Implied Repeal and Constitutional Statutes cases

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Macarthys v Smith (1979) 3 All ER 325

Facts: A lady was employed by her employer after another man had left the same position, but she was paid a lower wage (note, they were NOT employed at same time). European Community law (part of English Law by virtue of European Communities Act 1972) prohibits sex discrimination even with respect to successive employment. British legislation (Equal Pay Act 1970 as amended by Sex Discrimination Act 1975) prohibits sex discrimination only with respect to simultaneous employment.

Held: It was held that Community Law prevails over our law – you cannot legislate contrary to community law

  • Lord Denning: "Community law is now part of our law: and, whenever there is any inconsistency, Community law has priority. It is not supplanting English law. It is part of our law which overrides any other part which is inconsistent with it."

Thoburn v Sunderland City Council (2001) ‎EWHC 195

Facts: There were three defendants and one claimant who were all market traders (so-called ‘metric martyrs’). The authorities insisted upon the use of metric units of measurement . The ‘metric-martyrs’ asserted a right to trade in imperial units of measurement. The ‘earlier’ Act was the European Communities Act 1972, under which regulations were subsequently made insisting on the use of metric units. The ‘later’ Act was the Weights and Measures Act 1985 (as originally enacted) which, it was argued by the appellant, impliedly repealed the 1972 Act.

Held: The appeals were dismissed: it was held that there was no inconsistency between the Weights and Measures Act 1985 and EC Act 1972 (so it ignored the argument of implied repeal)

  • However, in any event, it was said obiter that implied repeal would not be applicable here → “Ordinary statutes may be impliedly repealed. Constitutional statutes may not.” (Laws LJ)

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Vauxhall Estates v Liverpool Corporation (1932) 1 KB 733

Facts: Slum housing was, by statute, obtained by compulsory purchase (i.e. so private land was being bought for public use). The owners of the private land were therefore able to get compensation, however there were two different statutes (i.e. Acts of Parliament) which gave differing accounts on how much compensation should be paid

  • The Acquisition of Land Act 1919 said that compensation would be paid at an “open marker” value. However, the Housing Act 1925 said compensation for the acquisition of slum housing would be paid by assessing the value of the “land as a site cleared of buildings”
  • The government would prefer the newer Act (as it would mean they would have to pay less compensation), but the owners of the land would prefer the older Act

Held: The court held that the Housing Act 1925 impliedly repealed the Acquisition of Land Act 1919 in relation to the method of assessing compensation for the acquisition of slum housing for redevelopment.

  • So, the newer Act prevails

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