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I'm so confused about the UK constitution! watch

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    Okay, in my Politics text book it says this: "Uncodified constitutions are not judiciable. In the absence of higher law, judges simply do not have a legal standard against which they can declare the actions of other bodies are 'constitutional' or 'unconstitutional'."
    If this is true then what is the Supreme Court of the UK? Don't these senior judges interpret laws/the constitution? I'm sooo confused. aah.
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    They use Common law.
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    (Original post by anna_disraeli)
    Okay, in my Politics text book it says this: "Uncodified constitutions are not judiciable. In the absence of higher law, judges simply do not have a legal standard against which they can declare the actions of other bodies are 'constitutional' or 'unconstitutional'."
    If this is true then what is the Supreme Court of the UK? Don't these senior judges interpret laws/the constitution? I'm sooo confused. aah.
    To call the British constitution uncodified is highly misleading; I'm not really sure why some textbooks insist on doing it, because the simplicity comes at the cost of confusion for the student. Some parts of it are not codified, but they're relatively minor things like the basics of common law, or Parliamentary procedure. When judges interpret the constitution, they're interpreting statutes and case law, both of which have been recorded for hundreds of years. However, to call a law "unconstitutional" here would be nonsensical, because all laws are the constitution by virtue of being passed by Parliament, and the executive isn't contrained constitutionally as it is in, say, the U.S., so as long as it isn't breaking normal laws, anything it does is legal (just like anyone else). Normally the equivalent would be to call the statute or public authority action incompatible with EU law or the Human Rights Act, or to simply say they acted unlawfully.
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    (Original post by anna_disraeli)
    Okay, in my Politics text book it says this: "Uncodified constitutions are not judiciable. In the absence of higher law, judges simply do not have a legal standard against which they can declare the actions of other bodies are 'constitutional' or 'unconstitutional'."
    If this is true then what is the Supreme Court of the UK? Don't these senior judges interpret laws/the constitution? I'm sooo confused. aah.
    The Supreme Court is re-branding of the Law lords in the House of Lords. It has no new constitutional powers. These law lords interpret laws (which is essentially our constitution), but they have no power thereafter. The most they can do is declare 'declarations of incompatibility' when legisation conflicts with the HRA (98).
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    (Original post by numb3rb0y)
    To call the British constitution uncodified is highly misleading; I'm not really sure why some textbooks insist on doing it, because the simplicity comes at the cost of confusion for the student. Some parts of it are not codified, but they're relatively minor things like the basics of common law, or Parliamentary procedure. When judges interpret the constitution, they're interpreting statutes and case law, both of which have been recorded for hundreds of years.
    Not really. Uncodified insofar as it's not written in one place - unlike all other countries bar New Zealand and Israel, it's not written down - there is no document with the British constitution. You can't go and read the British constitution, and for that it uncodefied. If it was written in one place, in one document, then it would be codefied.

    Pretty straight forward.
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    The Supreme Court is what they now call the House of Lords. The only reason it was renamed and relocated was to improve the doctrine of the separation of powers.

    Judges interpret the law by referring to Acts of Parliament. They have no authority to dispute an Act of Parliament. However, in a situation where someone has done something which is clearly wrong, but there is no Act of Parliament to say so, judges can declare the legal viewpoint of that situation - this is known as the common law. If Parliament aren't happy with the common law (also known as judge made law) they can pass an Act of Parliament to change it.


    Quite a simple explanation which probably requires lots more detail for a full understanding.

    There are exceptions to the general rule though, such as the judges right to declare an Act of Parliament incompatible with Human Rights obligations etc. Although in such a case, they would only be doing so because Parliament has told them to.
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    (Original post by numb3rb0y)
    To call the British constitution uncodified is highly misleading; I'm not really sure why some textbooks insist on doing it, because the simplicity comes at the cost of confusion for the student. Some parts of it are not codified, but they're relatively minor things like the basics of common law, or Parliamentary procedure. When judges interpret the constitution, they're interpreting statutes and case law, both of which have been recorded for hundreds of years.
    but i didn't think it was up to judges to interpret the constitution?
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    (Original post by numb3rb0y)
    To call the British constitution uncodified is highly misleading; I'm not really sure why some textbooks insist on doing it, because the simplicity comes at the cost of confusion for the student. Some parts of it are not codified, but they're relatively minor things like the basics of common law, or Parliamentary procedure. When judges interpret the constitution, they're interpreting statutes and case law, both of which have been recorded for hundreds of years.
    How on earth is common law 'relatively minor'. Statue law is not codified, it is directly linked to parliamentry' sovereignty, which can be changed.

    The UK constitution is uncodified.
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    (Original post by numb3rb0y)
    To call the British constitution uncodified is highly misleading; I'm not really sure why some textbooks insist on doing it, because the simplicity comes at the cost of confusion for the student. Some parts of it are not codified, but they're relatively minor things like the basics of common law, or Parliamentary procedure. .
    I think you're confusing uncodified with unwritten. Codified constitution means written in one document (e.g. the US constitution). The UK has a written constitution because aspects of it are written (Magna Carta, Acts of Parliament yada yada) but it is by no means "codified" and calling uncodified is accurate.
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    (Original post by Bubbles*de*Milo)
    Not really. Uncodified insofar as it's not written in one place - unlike all other countries bar New Zealand and Israel, it's not written down - there is no document with the British constitution. You can't go and read the British constitution, and for that it uncodefied. If it was written in one place, in one document, then it would be codefied.

    Pretty straight forward.
    Codification is just recording it. It's not centralised into one document, but the vast majority of it is codified. If you can call the U.S. a codified constitutional system even though common law isn't mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, I think it perfectly appropriate to call the UK one.

