Acts of Parliament


Although the UK has an unwritten constitution, many important elements of it are found in statutes that have been enacted by Parliament. The following are of most importance to the constitution and civil liberties:

Magna Carta 1215     

Embodied the principle that government must be conducted according to the law and with the consent of the governed.

Bill of Rights 1689

Imposed limitations on the powers of the monarch and provided that Parliament should meet on a regular basis.

Act of Settlement 1701

Prohibited Catholics from succeeding to the throne and gave precedence to male heirs and in addition established the constitutional independence of the judiciary.

Acts of Union 1706-07

United England and Scotland under a single Parliament of Great Britain (the Westminster Parliament).

Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949

Ensured that the will of the elected House of Commons would prevail over that of the unelected House of Lords by enabling legislation to be enacted without the consent of the House of Lords.

European Communities Act 1972

Incorporated EU law and EU legal systems into domestic law.

Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984

Provided the police with wide powers of arrest, search and detention as well as accompanying safeguards to ensure that the police do not abuse such powers.

Public Order Act 1986

Allowed limitations to be placed on the rights of citizens to hold meetings and demonstrations in public places.

Human Rights Act 1998

Incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law and allows citizens to raise alleged breaches of their human rights before the domestic courts.

Acts of Devolution (eg Scotland Act 1998)

Created a devolved system of government in parts of the UK, establishing a Scottish Parliament and assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Constitutional Reform Act 2005

Reformed the office of Lord Chancellor by transferring his powers as head of the judiciary to the Lord Chief Justice. It also created the Supreme Court and a new Judicial Appointments Committee.