Wednesday, 18 April 2012

P is for Parliamentary Sovereignty

I couldn't think of a decent enough P, then by thinking about my first year and Constitutional law, I managed to think of this topic.

Parliamentary Sovereignty is a principle of the UK constitution. It basically means that our parliament is the supreme legal authority in the UK, and can create or end any law. Our courts cannot overrule its legislation or declare it invalid, and as such the UK parliament is not subject to any legal limitation.

A.V. Dicey's view of Parliamentary Sovereignty consisted of four factors:

  • Parliament is competent to pass any law on any subject
  • Parliament's laws can regulate the activities of anyone, anywhere;
  • Parliament cannot bind its successors as to the content, manner, and form of subsequent legislation,
  • Laws passed by parliament cannot be challenged by the courts.
However, parliament has been believed to have limited its sovereignty, and the examples are:

  1. The European Communities Act 1972 - this was the act which the UK passed to enter into the European Union, and as a result directly applicable EU law applies in the UK and takes precedence over national law. 
  2. The Human Rights Act 1998 - gives the judiciary the power 'declaration of incompatibility - if a UK law is passed which is incompatible with the HRA 1998, a declaration of incompatibility can be issued, meaning the law passed will need to be amended to comply with the HRA. (This is an example of binding future parliaments)
In theory, all Acts (such as the above) which bind out future parliaments are repealable, and as such parliamentary sovereignty is deemed to remain intact. 


  1. #10
    I'm Kathleen, known by Kate. :)
    UK just seems more orderly, don't know if it's so but US politics are so base/messy. Perhaps it's perspective.

  2. Given the current state of the way we in the UK seem to be bound by European Law and the ECHR - I often wonder why we bother having any judiciary, when it can seemingly be overturned so readily!

    I'd sooner we were released from the millstone of the EU and allowed to work to our own rules and laws without the European meddling that undermines the UK courts!

    Rant over, and thanks for the enlightening explanations of legal issues!

    SueH I refuse to go quietly!
    Twitter - @Librarymaid