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UK justice minister says written constitution may be decades away

[JURIST] The UK will likely not have a written constitution for another 10 to 20 years, UK Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor Jack Straw [official profile] said in a BBC radio interview [recorded audio] Wednesday. Straw confirmed that the Labour Party government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown is in the process of drafting a new "Bill of Rights and Responsibilities," but said that this bill would not serve as a new written constitution, which he indicated would require codifying existing rights and responsibilities and holding a national referendum. Brown has described the as-yet-undrafted bill of rights as part of a process [JURIST report] of "moving towards a written constitution" for the UK. Straw also said that the proposed UK written constitution would be different from an American-style constitution and that Britons have developed an innate understanding of their rights even without one enumerating document. The Guardian has more.

The UK currently has no single overarching constitutional document or rights charter, although its working "unwritten constitution" includes a variety of fundamental documents such as the Magna Carta [text]. The opposition Liberal Democrats have long pushed for a written constitution, but the idea has only recently gained support among Labour and Conservative [JURIST report] party leaders. A British Bill of Rights would supplement but not replace the 1998 Human Rights Act [text] implementing for the UK the European Convention on Human Rights.

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