By Andrew Mitchell

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Extension of voting rights (19th/20th centuries): led to parliamentary democracy. UK joins the European Community in 1973 and therefore becomes subject to European Community law. The role of the Crown in the British constitution The title ‘the Crown’ is given to the monarch or sovereign of the country, that is, the Royal Head of State. The British monarch is also the Head of the Church of England and Head of State for assenting countries within the Commonwealth (an association of former colonial nations).

18 Chapter 1: Parliament, legislation and the British constitution n The concept of parliamentary sovereignty Reference has already been made at p 2 to the constitutional theory of parliamentary sovereignty, and this underlines the importance of primary legislation. Parliamentary sovereignty means that: (a) Parliament is the supreme law-making body in the British constitution. Parliamentary law should therefore prevail over all other sources of law. This means that Acts of Parliament are superior to, and can therefore override, the common law rules made by judges.

The former power is illustrated by the Queen’s (or King’s) Speech during the State Opening of Parliament, a ceremonial occasion in which the monarch reads a speech prepared by the Government outlining its proposals for new laws. The satirical magazine, Private Eye, once had a cover photograph of the Queen reading this speech, and a speech bubble coming from her mouth saying, ‘…and I hope you realise I didn’t write this crap’, a joke which illustrates that for all that the monarch is showing the formal exercise of power during the ceremony, the actual speech is written by the Government, and it is in this institution of the State that the real power lies.

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