Essay on Sources of the British Constitution

Published: 2021/11/24
Number of words: 736

British Constitution has evolved through history by its unusual nature of being an ‘uncodified’ constitution depicting the relativity stability of the British polity. Over the years the Crown has been the source of power and influence. The defining principle of the British Constitution has been regarded as parliamentary sovereignty. Nevertheless, the British Constitution is comprised of:

  • Statute Law – this constitutes the highest form of law, passed by an Act of Parliament and enforceable in courts. However, many statutes do not explicitly manifest principles influencing the constitution while others do as they dictate how the country is governed and how citizens relate with the state. For instance, the Freedom of Information Acts 2000. In summary, public authorities including hospitals are required to disseminate data and information to the public. (Tieges et al., 2021). This occurs in two ways, that is, either public authorities publish certain information concerning their activities or the public request the information they are entitled to, from public authorities. Others include Equity Act 2010, Human Rights Act 1998, among others. Therefore, the parliament passes such acts which start as bills presented by the Lords or Commons.
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  • Common law – also known as case law, is law made by judges in courts through cases. In this law, the judgments made by one law court regarding a particular case, ought to be enacted by other law courts when faced with a similar case. Such a law system is different from the civil law system where judgments are made based on predefined texts and statutes. This law does not originate from the legislative process but rather depicts the wisdom of the past where the judged enroll to such legal precedents (Rozenberg, 2016). Therefore, in applying principles of the old to new cases, modern needs are accommodated by judges establishing the common law. For instance, a crime is considered an offense by virtue of judges treating it as a crime under common law.
  • A convention constitutes regular practices that are considered appropriate in certain circumstances. Constitutional conventions comprise a set of rules developed over time by traditions and unwritten practices and relate to the business of governing. Conventions are not legally enforceable. Besides, there are no predefined directives conventions, convections are not recognized in courts, and no punishments for breaking conventions. Conventions have made the constitution dynamic, brought about limited monarchy, and make the administration democratic. For instance, conventions related to commonwealth state that commonwealth membership is voluntary, and convention-related to cabinet state that from the House of Commons, a prime-minister is take to lead the cabinet, and the cabinet operates based on the principle of political homogeneity (Ahmed et al., 2019). In this regard, conventions serve as a crucial source of the British Constitution.
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  • Major works of authority. This constitutes works written by scholars and theorists which act as guidelines and with wide recognition they are considered authoritative. Such works are the closest to a written account of how the constitution operates. Walter Bagehot’s The English Constitution (1867) and An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1885) by A.V Dicey are examples of such works (Torreggiani, 2018). Although works of authority may not be legally enforced, they act as reference points on how the constitution should run.
  • EU law and treaties. Over the years UK has remained subject to European laws and treaties which have over time conflicted with the UK law thereby questioning parliamentary sovereignty. As a result, the conflict has resulted in the UK formally exiting the EU. Before, EU law would take precedence in conflict arising between UK law and EU law. However, with the UK exiting the EU, constitutional changes are imminent.


Ahmed, F., Albert, R., & Perry, A. (2019). Enforcing constitutional conventions. International Journal of Constitutional Law17(4), 1146-1165.

Rozenberg, J. (2016). Is English common law at risk of becoming out of date?. BBC News. Retrieved 23 February 2021, from

Tieges, Z., Lowrey, J., & MacLullich, A. M. (2021). What delirium detection tools are used in routine clinical practice in the UK? A Freedom of Information investigation of UK hospitals. medRxiv.

Torreggiani, V. (2018). Corporatism and the British Constitutional Heritage: Evidences from the History of Ideas. Estudos Históricos (Rio de Janeiro)31(64), 151-172.

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