Millar v Taylor as a Precedent for Statutory Interpretation

Magyar, JJ 

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It is commonly believed that the rule forbidding recourse to legislative historyi as an aid to statutory interpretation began in 1769 with the case of Millar v Taylor.ii Justice Frankfurter’s view is representative: In Millar v. Taylor the principle of construction was laid down in words, which have never, so far as I know, been seriously challenged, by Willes J. as long ago as in 1769: ‘The sense and meaning of an Act of Parliament must be collected from what it says when passed into law; and not from the history of changes it underwent in the house where it took its rise.’(Frankfurter, 1947: 540–41) This claim has been repeated by scholars such as Odgers, Craies, Bennion, Vogenaur (Bennion, 1993: 151; Craies and Hardcastle, 1907: 122; Odgers, 1939: 219; Vogenauer, 2001: 671), and relatively recently by Scalia and Garner, who eloquently restated the basic understanding: "In English practice, a complete disregard of legislative history remained the firm rule from 1769 when it was first announced, until 1992, when the House of Lords changed the practice." (Scalia and Garner, 2012: 369)

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Common Law World Review
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SAGE Publications