The Constitution of the United Kingdom reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Constitution of the United Kingdom

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Constitution

The United Kingdom has an uncodified constitution, which means it is not all contained in a single document. There are several sources of the constitution, some being written down and some not.

Table of contents
1 Key principles
2 Sources
3 Reform
4 See also

Key principles

The key principles of the constitution are the underlying features of the constitution. The two most important principles have existed for a very long time, since the creation of Parliament. They were identified by the constitutional lawyer, A.V. Dicey as the twin pillars of the constitution.

The most recent key principle is European Union membership, the principle that EU law takes precedence over UK law. This principle was famously identified in the Factortame case in which the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 was overturned. This appears to undermine the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty, but Parliament could still withdraw from the EU by repealing the European Communities Act 1972, so in a way sovereignty is preserved.

The other important principles are:

Sources

There are several sources of the constitution, shown below. Not all of the sources are written down, some being contained in conventions for example, but is incorrect to say the UK has an "unwritten constitution" because much of it is written down.

The main sources of the constitution are:

Among the many key statutes or conventions are:

Reform

The expansion of the electoral franchise

Main article: The expansion of the electoral franchise

Between 1832 and 1989, numerous Acts of Parliament increased the number of people from 5% of the adult population to the system of universal suffrage for all people 18 or over that exists today.

New Labour's reforms

First Term

In Labour's first term (1997-2001), it introduced a large package of constitutional reforms, which it promised in its 1997 manifesto. The most major were:

Second Term

The House of Commons voted on seven options in February 2003 on what proportion of elected and appointed members (from 100% elected to 100% appointed) the House of Lords should have. None of the options received a majority.

In 2004, the Joint Committee of both the House of Commons and House of Lords, tasked with overseeing the drafting of the proposed Civil Contingencies Bill, published its first report, in which, amongst other things, it suggested amending the bill's clauses that grant Cabinet Ministers the power "to disapply or modify any Act of Parliament" as overly wide, and that the bill should be modified to preclude changes to the following Acts, which, it suggested, formed "the fundamental parts of constitutional law" of the United Kingdom:

(names are shown as they appear in Hansard: [1])

However, this amendment was defeated by the government.

See also