    Edit - My apologies, it seems I'm wrong. I've been reading about the codification movement in law recently and it never occured to me that the term would have a different meaning when applied specifically to constitutional politics. I nonetheless maintain that it's bloody misleading, though, because codification really does just mean writing it down, which the vast majoriy of our constitution is.
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    (Original post by Supfresh.)
    How on earth is common law 'relatively minor'. Statue law is not codified, it is directly linked to parliamentry' sovereignty, which can be changed.

    The UK constitution is uncodified.
    Go look at how much unwritten common law survives in today's court system. Hint: it's not very much. There was been a huge amount of statutory reform by Parliament in the last two centuries, and the vast majority of issues touched upon today have some sort of recorded precedent from a prior case if not in statute. The parts of our legal system that remain uncodified are few and far between, to say the least.

    Also, codification doesn't make the law immutable.
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    (Original post by anna_disraeli)
    but i didn't think it was up to judges to interpret the constitution?
    Judges inherently interpret the constitution in this country by the fact that laws (be they dervied from common law or Acts of Parliament) are part of the consitution but it doesn't give them any power to say one thing is constitutional and the other is not because what they are looking at is the constitution!
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    Judges interpret the statutes that form the uncodified constitution. The interpretations that they make are called common law. Easy, right?
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    this is like the most confusing topic in as level politics, just makes me want to drop the whole subject! right, i know i'm probably being extremely dumb but can anyone point out where i'm going wrong in my understanding:

    parliament is sovereign, meaning they make/amend laws etc. if somebody done something which went against statute law, who would punish them? i mean obviously they'd be arrested etc but the judges who sentenced them would be interpreting statute law, yeah? It's just in my book, as a reason why codified constitutions are a bad thing it says, "Judges are not the best people to police the constitution because they are unelected." But then everyone's saying that judges already DO 'police' the constitution as it stands now, ie uncodified.
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    (Original post by anna_disraeli)
    this is like the most confusing topic in as level politics, just makes me want to drop the whole subject! right, i know i'm probably being extremely dumb but can anyone point out where i'm going wrong in my understanding:

    parliament is sovereign, meaning they make/amend laws etc. if somebody done something which went against statute law, who would punish them? i mean obviously they'd be arrested etc but the judges who sentenced them would be interpreting statute law, yeah? It's just in my book, as a reason why codified constitutions are a bad thing it says, "Judges are not the best people to police the constitution because they are unelected." But then everyone's saying that judges already DO 'police' the constitution as it stands now, ie uncodified.
    Well, there's a seperation between the ideal and the practical. Ideally, British judges can't police Parliament, because Parliament is sovereign. However, in a few specific areas (EU law and human rights law) Parliament has passed statutes explicitely authorising judges to declare statutes or public authority action to be "incompatible"; this doesn't actually strike the law down, because of Parliamentary sovereignty, but it does mean that future courts can't apply it if the deciding court is superior enough to create a precedent, and it creates an impetus for change because if pushed all the way to the ECHR, it will result in fines.

    Of course, all legal systems work on a certain degree of trust in the people to play their proper roles; obviously, the law cannot physically stop a judge from making a ruling contrary to it, but judges here tend to respect the trust placed in them. However, that can cut both ways, as seen in their recent absolute capitulation over DNA retention of innocents and later figurative ass-kicking by the ECHR.
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    The Supreme Court's purpose is be the highest court of appeal. This is why it lacks teeth, as the judicial branch of government.

    The judiciary's purpose is to interpret the law. The US Supreme Court interprets whether the constitution is being adhered to. The same applies to all other judicial branches in countries in the world.

    The Supreme Court's idea was a good one, however for it to make sense as the judicial branch of government, it needs to be able to interpret constitutional law and stop Parliament from making unconstitutional laws. I think this is why there should be a Bill of Rights, and no more nonsense like the idea of parliamentary sovereignty.
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    (Original post by rajandkwameali)
    The Supreme Court's purpose is be the highest court of appeal. This is why it lacks teeth, as the judicial branch of government.

    The judiciary's purpose is to interpret the law. The US Supreme Court interprets whether the constitution is being adhered to. The same applies to all other judicial branches in countries in the world.

    The Supreme Court's idea was a good one, however for it to make sense as the judicial branch of government, it needs to be able to interpret constitutional law and stop Parliament from making unconstitutional laws. I think this is why there should be a Bill of Rights, and no more nonsense like the idea of parliamentary sovereignty.
    And how exactly would that be achieved? Parliament can't bind future Parliaments. There's no way for any Bill of Rights to have any more force than the current Human Rights Act.
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    That's part of the beauty of the constitution of this land - its mystery and elusiveness, you can't find it written down anywhere, because more often then not there never was a need to write it down. And even in documents that have written down parts of it, almost all of them refer to unwritten "ancient laws and customs" that are not written down anywhere, you'll find this in the Magna Carta for example.
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    (Original post by numb3rb0y)
    And how exactly would that be achieved? Parliament can't bind future Parliaments. There's no way for any Bill of Rights to have any more force than the current Human Rights Act.
    But why should that be so? A Bill of Rights, by definition, would (or perhaps should) be binding on future Parliaments.
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    (Original post by numb3rb0y)
    And how exactly would that be achieved? Parliament can't bind future Parliaments. There's no way for any Bill of Rights to have any more force than the current Human Rights Act.
    Just general agreement. It's not like any other country's constitution has any greater force - it's simply that it is respected by the relevant authorities.

    I would hope that the two Chambers of Parliament, and the Queen, would not approve something unconstitutional in that situation.
 
 
 
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