• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Is it true to say that the British parliament is no longer truly sovereign?

Extracts from this document...


Is it true to say that the British parliament is no longer truly sovereign? Parliament, legally, consists of the House of Commons, The House of Lords and the monarchy. However, since the monarch today has only prerogative powers, and since 1911 the House of Lords has lost much of its power, sovereignty now rests largely with the House of Commons (Economist 1995, p25). The doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty is the idea that parliament is effectively the most powerful decision making body in the land. It can essentially be broken down into three elements: firstly that it has the ability to 'make or unmake any law' (Scully, 2003, p124), secondly that it cannot pass any laws which bind its successors, and thirdly, that any acts passed by Parliament cannot be questioned by the courts of law. There are many contemporary issues which have come to affect the sovereignty of the British Parliament. The rise of Brussels, the process of devolution, the power of the executive and the issue of globalisation, amongst other things, have all contributed to the erosion of parliamentary sovereignty. ...read more.


Another, more fundamental issue has arisen with the Britain's decision to join the European Community and later the European Union. Because of the supranational nature of the European Union, British membership has greatly affected the issue of parliamentary sovereignty. Britain now has to abide by rules and treaties set by the EU and European law which significantly hinder the UK's independence of action. In other words, the British Parliament cannot pass laws which contravene EU treaties and regulations and has to follow these rules at all times. The European Communities Act of 1972 created a situation where all EU regulations and laws instantly apply to the UK without the assent of Parliament. The Act also gives EU law precedence over the law of the UK (Jones, 2001, p302). This was seen most notably in 1990 when a law was passed by the British Parliament to prevent the practice of 'quota-hopping' by Spanish fishermen. The EU blocked this law because it went against EU legislation on the freedom of movement of workers. (Fisher(ed), 2003, p124). The decisions of Parliament are no longer truly final, as other bodies, namely the European Court of Justice can set these decisions aside. ...read more.


Globalisation has also played a part in the erosion of parliamentary sovereignty. Multi national corporations have become so economically powerful that the richest of them have a higher Gross Domestic Output than many countries. They can effectively dictate demands to governments in return for financial rewards. Although this is more of a contingent factor than a constitutional one, it cannot be underestimated in the argument over national sovereignty. Although some believe that Parliament in Britain has never been truly sovereign for any long period of time, I feel that as the only publicly elected component of government, it should be the most powerful element in a democratic system of rule. The House of Commons is used by Cabinets to pursue their policies which may not be even in the public interest, the EU, the most powerful elements of which are not publicly elected, dictates to Parliament to a certain extent on a number of issues; and private businesses push their own agendas upon the government. All in all, I believe that the only elected organ of Britain's government is no longer truly sovereign and has become essentially a talking shop and rubber stamp for government and EU legislation. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree UK Government & Parliamentary Studies section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree UK Government & Parliamentary Studies essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Critically assess Rhodes' (1997) argument that 'Policy networks of resource dependent organisations are a ...

    3 star(s)

    The Westminster model is a concept that has been extensively used by political observers to describe the situation of government in Britain. It depicts the executive as being, the strong dominant power concentrated in the central government known as Westminster or Whitehall.

  2. The question of whether or not Parliament is effective as a government watchdog consists ...

    The golden age of Parliament was between 1832 and 1868, this was the period when Parliamentary strength over the executive was at its maximum. It was the time when the government lacked stable Parliamentary majorities, as the party system had not been developed.

  1. Institutionalised racism and how it manifests in contemporary Britain.

    For three nights in early June, Oldham, in Lancashire, Northern England was rocked by a spontaneous act of rebellion in which Asian youth fought running battles first with neo-Nazis, then with the Greater Manchester Police. The reverberations of the youth uprising continued with major confrontations in the city of Leeds

  2. Critically discuss the degree to which Parliament holds the Executive accountable

    Some bills are withdrawn before it comes to a vote, most noticeably in 1969 when Barbara Castles Industrial Relations bill (commonly known as In Place Of Strife) was withdrawn. Other noticeable withdrawals were bills to reform local government between 1979-81 and Student Grants, the latter maybe having more to do with grass roots unrest that back-bench revolt.


    However over all parliamentary questions are seen to be the most celebrated ways of calling the Prime Minister and ministers to account for their conduct of government. The way that the procedures that have been mentioned earlier function is as follows.

  2. Sovereignty and Democracy in the European Union.

    We should not be too self-critical. The EU can take credit for remarkable accomplishments across a very wide field. With its Member States, the EU accounts for more than half of all official international development assistance, and some 66% of all grant aid.


    The internet has been a valuable tool and service delivery on-line has added to the approach organisations have taken with regard to market comparisons, competition and performance. The lack of under investment by the government in housing leading up to the 1980's led to the implementation of the 1985 Housing Act.

  2. Scottish Devolution

    The candidate winning the largest number of votes will gain the seat. There are a total of 73 MSPs elected this way. This method of voting is known as the first-past-the-post system(FPTP),which is solely used for the U.K elections to Westminster.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work