Natures and Functions of a Constitution
What is a Constitution?
- A set of principles, which may be codified or uncodified, that establishes the distribution of power within a political system. relationships between political institutions, the limits of government jurisdiction, the rights of citizens and the method of amending the constitution itself.
- In a constitution you might also find:
- the length of time between elections,
- the relationship between central government and government at a sub national level,
- eligibility to vote
- and the powers of the three core institutions, legislature, judiciary and executive.
- Legislature is Parliament, Judiciary is the judges or courts and the executive is the government (political party in power).
- Constitution exam questions will be likely to focus on the argument between a codified and uncodified constitution, it might also focus on constitutional reform.
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Fusion and Separation of powers
How can we define these two terms in terms of the UK constitution?
- In the UK we have what is known as a fusion of powers. This means each core institution overlaps with each other.
- The overlap between the legislature and executive relates to the government ministers who are also represented in Parliament.
- The overlap between the legislature and the judiciary refers to the Law Lords, however due to the establishment of the Supreme Court.
- In the US constitution there is no overlap between these core institutions and this is called a separation of powers. In a separation of powers the institutions are independent from one another.
- In the UK some political parties wish for this to be the case and therefore a Supreme Court was established as well as the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005.
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