• In the case of Ellen Street Estates Ltd v Minister for Health [1934] 1 KB 590, it was found that Parliament is not able to bind itself with regards to the form of subsequent legislation.
  • Parliament can change an Act that was previously passed, which can be done by Parliament repealing the previous Act, or alternatively by introducing a provision which contradicts the previous Act.

Facts of the Case

  • A property on Ellen Street, London was bought by Mr Litham in 1992 which was to be cleared by the London County Council passing a resolution under the Housing Act 1921.
  • Mr Litham assumed that he would be compensated, but an arbitrator ruled that he would receive no compensation under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act 1919 (ALA 1919). At this moment, the council had not cleared the property and the resolution that was passed had expired. This urged the Council to pass another resolution
  •  Mr Litham assigned his property to C, the estate agent. C challenged the clearing and asserted that the ALA 1919 states that future provisions that prove to be in contravention with the Act had no effect, which, if followed, meant that the resolutions clearing the property would be deemed invalid.


  • Could C prevent the clearing from going ahead?

Held by the Court of Appeal

  • The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and found that C couldn’t prevent the clearing from proceeding.

Scrutton LJ

  • His Lordship clarified that Parliament are able to vary an Act that has already been passed simply by passing another provision which is in contravention with the previous one.
  • “That is absolutely contrary to the constitutional position that Parliament can alter an Act previously passed, and it can do so by repealing in terms the previous Act – Mr. Hill agrees that it may do so – and it can do it also in another way – namely, by enacting a provision which is clearly inconsistent with the previous Act. In Maxwell’s Interpretation of Statutes I find three or four pages devoted to cases in which Parliament, without using the word “repeal,” has effected the same result by enacting a section inconsistent with an earlier provision. It is impossible to say that these words that compensation shall be assessed in a particular way and, subject as aforesaid, shall be assessed in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 1919 have no effect.” [595]

Maugham LJ

  • “The Legislature cannot, according to our constitution, bind itself as to the form of subsequent legislation, and it is impossible for Parliament to enact that in a subsequent statute dealing with the same subject-matter there can be no implied repeal. If in a subsequent Act Parliament chooses to make it plain that the earlier statute is being to some extent repealed, effect must be given to that intention just because it is the will of the Legislature. This second point also fails.”