Parliamentary Supremacy

As per the doctrine of separation of powers the government is divided into three branches, the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. The legislative body comprises of the two houses of Parliament (the upper house and the lower house, in the UK it is the House of Lords and the House of Commons), the executive which includes the Prime Minister, the cabinet ministers, the civil service, the armed forces and all law enforcement agencies and the judiciary which comprises of judges and those who are tasked with interpreting the law.

It is the function of Parliament to legislate i.e. to make laws, it is the role of the executive to enforce the laws and it is the role of the judiciary to interpret laws or the will of Parliament and to decide if laws have been broken and to penalize those who have broken the law in accordance with the severity of the crime or the offense that is committed. It is an offense per se to go against the will of Parliament.

Among the three tiers of government, Parliament occupies the highest tier, or is the highest body in a democracy or in any nation with a government by the people, of the people for the people (a principle that forms the basis of any democratic government) followed by the executive and below the executive is the judiciary who play no part in the legislative process (but they do make laws when they create judicial precedent but those laws are subservient to acts of Parliament and in case of conflict between the two i.e. judge-made law and enactments, enactments will prevail) and only come into the picture when the law needs to be clarified, Parliament or draftsmen can sometimes be ambiguous or when the law has been broken and a dispute arises, and a decision has to be made.

From the above it is fairly obvious that Parliament is the highest body in the land, and the simple reason is because Parliament in the safeguard of the nation and when Parliament falters, the nation will also falter.

The doctrine of supremacy of Parliament simply states that Parliament is highest body in the land and no power domestic or foreign can challenge the will of Parliament or can go against the intentions of Parliament.

Parliament can legislate on any matter and pass bills that not only apply in the present or the future but it can also legislate to cover acts done in the past i.e. legislate retrospectively or retrospective legislation see the War Damages Act 1965.

The doctrine of Parliamentary supremacy has to be viewed in light of the the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty, the two are often interchangeable, and as per the doctrine, no one  can the challenge the authority of Parliament.

Parliament in short can legislate on any matter anywhere and the other two branches of government, the executive and the judiciary, are bound by it. While Parliament rarely legislates on matters outside its territory it can theoretically do so, see the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965 which was passed after Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

Copyright © 2019 by Dyarne Jessica Ward

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