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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 Rather, the later statute is considered to have repealed the earlier one by implication, to the extent of the conflict.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1972 (ECA 1972), and perhaps other 'constitutional' statutes) Parliament can enact provisions which, unless expressly repealed or amended, condition and limit the effect of later, conflicting enactments.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 on the basis that an Act of Parliament had extinguished the right of the Dean and Chapter to tithes, since the right to tithes had neither arisen nor been exercised in the previous twenty years. It was argued for the plaintiffs that the legislation could not have that effect, since this would be inconsistent with a previous statute, which had set the relevant period at sixty years. Lord
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