Parliamentary Sovereignty Analysis

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Analysis of parliamentary sovereignty in Great Britain To paraphrase Dicey, Parliament has the legal authority to enact, amend or repeal any law, and no-one has the legal authority to stop it from doing so. But this notion is as extravagant as it is simple it means, as Stephen famously put it, that a law directing the killing of all blue-eyed babies would be valid. The fact that such laws remain unenacted is thanks to “political constitutionalism” as opposed to “legal constitutionalism”: it is political, not legal, factors — including, one hopes, legislators’ own sense of morality — that operate as the restraining force. It is often assumed that the sovereignty of Parliament follows from the absence in the United Kingdom of a written constitution,…show more content…
The constraining capacity of a constitution derives not from the fact that it is written; rather, it derives from the fact that it enjoys a legal status superior to that of regular law, with the result that enacted laws are valid only to the extent that they respect the terms of the legally superior constitution. The question then becomes whether — for all that it is unwritten — the UK’s constitution may enjoy the kind of legal superiority more readily associated with textual constitutions, such that it — like its written counterparts — may claim some sort of constraining force in relation to the…show more content…
This sort of interpretative approach, of course, must have its limits: if legislation is sufficiently explicit, then there is little, if any, room for interpretative manoeuvre. However, just as courts are not eager to provoke a constitutional crisis, so Parliament is not anxious to do so. As a result, both sides, for the most part, exercise a degree of self-restraint born of healthy concern as to how the other might react in the event of an excessive use of legislative or judicial power. It is this sort of constructive institutional tension — together with the restraining effect of democratic politics — that forms the context in which the practical significance of parliamentary sovereignty falls to be understood. It follows that even if we accept the Diceyan orthodoxy that Parliament possesses unlimited legislative power, this does not mean that Parliament is in a position to exercise the full width of that

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