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Inspiring Minds Online: Politics

The sovereignty of Parliament in 21st century Britain.

As a student of Politics at undergraduate level, you need to demonstrate your ability to understand and use the main features of the UK political system. The most important of these is the constitution. All recent major issues such as Brexit and Devolution are linked to the constitution in some way.

While the UK has no formal constitution, it would be incorrect to say that the UK does not have a constitution. Rather than a formal, written text the UK constitution is an organic and evolutionary body, and can be found in a variety of sources. In this sense, rather than having no constitution, it would be more accurate to state the UK lacks a codified constitution. While the constitution can be found in a variety of different sources, the cornerstone of the constitution is the notion of the sovereignty of Parliament.

Read the following passage from S.B.Chrimes’ 1948 English Constitutional History and answer the following questions on the constitution and the sovereignty of Parliament:

“Parliament can make, amend, or repeal any law whatsoever. Its legislative power is unlimited and absolute. No Act of Parliament can be unconstitutional, for the law of the land knows not the word or the idea. No person or body can overrule the King in Parliament; only Parliament itself can repeal its acts; it is not bound by its own Acts in the past, nor can it bind its successors. Otherwise, it is as free as an legislature can be…It is limited only by the limits to the willingness of the people to obey its enactments, and by the limits imposed by the limited capacities of its own members.”

1. Which two of the following are not generally considered to be a source of the UK constitution:

a. Political Memoirs
b. Conventions
c. EU law
d. Party manifestos
e .Works of Authority
f. Treaties

Please give an explanation for two of the above that you believe are considered to be a source of the UK constitution.

2. Chrimes notes the “limited capacities of its own members” as a limitation on the sovereignty of Parliament. Which one of these could not be considered a limitation on the sovereignty of Parliament:

a. Tradition
b. Opposition
c. Devolution
d. Political Practicalities
e. Judicial Involvement

For the answer you have chosen, please give one example of how your choice might be considered a limitation on the sovereignty of Parliament.

3. Even though the constitution is based on the principle of the soveregnty of Parliament, the New Labour government established a UK Supreme Court by statute in 2005. Which of these can the Supreme Court not do, and why:

a. Issue a “Declaration of Incompatibility”
b. Make a judgement on devolved competencies
c. Overturn primary legislation
d. Overturn secondary legislation
e. Overturn legislation from devolved administrations

4. Only certain laws - the so-called “super-statutes” - are deemed to be constitutional. Super statutes go through a special legislative process that makes them constitutional. True or false?

Please give one reason and one example to support your answer. 

5. In no more than 500 words, please discuss the following statement: "To what extent will Brexit restore the sovereignty of Parliament?"

Issues to consider:

At a general level

  • Does the sovereignty of Parliament actually exist in the modern world?
  • Can a state be sovereign over all areas in an interconnected world, with softer boundaries and a rise of non-state actors of various sorts?

At a theoretical/legal level

  • Did European Economic Committee (EEC) membership undermine or remove the sovereignty of Parliament? Parliament consented to EEC membership through the European Communities Act (1972) and was aware of the issues that would arise.
  • Therefore, while certain aspects of the sovereignty of Parliament have been “challenged” by EU membership, was the fact that Parliament consented to membership evidence of the sovereignty of Parliament?
  • This could be described as the “bondage” argument. Who has the power in a bondage situation: the dominatrix or the submissive?

At a practical level

  • Did the Supreme Court’s (SC) Article 50 decision demonstrate that Parliament is still sovereign?
  • The SC’s decision that Parliament must consent to the triggering of Article 50 demonstrated the sovereignty of Parliament as it ensured that Parliament, and Parliament alone, had the competence to start the extraction from the European Union.
  • Will the Repeal Bill restore the sovereignty of Parliament?
  • The intention of the Bill is not to repeal anything, but to transfer EU law into British law to avoid a black hole in legislation after Brexit (so to restore the sovereignty of parliament as Parliament alone will be able to change and amend all UK legislation).

For the best submission in each subject, there will be a £50 Amazon Gift Voucher plus some Loughborough University clothing.

All submissions must be made by uploading a Microsoft Word document.

The deadline for the current Inspiring Minds: online series is midnight, Thursday 29 March 2018.

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