A year after the publication of Dicey's "Law of the Constitution," William Gladstone was reading it aloud in the House of Commons, citing it as authority. It remains, to this day, a starting point for the study of the English Constitution and comparative constitutional law. "Law of the Constitution" elucidates the guiding principles of the modern constitution of England: the legislative sovereignty of Parliament, the rule of law, and the binding force of unwritten conventions. Dicey's goal was "to provide students with a manual which may impress these leading principles on their minds, and thus may enable them to study with benefit in Blackstone's "Commentaries" and other treatises of the like nature those legal topics which, taken together, make up the constitutional law of England." Albert Venn Dicey (1835 1922) was Vinerian Professor of English Law at Oxford University from 1882 to 1909. "
This book offers a simple, accessible overview of the current state of play in the most important constitutional areas. It also includes extracts from, and summaries of, some of the key texts that, in the absence of a written constitution, are the closest thing there is to a codification of the ground rules of British democracy. The UK’s democratic liberties are the envy of the world. They are also precarious. We have no written constitution, and the unwritten traditions on which we rely instead are increasingly being called into question. They are an imperfect guarantee of our freedoms, but they are best we have. Unless we value and understand them, those freedoms could all too easily be lost. This book will prove a helpful starting-point for those who wish learn more about this crucial aspect of modern life.
The last decade has seen radical changes in the way we are governed. Reforms such as the Human Rights Act and devolution have led to the replacement of one constitutional order by another. This book is the first to describe and analyse Britain's new constitution, asking why it was that the old system, seemingly hallowed by time, came under challenge, and why it is being replaced. The Human Rights Act and the devolution legislation have the character of fundamental law. They in practice limit the rights of Westminster as a sovereign parliament, and establish a constitution which is quasi-federal in nature. The old constitution emphasised the sovereignty of Parliament. The new constitution, by contrast, emphasises the separation of powers, both territorially and at the centre of government. The aim of constitutional reformers has been to improve the quality of government. But the main weakness of the new constitution is that it does little to secure more popular involvement in politics. We are in the process of becoming a constitutional state, but not a popular constitutional state. The next phase of constitutional reform, therefore, is likely to involve the creation of new forms of democratic engagement, so that our constitutional forms come to be more congruent with the social and political forces of the age. The end-point of this piecemeal process might well be a fully codified or written constitution which declares that power stems not from the Queen-in Parliament, but, instead, as in so many constitutions, from `We, the People'. The old British constitution was analysed by Bagehot and Dicey. In this book Vernon Bogdanor charts the significance of what is coming to replace it. The expenses scandal shows up grave defects in the British constitution. Vernon Bogdanor shows how the constitution can be reformed and the political system opened up in`The New British Constitution'.