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The Constitution
Introductory concepts ­ are that could reonably form the bis of part (a) questions
Defining a constitution
· A constitution essentially spells out the architecture of governance. It details the working
arrangements of government in a country and the collection of rules, written and unwritten
which regulate the government and inform the relationship between the government and
the people.
· In relation to the former, constitutions can specify what the different powers of respective
branches, and levels of government, are, well the relations between them. For instance
the German and Australian constitutions provide for federal arrangements, where the UK
and France operate unitary systems.
· Regarding the latter, a constitution also specifies the relations between the citizen and the
state. Famously, the first ten amendments to the US constitution are known the Bill of
Rights, and include the right to free speech, bear arms, etc.
Two features of a codified constitution
· The roles of different branches and levels of government and the relations between the
citizen and the state are brought together in a single document, the oldest and shortest
working example of which is the US constitution.
· Codification implies entrenchment, i.e. it is a higher law and requires a special procedure for
amendment. An example is the Irish constitution whereby a referendum is set after a bill
pses both houses of its legislature.
Distinguishing between a federal and a unitary constitution
· A federal constitution entails separate spheres of sovereignty between national and subnational
levels and each level is, in theory, autonomous. In the USA, for instance, federal
government in Whington DC is supreme in are such foreign trade, but states are
supreme in are such crime (e.g. some states have the death penalty, others don't).
· A unitary constitution, on the other hand, draws all power into a central source. In the UK all

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Westminster since "Parliament can make or unmake any law" (Dicey).
Defining sovereignty
· Sovereignty refers to absolute power, i.e. the exclusive right to control of governance. In the
ce of the UK, sovereignty in legal terms (de jure) is said to reside in Westminster since
"Parliament h the sole right to make or unmake any law" (Dicey). But the concept of
popular sovereignty suggests that (de facto) power is merely on loan to legislators since the
people exercise popular sovereignty via the ballot box.…read more

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It also states that citizens
have rights and government power is not
unlimited, e.g. the Belmarsh ce in 2004 which ended indefinite detention.
· Another feature is that it is unitary, i.e. it draws all power into a central source. In the UK all
legal power resides in Westminster since "Parliament can make or unmake any law" (Dicey)
What are the sources of the UK constitution?
Mnemonically these can be listed SCCREW (though the author claims no credit for inventing this):
· Statute.…read more

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Amery, Harold Lki, and Ivor Jennings have each created a thesis or doctrine on the
constitution, e.g. Dicey established the twin pillars of the constitution: rule of law and
parliamentary sovereignty. Bagehot outlined the principle of Cabinet government, and this is
the theoretical model applied today.…read more

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Legal (de jure) sovereignty is located in Parliament. Dicey stated: "Parliament h the sole
power to make or unmake any law." This means that it h ultimate legal power and its
actions cannot be over-ridden by any other body.
· Some power h been transferred downwards to the new devolved structures, and upwards
to the supranational EU. The Scottish Parliament h exercised its primary legislative powers
to plough a tartan furrow on higher education funding and long term care for the elderly.…read more

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Devolution can be repealed by a simple Act of Parliament. Margaret Thatcher scrapped the
Greater London Council and six Metropolitan Boroughs in 1986. In relation to Northern
Ireland, home rule w imposed by Edward Heath in 1972 and since power sharing w
introduced the sembly h been suspended (in 2002, but restored in 2007). Law from
Brussels/Strbourg/Luxembourg may take precedence over UK law in certain policy are,
but the UK could withdraw from the EU at any time.…read more

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Labour government were able to incorporate the
European Convention on Human Rights into UK law via a simple Act of Parliament.
· The UK constitution provides strong government. Whilst not everyone agreed with the
reforms to the UK economy of the Thatcher era, it w possible for her to undertake msive
change to such things employment laws. Political leaders have not managed to effect
equivalent changes in Italy and Germany despite these policy reforms being key election
pledges.…read more

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The UK judiciary h not been overtly politicised since they do not have to act final arbiters
of the constitution. It would be undesirable to have judges enter the political thicket in
relation to controversial issues such abortion or the death penalty, they do in the USA.
Instead it is left to our legislators to make political decisions. After all, MPs are elected and
accountable to the people. Judges are not.…read more

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This historical principle h stood the test of time, so it
would seem foolish to tamper with it.
· Who would write a codified constitution? The debate would be unnecessarily divisive (
w the ce in 1911 over the House of Lords) and political consensus would be impossible.
When parties can't even decide on how they are financed, what chances are there of arriving
at consensus? In addition there is no real public demand for codification, and other priorities
should take precedence.…read more

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· Since most of the constitution is unwritten it is unknowable. This means that citizens rely on
government to play by largely unwritten rules. For instance a road map to guide the
Monarch to what to do should in the event of a hung Parliament w htily drafted in the
weeks before the poll by a small handful of civil servants. It would be far safer and far more
democratic if our constitutional arrangements and procedures were defined and limited by
law.…read more


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