Before evaluating whether or not Parliament is sovereign, it’s important to define what sovereignty means. Sovereignty can be split into two; political and legal. Legal sovereignty is the ultimate power to make laws which will be enforced within the state. Members of Parliament and the Prime Minister have ultimate legal power because they propose and enforce legislation. Citizens have no legal sovereignty because they don’t play a role in the legislative function even though pressure group activity may influence decisions. Political sovereignty is where real political power lies, and depending on the situation political sovereignty doesn’t always lie within Parliament. Critics have argued that due to recent changes, Parliament is no longer truly sovereign. This essay will assess the arguments for and against.
The main argument which indicates the idea of a decrease in Parliamentary sovereignty is the UK’s membership to the European Union in 1973. After passing the European Communities Act in 1972 certain policy areas have been passed over to the EU. Areas which jurisdiction have passed include; trade, agriculture, fishing, employment law; these are areas that affect the relationship between the UK and other member states. For example the EU control employment law because as a citizen of the UK we are directly affected by the implications of the EU and in doing so have the freedom movement, we are allowed to move and work to any member state without visa, as long as we are a British Citizen. It’s argued that Parliament has lost sovereignty because they’ve devolved certain powers to the EU. Although there are certain areas where the EU can only influence. Examples previously mentioned such as employment law or others such as competition control, regional development are all fully in the hands of the EU. This undermines Parliamentary Sovereignty because decisions made around those areas aren‘t in the hands of Parliament. Never the less, there are certain areas where virtually no jurisdiction has been passed to the EU, areas such as education, health provision, social security, law and order are all areas where the UK have full control over, these are all subject to the UK’s internal political system. The EU would be unable to implement laws and regulations which apply to all the cultural, religious views or different political systems in EU member states. In correlation with this, the areas where jurisdiction has passed are all areas which Parliament have agreed to give away sovereignty. Therefore it is argued that to a certain extent Parliament has retained some sovereignty.
In the years of 1997 and onwards the Labour Government set out referendums on the devolvement of power in regards to their constitutional reforms. In 1997 referendums were held on whether Scotland should have their own Parliament or whether Wales should have their own assembly. The majority of the public voted yes and the Government put it into action. Although it would be highly undemocratic to not do so, Parliamentary sovereignty Is retained in a sense that results of referendums are not binding on the Government. They still have ultimate political authority and therefore have the power to disregard the result of the referendum. Never the less, in order to become favourable in the public eye and to keep the proposal of increased political participation through the wider use of referendums set out in Blair’s and the Labour party’s manifesto. Parliament transferred extensive powers to elected assemblies and executives in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. With any distribution of power it means giving away a certain degree of sovereignty. Parliament has lost legal sovereignty because Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have the power to implement laws in their own regions and takes away some of the role of Westminister. However, sovereignty is gained because the same way Parliament gave power, they can take the power back. We witness this...
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