Essay On Parliamentary Sovereignty

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Are here any limits on the principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty?

In answering this question, I will first set out a traditional definition of Parliamentary sovereignty. I will then consider two different senses in which it might be said that there are limits on Parliament’s sovereignty.

Parliamentary Sovereignty: a Definition
The 19th century constitutional theorists, A.V. Dicey defined the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty (hereafter ‘PS’) in two parts: firstly, he argued, Parliament can make or unmake any law; and, secondly, no person or body can legislate on behalf of Parliament. The first limb of this definition entails that no Parliament can bind its successors, and that where two Acts of Parliament cover the same subject matter, the later Act will impliedly repeal the earlier (the doctrine of implied repeal).

Implicit in the second limb of Dicey’s definition is an important institutional dimension to the doctrine of PS. Once Parliament has spoken through legislation, no court may look behind the validity of that Act. This aspect of the doctrine has its roots in Art 9 of the Bill of Rights, and it finds support in the so-called ‘enrolled Bill’ rule whereby a Bill is to be treated as an Act when it appears on
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The implication of this statement is that Parliament may only act within the powers conferred on it by law. Theorists have long debated the meaning of the rule of law. Some advocate a ‘formal’ or ‘procedural’ conception of the rule of law according to which, a law depends for its validity on such things as clarity, certainty, prospectivity and generality (see, for example, Raz or Fuller). Other theorists have advocated a ‘substantive’ conception of the rule of law according to which a law depends for its validity on certain substantive rights and principles (see, for example, Dworkin or

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