Explain What Is Meant by the Doctrine of Parliamentary Legislative Supremacy and Discuss the Relevance of the Enactment of the European Communities Act 1972 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

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The English legal system has existed for hundreds of years and it is made up of sources of law. The main sources of law include: Acts of Parliament/statue/legislation which is created by Parliament making Parliament the supreme law maker. The other main sources of law consist of: Delegated Legislation which is the Parliament Delegates, Common law and Case law which the courts apply, Equity which involves fairness rather than certainty, European Community Law and International Treaties. The International Treaties have been ratified by Parliament such as the European Convention on Human Rights has been implemented through the Human Rights Act 1998 consequently meaning the treaties have been put through domestic law.

The doctrine of Parliamentary Legislative Supremacy is a long-established concept with roots in constitutional law. The doctrine is the idea that Parliament, made up of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, is the sovereign power, supreme to all other bodies in its ability to legislate. The concept of the doctrine of legislative law making has been defined by the legal theory of Dicey as “Parliament has the right to make or unmake any law whatever” and that “no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament” (Dicey 1959). Again, this shows that parliament is the supreme law maker.

Parliamentary Supremacy states that no body, including the courts of law, has the right to override or set aside an Act of Parliament. From this, it means that nobody can achieve the following: alter parliament’s power, devolve the power of parliament to other bodies, give effect to international treaties, and surrender or limit its own power. (Alison Cronin). Parliament has the power to enact and revoke any new laws on any subject matter and the courts are unable to question the legitimacy of the law. (Macintyre 2001)

In addition, a Parliament cannot bind its successor meaning that Parliament cannot pass a law which is unable to be altered or inverted by a future Parliament. Lastly the doctrine means a valid Act of Parliament cannot be questioned by the court or any other bodies and that a court of law only has the power to apply an Act of Parliament because parliament is supreme. http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/sovereignty.cfm. This point was re-established in the case of Pickin v British Railways Board[1]. Mr Pickin had challenged a private act of 1836 on the basis that parliament had been misled by fraud. The House of Lords held that he was not entitled to examine proceedings in parliament to show that the Act had been passed due to fraud. Consequently the action failed and Lord Reid stated that “the idea that a court is entitled to disregard a provision in an Act of Parliament on any ground must seem strange and startling to anyone with any knowledge of the history and law of our constitution." http://sixthformlaw.info/02_cases/mod2/cases_supremacy.htm#Pickin%20v%20British%20Railways%20Board%20[1974]%20HL.

Parliament is a legislative body with absolute sovereignty meaning that Parliament is supreme to all other government institutions. http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/sovereignty.cfm. As a result of this, it is necessary to have knowledge of the workings of the legislative procedure through which law is made (Kelly and Holmes 2005). As well, it also implies that the legislative body may change or repeal any prior legislation.

Parliament decided to surrender its law making supremacy to gain more benefits, in order to join the common market. However, by doing this, it can be argued that Parliamentary Supremacy has been eroded due to the enactment with the European Communities Act 1972. This is because parliament has to accept and abide by the European Community laws. European Communities Law is supreme to UK legislation and UK law is subject to this. This means that if there is conflict between European and National...
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