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Discuss the case for and against a Written Constitution for the UK.

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Introduction

Discuss the case for and against a 'Written Constitution' for the UK. A Constitution, according to Professor KC Wheare is "the whole system of government of a country, a collection of rules which establish and regulate or govern the government" (1966). In lay terms, it is a set of rules governing a country. There are various types of constitutions; however the written and unwritten constitutions will be critically examined. A written constitution is one contained within a single document or a series of documents, whereas an unwritten/uncodified constitution is not set out in one particular/said document (Barnett 2006). The United Kingdom is said to have an unwritten constitution, but is best described as wholly uncodified (Budge et al, 1998). Their laws are accessible from law reports and statutes. The US is a prime example of having a written constitution. In subsequent paragraphs a critical examination of the pros and cons of a written constitution to be adopted by the United Kingdom will be examined thoroughly. The United Kingdom has an unwritten constitution which is a product of the history of the country. It has not been thought necessary to frame a single document which would deal with matters relating to the constitution. ...read more.

Middle

Also the public will be able to read and comprehend the constitution considerably better than they do at present. A written constitution could be taught in schools and this would not only increase their insight into politics but also encourage them to respect the laws included in the constitution. An entrenched codified constitution would also be an advantage to the British Judicial system, as laws would be clearly defined so judges would be able to recognize when laws are broken, and make fairer decisions. In the United Kingdom, it is difficult, in the absence of a written constitution, for the citizens to differentiate, at a conceptual level, precisely what is, and what is not a 'constitutional issue'. Therefore to illustrate this difficulty of differentiation of sensitive issues the student will show how one is unable to identify the view point of the government. In the case of abortion, by contrast, the United States has the Abortion Act 1967, whereas the United Kingdom does not have an Act or Law stating its decision on this sensitive issue. Also by way of illustration, in the UK, the Obscene Publications Act 1959, an ordinary Act of Parliament, having no particular constitutional status, provides the legal rules relating to pornographic literature. ...read more.

Conclusion

The door is wide open for dictatorial regimes. For example Blair's reform of the House of Lords can be noted here, whereby his party had a majority in the House of Commons and he was able to completely change half of the legislature without a referendum or other means by checking consensus. A written constitution would act as a safeguard, as it would make it difficult to change. The unwritten constitution allows for change overtime, so that the government can take into consideration or account the changing times and needs of the democratic system. It allows itself to be shaped by the needs of the people, adapting as required by circumstances. In essence there are no aspects of the British constitution that cannot be altered; according to Dicey, "one under which every law of every description can be legally changed with the same ease and in the same manner by one and the same body."In comparison, the United States constitution is very hard to modify. It is very rigid, and according to Dicey, it is "one under which certain laws generally known as constitutional or fundamental laws cannot be changed in the same manner as ordinary laws". As the evidence gives copious support to the argument, it is concluded that the UK has survived without a written constitution up until now. "If it's not broken, don't fix it". ...read more.

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