R (HS2 Action Alliance Ltd) v Secretary of State for Transport

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R (HS2 Action Alliance Ltd) v Secretary of State for Transport
CourtSupreme Court
Citation(s)[2014] UKSC 3
Constitution, Parliamentary Sovereignty

R (HS2 Action Alliance Ltd) v Secretary of State for Transport [2014] UKSC 3 is a UK constitutional law case, concerning the conflict of law between a national legal system and European Union law.


The HS2 Action Alliance, Buckinghamshire CC, Hillingdon LBC, and Heathrow Hub Ltd claimed that the Secretary of State should have done a strategic environmental assessment under Directive 2001/42 before its ‘Next Steps’ Command Paper on HS2. This proposed a Hybrid Bill procedure in Parliament for constructing the High Speed 2 railway from London to Birmingham (phase 1), and then on to Manchester as well as Sheffield and Leeds (phase 2). The plaintiffs argued the Directive should be interpreted in line with the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters 1998 (the Aarhus Convention 2001) art 7. They also argued that a hybrid bill procedure did not comply with the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 2011/92/EU because the party whipped the vote, and limited opportunity to examine the information in Parliament. This was argued to fail the test for proper public participation under EIAD 2011 article 6(4).


The Supreme Court held that the UK has constitutional instruments that the courts would not interpret to be abrogated without close scrutiny.

207. The United Kingdom has no written constitution, but we have a number of constitutional instruments. They include Magna Carta, the Petition of Right 1628, the Bill of Rights and (in Scotland) the Claim of Rights Act 1689, the Act of Settlement 1701 and the Act of Union 1707. The European Communities Act 1972, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 may now be added to this list. The common law itself also recognises certain principles as fundamental to the rule of law. It is, putting the point at its lowest, certainly arguable (and it is for United Kingdom law and courts to determine) that there may be fundamental principles, whether contained in other constitutional instruments or recognised at common law, of which Parliament when it enacted the European Communities Act 1972 did not either contemplate or authorise the abrogation.

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