Journey to Parliamentary Sovereignty

Journey to Parliamentary Sovereignty

The Development of Parliamentary Sovereignty

  • Parliamentary sovereignty developed over a long period of time, eventually resulting in the Parliament gaining supreme authority over all other government institutions.

  • The “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 was a significant landmark. William III accepted the conditions of the English Bill of Rights, which strengthened the role of Parliament and restricted royal power.

  • This shift was a clear move away from the principle of Absolute Monarchy and marked an embryonic form of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty.

Landmarks on the Journey

  • The Act of Settlement 1701 established that it was the Parliament that would decide on the succession to the throne. This reaffirmed its increased status and authority.

  • The Acts of Union 1707 merged the Parliaments of Scotland and England, creating the Parliament of Great Britain. This marked further consolidation of parliamentary power.

  • The Great Reform Act 1832 expanded the electorate and began the process of democratising the House of Commons which enhanced the democratic legitimacy of Parliament.

Codification of Parliamentary Sovereignty

  • A.V Dicey, a constitutional theorist, defined parliamentary sovereignty in the 19th century. He stressed that Parliament has the right to make or unmake any law, and no person or body can overrule or invalidate legislation passed by Parliament.

  • Parliamentary sovereignty was further cemented by the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949, which limited the power of the House of Lords in relation to the House of Commons.

Modern Challenges to Parliamentary Sovereignty

  • In recent years, challenges to parliamentary sovereignty have emerged, including the growth of Judicial Review, the influence of the European Union, and devolution to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

  • Despite these challenges, parliamentary sovereignty remains a central principle of the UK constitution. However, it may no longer be absolute and is subject to the changing realities of political life.

By understanding the Journey to Parliamentary Sovereignty, the complex weave of history, legislation and contemporary events that surrounds the principle, it allows a deeper comprehension of the modern UK political landscape.