Should the uk have a written constitution essay

Like other democratic countries, [82] the principles of international law are a basic component of the UK constitution, both as a primary tool of interpretation of domestic law, and through the UK's consistent support and membership of major international organisations. As far back as the Magna Carta , English law recognised the right to free movement of people for international trade.

It has been further debated whether the UK should adopt a theory of that sees international law as part of UK without any further act a " monist " theory , or whether it should still be required for international law principles to be translated into domestic law a "dualist" theory. Since the World Wars brought an end to the British Empire and physically destroyed large parts of the country, the UK has consistently supported organisations formed under international law.

From the Versailles Treaty , the UK was a founding member of the International Labour Organization , which sets universal standards for people's rights at work. After the failure of the League of Nations and following World War Two, the UK became a founding member of the United Nations , recognised by Parliament through the United Nations Act , enabling any resolution of the Security Council except the use of force to be implemented by an Order in Council.

Does Britain need a proper constitution? | Prospect Magazine

Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , the continued colonial occupation, and suppression of democracy and human rights in the British Empire lost any remaining legitimacy under international law, and combined with independence movements this led to its rapid dissolution. Following the Ponsonby Rule from , the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act section 20 stipulates that a treaty is ratified once it is laid before Parliament for 21 days and no adverse resolution is passed against it. At the same time, following long-held visions for European integration with the UK "at the centre", [97] democratic European countries sought to integrate their economies both to make war impossible, and to advance social progress.

It also passed the International Criminal Court Act to enable prosecution of war criminals, and subjected itself to the jurisdiction of the court. In , however, the UK voted in a referendum on whether to leave the European Union , resulting on a While principles may the basis of the UK constitution, the institutions of the state perform its functions in practice. First, Parliament is the sovereign entity.

Its two chambers legislate. In the House of Commons each Member of Parliament is elected by a simple majority in a democratic vote, although outcomes do not always accurately match people's preferences overall. Historically, most elections occurred each four years, [] but this was fixed at five years in The House of Lords reviews and votes upon legislative proposals by the Commons. It can delay legislation by one year, and cannot delay at all if the proposed Act concerns money.

Ninety-two hereditary peers remain. The monarch cannot veto legislation, by convention, since Second, the judiciary interprets the law. It can not strike down an Act of Parliament, but the judiciary ensures that any law which may violate fundamental rights has to be clearly expressed, to force politicians to openly confront what they are doing and "accept the political cost".

Third, the executive branch of government is led by the Prime Minister who must be able to command a majority in the House of Commons. Officially the " head of state " is the monarch, but all prerogative power is exercised by the Prime Minister, subject to judicial review. Fourth, as the UK matured as a modern democracy, an extensive system of civil servants, and public service institutions developed to deliver UK residents economic, social and legal rights.

All public bodies, and private bodies that perform public functions, are bound by the rule of law. In the UK constitution, Parliament sits at the apex of power. It emerged through a series of revolutions as the dominant body, over the church , courts , and the monarch , [] and within Parliament the House of Commons emerged as the dominant chamber, over the House of Lords that traditionally represented the aristocracy. Parliament's main functions are to legislate, to allocate money for public spending, [] and to scrutinise the government. For instance, the Modernisation Committee of the House of Commons in recommended publishing draft bills before they became law, and was later found to have been highly successful.

For a proposed Bill to become an Act, and law, it must be read three times in each chamber, and given royal assent by the monarch. Today the House of Commons is the primary organ of representative government. The Representation of the People Act section 1 gives the right to vote for MP in the House of Commons to all Commonwealth citizens, and citizens of the Republic of Ireland , who are over age 18, and registered. Sections 3 and 4 exclude people who are convicted of an offence and in a penal institution, or detained under mental health laws. If the denial of voting would have changed the result, or if a vote was "conducted so badly that it was not substantially in accordance with the law" the vote would have to be run again.

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These common law principles predate statutory regulation, and therefore appear to apply to any vote, including elections and referendums. While these rules are strict, they were held in Animal Defenders International v UK to be compatible with the Convention because "each person has equal value" and "we do not want our government or its policies to be decided by the highest spenders. By contrast, in Australia voters may select preferences for candidates, although this system was rejected in a United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum staged by the Cameron-Clegg coalition.

