chapter  6
20 Pages


6.1 Parliament: from sovereignty to power-sharing

There once was a time when almost everyone agreed that the UK Parliament was, and ought to be, the pre-eminent institution of the constitutional system. Dicey’s explanation of the constitution was filled with Victorian optimism about the role of MPs. These men were able to give legitimacy to the Acts of Parliament by reason of the fact that they were elected representatives expressing the will of the electors; MPs controlled those of their colleagues who went on to form the government for the time being; and MPs would not legislate to infringe people’s freedoms because MPs shared the moral feelings of the time and society, which were predisposed to liberty (see above, 5.2). People of very different political outlooks, antithetical to Dicey’s, also once looked to Parliament as an institution capable of bringing about potent change in society. For socialists, the universal franchise was a preliminary step to getting representatives of the working class into the House of Commons, from where they could transform life for ordinary people (they thought), by legislating to turn the State into a Welfare State, a State that owned and controlled important industries and redistributed income.