Uk Constitution Essay Questions

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Question: Royal Prerogatives Year 1, LLB.

Answer: The royal prerogative concerns ‘those inherent legal attributes which are unique to...


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Question: Has the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union led to a ‘constitutional revolution’, in causing the abandonment of parliamentary sovereignty?

If so, when did this ‘constitutional revolution’ take place?

Constitutional Law (Public Law) 1st Year, Mark 70%
Undergraduate, Law, Oxford University

Answer: The contention that the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union (“EU”)...


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Question: It is common to claim that the United Kingdom has a ‘political’ constitution in contrast to the ‘legal’ constitution possessed by other states.

What does this claim entail and has the United Kingdom’s constitution become more or less ‘political’ in recent years?

Constitutional Law (Public Law) 1st Year, Mark 69%
Undergraduate, Law, Oxford University

Answer: The United Kingdom’s constitution can rightly be regarded as predominantly ‘political’ in...


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Question: 'Devolution represents a major change in our political constitution. What has been less apparent is that devolution has also produced important changes to the role of the judiciary in our constitutional arrangements.' Discuss.

Answer: Prior to devolution, the United Kingdom (‘UK’) is probably the most centralised...


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Question: CODIFICATION ESSAY
“There are many reasons why the United Kingdom has a largely written, but uncodified, constitution. Those reasons are historical, political, and cultural. It would be impossible to persuade any major political party to ignore those reasons and to work towards the adoption of a codified constitution for the United Kingdom.”

Critically assess this statement.

Answer: The UK does not have a codified constitution, there is no one...


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Question: Should Britain abolish the Monarchy?

Answer: The Queen as the possessor of the Crown performs mainly legal and...


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Question: Is the rule of law, as enforced by courts, the ultimate controlling factor on which our constitution is based?

Week 4 – Rule of Law

Answer: There was little disagreement when Craig claimed that ‘the rule of law...


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Question: “There is nothing in any way novel in according supremacy to rules of Community law in those areas to which they apply…” (Lord Bridge in Factortame (No. 2)). Discuss.

Week 3 – Parliamentary Sovereignty

Answer: The use of the word ‘supremacy’ is considered tantamount to ‘Parliamentary sovereignty’....


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Question: "The judges believe that Parliament, through the Human Rights Act, has given them a special role in protecting rights, particularly perhaps the rights of unpopular minorities. MPs, by contrast, believe that, as elected representatives accountable to the people, it is they and not the judges who should retain the last word on such matters."
V Bogdanor, ‘Imprisoned by a Doctrine: The Modern Defence of Parliamentary Sovereignty' (2012) 32 OJLS 179'

Discuss, with reference to the above quote, whether parliamentary sovereignty is now at threat from the judiciary, citing relevant case-law in your answer.
(64% Constitutional/Administrative Law, Year 1)

Answer: Parliamentary sovereignty is one of the key principles of the British constitution...


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Question: Is the rule of law the ultimate controlling factor of the British constitution?

Answer: Introduction There are three underlying principles that create the British constitution. They...


