Salomon v Customs and Excise Commissioners: CA 1966

Diplock LJ said: ‘The Convention is one of those public acts of state of Her Majesty’s Government of which Her Majesty’s judges must take judicial notice if it be relevant to the determination of a case before them, if necessary informing themselves of such acts by inquiry of the appropriate department of Her Majesty’s Government. Where, by a treaty, Her Majesty’s Government undertakes either to introduce domestic legislation to achieve a specified result in the United Kingdom or to secure a specified result which can only be achieved by legislation, the treaty, since in English law it is not self-operating, remains irrelevant to any issue in the English courts until Her Majesty’s Government has taken steps by way of legislation to fulfil its treaty obligations. Once the Government has legislated, which it may do in anticipation of the coming into effect of the treaty, as it did in this case, the court must in the first instance construe the legislation, for that is what the court has to apply. If the terms of the legislation are clear and unambiguous, they must be given effect to, whether or not they carry out Her Majesty’s treaty obligations, for the sovereign power of the Queen in Parliament extends to breaking treaties (see Ellerman Lines v. Murray; White Star Line and U.S. Mail Steamers Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. v. Comerford [1931] A.C. 126; sub nom. The Croxteth Hall; The Celtic, 47 T.L.R. 147, H.L.(E.) , and any remedy for such a breach of an international obligation lies in a forum other than Her Majesty’s own courts. But if the terms of the legislation are not clear but are reasonably capable of more than one meaning, the treaty itself becomes relevant, for there is a prima facie presumption that Parliament does not intend to act in breach of international law, including therein specific treaty obligations; and if one of the meanings which can reasonably be ascribed to the legislation is consonant with the treaty obligations and another or others are not, the meaning which is consonant is to be preferred. Thus, in case of lack of clarity in the words used in the legislation, the terms of the treaty are relevant to enable the court to make its choice between the possible meanings of these words by applying this presumption.’ However, the sovereign power of the Queen in Parliament extends to breaking treaties.
Lord Denning MR said: ‘In 1950 there was a convention between many of the European countries . . I think we are entitled to look at it, because it is an instrument which is binding in international law: and we ought always to interpret our statutes so as to be in conformity with international law. Our statute does not in terms incorporate the convention, nor refer to it. But that does not matter . .’

Diplock LJ, Lord Denning MR
[1967] 2 QB 116, [1966] 2 All ER 340, [1966] 2 Lloyds Rep 460, [1966] 3 WLR 36
Convention on the Valuation of Goods for Customs Purposes of December 15, 1950
England and Wales
Cited by:
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CitedAdams, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice SC 11-May-2011
The three claimants had each been convicted of murders and served time. Their convictions had been reversed eventually, and they now appealed against the refusal of compensation for imprisonment, saying that there had been a miscarriage of justice. . .
CitedThe United States of America v Nolan SC 21-Oct-2015
Mrs Nolan had been employed at a US airbase. When it closed, and she was made redundant, she complained that the appellant had not consulted properly on the redundancies. The US denied that it had responsibility to consult, and now appealed.
CitedReferences (Bills) By The Attorney General and The Advocate General for Scotland – United Nations Convention On The Rights of The Child and European Charter of Local Self-Government SC 6-Oct-2021
Scots Bills were Outwith Parliament’s Competence
The AG questioned the constitutionaliity of Bills designed to give effect to two treaties to which the UK is a signatory, and passed by the Scottish Parliament as to the care of children.
Held: The laws had effect also outside Scotland . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

International, Litigation Practice, Constitutional

Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.248851