The British Constitution, as of 2 November 2006

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The British Constitution, as of 2 November 2006


    The Constitution of the United Kingdom

    Part 1: The United Kingdom and Its Nationals

    Article 1 The United Kingdom comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland shall in no circumstances cease to be a part of the United Kingdom without the consent of a majority of registered voters in Northern Ireland voting in a poll

Article 2 Nationality of the United Kingdom

The following are nationals of the United Kingdom.

    a. British citizens, except for British citizens from the Channel Islands and the

    Isle of Man.

    b. British subjects with the right of abode in the United Kingdom.

    c. British overseas territories citizens.

Article 3 British Citizenship.

    a. British citizenship is acquired by birth, adoption, descent, registration or

    naturalization, or is conferred by statute.

    b. A minister may by order deprive a person of British citizenship acquired as a

    result of registration or naturalization on the ground that it was obtained by

    fraud, false representation or concealment of any material fact. But no such

    person may be deprived of British citizenship unless a minister is satisfied

    that it is not conducive to the public good that that person should continue to

    be a British citizen.

    Part 2: The Head of State

Article 4 The Sovereign

    (1) The head of state is the Sovereign who is the descendant of Sophia Electress

    of Hanover next in line to the throne, as provided by the Act of Settlement,

    1700, extended to Scotland in 1707 and Northern Ireland in 1801 by Acts of


    (2) The Sovereign is the head of the executive and the fount of justice.

    (3) The Sovereign is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.



    (4) The Sovereign presides at meetings of the Privy Council whose members are

    appointed by the Sovereign on advice. Only British citizens and citizens of the

    Republic of Ireland may be members of the Privy Council. Members of the

    Privy Council are appointed for life but a Privy Counsellor may be removed

    on advice or at his or her request. Privy Counsellors are required to take an

    oath as laid down by statute. The Privy Council exercises advisory functions

    and functions entrusted to it by statute. Three Privy Counsellors constitute a

    quorum. The full Privy Council is summoned only for a coronation. Ministers

    are responsible to Parliament for decisions taken by the Privy Council.

    (5) The Sovereign is in communion with, and Supreme Governor of, the Church

    of England, by law established.

    (6) Any alteration in the succession to the throne requires the consent of the

    Parliaments of the Commonwealth Realms as well as the Parliament of the

    United Kingdom.

    (7) The Sovereign acts on the advice of ministers, except when appointing a

    Prime Minister, considering a request to dissolve Parliament, making a public

    statement in virtue of the office of Head of the Commonwealth or conferring

    honours, awards, decorations and distinctions that are within the personal gift

    of the Sovereign. The Sovereign assents to legislation, unless advised to the

    contrary by ministers.

    (8) The acts of the Sovereign as head of state are not reviewable by the courts.

    The Sovereign is immune from suit and legal process in any civil cause in

    respect of acts and omissions in the Sovereign’s private capacity. The

    Sovereign is immune from criminal proceedings in respect of acts and

    omissions in the Sovereign’s private or official capacity.

    (9) An annual sum shall be voted by Parliament for expenditure incurred by the Sovereign, the Royal Household and by other members of the Royal Family.

    (10) All persons in the service of the Crown are required to swear or affirm allegiance to the Sovereign and his or her heirs according to law.

    (11) The Sovereign has the right to be informed upon all matters of State.

    (12) Statutory provision is made for the appointment of a Regent in case of the minority or incapacity of the Sovereign.

    Part 3: The Legislative Power

    Article 5 Parliament

    (1) Legislative power in the United Kingdom is vested in Parliament.



    (2) Parliament consists of the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of


    Article 6 The House of Commons

    (1) Members of the House of Commons are directly elected in free, equal and

    secret elections by universal suffrage. Constituencies are regularly reviewed

     by Boundary Commissions, chaired by the Speaker of the House of Commons. The revision of constituency boundaries requires parliamentary approval before it can be given statutory effect.

    (2) All Commonwealth citizens and citizens of the Republic of Ireland over the

    qualifying age, not detained in a penal institution, nor found guilty of a corrupt

    or illegal practice, who are registered in a parliamentary constituency on the

    qualifying date shall have the right to vote. Peers entitled to sit in the House of

    Lords shall not be entitled to vote.

    (3) Details of the electoral process are set out in an Act of Parliament.

