Last Updated 17 Aug 2022

The Advantages of a Codified Constitution Now Outweigh the Disadvantages

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The advantages of a codified constitution now outweigh the disadvantages The evidence suggests that the advantages of a codified constitution do not now outweigh the disadvantages. In codified constitutions, laws are entrenched which makes it harder for them to evolve and adapt to modern requirements because it takes a long time for a response due to the required procedures, which might involve gaining two-thirds majority in the legislature or approval by referendum.

As a result, one can argue that countries with codified constitutions struggle to find a resolution to their dogmatic laws. For example, the USA are still unable to introduce stricter gun laws because it opposes the constitutional right for citizens to bear arms, even though nowadays American citizens are less likely to require guns compared to when the American constitution was written in 1787. Recent events such as the Newtown shooting demonstrated the necessity for alterations.

Whereas the UK’s uncodified constitution benefits from its flexibility as it can easily adapt to changing circumstances because Parliament can pass new acts relatively quickly and easily without delay when the attitudes of society change. The increase in the use of referendums over constitutional changes such as the devolution of power to Wales and Scotland in 1997 and the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 illustrate the adaptability of the constitution because power was devolved a year after the referendum.

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However some argue that Britain’s uncodified constitution lacks clarity as it doesn’t exist in one clear document. Instead it consists of some written documents such as statues, court judgements and treaties but also conventions. Therefore by having a codified constitution, it would raise public awareness and the British public would understand their rights better. Furthermore it has been suggested that it could improve the problem of political ignorance and apathy in Britain because the turnout for the past three General elections have been below 70%, which is achieved by other modern democracies.

Nevertheless one can argue that uncodified constitutions result in stronger government because the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty creates supreme authority within the political system. The executive can exercise significant control over the legislative process in the House of Commons. Therefore power is concentrated amongst representatives who have been democratically elected and have a mandate to govern in place of appointed judges or bureaucrats who cannot be held accountable. A codified onstitution would place constraints on the government making it less decisive and therefore less strong because government would be reluctant to act in case it is seen as opposing the constitution. Alternatively some argue that the executive has too much power which threatens individual rights. Therefore some suggest that a codified constitution would help to safeguard citizen’s rights because at the moment Britain has adopted the European Convention on Human Rights by passing the Human Rights Act 1998, which is considered weak as it could be overridden by Parliament due to Parliamentary sovereignty.

Furthermore the European Convention on Human rights is part of UK law however its terms are not determined in the UK, whereas a codified constitution would include a statement of rights in the UK which would be controlled domestically. However the government is held to account by the British public in general elections because the First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system favours the two party system which effectively gives voters the opportunity to choose between alternative governments as it normally produces a majoritarian result.

Some also argue that a codified constitution would bring the UK in line with most other modern democracies. This has become a pressing issue since the UK joined the EU, making political relations between the UK and the EU difficult for both parties to understand as the UK’s relationship with the EU is codified in the various treaties such as Nice (2001) and Lisbon (2009), which would be easier to comprehend if the UK adopted a codified constitution. Conversely one can argue that the UK’s uncodified constitution has worked well for centuries and there have been no violent revolutions or major political unrest.

Change has occurred naturally rather than when reformers have campaigned for it. Furthermore, the creation of a codified constitution would be difficult and could incur many unwanted problems because much of the UK’s constitution lies within unwritten conventions, especially in relation to the monarchy and prerogative powers. There would be difficulties in putting them into written form. In conclusion, the evidence clearly suggests that the advantages of a codified constitution do not outweigh the disadvantages because it would make our current constitution less flexible and could leave citizens with outdated laws.

Therefore codified constitutions create weaker governments who are less likely to make natural changes as they may fall foul of the fixed constitution. Additionally the codified constitution would provide judges and bureaucrats with more power when scrutinising legislature even though they have not been democratically elected, therefore power is rightly centralised to the executive, helping to establish a strong government. The evidence also suggests that a codified constitution would incur more problems in transferring prerogative powers rather than solving current problems with the uncodified constitution.

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