Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Constitution of the UK

The trick question is "Where is the constitution of the UK?"

Sometimes the answer is, "It's unwritten." More accurately, the answer is it's written all over history as precedents to be followed.

How about the sixteenth century "Henry VIII powers," now called Statutory Instruments? Would you think to look there for the constitution?

"The Government sometimes adds this provision to a Bill to enable the Government to repeal or amend it after it has become an Act of Parliament…

"Such provisions are known as Henry VIII clauses, so named from the Statute of Proclamations 1539 which gave King Henry VIII power to legislate by proclamation." -Parliament Web Site

I don't offer this information because I think you need to know about Henry VIII powers. I point out how diverse and ancient the constitutional provisions of the UK's government are. The generalization is more important than the specific trivia.

Theresa May expected to make concessions over 'Henry VIII' powers
Theresa May is likely to agree to a new parliamentary committee to help weed out excessive use of Henry VIII powers after Brexit as she seeks to head off a rebellion, according to Tory MPs pushing for the change…

The purpose of the EU withdrawal bill is to transpose legislation from Brussels into British law to ensure a smooth exit process.

However, May is facing a rebellion over so-called Henry VIII powers that would allow ministers to tweak secondary legislation as it is transposed…

Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general who tabled the key amendment, told the procedure committee on Wednesday that the bill represented the “most extraordinary arrogation of powers” by the executive that he had seen during 20 years in parliament.

He said there needed to be an exceptional mechanism for dealing with secondary legislation, where MPs would sift through statutory instruments to decide whether they needed full parliamentary debate or not…

Further note:
Statutory instruments are not quite the archaic devices they are being portrayed… They are regularly used to make adjustments to the law. Around 3,500 of them are created in a normal year. Parliament can debate and reject them, although it is admittedly a rather cumbersome process.

But whatever legislation is created, whether by act of parliament or SI, can later be amended or repealed by parliament. This in contrast to the vast amount of EU legislation currently under scrutiny, which entered our laws from the EU without parliament being involved, and which not cannot be amended or repealed while we remain members…

J Cameron Smith
Dunoon, Argyll and Bute

-letter to The Guardian


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