Constitutional Stewardship: a role for state or public sector bodies?

This paper examines the uncodified constitutions of both United Kingdom and New Zealand, focusing and comparing the duties of constitutional stewardship for state and public sector bodies.

Despite the absence of written or codified constitutions, both the United Kingdom and New Zealand constitutions respect fundamental constitutional principles. The principles include the rule of law, representative democracy, parliamentary government, and human rights. The systems also impose constitutional duties of public service on ministers, Members of Parliament and other public bodies. This paper focuses on those duties.

In both countries, constitutional principles are established and enforced by combinations of hard and soft law. The term “constitutional stewardship” is not used much in regarding public bodies in the United Kingdom. However, many public bodies and other public entities are effectively required to “steward” public resources. They must provide independent advice and information to government. They are responsible for public finances, the currency, the economy and statistical information.

The duties of constitutional stewardship apply to a wide range of “resources”, which have economic value. They are not merely managerial or administrative. Indeed, the constitutional arrangements of each country affect their economies and may themselves be regarded as worthy of being stewarded.

This publication presents the personal views of the author and not those of The Constitution Society, which publishes it as a contribution to debate on this important subject.