Module Identifier LA36220  
Academic Year 2003/2004  
Co-ordinator Ms Ann P Sherlock  
Semester Semester 2  
Co-Requisite LA10110 or LA30110 or LA15710  
Mutually Exclusive GF16220 & LA16220  
Course delivery Lecture   35 Hours - One two hour and two one hour lectures per week  
  Seminars / Tutorials   8 Hours - Eight one hour seminars during the semester  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours Open Book Examination  66%
Semester Assessment Assignment: A written assignment of 2,000 words (required in week 9)  33%
Supplementary Assessment Resit: By retaking the failed element (ie written assignment or examination or both, as applicable)   
Professional Exemptions Required for Professional Purposes  

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:
Explain how the British constitutional system works and be able to discuss proposals for reform.
Analyse the existing system and evaluate strengths and weaknesses
Deal with constitutional legal materials in a critical and analytical manner
Identify problems in the constitutional system and to apply their knowledge in suggesting possible solutions (for example, with reference to comparative material)
Apply legal principles to factual situations in order to suggest possible outcomes to cases
Identify and appreciate the constitutional law implications of general developments in law and politics, and to understand the relationship between UK constitutional law and European / international law as well as the interaction between central and devolved elements of the constitution.
These outcomes will be assessed through examination and written work assignment which have a mix of essay and problem questions and involve having to deal with primary constitutional materials.

In addition to these intellectual skills, students will be able to demonstrate:
Good time-management skills in preparing for seminars and submitting work on time.
The ability to carry out independent research for which credit will be given in the assessments
Locating and using relevant hard-copy and electronic sources: seminars will require preparation using material from websites.
Ability to work in groups: half of the seminars will run as workshops in which students work in small groups and organise a short presentation together.

Brief description

The United Kingdom is unusual in that it does not have a written constitution. What this means, why it is the case and whether it makes a difference in practice are among the questions which we look at in this course which seeks to introduce students to the study of constitutional law in general and to the basic doctrines of the British Constitution in particular.

It is true that, on the whole, the British Constitution has developed in a gradual way but this does not mean that it has not undergone dramatic change over the years. Indeed, some of the most profound changes have taken place relatively recently with the United Kingdom''s accession to the European Community in 1973. More recently still, there have been the lively debates on the reform of the House of Lords, on devolution and on human rights. The way in which the Constitution has adapted and accommodated changing circumstances is an important theme of the course. Recent legislation on human rights and on devolution, with particular reference to the National Assembly for Wales, will be examined in detail.

Another important issue which the course examines is the extent to which there are limits on the powers of the Government and Parliament. Is it really true that "Parliament has the right to make any law whatever" Comparisons will be drawn with the constitutions of other states to explore how constitutions attempt to prevent the abuse of power and we will consider whether similar guarantees exist within the British system.

Students may no doubt be aware of the ongoing debate which takes place in relation to certain institutions of the constitution.   How should the House of Lords be reformed? What role should the Monarch play in the constitutional system? How much power should be transferred from Westminster to the new devolved legislatures? Throughout the course we will examine those aspects of the Constitution which have been the subject of calls for change and we will consider the proposals for reform which have been advanced by various bodies.


This module aims to introduce students to principles of constitutional law in general and to the British constitutional system in particular to a level which satisfies professional exemption requirements, to encourage independent and critical thought and analysis, to promote skills of group work and to develop skills of independent reading and research.


Teaching will be through lectures (35) and seminars/workshops (8). The lectures will provide an introduction to each topic and course handouts will indicate further reading. Seminars are smaller groups designed to discuss particular issues in more detail.   Workshops also focus on specialised topics and aim to promote group work among students. In addition to these elements students should expect to spend a significant proportion of their time in the library preparing for seminars and following up the reading indicated on the hand-outs.


1. General introduction to Constitutional Law; written and unwritten constitutions; limits on the power of governments; organisation of the powers of government; composition of legislature, executive and judiciary; the separation of powers and checks and balances; introduction to judicial review of legislation; the US and UK systems compared; protection of rights under constitutions; introduction to the programme of constitutional reform in the UK; brief introduction to the Human Rights Act.

2. Sources of the British Constitution; legal rules of the Constitution; Acts of Parliament and delegated legislation; legislation / delegated legislation made in the regional assemblies / parliament; the place of European Community law within the system; an introduction to how European Community law is made; basic doctrines of European Community law; introduction to conventions of the Constitution; problems concerning the identification and enforcement of conventions; the case for codifying conventions; a written constitution for the United Kingdom?

3. The protection of basic rights in the UK; the Human Rights Act 1998; introduction and background; the European Convention on Human Rights; the rights protected; the manner in which the rights are protected; specific legal issues regarding the legislation. [Much of this topic will be covered in seminars rather than in lectures.]

4. Structures and Institutions 1: The territorial structure of the United Kingdom; the unitary constitution of the UK; the constituent parts of the UK; devolution; the Government of Wales Act 1998 and other devolution legislation.

5. Structures and Institutions 2: Institutions of government in the United Kingdom; supranational, central, regional and local institutions; Lawmaking bodies within the UK; Parliament and the devolved legislatures esp. the National Assembly for Wales ? role and composition; division of lawmaking powers; the lawmaking process; Executive power in the UK: institutions, powers, accountability: the Executive; the Crown; central Government - PM, Cabinet, ministers, Departments, the Civil Service and the idea of modern 'extended government' and the role of agencies and privatisation; devolved executives; separation of powers.

6. Basic doctrines of the Constitution of the United Kingdom 1: the doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty: the elements of the doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty examined; the development and implications of the doctrine examined; transfers of sovereignty to former colonies; union between Scotland and England and Wales; parliamentary sovereignty and devolution; the protection of rights and issues of entrenchment; accession to the European Community (the supremacy of EC law and its accommodation within the UK).

7. Basic doctrines of the Constitution of the United Kingdom 2: Rule of Law; Rule of Law or 'Elective Dictatorship'? meaning of the 'rule of law' and its significance; the rule of law and parliamentary sovereignty; allegations of the existence of an elective dictatorship examined; Human Rights Act and the rule of law.

Reading Lists

** Recommended Consultation
Turpin British Government and the Constitution 5th.
Bradley & Ewing Constitutional & Administrative Law 13th.
Barnett Constitutional & administrative Law 4th.


This module is at CQFW Level 6