Ellen Street Estates Ltd v Minister for Health [1934] 1 KB 590

Key Point

  • Parliament cannot bind itself as to the form of subsequent legislation


  • Mr Litham purchased a property on Ellen Street in London in 1922
  • The property was to be cleared pursuant to a resolution by the London County Council made under Housing Act 1921 and Litham assumed that he would be compensated
  • An arbitrator later ruled that there would be zero compensation under Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act 1919 (ALA 1919)
  • By that time the property had not been cleared yet and the original resolution had expired, prompting the Council to pass a new resolution under Housing Act 1930
  • Litham assigned his property to Ellen Street Estates Ltd (C), which challenged the clearing, inter alia, on the basis that the ALA 1919 stated that future provisions which were inconsistent with it would be of no effect, which if followed, meant that the Housing Acts pursuant to which the resolutions to clear the property were passed were invalid

 Held (Court of Appeal)

  • Appeal dismissed; C could not prevent the clearing from going ahead

 Scrutton LJ

  • Parliament can alter an Act previously passed enacting a provision that is clearly inconsistent with the previous act
  • If the argument advanced by C is correct, Parliament can effectively bind subsequent Parliaments, which is something “absolutely contrary to the constitutional” stature of parliamentary sovereignty: p. 595

 Maugham LJ

  • “The legislature cannot, according to our constitution, bind itself as to the form of subsequent legislation”


  • There is tension between the approaches taken towards parliamentary sovereignty in Ellen Street Estates [1934] 1 KB 590 and Jackson [2005] UKHL 56
  • Whilst Ellen Street is quite unequivocal as to the fact that parliamentary sovereignty means that subsequent Parliaments cannot be bound as to the form or processes of legislation, comments by their Lordships in Jackson begin to introduce limits to the legislative sovereignty of Parliamentary, such that fundamental legislation might be immune from implied repeal (see [106]-[107] of that judgment).