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Sources of the UK Constitution

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Robert Behan

on 10 October 2017

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Transcript of Sources of the UK Constitution

The name given to any law passed by Parliament.

In most countries statute law is lower than constitutional law. In the UK many statutes form part of the constitution.

Some examples of constitutionally important statutes are...
Statute Law is...
Statute Law
Common Law
Works of Constitutional Authority
Laws and Treaties
This statute developed the rights of the Commons to initiate legislation

It also extended the franchise to lesser property owners and reformed the constituency system
Great Reform Act 1832
This limited the power of the House of Lords to delay legislation that was initiated in the Commons. Firstly by 2 years, but later this was reduced to 1.
Parliament Acts of 1911 & 1949
UK enters into the EEC (later EU)
European Communities Act 1972
Creation of national Parliaments and Assemblies
Scotland Act 1998
Government of Wales Act 2006
A system of precedents created by the law courts.
This was built up from the early middle ages c.12C as a system to establish law in England (as this was not a function of Parliament at this time).

Common law has evolved over time, reflecting changes in society's values

Did you know? There is no statute on homicide in the UK. Sentences are carried out based on Common Law precedents
Common Law is...
The Royal Prerogative is the most famous part of Common Law. Most of these powers are handed down from the Monarch to the Prime Minister:

-Declaring War
-Dissolve Parliament
-Appoint Government ministers
-Appoint Judges (Lord Chancellor)
Royal Prerogative
Courts recognize what are called 'residual rights', which are made under the assumption that "everything is permitted if it is not prohibited"

Some of these include ancient rights to use land

Human Rights Act codified many of these rights
Traditional Rights and Freedoms
What's the difference between statute law and common law?

Try to think of at least three examples
What's the difference...?
Conventions are non-legal rules that governments adhere to.

Examples of this include a new convention proposed by Gordon Brown that Parliament should debate and vote on any military action that the UK takes part in.

This convention was used by David Cameron in 2011 when MPs voted on military intervention in Libya and 2013 when Parliament decided not to intervene in the civil war in Syria.
Conventions are...
The Lords will not stop any legislation contained in a governing party's manifesto.

The Government is also required to step down if it is defeated on a major piece of legislation.

What are the problems of this convention?

Developed in the 20th century it has never been used.
Salisbury Convention
The convention that the Monarch will not challenge the democratic will of Parliament.

Royal Assent is when the monarch adds their signature to a bill passed by Parliament, thereby enacting it as law.

What is the implication of this convention?
Why do you think we have it?
Royal Assent
These are texts that have been written over the years that outline the rules and functions of Parliament

For example...
What is a work of Constitutional Authority?
A. V. Dicey - An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1884)

Walter Bagehot - The English Constitution (1867)

Why do these works form part of the UK constiution?
Major Works
Supersedes laws made in Parliament.

Key treaties:
Single European Act 1986
Maastricht Treaty 1993
Lisbon Treaty 2009

Example of EU law:
An example of this is the EU 3rd Postal Directive (2009) that requires all member states to open up their postal services to private competition.
EU Law
Sources of the UK Constitution
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