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The Changing Constitution

The Changing Constitution (9th edn)

Sir Jeffrey Jowell and Colm O'Cinneide
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date: 30 November 2023

p. 31. The Rule of Lawlocked

p. 31. The Rule of Lawlocked

  • Jeffrey Jowell


Dicey believed that discretionary power offended the Rule of Law as it would inevitably lead to arbitrary decisions. His critics pointed out that in the modern state discretion is necessary to carry out a variety of welfare and regulatory tasks. The Rule of Law contains four central features which cohere and overlap: legality, certainty, equality and access to justice and rights. These are not only formal values but also substantive. The Rule of Law is a principle of institutional morality inherent in any constitutional democracy. In a country without a written constitution it constrains the way power is exercised. It is enforced and elaborated through judicial review but also serves as a critical focus for public debate. Although the Rule of Law is not the only requirement of a constitutional democracy, it is of great practical significance in promoting fair decisions, restraining the abuse of power, encouraging investment, and in furthering empowerment and respect for equal human dignity.

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