The Sources of the UK Constitution
the UK constitution has certain sources which include:
- Historical principles and authoritative works
- Common law
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.