Doctine of Parliamentary Supremacy

Everything covering the doctine of parliamentary supremacy and the limitations on this such as the EU and the Human Rights Act 1998.

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  • Created by: GeorgeB16
  • Created on: 06-02-16 12:38

Parliamentary Supremacy

  • Parliamentary supremacy makes Parliament the supreme legal authority in the UK which can create or end any law.
  • Courts generally cannot overrule its' legislation and no Parliament can create laws that will bind their successors. 
  • Parliamentary supremacy is the most important part of the UK constitution.
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A.V. Dicey

  • The 19th century jurist gave a good definition of Parliamentary supremacy.
  • He stated that the meaning was that Parliament can create or end any law.
  • He further added that no person or body in England or Wales is recognised as being able to override or set aside any legislation made by Parliament.
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UK Consitution

  • UK consitution does not exist in a single text like USA, instead, much of it is written down in various laws passed by Parliament.
  • Often described as "partly written and wholly uncodified".
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More Information on Parliamentary Supremacy

  • Acts of Parliament passed using the proper procedures cannot be challenged and must be applied by the courts.
  • They override any judicial precedent, delegated legislation or a previous Act of Parliament covering that area of law.
  • Parliament has the power to make any law it wishes and unmake any law it has passed.
  • No Parliament can bind its' successors so it cannot make law that restricts future law making or future Parliaments cannot change.
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Effect of the European Union

  • UK joined under European Communities Act 1972.
  • Treaty of Rome 1957:
    • Powers set out in treaties override any UK law
  • If any Act of Parliament conflicts with any EU law, EU law must prevail.
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European Communities Act 1972

S2 (1) - All provisions of EU law are given the force of law in the UK

S4 (1) - Has the effect of making all Acts of Parliament subject to directly applicable EU law

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Example of EU Limitation

R v Secretary of State for Transport ex Parte Factortame Ltd (1990)

  • This case demonstrates how EU law overrides any conflicting Acts of Parliament:
    • Spanish fishermen were fishing in British waters trying to take advantages of fishing quotas.
    • Under UK law (Merchant Shipping Act 1988), only UK registered boats could fish in British waters.
    • The Spanish boat owners challenged this to the EU which ordered for the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 to be revoked as it conflicted with EU law and discriminated against other EU nationals.
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Human Rights Act 1998

  • Incorporates European convention on human rights into English law, however contravention does not override UK law and Parliament can still make laws that conflict with it.

S3 - Courts are required as far as possible to interpret acts so they are compaitble.

S19 - All Bills require a statement from the government minister before 2nd reading stating whether the provisions are compatible or not.

  • If an act cannot be reconciled, a judge can make a declaration of incompatibility but the minister is not obliged to change the law.
  • Laws conflicting with the Human Rights Act 1998 are often described as lacking moral authority and subject to further legal challenge.
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