Statute law

Statute law is law made by Parliament, otherwise known as Acts of Parliament or primary legislation (a statute is a formal, written law). Of course, not all statute laws are of constitutional significance; only the ones that affect the powers and responsibilities of government bodies or the rights and freedoms of citizens are. Statute law, though, is the single most important source of the constitution.This applies because the principle of parliamentary sovereignty (discussed below) implies that statutes outrank all other sources of the constitution (although, as we shall see, EU membership throws this into question). If a statute conflicts with, say, a convention or a common law, the statute will always prevail. In addition, more and more constitutional rules have come to have a statutory basis, both as new constitutional statutes have been enacted and, sometimes, as conventions and common laws are turned into statutes. Examples of constitutionally significant statute laws include:

• ParliamentActsof1911and1949(limitedthepowersoftheHouseofLords)

• EuropeanCommunitiesAct1972(authorisedtheUK’smembershipoftheEC)

• Scotland Act 1998 (established the Scottish Parliament) and Government of Wales Act 1998 (established Welsh Assembly)

• Human Rights Act 1998 (translated the European Convention on Human Rights into statute law)

• House of Lords Act 1999 (excluded all but 92 hereditary peers from sitting in the House of Lords)

• Freedom of Information Act 2000 (gave citizens a legal right of access to government information)

• Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (provided for a Supreme Court to take over the role of the Law Lords)

• Fixed-term Parliament Act 2011 (introduced the principle of fixed-term elections for the Westminster Parliament).