Today we will debate Parliamentary sovereignty. In truth, it should be called popular sovereignty. If Parliament can make and unmake laws, raise taxes and spend them without interference from the EU or judges, then the people are sovereign, because they can dismiss the Parliament in elections and influence it between elections through the pressure of public opinion.
If the EU and judges can now make law against Parliament’s wishes, or by ignoring Parliament, then the people have lost that control they should exercise through the pressure of public opinion and the votes of elected representatives.
At the heart of the arguments today in Parliament will be just that. The government says its Bill will reassert or confirm Parliamentary sovereignty, at least with respect to the EU. It will confirm that EU law only applies here because Parliament enacted the 1972 European Communities Act, giving the EU what powers it enjoys.
Some say it is now more complex than that. If, as some say, judges can now change or overturn laws through common law judgements and cases, then judges too can work with EU law and Treaties regardless of the views of Parliament.
The government and the MPs who are tabling amendments say they both want the same thing – a convincing reassertion of Parliamentary sovereignty. I will vote for the strongest formulations on offer, as I do believe we need to strengthen democratic accountability here at home.
The seventeenth century constitutional crisis sought to settle our constitution decisively in favour of Parliament making the law and answering for its works to electors. Judges were to interpret the law for individual cases, and MPs rightly agreed to stay out of those. Some fear that the world of creeping EU jurisdiction is different. It can lead to more decisions being taken by unelected officials, and to a sense of frustration about who is in charge as multiple sopurces of power and law making overlap and collide.