David Howarth: On Parliamentary Silence – UK Constitutional Law Association

Posted December 13th, 2016 in constitutional law, EC law, news, parliament, referendums, royal prerogative, treaties by sally

‘One of the most striking aspects of the arguments of counsel in Miller, as Rachel Jones has pointed out, was how much the disagreement between the parties focussed on the meaning of silence. The government’s case boiled down to an assertion that silence on the issue of whether legislation was needed to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of European Union in a succession of statutes – the European Communities Act 1972, the Referendum Act 1975, the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008, the European Union Act 2011 and the European Union Referendum Act 2015 – should be interpreted as parliament intending that the government was permitted to use the prerogative to invoke Article 50. For example, counsel for the government repeatedly argued that because some of these statutes, especially the 2008 and 2011 Acts, put restrictions on the exercise of the government’s foreign affairs prerogative power, it must follow that those statutes mean that other aspects of the prerogative must have been intended to have been left unfettered. Expressio unius exclusio alterius. On the other side, the applicants argued that parliament’s silence, especially in the 1972 Act, meant that it intended a specific pre-existing rule to apply, namely the rule that ministers could not use the prerogative, and in particular the foreign affairs prerogative, to change the law. They also argued that parliament’s subsequent silence in the other statutes confirmed that original choice.’

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UK Constitutional Law Association, 13th December 2016

Source: www.ukconstitutionallaw.org