    (4) The following are disqualified from membership of the House of Commons:

    a) Aliens;

    b) Those under the qualifying age;

    c) Bankrupts;

    d) Persons convicted of treason;

    e) Persons currently detained in a penal institution for

    more than one year;

    f) Persons convicted of illegal election practices;

    g) Holders of various judicial offices;

    h) Civil servants;

    i) Members of the regular armed forces of the crown;

    j) Members of any police force maintained by a police


    k) Ambassadors and High Commissioners;

    l) Election and boundary commissioners and electoral

    registration officers;

    m) Members of a foreign legislature outside the

    Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland;

    n) Holders of various other public offices, as defined by

    statute, and

    o) Members of the House of Lords.

    (5) An Electoral Commission of the United Kingdom is appointed by the

    Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister, with the agreement of the

    Speaker, and following consultations with the leaders of all parties represented

    in the House of Commons. The Commission is responsible for the supervision

    of elections and referendums, the registration of political parties, and the

    determination of those who are permitted to participate in a referendum or

    make donations to political parties.



    (6) Political parties wishing to nominate candidates for elections are required to

    register with the Electoral Commission and to maintain accounts in

    accordance with regulations laid down by the Commission.

    (7) The chief officer of the House of Commons is the Speaker who is elected by

    the House of Commons at the beginning of each new Parliament or on the

    death or retirement of the previous office-holder. The Speaker does not belong

    to any political party and votes only in the case of a tie when the Speaker votes

    for further discussion where that is possible. The Speaker represents and

    presides over the House, enforces the rules which govern its conduct, and

    protects the rights and privileges of the house. The Speaker has full authority

    to enforce the rules of the House, and powers to regulate the conduct of debate.

    In cases of grave and continuous disorder, the Speaker may adjourn or

    suspend the sitting. The Speaker may order a Member of Parliament who

    breaks the rules of the House to leave the Chamber, initiate a short suspension

    or put the matter to a vote.

    (8) Members of Parliament are remunerated from public funds, and may claim

    various allowances as determined by the House of Commons.

    (9) Members of Parliament are required to observe the Code of Conduct. They are

    required to register pecuniary interests and various other benefits in a Register

    of Interests. The Register is supervised by an independent Parliamentary

    Commissioner for Standards.

     (10) Parties which sit in the House of Commons but do not support the government constitute the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is the leader of the largest of these parties. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons and the Leader in the Opposition in the House of Lords, the Chief Opposition Whip in the House of Commons, the Chief Opposition Whip in the House of Lords, together with not more than two Assistant Whips in the House of Commons are remunerated from public funds.

Article 7 Meeting and Dissolution of Parliament

    (1) The Sovereign summons Parliament to meet after each general election, and

    its duration is from that first meeting until Parliament is dissolved. If not

    dissolved earlier, a Parliament ceases to exist five years from the day on

    which, by writ of summons, it was first appointed to meet, unless extended by

    Acts of Parliament.

    (2) The Prime Minister may at any time ask the Sovereign for a dissolution of

    Parliament. Such a request will be granted unless the Sovereign believes that

    an alternative Prime Minister, able to secure the support of the House of

    Commons, can be found.

    (3) A Prime Minister defeated in a vote of confidence in the House of Commons

    either resigns or requests a dissolution.



    Article 8 The House of Lords

     (1) The House of Lords comprises the following categories:

    (a) Life peers under the Life Peerages Act, 1958. Life peers in this

    category are appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime

    Minister. An Independent Appointments Committee recommends non-

    party life peerages to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister may also

    recommend the appointment of non-party peers. Party peerages are

    recommended to the Prime Minister by party leaders, and vetted by the

    Appointments Commission to ensure propriety.

    (b) 92 hereditary peers, as provided by the House of Lords Act, 1999.

    (c) The Lords Spiritual, who comprise the Archbishops of Canterbury and

    York and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester, together

    with 21 other diocesan bishops by seniority of appointment. The Lords

    Spiritual remain members solely during the tenure of their sees.

    (d) Until 2009, life peers under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, 1876, as

    amended. Life peers in this category are appointed by the Sovereign,

    on the advice of the Prime Minister, following a recommendation by a

    Selection Committee. But, from 2009, peers in this category shall be

    disqualified from sitting and voting in the House of Lords as long as

    they remain Justices of the Supreme Court.

    (3) The chief officer of the House of Lords is the Lord Speaker who is elected by

    the members of the House of Lords every five years or on the death,

    retirement or resignation of the previous Lord Speaker. The Lord Speaker does

    not belong to any political party, and votes only in the case of a tie when the

    Lord Speaker votes for further discussion where that is possible. No Lord

    Speaker serves for more than two five-year terms. The Lord Speaker presides

    over the House, offers advice on procedure outside the chamber, acts as an

    ambassador for the work of the Lords at home and abroad, and participates in

    certain ceremonial duties, including the State Opening of Parliament. The

    Lord Speaker has no power to act in the House nor to discipline members

    without the consent of the House.

