Parliamentary Supremacy as the dominate characteristic of political institutions

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The constitutional theorist A.V Dicey summarised Parliamentary Supremacy as “the dominate characteristic of political institutions”, “the very keystone of the law of the constitution.” “The principle of parliamentary sovereignty means neither more nor less than this….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 the right to override or set aside the legislation of parliament.” The magnitude of such an ideal on democratic society can be undisputed, but to explore its relevance today it is necessary to investigate its history and functional mechanisms.

The supremacy of Parliament was initially formed by the 1688 Bill of Rights. This followed a period of history known as the “Glorious Revolution.” The function of the Bill was to provide dilution of the sovereignty of the monarch, following the forced abdication of James II. It was a time of upheaval and religious division. The power shift towards the sovereignty of parliament aimed to provide a more democratic solution, with representation by the people’s representatives.

Parliamentary supremacy gives parliament, (which can be summarised as the 3 pillars of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the monarchy,) the ultimate authority for the creation of law. However, this creates a division between those who create the Acts (Parliament) and those who implement the Acts (the Courts.)

The theory of natural and divine law was long held to govern long before the Bill of Rights. “In many cases, the common law will control Acts of Parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void: for when an Act of Parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant or impossible to be performed, the common law will control it, and adjudge such an Act to be Void.”

A proposition by A.V Dicey suggested that the concept of parliamentary sovereignty has two parts, both a

positive and negative strand. The principle proposed by the positive strand, is that Parliament can make or unmake any law whatsoever. The only limitation is that it is approved via majority vote in the House of Commons, reaffirmed by the House of Lords and then the mere formality of gaining royal approval (royal assent.) It is worth noting that approval can be given without the confirmation of the House of Lords.

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Without limitations legislation can be passed on any subject. This has been proposed by Parliamentary legislation which changed the order of succession to the throne, via the Declaration of Abdication Act 1939. This could be seen to support the separation of powers.

The lack of geographical limits removes boundaries to compliance with international law. As an island nation the case of Mortensen v Peters was especially prevalent. Most nations accepted that jurisdictions extended for three miles from national coastlines. This had been signalled by signed treaty in 1906.  However, when a Norwegian trawler was convicted for a breach according ...

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