I don't grok the boldening. Why Unknown? Because no parliamentarian ever tried to impose "formal requirements as to subsequent amendment or repeal of legislation"?

Bradley, Ewing. Constitutional and Administrative Law (2018 17 ed). p 66 para 2.

        It is worth distinguishing at this stage between formal requirements as to subsequent amendment or repeal of legislation, and statutory provisions which are intended to avoid the implied repeal rule and apply presumptions even to future legislation. The former are unknown, but there are examples of the latter, which may be thought of as a ‘soft’ form of affecting successor Parliaments (subject always to express repeal). The Interpretation Act 1978 sets numerous interpretative presumptions which apply to all legislation which both pre- and post-dates it (s 22(1)). Both the European Communities Act 1972 (s 2(1)) and the Human Rights Act 1998 (s 3) require past and future legislation to be interpreted in accordance with the principles to which they give effect.

  • It just means that there are no examples of "formal requirements as to subsequent amendment" I don't really see this as a political question, but just interpretation of a slightly oddly worded piece of English.
    – James K
    Dec 1, 2019 at 19:26

1 Answer 1


The UK Parliament has no means to bind a future parliament to any course of action. Any legislation can be changed or repealed by any future parliament. There are no constitutional provisions for "locking down" anything. There is thus no point in setting formal requirements for repeal or revision, because Parliament can ignore them. Therefore, it is not done.

The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 is not an exception to this, because it can be repealed, or legislation can be passed to create an exception.

Because of this, the UK has a certain lack of constitutional "safety nets." The main one is judicial review, which was recently important in restraining the government in the matter of the prorogation of Parliament. An additional informal one is caution about creating a constitutional crisis, although it appears that the current government was blind to the obvious possibility of doing this via prorogation.

To explain a little more, the very broad powers of Parliament are a result of transferring the powers of a theoretically absolute monarchy to Parliament. The UK has a constitution, but it evolved, rather than being formulated from first principles, and has never been overhauled or "modernised." One effect of this is that UK law and politics tend to concentrate on the de facto situation, rather than de jure principles or ideals. Such things are very nice in theory, but aren't considered practical. As a historical example, the UK recognised the People's Republic of China in 1950, shortly after its victory in the Chinese Civil War, and decades before the USA.

  • The first part is the simplistic explanation that is usually given, but is not wholly true when it comes to the little-known details. (There are various things that are downright paradoxical when it comes to looking at these fundamentals of the system. The principle that statute prevails over common law is not enshrined in statute, for example.) The last part is actually very wrong. The Supreme Court decision about the Boris Johnson prorogation was in fact entirely de jure, for starters, citing judicial precedent from the 17th century and law from as far back as Edward the 3rd.
    – JdeBP
    Dec 4, 2019 at 18:52

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