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Does the Uk Has a Constitution

Topics: Law, Statute / Pages: 5 (1159 words) / Published: May 9th, 2008
This assignment is designed to provide a clear explanation of two statements such as: (1)‘it is as false to claim that the United Kingdom does not have a constitution’ as (2)‘it is to claim that the constitution that the United Kingdom does possess is uncodified’”. In other words to consider whether the UK have a constitution; if yes, what kind of a constitution the UK possesses. To answer these two statements one should define the meaning of a constitution and its purposes; what are the differences between written and unwritten constitutions; whether the British constitution is uncodified or codified.

Each country has a government that it is governed or arranged by set of rules that is known as a constitution. There are many definitions of a constitution. Professor Alder believes that ‘a constitution provides a framework of rules that creates the structure and functions of a human organisation’ . In this context a human organisation means a state. Judge Laws asserted the definition that a constitution is ‘set of rules which governs the relationship in a state between the ruler and the ruled’.

The main purpose of any constitution is to provide protection for the individuals and their rights from abuses of the ruler and gives regulations on how to govern the individuals. Also the idea of a constitution is an idea of rules that define and legitimize governmental power. This kind of power goes to a state from a constitution. This means that usually a constitution is drawn up before a government is formed as a result of the constitution.

Many countries have a written constitution, such as the USA or France, in the form a written legal document where the states formulate and write down the important legal principles or system of rules which accurately defines the power and relationship between the branches of the state; and the relationship between the state and its citizens. For example, such constitution may be raised as a reaction of revolutions or from civil wars. It is known as the ‘written’ or ‘codified’ constitution, where the state tries to codify all rights between the ruler and the ruled. For these countries a constitution is the law which is subject to strict execution that it is legally binding.

According to T. Paine ‘A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government, and a government without a constitution is power without rights…’ In his point, it is clear that people create a constitution but not a government. Thus, a government which has not got a constitution, means that ‘…its power without rights…’ In this sense the UK does not a constitution . This is true that the UK has not a ‘written’ constitution; however, it has the government and the law.

T. Paine looked at a constitution in a sense of a codified constitution. Lord Bolingbroke looked at the British constitution by another way, as customary or practise, which is the kind of constitution the UK has. He had an idea that the British constitution is a collection of statutes, judicial precedents and political practices; that it does not have to be separated from the process of the government. This means that the government gives power with rights to the law where the law comes in a form of a constitution and gives power with rights to the government.

In Great Britain there is no ‘written’ or ‘codified’ constitution. The UK is different because there is a country with an ‘abstract’ constitution where no single document by which explains how the state should govern. However, the UK has a number of laws and customs which are a set of the constitutional laws which are provide the rules of power of relationship in the state. That has proved the existence of the British constitution. Also, according to Marshall, the UK has a constitution that it deals with ‘the combination of legal and non-legal…rules that provide the framework of government’ and it does not matter where these rules are contained, whether in the forms of legislation or case law, the main point is that the state is affected by ‘the totality of legal rules…’. The British constitution is regulated by the legal and non-legal sources of the constitutional law which define the rights and obligations of the ruler and citizens. The legal sources are: statutes which give power to the Westminster Parliament to legislate over its institutions and citizens and the common law which consists of case law, Royal prerogative and customary rules. The non-legal sources of law are conventions which are allowed to the British constitution to develop in a way of political morality; and textbooks are written by legal authors.

The UK does not have a codified constitution in sense that USA has a documentary constitution. In terms of practise, the British government has rights to excise power. The UK has an ‘unwritten’ constitution that it is partially written down, for example, its laws are coming out from Parliament in a form of Acts of Parliament. Parliament issues the law in order of statutes, for example, the Bill of Rights (1689) and the Act of Settlement (1700). This process is known as uncodified process of a constitution.

What are the similarities and differences between a ‘codified’ and ‘uncodified’ constitution? The similarities are: both constitutions have rules that are defined, limited and legitimize the governmental power, talk about institutions of government and human rights. The differences about them are that a ‘codified’ constitution is less flexible, partially entrenched and planned than an uncodified constitution that it is flexible, unentrenched and has been developed step by step.

One of the examples of a codified constitution is when the state cannot simply take away an individual’s rights because the individuals’ rights are protected under written constitutions. For instance, if this happens that means that there has been a breach of constitution by the state. In this sense, the UK has an ‘uncodified’ form of a constitution as the government might take away or change individuals’ rights at any time.

In conclusion, it is false to claim that the UK does not have a constitution even if the British constitution is never written down in a single document or ‘uncodified’. The fact is that the UK constitution exists in the form of constitutional rules that its general principles are imposed on the state and citizens and these rules can be found ‘in written form in statutes, reported cases and books’

Words 1,079 Bibliography
1. E Barendt, An Introduction to Constitutional Law (Oxford University Press 1998)
2. CR Munro, Studies in Constitutional Law (2nd edn Butterworths, London 1999)
3. J Alder, Constitutional and Administrative Law (5th ed Palgrave, London 2005)
4. Stanlaey De Smith & R Brazier, Constitutional and Administrative law, (8th ed Penguin Books, England 1998)
5. M Allen & B Thompson, Cases and Materials on Constitutional and Administrative law, (8th ed., Blackstone Press 2006)

Bibliography: 1. E Barendt, An Introduction to Constitutional Law (Oxford University Press 1998) 2. CR Munro, Studies in Constitutional Law (2nd edn Butterworths, London 1999) 3. J Alder, Constitutional and Administrative Law (5th ed Palgrave, London 2005) 4. Stanlaey De Smith & R Brazier, Constitutional and Administrative law, (8th ed Penguin Books, England 1998) 5. M Allen & B Thompson, Cases and Materials on Constitutional and Administrative law, (8th ed., Blackstone Press 2006)

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