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Does Britain need a codified constitution?

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    I was sat down during the easter holidays reading, a common occurrence, about the American war of independence and their history since then. Especially the war between the states. And while reading i find numerous mentions of the constitution and how crucial it was viewed by Americas founding fathers to a free and democratic society.

    The American constitution is a regular cause for debate in the American supreme court and while it often settles matters it also seems to cause a lot of problems as it was written in a time long since passed, such as the right of all Americans to bear arms. This all got me thinking about whether Britain is helped or hindered by its lack of codified constitution?

    What do people think on the matter? Do you think that if we had a constitution then we would be able to perhaps better know and defend our rights as a people? Or do you think that it would just cause many legal obstacles to an effective government?

    I'd like to know what you guys think, so, let me know.
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    I think it could be useful for some things, like 'the right not to have our privacy invaded by the state' so that we know that our future is secure. But a lot of these lines are quite ambiguous and it's difficult to tell what some of them actually mean.
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    We have a constitution, its called the European Constitution.
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    Prog. the European constitution is not something that I have any great deal of faith in, asides from being a Euro sceptic, I was talking to a specifically British constitution.

    Electronica, I agree but if it was clear and concise, not an elaborate, extended volume would you favour one?
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    There should not be any unchanging laws. People change and views change.

    What was once viewed are moral may be interpreted as immoral 100 years from now or vice versa.

    The longer unchanging laws stay around, regardless of how "moral" they are perceived to be, the worse off the state will be with time.
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    (Original post by AdamHanrahan)
    if we had a constitution
    We do have a constitution. It just isn't written down as a single document.
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    Dragon, your point is what I was thinking about with specific reference to the Americans right to bear arms and the 4th amendment and how this can pose problems in a modern time.

    Good, while I understand your point, what I was suggesting is do we need a single,concise document that is our constitution?
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    (Original post by AdamHanrahan)
    I was sat down during the easter holidays reading, a common occurrence, about the American war of independence and their history since then. Especially the war between the states. And while reading i find numerous mentions of the constitution and how crucial it was viewed by Americas founding fathers to a free and democratic society.

    The American constitution is a regular cause for debate in the American supreme court and while it often settles matters it also seems to cause a lot of problems as it was written in a time long since passed, such as the right of all Americans to bear arms. This all got me thinking about whether Britain is helped or hindered by its lack of codified constitution?

    What do people think on the matter? Do you think that if we had a constitution then we would be able to perhaps better know and defend our rights as a people? Or do you think that it would just cause many legal obstacles to an effective government?

    I'd like to know what you guys think, so, let me know.
    We haven't needed one because there wasn't an urgent need in the UK. We haven't seen any revolts or anything like that as the French or USA have, so what we have been going by has been successful. So, why go and change that? It'll cause a whole load of unnecessary stress, it'll be a waste of time and effort if what we have already works for us perfectly fine.
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    The American constitution has been an unmitigated disaster. Proponents constantly quote the constitution as some kind of legal bible, using its text to repeal laws they disagree with 'on constitutional grounds'. This could well be the fate of Obamacare, and has been the fate of many gun control laws.

    Meanwhile, those same people revel in its ambiguities, insisting that waterboarding and false executions do not constitute 'cruel and unusual punishment', and making laws which are, if not unconstitutional, against the spirit of the constitution (for example, teaching creationism is not allowed, but teaching intelligent design is).

    The American government has never particularly followed the constitution. I've been reading a history of the FBI, and just about anyone could be wiretapped in the period 1920-1960, with or without the authorization of congress.

    America is currently founded on an archaic document, which places forward certain freedoms. On the other hand, said freedoms only seem to weaken the power of the government to make reforms, whilst leaving the institutions of power free to break the constitution as and when they see fit.

    We don't need a constitution.
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    (Original post by Alimbo95)
    We haven't needed one because there wasn't an urgent need in the UK. We haven't seen any revolts or anything like that as the French or USA have, so what we have been going by has been successful. So, why go and change that? It'll cause a whole load of unnecessary stress, it'll be a waste of time and effort if what we have already works for us perfectly fine.


    True, but does it only work to an extent? Is that why we now have a supreme court? To decide upon matters which could perhaps be set out clearly in a constitution? While i concede that America also has a supreme court for this reason, there constitution is a few hundred years old and so needs updating occasionally. If Britain were to introduce a clearly laid out constitution would it not be a good use of time and money? If it were to then negate a need for a sitting supreme court.

    Could it also, clarify a number of points where courts and parliament disagree due to unclear laws. For instance for assisted suicide, could a constitution where it is set out that this is allowed/disallowed not prevent a number of length, costly legal battles?
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    (Original post by AdamHanrahan)
    True, but does it only work to an extent? Is that why we now have a supreme court? To decide upon matters which could perhaps be set out clearly in a constitution? While i concede that America also has a supreme court for this reason, there constitution is a few hundred years old and so needs updating occasionally. If Britain were to introduce a clearly laid out constitution would it not be a good use of time and money? If it were to then negate a need for a sitting supreme court.

