Parliament of the United Kingdom

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The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly referred to as the British Parliament, the Westminster Parliament or, formerly, the Imperial Parliament) is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom. and British overseas territories, located in London. Parliament alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and its territories. At its head is the Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II. Parliament traces its origins to the feudal council introduced in 1066 by William of Normandy, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws. In 1215, the tenants-in-chief secured Magna Carta from King John, which established that the king may not levy or collect any taxes (except the feudal taxes to which they were hitherto accustomed), save with the consent of his royal council, which gradually developed into a parliament.

Sourced[edit]

  • We may be proud that England is the ancient country of Parliaments. With scarcely any intervening period, Parliaments have met constantly for 600 years, and there was something of a Parliament before the Conquest. England is the mother of Parliaments.
  • Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.
    • Speech to the Electors of Bristol (1774-11-03); as published in The Works of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke (1834).
  • The power of discretionary disqualification by one law of Parliament, and the necessity of paying every debt of the Civil List by another law of Parliament, if suffered to pass unnoticed, must establish such a fund of rewards and terrors as will make Parliament the best appendage and support of arbitrary power that ever was invented by the wit of man.
    • Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770).
  • When trade is at stake, it is your last entrenchment; you must defend it, or perish...Sir, Spain knows the consequence of a war in America; whoever gains, it must prove fatal to her...is this any longer a nation? Is this any longer an English Parliament, if with more ships in your harbours than in all the navies of Europe; with above two millions of people in your American colonies, you will bear to hear of the expediency of receiving from Spain an insecure, unsatisfactory, dishonourable Convention?
    • William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, Denouncing the Spanish Convention of Prado in the House of Commons (6 March, 1739), reported in William Pitt, The Speeches of the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham in the Houses of Lords and Commons: With a Biographical Memoir and Introductions and Explanatory Notes to the Speeches (London: Aylott & Jones, 1848), pp. 6-7.
  • There are many things a parliament cannot do. It cannot make itself executive, nor dispose of offices which belong to the crown. It cannot take any man's property, even that of the meanest cottager, as in the case of enclosures, without his being heard.
  • The House of Commons is called the Lower House, in twenty Acts of Parliament; but what are twenty Acts of Parliament amongst Friends?
  • The King governs by Law. Let us look back to the evils we had, in order to prevent more. There was loan, and ship-money, and extremes begat extremes. The House would then give no money. Let the King rely upon the Parliament; we have settled the Crown and the Government. 'Tis strange that we have sat so many years, and given so much money, and are still called upon for Supply. The Lords may give Supply with their own money, but we give the peoples; we are their proxies. The King takes his measures by the Parliament, and he doubts not but that all the Commons will supply for the Government; but giving at this rate that we have done, we shall be "a branch of the revenue." They will "anticipate" us too. But, let the officers say what they will, we will not make these mismanagements the King's error. 'Tis better it should fall upon us than the King. We give public money, and must see that it goes to public use. Tell your money, fix it to public ends, and take order against occasions of this nature for the future. We cannot live at the expence of Spain, that has the Indies; or France, who has so many millions of revenue. Let us look to our Government, Fleet, and Trade. 'Tis the advice that the oldest Parliament-man among you can give you; and so, God bless you!

The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)[edit]

Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 189-193.
  • This Court is a standing Court, and the law doth adjourn it from time to time: but a Parliament is a new Court, they appear, and are always summoned by new writs.
    • Rolle, C.J., Case of Captain Streater on an Habeas Corpus (1653), 5 How. St. Tr. 400.
  • The Crown used to call a Parliament annually, but there was not an annual election. These words, annuo parliamento, relate to the time of their meeting, and not their election.
    • Rooke, J., Trial of Redhead alias Yorke (1795), 25 How. St. Tr. 1081.
  • To one who marvelled what should be the reason that Acts and Statutes are continually made at every Parliament, without intermission, and without end, a wise man made a good and short answer, both which are well composed in verse:
    "Quseritur, ut crescunt tot magna volumina legis?
    In promptu causa est, crescit in orbe dolus."
  • There is no providence or wisdom of man, nor of any council of men that can foresee and provide for all events and variety of cases, that will or may arise upon the making of a new law.
    • Sir Robert Atkyns, L.C.B., Trial of Sir Edward Halet (1686), 11 How. St. Tr. 1208.
  • The causes of the multiplicity of the English laws are, the extent of the country which they govern; the commerce and refinement of its inhabitants; but above all, the liberty and property of the subject.
  • Lex Parliamenti is to be regarded as the law of the realm; but, supposing it to be a particular law, yet if a question arise determinable in the King's Bench, the King's Bench ought to determine it.— Bridgman, C.J., Binion v. Evelin (1662), Dyer, 60; Carth. 137; 1 Show. 99.
  • If a man be committed by Parliament, and the Parliament is prorogued, the King's Bench will grant a habeas corpus. The common law then does not take notice of any such law of Parliament to determine inheritance originally. If there is any such, it ought either to be by act of Parliament, and there is no such act; or it ought to be by custom, and no more is there any such custom.
    • Lord Holt, Rex et Reg. v. Knollys (1694), 1 Ld. Raym. 11.
  • This Court (Lords House of Parliament), which ought to be an example to all other Courts, will ever hold in the highest reverence the indulgent character of British justice.
    • Lord Erskine, L.C., Trial of Lord Viscount Melville (1806), 29 How. St. Tr. 1249.
  • We cannot hear the integrity and wisdom of Parliament questioned in this Court.
    • Abbott, C.J., King v. Edmonds and others (1821), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 927.
  • The House of Commons are a great branch of the Constitution, and are chose by ourselves, and are our trustees; and it cannot be supposed, nor ought to be presumed, that they will exceed their bounds, or do anything amiss . . . this is a very foreign supposition, and what ought not to be said by any Englishman.
    • Powys, J., Reg. v. Paty (1704), 2 Raym. 1109.
  • Every facility ought undoubtedly to be given to all persons applying to either House of Parliament or to any Court of Justice for the redress of any alleged grievance.
    • Littledale, J., Stockdale v. Hansard (1837), 3 St. Tr. (N. S.) 922.
  • The House of Commons are the representatives of the people.
    • Gould, J., Reg. v. Paty (1704), 2 Raym. 1107.
  • It would look very strange, when the Commons of England are so fond of their right of sending representatives to Parliament, that it should be in the power of a sheriff, or other officer, to deprive them of that right, and yet that they should have no remedy; it is a thing to be admired at by all mankind.
    • Holt, C.J., Ashby v. White (1703), 2 Raym. 954.
  • I disclaim the power of legislation which is asserted to exist in this Court, and I say that, if such a right is to be created, it must be created by the Legislature properly so called.
    • Jessel, M.R., Day v. Brownrigg (1878), L. R. 10 C. D. 302.
  • It is the province of the statesman and not the lawyer to discuss, and of the legislature to determine, what is the best for the public good, and to provide for it by proper enactments. It is the province of the Judge to expound the law only—the written from the statute, the unwritten or common law from the decisions of our predecessors and of our existing Courts—from the text-writers of acknowledged authority, and upon the principles to be clearly deduced from them by sound reason and just inference—not to speculate upon what is the best, in his opinion, for the advantage of the community.
    • Coleridge, J., Brownlow v. Egerton (1854), 23 L. J. Rep. Part 5 (N. S.), Ch. 370.
  • If the legislature have not gone far enough, it is for them, not for us, to remedy the defect.
    • Chambre, J., Grigby v. Oakes (1801), 1 Bos. & Pull. 529.
  • It is for the legislature to alter the law if Parliament in its wisdom thinks an alteration desirable.
    • Lord Macnaghten, Hamilton v. Baker, "The Sara" (1889), L. R. 14 Ap. Ca. 227.
  • To abolish a well-established rule of law because it is a bad rule, is the business of the legislature.
    • Stephen, J., Reg. v. Coney and others (1882), 15 Cox, C. C. 59.
  • What the legislature has not expressly enacted, the Judges ought not to presume that it intended.
    • Lord Chelmsford, Mordaunt v. Moncreiffe (1874), L. R. 2 Sc. & D. 387.
  • The decisions of the House of Lords are binding on me and upon all the Courts except itself.
    • Sir John Romilly, M.R., Att.-Gen. v. The Dean and Canons of Windsor (1858), 24 Beav. 715.
  • By the Constitution of this United Kingdom, the House of Lords is the Court of Appeal in the last resort, and its decisions are authoritative and conclusive declarations of the existing state of the law, and are binding upon itself when sitting judicially, as much as upon all inferior tribunals. The observations made by members of the House, whether law members or lay members, beyond the ratio decidendi which is propounded and acted upon in giving judgment, although they may be entitled to respect, are only to be followed in as far as they may be considered agreeable to sound reason and to prior authorities. But the doctrine on which the judgment of the House is founded must be universally taken for law, and can only be altered by Act of Parliament.1 So it is, even where the House gives judgment in conformity to its rule of procedure, that where there is an equality of votes, semper presumitur pro negante.
    • Lord Campbell, L.C., Att.-Gen. v. Dean and Canons of Windsor (1860), 8 H. L. Cas. 391; 30 L. J. Ch. 531.

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