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Undergraduate Public Law Coursework Sample

Published by at April 18th, 2023 , Revised On February 2, 2024

Public Law

Question 1

Prorogation is the action of discontinuing current parliamentary sessions for a certain period. When parliament resumes after the stipulated period ends, it is preceded by the Queen’s speech. While parliament is prorogued, neither house can meet hence no debates or legislation can be passed. In addition, prorogation is a power exercised by the crown acting on the council’s advice.

In 2019, British prime minister Boris Johnson prorogued parliament for five weeks to prevent parliament members from debating on whether the UK should leave the European Union without a deal. The crisis worsened because the politically neutral Queen agreed to the prorogation. In addition, the prorogation was set to take a long time, especially in modern times. 

The prorogation was challenged in English and Scottish courts, where the prorogation was argued as unlawful. The English court stated that the matter was justiciable, while the Scottish court said it was not justiciable. On proceeding to the Supreme Court, the court unanimously agreed that the prorogation was unjustifiable and unlawful.. The supreme court also stated that the prorogation interfered with parliamentary accountability and sovereignty. In addition, the court stated that although prorogation was allowed, it needed reasonable justifications, which were lacking in the 2019 crisis. 

Prorogation is associated with a convention that; the Queen should act on the council’s advice. However, no convention explains the prime minister’s powers to solemnly advise the Queen on matters of political control. Another convention that was likely violated is that of ministerial responsibility. According to Lord Sumption, prorogation was a plan to bypass parliament’s opinion. Parliament avoiding the political process is a breach of parliamentary accountability, which is the principle of the constitution. 

Question 2

Shamima Begum, a 15-year-old, was one of the Bethnal green trio who migrated from the UK to Syria to join ISIS. On reaching Syria, Begum and her friends were made brides of ISIS, meant to cook, clean and bear children. Four years later, Begum hit the headlines with pleas that she returns to the UK of fears that her unborn child might not survive. According to Begum, she was pregnant with her third child, and the other two had died of disease and malnutrition. The then Home-secretary Sajid Javid revoked Begum’s citizenship because she was a national security threat. 

Stripping Ms. Begum’s citizenship was not in line with my definition of the rule of law. The rule of law in UK is an elemental tenet by which every person obeys and submits to the law, rather than arbitrary actions. Although the UK does not have a written constitution, the rule of law, court rulings, and sovereignty are some of the defining principles of the uncoded constitution.

One principle of the rule of law is equality. The law states that the state should protect citizens from unjust decisions and treatment irrespective of their ethnic, religious or sexual orientation. Ms. Begum was stripped off her citizenship as the Home Secretary considered her a security threat. In addition, Ms. Begum’s case violates the due process principle.

Sajid Javid announced that her citizenship had been withdrawn the following morning after she hit headlines. The action was not preceded by sufficient and substantial evidence proving Begum was guilty of crimes assumed. Besides, once citizenship was revoked, Begum could not obtain a leave to enter, depriving her of the opportunity to appeal while in London. 

Although Ms. Begum’s case has proceeded and she was granted a leave to enter, the outcome may be that her appeal will be dismissed, her leave to enter dismissed. 

Question 3

Donoughmore committee was right when it said that there are no clear distinctions in the British constitution. Although the judiciary, the executive and legislative have different functions, they overlap in practice. overlaps of the various doctrines exist in terms of the doctrine’s functions and the personnel operating within them.

For example, the crown is a member of both the executive and the legislative. In the different organs, the powers of the crown are distinguished yet conferred to another doctrine to a certain degree. as such, the executive and legislative powers are united in the same people and offer no liberty. For example, although the judiciary exercises the judicial power, the legislature has power to stipulate a sentence for an offence. 

The 2019 Brexit crisis pushed for a more distinct separation of power in UK. Brexit saga marked a change in constitutional reforms in UK as it clearly set the judiciary’s role in making laws and providing justice. During the saga, the prime minister Boris Johnson, a member of the executive and the legislature, advised the crown to prorogate parliament for five weeks.

