As we saw in Chapter 1, the UK has no written constitution with a special legal status. The UK’s unwritten constitution is constructed partly out of the general sources of law and relies partly on political ‘conventions’. The legal sources include Acts of Parliament, the common law in the form of decisions of the higher courts, and the ‘laws and customs of Parliament’ made by each House in order to control its affairs. The standard view is that statute law is the highest form of law in our constitution, although there is an argument that statute is subject to the ‘rule of law’, which is in the hands of the courts (see Section 8.5). All constitutions rely to some extent on political understandings and practices even if they are not labelled as conventions; but because our constitution is unwritten we rely more heavily on such rules than most countries. There is no intrinsic difference between the content of a convention and that of a law. Any convention can be enacted as a law (e.g. the ‘Ponsonby’ convention concerning the ratification of treaties (Section 9.5.1)).There are also ‘practices’ which may be of fundamental constitutional significance even though they are not in any sense binding as rules. The most obvious of these is the existence of political parties, through which contenders for power organise themselves.
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