Supreme Court on the Prorogation of Parliamentary

Categories: CourtJustice

The notion that Parliament is sovereign appears to be seriously challenged by the events of September 24th, 2019 in the UK Supreme court. According to an article in the House of Commons Library, the decision of the court was predicated on two points; can the decision by Parliament to prorogue withstand judicial scrutiny and was the prorogation even legal? An attempt will be made to critically analyze the quote above using the following points: The Sovereignty of Parliament as a concept, the decision of the UK Supreme court and how the decision of the UK Supreme court applies to the Sovereignty of Parliament.

Though a long-debated concept, Parliamentary Sovereignty in the UK suggests the extent to which the parliament has total and unlimited power. AV Dicey proposes that Parliament “has the right to make or unmake any law whatever…” and further argues that there ought to be no entity that possesses the right to override or set aside the decisions of parliament.

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It is important to mention, however, that Parliamentary Sovereignty is a diverse concept consisting of several existing powers that are often in tension with one another. The constitution of the UK, for example, is distinctive from others in the fact that it is not codified into a single document, this semi-written status makes it difficult to understand what Parliamentary Sovereignty consists of. Mr. Johnson (Teaching associate in Law), says that “…it is proposed that Parliament is still changing; it is slowly adapting to meet the needs of society as society itself evolves.

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Seeing Parliament as an evolving concept means that within its sovereignty, human rights must be protected. Some may argue that the orthodox definition of Parliament Sovereignty represents a paradox; since parliament can use their capability to legislate to limit their power, and in doing so, it is no longer supreme. The Human Rights Act (1998) reads: “So far as it is possible to do so, primary legislation and subordinate legislation must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Convention rights”. This declaration can lead to the speculation that the adherence of Parliament to this act when doing legislation is a form of limiting its ability to create law. It can be stated that although parliament is sovereign, it is submitted to the UK’s unwritten constitution, which has grown in the past years and has been established by previous parliaments, restricting the present’s parliament.

Nevertheless, recent prorogation of the UK’s parliament has led people to question whether the parliament is sovereign or not. In the high court judgment template, it is declared that: “On Wednesday 28 August 2019 at a Privy Council held at the Court at Balmoral Her Majesty ordered that Parliament should be prorogued from a date between 9 and 12 September until 14 October 2019. The order was made on the advice of the Prime Minister.” This decision to shut-down parliament has been called a “constitutional outrage” by the house of commons (John Bercow) and an “assault to British Democracy” according to the opposition. Undoubtedly, the decision to prorogue parliament was unlawful. The Inner House Session in Scotland announced that the issue (European Union (Withdrawal) (No 2)) “…was motivated by the improper purpose of stymying Parliamentary scrutiny of the Government”. Any prorogation which followed it was unlawful, void and of no effect.

It is important to highlight that even though several representatives of the legislative attended the meeting held by the Queen, the judiciary did not abstain from questioning the lawfulness of their decision. The Supreme Court declared that the advice given by the Prime Minister was justiciable. In giving the judgment of the Court Lady Hale said: “there is no doubt that the courts have jurisdiction to decide upon the existence and limits of prerogative power.” 5 The decision to prorogue parliament disturbed the delicate equilibrium that lies within the executive and the legislative body, according to the constitution. Not even a prerogative should stop Parliament, because it is sovereign and responsible for supervising the executive. It stopped parliament unjustifiably from exercising their role for an extended period, being, therefore, void and of no effect.

It can be concluded that the role of the Parliament as a legislative body was challenged, fragmenting the common understanding that it is sovereign. After all, if parliament is regulated by the judiciary and the constitution, it cannot be sovereign in the truest of senses. An impression is left, however, that the Parliament holds particular adaptability to the court.

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Supreme Court on the Prorogation of Parliamentary. (2021, Aug 04). Retrieved from

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