Sources of English Law

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  • Created by: Jonny
  • Created on: 01-04-13 21:33

1966 Practice Statement - Lord Gardiner

"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 ... Their Lordships nevertheless recognise that too rigid adherence to precedent may lead to injustice and restrict the proper developement of the law. They propose therefore to modify their present practice and while treating former decisions of this House as normally binding, to depart from a previous decision where it appears right to do so ... This announcement is not intended to affect the use of precedent elsewhere than in this House."

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Re Tachographs: EC Commission V. UK (1979)

The UK Government did not implement a regulation that tachographs should be installed in all vehicles used for carrying goods. Instead the Government left it to the road haulage industry to introduce the regulation on a voluntary basis. The matter went before the European Court of Justice which decided that:

- The regulation provided that member states must adopt the law; and
- Regulations are immediately binding on member states. 

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Cheney V. Conn (1968)

The claimant objected to his tax assessment on the ground that the Government was using some of his tax to make nuclear weapons. His objection was that this was illegal under the Geneva Convention.

The Court applied the Finance Act 1964 (under which his tax had been assessed) in preference to the Convention which had been accepted by Parliament in 1957 (the later Act prevails). 

The judge commented;
" It is not for the court to say that an Act of Parliament, the highest law in this country, is illegal." 

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Factortame Ltd V. Secretary of State for Transport

The issue in this case was the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, which provided that 75% of shareholders in companies operating fishing boats in UK waters had to be British. Spain argued that this was contrary to the Treaty of Rome. It would take two years to get a ruling. Spanish boat owners asked the English courts to suspend the 1988 Act until the issue had been decided. The House of Lords referred the matter to the European Court of Justice which decided that EU law must take priority over domestic (national) law, even where there may be a conflict. The case was referred back to the House of Lords, which was obliged to suspend the relevant part of the 1988 Act.

The importance of Factortame (1991) is thus that ir shows that, if the British Parliament passes a new law which arguably conflicts with European Law, the British courts have power in some cases to grant a temporary injunction to prevent the UK authorities from enforcing that UK law while the matter is being sorted out.

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