The Sources of the UK Constitution


The Sources of the UK Constitution

the UK constitution has certain sources which include:

  • Statutes
  • Conventions
  • Historical principles and authoritative works
  • Common law
  • Tradition
  • Europe
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A source of the UK constitution is statutes, which are Acts of Parliament, which establish constitutional rules. This includes:

  • Equal Franchise Act 1928 established full and equal voting rights to women. 
  • Life Peerages Act 1958 was introduced to allow the appointment of life peers, to add to the hereditary peerage. 
  • Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates the codified European Convention of Human Rights into UK law.
  • Scotland Act 1998 established a Scottish Parliament with legislative power. 
  • House of Lords Act 1999 abolished all but 92 hereditary peers in the HOL. (Introduced by New Labour).
  • Freedom of Information Act 2000 introduced the rights of citizens to see all official documents, on the grounds of national security.
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Another source of the UK constitution is Conventions, which are unwritten rules and practices that are considered binding. This includes:

  • The Salisbury Convention which states that the HOL should not block legislation that appeared in the governing party's most recent election manifesto. 
  • Collective Responsibility means that all members of the govt must support official policy in public. (If they do not comply with this, they must resign or face dismissal).
  • Government formation is based on the rule that the Queen must invite the leader of the largest party in the HOC to form a govt, following an election. 
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Historical principles and Authoritative Works

Historical principles and authoritative works, which have been emerged over several centuries, are another source of the UK consitution. This includes:

  • Parliamentary Sovereignty establishes the supremacy of Parliament in legislation. 
  • The rule of law states that all are equal under the law, including the govt. 
  • Constitutional Monarchy is a principle, which limits the role and active role in politics, from the Monarch.
  • The 'O'Donnell Rules' of 2010, establishes how a coalition govt may be formed. 
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Common Law and Traditions

Common law is a source of the British Constitution, which is unwritten and enforced by the courts. It also establishes prerogative powers. This includes:

  • Most common law concerns principles of rights and justice. 
  • The European Convention on Human Rights has replaced this.
  • However, common law contains some of Parliament's powers and procedures. 
  • Common law powers are essentially prerogative powers of the PM, which have never been codified. 

Tradition, are mostly rituals, which are another source of the British Constitution. This includes:

  • The practices and traditions of Parliament.
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European Union Treaties are another source of the British Constitution. This includes:

  • The European Convention on Human rights (Council of Europe)
  • Various European Union Treaties. 
  • These both establishes the nature of rights and divisions of sovereignty between the UK and the EU.
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