1 CONSTITUTIONAL CODE
An illustrative blueprint (first of three)
A document sanctioned by Parliament but without statutory
authority, setting out the essential existing elements and principles
of the constitution and workings of government.
The United Kingdom, Nationality,
1 The United Kingdom consists of the regions
of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In no circumstances
shall any of the four regions cease to be a part of the United
Kingdom without the consent of a majority of registered voters
in that region voting in a poll.
2 Nationality is possessed by (a) United Kingdom
citizens, except for those from the Channel Islands and the Isle
of Man; (b) United Kingdom citizens with the right of abode in
the country; and (c) citizens of the United Kingdom's Overseas
3 Citizenship of the United Kingdom is acquired
by birth, adoption, descent, registration or naturalisation, or
is conferred by statute.
4 A Minister may by order deprive a person
of their citizenship acquired by registration or naturalisation
on the grounds that it was obtained by fraud, false representation
or concealment of any material fact; but no such person may be
deprived of their citizenship unless the Minister is satisfied
that it is not conducive to the public good that that person should
continue to be a citizen of the United Kingdom.
The Crown and Head of State
5 The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy,
with an hereditary constitutional Monarchy serving as its Head
of State, who is Queen Elizabeth II.
6 The Monarch is that person who is the descendant
of Sophia Electress of Hanover next in line to the throne as provided
and regulated by the Act of Settlement 1700, extended to Scotland
in 1707 and Northern Ireland in 1801 by Acts of Union, amended
by the Succession to the Crown Act 2013. Any alteration in 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 Monarch as Head of State is the ceremonial
head of the executive government, the fount of justice, the commander-in-chief
of the armed forces, and the Supreme Governor of the Church of
8 The Monarch as Head of State presides at meetings
of the Privy Council whose members, being citizens of the United
Kingdom, other Commonwealth country, or the Republic of Ireland,
are appointed by the monarch on ministerial advice. Ministers
are responsible to Parliament for decisions and orders made by
the Privy Council.
9 The public acts of the Queen are performed
upon the advice of ministers or according to established convention.
The Queen assents to legislation unless advised to the contrary
10 The acts of the Head of State are not reviewable
by the courts. As Monarch, the Queen is immune from suit and legal
process in any civil cause in respect of acts and omissions in
his or her private capacity; and is immune from criminal proceedings
in respect of acts and omissions in his or her private or official
11 The Queen, the Royal Household and other members
of the Royal Family, are funded through a Sovereign Grant paid
by the Treasury.
12 All persons in the service of the Crown are
required to swear or affirm an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen
and her heirs and successors according to law.
13 Statutory provision is made for the appointment
of a Regent in case of the minority, incapacity or non-availability
of the Head of State.
14 The supreme legislative power in the state
is vested in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, comprising
the Queen, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons.
The House of Commons
15 Members of the House of Commons are directly
elected in free, equal and secret elections by universal suffrage.
The constituencies within which Members are elected 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.
16 The universal franchise extends to all adult
citizens of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the Republic
of Ireland, not being persons detained in a penal institution,
or under sentence of disqualification for a corrupt or illegal
practice, and being persons registered in a parliamentary constituency
on the day of the poll. Peers entitled to sit in the House of
Lords shall not be entitled to vote.
17 Details of the electoral process and its administration
are set out in Acts of Parliament.
18 Any person is eligible to become a Member
of the House of Commons, unless they are legally disqualified.
Persons disqualified include (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 certain judicial offices; (h) civil servants; (i) members of
the regular armed forces; (j) members of any police force maintained
by a police authority; (k) ambassadors and High Commissioners;
(l) boundary commissioners, electoral commissioners and electoral
registration officers; (m) members of a foreign legislature outside
the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland; (n) holders of other
public offices defined by statute, and (o) members of the House
19 An Electoral Commission of the UK is appointed
by the Head of State 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.
20 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.
21 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.
22 Members of the House of Commons are remunerated
from public funds. The level of their salary and scheme of allowances
are independently determined by the Independent Parliamentary
23 Members of the House of Commons are required
to observe a Code of Conduct prepared by the House and to register
pecuniary interests and other benefits in a Register of Interests
that is supervised by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
The costs, expenses, pay and pensions of Members and their staff
is overseen by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.
