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Chapter

Cover Public Law Directions

3. The features and sources of the UK constitution  

This chapter examines the characteristics of the UK constitution. The main features of the UK constitution are that it is uncodified; flexible; traditionally unitary but now debatably a union state; monarchical; parliamentary; and based on a bedrock of important constitutional doctrines and principles: parliamentary sovereignty, the rule of law, separation of powers; the courts are also basing some decisions on bedrock principles of the common law. Meanwhile, the laws, rules, and practices of the UK constitution can be found in constitutional statutes; judicial decisions; constitutional conventions; international treaties; the royal prerogative; the law and custom of Parliament; and works of authoritative writers. The chapter then looks at the arguments for and against codifying the UK constitution.

Chapter

Cover Public Law

6. The UK Parliament  

This chapter focuses on three principal issues concerning the UK Parliament. First, it addresses the democratic credentials of Parliament. Second, it considers Parliament’s legislative role. Third, it examines Parliament’s powers. The chapter shows that, at least in constitutional theory, Parliament is ‘sovereign’, meaning that its authority to legislate is legally unlimited, and considers why this is, whether it is acceptable, and whether the notion of parliamentary sovereignty remains accurate today.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

R (on the application of Miller and Cherry) v Prime Minister and Advocate General for Scotland [2019] UKSC 41, Supreme Court  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case note summarizes the facts and decision in R (on the application of Miller and Cherry) v Prime Minister and Advocate General for Scotland [2019] UKSC 41, Supreme Court. This case concerned the constitutional-legal limits on a Prime Minister’s capacity to advise the monarch to exercise their power to prorogue Parliament. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

Thoburn v Sunderland City Council [2002] EWHC 195 (Admin), Divisional Court  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Thoburn v Sunderland City Council [2002] EWHC 195 (Admin), Divisional Court. This case introduced the concept of a ‘constitutional’ statute into UK jurisprudence. The case note reflects on the consequences of this. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

Case of Proclamations [1610] 77 ER 1352, 12 Co Rep 74, 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 Case of Proclamations [1610] 77 ER 1352 12 Co Rep 74, King’s Bench. This classic public law case concerned whether the King could rule by proclamation, or whether he was required to rule through Parliament. It provides one of the core foundations of the law limiting the scope of the royal prerogative today. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

R (on the application of Miller and Cherry) v Prime Minister and Advocate General for Scotland [2019] UKSC 41, Supreme Court  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case note summarizes the facts and decision in R (on the application of Miller and Cherry) v Prime Minister and Advocate General for Scotland [2019] UKSC 41, Supreme Court. This case concerned the constitutional-legal limits on a Prime Minister’s capacity to advise the monarch to exercise their power to prorogue Parliament. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

Thoburn v Sunderland City Council [2002] EWHC 195 (Admin), Divisional Court  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Thoburn v Sunderland City Council [2002] EWHC 195 (Admin), Divisional Court. This case introduced the concept of a ‘constitutional’ statute into UK jurisprudence. The case note reflects on the consequences of this. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

Case of Proclamations [1610] 77 ER 1352, 12 Co Rep 74, 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 Case of Proclamations [1610] 77 ER 1352 12 Co Rep 74, King’s Bench. This classic public law case concerned whether the King could rule by proclamation, or whether he was required to rule through Parliament. It provides one of the core foundations of the law limiting the scope of the royal prerogative today. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Public Law Concentrate

1. Introduction to constitutional law  

Each Concentrate revision guide is packed with essential information, key cases, revision tips, exam Q&As, and more. Concentrates show you what to expect in a law exam, what examiners are looking for, and how to achieve extra marks. This chapter discusses the definition of constitutional law and the characteristics of the British Constitution. Constitutional law looks at a body of legal rules and political arrangements concerning the government of a country. A constitution may take the form of a document or set of documents which declare that a country and its chosen form of government legitimately exists. The British Constitution is largely unwritten, flexible in nature, and based on absolute parliamentary sovereignty. The UK is also a unitary state. There is a central government, as well as devolved legislative and executive bodies in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England. It is also a constitutional monarchy. This means that the head of state is a king or queen and that they exercise their powers in and through a parliamentary system of government in which the members of the executive are accountable to a sovereign parliament.

Chapter

Cover Concentrate Questions and Answers Public Law

6. Parliamentary sovereignty  

The Q&A series offers the best preparation for tackling exam questions. Each chapter includes typical questions, diagram problem and essay answer plans, suggested answers, notes of caution, tips on obtaining extra marks, the key debates on each topic, and suggestions on further reading. This chapter considers questions relating to parliamentary sovereignty. There is a traditional doctrine of parliamentary supremacy, but it has had to be adapted to accommodate membership of the European Union. The questions deal with issues such as the meaning and implications of ‘parliamentary supremacy’; the impact of the UK’s EU membership on the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty; the effect of EU legislation, such as directives, in English Law; how the European Union works; and how Brexit will affect parliamentary supremacy.

