Arguments for a codified constitution

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Human rights

Perhaps at the top of the reformers shopping list is the need for stronger safeguards for individual and minority rights.  Britain has adopted the European Convention on Human Rights, but this remains weak in that it can be overridden by parliament.  Parliament remains sovereign and no constitutional legislation can remove that sovereignty.  In a codified constitution Parliament could not pass any legislation which offended human rights protection.

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Executive power

The conservatives have wished to retain the powerful position of government in the UK.  Liberals and other reformers, however, argue that executive, governmental power is excessive in Britain.  They say over-powerful governmental power threatens individual rights, the position of minorities and the influence of public opinion.  A clear, codified constitution would, they assert, inhibit the apparently irreversible drift towards greater executive power.  In particular supporters of a codified constitution suggest that there are no real checks and balances - a principle upon which the American constitution is based.  In particular, it is argued, Parliament needs to have more codified powers to enable it to control government on behalf of the people.

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Clarity

Most British citizens do not understand the concept of a constitution.  This is hardly surprising as there is no such thing as the ‘British constitution’ in any concrete form.  There is, therefore an argument for creating a real constitution so that public awareness and support can grow.  If people know their rights and understand better how government works, it is suggested, this might cure the problem of political ignorance and apathy that prevails today.

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Modernity

As we have seen, Britain is unusual in not having a codified constitution. For many this is seen as an indication that Britain is backward in a political sense and has not entered the modern world.  This has become more pressing since Britain joined the European Community.  The lack of a constitution makes political relations with the EU difficult and it has been frustrating both for British governments and for their European partners when attempts have been made to create coherent relations with Europe.

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