    (4) Members of the House of Lords are required to observe the principles in the

    Code of Conduct. They are required to register various pecuniary interests and

    other benefits in a Register of Interests.

    Article 9 Powers of the two Houses

    (1) The House of Commons alone may propose alterations in financial charges on

    public funds, taxes or other charges.

    (2) A public bill, certified by the Speaker of the House of Commons as a money

    bill, that has been passed by the House of Commons, but has not been passed



    by the House of Lords without amendment within one month of the House of

    Lords having received it, is, nevertheless, unless the House of Commons

    directs otherwise, presented to the Sovereign for royal assent.

    (3) Any other public bill which originates and has been passed by the House of

    Commons in two successive sessions and which, having been sent to the

    House of Lords at least one month before the end of the session, has been

    rejected by the House of Lords in each of these sessions, is, on its rejection for

    the second time by the House of Lords, unless the House of Commons directs

    otherwise, nevertheless presented to the Sovereign for royal assent; provided

    that at least one year has elapsed between the second reading of the bill in the

    House of Commons in the first session and its passing the Commons in the

    second session.

    (4) The provisions of paragraph (3) of this Article do not apply to a bill to extend

    the maximum duration of Parliament beyond five years for which the consent

    of both houses is needed, nor to any amendment to this constitution under

    Article 59 (1).

Article 10 Privileges of Parliament

    (1) The freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in Parliament are not

    impeached or questioned outside Parliament.

    (2) The House of Commons has the power to expel a member who it deems to be

    unfit to continue in that capacity, and also to adjudicate upon cases of

    disqualification of members not covered by an Act of Parliament.

    (3) Each House has the right to control its own proceedings and to regulate its

    internal affairs and whatever takes place within its walls.

    (4) Each House has the power to punish for breach of its privilege or for contempt.

Article 11 Legislative Measures of the European Union

    Legislative Measures of the European Union which are directly effective have legal effect in the United Kingdom.

    Part 4: The Executive Power

Article 12 The Executive

    (1) The executive power of the United Kingdom is vested in the Sovereign, but

    all executive acts are performed by ministers in the Sovereign’s name.

    Ministers are required to observe the principles of administrative law which

    apply to the interpretation of executive acts.

    (2) The executive power includes authority to appoint and remove officers of the

    armed forces, to declare war, to command the armed forces, to recognise



    foreign jurisdictions, to exchange envoys, to sign and ratify treaties, to make appointments not otherwise provided for, to grant charters, to grant honours and to grant mercy.

    (3) All executive powers are exercised subject to the legislation, if any, governing the circumstance and mode of such exercise.

    (4) Declarations of war and deployment of armed forces to engage in armed conflict require the consent of the House of Commons, except in circumstances that do not admit of delay.

    (5) Subject to Schedule 2 of the European Communities Act 1972, obligations of the United Kingdom arising under European Union law may be implemented by Order in Council or by statutory instrument.

    Article 13 Appointment and Removal of Ministers

    (1) The Government consists of a Prime Minister, a Cabinet and other ministers. The maximum number of holders of ministerial office entitled to sit and vote in the House of Commons at any one time is 95.

    (2) The Sovereign appoints as Prime Minister the person who appears best able to form a Government enjoying the confidence of the House of Commons.

    (3) All ministers besides the Prime Minister are appointed and removed, and have their individual responsibilities determined, by the Sovereign upon the Prime Minister’s advice.

    (4) All ministers must be, or within three months of their appointment become, members of the House of Lords or House of Commons.

    (5) The Prime Minister and all ministers of the Treasury must be or become members of the House of Commons.

    Article 14 The Cabinet

    (1) The Prime Minister, the heads of the executive departments and such other ministers as the Prime Minister determines, comprise a Cabinet, which is summoned and chaired by the Prime Minister.

(2) The Cabinet is collectively responsible for its decisions.

    Article 15 The Ministerial Code

    (1) The ethical standards required of ministers are laid out in a Code formulated and published by the Prime Minister.

    (2) The Prime Minister is responsible for enforcing the Ministerial Code, and is also bound by it.



    Article 16 Relations Between the Government and Parliament

    (1) Ministers are always entitled to be heard in the House of Parliament of which

    they are members. A minister who has resigned or been removed is entitled to

    make an address to the House of which he or she is a member.

    (2) The Government must present receipts of revenue and estimates of

    expenditure to the House of Commons at least once in every year.

    (3) Every minister who is a member of the House of Commons is personally

    accountable to the House for all matters within his or her portfolio. Ministers

    may not deceive or knowingly mislead Parliament or the public.

