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British Constitution - Essay Example

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British Constitution

Of particular significance in this regard is the fact that, almost uniquely, many of the most important rules relating to the system of government in the U.K. are not actually laws at all.2 We refer to such rules as Constitutional Conventions. The British Constitution and the British Constitutional Law generally, apply throughout the United Kingdom, despite the fact that the United Kingdom consists of several countries with their own distinct characters and even language. In other words, the British Constitution is a unitary one, as distinct from a federal one like that of the U.S. However, since 1998, provision has existed for the "devolution" of powers to a Scottish Parliament and to Assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland. These bodies exercise quite extensive governmental powers, particularly in the case of the Scottish Parliament which has the powers to enact primary legislation.3 It should also be noted that the UK is a "Constitutional Monarchy", unlike republics, such as the U.S. and Nigeria; however similar to that of Sweden and Japan for example. Yet, a constitutional monarchy in the context of an "unwritten" constitution is rather more unusual and gives rise to some very interesting features, which will be examined below.4
The British Constitutional Law differs from any other branch of English law which is in the role of non-legal rules, comparable to customs. These rules are known as Constitutional Conventions. Constitutional Conventions are not unique to the U.K., but are of particular importance. Conventions play an important part in all constitutions, but are perhaps particularly important in Britain since the constitutions remains un-codified.5 The maxim of the British Constitution is that the Sovereign can do no wrong, but that does not mean that no wrong can be done by Royal authority.6 The term was originally coined by A.V. Dicey and according to Dicey, conventions could be distinguished from laws, in that, whilst laws can be enforced in the courts, conventions are not.7 An example of an important convention is that of the Royal Prerogative. It is a convention which regulates the exercise of ancient powers, which started out in the hands of the King. The Queen now acts on the advice of the Prime Minister, however. Dicey claims that conventions are "to regulate the conduct of the Crown" (Queen and Government together), which demonstrates a sense of accountability.8 O. Hood Phillips, however, suggests that "conventions serve to provide a meaning by which the constitution can be changed without the need for formal changes in the law itself."9 This demonstrates flexibility. Sir Ivor Jennings made clear that, "conventions provide the flesh which clothes the dry bones of the law" -meaning, it makes the legal constitution work and they keep it in touch with the growth of ideas, also known as filling in gaps in the law.10 Conventions are not merely customs, and as Sir Kenneth Wheare claims, "conventions are more than just customs; firstly the rule must be considered to be binding (like a law); secondly it must serve some constitutional purpose; thirdly, it must be possible to point to precedence."11
Conversely, the question still exists - why do we not turn Conventions into rules of law, or codify them ...Show more


Constitutional law is concerned with the system of rules whereby a state is governed.1 In most cases, these rules are to be found largely in a written document - the Constitution. The United States has probably one of the best known written constitutions in the world…
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British Constitution Essay essay example
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