24 Political parties represented in the House
of Commons but which do not support the Government constitute
the opposition. The formal position of Leader of the Opposition
is that person who is the leader of the largest of these parties,
whom together with holders of certain other parliamentary posts
receives a salary from public funds.
25 The Queen as Head of State summons Parliament
to meet after each general election by Royal Proclamation.
26 A general election is held the first Thursday
in May in the fifth calendar year following that in which the
polling day for the previous parliamentary election fell under
the terms of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.
27 An early general election may be held if
either (a) a resolution "that there shall be an early Parliamentary
general election" is passed in the House of Commons by two-thirds
of the membership of the House (including vacant seats), or (b)
the Government is defeated in the House of Commons on a motion
stating that "this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's
Government" and after a period of fourteen days no new Government
has been formed and confirmed by a confidence motion in the Commons
stating that "this House has confidence in Her Majesty's
House of Lords Membership
28 The House of Lords comprises the following
(a) Life peers under the Life Peerages Act, 1958.
Life peers in this category are appointed by the Head of State
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
(b) Ninety-two hereditary peers, as provided by the
House of Lords Act 1999.
(c) 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.
Lords Spiritual remain members solely during the tenure of their
29 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.
30 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.
Powers of the Two Houses
31 The House of Commons alone may propose alterations
in financial charges on public funds, taxes or other charges.
32 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 Monarch for Royal Assent.
33 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 Monarch
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
34 The provisions of paragraph 33 do not apply
to a bill to extend the maximum duration of parliament beyond
five years, nor to any statutory instrument, for which the consent
of both Houses is needed.
Privileges of Parliament
35 The freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings
in parliament are not impeached or questioned outside Parliament.
36 The House of Commons has the power to expel
a Member whom 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.
37 Each House has the right to control its own
proceedings and to regulate its internal affairs and whatever
takes place within its walls.
38 Each House has the inherent power to punish
for breach of parliamentary privilege.
European Union Law
39 Legislative measures of the European Union
that are directly effective under the European Communities Act
1972 have legal effect in the United Kingdom.
40 Obligations of the United Kingdom arising
under European Union law may be implemented by Order in Council
or by statutory instrument (subject to schedule 2 of the European
Communities Act 1972).
41 United Kingdom agreement to changes to the
Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of
the European Union, as well as other defined transfers of power
or competence from United Kingdom to European Union level, is
subject to the consent of the United Kingdom population through
a majority of those voting in a referendum (in accordance with
the European Union Act 2011).
42 The executive power of the United Kingdom
is vested in the Crown, but all executive acts are performed by
Ministers in the Queen's name.
43 The executive power includes the inherent
common law authority to -
(i) appoint and remove officers of the armed forces,
command the armed forces, recognise foreign jurisdictions, exchange
envoys, make appointments not otherwise provided for, grant charters,
and grant honours and grant mercy;
(ii) declare war or commit the armed forces to enter
into armed conflict abroad, provided that Government must, before
such action (or as soon as practicable thereafter), put forward
a motion for debate and vote in the House of Commons, and comply
with its decision, subject to exceptional circumstances of necessity
requiring public secrecy or extreme urgency; and
(iii) to sign and ratify treaties, subject to parliamentary
approval procedures in accordance with the Constitutional Reform
and Governance Act 2010.
44 All executive powers are exercised subject
to the legislation, if any, and principles of the common law governing
the circumstance and mode of exercise of such powers.
Prime Minister, Cabinet and Ministers
45 The Government consists of the Prime Minister,
the 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 set at ninety-five by the House of
Commons Disqualification Act 1975.
46 The Queen appoints as Prime Minister the leader
of the party with an overall majority in the House of Commons.
Where following a General Election there is no overall majority
for one party, the incumbent Prime Minister has the first opportunity
to remain in office and form an administration, but if he is unable
to do so (or is defeated on the Address at the meeting of Parliament)
then the leader of the largest opposition party is appointed Prime
47 All Ministers besides the Prime Minister are
appointed and removed, and have their individual responsibilities
determined, by the Queen acting upon the Prime Minister's advice.
48 All Ministers must be, or within three months
of their appointment become, members of the House of Lords or
House of Commons.
49 The Prime Minister and all ministers of the
Treasury must be or become members of the House of Commons.
