Write to the relevant minister
majority of MPs vote. · Raise the matter in the HOC at Question Time
· Scrutiny of the Executive · Forward the case to the Ombudsman
Vitally important, without scrutiny the government
would be all powerful. Scrutiny occurs via debates. General Representation
· Shared Legislative Function · Political party
Most legislature powers are with government but · Pressure Groups
small proportions are introduced by back benchers · The nation as a whole
through Private Members Bills.
Role of an MP Average Age of MPs
Cons Lab Libs Other All
· Representation of Constituents
· Scrutiny of Legislation
· Scrutiny of the Executive Age 48 52 50 51 50
· Introduction of Private Members Bills
Women in the House of Commons
MP Occupation Background (2005)
1979 1987 1997 2001 2010
Professi Business White Manual
onal Collar
No. 19 41 120 118 142
No 242 118 217 38
Number of Non-White MPs
Cons Lab Libs All 1992 1997 2001 2005 2010
% 54 15 40 33 No. 6 9 12 15 26…read more

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Key Term Definition
The Legislative Process
Green Paper A government document
setting out various
First Reading ­ No debate, only approaches for legislation
the title of the bill read out. and inviting comment
from interested parties
such as pressure groups.
White Paper A government document
Second Reading ­ Debate on setting out detailed
principles of the bill. proposal for legislature
Bill A legislative proposal that
has yet to be passed by
Committee Stage ­ Line by line
scrutiny on the technical details Public Bill A bill concerning a
of the bill. general issue of public
policy, introduced by a
government minister
Private Members Bill A bill sponsored by a
Report Stage ­ the stage at which
backbench MP
any changes made at the
committee stage are reported Act A legislative proposal that
back to the whole house. has completed the
legislative process,
including the Royal
Assent, and has been
Third Reading ­ The final debate passed into law.
on the bill, assuming 6 MPs table Secondary Legislation Law made by Ministers,
an amendment) and passing vote. who have been granted
authority by an Act of
Parliament (as opposed to
legislation made by
Public Bill Committee An all-party committee
(Standing Committee) which scrutinises the
The Whips technical details of a bill
at the Committee stage of
· Use the `black book' in bribery and the legislative process
blackmail Committee of the Whole A meeting held in the
· Communication House chamber, in which the
· Management and organisation whole House of
· Informative Commons considers the
· Persuasive committee stage of a
public bill (applies to the
annual Finance Bill)…read more

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