What is a constitution?

  • Rules and principles for governance
  • Every country has one but some are codified and others not
  • Most national constitutions include a Bill of Rights
  • Guarantee rights of the ruled and limit powers of rulers
  • Constitutions can evolve over time as the UK has
  • They can also change suddenly eg. USA Independence
  • French Revolution

Types of Constitution

  • Codified (USA) or Uncodified (UK)
  • Rigid (USA) or Flexible (UK)
  • Unitary or Federal
  • Monarchial or Republican
  • Presidential or Parliamentary
  • Parliamentary Sovereignty or Sovereignty of the people
  • Fusion of powers or Separation of powers

Key elements of the UK constitution

  • Uncodified- no single document
  • Unitary rather than federal- Westminster Parliament makes legislation for all of the UK despite devolution
  • Flexible- the constitution can be amended easily unlike the USA and major amendments can be made via an Act of Parliament although this may require a referendum

Sources of the UK Constitution

  • Major constitutional documents
  • Works of authority
  • Statute law
  • Royal prerogative
  • Common law
  • Conventions
  • EU Treaties and Laws

Principles of the UK Constitution

  • Parliamentary Sovereignty- Ultimate power lies within Parliament and no body has the authority to overrule it. No one Parliament can bind its successor.
  • Rule of law- no one is above law. AV Dicey reformed the idea.

-Equality before the law

-No person should be punished except when in breach of law. All laws are published

-Essential liberties are based on common law which evolves over time

  • Fusion of powers- the legislature and the executive are


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