50 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
51 The Cabinet is collectively responsible for
its decisions. It provides a forum in which all those Cabinet
members who wish to do so can have a say on important government
52 All members of the Cabinet, and all government
ministers, are subsequently bound by decisions that are made,
and required to maintain a united public front. If unable publicly
to defend or refrain from criticising Cabinet decisions, ministers
are required to resign.
53 The decisions of Cabinet committees are binding
in the same way as if they had were made by full Cabinet. Disputes
within Cabinet Committees may be referred to the full Cabinet
54 In special circumstances, there may be an
agreement confirmed by the Prime Minister to opt out of the discipline
of collective responsibility over particular issues.
55 The ethical standards required of ministers
are laid out in a Ministerial Code formulated and published by
the Prime Minister and Cabinet Office.
56 The Prime Minister, with the advice of the
Cabinet Secretary, is responsible for enforcing the Ministerial
Code, and is also bound by it. The Prime Minister may refer particular
allegations of violations of the Code to the Independent Adviser
on Ministers' Interests.
Relations between Government
57 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.
58 The Government must present receipts of revenue
and estimates of expenditure to the House of Commons at least
once in every year.
59 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.
The Civil Service
60 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.
61 Civil servants are recruited on the basis
of merit and promoted on the basis of ability. They are politically
impartial at all times.
62 There is a Civil Service Commission, appointed
in accordance with the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act
2010, 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.
63 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.
64 The ethical standards required of civil servants
are provided for in a Civil Service Code as required by the Constitutional
Reform and Governance Act 2010.
65 Ministers uphold the political impartiality
of the Civil Service. They may not ask civil servants to act in
any way that would conflict with the Civil Service Code.
66 The Prime Minister holds the portfolio of
Minister of the Civil Service and has responsibility for the management
of the Civil Service.
67 There is a directly elected Police and Crime
Commissioner for designated regional areas in England and Wales,
except Greater London where there is a Major's Office for Policing
and Crime; there is a Scottish Police Authority in Scotland; and
there is a Northern Ireland Policing Board in Northern Ireland.
It is the duty of the Police and Crime Commissioners and police
authorities to secure the maintenance of an efficient and effective
police force for its area.
The Armed Forces
68 The armed forces of the UK comprise the Royal
Navy, the Army, and the Royal Air Force. Officers in the armed
forces are commissioned in the name of the Crown, and may be dismissed
at the pleasure of the Crown, but they may not resign their commission
without leave. Under the Bill of Rights 1689, there shall be no
standing army in time of peace without the consent of Parliament.
The Intelligence and Security
69 The intelligence and security agencies 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. A statutory
Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament is responsible
for the oversight of the policies, expenditure, administration
and operations of the agencies.
70 An Act of Parliament provides for the establishment
and conduct of public inquiries into matters of public concern.
71 In circumstances of an emergency threatening
serious damage to human welfare, the environment or security,
the Head of State acting on the advice of the Prime Minister may
proclaim that a state of emergency exists and issue secondary
legislation to address the emergency with parliamentary approval
under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. Emergency regulations
must be proportionate to the circumstances they address.
72 There is a Scottish Parliament and devolved
structure of government in Scotland provided for by the Scotland
Act 1998, and Northern Ireland Assembly and devolved structure
of government in Northern Ireland provided for by the Northern
Ireland Act 1998, and a National Assembly for Wales and devolved
structure of government in Wales provided for by the Government
of Wales Act 2006.
73 The establishment of a directly elected,
territorially based body enjoying legislative or executive powers
devolved from Parliament requires a referendum of electors in
the area concerned.
74 Acts of Parliament provide for directly elected
local authorities covering every area of the United Kingdom. Local
authorities have powers to promote the economic, social and environmental
well-being of the areas that they represent, and may raise taxes
under the authority of national or regional legislation.
75 In England and Wales, local authorities have
a general power of competence to do anything that individuals
generally may do (under the Localism Act 2011).
76 The boundaries of a local government area
are subject to review by the regional Local Government Boundary
77 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, and five per cent of the registered electorate
in that area can require by petition that such a referendum be
held (under the Local Government Act 2000).
The Judiciary and its Independence
78 The judiciary is independent of the other
branches of government. By statute the Lord Chancellor and other
Ministers are required to uphold the principle of judicial independence,
which includes a duty to ensure the support necessary to enable
them to exercise their functions.
79 The judicial power is exercised through
the separate court systems in England and Wales, Scotland, and
Northern Ireland, all of which are subject to final appeal in
the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (except for criminal appeals
80 The establishment of extraordinary courts
requires an Act of Parliament.
