To British Parliament: Principle of Parliamentary sovereignty means that Parliament possesses right to make or change or repeal any law and that no person or body has a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament. Thus, Parliament as legislative institution has absolute sovereignty, and is supreme over all other government institutions including Executive (government) and judiciary.
2) Sovereignty Of British Parliament:
Parliamentary sovereignty is a principle of the British constitution. It makes Parliament supreme legal authority in Great Britain and this supreme legal authority can make or repeal any law. Sovereignty of British Parliament can be best discussed through the following two headings.
- i. How is British Parliament sovereign?
- ii. Historical factors which have affected British Parliament sovereignty.
i. How Is British Parliament Sovereign?
Due to following three points, British Parliament is considered sovereign:
- a. Binding of future Parliament.
- b. Challenging a valid Act of Parliament
- c. Challenging A Valid Act Of Parliament:
British Parliament can make laws concerning anything.
(b) Binding of Future Parliament:
No British Parliament can bind a future parliament. It means that a Parliament cannot pass a law that cannot be changed or reversed by a future Parliament.
(c) Challenging A Valid Act Of Parliament:
Parliament is the supreme lawmaker institution. It means that a valid Act of Parliament cannot be challenged by other institutions including judiciary..
ii. Historical Factors Affecting British Parliament Sovereignty:
It was during 17th century that British Parliament started a struggle with British Monarch to share sovereignty. In this struggle, British Parliament gained more sovereignty over the Monarch. Parliament was recognized as part of the constitutional structure and it gained sovereignty from the Monarch for making of law. However, sovereignty of British Parliament was affected, with the passage of time, due to some factors. Followings are some of these factors:
- (a) Domination of House of Common over House of Lords
- (b) Devolution of power to the Scottish Parliament & Welsh Assembly
- (c) Human Rights Act, 1998
- (d) Membership of European Union
- (e) Establishment of British Supreme Court
(a) Domination Of House Of Common Over House Of Lords:
Historically House of Lords possessed more powers over House of Common. With the passage of time, powers were shifted to House of Commons from House of Lords. Even now Prime Minister and most of his/her cabinet-ministers are from House of Commons. As House of Commons is re-elected after every five years, therefore public opinion influences sovereignty of British Parliament.
(b) Devolution Of Power To Scottish Parliament & Welsh Assembly: –
Devolution of power to Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly has also affected sovereignty of British Parliament.
(c) Human Rights Act 1998;
Sovereignty of British Parliament has been affected by Human Rights Act 1998.
(d) Membership Of European Union:
(d) Great Britain’s entry to the European Union has also affected Parliamentary sovereignty in Great Britain.
(e) Establishment Of British Supreme Court:
Establishment of British Supreme Court has affected Parliamentary sovereignty in this way that it has ended House of Lord’s power as final court of appeal.
3) Procedure Of Law Making In British Parliament:
In democratic system, main objective of a Parliament is legislation. In every Parliament, a specific procedure is adopted for legislation. In British Parliament, following procedure is adopted for law making:
- i. Proposals
- ii. Bills
- iii. Parliamentary stage
- iv. Approval of Bill by other House
- v. Royal assent
As far as law making is concerned, first step is that proposals are developed to address particular goals and problems.
Following points are important regarding proposals:
- (a) Proposals & Cabinet-Ministers
- (b) Debate in Cabinet-Committees
- (c) Decision of Legislative Committee
(a) Proposals & Cabinet-Ministers:
It is necessary that Cabinet-Ministers must agree which proposals should be considered for legislation.
(b) Debate In Cabinet-Committees:
Proposals are usually debated in various Cabinet-Committees.
(c) Decision Of Legislative Committee:
No-doubt consensus among Cabinet-Ministers and debate in various Cabinet-Committees are necessary, but it is Legislative Committee, which decides which proposal is presented to Parliament for legislation and which is not.
Usually proposals, which are approved by Cabinet, are converted into Bills. A Bill is a proposal for a new law or changing an existing law. For drafting of a Bill, parliamentary counsels translate the principles, which are present in the government’s proposal, and these principles are transformed into detailed legislative form. Followings are different kinds of Bill.
- (a) Public Bill
- (b) Private Bill
- (c) Private Member’s Bill
- (d) Hybrid Bill
- (e) Money Bill
(a) Public Bill:
Public Bill is that Bill, which changes the law. Government ministers propose the majority of Public Bills. Such Bill can be initially introduced either in House of Commons or House of Lords.
(b) Private Bill:
Private Bill is usually promoted by organizations. Such Bill can be introduced either in House of Commons or in House of Lords.
(c) Private Member’s Bill:
Private Members’ Bill is, in fact, Public Bill and it is introduced by MPs and Lords, who are not government ministers. -Such Bill can also be initially introduced either in House of Commons or in House of Lords.
(d) Hybrid Bill:
Hybrid Bill has characteristics of both the Public and Private Bills.
(e) Money Bill:
Money Bill is of financial nature. This Bill is initially introduced only in House of Commons.
(iii) Parliamentary Stage:
Journey of a Bill to become law can start either from House of Commons or from House of Lords. However, such journey of Money Bill begins in House of Commons. To complete this journey, although a Bill goes through similar process in both the Houses, yet it has to pass through following stages:
- (a) First reading
- (b) Second reading
- (c) Committee stage
- (d) Report stage
- (e) Third reading
(a) First Reading:
Title of a Bill is simply read out in the House. After this, copies of the bill are given to all members of Parliament.
(b) Second Reading:
During second reading, MPs of Lords discuss the main principles of a bill. MPs can vote in favour or against the Bill at the end of this stage particularly if such bill is controversial. On the other hand, a bill in the House of Lords passes to the next stage without a voting.
(c) Committee Stage:
During committee stage, a bill is considered, line by by committees of MPs or Lords. Amendments are proposed and line, voted on.
(d) Report Stage:
After committee stage, the amended Bill is sent back to the House, where it was initially presented. All House-members review the amended Bill. Those members, who could not participate at the previous stage, can suggest further changes.
(e) Third Reading:
During third reading, a Bill is voted in House of Commons because further amendments are not considered. However, further amendments can be suggested in House of Lords during third reading.
(iv) Approval Of Bill By Other House:
If a bill is initially presented in House of Commons and is approved, it is then sent to House of Lords. If further amendments are made to the Bill in House of Lords, it is returned to House of Commons for consideration of the amendments. Contrary to this, if House of Lords approves the Bill, the same is sent to British Queen for royal assent.
(v) Royal Assent:
With approval from House of Lords and House of Commons, a Bill is needed formal approval of British Monarch. Such formal approval is called Royal Assent. After receiving royal approval, a Bill becomes law and is termed as an Act of Parliament.
To conclude, it can be stated that history is repeating itself in Great Britain. Initially, Parliament shares powers with British Monarch and British Monarch lost sovereignty. Now other institutions are sharing powers with British Parliament and sovereignty of the Parliament is being affected.