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Thoburn v Sunderland City Council [2002]


  • Acts of Parliament sometimes contain a ‘Henry VIII clause’ which allows a nominated member of the executive to make amendments to legislation without the time and expense of making such a change in Parliament
  • The EC Act 1972 provided that laws could be modified to attain compliance with EC (or now EU) directives
  • Thoburn (and others) claimed, defending their recent arrests) that it was legal to trade primarily in imperial measurements as the Secretary of State’s amendments to the Weights and Measures Act 1985 in 1994 to comply with an EU directive was ineffective: the 1985 Act had impliedly repealed the EC Act 1972, removing the Secretary of State’s power to amend the Act to attain EU compliance


  • Had the Weights and Measures Act 1985 impliedly repealed the Henry VIII clause power of the executive to modify conflicting laws to attain EU compliance


  • No, Thoburn failed


  • It was ruled that there is a hierarchy of statutes: there are regular statutes, which can be impliedly repealed; and ‘constitutional’ statutes which can only be expressly repealed
  • The EC Act 1972 was deemed a ‘constitutional’ statute, therefore the Secretary of State’s amendments were effective
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