Should the UK constitution remain un-codified?

The UK has an un-codified constitution, or in other words, it is not found in one single written document, like in the USA. In fact, ours derives from a number of sources, some written, and others universally accepted such as the ever growing amount of practical case laws. Other sources include EU law, statute law, and books written by key individuals, such as Bagehot's "The British Constitution", which clearly outlines the roles of the cabinet, parliament and monarch. This unique nature has given rise to many benefits and advantages implying that its nature should not be altered or fully "codified" as with most other countries.

However, as with most political theories, there is a strong opposing argument to it, and thus within this essay both sides will be explored and a final judgement made. One of the strongest features of an uncodified constitution is its adaptability and ease of amendment, allowing it to remain relevant in modern times, making redundant laws inapplicable and creating new ones to keep up with our ever evolving political, social and economical climate. Examples of where our un-codified constitution has been able to adapt to modern times include the fox hunting ban, where a referendum was called and a swift democratic ban enforced.

Others include the 1999 House of Lords reform, where labour reduced the amount of undemocratically enrolled hereditary peers from around 600 to 100. This allows our societies laws to be constantly relevant, something a codified, or written, constitution may not be able to offer, as seen with the "right to bear arms" debate in the United States, where, even if the masses wanted to remove this right, it would be near impossible as it is clearly entangled and entrenched in the heart of the American constitution, and so cannot theoretically be removed.

In essence, this allows for a stronger government, who can effectively manage the country in a truly democratic way, under instruction from the masses. Another significant factor is the general public acceptance of our uncodified constitution. Although some may argue that not everyone knows their specific rights and civil liberties due to the complexity of the constitution, people still seem to be fairly happy, and so there is very little demand for major reform in the rights area of the argument.

The conservative argument "if it aint broke don't fix it" is often cited, in simple terms, it works and functions so there is no need to destroy a working model. However, some argue that there are significant flaws to our so called truly democratic constitution. One of these, despite perhaps not being as serious as may appear, as explained above, is the lack of an equivalent to the US Bill of rights, and so the fine details of our constitutional rights are somewhat unclear.

Perhaps the way forward would be to create such a document, but implement it into our current system, along side the many other documents and sources that create the constitution, a sort of "best of both worlds" scenario. The same problem is true of the exact powers the government actually has, and so it is unclear what it can constitutionally do and not do. Some people argue that this could lead to our Government becoming almost "elected dictators", with more powers than they should really have, yet no easily understandable constitution to put them in their place.

Another issue, similar to the last is that it is almost too easy to change laws in a un-codified constitution, and thus the government can do so simply to satisfy their needs, even if unjustly so. Recent events prove that civil liberties are not well defined and tend to be eroded, such as the prolonged debate over how long suspected terrorists can legally be held for without a trail, and whether simply helping terminally ill family members with assisted suicide is an offence punishable by prison or not.

A codified constitution also has educational value. A codified constitution highlights the central values and overall goals of a political system. This would likely strengthen citizenship as it creates a clearer sense of political identity which may be particularly important in an increasingly multicultural society. In conclusion, although there are legitimate arguments for, and against both types of constitution, it in practice looks like an un-written, un-codified constitution is how it should, and will stay in the UK.

This is because the current system we have works perfectly fine, and although it may have its issues, such as the possibility of a government taking advantage of its powers to create new laws, they are countered with the significant advantages over a written, unchangeable one. Perhaps more importantly, there is actually little demand for change, from both the Government and the public, and there would be a significant financial and time cost for such a change, which many argue would bring about little improvement and in reality even more problems in the future when it would be labelled outdated and unrepresentative.