What Are The 2 Kinds Of Constitution?


2 Answers

Alice King Profile
Alice King answered
In political terms, a constitution is the regulation and organisation of how the institutions of the political state operates by establishing the responsibility of those institutions and the relationship between them.  Traditionally the institutions are :
The executive: where policy is made (in the UK - the Government).
The legislature : Where that policy is made into law (in the UK - Parliament).
The judiciary where the law is interpreted (in the UK - Judges in the courts).

The two different kinds of a constiution can be classified in two different ways.
Firstly in theoretical terms:
A constitution can be (a) Codified : written up in a single document eg the American constitution . This is described as rigid  because all aspects of the constitution are entrenched and need special procedures (laws) to make any changes.
(b) Uncodified : Where there is no single document, but many different sources, some written, some unwritten. This is described as flexible  because any aspect of the constitution can be changed according to the normal law-making process.
The UK  has an uncodified constitution, made up of varied sources:
Statute law - made by Parliament - the primary source of constitutional law, which can only be amended (changed) by Parliament eg European Communities Act 1972 which took the UK into what is now termed the European Union.
EU law and treaties - since 1972, as all UK law must confirm to EU law .
Common law - made by Judges in the courts based upon specific case law.
Constitutional conventions - unwritten, and based upon traditional custom and practice eg. Collective cabinet responsibility, meaning that all of the members of government are responsible for policy.
The Royal Prerogative - the powers reserved by the Monarch and used on the advice of the Prime Minister eg to declare war.

Secondly in practical terms:
A constitution can be:
(a) Federal : where political power is divided between central and regional bodies by a written/codified constitution.  Eg The United States where the central (federal) government retains law-making power over national issues, but regional states have their law-making powers over specified issues - eg the use of the death penalty is decided by the regional state.
(b) Unitary: where political power is centralised in one body.
Traditionally, the UK has had a unitary constitution, but this has been modified by the devolution settlements of 1998, whereby the constitution was altered by Acts of Parliament, which devolved (gave) some law-making powers to Scotland (primary legislative powers), and some ability to amend UK law to Wales and Northern Ireland, through their new elected bodies.
Therefore, it can be said that the UK constitution cannot now be described as unitary as not all political power is centralised in the UK Parliament, and is a devolved constitution.  However, this term does not entirely descibe the constitutional situtation as (I) not all parts of the UK have a devolved settlement - England has no separate devolved body, and (ii) the Acts of Parliament granting devolution could, in theory, be repealed by any future Parliament ie the UK Parliament retains supremecy over all devolved bodies (Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly.)

In theoretical terms, a type of constitution can be clearly identified: Codieifed/uncodified ; federal/unitary.
In practical terms, the constitition of the UK is complex, because it has evolved through political settlements since 1215 Magna Carta and continues to evolve due to the devolution settlements, is uncodified, so there is no one, single authorititive source;  and relies upon convention at the heart of government.
The single unifying factor is the constitutional doctrine that Parliament is sovereign ie parliament has political supremacy - although this has been eroded since joining the EU as EU law/treaties take precedence over UK Parliament law.

The point about our constitition is that it is very complex; it's like a jigsaw where you can't really pick out one piece to focus on, and you need to look at the entire picture to make sense of it!

Answer Question