Salient Features of the British Constitution
Following are some salient features of the British constitution
Mostly Unwritten and Partly Written
By far the most important feature of British constitution is its unwritten character. There is no such thing as written, precise and compact document, which may be called the British constitution. It was really this aspect of the British constitution that led De Tocqueville to remark that English constitution does not really exist. The main reason for this is that it is based on conventions and political traditions, which have not been laid down in any document. However, it has some written parts too which includes Historical Documents, Parliamentary Statues, Judicial Decisions and Constitutional Characters, e.g. Magna Carta (1215), Petition of Rights (1628), Bill of Rights (1689), Parliamentary Act of 1911 & 1949 etc. Also Read: Indian Constitution
British Constitution is Evolutionary
The British constitution is a specimen of evolutionary development. It was never framed by any constituent assembly. No precise date of its birth can be given and no definite body of persons can claim to be its authors, because it is the product of gradual growth and development. It has an unbroken continuity of development over a period of more than thousand years. Its sources are several and the course of its development has been sometimes guided by accidents and sometimes by high designs.
The British constitution is a classic example of flexible constitution. It can be passed, amended and repealed by simple majority of Parliament since no distinction is made between a constitutional law and an ordinary law. Both are treated alike. The element of flexibility has length the virtue of adaptability and adjustability to the British constitution. This quality has enabled it to grow with the needs of time.
The British constitution has unitary character as opposed to a federal one. All powers of the government are vested in the British Parliament, which is a sovereign body. The executive organs of state are subordinate to it and exercise delegated powers and are answerable to it. There is only one legislature. England, Scotland, Wales etc. are administrative units and not political autonomous units.
England has a Parliamentary form of government. The King who is sovereign has been deprived of all his powers and authority. The real functionaries are Ministers who belongs to the majority party in Parliament and remain in office so long as they retain its confidence. The Prime Minister and his Ministers are responsible to the legislature for their acts and policies. In this system the executive and legislature are not separated as in the federal form of government
Sovereignty of Parliament
A very important feature of the British constitution is sovereignty of Parliament. Parliament is the only I4slative body in the country with unfettered powers of legislation can make, amend or repeal any law it likes. The courts have no purer to question the validity of the laws passed by British Parliament. It can also amend constitution on its own authority like ordinary law of the land. It can make illegal what is legal and legalize what is illegal.