Should Britain adopt a codified constitution?
Should the UK have a codified constitution? A constitution is a set of rules that establishes how political power should be distributed, the relationship between political institutions, the limits to government, the rights of citizens and how the constitution can be changed. In the UK, we have an uncodified constitution; this means that it is not written down on one single document. However, recently more and more people have become in favour of codifying the constitution. There are many arguments justifying the employment of a codified constitution in the UK, but the most important are to limit the executive and legislative powers, entrench the constitution to protect the people and to modernize the UK politically compared to all other modern democracies that have a codified constitution. In the 21st century, most democracies have a codified constitution with the exception of the UK, New Zealand, Israel and Saudi Arabia. This brings in to question how relevant and up to date the UK's political system is compared to the rest of the world. This essay plans to illustrate the pros and cons of a codified constitution and answers the original question; should Britain adopt a codified constitution?
The main argument against a written constitution is that Britain has survived very well without one and that the strength of an unwritten constitution is its ability to evolve according to circumstances because it is not set in stone. The Conservatives would say that “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” As well as being flexible, the current system also has a number of informal checks and balances built into it, mostly based on convention, so that there is a degree of balance between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, which suggests a written constitution would be unnecessary. An example might be the practice of Parliament not commenting on sentences handed down by the courts. Another argument against a written constitution is that it would have to be relatively vague in places to allow it to evolve with society, and as a result would be constantly open to judicial interpretation. This would cause problems because unelected and unaccountable judges would be able to overrule an elected Parliament, thus undermining its sovereignty. Judges are also unrepresentative of the public and might interpret the law in a biased way.
It could also be argued that a written constitution is unachievable because politicians on the left wing and right wing would disagree massively over what exactly it should contain. It would then be extremely time consuming to reach agreement on the content of a codified document, as there would be a variety of different views about the powers of each branch of government, and the rights and obligations of citizens. Under the existing uncodified constitution there would be practical difficulties involved in the creation of a written constitution. Parliament would have to possibly “destroy” their laws as some of their main sources (statute law, common law & conventions) can be changed and ignored.
On the other hand, an argument in support of a written constitution is that it would keep the ever-growing power of the executive in check. As a result of the strength of party in Britain, a government with a Commons majority can pass practically any legislation through Parliament. Since Parliament can make or repeal any law, and executive ‘dictatorship’ means that substandard or highly controversial laws can be passed, supporters of a written constitution argue that Government in Britain needs to be limited and that codifying the constitution is the best means of achieving this. A written constitution would define the structure and powers of the government, the relationship between different parts of the overnment and the relationship between the government and the citizen, meaning that an irresponsible Government would be prevented. The…