The hot contemporary topic on if Britain ought to have a written, or codified constitution - is perhaps wrongly put. The real question ought to be - why should Britain not have such a constitution; after all we are one of just three democracies without one. With an introduction like this it is quite obvious that I am in favour of Britain developing a Codified law and this is what I will be elaborating on in this essay.
What is a constitution? Constitutions organise, distribute and regulate state power. They set out the structure of the state, the major state institutions, and the principles governing their relations with each other and with the state’s citizens. Britain is unusual in that it has an ‘unwritten’ constitution: unlike the great majority of countries, there is no single legal document which sets out in one place the fundamental laws outlining how the state works.
There are two reasons why Britain has lacked a constitution. The first is that, historically, Britain never had a constitutional moment; the second is the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. Today, however, Britain finds itself engaged in the process of gradually converting an uncodified constitution into a codified one.. There is, moreover, a tension between two types of codified constitution - a lawyer's constitution which would be long and highly detailed, and a people's constitution which would be short, but, inevitably, broadly-worded, and therefore open to interpretation by the courts.
Britain’s lack of a ‘written’ constitution can be explained mainly by its history. In other countries, many of whom have experienced revolution or regime change, it has been necessary to start from scratch or begin from first principles, constructing new state institutions and defining in detail their relations with each other and their citizens. By contrast, the British Constitution has evolved over a long period of time, reflecting the relative stability of the British polity. It has never been thought necessary to consolidate the basic building blocks of this order in Britain. What Britain has instead is an accumulation of various statutes, conventions, judicial decisions and treaties, which collectively can be referred to as the British Constitution.
There is, moreover, a tension between two types of codified constitution - a lawyer's constitution which would be long and highly detailed, and a people's constitution which would be short, but,…