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  • Subject: Law
  • Course: Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Level: Degree
  • Year: 1st
  • Mark: 72%
  • Words: 1739
  • Date submitted: June 17, 2013
  • Date written: Not available
  • References: Yes
  • Document type: Essay*
  • Essay ID: 4866
  • Subject: Law
  • Course: Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Level: Degree
  • Year: 1st
  • Mark: 70%
  • Words: 1999
  • Date submitted: May 30, 2016
  • Date written: October, 2014
  • References: Yes
  • Document type: Essay*
  • Essay ID: 7400
  • Subject: Law
  • Course: Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Level: Degree
  • Year: 1st
  • Mark: 69%
  • Words: 1306
  • Date submitted: May 30, 2016
  • Date written: October, 2014
  • References: Yes
  • Document type: Essay*
  • Essay ID: 7401
  • Subject: Law
  • Course: Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Level: Degree
  • Year: 2nd/3rd
  • Mark: 60%
  • Words: 2467
  • Date submitted: March 19, 2015
  • Date written: January, 2014
  • References: Yes
  • Document type: Essay*
  • Essay ID: 6421
  • Subject: Law
  • Course: Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Level: Degree
  • Year: 1st
  • Mark: Not available
  • Words: 2449
  • Date submitted: May 10, 2016
  • Date written: Not available
  • References: No
  • Document type: Essay*
  • Essay ID: 7345
  • Subject: Law
  • Course: Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Level: Degree
  • Year: 1st
  • Mark: Not available
  • Words: 2672
  • Date submitted: May 10, 2016
  • Date written: Not available
  • References: No
  • Document type: Essay*
  • Essay ID: 7344
  • Subject: Law
  • Course: Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Level: Degree
  • Year: 1st
  • Mark: Not available
  • Words: 1211
  • Date submitted: January 07, 2016
  • Date written: March, 2015
  • References: No
  • Document type: Essay*
  • Essay ID: 7051
  • Subject: Law
  • Course: Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Level: Degree
  • Year: 1st
  • Mark: Not available
  • Words: 1205
  • Date submitted: January 06, 2016
  • Date written: March, 2015
  • References: No
  • Document type: Essay*
  • Essay ID: 7049
  • Subject: Law
  • Course: Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Level: Degree
  • Year: 1st
  • Mark: Not available
  • Words: 1409
  • Date submitted: April 29, 2015
  • Date written: Not available
  • References: Yes
  • Document type: Essay*
  • Essay ID: 6505
  • Subject: Law
  • Course: Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Level: Degree
  • Year: 2nd/3rd
  • Mark: Not available
  • Words: 2213
  • Date submitted: February 03, 2015
  • Date written: February, 2014
  • References: Yes
  • Document type: Essay*
  • Essay ID: 6324

Assessments in public law tend to include either essay-based questions or problem based questions or a combination of both. Some topics lend themselves more readily to one or other of these types of question, whilst others are equally suited to either. The techniques associated with answering essay or problem-based questions are the same as for any other legal subject.  Listed below are questions relating to each of the chapters together with some suggestions as to the matters that should be discussed. Essay-based questions require much more by way of discussion and should only be attempted if you have read widely around the subject. Problem-based questions are more focussed but require detailed knowledge of the relevant law to be answered effectively. For further examples of questions and how to answer them, see Richard Clements and Philip Jones, Q&A Public Law (OUP).

Chapter 1: The British constitution

A correspondent to the Daily Mail (27 May 2003) wrote: 'The fact is that there is no such thing as constitutional law. Some Britons like to imagine that certain laws are somehow "constitutional" because they lay down the way in which our political system functions. But every one of these laws could be repealed tomorrow in the two houses of Parliament.'

How far do you agree with this statement?

The format of this question is a fairly standard one. There is a quotation followed by a question or instruction. The quotation is helpfully designed to prompt discussion by indicating one or more issues that should be considered.

Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • The nature of constitutions – what is meant by terms such as constitution, constitutional?

  • The nature of constitutional law – is it different from ordinary law? How is it identified?

  • How do these terms apply in the context of the UK?

  • Is the writer's viewpoint justified? Is it totally justified; completely unjustified? Or partially justified? Does the answer depend on the different ways in which the term constitution is used?

Chapter 2: Features of the constitution

To what extent do you consider that the checks and balances in the British constitution provide for a proper separation of powers?

As with the previous question, this invites a response as to whether the statement is or is not supportable, though the word 'proper' suggests that a more definite answer is required – there either is a proper separation of powers or there is not.

Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • What is meant by the idea of the separation of powers? How does the idea of checks and balances fit into it?

  • What checks and balances are there in the British constitution? Who exercises checks and on whom? How effective are they? Have recent changes had any impact on this debate?

  • Is the balance between the various individuals and bodies adequate?

Chapter 3: Parliamentary sovereignty

'Parliamentary sovereignty has gone. It has been replaced by Community sovereignty.' (Lord Denning, The Times, 3 November 1986)

Discuss.

This is a further variation on the theme illustrated by the previous two questions. The word 'discuss' is less focussed or directing than the words used in the previous examples, and simply invites a discussion of the issues raised by the quotation.

Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • What is meant by the term parliamentary sovereignty?

  • What legal impact has membership of the European Community had on the UK? Has anything changed since Lord Denning made this statement?

  • What might lead someone to adopt the viewpoint expressed by Lord Denning? Is his view justified? Is his view accurate or does he overstate or understate the position?

Chapter 4: Parliament

1. 'The first and foremost object of reforming zeal ought in my opinion to be the system of Parliamentary representation or rather misrepresentation.' (HWR Wade, Constitutional Fundamentals)

How far do you agree with this statement?

Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • The nature of the electoral system, which should be subjected to a critical examination.

  • What factors might cause someone to express the view in the quotation?

  • Is the view expressed in the quotation justifiable or does the writer overstate or understate the position?

2. 'It cannot be acceptable for a non-elected, unrepresentative Upper House to frustrate the will of the elected House of Commons.' (Dr John Cunningham MP, HC Deb Vol. 190 col. 315, 1 May 1991)

Consider the functions of the House of Lords in the light of this quotation.

Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • What does the House of Lords do?

  • What is the relationship between the House of Lords and the House of Commons? How is the relationship regulated?

  • Is there anything in the nature of the two Houses and the relationship between them that would justify the assertion quoted? Does the speaker overstate the case by saying that it 'cannot be acceptable' for the House of Lords to frustrate the House of Commons? Are there circumstances when it might be justifiable? Are there examples where this has happened?

Chapter 5: The executive

Every Departmental minister is responsible to Parliament for the policy and administration of his department. This is a fundamental principle in our system of Parliamentary democracy. But it is an equally respectable and necessary principle that ministers as a whole are collectively responsible for government policy as a whole. This means that a Minister's personal responsibility must be exercised in harmony with the views of his ministerial colleagues.'  (Winston Churchill)

Explain and illustrate this statement.

Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • What do the terms collective responsibility and individual responsibility mean in the context of ministers?

  • How do they relate to each other?

  • Whether individual instances of ministerial misconduct support the statement or tend to contradict it.

  • Can any firm conclusions be drawn as to whether what Churchill says is correct as a generalization, or does it all depend on the particular circumstances?

Chapter 6: The judiciary

'Someone must be trusted. Let it be the judges.' (Lord Denning, 1980)

Discuss the constitutional position of the judiciary in the light of this quotation.

Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • Identification of the constitutional role of judges in theory and practice.

  • Why Lord Denning identifies trust as an important basis for constitutional roles.

  • Examples of judicial activity through decided cases.

  • Whether judges have the final word on legal/constitutional issues.

  • Whether Lord Denning is correct to assert that the judges should be trusted as opposed to anyone else such as the government or Parliament.

Chapter 7: The Human Rights Act 1998

With reference to relevant authority, explain how the Human Rights Act 1998 has incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into English law.

This is a fairly straightforward bookwork question which tests knowledge of the Human Rights Act rather than requiring an evaluation of its effectiveness.
Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • The structure of the Human Rights Act.

  • Key concepts in the Act including the idea of a public authority and the duty under s.6.

  • The importance of ss.2, 3 and 4 for the activities of the courts.

  • The power in s.10.

  • The duty under s.19.

  • The requirement under s.19

Chapter 8: Individual freedom and police powers

The Greenside district of Midtown has been subject to a number of burglaries recently, with designer clothes and jewellery the main objects that have been stolen. One evening, PC Rook and PC Starling were on foot patrol when they saw two young men, dressed in scruffy clothes with hooded tops, each carrying smart and bulging bags. PC Rook said 'Hey you two! Stop there. We'd like a word with you.' One of the young men ran off and PC Rook set off in pursuit of him. On catching up with him, PC Rook grabbed him by the arm and said 'You're under arrest.' 'What for?' said the man, whose name was Crow. 'You know very well,' replied PC Rook, 'now open the bag and let's see what's inside it.' The man refused whereupon PC Rook took the bag, opened it, and looked inside. The bag contained expensive designer clothes. PC Rook took the man to the police station.

Meanwhile, PC Starling asked the other man, whose name was Finch, to tell her what was in the bag. 'Stuff,' he replied, 'and none of your business. I'm helping my friend to move house.' Not being satisfied with this explanation, PC Starling insisted on opening the bag, which was also full of designer clothes. PC Starling told the man that she was arresting him for theft and took him to the police station.  Officers were sent to Finch's house where they conducted a search for further stolen items. They conducted a thorough search looking in cupboards and drawers, moving furniture and pulling up floorboards. In the course of their search they found stolen designer clothes. They also found several packets of cocaine. They seized all these items and returned to the police station. Whilst waiting for Finch's solicitor to arrive, DS Hawk said to Finch 'Look, we know what you've been up to, so why not make things easy for both of us. You admit the theft and we'll forget about the drugs.' Finch signed a statement admitting theft.

Consider whether the police have acted lawfully in the situations described above.

