Should the UK have a codified constitution?

Arguments for and against codifying the UK constitution.

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  • Created by: Yasmine
  • Created on: 15-11-12 17:03

Introduction

1) definition of constitution: constitution is a set of rules, laws and conventions which outline processes power and relationships between branches of parliament, government and the governed. 

2) codified constitution: found within one supreme document. amendment process found in the document itself, therefore rigid.

3) uncodified constitution: found in variety of sources (e.g UK in common law, statute law and conventions. flexible, easier to amend. 

4) further points: UK and Israel only two countries not to have codified constitutions.

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Advantages of codified

1) to entrench our rights. the HRA 1998 first time UK citizens had more than negative rights. only a piece of legislation. if constitution was codified they could be entrenched like in US. 

2) easier to find. simpler and clearer since not in variety of sources. can therefore be used educatively. 

3) increased separation of powers. lack of clarity means fusion in parliament eg cabinet ministers are heading departments and represent constituencies in commons. due to poor checks and balances- which the US constitution clearly states in their codified constitution. "elective dictatorship" lord halisham.

4) less easy to change. codified would avoid whimsical decisions. poorly planned legislation would also be avoided. would limit government dominance. 

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Has it become more entrenched?

YES

1) increased use of referendums eg devolution. 

2) HRA 1998

the above points suggest there is a form of higher legislation- an element of codified constitution. 

Bogdnor claims the UK constitution has become more codified.

"HRA is tantamount to a bill of rights" something only found in a codified constitution.

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Disadvantages of codified

1) US constitution is out of date eg second amendment. UK constitution is constantly evolving therefore suits its surroundings since can adapt to fit to circumstances eg firearms act 1997 introduced as knee jerk reaction to Dunblane Massacre and media outcry.

2) a codified constitution would give unelected judges more power. in the US the constitution allows judges to rule actions by institutions as unconstitutional in judicial reviews even though they are appointed by president, not elected democratically.  therefore a codified constitution would mean more power to these judges, therefore more power to the PM who appointed them. 

3) parliamentary sovereignty would be undermined since a codified constitution is alwats sovereign. gridlock would occur, much like in america with  congress, the judiciary and the president, since parliament would not be able to overrule the constitution.

4) traditional. unique advantages (stated in the intro) would be lost. if it's not broken, don't try to fix it. 

furthermore documenting our whole complex and huge constitution would be immensely difficult. and a concensus on the issues would be near impossible to reach. 

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Conclusion

sum up of advantages and disadvantages of each, concisely. significant difficulty in codification and since uncodified is satisfactory at the moment we should not codify the UK constitution.

OR

opposite view.

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