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Starting with what a
constitution is, the House of Lords Select Committee defined it in 2001; “the set of laws, rules and
practices that create the basic institutions of the state and its component and
related parts, and stipulate powers of those institutions and the relationships
between the different institutions and between those institutions and the
individual.”1

A constitution has three main roles first they establish
the authority and power of each political body, how they will relate to one
another and how the relationship between them can be altered. For the UK, this
is where the separation of powers comes in. the bodies being; the executive
(the government and civil service), the legislature (which makes laws but does
not administer them) and the judiciary (which adjudicates what is lawful when
this is disputed). Secondly, constitutions should define the rights and
freedoms of the individual. For example, the right to free speech, the right to
liberty, or freedom from torture. Finally, a constitution should express the
aims for the country’s society. The aim could be to be liberal and non-fascist
as it is for Germany, or for the United States its “life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness”, although this appears in the declaration of independence
not in the US constitution itself.

 

Although
the British constitution contains written sources such as statutes, it is one
of few in the world that is not codified into a single document, or collections
of documents (Israel,
New Zealand, Saudi Arabia (though the basic law of Saudi Arabia states that the
Qur’an is the constitution), San Marino and Canada also lack a single document
which outline a constitution). However, the UK does have what is called an
uncodified constitution, meaning that it is spread among many separate
documents as oppose to just a single one. The Constitution of the UK is built
upon Acts of parliament, court judgement and other legal principles. Many basic
rules which are part of the UKs constitution do not exist legally at all, and
simply rely on unwritten understanding or traditions. It is suggested that the
main reason he UK does not have a codified constitution is because it lacks a
critical moment in its history that would encourage the codifying of a
constitution, such as a revolution.

The
constitution of the UK can be thought to be made up of many different
documents, some fundamentals can be seen in documents such as the Magna Carta
1215, the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

The British
constitution can be seen to be made up from many different sources, fundamentals can be seen in
documents such as; the
Magna Carta 1215, Human rights, the Bill of Rights 16882, the Constitutional Reform
Act 2005, Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. Further principles
would be drawn from the rule of law, parliamentary supremacy and the separation
of powers. Also many principles arise from the continued development of common
law.

 

3.

Advantages to
the current state of the constitution is that it has a wide scope for flexibility,
adaptation and development. … means that the constitution can develop easily
over time and can adapt to the changing views of society.

 

However the
constitution as it stands is extremely complex, which makes it very hard for
any lay person to fully comprehend and be totally sure of their rights.

 

As many parts
of the constitution arise from different sources there is the possibility that conflict
could occur between different sources making rights of the individual even more
unclear.

 

The
constitution should be intelligible and accessible to all, not just the political
or legal elite. Having a codified constitution would hopefully mean that many
of the different parts would come together and can be observed within a single
document. Meaning that the ordinary person would be able to far more easily
find and understand their fundamental rights.

4.

 

It is said that
a codified constitution would make it clear and understandable for the public to
know what rules and regulations the government is accountable to. Some say that
with the constitution as it is, it is too easy for governments to implement
legislation simply for their own agenda without reasonable or obvious
limitations.

 

An issue with
having a codified constitution is that it can cause conflict with an evolving culture.
For example, there is a lot of talk over the need for change to the second
amendment of the U.S constitution (the right of the people to keep and bear
arms3), this was written in 17874. Since being drafted and
signed much has changed with reference to the availability of firearms and the
public view of the need and use of firearms. A large increase in the discussion
about this argument is to do with the high rates of gun related crime in the
U.S. The issue is the U.S government has a lot of trouble with whether they can
or otherwise should make changes as doing so may make the power of the
constitution appear weaker.   

 

Some unwritten
conventions that are considered constitutional rules remain unclear or
ambiguous, including some that are of serious national importance. As an
example, there has been debate over the existence of any constitutional rule
that parliamentary approval is needed before the government enters into armed conflict abroad or
starts arming opposition groups in foreign countries. On issues like this that
can be so important there should be clarity which a written and codified
constitution would be able to provide.

 

 “”” In a democracy the people, not Parliament,
are sovereign. The idea of ‘parliamentary sovereignty’ emanates to a large
extent from the seventeenth century, signifying the supremacy of an Act of
Parliament over the Crown’s prerogative after the Civil War and Glorious
Revolution of 1688. It is an untenable doctrine today that there are no
limitations at all on what Parliament can legislate about, however repugnant,
totalitarian or unpopular. In practice, parliamentary sovereignty is wielded by
the government of the day and not Parliament as such. Parliamentary sovereignty
is an anachronism in the democratic era, and needs replacing by a written
constitution that expresses the sovereignty of the people and circumscribes the
powers and duties of members of Parliament in both Houses. “””

Creating a codified
constitution would build peoples confidence in the political system by showing
clear and defined controls that ensure integrity and standards.

A written constitution would
not mean losing Britain’s sense of history. Any historic institutions and
ceremonies of past centuries that remain valuable for today, including the
monarchy, can simply be codified into a written constitution but with clarity
over their modern roles, duties and functions.

1 https://owlcation.com/social-sciences/what-is-a-constitution

2 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/WillandMarSess2/1/2/introduction

3 http://constitutionus.com/

4 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-constitution-signed

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