Now in its eighth edition, The Changing Constitution brings together a collection of 14 essays which provide a critical insight into key issues and themes on constitutional law.
The editors Jeffrey Jowell QC, erstwhile director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, Professor Dawn Oliver and Colm O’Cinneide (both highly respected academics), present the many strands of debate which dominate this complex and dynamic subject. This is the centrepiece to our understanding of the interface between law and politics in the UK.
This is a book for practitioners as well as those who are studying law. From the vantage point of a government lawyer, I found it very helpful to find subjects which are relevant to my day-to-day work all in one place. Far from being a dry and lifeless discussion about constitutional law, the editors have brought together a range of authoritative voices in the field.
The book is neatly divided into three parts: an introductory section on the constitutional framework; a consideration of the institutions which make up the UK constitution; and four essays on regulation.
Editors: Jeffrey Jowell, Dawn Oliver, Colm O’Cinneide
Oxford University Press (£33.78)
In part 1, concepts like the rule of law and parliamentary sovereignty are explained within their political context, and recurring questions such as whether the UK parliament is sovereign are answered in a way which reflects modern realities. To this particular question no definitive answer is given because, as Mark Elliot of the University of Cambridge says in chapter 2 on sovereignty ‘… to view the authority of parliament through an exclusively legal lens inevitably yields an incomplete and misleading constitutional picture’.
Although the commentary consists to a large extent of a critical examination of key debates, the editors have combined this with details of relevant case law, which strikes a good balance between the political and legal contexts. In the chapter on human rights, the case of Hirst on prisoner voting is used to illustrate growing political concern about the encroachment of human rights discourse on parliamentary freedom.
Brice Dickson’s chapter on devolution simplifies the key points of a constantly evolving and complex area, and he highlights some of the more quirky aspects of devolution. An example given is Scottish civil cases proceeding straight to the Supreme Court without the need for prior permission to appeal, and only requiring the signature of two willing lawyers in Scotland.
In the book’s final part, there is a consideration of governance issues. The essays show a recognition of the political realities of the current constitutional framework in the UK, and in a chapter dedicated to public finance we see the statutory basis for a range of new ways of working.
Deborah Lawunmi is a senior lawyer in the Government Legal Department Employment Group