The emergence of the United Kingdom’s statutory constitution has challenged the old Diceyan adage that ‘neither the Act of Union with Scotland nor the Dentists Act 1878 has more claim than the other to be considered supreme law.’ This article reconceptualizes constitutional statutes offering a three-pronged approach to identifying such legislation. This new model examines the content of the statute, the history of enacting the constitutional statute (the ‘life of the Bill’), and the post-enactment history (the ‘life of the statute’). The proposed framework reflects a historical approach to constitutionalism and gives weight not only to judicial practice but also to the interactions between other constitutional actors and to popular endorsement. Four case studies of statutes demonstrate how the new model adds layers to, and diverges from, the current judicial approach. Finally, the article describes the implications of ‘taking constitutional statutes seriously’ under the proposed approach.
- constitutional statutes
- parliamentary sovereignty
- legislative history
- National Health Service (NHS)