In the European Parliament , voters choose a party from multi-member regional constituencies: this tends to give smaller parties much greater representation. In the Scottish Parliament , Welsh Assembly and London Assembly , voters have the choice of both constituencies and a party list, which tends to reflect overall preferences best. To be elected as an MP, most people generally become members of political parties , and must be over 18 on the day of nomination to run for a seat, [] be a qualifying Commonwealth or Irish citizen, [] not be bankrupt, [] found guilty of corrupt practices, [] or be a Lord, judge or employee of the civil service.

Along with a hereditary monarch, the House of Lords remains an historical curiosity in the UK constitution. Traditionally it represented the landed aristocracy, and political allies of the monarch or the government, and has only gradually and incompletely been reformed. Today, the House of Lords Act has abolished all but 92 hereditary peers, leaving most peers to be "life peers" appointed by the government under the Life Peerages Act , law lords appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act , and Lords Spiritual who are senior clergy of the Church of England.

A House of Lords Reform Bill proposed to have directly elected members, 90 appointed members, 12 bishops and an uncertain number of ministerial members. The elected Lords would have been elected by proportional representation for 15 year terms, through 10 regional constituencies on a single transferable vote system.

However, the government withdrew support after backlash from Conservative backbenches. It has often been argued that if the Lords were elected by geographic constituencies and a party controlled both sides "there would be little prospect of effective scrutiny or revision of government business. The judiciary in the United Kingdom has the essential functions of upholding the rule of law , democracy, and human rights.

Since the Practice Statement , the judiciary has acknowledged that while a system of precedent, that binds lower courts, is necessary to provide "at least some degree of certainty", the courts should update their jurisprudence and "depart from a previous decision when it appears right to do so. There are also employment tribunals for labour law disputes, [] and the First-tier Tribunal for public or regulatory disputes, ranging from immigration, to social security, to tax. Appeals then go to the UK Supreme Court, although at any time a court may make a " preliminary reference " to the Court of Justice of the European Union to clarify the meaning of EU law.

This follows a longer tradition of courts interpreting the law to be compatible with international law obligations. This also means an element of retroactivity, [] since an application of developing rules may differ from at least one party's understanding of the law in any conflict. Judges may also sit from time to time on public inquiries.

The independence of the judiciary is one of the cornerstones of the constitution, and means in practice that judges cannot be dismissed from office. Since the Act of Settlement , no judge has been removed, as to do so the Queen must act on address by both Houses of Parliament. Members of the judiciary can be appointed from among any member of the legal profession who has over 10 years of experience having rights of audience before a court: this usually includes barristers, but can also mean solicitors or academics.

The Contempt of Court Act enables a court to hold anyone in contempt, and commit the person to imprisonment, for violating a court order, or behaviour that could compromise a fair judicial process.


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In practice this is enforced by the executive. The Lord Chancellor heads the Ministry of Justice , which performs various functions including administering the Legal Aid Agency for people who cannot afford access to the courts. In R UNISON v Lord Chancellor the government suffered scathing criticism for creating high fees that cut the number of applicants to employment tribunals by 70 per cent. The Attorney General also appoints the Director of Public Prosecutions who heads the Crown Prosecution Service , which reviews cases submitted by the police for prosecution, and conducts them on behalf of the Crown.

The executive branch, while subservient to Parliament and judicial oversight, exercises day to day power of the UK government. In form, the UK remains a constitutional monarchy.

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In reality, no Queen or King has attempted to usurp the will of Parliament since , [] and all constitutional duties and power are accepted by binding convention to have shifted to the Prime Minister , Parliament or the courts. The monarch's continued assertion of the divine right to rule led to Charles I being executed in the English Civil War , and finally the settlement of power in the Bill of Rights of Following the Act of Union and an early financial crisis as South Sea Company shares crashed, Robert Walpole emerged as a dominant political figure.

Leading the House of Commons from to , Walpole is generally acknowledged to be the first Prime Minister Primus inter pares. The PM's modern functions include leading the dominant political party, setting policy priorities, creating Ministries and appointing ministers, judges, peers, and civil servants.

