Parliamentary supremacy—implied repeal

The following Public Law practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Parliamentary supremacy—implied repeal
  • Origins
  • The test
  • The Vauxhall Estates and Ellen Street Estates cases
  • Limits of implied repeal
  • Presumption against implied repeal
  • General provisions and specific provisions
  • EU membership and implied repeal
  • UK incorporation and supremacy of EU law
  • The Thoburn case and ‘constitutional statutes’
  • More...

Parliamentary supremacy—implied repeal

IP COMPLETION DAY: The Brexit transition period ended at 11pm on 31 December 2020. At this time (referred to in UK law as ‘IP completion day’), transitional arrangements ended and significant changes began to take effect across the UK’s legal regime. This document contains guidance on subjects impacted by these changes. Before continuing your research, see Practice Note: What does IP completion day mean for public law?

Essential to Parliament’s legislative supremacy is the principle that Parliament is not bound by its predecessors, and cannot bind its successors. It follows that, where a later Act of Parliament conflicts with an earlier one, the later one cannot be read as conditioned by, or subject to, the earlier. Rather, the later statute is considered to have repealed the earlier one by implication, to the extent of the conflict.

However in recent decades it has become accepted that at least in certain legal contexts (particularly in the context of European Union law and the European Communities Act 1972 (ECA 1972), and perhaps other 'constitutional' statutes) Parliament can enact provisions which, unless expressly repealed or amended, condition and limit the effect of later, conflicting enactments.


The principle was laid down by a court in Dean and Chapter of Ely v Bliss. This was a dispute about the payment of tithes by the occupier of land. The occupier defended himself

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