The sovereignty of parliament and property: this week’s human rights roundup
11 April 2011
It’s time for the human rights roundup, a regular bulletin of all the law we haven’t quite managed to feature in full blog posts.
by Melinda Padron
At a time when the sustainability of the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty in modern British society is being called into question, Lord Neuberger gave a speech entitled “Who are the masters now?”, where he made a case for Parliamentary supremacy.
He suggested the principle remains absolute for five main reasons:
(1) Parliamentary sovereignty is the cornerstone of our constitutional settlement;
(2) Parliament does not want judges to have the power to overrule statutes (and he added that neither do judges);
(3) arguments to the contrary are far removed from reality that they undermine the main proposition they seek to support;
(4) even the strongest advocates of limiting Parliamentary sovereignty accept that such could only be done in the most exceptional of circumstances;
(5) we live in a world where democratic accountability is of the essence, and as such it would be undesirable for unelected judges to exercise powers to limit Parliament.
Lord Neuberger then continued with a historical overview of the principle, and later moved on to tackle the recent developments which have arguably cast a shadow over the absolute nature of this principle: the Jackson judgement and the HRA/ECHR. In the end, although he admitted that Laws LJ may be right when he stated that “a gradual reordering of our constitutional priorities [may] bring alive the nascent idea that a democratic legislature cannot be above the law”, he argued that we are not there yet, and that only a written constitution driven by the electorate could limit Parliamentary sovereignty. See Adam Wagner’s post for a detailed analysis of the speech.
Another speech was delivered last week by Lord Hope. In a lecture to the Scottish Young Lawyers Association, Lord Hope recalled his journey as a young man into the legal profession and argued that the Scottish legal system is secure in the hands of the UK Supreme Court.
Also in the news last week was the second part of Aidan O’Neill QC’s post on religion and the courts, published in the UK Supreme Court Blog. The post discusses how the UK courts and the ECtHR have dealt with the Ministerial exception, concluding that religiously based claims now have to abide by respect for human rights generally – and equality law in particular.
On the government front, there was an announcement that fathers of babies due on or after 3 April 2011 will be able to take up to six month additional paternity leave, and a curious absence of any reference to the issue of prisoners’ vote in the US State Department 2010 Human Rights Report on the UK.
In the courts:
- Who’s the master now? April 8, 2011 Adam Wagner
- Another control order bites the dust April 7, 2011 Adam Wagner
- Defamation the South African way April 6, 2011 Rosalind English
- One month to apply for Human Rights Lawyers Association bursary scheme April 5, 2011 Adam Wagner
- Expert immunity ruling – analysis by Guy Mansfield QCApril 5, 2011 1 Crown Office Row
- Litigating equality: a costly business? April 5, 2011Isabel McArdle
- Police, Protests and other Hot Potatoes- the Human Rights Roundup April 4, 2011 Melina Padron
- Do burglars have human rights? April 4, 2011 Matthew Flinn