Matt Skelding – CAAL Coursework
Word Count: 1388 Student Number:18021496
Module Name: Constitutional & Administrative law Module Number: UJUUKK-30-1
‘The classic account given by Dicey of the doctrine of the supremacy of Parliament, pure and absolute as it was, can now be seen to be out of place in the modern United Kingdom. Nevertheless, the supremacy of Parliament is still the general principle of our constitution.’ (Lord Steyn, R (Jackson) v Attorney General  1 AC 262, para. 102).
Dicey’s doctrine of parliamentary supremacy, published in 1885, outlined three main principles. These were: Parliament is the supreme law-making body, enacting laws on any subject matter, Parliament cannot bind its successor and finally that no court of law can question the validity of Parliament’s enactments. An example of this principle in practice; The Septennial Act 1715 was passed which extended the life of Parliament from three to seven years due to fears of losing an election. His Majesty’s Declaration of Abdication Act 1936 demonstrates Parliaments ability to alter the line of succession to the throne and the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 demonstrate Parliament legislating over its own procedures. Although, this idea creates absurd results as Sir Leslie Stephen famously stated, “If a legislature decided that all blue-eyed babies should be murdered, the preservation of blue-eyed babies would be illegal; but legislators must go mad before they could pass such a law, and subjects be idiotic before they could submit to it.”[footnoteRef:1] On the other hand, acts such as the Human Rights Act 1998 encouraged the courts to read legislation as to give effect to the European Convention of Human Rights, which was ratified into the UK in 1953, in order to avoid repugnant results and interpret law how the EU made it. [1: LESLIE STEPHEN, The Science of Ethics, p. 145 (1882).]
Dicey established this principle as one of the “twin pillars”[footnoteRef:2] of the British constitution. The importance of the doctrine lies in the fact that: the British constitution is largely unwritten, the written part comprising laws passed by Parliament; hence, in order to ensure the growth and development of the British constitution, Parliament must be sovereign to continue to pass laws that reflect the changing socio-economic needs of the country. This is demonstrated in the case of Madzimbamuto v Lardner/Burke 1969 whereby the courts affirmed the doctrine of Parliamentary supremacy as Lord Reid proclaimed “…it would be unconstitutional for the UK Parliament to do certain things, meaning that for the moral and political reasons against doing them are so strong that most people would regard it as highly in proper.”[footnoteRef:3] Without Parliamentary supremacy the supreme legal authority would not be Parliament, therefore it could allow lower courts to pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change. As a result of this Parliamentary supremacy can be condemned to...