Constitution of the United
The modern British constitution:
Emerged from a process of evolution.
It is responsive to political and social
Changes could in theory be made without
No modern statute or document that
attempted to codify the rights of citizens.
Parliamentary supremacy and the rule of
Parliamentary supremacy and
the rule of law
A.V. Dicey wrote of the "twin pillars" of the
1. The principle of Parliamentary sovereignty.
2. The rule of law. everyone is equal
before the law.
The UK is a unitary state rather than a
federation or a confederation.
The authority of local and devolved bodies
are dependent on Acts of Parliament, and
they can in principle be abolished at the
will of the UK Parliament in London.
The Queen reigns, but she does not rule
Government and Parliament
The Government is "fused" with
Parliament: there is no formal restraint on
the legislative power of the executive.
Some principles of the constitution would be
extremely difficult to abolish because they are so
ancient in the UK's political culture.
Disputes about the nature of
the UK Constitution
The UK does not have a constitution, it
can be considered a compromise between
crown and parliament.
A Constitution would impose limits on the
power of the Parliament.
Proponents of a codified constitution argue
it would strengthen the legal protection of
democracy and freedom.
Act of Settlement 1701
To settle the succession to the English
throne on the Electress Sophia of Hanover –
a granddaughter of James I – and her
The act was later extended to Scotland as a
result of the Treaty of Union.
It remains today one of the main
constitutional laws governing the succession.
Provisions of the act
Eight provisions of the act:
1. The monarch "shall join in communion with
the Church of England."
2. A king not native to England will not wage
war for "any dominions or territories without
the consent of Parliament."
3. No monarch may leave the dominions of UK
without the consent of Parliament.
4. All council resolutions were to be signed by
those who advised and consented to them.
5. No foreigner shall be allowed to be a Privy
Councillor or a member of either House of
Parliament, or hold any place of trust.
6. No person who has an office under the
monarch, or receives a pension from the
Crown, can be Member of Parliament.
7. Judges' commissions are valid during good
behaviour, and if they do not behave
themselves they can be removed only by both
houses of parliament.
8. No pardon by the monarch can save someone
from being impeached by the House of
Effects of the act
Creation of the United Kingdom.
The Act of Union 1707.
Acts of Union 1707
The Acts joined the Kingdom of England
and the Kingdom of Scotland into a single
United Kingdom of Great Britain.
Previous attempts at union
1603: the two parliaments established a
commission to negotiate a union.
1643: The Solemn League and Covenant sought
a forced union of the Church of England into the
Church of Scotland.
1649: Oliver Cromwell created the
Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.
1689: The Scottish Parliament show much
discussion of possible union.
The English perspective
The English were concerned that an
independent Scotland with a different king,
even if he were a Protestant, might make
alliances against England.
The Scottish perspective
Scottish Parliament was unicameral because of
the weakness and lack of cohesion between the
various opposition groups in the House.
The Union would enable Scotland to recover from
the financial disaster wrought by the Darien
Many petitions were sent to the Scottish
Parliament against Union
The Irish perspective
Ireland, the third of the "sister kingdoms"
was not included in the union.
Ireland's benefits from the Union of 1707
o preferential status in trade with England now
extended to Scotland.
o improved Ireland's defence against enemies
Provisions of the Acts
o Scotland could send representative peers to sit in
the House of Lords.
o The Church of Scotland would remain the
established church in Scotland.
o The Court of Session would "remain in all time
coming within Scotland“.
o Scots law would "remain in the same force as
o The ban on Roman Catholics from taking the
o Customs union and monetary union.
The English and Scottish parliaments
had evolved along different lines, so
contradictions in the merged
parliament were frequent.
For example, the English doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty
in all aspects of national life did not exist in Scotland, and the
Scottish Parliament was unicameral, not bicameral.
Act of Union 1800
It is used to describe two complementary
Acts whose official United Kingdom titles:the
Union with Ireland Act 1800 and the Act of
Union Ireland 1800.
Each Act had to be passed in the
Parliament of Great Britain and the
Parliament of Ireland.
The final passage of the Act in the Irish
Parliament was achieved with substantial
The Acts ratified eight
1. Articles I–IV dealt with the political aspects of
the Union which included Ireland having over
100 MPs representing it in the united
parliament, meeting in the Palace of
2. Article V created a united Protestant church, the
United Church of England and Ireland, but
confirmed the independence of the Church of
3. Article VI created a customs union, with the
exception that customs duties on certain British
and Irish goods passing between the two
countries would remain for 10 years.
4. Article VII stated that Ireland would have to
contribute two-seventeenths towards the
expenditure of the United Kingdom.
5. Article VIII formalised the legal and judicial
aspects of the Union.
It combined the flags of England and
Scotland with a "St Patrick's Cross" to
Wales is not included as when the
original Union Flag was devised Wales
was considered an integral part of the
Kingdom of England.