Principles of UK constitution + express & implied repeal

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A constitution consists of legal and political rules or arrangements that regulate and govern the operation of a state and the relationship between individual and the state. These constitutional rules, almost invariably, are enshrined in a single formal document entitled “The Constitution”.

The UK constitution, unlike constitutions of other countries, was not founded after a political upheaval, a revolution or an invasion (most common reasons for setting a constitution). Instead, it has developed over the time in an ad-hoc fashion to meet the requirements of the time – hence the lack of a single document entitled “The British Constitution”. It is therefore often said that the UK has no “written” constitution. Nonetheless, doing so is quite misleading as the majority its constitutional rules are actually written down.

The sources of the UK constitution include both legal and non-legal (political) sources.  The legal sources include Acts of Parliament, case law, international treaties – all in written form; together with the royal prerogatives (powers of the government drawn from the common law – see below) and the law and customs of Parliament – in non-written form. So, as indicated by Bartlett’s statement, even though classed as “unwritten”, UK constitution is mostly in written form.

The key feature of the UK constitution is the Parliamentary supremacy, which means that the Parliament can pass any law that it chooses and there has been no legal limitation on the law that Parliament can pass. Unlike other countries with codified constitutions whose law making bodies are usually restricted and cannot pass a law that would contradict their constitution.

Furthermore, all the UK statutes have the same legal standing. Some Acts may refer to the constitution in their title (The Constitutional Reform Act 2005), but that does not give them any more “superior” status than other ordinary legislation. This arguably makes the UK constitution more flexible as the legislation can be changed without any special or complicated procedure. This point may need to be reconsidered in the light of the obiter of Laws JL in Thoburn v Sunderland City Council [2002] EWHC 195 where he said that the constitutional statuses can be only repealed expressly and not impliedly. Historically, there has been no hierarchy in the legislation and together with the fact that the Parliament can in legal terms pass any law it chooses, it gives the UK constitution certain flexibility. This can be seen from the constitutional reforms since 1997 such as The Human Rights Act 1998, The Freedom of Information Act 2000, The Terrorism Act 2006 to name few, demonstrating the high flexibility of the UK constitution. The only thing the Parliament cannot change is its own sovereignty making the UK constitution the most flexible but also the most rigid one.

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Although the UK is made of number of jurisdictions, i.e. Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales, the ultimate legal and political power is centralized in the Westminster Parliament – the UK has a unitary constitution. It was the Westminster Parliament who permitted for the individual jurisdictions’ decentralized governments to exist by virtue of statuses passed by the Westminster Parliament and they can be abolished by passing another ordinary Act of Parliament. This clearly reinforces the flexibility of the UK constitution.

In theory the head of the state is the monarch. On the other hand her role in the constitution has ...

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