The rule of law is a vital element in promoting a country’s peace and sustainable development. One of the categories of law includes public law. Public law is a body of law that governs the relationship between citizens and the state. Public law is further concerned with the structures and operations established by the government. The rationale of public law is to govern the unequal relationship that exists between citizens and the government. For example, the government has the power to make decision that impacts the citizens. In doing so, governments have a responsibility to act within the law. In the United Kingdom, public law covers different categories of law that include; tax law, criminal law, and administrative/constitutional law.
Public law is entrenched in a country’s constitution, which is subject to change through a constitutional reform. James George Robert Bridges, Lord Bridges of Headley, the UK government goal is ‘to deliver a constitutional settlement that is balance and fair to everyone in the country and all parts of the UK. George further argues that the British constitution is pragmatic and has the capacity to evolve and adapt to circumstances. Moreover, the country’s constitutional arrangement enables agility and responsiveness to the citizen’s needs and wishes. In line with the above statement, this paper evaluates whether the UK constitutional arrangements do indeed enable responsive and responsible constitutional reforms.
The UK has incorporate constitutionalism as one of the principles of governance, which is a political theory that requires government to exercise power in a controlled manner in order to ensure that the values which it intends to promote are not destroyed. One of the fundamental issues of constitutionalism that the government is focused on relates to integration of quality institutional arrangement that controls abuse of executive power. Additionally, the UK governed has further established independent centres of decision making. Through this move, the UK government has succeeded in establishing checks and balances within the country’s democratic system.
The establishment of an independent judicial system is one of the aspects that indicate the country’s commitment to promoting the elements of balance and fairness to everyone in the UK. Despite the fact that government holds the power to pass legislations on different issues, the UK courts are empowered to invalidate Acts that are beyond statutory powers. Invalidation of such Acts must observe institutional integrity. Nevertheless, the extent of judicial review on Acts and government policies is limited to the extent to which the Act is of importance. For example, the courts cannot overturn a policy on resource allocation on major surgery in favour of cosmetic surgery. However, in situations where the government policies contravene human rights, the courts have the power to compel the government to observe human rights.
Despite the fact that the UK ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, the government did not immediately grant immigrants the right to raise a petition in the event that their rights were infringed. This aspect arose from the government’s fear of increase in overseas petition from its past colonies. Under the ECHR, the UK government has been forced to grant rights to individual petitions. However, successful governments have tried to exclude foreign nationals from applying the Convention. This aspect is underlined by a ruling in Abdulaziz, Cabales and Balkandali v UK (1985) 7 EHRR 471. Despite the fact that the government has the power to control immigration, the court ruled that application of immigration control have to be aligned with the Convention’s obligations. Thus, exclusion of an individual from a state where his or her family members were living was illegal. Therefore, the UK government is obliged to respect family life.
By complying with this ruling, the UK government highlights its commitment in responding to human rights. Moreover, this aspect underlines the fact that the UK constitution is pragmatic to the prevailing circumstances. This aspect is further highlighted by the UK government decision to grant asylum to increase the number of asylum seekers from Syria. This indicates that the UK government is not only responsive and responsible for the rights of the UK nationals but also immigrants into the UK.
The UK government’s responsiveness to the citizen’s needs and wishes is further underlined by integration of the principle of inclusiveness with reference to legislation and constitutional reform. The UK government is of the view that its acceptability is law making is dependent on the extent to which the citizens as voters have a say in making critical decisions. Thus, the UK government has supports direct democracy. The recent decision by the UK to exit the European Union was based on a referendum in which 52% of the country’s citizens voted supporting the decision to exit the EU. The decision of the UK to leave the European Union was fostered by increase in citizen’s view of the European Union as a dysfunctional economic entity. Despite the fact that the EU was intended to promote the region’s economic growth, the EU has not succeeded in eliminating the region’s economic problems.
Similarly, the UK responsiveness to the needs and wishes of the citizens is further underlined by its decision to grant the Scotland’s citizen to conduct a referendum on whether Scotland should continue to be a constituent of the UK or should exist as an independent country. During the referendum, majority of citizens in Scotland voted against seceding from the UK.
The analysis of public law in the UK shows that the country’s constitutional arrangements do indeed enable responsive and responsible constitutional reforms. The country has entrenched a constitution that is based on human rights and democracy. One the basis of principles of human right and democracy, the UK government is adequately responsive to the needs and wishes of its citizens. Amongst the fundamental indicators of the country’s responsiveness and responsibility to the UK citizens relates integration of referendum as the foundation within which constitutional changes are made. Moreover, establishment of independent decision making entities such as the judiciary underlines the government’s commitment to establish fairness and equity in the governance process.
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