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Chapter

Cover Public Law

8. Devolution and The Territorial Constitution  

This chapter focuses on the UK’s territorial constitution, that is, the governance arrangements that result in power being dispersed rather than concentrated in a single set of national institutions. Devolution involved creating new governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, and investing them with powers that were previously exercised at a UK level. Devolution in the UK is therefore intended to be part of the answer to questions that must be confronted in all political systems: where should governmental power lie? And at what level should laws be enacted and the business of government transacted? Local government plays a key role in decision-making, policy formulation, and the delivery of public services across a wide range of areas, including education, housing, personal social services, transport, and planning control.

Chapter

Cover Public Law Directions

4. How the UK is organised  

This chapter details how power is allocated in the UK, and its organisation in terms of devolution and regional and local government. Power in the UK is divided into three branches or arms of state: legislature (law-makers), executive (government and administration), and judiciary (courts and judges). Before devolution, the government’s (executive’s) administrative power was centralised and it extended to the whole of the UK, but devolution has made significant changes to the constitution and has brought a substantial rebalancing of power in the government of the UK. Since devolution’s introduction, the power of central government no longer extends to the growing areas of domestic policy that have been devolved to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The UK government’s remit therefore now covers England and the whole of the UK on non-devolved matters including the conduct of foreign affairs, defence, national security, and oversight of the Civil Service and government agencies.

Chapter

Cover Complete Public Law

2. Constitutional Organisations, Institutions, and Roles  

Titles in the Complete series combine extracts from a wide range of primary materials with clear explanatory text to provide readers with a complete introductory resource. This chapter describes the UK’s main constitutional bodies or offices and their roles. The state’s institutions and offices are linked to the three main powers at work within it: executive power, legislative power, and judicial power. The Queen is the head of state for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and heads the three branches of the state, although she is a constitutional monarch and her power is subject to constitutional limits. The executive is an umbrella term that describes two different entities: the political executive and the wider machinery of the government. The political executive contains the Prime Minister and government ministers. The wider machinery of government involves the collection of people who keep the country running, which includes the civil service, the police, the armed forces, members of executive agencies such as the Prison Service, and the welfare benefits system. Parliament is the body tasked with law-making, the scrutiny of Bills, and holding the executive accountable. The courts oversee the operation of the rule of law by reviewing actions, omissions, and decisions taken by the executive to ensure that they are legal, rational, and procedurally proper and that they comply with the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998. The chapter concludes with a discussion of elections to the Westminster Parliament—the mechanism through which MPs are elected and other ways in which those elections could be run.

Chapter

Cover Public Law Directions

12. The executive  

This chapter discusses the executive, the administrative branch of government which creates and executes policy, and implements laws. It specifically focuses on the organisation of central government in the UK. Central government in the UK carries out day-to-day administration in relation to England and the whole of the UK on non-devolved matters. Its functions include the conduct of foreign affairs, defence, national security, and oversight of the Civil Service and government agencies. Central government essentially consists of the government and Civil Service but modern government is extensive, multi-layered, and complex. The chapter then studies the sources of ministerial power. Ministers’ legal authority to act can derive from statute, common law, or royal prerogative. The royal prerogative is a source of power which is ‘only available for a case not covered by statute’.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

Entick v Carrington [1765] 95 ER 807, King’s Bench  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Entick v Carrington [1765] 95 ER 807, King’s Bench. This case concerned the legality of a warrant issued by one of the King’s Secretaries of State, the Earl of Halifax, which purported to authorize four of the King’s messengers to search for and take Entick’s papers and property. The case is a seminal judgment on the rule of law, the powers of government, and the nature of the legal system. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

Entick v Carrington [1765] 95 ER 807, King’s Bench  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Entick v Carrington [1765] 95 ER 807, King’s Bench. This case concerned the legality of a warrant issued by one of the King’s Secretaries of State, the Earl of Halifax, which purported to authorize four of the King’s messengers to search for and take Entick’s papers and property. The case is a seminal judgment on the rule of law, the powers of government, and the nature of the legal system. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Complete Public Law

14. The Role of the Courts, Judicial Review, and Human Rights  

Titles in the Complete series combine extracts from a wide range of primary materials with clear explanatory text to provide readers with a complete introductory resource. The court is tasked with checking the legality of government action, which is mainly done through the process known as judicial review. Judicial review is a special form of court process that calls the executive to account for its exercise of power. This chapter discusses the history of judicial review; the grounds of review; the judicial review of delegated legislation; judicial review and the constitution; the difference between judicial review and appeal; the role of the courts and the Human Rights Act 1998; the judicial review procedure; and the extent to which judicial review can act as a check on executive power.

Chapter

Cover Administrative Law

1. Introductory Matters  

Mark Elliott and Jason Varuhas

This introduction provides an overview of administrative law and administrative power in the UK. It begins with a discussion of the ‘red light’ and ‘green light’ theories of administrative law, along with judicial review. In particular, it considers the scope and intensity of judicial review, why judicial review is expanding, and whether (more) judicial review is a good thing. It then examines the debate about the constitutional basis of judicial review, focusing on the ultra vires doctrine and its modified version, and whether judicial review must be related to legislative intention. It also explains administrative power in the modern UK constitution, paying attention to the main features of the devolution systems, the powers and nature of the devolved institutions, the political and legal accountability of devolved administrations, and the powers of the local government.

Chapter

Cover Public Law Directions

15. Introduction to judicial review  

This chapter looks at the purpose and constitutional significance of judicial review. Where public bodies overreach themselves by acting unlawfully, the judicial review process allows individuals to hold public bodies to account in the courts, ensuring that governmental and public powers are lawfully exercised. This maintains the rule of law by helping to protect the public from the arbitrary or unreasonable exercise of government power. Judicial review is therefore a powerful check and control by the courts on executive action, but it also raises issues of whether the process gives the judiciary too much power over the elected government. There are three preliminary or threshold issues that a claimant needs to satisfy when bringing a judicial review claim. To be amenable to judicial review, the claim must raise a public law matter; it must be justiciable; and the claimant must have standing (locus standi).

Chapter

Cover Public Law Directions

9. Constitutional rights and principles  

This chapter addresses the doctrine of common law constitutional rights. This is a controversial area where judges uphold the rule of law to restrict not only government power, but occasionally the meaning of statutes in order to protect the fundamental rights and values that permeate the UK constitution. This can create tensions between parliamentary sovereignty, separation of powers, and rule of law. There is no definitive list of common law constitutional rights and values and they are unwritten, but they are essentially the rights and values protected by the rule of law that have evolved as rules of ‘fair play’ and justice. They include justice; legality; fundamental rights such as liberty, freedom of expression, and equality; accountable government; and democracy.