Discuss the view that today Parliamentary Sovereignty exists more in theory than in practice.

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Discuss the view that today Parliamentary Sovereignty exists more in theory than in practice. (25 marks)

 Parliamentary sovereignty (P.S.) is the process by which a legislative body has absolute sovereignty - meaning that its decisions transcend all other government institutions’ (including any governing executive or judicial body, such as the Supreme Court) and that it can legislate on any subject of its choosing.  The term also implies that the elected legislature can amend or veto any legislative acts passed before its sitting and, furthermore, cannot restrict the decisions of any future successor within the House of Commons.

Essentially, the principle of parliamentary sovereignty is about the relationship between those who create the Acts (i.e. Parliament) and those who must apply them (i.e. courts), who oversee individual proceedings. Theoretically, parliamentary sovereignty wholly exists in the United Kingdom as there is a lack of a codified constitution by which its legislature could be bound. However, progressively, there has been erosion and, indeed, a questioning of the true extent to which P.S. exists in the UK. Several legislative factors such as the Human Rights Act (1998) have limited the way in which legislation can be applied after being enacted through Parliament (and after being given Royal Assent). Furthermore, there are also numerous political aspects which restrict the method in which Parliament can legitimately pass laws (the domination by the Executive, for instance).

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Political developments are wide-ranging and numerous. One such recent advance includes the increasingly bureaucratic nature and power of the European Union (and the fact that its laws supersede ones which have been enacted within the UK). The Factortame litigation case (19 June 1990) reaffirmed that “national legislative provisions” have to be set aside in case of confliction with EU rulings. This in itself violates one of the principles under which P.S. was thought; that there is “no higher legislative body” or that “national government’s decisions are final”. It is however possible that the UK could unilaterally withdraw from the ...

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