81 The Lord Chief Justice is the Head of the
Judiciary in England and Wales, the Lord President of the Court
of Session is Head of the Judiciary in Scotland, and the Lord
Chief Justice of Northern Ireland is Head of the Judiciary in
82 Judges are appointed by the Queen on
ministerial advice, as follows: (a) Justices of the Supreme Court
are selected by a Selection Committee convened by the Lord Chancellor
giving a nomination, and the Lord Chancellor if he approves giving
the name to the Prime Minister for his advice to the Queen; (b)
in Scotland the Lord President of the Court of Session and the
Lord Justice Clerk are nominated by the First Minister of Scotland,
and the Prime Minister then advises the Queen to appoint this
person; (c) other judges are selected by the Judicial Appointments
Commission for England and Wales, Judicial Appointments Board
for Scotland, and Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission,
with the Lord Chancellor, or in the case of Scotland the First
Minister of Scotland, giving the recommendation to the Queen.
83 Judges in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal,
and High Court, hold office during good behaviour, but may be
removed on the Address of both Houses of Parliament. Circuit and
district judges may be removed by the Lord Chancellor on grounds
of incapacity or misbehaviour. Lay magistrates may be removed
at the discretion of the Lord Chancellor at any time.
84 Judicial salaries may not reduced
by the Crown and increases are determined by an independent pay
85 The sittings of all courts are public,
except in circumstances provided for by Act of Parliament, and
judgments are pronounced at a public sitting.
Principles of Judicial Review
86 So far as it is possible to do so, legislation
and all other rules of law are read and given effect in a way
that is compatible with the principle of the rule of law.
87 If a court is satisfied that a provision
of a statute is incompatible with a Convention right incorporated
into United Kingdom law by the Human Rights Act 1998, it may make
a Declaration of Incompatibility under the terms of the Act and
a Minister may present a Remedial Order for the approval of the
two Houses of Parliament.
88 So far as it is possible to do so, legislation
and all other rules of law are read and given effect in a way
that is compatible with the law of the European Union and a Convention
right incorporated into United Kingdom law by the Human Rights
Act 1998. The courts do not give effect to any rule of law that
is incompatible with directly effective European Union law.
89 Subordinate legislation and administrative
action are subject to judicial review on grounds of legality,
procedural fairness, proportionality, rationality, and conformity
with the Convention rights incorporated into United Kingdom law
by the Human Rights Act 1998.
Civil and Political Rights
90 The United Kingdom government guarantees to
everyone within its jurisdiction the protection of the following
rights and freedoms as defined and delineated by the European
Convention on Human Rights, and incorporated into national law
by the Human Rights Act 1998, entitled -
Right to Life
Prohibition of Torture
Prohibition of Slavery and Forced Labour
Right to Liberty and Security
Right to a Fair Trial
No Punishment without Law
Right to Respect for Private and Family Life
Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
Freedom of Expression
Freedom of Assembly and Association
Right to Marry
Right to an Effective Remedy
Prohibition of Discrimination
Protection of Property
Right to Education
Right to Free Elections
Social and Economic Welfare
91 The government provides social and economic
welfare for all citizens of the United Kingdom including social
security (unemployment benefit and old age pension), free health
care, a pollution-free environment, and access to clean water
and essential public utilities.
Status, Amendment and Publication
92 This Code has no status in law, and may not
be cited or relied upon in any legal proceedings before the courts.
93 The laws, conventions, and rules of the constitution
change from time to time in the customary manner; that is, by
way of (a) Act of Parliament, (b) judicial decision-making in
the development of the principles of the common law or the interpretation
of statutes, (c) resolutions of each of the Houses of Parliament
as affects their internal proceedings, and (d) the evolution,
emergence or desuetude of a convention.
94 A revised draft edition of this Code is prepared
by the Cabinet Office within thirty days of every General Election,
and submitted to each House of Parliament for scrutiny and report
by their Select Committee with responsibility for constitutional
affairs. Within thirty days of receipt of the Select Committee
reports, a Minister will lay the draft Code, with such revisions
as it thought necessary, before each House of Parliament for approval.
95 Within fourteen days of a new edition of the
Code being approved by both Houses of Parliament, the Code will
be printed and published by the Stationary Office as a Command