A Study On A Written Constitution Politics Essay

This essay will be defining what a constitution is, how its use and what it’s used for and whether or not Britain should adopt a written constitution.

A written constitution is an official document that defines the nature of the constitutional settlement, the policy that governs the political system and the rights of citizens and governments in a codified form. It defines the laws, customs and conventions that define the composition and powers of organs of the state. (Jones, B., Kavanagh, D., Morgan, M., Norton, P. 2007).

Constitutions vary in terms of their purpose, it may be constructed in such a way as to embody and protect fundamental principles (such as the individual liberty) principles that should be beyond the reach of the transient wish of the people. (Jones, B., Kavanagh, D., Morgan, M., Norton, P. 2007).

Unlike most other countries The United Kingdom does not have a written constitution in a single document, but derives from a number of sources that are part written and part unwritten because there are laws, House of Parliament, conventions and understanding’s that constitute the rules of the formal political game. These rules are as about relationships of power, within the constitution s of a state, and between the state and the larger society. It can adjust readily to suit changing circumstances.

A quote by Leo Amery: if a constitution is meant a written document or series of documents embodying in statutory or declaratory form the principles and structure of our government, then there is, in that sense, no such thing as the British constitution. What we mean by the British constitution is not any deliberate attempt to control and confine our political growth on the basis of a preconceive intellectual plan, reflecting the political theories of a particular group of men or the repossessions of a particular age, but a living structure continuously shaped in the course of history by the interaction of individual purposes and collective instincts with the requirements of ever varying circumstances. (Amery, L. 1952)

Although Britain does not have a single document codifying the way its political institutions functions and setting out the basic rights and duties of its citizens, it however has an important constitutional documents. Such as the Magna Carta brought in during 1218, which protects the human rights of the community against the Crown, The Bill of Rights 1689 which extended the powers of government, and the Reform Act 1832 which reformed the system of parliamentary representation. (www.ukinusa.fco.gov.uk)

“The principal sources of what can be called the traditional constitution are four in number: statute law, comprising Acts of Parliament and subordinate legislation made under the authority of the parent Act: common law, comprising legal principles developed an applied by the courts, and encompassing the prerogative powers of the crown and the law and practice of parliament: conventions, constituting rules of behaviour that are considered rules of behaviour that are considered binding by and upon those who operate the constitution but re not enforced by the courts or by the presiding officers in the Houses of Parliament: works of authority, comprising various written works-often but not always accorded authority by reason of their age- that provide guidance and interpretation on uncertain aspects of the constitution. Such works have persuasive authority only. (Jones, B., Kavanagh, D., Morgan, M., Norton, P. 2007).

Statue law is the pre-eminent of the four sources and occupies such a position because of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. Under this juristically self-imposed concept, the courts recognise only the authority of Parliament formally known as the Queen Parliament to make la, with no body other than Parliament itself having the authority to set aside that law. The courts cannot strike down a law as being contrary to the provisions of the constitution. The House of Lords has come to be increasing constrained by law and regulated by unwritten conventions so that it can now only delay certain bills passed by Commons. (Dearlove and Saunders, 2000).

By law, general elections should be held every five years and all adults are allowed to vote, but however, the first-past-the post voting system means that not all votes are of the same power-in sending chosen candidates from particular parties to the House of Commons. This therefore, has huge implications for the organisation of governmental power, making powerful and unyielding single-party rule very much more likely than the compromise of coalition government. (Dearlove and Saunders, 2000).]

The supremacy of the Parliament is the backbone of the British Politics and is only possible threatened by aspects of the work of the European Commission and the European Union institution. Parliament can pass, repeal and alter any of British’s Laws. That is one of the major powers that the government has. When the Conservative leader, Margaret Thatcher banned trade unions at GCHQ believing that they had no place in the organisation and had no importance in the British national security, the government reversed it in 1997 when a new party came to power and was ruled by Tony Blair. (www.historylearningsite.co.uk).

