UK Constitution


General information

  • essentially a rule book of the political system
  • Unitary Constitution- one central government and all the powers are vested in it, Authority resting in Parliament (Parliament Sovereignity)
  • partliament has right to establish it's own rules & no one can overule 
  • power is given to local councils by Parliament
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  • not entrenched- Parliaent cannot bind future parliaments, simple majority is required to change the Constitution. One exception- Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011- 2/3 Majority of MP's required
  • not codified- it comprises of a number of sources and elements date back over 800 years 
  • unwritten- political system understands and accept the 'rules of the game' without being codified, however doesn't protect against abuse of power as not all accept the 'rules of the gae'
  • more written and codified than it was 100 years ago 
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What it includes

Institutions and their roles and functions and relationship between them

  • limits to power
  • transfer of power i.e. following an election
  • political rights e.g. voting and taking part as a candidate
  • civil rights e.g. definition of the rights of a citizen
  • the relationships with individuals and the state 
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Sources of Constitutional Authority

  • Statute Law- statute is an act of parliament, helps define the operation of the political system, mainly affects the relationship between the individual and state, more robust that common law, some are very Constitutional e.g. Human Rights Act 1998, Constitutional Reform Act 2005. May also include treaties.
  • Common law- judge made law- decisions made by court which then sets a precident for future similar cases. many areas defined by common law have been clarified by stature law, so very few areas of the constitution are definined by common law
  • Constitutional Conventions- an informal and uncodified procedural agreement that is followed by the institutions of a state, not enforced by the courts, often establish a limit to power, change and evolve over time e.g. money bills should ogirinate in house of commons, Lords will not reject a bill that was in the winning parties manifesto
  • Constitutional change- passage of statutes can deal with new era e.g. Parliament Act 1911, confirmed lords didn't have authority to block a money bill, previously a convention
  • where a new statute is assed, it 'trumps' any common law or convention
  • Constitutional documents help define the operation of the political system e.g. Magna Carta 1215, accepted into stature law by 1297
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Should we have a codified constitution


  • provides clarity- single document is easier to understand
  • because most codified are entrenched, there is by definition more protection
  • better protection against abuse of power
  • Coherence- a codified constitution tends to include links between different branches of state


  • codified are less flexible and caren't evolve over time
  • not necessarily comprehensive, nothing in US Constitution about US parties and how supreme court functions so still fair amout of precident 
  • rights are not always protected, US Constitution allowed slavery until 1865,  and racial segregation until the 1960's
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