It is interesting that previous conservative thinkers have suggested that the whole concept of parliamentary sovereignty is itself a product of the self-denying ordinance of the common law. Consequently, they suggested that it was open to a subsequent, more robust judiciary, confi dent in its own position and powers within the developing constitution, to reassert its equality with the other two elements of the polity.

Source: p 38, The English Legal System 2012-2013, Gary Slapper

The linked definition above, referring to 1645, doesn't cohere with the context. So I tried self-denying, but I'm still confused by the idea of an ordinance denying itself something. How does this make sense?

1 Answer 1


An ordinance is not an agent which acts of its own accord; it is an act (or Act) performed by a legislative body.

Consequently, a self-denying ordinance is not an ordinance which denies itself something but an ordinance by which the legislators deny themselves something.

In the eponymous Self-Denying Ordinance of 1645 parliament denied itself—its members—the right to hold military or judicial office. Likewise (according to your author) parliamentary sovereignty is held by some thinkers to derive from the common law's denying itself the right to abrogate acts of parliament; for the common law is itself a sort of legislative body which, absent such a 'self-denying ordinance', might come into the same conflict with parliament as the Crown did during the 17th century.

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