Aug 07, 2015
Constitution and Devolution
What is the constitution?
Parliament (The Monarchy, Lords, and Commons)
The Administration (The Government who sits in parliament)
The Law (The justice and court System)
An unwritten constitution?
Documents on which the UK constitution is based
• 1215: The Magna Carta• 1628: Petition of Right• 1689: The Bill of Rights
1215: Magna Carta
Norman Land in 12th c.
Norman Land 50 years later
‘Bad’ King John
Notable Clauses of Magna Carta• We have … granted to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and our heirs for ever, all the underwritten
liberties, to be had and held by them and their heirs, of us and our heirs for ever.• 63) In the first place we grant unto God, and by this our present Charter we have confirmed for us,
and for our heirs for ever, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have her whole rights and her liberties inviolable
• (14) A free-man shall not be amerced [given an arbitrary fine] for a small offence, but only according to the degree of the offence; …
• (28) No bailiff, for the future, shall put any man to his open law, nor to an oath, upon his own simple affirmation, without faithful witnesses produced for that purpose.
• (39) No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled or in any other way harmed. Nor will we [the king] proceed against him, or send others to do so, except according to the lawful sentence of his peers and according to the Common Law.
• 61) the barons [may] choose any twenty-five barons of the kingdom they wish, who must with all their might observe and hold, and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties we have granted and confirmed to them by this our present Charter. Then, if we, our chief justiciar, our bailiffs or any of our officials, offend in any respect against any man, or break any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is notified to four of the said twenty-five barons, the four shall come to us—or to our chief justicicar if we are absent from the kingdom—to declare the transgression and petition that we make amends without delay.
The Petition of Right 1628
Divine right of Kings
Petition of Right
The Petition of Right (1628)
• Reinforces the Magna Carta• Demands Habeas Corpus• Right to fair trial• The king may not demand tax without the
permission of parliament• Cannot imprison without just cause• Cannot force soldiers into the army
1689: Bill of Rights
‘Glorious Revolution’ (England 1688)
1689 Bill of Rights
Basic rights established by the Bill of Rights (from Wikipedia):
• • · No royal interference with the law. Though the sovereign remains the fount of
justice, he or she cannot unilaterally establish new courts or act as a judge.• · No taxation by Royal Prerogative. The agreement of the parliament became
necessary for the implementation of any new taxes• · Freedom to petition the monarch without fear of retribution• · No standing army may be maintained during a time of peace without the consent
• · No royal interference in the freedom of the people to have arms for their own defence as suitable to their class and as allowed by law (simultaneously restoring rights previously taken from Protestants byJames II)
• · No royal interference in the election of members of parliament• · The freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to
be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament• · ”Grants and promises of fines or forfeitures" before conviction are void• · No excessive bail or "cruel and unusual" punishments may be imposed
1776 declaration of American independence
MonarchHouse of Lords
House of Commons
• Symbolic, ceremonial role• Head of State of UK and Commonwealth• Head of the Church of England (Anglican
House of Lords
• Members can be ‘Hereditary Peers’ or ‘Life Peers’ (Duke, Earle, Marquess, Viscount, Baron)
• Traditionally had the Power to amend or reject bills of law (this power has been severely restricted)
• Main function is to debate and consider important issues
• Peers and Peeresses are not paid
House of Commons
• (From the French – House of communes): elected members represent constitutencies from around the state
• Most powerful house in parliament
• Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
• The Supreme Legislative Body in the Union
Palace of Westminster
Composition of the House of Lords
Dublin in 1916
Stormont House, near Belfast
Northern Irish Assembley• Established in 1921, when the Republic of Ireland left the UK
• Members include: Unionists (who wish Northern Ireland to remain in the UK, main party
is called the Democratic Unionist Party) And Nationalists (who wish Northern Ireland to leave the UK and
rejoin the Republic of Ireland, main party is called Sinn Féin [meaning ‘Us, Ourselves’)
• The Good Friday Agreement (1998), which ended the war in Northern Ireland ensures that Unionists and Nationalists have equal representation in government. Before this, the government was largely controled by unionist parties.
Composition of Northern Irish Assembly
• Established in 1998• Strongly linked with Labour governments• Controls legislature concerning education, health, agriculture,
and justice• Issues that the Scottish Parliament is not permitted to legislate
upon: abortion, broadcasting policy, civil service, common markets for UK goods and services, constitution, electricity, coal, oil, gas, nuclear energy, defence and national security, drug policy, employment, foreign policy and relations with Europe, most aspects of transport safety and regulation, National Lottery, protection of borders, social security and stability of UK's fiscal, economic and monetary system.
Parliament at Holyrood, near Edinburgh
Main Political parties
• SNP – Scottish National Party: The SNP wish for Scotland to leave the UK, and become an independent sovereign state like the Republic of Ireland.
• Labour Party (The next biggest party in Scotland)• Conservative Party (Traditionally very unpopular
Distribution of Political Power in Holyrood
• Created in 1997• Has Control over:• Agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development,
Ancient monuments and historic buildings, Culture, Economic development, Education and training, Environment, Fire and rescue services and promotion of fire safety, Food, Health and health services, Highways and transport, Housing, Local government, Public administration, Social welfare, Sport and recreation, Tourism, Town and country planning, Water and flood defence, Welsh language
Assembley Buildings at Cardiff
West Lothian Question
• For how long will English constituencies and English Honourable members tolerate ... at least 119 Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important, and probably often decisive, effect on English politics while they themselves have no say in the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
- Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP for the Scottish constituency of West Lothian, 1977