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Crunching Concepts: Unravelling the Essence of Parliamentary Sovereignty

21 June 2023 | CaseSnappy Team

A photograph of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in London.


Welcome back to our "Crunching Concepts" series, where we aim to clarify essential legal concepts using simplified summaries generated by CaseSnappy. In this instalment, we explore the critical principle of parliamentary sovereignty, a central tenet of the UK constitution that establishes Parliament's supremacy in the legal system.

What is Parliamentary Sovereignty?

Parliamentary sovereignty is the principle that asserts the supremacy of the UK Parliament over other branches of government, including the executive and judiciary, as well as the legal system itself. Parliament, consisting of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, has the ultimate authority to make, amend, or repeal any law, with no other institution able to challenge or override its decisions.

Why is Parliamentary Sovereignty Important?

The importance of parliamentary sovereignty lies in the following:

1. It underpins the democratic legitimacy of the UK legal system, ensuring that elected representatives in Parliament are the ultimate decision-makers in creating or changing laws governing the country.

2. Parliamentary sovereignty provides legal certainty, as there can be no confusion or doubt regarding the ultimate source of authority for any legal rule in the UK.

3. It enables necessary legal changes to be made promptly and effectively either in response to societal developments or to address pressing issues.

Highlighting Parliamentary Sovereignty Through Example Cases

Understanding parliamentary sovereignty is best illustrated through relevant case law:

R (Jackson) v Attorney General [2005] UKHL 56 - This case concerned the validity of the Hunting Act 2004 and its potential impact on the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty.

AXA General Insurance Ltd v HM Advocate [2011] UKSC 46 - The Supreme Court held that courts could review acts of the Scottish Parliament for compatibility with common law. However, they also recognized its competence and supremacy in its legislative capacity.

R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5 - This case determined that the government could not trigger the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) without parliamentary authorization, demonstrating that parliamentary sovereignty is retained when dealing with international agreements and treaties.

CaseSnappy: Your Legal Toolkit

Grasping the fundamental principles of parliamentary sovereignty and its significance in the UK legal system is crucial for legal professionals and anyone seeking to better understand how the country's governance works. CaseSnappy provides the necessary tools to break down complex legal concepts into manageable summaries, ensuring you have vital information on hand.

Looking to expand your legal knowledge? Sign up for CaseSnappy for free and generate summaries of essential legal concepts instantly. Keep an eye out for the next instalment in our "Crunching Concepts" series!

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