Implied amendment, etc

13.14Although Article IX of the Bill of Rights has not been textually amended since its enactment, a number of statutes still in force have made amendments by implication whether to define any of the terms mentioned above or for other purposes. Several have concerned penalties for irregular sitting and voting in the Commons.1 The Witnesses (Public Inquiries) Protection Act 1892 includes penalties for those who are proved, before the courts, to have threatened or injured any person on account of evidence given by that person before a committee of either House, unless such evidence was given in bad faith.2 The Perjury Act 1911 punishes false evidence given on oath before committees of either House.3 The status of implied amendments has been made less certain by the courts' development of the principle that constitutional statutes may not be amended by implication.4

For the application to Parliament of the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000, see para 6.21.


  1. 1. The Parliamentary Elections Act 1695 (c 25); the House of Commons (Disqualifications) Act 1801 (c 52); and the Parliamentary Oaths Act 1866 (c 19). In Forbes v Samuel [1913] 3 KB 706 and Tranton v Astor (1916–17) 38 TLR 383, both actions involving allegations that a Member of the Commons had improperly sat and voted, the court demanded production of a division list in order to determine on the basis of what it recorded whether an offence contrary to statute had been committed. In Chubb v Salomons (1851) 175 ER 469, the Commons Journal was considered by the court in judging whether a Member had sat without taking the oath.
  2. 2. 1892, c 64. See also para 15.21.
  3. 3. 1911, c 6, s 1.
  4. 4. Thoburn v Sunderland City Council [2002] EWHC 195 (Admin), [2003] QB 151, [2002] 4 All ER 156, per Lord Justice Laws:
    ‘Ordinary statutes may be impliedly repealed. Constitutional statutes may not. For the repeal of a constitutional Act or the abrogation of a fundamental right to be effected by statute, the court would apply this test: is it shown that the legislature's actual – not imputed, constructive or presumed – intention was to effect the repeal or abrogation? I think the test could only be met by express words in the later statute, or by words so specific that the inference of an actual determination to effect the result contended for was irresistible. The ordinary rule of implied repeal does not satisfy this test. Accordingly, it has no application to constitutional statutes’ (para 63).