Yes: Sionaidh Douglas-Scott

The PM also has considerable control through the convention of collective responsibility that ministers must publicly support the government even when they privately disagree, or resign , and control over the government's communications to the public. By contrast in law, as is necessary in a democratic society, [] the monarch is a figurehead with no political power, [] but a series of ceremonial duties, and considerable funding. Aside from private wealth and finance , [] the monarchy is funded under the Sovereign Grant Act , which reserves 25 per cent of the net revenue from the Crown Estate.

However, on the other hand, it has been argued that the UK should abolish the monarchy , on the ground that hereditary inheritance of political office has no place in a modern democracy. A referendum was held in Australia, in on becoming a Republic , but failed to get a majority.

AS Politics - do we need a codified constitution?

Although called the royal prerogative , a series of important powers that were once vested in the King or Queen are now exercised by government, and the Prime Minister in particular. These are powers of day-to-day management, but tightly constrained to ensure that executive power cannot usurp Parliament or the courts.

In the Case of Prohibitions in , [] it was held that the royal prerogative could not be used to determine court cases, and in the Case of Proclamations in it was held new prerogative powers could not be created by the executive.

Does the UK need a codified constitution?

So, for instance, in R Miller v Secretary of State for Exiting the EU the Supreme Court held that the Prime Minister could not notify the European Commission of an intention to leave under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union without an Act of Parliament, because it could result in rights being withdrawn that were granted under the European Communities Act , such as the right to work in other EU member states or vote in European Parliament elections.

Tenth, the monarch needs to pay no tax, unless statute states it expressly. Thirteenth, it may make coins. Fourteenth, it can print or license the authorised version of the Bible, Book of Common Prayer and state papers. And fifteenth, subject to modern family law , it may take guardianship of infants. For this reason it has often been argued that executive authority should be reduced, written into statute, and never used to deprive people of rights without Parliament.

All uses of the prerogative, however, are subject to judicial review: in the GCHQ case the House of Lords held that no person could be deprived of legitimate expectations by use of the royal prerogative. The " cabinet " is a still smaller group of 22 or 23 people, though only twenty ministers may be paid.

Every minister is expected to follow collective responsibility, [] and the Ministerial Code This includes rules that Ministers are "expected to behave in a way that upholds the highest standards of propriety", "give accurate and truthful information to Parliament", resign if they "knowingly mislead Parliament", to be "as open as possible", have no possible conflicts of interest and give a full list of interests to a permanent secretary, and only "remain in office for so long as they retain the confidence of the Prime Minister".

Assisting ministers is a modern civil service and network of government bodies, who are employed at the pleasure of the Crown. The constitution of UK regional governments is an uncodified patchwork of authorities, mayors, councils and devolved government. In England , there are 55 unitary authorities in the larger towns e. Bristol, Brighton, Milton Keynes and 36 metropolitan boroughs surrounding Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Newcastle which function as unitary local authorities. But in other parts of England, local government is split between two tiers of authority: 32 larger County Councils, and within those District Councils, each sharing different functions.

Since , England has had eight regions for administrative purposes at Whitehall, yet these have no regional government or democratic assembly like in London, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland after a referendum on North East Assembly failed. Three main issues in local government are the authorities' financing, their powers, and the reform of governance structures. First, councils raise revenue from council tax charged on local residents according to property values in [] and business rates charged on businesses with operations in the locality. These powers are, compared to other countries, extreme in limiting local government autonomy, and taxes can be subjected to a local referendum if the Secretary of State determines they are excessive.

However the real duties of local council are found in hundreds of scattered Acts and statutory instruments. These include duties to administer planning consent , [] to carry out compulsory purchasing according to law, [] to administer school education, [] libraries, [] care for children, [] roads or highway maintenance and local buses, [] provide care for the elderly and disabled, [] prevent pollution and ensure clean air, [] ensure collection, recycling and disposal of waste, [] regulate building standards, [] provide social and affordable housing, [] and shelters for the homeless.

The functions of an elected mayor are not substantial, but can include those of Police and Crime Commissioners. In Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London there are also regional assemblies and Parliaments, similar to state or provincial governments in other countries.