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Understanding devolution in Wales
Understanding devolution in Wales

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5.1 Lack of a written constitution

A written constitution is a single document setting out the fundamental rules on how major institutions of state relate to each other and how the state relates to the citizen. You might reasonably assume that if there was one, it would set down how the Westminster and devolved governments would communicate and reach decisions.

Along with New Zealand and Israel, the UK is one of the few democracies in the world which does not have one. The reason for this is historical. There has been no revolution or regime change in the UK since 1688 and as such, the moment to draft a constitution has never been obvious. Instead, relationships are set out in a collection of statutes, conventions, judicial decisions and treaties.

Those who argue for a single, codified constitution say this system no longer works as it lacks clarity, fails to protect fundamental rights and creates confusion particularly vis a vis devolution. Those who argue for the status quo claim it is not credible to attempt such an exercise whilst trying to govern a country. They also cast doubt on how effective most written constitutions actually are.

Further reading - The Briefing Room

For an in-depth exploration of the arguments for and against a written constitution, you can find an episode of BBC Radio 4’s The Briefing Room linked in the Further Reading.