A more recent version of these Uk Constitution And Sources notes – written by Oxford students – is available here.
The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Constitutional Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:
UK CONSTITUTION AND CONSTITUTION LAW Abbreviation indexConsti = Constitutional RoL = Rule of Law Parl = Parliamentary Sov = Sovereignty
Unwritten nature of the UK constitution Unwritten constitution: no authoritative document that describes, establishes or regulates the structures of the state and the way in which these relate to the peopleBradley & Ewing (2010): unwritten constitution = body of legal rules, without special legal status, + binding political rules or constitutional conventions, concerning the government of the country
Does not mean that the UK has no constitution:?
The Cabinet Manual (2011): consti order has evolved over time and continues to do so - "consists of various institutions, statutes, judicial decisions, principles and practices ... commonly understood as 'constitutional'" Feldman (2005): constitution as machinery through which we give authority to choose between and accommodate conflicts between visions, rather than a set of settled rules
Two key characteristics:?
Flat constitution ([?] hierarchical): no body of constitutional law occupying a hierarchically distinctive or superior position within the legal order o Fundamental rights not legally guaranteed Un-entrenched leads to immensely flexible system as constitution can easily be amended
Legal and political constitutionalism Debate about what makes the exercise of government power legitimate - closely related to idea of public compliance or consent - and accountability - how should those who wield public power be limited and/or held to account?
1. Political constitutionalism
Focuses on political mechanisms of accountability ? politics and particularly the parliamentary process should create, structure and define the authority of the governing institutions?
Political process as most legitimate means of guarding against unconstitutional behaviour Ultimate focus on parliamentarians and the public to whether gov behaving acceptably o General elections every four to five years, public enquiries +
investigations by parl committee
Griffith: "law is not and cannot be a substitute for politics" - argues for highly positivist view of constitutionThe Politics of the Judiciary (1979): argues that judges because of upper-class background + institutional position in society have a strong ideological bias towards established authority - politicised judiciary cannot act as effective guardians of ind liberty against the State
Tomkins: whether democracy is understood in terms of representativeness of the personnel or openness and accessibility, "Parliament will always enjoy greater democratic legitimacy than courts"
2. Legal constitutionalism Sees the courts and legally enforceable rights as keys to limit government power?
Gov controls Parliament - principle of parliamentary supremacy too weak to be an effective restraint on gov - provides no guarantee for fundamental rights or the right of minorities Counter-majoritarian view of Democracy - governing in the interests of the whole and not just the majority represented in the political process
Laws (1995): Parliament possesses a political sovereignty, a sovereignty which cannot be objected to, save at the price of assaulting democracy itself?
Ultimate sov rests not with those who wield gov power but in the conditions under which they are permitted to do so ? the Constitution, not the Parliament, is sovereign Judicial power, last resort, ensure that this framework is vindicated Political constitution
Sovereignty Fusion of powers Elected politicians Ministerial discretion Political accountability Unfettered executive Weak judiciary Weak HR regime Few external checks Based on trust????
Separation of powers Unelected guardians Tighter rule of law Legal checks and balances Constrained executive Activist judiciary Enforcement of HR Strong constitutional watchdogs Based on mistrust
3. A false dichotomy?
Loughlin (2006): basis questions is not whether we have a legal or pol constitution: it is how the idea of law within the political constitution ("the constitution of the polity") might best be conceptualised
SOURCES OF THE CONSTITUTION Judge-made law Common law = binding rules formulated and applied by judges in decided cases ? has made a vital contribution to dev of constitutional law i.
Interpreting constitutional legislation
Judges, in practice, can make interpretation of such legislation?
Meaning of "possible" in s3(1) HRA 1998 Meaning of UK statute "shall be construed and have effect subject to" mean in s2(4) ECA 1972 Interpreting legislation by reference to constitutional principles
Courts have no power to override an Act of Parliament but have jurisdiction to interpret and apply statutory provisions in accordance with rules and presumptions of statutory interpretationL Nicholls in ex parte Spath Holme (2000) on constitutional role of the courts: courts seek to ascertain the intention of Parliament and give effect to it - objective concept based on meaning of words
Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our Constitutional Law Notes.