Parliamentary Supremacy Essay

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A core principle of the United Kingdom’s (UK) unwritten constitution is the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty - described by British constitutional scholar Albert Venn Dicey as the ‘keystone of the law of the constitution’ . Dicey defines parliamentary sovereignty as follows: ‘The principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty means neither more nor less than this, namely that Parliament thus defined has, under the English constitution, the right to make or unmake any law whatever; and, further, that no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament’. Dicey’s account of parliamentary sovereignty consists of a positive and a negative limb. The positive aspect is that Parliament, as the supreme law-making body of the UK, has the ability to legislate on anything it wants. The negative aspect is that once an Act of Parliament has received Royal Assent, no person or body can question its validity, not even the courts. In addition but nonetheless important, a Parliament cannot bind a future Parliament. Supremacy hence lies in the current Parliament of the day, as it technically has the power to amend or repeal the legislation of any previous Parliament. Before we go any further, it is important to realise two facts. Firstly, legal sovereignty should be distinguished from political sovereignty. The former refers to the unrestricted legislative power of Parliament that this essay is primarily concerned with, while the latter refers to unlimited political power – this power lies in the electorate in democracies. Secondly, it is important to note that Parliament’s legislative supremacy lies only in the primary legislation borne out of the agreement of the three bodies, namely the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Queen. Hence, it can be said that ‘whatever the Queen-in-Parliament
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