What is a constitution?
What we mean by a
constitution is that there is always some set of fundamental principles on
which a state is governed. The constitution also covers how these principles
applied, for example through being made into laws.
constitution defines the most important rules applying to how different
official bodies operate. It explains the rules for government, Parliament and
the legal system. It defines their relationship with individuals and the rights
What is a written constitution?
This is where those principles are written
down formally in a systematic code, like the American Constitution. That
written document states how they should work in practice. For example, The US
Constitution starts by making it clear how the different elements of government relate:the legislature, the bicameral (two chamber) Congress; the executive
led by the President and judiciary headed by the Supreme Court.A
written constitution usually has a special legal status that makes it more
important than other laws.
The position of the UK
The UK does not
have a written constitution. This puts it in a small minority. The only other
major democracies without one are New Zealand and Israel.
We use the term
‘written constitution’ because it is the one in general use. But it is
inaccurate because it implies that the alternative is something not written
down at all. In fact, large parts of the UK constitution are already written
down, for example in statutes (laws passed by parliament) and treaties.A written constitution means something more
codified, more systematic, than this.
Most people would
agree that the key principles on which the UK is governed include:
supremacy (or ‘sovereignty’). That means that Parliament is the supreme
law-making body. Parliament consists of: the monarch (the Queen); the
House of Commons; and the House of Lords.
- Representative democracy. That means all political authority is
accountable to individuals and institutions, which are in turn answerable
to the electorate. All citizens have a general right to vote in elections.
- The rule of law.
That means that everyone is equal before the law and no person is above
the law. It includes principles such as being innocent until proved
- The independence from political
interference of the judiciary (which means the judges and the courts of
law in which they sit)
worth spelling out one implication of the UK position. In a country with a
written constitution, to say that something in unconstitutional means that it
goes against that written constitution. In the UK, to say that something in
unconstitutional also means saying what you think the constitution is, which is
open to question.
- Mapping the path
to codifying - or not codifying - the UK's Constitution at
submitted to the Inquiry
2.Codifying – or not codifying – the United Kingdom
constitution: The existing constitution. Centre for Political &
Constitutional Studies, King’s College London. Download pdf from http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-commit...
3.The Wikipedia article on the UK constitution. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_the_United_Kingdom