Monday, 18 February 2008
Principles of the British and American Constitutions
Last week Jack Straw made a speech at the George Washington University entitled "Modernising the Magna Carta". I would urge all students of British Constitutional Law to read this speech - and it will of course be of interest to Washminster readers, as he describes it as "some observations about the enduring and unique relationship between our two countries, and in particular to look at how our very conceptions of government and the constitution, whilst on the face of it very different, are borne out of the same root, and have to face up to the same challenge of remaining relevant in a twenty-first century democracy."
In the speech he discuss the common strands in British and American thought, at the heart of which he says "is a powerful and everlasting idea of liberty and of rights". The difference between American "Constitutional Sovereignty" and British "Parliamentary Sovereignty" is discussed. Recent changes such as that in the role of the Lord Chancellor and the establishment of the UK Supreme Court are outlined and arguments about establishing a British "Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" are rehearsed.
Well worth a read - and for students (and lecturers) of Constitutional Law, some useful quotes from Paine; Washington; Jennings; Irvine of Lairg; Gladstone and Montesquieu. The full text is available at http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/sp130208a.htm