Parliament can make laws on any matter due to Dicey in ‘Law of the Constitution (1885).’ He said that ‘in theory Parliament has total power. It is sovereign'. He states a number of reasons as to how this is possible. Firstly Dicey points out that Parliament can pass laws on any subject without legal restriction therefore it is sovereign. This principle is a result of the election of the Members of Parliament (MPs), by the electorate which gives them authority to represent and pass legislation on their behalf.
MP’s are given the opportunity to debate a Bill before a vote. However, from source to quote, “whips have a lot of influence and much seems to be unofficially decided ‘behind the Speaker’s Chair’”. Whips ensure party discipline and MP’s are expected to vote the way to which government wants them too, quote from source 2 “Backbench MP’s have few powers and most of Parliament’s time is controlled by the government.” This ensures that if a government has a majority of seats in the House of
Parliament is almost the only source of legislation. When a party wins the general election, a government is formed consisting of various parties. This government then makes laws that become acts of parliament, the legislation, if having been passed by parliament. Most bills that are passed by parliament are government bills, however, some bills that are passed through parliament are private members bills, for example, the abolition of hanging in 1967 by Sydney Silverman. There are also private bills which normally only affect certain private interests and can be introduced by MPs, usually on behalf of a company.
At a glance it is obvious that a major part of UK democracy is parliamentary democracy as this is our chosen form of government, having the houses of parliament which consist of the house of commons and the house of lords. In the UK we have the government which is drawn from parliament as well as the monarchy who are now concerned primarily with ceremonial roles within governing the country. However it is key to note that although the monarchy does have a part in the governing of the UK it is not elected and so this damages the argument of the UK being fully democratic. However the majority of parliament is elected at least. In the UK parliament all members of the house of commons are elected in free and fair elections by their local
Due to the increasing presidential style of recent prime ministers and the party loyalty of the executive one can consider Parliament’s control of executive power minimal. However, due to the development of independent bodies surrounding Select Committees and the delaying of legislation by the House of Lords it can still be argued to be effective. The government usually has an overall majority. This is due to our voting system of FPTP which gives preference to the two main parties, normally giving them majorities (and increasingly large ones) as opposed to coalitions and minority governments which are produced through other voting systems such as AV in Scotland and Wales. Although we are currently in a coalition the government still has a majority through the combination of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
Parliamentary sovereignty is the most important part of the UK constitution. People often refer to the UK having an 'unwritten constitution' but that's not strictly true, large parts of it are written down, much of it in the laws passed in Parliament - known as statute law. Therefore, the UK constitution is often described as 'partly written and wholly uncodified' (Uncodified means that the UK does not have a single, written constitution.). Over the years, Parliament has passed laws that limit parliamentary sovereignty. These laws reflect political developments both within and outside the UK.
Parliament may face difficulties in controlling executive power as the government usually has an overall majority. This is especially the case when there has been a creation of a large majority after elections such as 1997 and 2001 with Labour majorities of 179 and 167 respectively. Majorities of 66 in 2005 and 83 with the coalition in 2010 have also been recorded. This allows the government to claim a mandate from the people for its policies when it is elected to power. Therefore the parliament lacks the legitimate right to ignore the mandate and tends to accept the government’s right to govern.
The government need to be able to rely on the MPs support for bills in parliament and regardless of the majority, there could more than 200 backbench MPs that need to be organised by a political party. The main sources of power that political parties have are through committees, debates, the voting system, the whipping system, and through scrutiny. Each of these plays a huge role in enabling political parties to exercise their power in parliament. The most evident source of power that political parties have in parliament is through the whipping system. Each party has a chief whip, a deputy chief whip and a number of junior whips.
The doctrine of parliament sovereignty has been regarded as the most fundamental element of the British constitution. It can be summarised in three points: that parliament has the power to make any law they wish; that no parliament can create a law that a future parliament cannot change; that only parliament can change or reverse a law passed by parliament. Parliamentary Sovereignty thus gives unconditional power to the Westminster Parliament. A.V. Dicey describes it as ‘the dominant characteristic of our political institutions',and ‘the very keystone of the law of constitution'.
It has discussed the different types and styles of assemblies and the chief functions such as to enact legislation, act as a representative body and oversee and scrutinise the executive. It has shown how the role of parliaments is changing and the reality is that legislatures do not initiate many policies, more usually they influence or are executive-dominated. The emergence of disciplined political parties, the growth in the role of government and the increasing strength of interest groups and the mass media has changed the way parliaments and assemblies carry out their roles. However, parliaments possess a unique authority to force politicians and civil servants to account for their actions before a body which still represents the nation and remains an essential element in the architecture of democracy. Bibliography Axford, B., Browning, G.K., Huggings, R., Rosamond, B., (2002), Politics an introduction, 2nd ed.