Constitutions are important because it legitimise a state’s existence, establishes national valves, provides organising structure and through that stability in government. It also limits the power of the state to protect its citizen. it represents an important stage of evolution away from the flexible monarchical constitution of the past, which had Parliamentary sovereignty and executive supremacy at its heart, towards a regulatory state, in which the power of the executive and the Westminster Parliament, while still significant, is restrained by the existence of subordinate, supranational and parallel powers which it has willed into existence but cannot will away. The constitution is flexible and adaptable it is not bound by the valves of a past age, it can adapt to current circumstances and crisis or changes. It’s produces strong and stable government where parliament is sovereign and power is not shared between a range of branches of Government. The Government is effective in terms that it gets what it wants and the people will get what they voted for. The Government has a strong degree of accountability where they are the representatives to the electorate when things go wrong, and people will know who to blame.

“Written constitution is ruled upon by judges. In Britain judges are unelected and it is therefore undemocratic to take power away from our elected representatives and give it to judges who tend to be quite reactionary. One of the benefits of the current system is that it is flexible. If they have a political mandate from the people, the government can reform the constitution, as with the example of the House of Lords. If you had to have a 2/3 majority in both houses, this measure would never have been passed: neither would devolution. In countries like the USA, it is nearly impossible to change their constitution. There is no guarantee that what is best now will still be best in the next couple of years. A written constitution would make us much less flexible with Europe. There is a strong culture of rights and liberties which stretches back to1214 with Magna Carta and the 1689 Bills of Rights, and which is widely accepted by politicians of all parties, lawyers and judges, the media and civil society as a whole. This consensus makes it impossible for a single government to overturn rights-as government defeats on the proposed detention of terrorist suspects demonstrate. Since 1998 the Human Rights Act has enshrined the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law, and now provides a focus for this culture of rights. Also less developed countries such as Zimbabwe and Iran have a written constitution, if anyone wanted to flaunt democratic procedures it would be as hard as it would with a written constitution”. (www.idebate.org)


Well, it works doesn’t it? So I think that’s the answer even if it is on the back of an envelope and doesn’t have a written constitution with every comma and every semi colon in place. Because sometimes they can make for difficulties that common sense can overcome. (Lord Callaghan, 1991).

Britain has survived very well without a written constitution. The people of the country are not requesting for a constitution so why so it be changed because American has one. People do not understand the rule that preside over the political side so therefore, it is seen as not be needed. (www.idebate.org).

“Without a written constitution, the UK has no Bills of Rights to protect its citizens from an over powerful state. The existing Human Acts Rights provides only weak protection, with judges only able to rule that new laws are ‘non-compliant’ with the Act -the government can ignore such rulings if it wishes. The Human Acts Rights can easily be amended by a simple majority in both House of Parliament. A written constitution with a proper Bill of Rights would provide much stronger protection for the rights of the citizens. At the moment the judiciary is weak in its ability to act as a check against parliament. A written constitution would increase its powers. The British Parliament is subject to no authority beyond itself and this goes against the principle of the rule of law which the democracy is based on. Also in Europe the context of further political integration in the EU, it is important that it enshrine and clarify Britain’s Protection from extremists. A written constitution would offer protection if an extremist came to power and wanted to disregard democratic procedures”. (www.idebate.org).

An article from the Guardian Newspaper 2008 carried news of constitutional proposals drafted by Chris Bryant: Destroying British valves. “Where the male children in the UK monarchs take precedence over the female ones in the line of succession to the throne, and reform of the Act of Succession: the law that bans Roman Catholics, or those married to Catholics, from taking their place in the line of succession” ” Why should people worry or even bother about these proposals to repeal such seemingly archaic and irrelevant features of the UK’S constitution?” (Wintour, P. 2008) (www.Guardian.co.uk) {Accessed 11/01/10}

In conclusion Britain should not adopt a written constitution like America, because if a constitution is put in place it will limit the government or to set out the perimeters which governments must operate then the fact that it can be adapted can be problematic as well. I agree with Lord Callaghan, where he says the system actually works, so why it be changed because it is not codified. Britain has traditional valves that will have to be changed if it adopts a constitution. For example the Human Acts Rights if Britain had a constitution it would have been very difficult for the Acts to gave been placed. There is a huge difference between American and Britain that is why America has A President and Britain has a Prime Minister.

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