A more recent version of these Parlimentary Sovereignty notes – written by Cambridge/Bpp/College Of Law students – is available here.
The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our GDL Constitutional and Administrative Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:
Con & Ad: Parliamentary Sovereignty
- Traditional analysis: no legal limits to legislative competence of Parliament. since 1688 Glorious Revolution: Parliament enacts legislation, formal assent of Crown. Dicey: 'continuing theory of Sovereignty of Parliament' - 'right to make or unmake any law whatsoever' + 'no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament'.
1. Parliament is the supreme law-making body
2. No Parliament may be bound by a predecessor or may bind a successor.
3. No person or body may question the validity of an enactment of Parliament.
1. Parliament is the supreme law-making body: may make any law.
[Dicey]: no substantive legal limits regarding legislation Parliament may enact - 'make any law whatsoever' (but: clear political limits). no subject limitations: Parliament can legislate on any subject, no matter how absurd, unjust, impractical.
[Sir Leslie Stephens] (1882): e.g. law ordering death of all blue-eyed babies. can alter own constitution: Septennial Act 1715 (altered terms of office); Parliament Acts 1911 + 1949 (limited power of HoL, a constituent body). could legislate against human rights: R v SS for Home Department ex parte Simms  - [Ld Hoffman]
obiter. no geographical limitations: Parliament can legislate for territory beyond jurisdiction of UK, even if this produces conflict with international law. Mortensen v Peters : court bound to apply Herring Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1889, even though fishing restricted beyond 3-mile international law limit. Cheney v Conn : legislation not constrained by Geneva Convention. no temporal limits: Parliament can pass laws which are retrospective as well as prospective. War Damages Act 1965: effect of retrospectively nullifying HoL decision in Burmah Oil Co v Lord Advocate
. statutes valid until repealed: e.g. Treason Act 1351 could still be enforced.
2. No Parliament may be bound by a predecessor or bind a successor: may repeal any law.
- Traditional view: Parliament can never be bound by or bind another Parliament.
[Dicey]: Parliament can 'unmake any law whatsoever'. rationale: each Parliament must enjoy same unlimited power ? not bound by predecessors + cannot bind successor. repeal - 2 forms:
1. express repeal: legislation expressly states intention to repeal earlier Act. e.g. Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000: repeals Interception of Communications Act 1985.
2. implied repeal: previous Act repealed to extent of inconsistency with new. e.g. Vauxhall Estates v Liverpool Corporation  + Ellen St Estates v Minister of Health : court bound to apply Housing Act 1925 over Acquisition of Land Act 1919 (even though stipulated provisions were to prevail over any others to be passed).
[Maugham LJ] (Ellen St): 'impossible for Parliament to enact that in a subsequent statue dealing with the same subject matter there can be no implied repeal'. but: new view - may not apply to 'constitutional statutes' (e.g. HRA 1998, ECA 1972). BUT: debate - can Parliament limit its own power? (3 potential areas: substantive, manner, form).
- 1. Substantive: can Parliament bind as to content of future legislation?
The Union Legislation: argument that Acts of Union intended to be higher form of law ? substantively entrenched. theory: Acts of Union enacted by English + Scottish/Irish Parliaments, not UK Parliament ? UK Parliament limited by constitutional document.
[J Mitchell]: UK Parliament 'born unfree'. cases: some support in obiter comments. McCormick v Lord Advocate : [Ld Cooper] obiter - unlimited sovereignty 'English' principle ? not inherited by UK Parliament. Gibson v Lord Advocate : [Ld Keith] obiter - argument could be made that legislation in breach of Act of Union (e.g. Art XVIII: changes to private law must be for utility of Scottish subjects').
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