Friday, 1 July 2011

The principles of the British constitution

According to Halsbury's Laws:

"The principal characteristics of the constitution of the United Kingdom, in the sense of its system of government, are as follows:

(1)     the constitution is based on the premise that no body or political party is infallible or has a monopoly of wisdom, that state bodies should be democratically and legally accountable, and that they should promote good government in the general interest, rather than in their personal interests or the interests of limited sections of society;
(2)     the United Kingdom is bound by membership of the European Community, and the obligations imposed by ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the other international human rights codes to which the United Kingdom is party;
(3)     the constitution is unwritten and flexible;
(4)     the United Kingdom has a constitutional monarchy;
(5)     the United Kingdom has a parliamentary executive;
(6)     Parliament is sovereign;
(7)     Parliament consists in law of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the monarch, but for practical purposes the legislature is divided into two parts, the House of Commons and the House of Lords;
(8)     the House of Commons, the first and dominant chamber of Parliament, is elected and so the system is one of representative democracy;
(9)     the judiciary is separate from the other organs of government and independent from them, but in other respects there is not a separation of powers;
(10)     there is a permanent, politically neutral, professional Civil Service;
(11)     the system is unitary;
(12)     below the level of central government there is a local government tier which has only local legislative power, and is limited by law and government policy as to how it spends the money it is granted by central government and how much it may raise from the council tax;
(13)     the liberties of the individual derive from a person's status as a subject of the Crown, and are residual in nature, and there is no developed concept of citizenship conferring positive civil rights and liberties in relation to the state."