Question Anthony Law

What are consitutional conventions

What are conventions, how are conventions different from laws, and how are they enforced?

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Answer Internal Staff

The Cabinet’s Manual describes constitutional conventions as constitutional practice rules that are binding in operation but not binding in law (le Sueur, 2013). An example of a convention is that there is no public involvement by the Sovereign in governmental party politics. The way to identify conventions and how practices become conventions is assisted by a three-part test: what are the precedents; did the actors of such precedents believe they were bound by the rule; and is there a good reason for the rule (Jennings, 1959). Conventions are different from laws as the distinction is considered to be: the role that the courts have in enforcing failures to comply with the rules. Laws are enforced by the courts and conventions are not enforced by the courts. However, when conventions are breached by a political actor, then compliance is not directly enforced by the court, though it can inevitably lead to breach of the law (le Sueur, 2013). Political actors are constrained by the detrimental consequences of non-compliance with the principles of the constitution and those of constitutional conventions and practices, leading to conflict with the law of the land and with the courts.


Le Sueur A, Sunkin M, Murkens J, (2013) Public Law: Text, Cases, and Materials. Oxford: OUP

Jennings I, (1959) The Law and the Constitution. London: University of London Press