Jackson v Attorney General [2006] 1 AC 262

Upholds the legality of the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, limiting the House of Lords’ legislative powers.

Facts

In November 2004, the British Government enacted the Hunting Act which prohibited fox hunting, inter alia. Whilst this bill received support in the House of Commons, it received continual opposition in the House of Lords, and so the Parliament Act 1949 was used to counter the House of Lords’ ability to delay the bill, and so it received royal assent.

The claimant, Jackson, bringing a claim on behalf of the Countryside Alliance and the pro- fox hunting lobby, attempted to assert that the Hunting Act 2004 was invalid as the 1949 Parliament Act, was itself illegal.  

Issue

Was the Parliament Act 1949 unlawful, and subsequently was the Hunting Act 2004 unlawful.

Held

At first hearing and upon appeal, the Courts found for the Attorney General, determining that the Hunting Act 2004 and Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 were lawful. This decision was upheld on final appeal to the House of Lords. It was further held that, legislation passed using the mechanisms in the Parliament Acts are primary legislation, rather than subordinate, and thus their validity would not be impeded were the Parliament Acts unlawful.

Lord Bingham, delivering the leading judgment, stated that the Parliament Acts could indeed be considered ‘enacted law’ and as the Hunting Act 2004 was lawfully passed it was valid law. Secondly that whilst legislative matters ought usually fall in Parliament’s jurisdiction, as Parliament could not respond to the question in the instant case, it fell to the judiciary to provide an answer and Parliaments can be bound by the procedural requirements placed upon them by previous Parliaments.

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