According t ministers, the move was meant to deter parliament from voting on whether a no deal European Union exit was viable. However, when the case was forwarded to the Supreme Court, a judiciary branch, the ruling was that the prorogation was unlawful and unjust. Accordingly, the ruling was a bold move by the judiciary as it acted independent of influence from the crown, a legislative and executive member. Before the Brexit saga, most people did not pay attention to rulings and judges of the supreme court. However, the ruling on the prorogation proved that the judiciary is conscious of its role and may act independent. 

Question 4

The Syrian vote in 2013 was prove that power separation in UK was becoming more defined. For centuries, the power to declare war or peace lied solemnly on the executive which consists of the crown. In addition, royal prerogative is actualised by the prime minister on behalf of the Queen. However, the 2013 vote proved that parliament was beginning to get its stipulated powers without undue influence, which is good. Furthermore, the vote was enacting the principle of parliamentary accountability. Although an emerging convention, the house of commons, parliament seems to be an individually powerful function of the government that must be consulted on matters of peace and national security. 

Separation of power of parliament and executive was altered after Theresa May’s actions in 2018. In 2018, the executive made the Syria action and voting was done after the decision. As such, the action rendered parliament voiceless compared to the 2013 vote done before the action. In addition, the vote in 2018 was a not a question of what should be done, rather, it was a question of whether the prime minister, in the position of an executive had acted legally and morally.

Constitution-wise, the 2013 government did not need parliament’s vote to launch military action in Syria. In UK, the law does not require a common’s vote to actualise military involvement in fighting any act of terrorism. However, once the prime minister opened the opportunity for vote in parliament, he could not proceed without a majority vote. In addition, military action and involvement in matters has always been a prerogative power. Recently, however, the prime minister decides on whether to go to war or retaliate, hence he did not need the 2013 vote. 

Question 5

The 1979 Scottish referendum was developed to determine if there was enough backup to confirm the need for a Scottish Assembly as was proposed in the Scottish Act 1978. The early devolution movement entailed the conservative party that strongly advocated for the continuation of United Kingdom and Scotland’s social, political and economic engagement, the Liberal party that had a strong identity that was reserved through the retention of the Scottish legal and administrative systems and a Labor party with key delegates. These parties influenced the referendum’s direction in both 1979 and 1997.

The 1979 referendum was not a success as the parties involved had different opinions. For starters, the difference in the type and degree of power that would be granted to Scotland and the threat of Scotland being devolved and separated from United Kingdom was a matter of concern for the Conservative Party. The Labor Party restrictions during drafting the bill also hindered its success; for instance, the need for forty percent of voting population to vote in favor of the bill for it to be passed as law. Another contributing factor was the labour party’s lack of coherence and concurrence in the devolution plan amongst the parties. This, however, created an avenue for possible future discussions about the referendum and successful planning and development. 

In 1997, the referendum was a success because of various developments. The Labor party took a break from political devolution to focus on other matters causing the convention to regroup and develop new internal and organisational changes that would support devolution. Organisation of other delegates such as teachers and civil servants to come up with issues they thought hindered the past referendum also acted as an eye-opener to point out what strategies needed to be changed or adopted.

The opposition from the Conservative party triggered the new convention to consider outlining the powers and responsibilities of the Scottish parliament to answer the two important matters; Scotland having a parliament and whether it had the right to raise taxes. The ideas for the new referendum were well embraced and passed by 74.2%, hence its success, leading to the Scotland Act 1998 and the devolution parliament a year later.

Bibliography

BBC News, ‘Who is Shamima Begum and How Do You Lose Your UK Citizenship?’ (London 2 March 2021)

Begum v Home Secretary [2021] UKSC 7

Oliver James, “The Rise of Regulation of the Public Sector in the United Kingdom.”[2005] Sociologie du travail 47, no. 3: 323-339.

Owen Bowcott, ‘Johnson’s Suspension of Parliament Unlawful, Supreme Court Rules’ The Guardian (London 24 September 2019)

R (Miller) v The Prime Minister and Cherry v Advocate General for Scotland ([2019] UKSC 41).

R v Prime minister [2019] UKSC 41, [2019] QB 2381.

Frequently Asked Questions

Important clauses in Public Law: Due Process – fair treatment; Equal Protection – no discrimination; Commerce – federal regulation of interstate trade; Supremacy – federal law trumps state law; Necessary and Proper – flexibility in Congress’s powers; Free Speech – protects freedom of expression.

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