Limits on the Principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty


Parliamentary sovereignty is a key component that enables members of a parliament to make laws or rescind them (Knight and Young 480). From an institutional dimension, parliamentary sovereignty grants parliament the ability to make laws and offer their decisions through them. There is no Act that can go against the decision of parliament. However, parliamentary sovereignty faces several limitations which make it impossible for the British parliament to legislate on various legal provisions. Some of the possible limitations are the rule of law in the British constitution. It is a major controlling factor alongside the European Communities Act which was enacted in 1972.

Rules that limit parliamentary sovereignty

The report on limits on parliamentary sovereignty has strongly focused on the issue surrounding law and parliamentary sovereignty in Britain. Indeed, the rule of law in Britain has a strong backing of the constitution and this implies that whatever the action the parliament deems fit to take must be strictly within the rule of law (Newman 175). While it is unclear what rule of law envisages, it has substantive principles and rights, and validity on generality, prospectivity, certainty and clarity which may limit parliamentary powers. Therefore, the report intimates that to enact any piece of legislation, the parliament has to make use of parliament Act or undergo a full legislative process.

On the threat posed by the European Communities Act (ECA), the observation noted by the report indicates that ECA is a major menace since its provisions under the constitution tend to repeal a ruling by the legislature. As such, the report indicates that the presence of the European Communities Act (EAC) renders parliamentary sovereignty void. This paper concludes that this form of transformation has a negative impact on the British parliament.

Legal skills 2

The issue

The question at hand in this second paper on parliamentary sovereignty is the notion that Human Rights Act and the European Law play pivotal roles of controlling the freedom and sovereignty of the parliament. An example is provided of a case between R v A which creates a conflict between a Criminal Evidence Act and Youth Justice. This case calls for evidence to be provided in a rape trial, a factor which goes against the rule made by the parliament. Another instance where Human Rights Act limits parliamentary sovereignty is when a court adds certain phrases when applying the law, a role that assumes the duty of the parliament (Newman 175). For instance, a court rules that homosexuals should live the same way heterosexual couples do which indeed is a right, but adds words such as like a husband and a wife which is not part of applying the law.

Rules: The report indicates that both the Human Rights Act and the European Law present a major problem to the sovereignty of the parliament. The European law controls the Parliament and should the parliament fail to follow its dictates to the letter, this body reports it to the European court of Human Rights. The observation from the report is that while it is indeed fair that rights of individuals should be considered when making a ruling on a matter, applying European Law to enforce a right clearly limits parliamentary sovereignty and establishes European Law above the English Law.

The conclusion on the report notes that the rule of law seen in the human rights Act make laws to rule over the parliament and the government. Besides making Human rights Act formal and substantive, the rule of law causes it to appear superior to key organs of a nation.

Legal skills 3

The issue

The critical issue in this report is whether or not the parliament has any powers to unmake or make laws due to the incumbent limitation and if it can legislate on its behalf. The view of the report clearly point out that the sovereignty of the parliament has been diminished by the presence of the European Community Law and the rule of law which have become supreme. The parliament has for many years been forced to conform to the aforementioned laws since 1972, a factor that has seen the sovereignty of the legislature undermined.

Application of rules

From the report, the application of rules, doctrine of implied repeal and the binding of successors which are major roles showing the sovereignty of a parliament have been greatly undermined. Indeed, as noted in the previous examples of cases, the Act of Parliament which is a prerequisite in determining cases has many times been suspended and its place given to Human Rights Act (Weill 480). This has presented major concerns on what the role of parliament will be in the coming years if this trend persists.

However, the report concludes by pointing out that no other law can be above an Act and that the parliament still retains sovereignty despite the many setbacks. It indicates that the parliament can rise back to its former state of sovereignty by repealing the European community Act and amending the constitution to limit the rule of law. This can be attained despite the massive opposition that will emanate from different politicians.

Works Cited

Knight, Christopher and, Allison Young. “Parliamentary Sovereignty and the Human Rights Act.” The Cambridge Law Journal, 68.2 (2009): 479-481. Print.

Newman, Warren. “The principles of the rule of law and parliamentary sovereignty in constitutional theory and litigation.” National Journal of Constitutional Law, 16.2 (2005): 175-296. Print.

Weill, Rivka. “Dicey was not Diceyan.” The Cambridge Law Journal 26.2 (2003): 474- 494. Print.

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