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Vernon Bogdanor once told The Guardian, that he made 'a living of something that doesn't exist'. He also quipped that the British constitution can be summed up in seven words: "Whatever the Queen in Parliament decides is law".
That may still be the case, yet in many ways the once elusive British Constitution has now become much more grounded, much more tangible and much more based on written sources than was previously the case. It now exists in a way that it didn't do before. This is in no small part due to the reforms undertaken by the successive governments since the mid-1990s, which have altered Britain's constitutional architecture profoundly. The changes, often analysed by political scientists, are complemented by a changed attitude among judges and lawyers.
However, though the changes may seem revolutionary, much of the underlying structure remains unchanged - there are limits to the changes. Even the much debated Human Rights Act 1998, is subject to repeal. As Lord Nicholls has explained 'The Human Rights Act reserves amendment of primary legislation to parliament...the Act seeks to preserve parliamentary sovereignty'. And just in case we had come to believe that we had adopted the hallmark of constitutionalism - namely a system of checks and balances and limits on the exercise of power - The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 was passed, enabling ministers to make secondary legislation that - in theory - can amend, repeal or replace primary legislation.
Where does all this leave the Constitution? Is it new? Has it changed in a revolutionary way, or is it just an example of piecemeal changes? Is it still true that the British Constitution is not worth the paper it isn't written on? Will the recent changes be seen as fundamental in 20 or even in 10 years?
Here constitutional experts, political scientists and legal practitioners present up-to-date and in-depth commentaries on their respective areas of expertise. While also a Festschrift in honour of Vernon Bogdanor, this book is above all a comprehensive compendium to the present state of the British constitution.