British Constitution

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The British constitution is described as unwritten because it is not embodied wholly or mainly in any single enactment. However 3 constitutional pillars have been able to compensate the absence of formal constitutionalism in the UK – they are

* The doctrine of Supremacy of Parliament

* The doctrine of Separation of Powers and

* The concept of Rule of Law’’.

Discuss.

Indeed ‘constitution’ can be defined as a document having a special legal sanctity which sets out the framework and the principle functions of the organs of government within the state and declares the principles by which those organs must operate. Nowadays only three countries do not have a written constitution: the United Kingdom, Israel and New Zealand. Though Britain does not have a codified constitution we denote that they have safeguard ensuring the good functionality of the country. Let us take a look about the power and weakness of these ‘garde fou’.

The middle age encompass one of the most exciting periods in English History. One of the most important historical events of the Medieval era is the Magna Carta. It is a document that King John of England (1166-1216) was force into signing on June 15, 1215. He was reluctant into signing the charter because it greatly reduced the power he held as the King of England and allowed the formation of a powerful parliament. Owing the pressure put by the Barons he was compelled to do so. The Magna Carta also known as ‘The Great Charter of The Liberties of England’ became the basis for English citizen’s rights. We can also say that with the introduction of the Magna Carta it was the beginning of the end of the monarch total power in England. The charter was an important part of the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law in Britain.

Doctrine of Supremacy of Parliament

The Parliament in the United Kingdom has developed over more than nine hundred years during which the House of Commons and the House of Lords surfaced and evolved. The Bill

of Rights (1689) form part of this evolution and empowerment of Parliament. The Bill of Rights is an act of the Parliament of England passed on 16 December 1689; it was a restatement in statutory form of the Declaration of the Convention Parliament to William and Mary in March 1689 inviting them to become joint sovereigns of England. It principally lays down limits on the power of sovereign and sets out the rights of Parliament and rules for freedom of speech in Parliament, the requirement to regular elections to Parliament and the right to petition the monarch without fear of retribution. The Bill of Rights also described that the monarch alone could not pass or repeal laws without Parliament’s consent. We can also say that the Bill of Rights did not as much lay out rights of the people in the UK but restricted the rights of the monarch, as the Magna Carta did before. The doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty means that Parliament is empowered in theory to make or unmake any law, including those touching upon fundamental freedoms and rights. In fact, the Government is given a ‘carte blanche’ to enact any law it wants to and that its power is largely limited by a) conventions, b) independence of backbenchers c) public opinions. Generally, the courts cannot overrule its legislations and no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change. Parliament sovereignty is the most important part in the UK uncodified constitution. According to AV Dicey the word sovereignty is used to describe the idea of ‘the power of law making unrestricted by any legal limit’. Dicey in ‘Law of the Constitution (1885)’ commented ‘in the theory Parliament has total power. It is sovereign’. He states a number of reasons as how this is possible. Firstly Dicey points out that Parliament is capable of passing laws on any subject without legal restriction therefore it is sovereign. This principle is derived from the election...
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