The Rule of Law AS

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  • Created by: Hannah
  • Created on: 31-03-13 18:19

British Constitution

  • Britain differs from other Western democracies as we have an unwritten constitution - it is not all found in one document
  • Instead, our constitution is found in Acts of Parliament, judicial decisions and conventions


  • Flexible
  • Part of our heritage
  • Easily accessible


  • Unclear
  • Limited protection of rights and liberties
  • Not accessible for citizens
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Seperation of Powers

  • Put forward by 18th century French philosopher, Montesquieu
  • All state power can be divided into three types; executive (Government), legislative (Parliament) and judicial (Judges)
  • Montesquieu believed that these three powers should not all be entrusted into the hands of one person or group as this would give them ultimate power
  • Alternatively, he came up with the solution for each type of power to be operated by a different body - avoiding conflicts of interest and abuse of powers through a system of checks
  • The seperation of powers ensures that no institution can become as powerful in a democracy as to destroy the system
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Constitutional Reform Act 2005

  • Before 2009 - House of Lords were on top of the court hierarchy, however they breached the seperation of powers by having both a judicial and legislative body
  • Constitutional Reform Act 2005 aimed to resolve this and in 2009 the Supreme Court opened and became the highest court in England and Wales - House of Lords became a legislative body, and the Supreme court a judicial body.
  • Role of the Lord Chancellor was also controversial before the Act in the sense that his responsibilities were in conflict with the doctrine of seperation of powers, however since the passing of the act, his role has too been altered.
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Parliamentary Supremacy

  • Parliament is supreme and has complete sovreignty over all other Government institutions, including executive and judicial bodies.
  • Legal philosopher Dicey proposed three main principles to the concept of Parliamentary sovreignty;

1. Parliament has the right to make or unmake any law

2. Parliament cannot bind its successor

3. No other source of law can override the laws created by Parliament

  • Uncommon approach in other countries - they have a Bill of Rights
  • Limitations of Parliamentary Sovreignty;

1. European Convention on Human Rights

2. European Union

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Rule of Law

  • Popularised by the 19th century writer Albert Venn Dicey
  • He proposed three elements to the rule of law;

1. No sanction without breach

2. One law to govern all

3. Rights of the individual should not be secured in a written constitution, but instead by the decisions of the judges in ordinary law

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