Professor KC Wheare defines the constitution of a state as: “… the whole system of government of a country, the collection of rules which establish and regulate or govern the government.” The evolving nature of the UK constitution implies that it is somewhat straightforward for the government to alter the constitution and adapt it to ever changing times. The constitution of the UK is extremely distinct, as it is not set out in a specific document, which establishes the rules of the state, therefore it is often deemed uncodified. The fact that the full UK constitution cannot be found in one specific document, leads many to argue the flexibility and therefore, instability, of the UK constitution, as it is susceptible to change over time. In comparison, the constitution of the United States is codified and present in an easily obtainable document. In order to implement change in the US constitution, therefore, there is a much stricter protocol to follow.
According to the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, Parliament is the only body that can make law for the UK. No other body can overrule or change the laws which Parliament has made. The principle of parliamentary sovereignty however cannot be found in statute law, it is part of another source of the constitution, common law. The reason it is not part of statute law is that Parliament can pass, change, or repeal any law it likes and is not bound by laws of previous Parliaments. Therefore if parliamentary sovereignty was an Act of Parliament it would be possible for Parliament to repeal it and destroy the principle.
There is also a higher power on top of UK which is European Union that needs to approve any decisions of law making made by UK. In this process all countries within EU are considered equally. We could demonstrate the power of each of those departments in a simple diagram: Scottish Parliament has power over devolved matters such as: - agriculture, forestry and fisheries - education and training, - environment, - health and social services, - housing, - law and order (most commonly within Scotland only), - local government, - sports and the arts, - tourism and economic development, - transport. Other reserved matters are dealt with by Westminster and those are: - benefits and social security - immigration - defence, - foreign policy, - employment. - broadcasting, - trade and industry, - nuclear energy, oil, coal, gas and electricity, - consumer rights, - data protection, - the Constitution.
Recent changes to the UK constitution have raised questions as to whether or not parliament retains its sovereignty as the supreme law making body. These changes include the UK becoming a part of the European Union and the devolution of Scotland and Wales, although theoretically these should not affect the principle of parliamentary sovereignty. Parliamentary sovereignty has always been the basis in the UK constitution. AV Dicey set out the definitive statement of parliamentary sovereignty in his Introduction to the Study of the Law and the Constitution, 1885. This identified three elements to the UK constitution: 1.
Firstly on of the fundamental features of democracy is that it establishes and protects freedom. Democracy should ensure that no government can threaten freedom unless it is with the expressed consent of the people. This is certainly true of the United Kingdom as the European Commission of Human Rights Parliament remains sovereign. Also the UK signed up to the Social Chapter of the European Union which guarantees a variety of employment and other economic rights. However, Parliament is sovereign and civil rights and liberties have been put suspended but only in the interests of law and order or national security.
How can he help it?” The constitutional role of the judiciary is to apply the law that parliament makes, as said by Lord Diplock, “Parliament makes the laws, the judiciary interpret them/” However, judges have the power to change the rules or make new rules through precedent or statutory interpretation, as mentioned in R v Sigsworth (1935) by Lord Denning, “We fill in the gaps.” In England and Wales the courts operate a very rigid doctrine of precedent which has the effect that every court is bound by the decisions made by courts above it in the hierarchy and in general courts are bound by their own past decisions. The doctrine of Precedent is the process whereby judges should follow previous decisions in similar cases to help maintain a degree of consistency in the way the law is applied in similar cases. It is based on the maxim “stare decisis” which means stand by what has been decided. The Ratio Decidendi (reasons for deciding) is the binding part of a judge’s decision, but how judges interpret this can vary, thus changing the impact it can have on future decisions. The obiter dicta (things said by the way) though not binding can still be used as persuasive precedent and so a
To what extent is the UK Constitution no longer fit for purpose? The UK Constitution is not codified as it is in many countries. In the UK, we do not have a single codified and entrenched document to represent the UK position, but we have a general set of constitutional rules. A constitution is a set of principles that establishes the distribution of power in a political system, and defines the relationship between political institution and the limits of the government jurisdiction and the rights of citizens. Supporters would suggest that the constitution is fit for purpose.
Comparing Canada’s and the United States’ government system, we can see just how different they are from each other. With Canada, they have a responsible government, where the executive functions at will of the legislative body. This type of government is the best way to maintain stability, because if the government wants to create a bill, it has to be passed by the House of Commons. However if that bill does not pass, then the Parliament would have a vote of non-confidence. If they get a majority in favour of non-confidence, then the prime minister must call an election.
Secondly, The Balfour Report allowed Canada to receive autonomy and gave Canada equal status with Britain for creating laws. (Cranny p.55/56) This was one of the biggest steps for Canada to become more self-sufficient. It makes more sense that the elected members would be in charge of running the country. After all, the citizens did not vote for British representatives to set the laws. It would have
The Greatest Debate of American history concerns the mysterious, and least understood branch of the United States government: The Supreme Court. The differences between those who favor activism and those who favor restraint are all apart of the biggest riff in our justice system since the beginning of the nation. Conservatives, or those who favor Judicial Restraint, believe the original intent of the founding fathers is (written in stone and it is not our responsibility to change such a great document) suitable for all generations, past, present, and future. These people believe that they have the power to interpret the founding fathers, so they have the power to manipulate the law, and power such as that should only rest in the hands of the executive and legislative branches. On the other hand, the liberals, or Judicial Activists, believe that the founding fathers recognized that standards of their time wouldn’t apply to the future, so therefore left the constitution broadly based and available for contemporary interpretation.