Tuesday 4 March 2014

Pepper v Hart

I mentioned the case of Pepper v Hart in yesterday's post. It was quite a breakthrough - prior to the decision, it was not possible to argue using Hansard, what the "intention of Parliament" was. While there were good reasons for the original rule, it did seem strange that the one document which recorded the reasons for introducing a bill and the aims of the proposed legislation couldn't be used.

The speech of the Minister or member who brought forward the bill during Second Reading usually sets out the "mischief" which the proposed legislation sets out to address. MPs and Peers will use the legislative process to get explanations about the intended effect of specific words and phrases. Ministers may seek to assure the House about the meaning (and what is NOT intended).

The House of Commons Library produced a paper on the decision - and what we may now call "The rule in Pepper v Hart". The paper states -

"Following the decision in Pepper v Hart in 1993, if primary legislation is ambiguous or obscure the courts may in certain circumstances take account of statements made in Parliament by Ministers or other promoters of a Bill in construing that legislation. Until that decision, using Hansard in that way would have been regarded as a breach of Parliamentary privilege.”

The paper is available here.