Governing Modern Britain

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Governing Modern Britain




A constitution is a set of rules, principles, laws and beliefs by which a state is governed.  It establishes the distribution of power between the government and people, and between the government’s constituent parts. There are two types of constitutions – codified and uncodified. The British constitution is uncodifed as it is a mixture of different sources, both written and unwritten. The US constitution is an example of a codified constitution as it is written on one single document.


The main sources of the British constitution


The UK’s constitution draws upon a range of different sources, which do not have equal status or authority.


Firstly, there is statue law, which consists primarily of the Acts of Parliament that help to define the relationship between the government and the people or between the different elements of the government. This source has in the past been branded as the supreme source of the UK constitution, but with the expansion in range and depth of EU Laws, the supremacy has been questioned. Under the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, the passing of a new statue could unmake any existing laws and overturn any other constitutional practice.


Secondly, common law (which is often referred to as ‘case law’, or ‘judge-made law’) is a type of law, which has been developed and applied by UK courts through the actions of judges. A lot of the traditional civil liberties available to UK citizens were originally established by common law. These civil liberties are the rights and freedoms granted to citizens, such as freedom of speech and freedom of association. The Royal Prerogative, who have the power to declare war and pass treaties, are associated with the common law.


Thirdly, there are conventions, which are habits, norms and rules that through long usage have evolved and became accepted as rules of behavior. Conventions have


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