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Author: Philip Norton

The book provides an analysis of the contemporary state of the British constitution, identifying ambiguities and the changing relationships at the heart of the constitution. It offers a succinct and accessible overview of the core features of how the UK is governed – the key principles and conventions underpinning the constitution and how they are under pressure. It is essential for anyone wanting to make sense of the UK constitution in a period of constitutional turbulence, not least following the referendum to leave the European Union, three general elections in five years, major judgments by the UK supreme court, governments suffering major defeats in the House of Commons, and pressure for more referendums, including on Scottish independence and on remaining in the European Union. Each chapter draws out a core feature of the constitution, not least a relationship between different organs of the state, and offers an explanation of its shape and operation and the extent to which it is changing. It examines the key principles underpinning the UK constitution, the extent to which they are contested, and how political behaviour is shaped by convention.

Does parliamentary sovereignty trump the rule of law?
Philip Norton

UK constitution. Dicey’s definition of parliamentary sovereignty has entered the lexicon of constitutional law: The principle of Parliamentary sovereignty means neither more nor less than this, namely, that Parliament thus defined has, under the English constitution, the right to make or unmake any law whatever; and further, that no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament. 2 By virtue of supremacy, no Parliament is bound by its predecessor. His definition of the rule

in Governing Britain
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Robert Lister Nicholls

purpose at a particular time. It is suggested that ‘sovereignty’ is not identical to parliamentary sovereignty owing to the challenges posed by increased executive power, governance and globalisation. Examples of the various uses of sovereignty by members of the political elite to illustrate the way the concept is susceptible to misuse and abuse are outlined later in the chapter. The question of sovereignty also featured heavily throughout the debates surrounding the 2016 referendum on EU membership and the subsequent negotiation process. However, given the general

in The British political elite and Europe, 1959–1984
David Stewart

’s oratory in constructing and popularising the concepts of the ‘Guilty Men’ and the ‘politics of persuasion’. The chapter also considers the ways in which Foot’s speeches drew on parliamentary sovereignty and collective memories of the 1930s and 1940s to heighten their salience. This in turn raises the question of Foot’s patriotism, which is scrutinised through his speeches on British membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) and devolution for Wales and Scotland. His espousal of unilateral nuclear disarmament and liberal internationalism is interwoven

in Labour orators from Bevan to Miliband
Arthur Aughey

power rather than the principle of autonomy. Lord Home put it prosaically in a Conservative Central Office (1962a) pamphlet: ‘If, as is certain, power is to lie in Europe, then I think it is there that Britain ought to be.’ Those Tories opposed to British membership challenged all these points. To adapt again from Gamble, their arguments emphasised the politics of support, particularly the centrality of democratic responsibility associated with ‘parliamentary sovereignty’. Their argument was that European integration would undermine the traditions of British democracy

in The Conservative Party and the nation
Alexandra Kelso

, which had successfully subordinated monarchical power to its own parliamentary sovereignty (Judge 1993: 20). This process was also consolidated by the financial repercussions of the Nine Years War (1689–97), which required unprecedented revenue raising powers from the state, and which forced William III to become ever more reliant on parliament to service that need (Harling 2001: 17). Parliament was called annually in order to extract the sums necessary for waging war, and MPs became adept at the machinations of financial control. Indeed, ‘[t]he debates on the

in Parliamentary reform at Westminster
Alexandra Kelso

1998: 955–6), a context which is itself the result of the norms and values that are built into the institutional fabric over the course of time. The historical development of the Westminster parliament points to three central norms and values that contribute to its structured institutional context: parliamentary sovereignty, ministerial responsibility, and party government. Chapter 2 demonstrated how these norms and values have been adapted by the executive, which forms the dominant elite at Westminster. They have been utilised by the executive in order to strengthen

in Parliamentary reform at Westminster
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James Mitchell

was no single ‘track’ which the United Kingdom started down. England has been the archetypal unitary polity. It would be an exaggeration to describe it as uniform but it has been a highly centralised polity in which the myth of parliamentary sovereignty easily gained adherents. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the empirical evidence of England as a unitary polity had taken on a normative quality and England could hardly be perceived as anything other than a unitary polity. The Anglo-Welsh union was assimilationist, though less so than the many unions which

in Devolution in the UK
Lindsay Aqui

securing the retention by Parliament of the powers necessary for pursuing effective regional, industrial and fiscal policies. Parliamentary sovereignty loomed large for many anti-Market ministers and the question of whether British MPs or the Commission could decide the direction of policy in these areas was a key aspect of the renegotiation. Tony Benn made clear the centrality of sovereignty to his arguments against Community membership in his May 1974 meeting with Ortoli. Given his role as industry secretary and prominence as an anti-Marketeer, Benn’s views were

in The first referendum
Rachel Foxley

representative embodiment of the will of the nation. ‘Independent’ thinkers laid the foundations for the theory of parliamentary sovereignty which the Levellers came to develop, and as the first civil war came to an end, Levellers were among the radical Independents who began to spell out the potential conclusion for Charles I and for monarchy in England. It is easy to see this strand of radical Independent thinking as the foundation of Leveller radicalism, but in this chapter we take a second look at the ‘Presbyterian’ coordination theorists and at the radicalization of

in The Levellers