Sovereignty is the principle of absolute and unlimited power, implying either supreme legal authority (legal sovereignty) or unchallengeable political power (political sovereignty). It is absolutely clear that the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty has been undermined by numerous factors. However, other people happen to disagree with me. J.S. Mills says that “Parliament can do anything except turn a man into a woman”. This quote shows that J.S. Mills does not think that the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty has been undermined by numerous factors. Parliament sovereignty is based on four conditions. The absence of a codified constitution is the absence of a higher law. The supremacy of statue law over other forms of law- Acts of Parliament outrank common law, case law, and so on. The absence of rival legislatures, no other bodies have independent law-making powers. And no Parliament can bind its successors- Parliament cannot make laws that cannot be unnamed. A codified constitution is a constitution in which key constitutional provisions are collected together within a single legal document, popularly known as a written constitution or the constitution. There are advantages and disadvantages to a codified constitution.
The growth of a mass electorate
When the principle of parliamentary sovereignty was established, less than 5% of the adult male population and no women had the right to vote. Today, virtually all adults aged 18 and over have this right. As a result, the House of Commons is now elected by popular vote. So where does sovereignty lie now? Is it with Parliament or with the electorate? It can be argued in either way, but there is a strong case suggesting that sovereignty does not actually lie with Parliament anymore. In a sense, if more voters turn up to the ballot box, the less sovereignty Parliament actually has.
The Party System
The growth of a mass electorate in the late 19th century led to the development of the party system. This, in turn, altered the balance of power between Parliament and the executive. Since the government is now generally formed from the largest party in the House of Commons, it can usually rely on its majority to secure parliamentary approval for its proposals. Most laws are, therefore, proposed not by Parliament but the government. This therefore is able to indicate to us that Parliamentary sovereignty is limited.
Other Parliamentary Pressure
There have been occasions when powerful pressure groups outside Parliament have been able to frustrate attempts by Parliament to introduce new laws. In the 1970s, for example, trade unions forced Parliament to amend the 1971 Industrial Relations Act and in the late 1980s extra-parliamentary action forced the government to replace the poll tax with the council tax. These examples suggest that, in practice, the principle of parliamentary sovereignty is limited.
The UK has, at various times, committed itself to international agreements and treaties which place upon it certain Obligations. For example, in 1949 the UK joined NATO and, as a result, handed over some control over defence policy and foreign policy. Theoretically, of course, commitments like this do not infringe parliamentary sovereignty since Parliament could decide to ignore or cancel its commitments. But, in practice, the political, and often economic, consequences of so doing make such actions unlikely- the more so with the increasingly global nature of political and economic events and relationships. This is able to portray to us that Parliament sovereignty is affected and it is not shown in International agreements and treaties.
It can be argued that the use of referendums limits parliamentary sovereignty since important decisions are made by the electorate and not Parliament. An example of a referendum would be the 2011 referendum on whether we should change to the Alternative voting...
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