This is a fairly typical problem-based question. The facts are set in a hypothetical place with imaginary characters to avoid any identification with particular people or places. This makes it easier to focus on the issue without being distracted by extraneous considerations. Using fictitious individuals, organizations, and locations also avoids any possible claims for libel! In such questions, it is assumed that all facts can be proved. All that is required, therefore, is to identify the relevant law and apply it to the facts. Note that the instruction requires consideration of the lawfulness of the police conduct – it does not require an evaluation of effectiveness in policing terms. Close reference to the relevant law will be needed in such questions in order to be able to apply it effectively. Scenarios such as this usually involve activities that are discussed in the cases or raise particular points of interpretation of statutory provisions. Such questions often involve a number of points which will not be capable of being developed as fully as in an essay-based question. Relevance is particularly important in questions such as this.

Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • Whether PCR is able to require someone to stop and if so on what grounds (s.1 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PCEA), Code A).

  • Whether PCR has made a lawful arrest (s.24 PCEA).

  • Whether PCR is entitled to open the bag and examine its contents without the consent of the owner (s.32 PCEA).

  • Whether PCR is acting lawfully in taking C to the police station (s.30 PCEA).

  • Whether PCS is entitled to require F to open his bag (s.1 PCEA, Code A).

  • Whether PCS is entitled to open the bag in light of F's response to her question (s.1 PCEA, Code A).

  • Whether PCS has made a lawful arrest and is acting lawfully in taking F to the police station (ss. 24, 30, PCEA).

  • Whether the police are entitled to search F's premises and do so in the manner they have adopted (ss.18, 19, 32 PCEA).

  • Whether they are entitled to seize the items they take away (s.19 PCEA).

  • The effect of DSH's intervention on the admissibility of F's statement (s.76 PCEA).

  • In all of the above, reference to relevant legislation, principally the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (taking into account considerations under the Human Rights Act 1998 as appropriate), the Codes of Practice made under the 1984 Act and relevant case law will be needed.

Chapter 9: Freedom of expression and assembly and public order

The University of Suburbia Students' Union (USSU) organized a march and rally in Newtown to protest about inadequate funding for higher education. A route etc was agreed for the march in accordance with the Public Order Act 1986 (as amended) and permission obtained from the local authority for a rally at a local park. It was agreed that the USSU march should enter the park via Park Avenue.

When the march reached Park Avenue, however, the police ordered the march to turn off Park Avenue and take another route to the park, as a number of supporters of an organization called Cut Public Spending (CPS), which disapproved strongly of the use of public funds for higher education, had gathered at the Park Avenue entrance to the park. The police feared a clash between members of CPS and the USSU marchers and wanted to keep the two groups apart.  On seeing the USSU marchers, Ranter, the leader of CPS, yelled 'here come the scroungers!' This so incensed some of the USSU marchers that they pushed past the police officers who were barring their way into Park Avenue, and widespread fighting occurred between rival CPS and USSU supporters. Several USSU supporters sat down in Park Avenue and refused to move. Inspector Hardy ordered his officers to prevent anyone from entering Park Avenue until the police had brought the situation under control. The police also confiscated placards carried by CPS supporters bearing the slogan 'Student scum'.

Consider whether any offences have been committed on the above facts and comment also on the legality of the action taken by the police.

Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • Legality of police requiring march to divert from its route and application of s.12 Public Order Act 1986 (POA) or possible use of powers to prevent breaches of the peace.

  • Whether R commits an offence (ss.4, 4A or 5 POA).

  • Whether USSU people commit offence in pushing past police officers (s.89 Police Act 1996).

  • Whether USSU and CPS people commit an offence by fighting (ss.1,2,3 POA).

  • Whether USSU people commit offence by sitting down in road (s.137 Highways Act 1980).

  • Whether police act lawfully in preventing people from entering Park Avenue (s.14 POA, powers to prevent breach of the peace).

  • Whether placards constitute an offence (s.5 POA).

  • In all of the above, reference to relevant legislation, principally the Public Order Act 1986 (taking into account considerations under the Human Rights Act 1998 as appropriate) and relevant case law will be needed.

Chapter 10: Administrative law: an introduction

How far do the existence of tribunals and the ombudsman expose the limitations of judicial review?

Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • Whether there are any significant limitations on judicial review and if so what they might be.

  • What tribunals do and how this differs from judicial review.

