• In the case of Pickin v British Railways Board [1974] AC 765, it was established that the courts don’t possess the authority to assess proceedings in Parliament and cannot nullify the impacts of a Statute if it was made illegally.

Facts of the Case

  • A private bill was introduced in Parliament, called the British Railways Act 1968 which sought to conclude the rule that land under abandoned railways would come under the ownership of the adjoining owner.
  • In this case, the adjoining owner was C. C claimed that the British Railways Board misled Parliament into passing the British Railways Act 1968 through false recital.
  • C asserted that the court ought to provide a declaration to nullify the benefit that the British Railways Board would be given by ensuring the Board hold this benefit on trust for C.
  • C proposed the distinction between public and private Acts of Parliament and asserted that it is open for the courts to nullify a private act even where it is not possible to do so for a public act.


  • Were the courts entitled to nullify a private Act of Parliament?

Held by the House of Lords

  • The House of Lords allowed the appeal and rejected C’s claim that the courts were open to nullify private Acts of Parliament.

Lord Reid

  • His Lordship emphasised the court’s limited role in assessing the manner in which an Act of Parliament is introduced. One it has been through the requisite process and has received Royal Assent, the court is not entitled to question that.
  • His Lordship also reaffirms the separate duties of the court and parliament.
  • “All that a court of justice can look to is the parliamentary roll. They see that an Act has passed both Houses of Parliament and that it has received Royal Assent, and no court of justice can inquire into the manner in which it was introduced into Parliament, what was done previously to its being introduced, or what passed in Parliament during the various stages of its progress.” [786-787]
  • “The function of the court is to construe and apply the enactments of Parliament… The court has no concern with the manner in which Parliament or its officers carrying out its Standing Orders perform these functions.” [787]

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

  • “For many years Parliament and the courts have been astute to respect the sphere of action and the privileges of the other – Parliament, for example, by its sub judice rule, the courts by taking care to exclude evidence which might amount to infringement of parliamentary privilege.” [799]