Parliamentary Sovereignty in the UK
Definition of parliamentary sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty is a concept of governance in which the parliament of a country is bestowed with complete authority over all legislative matters in the country. This concept is practiced in a few countries across the world and has been widely contested in debates concerning governance issues. Basically, parliamentary sovereignty assumes that since the parliament is elected into power by the people, the views and practices of the parliament are a true representation of the people hence giving this body full authority to make, amend and even abolish laws.
History of parliamentary sovereignty in the UK
The United Kingdom is one of the countries that upholds parliamentary sovereignty. This practice in the UK dates back to the 14th century when there was struggle between the royal rule and parliamentary rule. However this issue was settled once and for all in 1611 when the Chief Justice ruled that the parliament had the sole legislative authority in the country. Ever since this rule was initiated, the UK has been practicing parliamentary sovereignty.
Parliamentary sovereignty in the UK is governed by three main principles. These principles also map out the functions and mandate of the parliament and they include:
- Formation of new legislations. The parliament of the UK is charged with the responsibility of forming all new laws. The parliament basically looks at what currently affects the country and makes laws that are relevant.
- Repealing of decisions. The parliament is also in charge of repealing any decisions that have been made by the executive or judicial bodies in the country.
- Amending laws. Previous laws that are no longer applicable can also be changed by the parliament of the UK.
Parliamentary sovereignty in the UK gives the parliament authority over every other body in the country including the judicial bodies such as courts in the country as well as the executive body. In addition to this, the parliament is absolved from all previous parliamentary decisions that have been made by its predecessors. The parliament can thus change such decisions if it deems this necessary.
Advantages and disadvantages of parliamentary sovereignty in the UK
Even though parliamentary sovereignty in the UK has been a hugely contested issue it has both advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages of having a parliament that is above all other legislative bodies in the UK include:
- Ease of changing laws that are retrogressive because each parliament has its own independent authority and discretion to form, repeal and amend laws.
- It makes it easy to govern the country because the parliament is the ultimate body to consult hence limiting bureaucracies.
Despite these advantages, parliamentary sovereignty can give room for abuse by current parliaments because of the large amounts of power given to the parliamentary body. Since parliament holds supreme authority, there is little check and balance over parliamentary decisions.
Developments affecting parliamentary sovereignty in the UK
Over the years, the parliament of the UK has been passing laws that have reduced the powers that parliament had and this is seen as a dilution to the concept of parliamentary sovereignty in the UK. Some of the decisions passed include:
- The passing of the Human Rights Act in 1998
- Devolution of power to the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament
- The formation of the Supreme Court of the UK in 2009
- Joining of the European Union
These have devolved the powers of the parliament in the UK.
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