• Revision:Constitution

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Constitution

  • Drawn from:
    • Statute, common and case law
    • European Union
    • The Crown


  • Types of constitution
    • Codified: Constitution in one set place, in a defined, and hard-to change document (USA).
    • Uncodified: Drawn from numerous constantly updated sources, and is a collective, rather than single source (UK).
    • Federal: Power travels up through regional bodies to the centralised state (USA)
    • Unitary: Centralised government makes legislation, and passes it down through local authorities (UK).


  • Constitutional government – abides by rules (UK and USA).


  • Arbitrary government – unchecked by rules – effective dictatorship (DPRK of North Korea)


Keep Present System Codification
Pro-uncodified:
  • Flexible
  • Modern
  • Never been a problem in past
  • Public have no problem with it


Anti-codified:

  • Hard to agree on
  • Inflexible (hard to change)
  • Too much power to judges (new interpretations)
Pro-codified:
  • Defines people’s liberties
  • Safeguard against tyrannical government
  • Public can access and understand easier.


Anti-uncodified:

  • Dangerous govt can exploit it
  • Hard for public to understand
  • Allows civil liberties to be overridden.


Potential Questions and key areas to mention

What is a constitution? (5)

  • A set of rules, which a government must abide by.
  • Essentially defines the powers and functions of government institutions.
  • States the relationship of the state to civil liberties and the individual.


Distinguish between a codified and uncodified constitution. (15)

  • Codified – in one place, can be collection of different types of rules. Entrenched, and extremely difficult to amend and change, in comparison to an uncodified modification.
  • (eg. USA comprises of the Bill of Rights, Patriot Act)
  • Uncodified - an ever-growing assortment of different documents, which are not collected into one place. Not entrenched into the political system, therefore is more flexible (eg. UK – drawn from Magna Carta, HRA)


Analyse the advantages of an uncodified constitution (30)

  • Pro uncodified:
    • It is flexible, and can be constantly added to (example recent devolution constitution changes was made much easier as it is uncodified constitution).
    • Has been effective for a number of years, and never had a tyrannical
    • Government appeared in the modern era (despite tabloid opinion, Thatcher and Blair were tyrannical leaders!).
    • The public are content without knowing the intricacies of the constitution (only liberals and Charter88 show much interest in constitutional reform).


  • Anti-codified:
    • It could never be agreed on. A codified constitution often appears after a revolution or significant political change, and a peacetime codification would just take too long to debate out, without a common goal (e.g. USA was declaring independence and a start to self-government).
    • Judges would have to set a whole set of new interpretations, and would give them too much power, and would be time consuming.
    • Too inflexible – would freeze contemporary ideas into the constitution.


(Model answers above are extracted from an Edexcel Mark Scheme.)


Comments

These notes are aimed at people studying for Edexcel A Level Politics, module 2.

Originally submitted by mattey on TSR Forums.

Should the UK;s constitution be codified 40 MARKS ] 15:10, 19 April 2010 (BST). ( This is a rough answer and should be edited. Make sure you extend the paragraphs with fuller details. and give clear examples.) A codified constitution is one which is written in a clear, concise and organised way in a single document. Currently Britain has an uncodified constitution. Britain should remain with an uncodified constitution as it is flexible and therefore can adapt to other changes in law easily. Arguably the system has worked well for many years; however having a codified constitution would clarify the nature of the constitution, so therefore people may become more politically aware, in recent times political affiliation has decreased as shown by the voter turnout at general elections.

The UK’s constitution is flexible. This allows the constitution to adapt naturally to changing circumstances; this is shown by the incorporation of the European convention on human rights act into British law, and by devolution. If the UK’s constitution were to be codified then it would make it more difficult to incorporate laws such as the Lisbon Treaty, Welsh Government Act, Scotland Act etc.

However if the UK’s government were to adopt a codified constitution then it would clarify the nature of the UK’s constitution. The general public would become aware of political issues. E.g. in America there is a bill of rights, every citizen can purchase their own rights. This may be the reason for the increase in voter turnout at elections. ( paragraph needs to be extneded)

If Britain were to adopt a codified constitution then extensive personal freedoms are offered to the UK citizens without the need for codification, or entrenchment. In the United Kingdom we only have minor restrictions on freedom of speech such as incitement to racial hatred. Rights have been advanced on race, gender, disability and sexuality via acts of parliament. The Human rights act was introduced by labour. This act gives human rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of speech and movement.

There are on the other hand weaker safeguards for individuals and minority interests. Despite steps in the right direction as a result of the introduction of the European Convention on Human. Though the Human Rights act 1998 rights are not adequately protected since they lack entrenchment in our political system. For e.g. civil liberties receive little protection, this was illustrated by Blair’s extension of the suspected terrorists without the need for trial and ASBO’s, they have created a criminal class of innocent civilians. So if the UK’s constitution were to be codified then at least our civil liberties would be protected.

The constitution although not codified cannot be ignored. There are no special procedures for amending the constitution. However any future government would be unwise to reverse any future as referendum e.g. devolution. As devolution was bought in by a referendum. Although David Cameron claims that he doesn’t agree with devolution and would like to change it. But he would have to hold a referendum to reverse this.

In contrast though without clear procedures to change a constitution like in France or Germany where they has to be a referendum. There is always a danger that an over powerful government could repeal constitutional change. E.g. conservatives have threatened to repeal or alter the Human Rights Act if they come into power. The reason for this is due to many cases such as the Philip Lawrence case. He was a head teacher who got stabbed outside his school, but his murder could not be deported because due the HRA he had no family back home.

Arguably the system has worked well for many years so there is no need to codify the constitution. There have been no violent revolutions for many years and also no major political unrest. Personal freedoms are offered to the UK constitution.

As the UK is becoming more integrated with other Western democracies and especially the EU. Britain should follow then. Most developed countries have a codified constitution or part codified. E.g. Canada and New Zealand have a part codified constitution because it protects their basic rights. So if Britain adopted a codified constitution then at least our civil liberties would not be at risk by an over powerful government.

So in conclusion I believe that the UK’s constitution should remain uncodified as it has served Britain well for many years and it continues to do so. If the constitution were to become codified then it would make it harder to pass laws as shown in America. It is also flexible which means that it can adapt to other changes in law e.g. the Maastricht treaty was adopted in 1993.


At the moment i would grade this a low C.


Just to let you know that the Mark scheme has been changed. it goes as follows - 5 , 10 , 25 and for unit 2 40 marks.

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