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The Supremity Of The Uk Parliament

2461 words - 10 pages

The Supremity of the UK Parliament

The idea of parliamentary sovereignty is that Parliament (or strictly,
the Queen in Parliament) can make or unmake any law on any subject
whatever, without any legal restriction. This idea was generally
accepted as reality a hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago, but
there must now be some doubt as to its truth. Parliament is certainly
restricted by the UK's membership of the European Union, and other
international treaties such as the European Convention on Human Rights
may also have put some limits on its freedom to legislate.

Nevertheless, the powers of Parliament are undoubtedly considerable.
An Act of Parliament can determine the succession to the Crown, for
example, and the Act of Settlement 1700 (which is still in force)
transferred the line of succession from James II to Princess Sophia
and her Protestant descendants. Similarly, the Abdication Act 1936
recognised the abdication of Edward VIII in favour of his brother who
became George VI. Parliament can also alter its own composition and
powers, as it did by the Parliament Act 1911 (which removed the veto
powers of the House of Lords) and the Life Peerages Act 1958 (which
provided for the appointment of life peers with full voting rights).

An Act of Parliament can even purport to have effect outside the
United Kingdom. The Continental Shelf Act 1964 asserted British
jurisdiction over the sea bed well beyond the limits of the
territorial sea, and the War Crimes Act 1991 made it an offence
triable in an English court for a foreign national to commit murder or
other war crimes against other foreign nationals in a foreign country.

The Government initiates most legislation, though the many influences
and pressures for legislation are discussed in a later chapter. The
general policy and broad outline of the proposed legislation are
discussed and agreed among a large or small group of ministers, civil
servants and others, and a Green Paper (purely consultative) or White
Paper (containing fairly firm proposals) may be published to assist
the process. The sponsoring Department then instructs Parliamentary
counsel, who prepare a draft Bill for approval by the Cabinet's
legislation committee. (Law Commission reports often contain draft
bills, which can be taken forward as they stand.)

An Act of Parliament always starts life as a bill. Most bills are
public bills intended to apply (in principle) to all people in any
part of the country, such as the bills which eventually became the
Theft Act 1968 or the Children Act 1989. Even the abortive Wild
Mammals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill and Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill
were public bills, because although only a minority of people hunt
foxes or commit sexual offences, the bills were intended to create
generally applicable law.

The First...

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