Saturday, 25 October 2014

Dicey - Hero or Villan?

This morning I'll be discussing the British doctrine of "Parliamentary Sovereignty" with my Open University W201 class in Oxford. It's an interesting doctrine (some writers refer to it as "Parliamentary Supremacy"). We'll be looking at where the idea came from; what it means; and whether it is valid in the 21st Century.

It's impossible to ignore the contribution of A V Dicey. He was a significant writer on the workings of the British Constitution - but first and foremost a teacher. He knew how to impress an idea on his students minds - and keep it there. Any student of constitutional law would spend their limited time wisely if they searched their textbooks for summaries of key UK doctrines - the Rule of Law; Parliamentary Sovereignty - by Dicey. He recognised the value of "three points". I'll talk to my students this morning about his three points on Parliamentary Sovereignty. I won't even have to glance at my notes. They are instantly memorable.

But was Dicey right? Do his three points accurately represent the doctrine? Is it a useful doctrine anyway? Is it in fact a hindrance to the development of modern constitutional law - and at the heart of Britain's problematic relationship with the EU; and various international treaties that we are subject to?

I personally think it is outdated; and the cause of unnecessary problems - BUT Dicey's three points are an excellent way of explaining - and setting out the grounds for debate. His clarity is useful for revision - and a good framework for undertaking critical analysis.

So over the next few posts I'll use the three points to explain the doctrine.