  • What the ombudsman does and how this differs from judicial review.

  • Whether the existence of tribunals and the ombudsman actually indicate that there are limitations on judicial review.

  • Reference to relevant statutes, cases, and secondary literature will be needed to support the argument.

Chapter 11: Judicial review: procedure

Under the imaginary Football Grounds (Relocation) Act 2009, decisions by football clubs to relocate are subject to approval by the local authority. Northtown Council has recently established a panel, comprising local residents and representatives from local businesses, to exercise this function on their behalf.

Northtown United FC currently has a ground in the Westside district of Northtown. It has recently decided to build a new ground 2 miles away from the present ground in the Eastside district of the town. This proposal was very controversial, as it also incorporated a retail outlet and local residents in the new location were apprehensive about the impact the new ground would have on what is, by common consent, a quiet part of the town. Some supporters of Northtown United FC were unhappy about the prospect of the club leaving its present, and, as they see it, traditional location. The panel decided to allow Northtown United to relocate to their preferred site on the basis of their proposals, including the retail outlet. The chairman of the panel also entered into contracts with Northtown United for the employment of consultants to advise on the detailed specification for the ground.

The following wish to bring a claim against the panel with a view to overturning its decision:

  • Alice, a resident in the Eastside district, who is concerned that the relocation will have an adverse impact on her wellbeing.

  • The Keep Northtown Out of Eastside group, a group of football supporters who have come together for the specific purpose of keeping Northtown United's ground in Westside.

  • The Northtown Chamber of Commerce whose members are concerned about the impact the proposed development would have on their businesses if the retail outlet is incorporated into the proposals.

Advise them as to whether they will be able to bring a claim for judicial review against the panel, highlighting any procedural issues that may be disclosed by the above facts.

The use of fictitious legislation is a common device in this area. It enables discussion to focus on the principles rather than being diverted into issues relating to the detail of the operation of specific pieces of legislation. The scope of the discussion can thus be more controlled than if a piece of real legislation was to be used. Further, it means that everyone attempting the question is on an equal footing and does not privilege those who have knowledge of the particular piece of legislation nor does it disadvantage those who lack that specialist knowledge.

Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • Whether the facts disclose a situation that is suitable for judicial review.

  • Whether a claim for judicial review can be brought against the panel or whether it should be brought against Northtown Council.

  • Whether a claim for judicial review can be brought against the panel in respect of the contracts it has entered into.

  • Whether each of the three potential claimants has sufficient interest in order to be able to bring a claim.

  • What other procedural requirements need to be observed (e.g. time limits, seeking permission etc).

  • Reference to relevant  legal rules and cases to support the argument will be needed.

Chapter 12: Judicial review: grounds

The (fictitious) Bingo (Licensing) Act provides that those running bingo clubs must obtain a licence, renewable annually, from the local authority. The Act provides that where a licence is refused, an appeal against that decision may be made to the Bingo (Licensing) Panel. The local authority is also allowed to make an annual charge for a licence to cover its administrative costs. Southshire County Council has recently announced that it intended to raise the annual fee to reflect the profits bingo clubs were making.

Serena, who had been granted a licence on five previous occasions, applied for renewal of her licence.  Southshire County Council refused to grant her a licence on this occasion, despite the fact that there had been no material change in her circumstances. She appealed, and a date was fixed for a hearing before the Bingo (Licensing) Panel.

At the hearing, one member of the panel missed part of the proceedings while he answered a telephone call. At one point, Serena was asked to 'wait outside while we discuss one or two matters with the representative of the licensing authority'. When Serena was called back in she was not told anything about the discussions that had taken place in her absence.

The Panel upheld the refusal to grant a licence to Serena. Serena subsequently discovered that the solicitor chairing the panel belonged to a firm that acted as legal advisers to a rival bingo club.

Advise Serena as to any grounds on which she can challenge the decisions made by Southshire County Council and the Bingo (Licensing) Panel.

Matters to be discussed here might include:

  • Whether the annual licence fee is lawful, bearing in mind the reasons given for the increase.

  • Whether the initial refusal of S's licence raises any legal issues (legitimate expectation, reasons etc).

  • Various aspects of the hearing raise questions as to whether it is fasir: panel member missing part of proceedings, S's exclusion while matters discussed with other side in her absence

  • Chair to panel: possible bias should be considered.

  • All of the above should be discussed with reference to relevant case law.

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