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Parliament's role in authorising military force: Professor Gavin Phillipson gives evidence in House of Commons

Professor Gavin Phillipson, University of Bristol Law School

20 March 2019

On 12 March 2019 the Law School’s Professor Gavin Phillipson was one of the constitutional experts informing the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in their meeting to inquire into the role of Parliament in authorising the use of military force.

Gavin Phillipson, Professor of Public Law and Human Rights, was invited to give evidence during a House of Commons meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Topics discussed included what role the Commons should have in authorising the use of military action, and how the UK government’s use of prerogative powers over military force compare with the powers used by executives in other countries.

Commenting on the fact that the UK has been one of the most active intervenors in the world – it has used military force over 60 times since the Second World War - Professor Phillipson said:

“One correlation that studies have found is that essentially a stronger parliamentary role tends to be associated with a country taking less military action -  that’s arguably an aspect of democratic peace theory. (…) The more veto points that you have, the more possibility there is that military action won’t happen.”

 “We also have to consider this in the context of the UK’s lack of a codified constitution, which means that we don’t have some of the more formal checks and balances that other countries have through their constitutions; (…) the domestic courts essentially play no role in this area, meaning there’s no judicial check upon this as there is for most areas of executive action.

That means that what we’re discussing today is very important, because parliament is the only game in town if you want to have a check on what the government does militarily.”

Watch the full discussion online on the ParliamentLive website

Further information

Professor Gavin Phillipson joined the University of Bristol Law School in January 2019 as Professor of Public Law and Human Rights, and is also a qualified solicitor. His research interests lie in the fields of public law, particularly areas of European and UK human rights law, and the interface of those fields with public law and constitutional and political theory. He has published widely in these areas in top UK, US, Australian and Canadian journals, given evidence to several parliamentary committees and recently completed an Academic Parliamentary Fellowship, working in the House of Commons Library, assisting it with its work in briefing MPs on Parliament’s role in implementing Brexit.

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