Chapter

Cover Public Law

5. Parliamentary sovereignty, the European Union, and Brexit  

This chapter explains the process and significance of the UK’s membership of the EU and of its subsequent departure from the EU. The chapter sets out the authorities underpinning the supremacy of EU law, accepted and established prior to the UK’s accession. It then explores cases—from the early 1970s to the present day—which consider the ways in which EU membership has impacted on Parliament’s sovereignty. Following this, the chapter explores the legal and political landscape of the UK’s departure from the EU. It considers the Brexit process, the establishment of a stable legal system in the UK post-Brexit, looking in particular at the creation of retained EU law as provided for by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, and the future relationship between the UK and the UK, as established by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Chapter

Cover The Changing Constitution

12. The Relationship between Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary  

Alison L. Young

When examining the recent evolution of the Constitution, it is argued that the UK has become more ‘legal’ as opposed to ‘political’. The last twenty years has seen a growth in legislation and case law, particularly that of the Supreme Court, regulating aspects of the UK constitution. This chapter investigates this claim. It argues that, whilst we can point to a growth in both legislation and case law, when we look at the case law more closely we can see that the courts balance an array of factors when determining how far to control executive actions. These factors include an analysis of the relative institutional features and constitutional role of the legislature, the executive and the courts. This evidence, in turn, questions the traditional understanding of the separation of powers as a hidden component of the UK constitution. It is not the case that courts merely balance the rule of law and parliamentary sovereignty in order to determine how far to control executive actions. Rather, the courts determine how to make this balance through the lens of the separation of powers, evaluating institutional and constitutional features. In doing so, they are upholding necessary checks and balances in the UK constitution.

Chapter

Cover English Legal System

7. Human rights in the United Kingdom  

This chapter considers the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and its relationship to the English legal system. The focus in the chapter is on key provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998—the Act that incorporated the Convention into UK law. In the earlier part of the chapter there is coverage of sections 2, 3, and 4 of the Act. These provisions concern the duties placed on the courts to take into account judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, to interpret domestic legislation so as to comply with rights under the Convention, and finally to issue a declaration of incompatibility when domestic legislation does not comply with rights under the Convention. Using examples from the case law, the chapter assesses how the courts balance their constitutional role to respect the supremacy of Parliament, with the duties provided in the Act to respect rights under the Convention. There is also an analysis of s.6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 which makes it unlawful for a public authority to act incompatibly with Convention rights. The analysis includes the contested question of what precisely constitutes a ‘public authority’, particularly when a private body is carrying out a public function.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

R (on the application of Daly) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2001] UKHL 26, House of Lords  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in R (on the application of Daly) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2001] UKHL 26, House of Lords. This case considered whether a blanket policy excluding prisoners from cell searches was a proportionate response that was necessary to achieve the aim of that policy. There is also discussion of whether the common law could provide an alternative system of rights protection to that under the Human Rights Act 1998. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

Attorney General for New South Wales v Trethowan [1932] AC 526, Privy Council  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Attorney General for New South Wales v Trethowan [1932] AC 526, before the Privy Council. This case concerned whether provisions enacted by an earlier legislature could bind the legislative choices of future legislatures. It should be noted that this case relates to a dominion legislature. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

R (on the application of Evans) and another v Attorney General [2015] UKSC 21, Supreme Court  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in R (on the application of Evans and another) v Attorney General [2015] UKSC 21, Supreme Court. This case concerns whether Parliament can have intended for a statutory provision to allow a member of the executive to overturn the decision of a court without good, clearly articulated reasons (Lord Mance), or contrary to constitutional principle (Lord Neuberger). The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

R (on the application of HS2 Action Alliance Ltd) v Secretary of State for Transport [2014] UKSC 3, Supreme Court (also known as R (on the application of Buckinghamshire CC))  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case note summarizes the facts and decision in R (on the application of HS2 Action Alliance Ltd) v Secretary of State for Transport [2014] UKSC 3, Supreme Court (also known as R (on the application of Buckinghamshire CC)). This case note is concerned primarily with the distinction between ordinary and constitutional statutes, and what happens where two constitutional statutes are in conflict. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

R (on the application of Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5, Supreme Court  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case note summarizes the facts and decision in R (on the application of Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5, Supreme Court. This case concerned whether the government could rely on the prerogative power to issue a notification of the United Kingdom’s intention to secede from the European Union under Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union, or whether parliamentary authorization was required. There is also a brief discussion of the Sewel Convention. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

Re Dr Bonham’s Case (1608) 8 Coke Reports 107a, 77 ER 638, Court of King’s Bench; Dr Bonham’s Case (1609) 8 Coke Reports 113b, 77 ER 646, Court of 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 Re Dr Bonham’s Case (1608) 8 Coke Reports 107a, 77 ER 638, Court of King’s Bench; Dr Bonham’s Case (1609) 8 Coke Reports 113b, 77 ER 646, Court of King’s Bench. This case concerns questions of bias and, more importantly, the attempt by Sir Edward Coke CJ to establish a common law power to overturn Acts of Parliament. The case predates the constitutional settlement which followed the Glorious Revolution of 1688, but echoes of the principles discussed in this case can also be found in modern case law. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

The UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill—A Reference by the Attorney General and the Advocate General for Scotland [2018] UKSC 64, Supreme Court (also known as Continuity Bill Reference)  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in The UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill—A Reference by the Attorney General and the Advocate General for Scotland [2018] UKSC 64, Supreme Court. This case is concerned with the competencies of the Scottish Parliament, and the nature of devolution in the UK more generally. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.