• To consolidate understanding of the principles of the
• To identify the strengths and weaknesses of the UK
• To debate whether the strengths now outweigh the
weaknesses of the UK constitution
• Sovereignty = “Crown in Parliament”
• Parliamentary sovereignty is a form of legal sovereignty (i.e. make, amend,
repeal any law)
• The Rule of Law has traditionally been seen as an alternative to a codified
constitution, showing that, even in the absence of higher law, government is till
subject to legal checks and constraints.
• Government, in short, is not ‘above’ the law.
The Rule of
• UK constitutional structure is based on a fusion of powers between executive
and Parliament (i.e. parliamentary government).
• Government & parliament overlap/interlock.
• Government, in effect, governs in and through parliament.
• Monarchy remains constitutionally significant body in the UK. Monarchy is a
‘dignified’ institution and still plays vital role even if no meaningful political
power. Role is to promote popular allegiance, serve as a symbol of political unity
above party politics. Monarch has the right to be informed, consulted, to warn
• Membership of the EU has major implications for the UK constitution e.g. role
and significance of Parliament [can parliament still be seen as sovereign?]
• Sovereignty now best understood as ‘parliamentary sovereignty within the
context of EU membership’.
Strengths and Weaknesses
of the UK Constitution
Potential 25 or 40 mark Exam Questions
• Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the UK
• The strengths now outweigh the weaknesses of
the UK constitution. Do you agree?
In your groups identify as many strengths and weaknesses of the constitution as you
can think of.
Think about the key features and concepts you have learnt about; pros and cons
Think about praise or criticism of the UK political system you have seen or read in
• Democratic rule
• Effective government
• History and tradition
• Elective dictatorship
• Weak protection of
• Provides a coherent system of government
• Evolved over time, reflecting the values of the British People
• Parliamentary sovereignty ensures a clear centre of authority
• The rule of law protects the rights of citizens
• Government is responsible – it is accountable to parliament and the electorate
• Government is effective – it can implement their policy programmes
• The constitution is flexible and easily adapted
• Parliamentary sovereignty and a strong executive produces centralised
• Local and sub-national governments are not constitutionally protected
• The rights of citizens are weak and not safeguarded effectively
• Pre-democratic elements survive e.g. the monarchy, House of Lords
• Changes to the constitution do not require special procedures e.g. a
referendum is not required.
The Traditional British Constitution
Things to think about…
• In order to change the UK’s constitution all you need to do
is pass an act of parliament. This means the UK can adapt
to changing circumstances. Is this always a good thing?
• Because the House of Commons is elected (and supreme)
we can see a continuous link to democratic principals since
the electoral reforms of the 19th Century. This can be linked
to a decrease in power of our unelected second chamber
• Our electoral system and fusion of powers means that
government is usually allowed to push through its
manifesto promises. Does this imply a tyranny at the heart
of British democracy?
• Conservatives believe that tradition is an important part of
our constitution. Our institutions are ‘tested by time’. If it
isn’t broke don’t fix it!
Things to think about…
• With so many sources to our constitution it is sometimes
difficult to know what the constitution says. This is
especially true of the unwritten parts..... such as?
• What do you think the term elective dictatorship means?
• Even though the Human Rights Act 1998 defends our rights
these can still be overturned by parliament-for example,
• Our constitution can be accused of being overly central.
This is because:
› PM tends to dominate the cabinet
› The HOC dominates the HOL
› The executive controls the parliament (HOC) through the
› Central government controls local government.
This House believes the strengths outweigh the weaknesses of
the UK constitution.
(British Parliamentary Style Debating)
30 seconds – 1 minute – 30 seconds = 2 minutes total