A basic understanding of parliamentary sovereignty is that Parliament is the supreme law-making body and that Parliament is the top political authority in the state
A basic understanding of parliamentary sovereignty is that Parliament is the supreme law-making body and that Parliament is the top political authority in the state. Parliament has unlimited legal competence, having followed the proper legal form when making a law. A more traditional and quite popular definition of Parliamentary Sovereignty comes from A.V. Dicey, who stated, ‘the principle of parliamentary sovereignty means… the right to make or unmake any law whatever; and further, that no person or body is recognized by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament.’ From this derives 3 fundamental principles, one principle being Parliament can make or unmake any law.
An example of this principle is outlined in the Burmah Oil Company v The Lord Advocate case where the claimant’s oil fields were destroyed by the British army during World War 2, to stop the Japanese army from accessing them. The issue behind this was could the UK government be liable to compensate the claimant? The judgment followed that they were liable because as it was lawful during the war, it was deemed as the requisitioning of property and compensation should be paid. Parliament subsequently legislated with retrospective effect in the War Damages Act to prevent similar claims in the future. This was an illustration of Parliament’s power to make or unmake any law.
The second principle of Dicey’s definition is Parliament cannot be bound by its predecessors or bind its successors. Thomas Paine quotes that ‘every age and generation must be free to act for itself, in all cases as the ages and generations which preceded it’, which is compatible with Dicey’s view on parliamentary sovereignty. Implied repeal is where there is a conflict between two provisions (one of which is enacted later), the provision enacted later is to be enforced and applied by all courts. This demonstrates Parliament’s incapability to bind its’ successors. An example could be shown in Vauxhall Estates Ltd v Liverpool Corporation concerning conflict between the Housing Act 1925 and the Acquisition of Land Act 1919 where the provisions of the later Act would apply (implied repeal).
The third principle behind Dicey’s definition is that nobody can argue against Parliament’s laws. In R (Jackson) v Attorney General, the validity of the Hunting Act 2004 and use of the Parliament Act 1949 were challenged.