help with : evaluate the view that the uk's constitution needs further reformWatch
(I'm writing this from a country where there is a published, written Napoleonic? constitution)
Outdated and undemocratic
Critics of the traditional constitution argue that it is far too outdated and inefficient. Many key elements date back to medieval times such as the rule of law which was born out of the Magna Carta, signed in 1215. The House of Lords can also be considered as an element of the pre-democratic era, coming from the idea of medieval barons as most are hereditary and all are unelected. Critics say that because of how outdated the constitution is, it would be impossible to say that it is adaptable to modern issues we are currently facing.
Concentration of power
Due to a centralisation of power, we could see an elective dictatorship, first coined by Lord Hailsham. By concentrating power in the executive, it means the government basically has a dictatorship to shape the constitution itself and decisions are not taken close to the people. The uncodified constitution and parliamentary sovereignty means that principles of the rule of law are not safe. A government with a large majority can pass laws however they please, undermining civil liberties. In the early years of Blair’s term, his large majority made it easy to introduce a number of policies without the concern of defeat.
Lack of clarity
The uncodified nature of the constitution creates confusion around constitutional rules. It is difficult to decipher and can be interpreted, meaning it is sometimes difficult to decide whether government has acted unconstitutionally. Parliament has ultimate authority over the constitution and government can use its control of the legislature to pass new Acts in their favour when their actions are deemed unconstitutional. This undermines accountability as parliament can change laws as it is ultimately sovereign. The lack of clarity also leads to a weak protection of rights. The rights of citizens are poorly defined and individual rights aren't written down, thus having no legal backing. The Human Rights Act of 1988 has defined rights more clearly but is not as effective as a legal document such as the Bill of Rights which is written down in a single document.
Doesn't need reform:
Adaptability within the constitution has allowed it to evolve gradually over time and it has been able to change without parliamentary supermajorities, or referendums, due to pragmatic reforms. The UK constitution is unentrenched therefore in order to change it, all that needs to be passed is an act of parliament meaning that the UK can adapt to changing circumstances. An example being the Immigration Act of 2016 which saw sanctions placed on illegal working and new measures for ease in enforcing immigration laws. This was in response to the growing number of illegal migrants coming into the UK at the time. This is undoubtedly a strength of our constitution as the importance of statute law makes it a lot simpler to implement an act of parliament.
The party in power has significant control over the legislative process in the House of Commons, and the cabinet is affiliated with this governing party. Our electoral system and fusion of powers means that the government is therefore able to implement its manifesto promises they made to voters easily with a majority. An example being the majority Conservative government in 2015 which was able to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU despite opposition. This is a strength of our constitution as government is effective and able to deliver commitments and objectives voters want.
Government is accountable for both parliament’s actions and the wider electorate. We also have collective responsibility means that parliament can force the resignation of the government, individual ministerial responsibility means that ministers are held to account for their actions. Under the current two-party system, voters choose between two main parties which alternate government. This is a strength of our constitution as a poor government can be held to account and can be voted out easily during elections. In January 2019, a motion of no confidence was tabled. The opposition, led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn led the motion against Theresa May’s Conservative government after they lost a Commons vote for May’s EU withdrawal deal. This shows the accountability that the UK constitution provides as it is possible to remove, or attempt to remove, a failing government.