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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 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

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 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’.