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Assess the Arguments for Codifying the Constitution

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In recent years there has been much debate within Parliament over the possible codification of the British Constitution and it is always a topic that people often find very hard to agree on. Though some parts of what may be a codified constitution have been introduced, such as The Human Rights Act which established a codified set of rules and the introduction of devolution, Britain is currently uncodified and so this brings up the arguments of whether update the system or not

The initial argument for the change is it was remove the transparency of rules and laws, the key constitutional are collected into a single document all clearly stated with great difficulty of alteration. This portrays exactly what the beliefs of Parliament are and restricts law breaking. Not only does this deter people from committing offences but also makes it simple to enforce as every charge wish be on the same wavelength.

An argument to contradict this however would be that's not every crime committed is the same so the variation in the punishment given would also have to vary and with the defining of the law there is actually potential for it to become less democratic. Along with this as times are forever changing and technology is being updated, the demand for laws to be amended is crucial as without it people could technically exploit the system ‘legally’.

Another bonus of a codified Constitution is the fact that it is authoritative meaning it is a higher-level and so it lines all political institutions including those that make ordinary law, such as the two chambers. The provisions of the constitution are also said to be entrenched meaning that they are difficult to amend or abolish. As a codified constitution sets out the duties, powers and functions of government institutions in terms of ‘higher law’ it is judiciable.

However there is the issue that when agreeing upon the codify constitution that's when it becomes entrenched a political party do not agree with it. With the two main parties in England, the Conservatives and Labour both having very contradictory views, one want to get their own way and the other will. If the party that do get their way are to be voted in then there is the risk of an elective dictatorship being formed. As well as this, higher law is more difficult to change than statute law. It is easier to and quicker to introduce an Act of Parliament than to amend a constitution. Due to the rigid, inflexible nature of codified constitutions it is difficult for the constitution to remain relevant and up-to-date, therefore it would be difficult to respond to changing political and social circumstances.

The strongest argument in favour of a codified constitution is that it would protect individuals civil liberty as it would define the relationship between the state and the citizen. This restricts issues such as elective dictatorship which can potentially lead to the decimation of rights. One way these rights could be defined could be through a bill or rights in the codified constitution such as the British Bill of Rights, a document that specifies the rights and freedoms of the individual, and so defines the legal extent of civil liberty.

A additional argument against adopting a codified constitution is judicial tyranny and democratic rule in the UK, which could bring the same fears as an elective dictatorship. The UK’s long-period of unbroken democratic rule is often seen as a strength of the uncodified constitutional system. The changes may lead to sensible approaches and strategic matters being lost. For example, the powers of the House of Lords were reduced through both Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 because of a growing belief that an unelected second chamber should no longer have the right to block policies of the elected government. Under a codified constitution judges would be the people policing the constitution, they are unelected and socially unrepresentative which would lead to a democratic deficit due to a lack of democratic legitimacy.

Lastly, it can be argued that a codified constitution would modernise Britain and make political relationships with institutions such as the EU much more clear. Following Britain opting to become a member of the EU, the lack of a codified constitution has led to difficulties in terms of their political relations with the institution, as every other country does and our lack of stability reduces predictability and results in bills passed being altered due to Britains ever changing circumstances. David Miliband once argued that the UK has not gone far enough in terms of building a constitution, despite laying some foundations for one through the introduction of the Human Rights Act and the Freedom of Information Act. With a codified constitution the UK would be able to comprehend the true nature of relations with EU policy and industrial relations.

However, with the current build up to the EU referendum and the question of ‘how long we will remain within’ looming, modernising to fit in better is essentially pointless. It may make relations with the counties better temporarily but if Brexit is to occur then amending would be disregarded due to the lack of connection. Also to contradict David Milibands statement, the ideology of changing the Human Rights act has been a main focus for many years but the British Bill of Rights could not be agreed upon. If these steps were to be taken then Britin would be one step closer to modernisation.

In conclusion, the statement that the UK would be better off having a codified constitution is perhaps logical but is questionable in practice. The reasons why it is questioned is due to the fact that is our current system really outdated? There is the issue that it can be confusing and undemocratic but by making it hard to change it could become more undemocratic. In particular the Executive’s power in parliament is said to be too great yet they re chosen by an elected leader so the legitimacy remains. Along with that, having a codified constitution would end parliament sovereignty, flexibility and would become outdated, the basic principles that make’s our society permanently protected. Overall the civil liberties of the nation should never be taken away nor will they ever become outdated and so is the need for change necessary from a system that works?…...

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