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BANGKOK, THAILAND - DECEMBER 06: Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland plays a shot during round one of the Thailand Golf Championship at Amata Spring Country Club on December 6, 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images)
December 12, 2012
Brian Pennington

Pepper v Hart is a landmark decision in English law on the use of legislative history instatutory interpretation. The House of Lords, by a majority, established the principle that when primary legislation is ambiguous then, under certain circumstances, a court may refer to statements made in Parliament in an attempt to interpret the meaning of the legislation. Before this ruling, such an action would have been seen as a breach ofparliamentary privilegeLord Mackay (pictured), dissenting, argued that Hansard should not be considered admissible evidence due to the time and expense involved in a lawyer having to look up every debate and discussion on a particular statute when giving legal advice or preparing a case. The decision met a mixed reception. While the judiciary were cautiously accepting, legal academics argued that it violated rules of evidence, damaged the separation of powers between the executive and Parliament and caused additional expense in cases. In 2000, a senior judge, Lord Steyn, delivered a lecture in which he attacked the logic and legal theory behind the decision, and several subsequent judicial decisions have considerably limited the use of Pepper by the courts. (Full article...)

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