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The UK Constitution is No Longer Fit for Purpose, Discuss.

An AS Government and Politics 40 mark Essay from the Edexcel Gce exam board from January 2011.
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  “The UK constitution is no longer fit for purpose” Discuss. (40)   The UK constitution is currently very flexible due to its un-codified nature which is said to be both an advantage and a disadvantage. The constitution creates an over-powerful executive and does not have many checks on the PM and therefore abuse of power can occur. It is also criticized a lot for its lack of protection against Human Rights due to anti-terrorism acts and the banning of free protest in front of parliament. The constitution allows the government to process legislation that infringes on human rights and liberals would say a codified constitution is needed. The UK constitution is no longer fit for its purpose because there is now more individual power and less power towards the monarchy, people in parliament and prerogative powers cannot simply infringe on individual rights. Since the introduction of the Human Rights act 1998, individuals are now able to conform to their rights and speak up against parliament and the monarch, which they would have been killed for. There are more individual rights because the people demanded it and such is right. However, human rights are being infringed upon due to such anti-terrorism laws as the Anti-terrorism act 2000 being able to arrest and detain a person only upon suspect of being involved in a terrorist operation. This lack of individual protection is due to the un-codified nature of the constitution and the ability for a corrupt government to pass through such legislation that would undermine human rights. Also, some have argued that there is too much executive power, due to the lack of checks and balances on placed upon the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has the power to declare war and dissolve parliament when he wants to call an election. Such powers are derived from the royal prerogative, powers of the monarch that the PM automatically inherits upon election and such has become constitutionalised. The Prime Minister can also make decisions without consent of the cabinet for example, Tony Blair in 1997 granted the bank of England semi-independence without consent of his cabinet. This lack of checks and balances on the PM makes the branches of government uneven. In the USA, Congress, the President and the Supreme court adhere to a strict separation of powers so no one branch of government exceeds their powers, in the UK however, the executive and the legislature are partially fused, creating this exceeding power within government. Also, there is a lack of clarity in the constitution, another reason why reformers say it is not fit for its purpose. The UK, in its un-codified nature, is made up of many different sources, documents and legislation, a lot of which is convention and not written down in any single, clearly organised document or act of parliament such as the convention on ministerial responsibility. Because of this un-clarity, citizens may not even know if their rights are being eroded. A codified constitution would be fit because it would set out citizens’ rights clearly. The US co nstitution does this in having a bill of rights which most citizens of the US and some of UK know. However, traditional Conservationists, who value the importance of history and tradition within society, would argue that is fit for its purpose because it has been fine for the many years that it has been in practise and support the argument that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” The most important argument against reform, and that the constitution is fit for its purpose is due to its flexibility, in that if it does need to be changed, it can be with easy changed in legislation. It does not need to be codified because the UK would lose the benefit of it being un-codified. The Dunblane school massacre the UK led to the government passing legislation on limiting legal gun ownership  but, in the USA, due to their rights to wield a firearm, after the Columbine massacre in Colorado, it proved very difficult to pass any laws on gun limitation. Furthermore, the UK constitution is fit for its purpose because it leads to an effective government. Its flexible nature means that governments are able to pass legislation quickly and easily whereas on the other hand in the US, with its codified nature and all the checks and balances with the separation of powers, it has problems when trying to create legislation. This problem has exacerbated recently as Barak Obama, a Democrat loses majority in congress to Republicans, the opposition their government, and has become gridlocked, where no progress occurs. Lastly, the UK constitution is fit for its purpose because it is democratic. Statute law is interpreted by Parliament, who is elected. Therefore, legislation passed can have legitimate consent of the people as the government in power, is given legitimate consent by the people through the electorate voting for them and their manifesto which is promised to be carried out by the party winning government. In contrast, the USA constitution can only be interpreted by the Supreme Court, who are not elected and therefore cannot be accountable for their decisions in being unelected or not again re-elected, to correct this undemocratic nature, it should follow the ideas of a reformed upper house in the UK, to be elected every 15 years. The UK constitution does not need to be codified as the flexibility allows legislation to be passed that modernise it to be “fit for purpose”. This includes devolution. The people of Scotland and Ireland demanded devolution and the nature of the UK constitution allowed a referendum and following devolution to be made, giving Scotland its Parliament as well as the Northern Ireland Assembly both in 1998, the Welsh assembly and an elected London mayor. Furthermore, electoral reforms have been made in conjunction with these devolutions, Scottish parliament and the Welsh Assembly both having AMS and Northern Ireland Assembly using STV, each system differing from the UKs general election of FPTP in favour of more proportional systems. This has meant that the constitution is able to modernise and reform without the need to actually become codified and is better in its flexible form. In conclusion, the statement has been the centre of debate amongst liberals and conservatives and people for the increased protection of Human Rights and just the ever protestant activists w ho’s life revolves around everything needing to be changed saying Human rights are being infringed, has met equal opposition saying the ECHR has enough protection without the protection being infringing itself. Lastly, to answer the statement, the UK constitution is about forever changing and being this evolutionary body that listens and changes to meet society’s desires, an arguably more democratic form of a constitution than that of the USA.
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