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Study Notes

Entrenched rights

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

An entrenched right is enshrined with a stronger form of protection from repeals or amendments than a normal law would be. Therefore, entrenched rights constitute a ‘higher-law’ which should represent the values which a nation holds most dear.

As it lacks a written constitution, The United Kingdom’s legal system does not have any such entrenched rights or values, although this doesn’t mean that equal value is placed on all UK laws. One reason for this is that the UK has never had an abrupt ‘constitutional moment’ (e.g. a revolution) where the old system was thrown out and a new one written. The second reason is that Parliament is sovereign, and thus omnipotent. A.V. Dicey thus explained that Parliament can make or repeal any law on any topic, and whatever law Parliament passes can never be challenged by anyone other than itself.

However, the introduction of the European Communities Act (ECA) and the Human Rights Act (HRA) has challenged the supremacy of Parliament. The creation of a separate Supreme Court also lessons the possibility of influence of politicians on the judiciary through a simple geographical split. But some believe that the judiciary is capable of protecting the rights of minorities better than Members of Parliament, who can be subject to the ebb and flow of political opinion and fortunes. That said, Parliament can remove the independence of the judiciary, so even that isn’t entrenched.

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