Sir: 'The case for a written constitution,' if such there
be, is the weaker for Anthony Lewis's exposition of it (8 March). His richest gain he counts but loss when he asks, 'Are there nine judges to whom the people of Britain would entrust ultimate decisions on the nature of their society?'
Clearly, if public opinion is to be their mandate then their decisions will not differ appreciably from its expression in Parliament, and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act would (regrettably) be as constitutional in Britain as Dred Scott's enslavement was in the United States.
If, on the other hand, the function of the judiciary is to dispense justice regardless of popular prejudice then Mr Lewis need look no further for the judges equipped to do so, yet by what authority could they veto the will of Parliament? By what authority could a written constitution be imposed upon us?
That Parliament is supreme is a long-estab- lished fact, even if it only be because the courts have accepted it as such. It cannot bind its successors in.law and we have it on good authority that 'if an Act of Parliament had a clause in it that it should never be repealed, yet without question the same power that made it may repeal it' (Herbert C. J., Godden v. Hales ).
The implementation of a written constitution would, therefore, be a political act every bit as dubious in law as Rhodesia's UDI and the need 'for some restraint on governmental power' diagnosed by Mr Lewis clearly precludes such a constitution being bestowed by an executive which we could trust implicitly. Perhaps he pro- pbses something upon the lines of the American War of Independence?
One remedy would be a new Parliament Act which gave to the House of Lords (howsoever 'Constituted) an absolute veto over Bills of a constitutional nature and to the courts the power to decide whether or not legislation fell within this category. This would transfuse into the constitution some of the rigidity which it lacks, without abolishing the supremacy of Parliament or creating a dependence upon
those written clauses which only revolution (or _ . Mr Lewis) can implement, and which revolu- tion can take away.
Leslie Blake 47 Tollington Park, Finsbury Park, London N4