The Parliament of the United Kingdom (UK) serves as the supreme and sovereign law making body. In this case, sovereignty incorporates three essential aspects. First, the parliament serves as the only supreme maker and can enact any law on all subject matters (Dicey 2005). Secondly, there is no parliament that might be bound by a successor or bind a predecessor. Finally, sovereignty implies that no individual or entity, including a court of law, might question the law’s validity. Accordingly, the supremacy of parliament in the UK indicates that no law can be approved or enacted by the parliament, which consists of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Nonetheless, with the various constitutional developments, the validity of the UK parliament no longer holds any supremacy because this sovereignty faces limitations under several instances.
Validity of the Power and Independence of the UK Parliament
To begin with, the UK’s entry into the European Union in 1973 has started shaking the UK Parliamentary power. Based on the European community law, the EU law is supposed to be enacted directly in local nations (Medrano 2003). However, in the UK, the international decree does not fit in the domestic regulation until it is authorised by a legislative act. At the same time, the European Community’s Act of 1972 establishes that the law of Europe will become automatically a portion of the domestic legal system and there are no additional legislations required by the parliament of the member-state.
With this regard, the question of supremacy arises on who takes precedence amid the two bodies. With these two bodies existing in UK, the Parliament must construe the law of Europe prior to enacting any policy in the nations (Medrano 2003). Therefore, the above fact implies that the law of Europe holds a higher power over the UK domestic law. Moreover, it suggests that in cases where the national law collides with the European law, the latter takes precedence and prevails.
Besides, the UK courts are to overrule any rule or domestic law that conflicts with any law of the European community that is directly enforceable when passing any judgment. This factor is an indication of the control of the EU law over the national law, which accordingly, overrides the principle of the parliamentary sovereignty. Furthermore, the courts of law in the UK should instruct the amending of any law that collides with the law of the European community (Dicey 2013). The above was the case when the Equal Pay Act was enacted in the UK under the rule of reconstruction approach.
Scholars have argued that in the UK, the parliament legislation takes precedence over the international law in cases where it goes against the international law. However, even though this might be the case, substantial evidence reveals that the UK Parliament tries to enact the legislation that does not conflict with the international law. Such a circumstance still shows the way the supremacy of UK law-making body is limited by the international law.
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Another prominent example of invalidity of the UK Parliament power is the tame factor saga (Medrano 2003). The incidence took place in 1988 when the parliament enacted the merchant shipping acts. Other nations, such as Spain, were negatively affected. As a result, they sought the judicial review. In 1994, the court decided that the 1988 law should not apply to these vessels of the complaining nations. This verdict contradicted the claim that not even a court can overrule the decision of the UK parliament.
Additionally, devolution is a challenge to the sovereignty and supremacy of the UK Parliament. Studies indicate that the decentralisation of power to such bodies as the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have played a great role in invalidating the supremacy claim of the UK Parliament (Dicey 2013). In 1998, when devolution was introduced, there were fears that this could tamper with the sovereignty of the parliament. Devolution implied that other bodies had been given the power to enact the laws within their territories.
Another aspect of the sovereignty of UK’s parliament indicates that the parliamentary supremacy has the authority to domineer its earlier colonies. The above is based on the idea that Britain was once a world super power that even colonised several nations, including those in Africa. However, this supremacy is theoretic in nature since it is not the case pragmatically (Elliot 2004). This is because many of its former colonies have gained political independence. With political freedom, these nations have their sovereignty and so have their parliaments. Accordingly, these countries do not have to follow the policies that the UK Parliament has approved.
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Besides, the decision to set up the UK Supreme Court in 2009 invalidates the claim of the supreme sovereignty of the UK Parliament. The assumption stems from the fact that this Supreme Court terminated the House of Lords’ functioning as the UK’s final court of appeal. In this way, the parliament, being a component of both House of Lords and House of Commons, has been chopped off its mandate that has been vested in the now established Supreme Court.
Scholars have noted that maybe the loss of the parliament’s supreme sovereignty informed the UK’s vote for Brexit. Dicey (2013) asserts that the Brexit is a tool for regaining the lost supremacy. However, Medrano (2003) argues that given the devolution, the Brexit cannot be a solution. The legislative power in the UK is now scattered leading to changes in the national constitutions.
Other aspects that make the claim of UK Parliament’s supreme sovereignty invalid is the Human Rights Act of 1998 (Dicey 2005). With this law, each nation is to ensure that individual human rights are safeguarded. This situation then challenged and nullified the claim that UK Parliament can change a man to a woman if they so wish.
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The discussion evaluates the validity of the supremacy and sovereignty of the UK Parliament. While it is acknowledged that the Parliament serves as the supreme, lawmaking body and is not challenged by any person even if it breaches international law, the country’s Parliamentary supremacy is limited. As evident from the analysis, the supremacy is a legal philosophy, and practically, the supremacy is challenged and overruled by the law of the European Union, devolution of power, the Human Rights Act of 1998, and the establishment of the UK Supreme Court.