"The UK Needs a Written Constitution" Discuss essay


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Government and Politics Homework ­ Mrs Roberts 2/10/2011
Sarah Taylor
"The UK needs a written constitution"
Consider the arguments for and against such a document
At the moment, the British constitution is unwritten, although it may be less misleading to call it
uncodified as various elements of the constitution are written down. The term uncodified means the
constitution is not all kept in a single document, but is spread about in various pieces of legislature. It
also means British laws, policies and codes are developed through statutes, common law,
convention, and recently European Union law. Although the British constitution does not have a clear
set of rules in one single document, it does clearly state in various documents where political power
is held, and how it is allocated.
One advantage of the uncodified constitution, which would probably be considered the main one, is
that it is flexible and easy to change. This means if a new situation has to be dealt with by policies or
laws, they can quickly be changed to do so. All that is needed for a policy to be changed is for
Parliament to agree. Unlike written constitutions, old policies and other constitutional practices don't
make it difficult to deal with new situations, as new ones can be developed when the need arises.
Opponents of a written constitution have argued "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" it could be said that
the unwritten constitution of Britain has served us well up until now, and there is no call for it to be
changed. The fact that America has only had twenty-seven amendments since their constitution was
written in the eighteenth century only enforces how difficult it is to change laws and policies in a
codified constitution. It may be difficult in cases like these to find laws that fit with modern day crimes
and other situations that need to be dealt with by laws and policies. As our country is used to being
able to change laws and policies as easily as we can, we must consider how we would deal with a
codified constitution which makes it so much harder to get legislature changed.
Before deciding whether we should switch to a written constitution, it may be interesting to assess
the reasons why other countries do have codified constitutions, and similarly, why we do not. Most
codified constitutions are written to mark a new beginning in history. Many took place after a
revolution or a war, and Britain is considered to have been stable for a long time. We remained free
of the revolutions that appeared to sweep the continent in the nineteenth century and our country
has reformed freely over the years, rather than in one go. For countries such as the USA and
Australia, they developed their written constitution as a sign of independence and freedom for their
citizens. As well as this historical reason why we have an uncodified constitution, there is also a
conceptual reason. This is the sovereignty of our Parliament; the idea that there is no superior
authority to Parliament. They make all the decisions, and have the final say on any pieces of
legislature to be amended or developed.
A.V. Dicey, who was the first to lay out the idea of the sovereignty held by the British Parliament,
said that the roots of the idea "lay deep in the history of the English people and in the peculiar
development of the English Constitution". This means he believes that when the constitution was
originally decided to be uncodified, they wanted the parliament to have the last say on political
matters. If the parliament is to keep sovereignty, there is no point in having a written constitution. It
seems Dicey believed it was written in history for the parliament to have the highest power, and that
having a codified constitution would be going against the ideas of our predecessors. if we were to
develop a written constitution, power would have to be separated through government, as it is in
the USA. A constitutional change in America requires two thirds of Congress or three-quarters of the

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Government and Politics Homework ­ Mrs Roberts 2/10/2011
Sarah Taylor
states, meaning in England if a law or policy were challenged, it would have to be voted on by more
than one governmental body before it could be changed.
Since Britain joined the European Union in 1973, however, it could be said that the Parliament no
longer has complete power.…read more


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