Works of Authority

The Five main Sources of the UK Constitution

One of the peculiarities of the UK constitution is the need to consult works by authors who are considered to be authorities on constitutional issues. These works help to define what is constitutionally ‘proper’ or ‘correct’; although they are certainly written, they are not legally enforceable. Such works are needed for two reasons:

 • There are many gaps and confusions in the UK’s uncodified constitution with, particularly in the case of conventions, uncertainty about how general rules and principles should be applied in practice. 

• These authoritative works carry out the job of interpretation – saying what the constitution actually means – that, in a codified constitutional system, would be carried out by senior judges. Nevertheless, as they lack legal authority, these constitutional works are only consulted, and followed, if they are considered to be relevant and their authors respected. Their status is therefore often subject to debate. Key works of constitutional authority include: