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Parliamentary Sovereignty

Legal Sovereignty
Political Sovereignty
Diceys 3 Principles
PS and Devolution
PS and Human Rights Act 1998
PS and Rule of Law


- Parliamentary Sovereignty means that Parliament is the highest law making

body in the UK. This is the case simply because of the absence of a written
constitution as the highest law in the land.

- In US, there is a written constitution where it is the highest law governing

material that nothing can challenge it.

Legal Sovereignty

- Relationship between Parliament and the courts.

- Refers to the supreme legal authority within a state.

- Dicey refers this as to the sovereignty possessed by the Queen in


- It relates to the passage of Bills which involve 3 elements:

i. House of Commons
ii. House of Lords (bear in mind of the Parliament Acts 1911 and
iii. The monarch (Royal Assent)

Saiful Islam LLB Intermediate 2017

Parliamentary Sovereignty

Political Sovereignty

- Relationship between Parliament and the people.

- Dicey refers this to the sovereignty by the people in UK

- This acts as the pressure point so that UK Parliament does not act
mindlessly without considering the public outcry that might happen prior to
their actions.

- It is a form of check and balance to what the Parliament does as the right to
vote for MPs rests in the hands of the people.

Diceys 3 Principles
i. Parliament is the supreme law making body Can make/unmake any
ii. No Parliament may be bound by a predecessor or bind a successor
iii. No one can challenge/question the validity of an Act of Parliament

Parliament Is the Supreme Law Making Body

- Due to the nature of unwritten constitution in UK, Parliament acts as the

highest law making body in the country.

- Examples of statutes overwhelmed common law:

a) A-G v De Keysers Royal Hotel Ltd (1920)

Lord Dunedin

If the whole ground of something which could be done by the prerogative is

covered by the statute, it is the statute that rules.

Saiful Islam LLB Intermediate 2017

Parliamentary Sovereignty

b) Burmah Oil Company v Lord Advocate (1965)

- Judgment made by court was overturned with an Act of Parliament.

c) R v Davies (2008)

- Restrictive common law rules on witness anonymity during a criminal trial

that was set from this case was nullified by Criminal Evidence (Witness
Anonymity) Act 2008.

- Examples of constitutional Acts of Parliament passed:

Parliament Act 1694

Septennial Act
Act of Settlement 1700
His Majestys Declaration of Abdication Act 1936
Union with Scotland Act 1706
Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949
Zimbabwe Independence Act 1979

No Parliament May Be Bound by a Predecessor or Bind a Successor

Express Repeal
Newer act will prevail older act.

Implied Repeal
This doctrine works in the way where a court of law will apply newer
legislation instead of an older one.


Vauxhall Estates Ltd v Liverpool Corporation (1932)

Saiful Islam LLB Intermediate 2017

Parliamentary Sovereignty

- There was an overlap of statutory provisions between a 1919 Act of P and a

1925 Act of P.
- The court decided that the newer act impliedly repealed the older act.

Ellen Street Estates Ltd v Minister of Health (1934)

Maugham LJ;

The legislature cannot, according to our constitution, bind itself as to the

form of subsequent legislation

No One Can Challenge or Question the Validity of an Act of


Before the 1688 settlement, judges dared to invalidate Acts of Parliament.


Dr Bonhams Case (1610)

Coke CJ:

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 act to
be void.

Back then, judges still held the belief that the law of God or the law of nature
or natural justice prevailed any Act of Parliament, but the supremacy of
Parliament was demonstrated by the revolution of 1688, and thus this belief
became obsolete.

- ^ Lord Reid in Pickin v British Railways Board (1974)

Saiful Islam LLB Intermediate 2017

Parliamentary Sovereignty

- Case examples that no one can challenge the validity of an Act of


R v Jordan (1967)

- Claimant claimed that the Race Relations Act 1965 was invalid on the basis
it curtailed freedom of expression.
- Court held that it did not have power to question the validity of primary

Duport Steels Ltd and others v Sirs and others (1980)

- Lord Scarman stated that statute law may not be disregarded merely
because it is unpalatable (unpleasant).

British Railways Board v Pickin (1974)

- House of Lords held that the function of the court was to apply Acts of

- HOL also reiterated that courts do not have the constitutional authority to
impugn or challenge the validity of Acts of Parliament.

Non-legal Constraints on Parliaments Powers

1) Electorate
- Voted the current elected MPs
- This makes government accountable to them
- They have the power to overthrow the government throughout elections

2) International Relations
- UK is bound by international treaties that imposed restrictions on
governments freedom of actions; environmental protection, regulation on

Saiful Islam LLB Intermediate 2017

Parliamentary Sovereignty

currency exchange etc.

Therefore, this means that theoretically speaking, Parliament has the power
to enact any law it wants, but practically it would not and could not.

Saiful Islam LLB Intermediate 2017

Parliamentary Sovereignty

Saiful Islam LLB Intermediate 2017

Parliamentary Sovereignty

Saiful Islam LLB Intermediate 2017