Macarthys v Smith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Macarthys v Smith
Court Court of Appeal
Citation(s) [1981] QB 180, [1980] Case 129/79, [1979] 3 All ER 325
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Lord Denning MR
EU supremacy, sex discrimination

Macarthys v Smith [1981] QB 180 is an EU law, UK constitutional law and UK labour law case, concerning the construction of a sex discrimination statute, and its compatibility with European treaties, now in the European Union.


Ms Smith worked for Macarthys. She claimed she was paid unequally compared to a man who had previously worked for the company. The company argued she had no claim because the UK's Equal Pay Act 1970 did not allow comparisons with former colleagues. Ms Smith argued that, if this was true under UK law, then EC law did allow such a comparison, and it would override the UK statute.


Court of Appeal[edit]

A majority held that Ms Smith had no claim because the EC treaties could not be used as an aid to interpreting UK law.[1] Lord Denning dissented, and said that it could. He went on as follows.[2]

Thus far I have assumed that our Parliament, whenever it passes legislation, intends to fulfil its obligations under the Treaty. If the time should come when our Parliament deliberately passes an Act with the intention of repudiating the Treaty or any provision in it or intentionally of acting inconsistently with it and says so in express terms then I should have thought that it would be the duty of our courts to follow the statute of our Parliament. I do not however envisage any such situation. As I said in Blackburn v Attorney General ([1971] 2 All ER 1380 at 1383, [1971] 1 WLR 1037 at 1040): 'But if Parliament should do so, then I say we will consider that event when it happens.' Unless there is such an intentional and express repudiation of the Treaty, it is our duty to give priority to the Treaty. In the present case I assume that the United Kingdom intended to fulfil its obligations under art 119.

A reference was then made to the ECJ.

European Court of Justice[edit]

The ECJ held that Ms Smith had a claim because she could compare her pay with a former colleague, thus approving Lord Denning's dissent on the interpretation of the UK Act.

Court of Appeal[edit]

Macarthys was ordered to pay costs to fulfil the order of the ECJ.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1979] 3 All ER 325
  2. ^ [1979] 3 All ER 325, 329


External links[edit]