Legal Method pp 225-233 | Cite as

The Idea of Legislative Intention

  • Ian McLeod
Part of the Macmillan Professional Masters book series (PAPRMA)


You will often encounter phrases such as ‘the intention of Parliament’. Indeed, for many years Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes defined ‘statutes’ as being simply ‘the will of the legislature’ (see, for example, 11th edn, 1962, p.1). Similarly, in Ealing London Borough Council v. Race Relations Board [1972] 1 All ER 105, Lord Simon said: ‘It is the duty of a court so to interpret an Act of Parliament as to give effect to its intention.’ On the other hand, it is not difficult to find statements, from both academic and judicial sources, to the effect that either there is no such phenomenon as the intention of Parliament, or, if there is, it is irrelevant to the process of statutory interpretation. Cross, for example, concludes that the phrase is ‘not so much a description as a linguistic convenience’ (Statutory Interpretation, 2nd edn, 1987, p.26), while, according to Lord Reid, in Black-Clawson International Ltd v. Papierwerke Waldhof-Aschaffenburg A.G. [1975] 1 All ER 810: ‘We often say that we are looking for the intention of Parliament, but that is not quite accurate. We are seeking not what Parliament meant but the true meaning of what they said.’


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Copyright information

© Thomas Ian McLeod 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian McLeod
    • 1
  1. 1.London Guildhall UniversityUK

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