West Law Report

“Where is the final authority in British Law?”

Posted in Supremacy of Parliament by mrkooenglish on May 12, 2008

Lord Rees-Mogg, the former editor of the Times, asked: Where is the final authority in British Law?

In Bradlaugh’s case, it was determined that one House of Parliament could not determine the legality of the decisions of another House. In that case the petitioner, who could not take the oath because he was an atheist, wanted to challenge the decision of the Commons not to seat him. The argument was that both Houses of Parliament are sovereign.

In respect of the House of Lords, the present discussion of Lords Reform plainly assumes that the House of Lords is not sovereign except in respect of its own procedures in the most limited sense. The office of Lord Chancellor, as the presiding officer, was abolished, in effect, by the Prime Minister. The House of Commons remains sovereign and would undoubtedly reject any attempt by the Lords, or the Judges, to impose their decisions about Commons procedures.

However, the Commons has voted, in principle, to make the Lords an all-elected House. Would an all-elected House of Lords itself regain the Sovereignty the Lords, since the Parliament Act of 1911, seem to have lost? Or have both Houses lost their sovereignty to the European Court of Justice? Do we now have a Supreme Court to interpret our Constitution? I hope that constitutional lawyers can tell us.

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