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Book

Cover Public Law

Mark Elliott and Robert Thomas

Public Law is an advanced text that comprehensively covers the key topics in the field of public law. The book presents an analysis of the law and institutions of public law, and places the legal issues within the wider socio-political context within which the constitution operates. Three key themes that permeate the content allow readers to approach the subject in a structured way. The key themes are the significance of executive power in the contemporary constitution and the challenge of ensuring that those who wield it are held to account, the shift in recent times from a political to a more legal constitution and the implications of this change, and the increasingly ‘multilayered’ character of the British constitution.

Chapter

Cover Public Law Directions

2. How the UK constitution has developed  

This chapter discusses the historical development of the UK constitution. The key to understanding the evolution of the British constitution is to imagine it being shaped by a dynamic ebb and flow of power between the key players—the monarch, Parliament, the Church, governments, judges—to determine the issue of where supreme power and authority would ultimately settle and reside. In the case of the UK, supreme authority settled in the monarch in Parliament, while political power resided with the executive. The chapter then argues that the constitution is fluid and changing, despite the received view that it has evolved slowly and peacefully without invasion or violent revolution. Despite fluctuations in power, and changes in Britain’s territorial composition and external alliances, there has always been a sense that the constitution is based on the collective memory of ancient laws and principles that fundamentally protect the people and cannot be changed.

Chapter

Cover European Union Law

9. Executive Powers  

Competences and Procedures

This chapter studies three executive powers in the context of the European Union. It begins with an examination of the political power to act as government. The ‘steering’ power of high politics belongs to two EU institutions: the European Council and the Commission. The Union ‘government’ is thus based on a ‘dual executive’. The chapter then moves to an analysis of the (delegated) legislative powers of the Union executive. The central provisions here are Articles 290 and 291 TFEU. The European legal order has allowed for wide delegations of power to the Commission; while nonetheless insisting on substantive and procedural safeguards to protect federalism and democracy. Finally, the chapter looks at the (administrative) enforcement powers of the Union. Based on the idea of ‘executive federalism’, the power to apply and enforce European law is here divided between the Union and the Member States. The Union can—exceptionally—execute its own law; yet, as a rule, it is the Member States that primarily execute Union law.

Chapter

Cover European Constitutional Law

9. Executive Powers  

Competences and Procedures

This chapter studies three executive powers in the context of the European Union. It begins with an examination of the political power to act as government. The ‘steering’ power of high politics belongs to two EU institutions: the European Council and the Commission. The Union ‘government’ is thus based on a ‘dual executive’. The chapter then moves to an analysis of the (delegated) legislative powers of the Union executive. The central provisions here are Articles 290 and 291 TFEU. The European legal order has allowed for wide delegations of power to the Commission; while nonetheless insisting on substantive and procedural safeguards to protect federalism and democracy. Finally, the chapter looks at the (administrative) enforcement powers of the Union. Based on the idea of ‘executive federalism’, the power to apply and enforce European law is here divided between the Union and the Member States. The Union can—exceptionally—execute its own law; yet, as a rule, it is the Member States that primarily execute Union law.

Chapter

Cover Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, and Human Rights

9. Constitutional Conventions  

This chapter assesses the nature and purpose of constitutional conventions. The discussions cover the concepts of collective and individual ministerial responsibility; the relationship between the Monarch and her Ministers; the relationship between convention, statute, and the common law; the ‘Ponsonby rule’ and the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. It is argued that the concentration of effective political power is often very intense, even within a political party; small groups of senior Ministers or even the Prime Minister alone may occasionally be, to all intents and purposes, ‘elected dictators’.

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 Human Rights Law Directions

23. Article 1 of the First Protocol: protection of property  

Without assuming prior legal knowledge, books in the Directions series introduce and guide readers through key points of law and legal debate. It discusses European Convention law and relates it to domestic law under the HRA. Questions, discussion points, and thinking points help readers to engage fully with each subject and check their understanding as they progress and knowledge can be tested by self-test questions and exam questions at the chapter end. This chapter discusses Article 1 of the First Protocol. The right to property is controversial. On the one hand, this right can be seen as essential to human flourishing; on the other, property can be seen as representing social and political power, which is distributed unequally. Given the relationship between property and power, it is not surprising that governments have often sought the constitutional freedom to control the production and distribution of wealth in society, which may at times require limiting the right to property. Article 1 of the First Protocol uses terms that seem to accept wide powers of states to control property in the ‘public’ or ‘general’ interest. As discussed in the chapter, the European Court of Human Rights has narrowed this power considerably in the way the Article has been interpreted.