Does Britain need a written constitution?

A constitution is a broad set of rules or a body of fundamental principles by which a country is made up or governed. Ideally a constitution should achieve a solid framework within which people can work together harmoniously. It should also guarantee peoples rights and freedoms. It needs to lay down rules on how officials or politicians are elected including their length of time in office and the powers and duties elected to them. It also reconciles central and regional government. The value of having a written constitution is everyone knows where he or she stands.

All the powers of officials and important bodies are laid down in black and white. Citizens clearly have a point of reference to see if their liberties have been breached. It would also stop one body becoming too powerful with a checks and balances system and this provides governmental stability. It could clearly define a definite period of a term in office. It would also delineate exactly the relationship between local and central government. These values come very close to the ideals set out in the beginning of my essay. A good example of a country where most of my ideologies work is in the U.

S. A. The president has a set period of time in office no matter how popular he is. The citizens of the U. S have a clearly defined Bill of Rights so everyone knows their constitutional rights. They have a clear separation of powers; members of the Executive cannot be members of the Senate or House of Representatives and vice versa. No single institution is sovereign therefore; this is a checks and balances system which is intended to create a limited government stopping one body becoming all too powerful. The British constitution does not come close to my ideal of a written constitution.

For a start it is uncodified, which means there is not a direct point of reference that lays down the rules by which we are governed. Our uncodified constitution is based on traditional ideas handed down through the centuries many of which were derived in King John of Runnymeads Magna Carta i. e. freedom of speech, freedom of religion and innocent until proven guilty. Although we have certain 'rights' they are not as secure as we would like to think.

One of our fundamental rights is the right to belong to a trade union but during the term of office of Baroness Margaret Thatcher she passed a law saying that members of the civil service at G.C. H. Q were not allowed to belong to a trade union due to the nature of highly sensitive information that they would be access too. She thought this might cause a breach of British security so she passed a law denying them this basic right. This is the trouble with our constitution if the all too powerful P. M of the day wants to infringe on our civil rights all he/she has to do is pass an Act of Parliament.

'' We have an elected dictatorship'' Lord Hailsham 1976. There is no clear separation of powers either, the P.M and Cabinet are part of the Executive and part of legislature as well unlike the U. S where they have a checks and balances system whereby, it is very easy to stop one body becoming too dominant. There is no definite length of term in office either and if a P. M is popular he/she could stay in power for 15 years or more. Central government has total control over local councils and sometimes passes laws that are unpopular at local level an example of this is the Conservatives right to buy scheme which has cost local councils thousands of pounds possibly millions.

The weaknesses of our uncodified system would be lessoned if Britain had a written constitution because everything would be clear from people's rights, to the separation of powers, to the relationship between central and local government. I also think the strengths of Britain's uncodified constitution would be weakened too if ours was written because I like the fact our laws can evolve and grow if we had a defined constitution this would not be possible.

If we do have a codified system then it's the responsibility of the judiciary to enforce these laws and as the judges are an unelected group of people I have grave reservations about them being able to overrule the elected representatives of our nation. They are also unaccountable and don't have to justify their decisions to the electorate or even parliament. Personally I don't think Britain needs a written constitution. I like the way British law has a chance to evolve and grow the same way society grows and evolves. I don't think that a P.

M can get too powerful if he/she passes laws that are unpopular with the electorate the British people aren't stupid and will just get rid of them at the next general election. There are also enough pressure groups to keep them in check and we can't ignore the power of the media who I think is the true opposition of the government and if the media gets their teeth into an unpopular decision it could spell the end for that politician or government. The political graveyard is full of M. P's who have tried to back unpopular legislation with the media acting in the role of the Grim Reaper.

Dianne Abbot a Labour M. P has criticized other politicians for sending their children to select schools and hypocritically she's sending her own child to a private school. The media pressure on her is overwhelming and there is even a chance she might have to quit as an M. P, this is a brilliant example of media pressure at its best. I also think our system has been working well for many a year so why change it now? I don't think you can have a set of rules that will cover every situation that might arise without contradicting itself.

To introduce a written constitution would be impossible in practice how would the different political party's agree as to what went into it? The Labour party would want social rights and the Conservatives would want individual rights so I think it's unworkable. The only thing I would like to have in writing is a Bill of Right's for the citizens of the U. K. There is some talk that the E. U is drawing up it's own constitution and I believe that the rights of the British and other E. U nations will be taken care of in this new historic document.