Article 17 The Civil Service

    (1) A civil servant is a servant of the Crown employed in a civil capacity who is

    paid wholly and directly from monies voted by Parliament.

    (2) Civil servants are recruited on the basis of merit and promoted on the basis of

    ability. They are politically impartial at all times.

    (3) There shall be a Civil Service Commission, appointed by the Crown under

    Royal Prerogative, and independent of ministers, to ensure that selection to the

    civil service is based on the principle of fair and open competition, and to hear

    appeals under the Civil Service Code.

    (4)The civil service supports ministers individually and collectively in

    formulating policy and in administering public services for which the

    government is responsible. Civil servants give honest and impartial advice to

    ministers and make all information relevant to a decision available to ministers.

    They may not deceive or knowingly mislead ministers, Parliament or the

    public. They must conduct themselves in such a way as to deserve and retain

    the confidence of ministers and to be able to establish the same relationship

    with those whom they may be required to serve in some future administration.

    (5)The ethical standards required of civil servants are provided for in a Civil

    Service Code.

    (6)Ministers uphold the political impartiality of the civil service. They may not

    ask civil servants to act in any way which would conflict with the Civil

    Service Code.

Article 18 The Police.

    There shall be a police authority for every area of the United Kingdom. Police authorities in England and Wales shall comprise magistrates, local authority representatives and independent members, except that the police authority for the City of London shall be the police committee of the Corporation of London. In Scotland police authorities shall comprise members of local authorities. In Northern Ireland,



    the police authority is the Northern Ireland Policing Board. It is the duty of every police authority to secure the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force for its area. Every police authority must appoint, with the approval of the responsible minister, a Chief Constable, except that, in London, the head of the police force is the Metropolitan Commissioner who is appointed by the sovereign on advice.

Article 19 The Armed Forces.

    The armed forces of the United Kingdom comprise the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force. Officers in the armed forces are commissioned by the Crown, and may be dismissed at the pleasure of the Crown, but they may not resign their commission without leave. There shall be no standing army in time of peace without the consent of Parliament.

Article 20 The Security and Secret Intelligence Services.

    The Security and Secret Intelligence Services are required to protect national security from, in particular, espionage, sabotage and terrorism. Their powers are laid down by statute and they are accountable to responsible ministers.

Article 21 Public Inquiries

    An Act of Parliament provides for the establishment and conduct of public inquiries into matters of public concern.

Article 22 Emergency Powers.

    The Sovereign may, on advice, proclaim that a state of emergency exists, in time of war, or when there is a threat to the life of the nation. The occasion of such a proclamation must be communicated to Parliament. During the existence of a state of emergency, the Crown has power, by Order in Council, to make regulations for securing the essentials of life to the community. But such regulations may not impose any form of compulsory military service nor industrial conscription.

    Part 5: Devolution and Local Government

Article 23 Devolution

    (1) There shall be a Scottish Parliament, a Northern Ireland Assembly and a

    National Assembly for Wales. Their powers are laid down by statute.

    (2) The establishment of a directly elected, territorially-based body enjoying

    legislative or executive powers devolved from Parliament requires a


Article 24 Local Government



    (1) There shall be directly elected local authorities covering every area of the

    United Kingdom, and appropriate to its character and needs.

    (2) Local authorities have powers to promote the economic, social and

    environmental well-being of the areas which they represent.

    (3) Local authorities may raise taxes as provided for by an Act of Parliament or by

    the devolved bodies.

    (4) The boundaries of a local government area may be revised by the Electoral


    (5) The executive of a local authority is either a cabinet or a directly-elected

    mayor. Before the office of directly-elected mayor is instituted in a local

    government, a referendum is held in that local government area to ascertain

    the view of its electorate. In any local authority area, 5 per cent of the

    registered electorate in that area can require, by petition, that such a

    referendum to be held.

Article 25 Proviso

Nothing in this Part affects Article 5(1).

    Part 6: The Judicial Power

Article 26 The Judicial Power

    The judicial power is exercised, until 2009, by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; and, after 2009, by the Supreme Court and the courts of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the decisions of which are executed in the name of the Sovereign, and by tribunals.

Article 27 Extraordinary Courts

    The establishment of extraordinary courts requires an Act of Parliament.

Article 28 Head of the Judiciary.

    The Lord Chief Justice is head of the judiciary in England and Wales; the Lord President of the Court of Session is head of the judiciary in Scotland; the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland is head of the judiciary in Northern Ireland.

Article 29 Independence of the Judiciary

    (1) The judiciary is independent of the other branches of government.

    (2) Ministers are required to uphold the independence of the judiciary. The Lord

    Chancellor is responsible for defending the independence of the judiciary.


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