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THE PRACTICE STATEMENT:
This said that the house of lords (HOL) should have more flexibility.
In 1966 the Lord Chancellor issued a practice statement announcing a change to the rule in
London Street Tramways v London County Council. " Their Lordships regard the use of precedent as
an indispensable foundation upon which to decide what is the law and its application to individual cases. It
provides at least some degree of certainty upon which individuals can rely in the conduct of their affairs, as well
as a basis for orderly development of legal rules. Their Lordships nevertheless recognise that too rigid
adherence to precedent may lead to injustice in a particular case and also unduly restrict the proper
development of the law. They propose therefore, to modify their present practice and, while treating formal
decisions of this house as normally binding, to depart from a previous decision when it appears to be right to do
so. In this connection they will bear in mind the danger of disturbing retrospectively the basis on which
contracts, settlement of property, and fiscal arrangements have been entered into and also the especial need
for certainty as to the criminal law. This announcement is not intended to affect the use of precedent elsewhere
than in this House."
Since being made this practice statement has allowed the HOL to change the law if it believes that
an earlier case was wrongly decided. It has the flexibility to refuse an earlier case when `it appears
right to do so'. However this is vague and gives little guidence as to in what situation the HOL
could use this. In fact, the HOL has been reluctant to use this (especially for the first few years).
The same attitude was shown in Knuller v DPP (1973) when Lord Reid said "Our change of practice in
no longer regarding previous decisions of this house is absolutly binding does not mean that whenever we think a
previous precedent was wrong we should reverse it. In the general interest of certainty in the law we must be sure
that there is some very good reason to do so before we act".
From the mid-1970s onwards the HOL showed more willingness to make use of the practice
statement (e.g. Miliangos v George Frank Ltd  the HOL used the practice statement to
overrule a previous judgement that damages could only be awarded in sterling) (e.g. pepper v Hart
 where the previous ban on the use of Hansard in the statutory interpretation was
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In Horton v Sadler and another (2006) the HOL used the practice statement to depart from a
previous decision of its own. The case involved a personal injury claim, but the point of law being
decided was about the pwer to allow service out of time under s33 of the Limitation Act .
The HOL departed from their decision in Walkley v Precision Forgins Ltd (1979). The reasons for
It unfairly deprived claimants of a right that Parliament had intended them to have.…read more