    Could it also, clarify a number of points where courts and parliament disagree due to unclear laws. For instance for assisted suicide, could a constitution where it is set out that this is allowed/disallowed not prevent a number of length, costly legal battles?
    For assisted suicide, a constitution would not be required. You could just put it in a standard bill of parliament. This is exactly the issue with a constitution - stuff might not be current. Assisted suicide has only become an issue in the last couple of years, as far as I can tell. Times change. Laws change. In the US, we can see that the constitution does not.

    Our supreme court simply exists as the highest court of appeal. It has no power to strike down laws, as the American supreme court can.
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    (Original post by CHY872)
    For assisted suicide, a constitution would not be required. You could just put it in a standard bill of parliament. This is exactly the issue with a constitution - stuff might not be current. Assisted suicide has only become an issue in the last couple of years, as far as I can tell. Times change. Laws change. In the US, we can see that the constitution does not.

    Our supreme court simply exists as the highest court of appeal. It has no power to strike down laws, as the American supreme court can.


    I agree with you but that was the only example i could think of at the time. But, your point about its relevance only coming about in the last few years is spot on and is a key argument against one.

    Indeed, while our supreme court does not have the right to strike down laws such as the American supreme court can, it can say that the law is undemocratic and force it to be amended. As it did last year in an asset freezing trial regarding suspected terrorists and their families (I cant remember specifically).
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    (Original post by AdamHanrahan)
    Prog. the European constitution is not something that I have any great deal of faith in, asides from being a Euro sceptic, I was talking to a specifically British constitution.

    Electronica, I agree but if it was clear and concise, not an elaborate, extended volume would you favour one?
    I was being snarky haha.

    I'm saying that our constitution is gathering dust and is pretty much spat on by every liberal-progressive elitist.

    The ECOHR and the Eu constitution serve as the basis of our society now.

    I would KILL to have America's constitution over european, and ... even ours.

    I know maybe 3 or 4 amendments belong in the 18th century (not the right to bear arms though, If you contextualise it, and apply to a non-federal level, it is a smart idea, for any advanced society).

    The other 20+ amendments, if followed, would get us a step closer to utopia.
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    Uncodified if you think politicians care about the people and can be trusted to look out for our best interests.

    Codified if you know they are treacherous rats that need to be chained into place by codification.
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    Prog, haha, i understand your point though. I don't particularly have an opinion on this, which is rare for me! haha I think there are pros and cons of having one, but, me personally, I'd much prefer that we at least set our own one without Europe setting one.

    Pr0, I am determined to think that they're not all bad! haha I think that they do a harder job then many imagine and that they get a lot of bad press on balance. However, we've all seen the recent political scandals that have tarnished the reputations of many a once well regarded MP.
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    Contrary to popular lies, we already have an ancient codified constitution of sorts, primarily, among a few others, in the form of the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights (1689). The more recent Human Rights Act has also served to further enrich our "constitution" (and dont believe any of the lies and deceit that the tabloids and reactionary political parties spread about the HRA).

    We already have all the rights and more so, than any new water down "constitution" would grant, so reclaim, defend and excercise the ancient rights and freedoms we already have. If you dont you will lose them all.

    http://www.thebcgroup.org.uk/
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    (Original post by AdamHanrahan)
    True, but does it only work to an extent? Is that why we now have a supreme court? To decide upon matters which could perhaps be set out clearly in a constitution? While i concede that America also has a supreme court for this reason, there constitution is a few hundred years old and so needs updating occasionally. If Britain were to introduce a clearly laid out constitution would it not be a good use of time and money? If it were to then negate a need for a sitting supreme court.

    Could it also, clarify a number of points where courts and parliament disagree due to unclear laws. For instance for assisted suicide, could a constitution where it is set out that this is allowed/disallowed not prevent a number of length, costly legal battles?
    Then who would you propose wrote the actual constitution? Politicians? The country's most senior judges? It's likely to be an undemocratic process as the power would be concentrated in the hands of a few.
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    Codification is a pleasant ideal, but in reality, it would politicise the judiciary hugely. I recognise that deeper entrenchment is necessary and our liberties could be protected better, but codification is not the answer.

    We need to impose a two-tier legal system, with higher laws and lower laws, like Canada.
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    (Original post by JollyGreenAtheist)
    Codification is a pleasant ideal, but in reality, it would politicise the judiciary hugely. I recognise that deeper entrenchment is necessary and our liberties could be protected better, but codification is not the answer.

    We need to impose a two-tier legal system, with higher laws and lower laws, like Canada.
    Pretty much totally agree with you. We need to defend some laws such as The Human Rights Act more stringently such as the Lords being given power to totally veto changes to the act - such as the powers they are given with regards to the ability of government to extend itself.

    But codification seems to extreme and I quite like the British system of general evolution and ability to change with time
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    (Original post by Genius7)
    Pretty much totally agree with you. We need to defend some laws such as The Human Rights Act more stringently such as the Lords being given power to totally veto changes to the act - such as the powers they are given with regards to the ability of government to extend itself.

    But codification seems to extreme and I quite like the British system of general evolution and ability to change with time
    This is pretty much my viewpoint to a large extent

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