What does footnote 119 mean?
5.10 Some conclusions on the rule of law
We end this discussion of the rule of law with the point with which it began— that the meaning of the concept cannot be addressed without reference to its practical effect. In the UK, the main practical effects of the rule of law are threefold:
● Courts will strike down government action that is inconsistent with the rule of law.
● Courts try, whenever possible, to give legislation a meaning that is compatible with the rule of law.
● Courts will generally hold legislation (other than Acts of Parliament) to be invalid if it cannot be interpreted compatibly with the rule of law.
All of this is subject to the longstop that, in orthodox theory at least, the UK Parliament is sovereign. It can therefore legislate contrary to the rule of law— including by authorising others, such as government Ministers, to breach the rule of law— if it so desires. Hence Parliament can, for instance, reverse the effect of a judicial decision by enacting legislation with retroactive effect.119 The upshot is that while the rule of law— and hence the meaning of that concept— is important, it is not decisively important: for as
long as Parliament is sovereign, legislation enacted by it can trump rule of law principles. In this sense, politics can ultimately overrule law.
119 But not legislation enacted by the UK Parliament.
Mark Elliott. Public Law (3 ed 2017). p 62.