THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION
- Definition of 'constitution': A set of rules by which the country is governed. It provides the framework for the political system, establishing the main institutions of government and determining where decision-making authority resides. A constitution protects us from the government, without one they would simply do whatever they want.
- "A set of laws, rules and practices that create the basic institutions of the state and it's component and related parts, and stipulate power of those institutions and the relationship between the different institutions, and between those institutions and the individual" - The house of Lords definition
- A CODIFIED constitution is:
- A formal set of rules governing the country recorded in a single document i.e the US constitution.
- It has the basis of fundamental law which is higher than ordinary law.
- These rules are entrenched which means they cannot be changed easily.
- The courts determine if the constitution has been violated.
- An UNCODIFIED constitution is:
- An informal of rules not recorded in a single document but found in a number of sources - written and unwritten (conventions) i.e the UK constitution.
- It has the status of ordinary law.
- It is not entrenched and can be changed easily.
- The courts will find it difficult to determine if something is unconstitutional.
- There are only 3 nations in the world that have an uncodified constitution; the UK, New Zealand and Israel.
Principles of the UK constitution
- Principle sources of the UK constitution are to be found in a number of areas.
- STATUTE LAW - These are the laws made by Parliament which lay down the rules and regulations of how the country is to be governed. Some of these laws are considered to be foundation stones of the constitution e.g The Bill of Rights 1689, Great Reformat 1832, The Parliament Act 1911 and The Human rights act.
- COMMON LAW - This is the law made by judges in court concerning the rights of individuals and their relationship to the state e.g. The right of home owners to tackle intruders. When the judge passes sentence they must do so according to past cases. A key element of common is that it is of Royal prerogative - These are powers of the crown, exercised by government officials e.g. The Prime minister would declare war and appoint judges.
- CONVENTION - A large part of the UK constitution is based upon convention, which is a rule of conduct/behaviour which is not written down. This gives the constitution flexibility and can change over time e.e. It's convention that a government will either resign or call a general election if defeated on a major bill in the House of Commons. e.g. Collective responsibility - cabinet ministers must stick together and follow the policy decided around the cabinet table.
- WORKS OF CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY - The workings of the constiution can be found in a number of authoritive works, While these books have no legal standing they are consulted for definitions of accepted practise e.g.
- Walter Bagehot "The English…