"Factortame Ltd v Secretary of State for Transport (1990)" is a landmark case in UK constitutional and European Union law. The case is particularly notable for its implications regarding the supremacy of European Union law over national laws of member states. Here's a detailed summary:
- Date: 1990
- Parties: Factortame Ltd (Appellant) vs. Secretary of State for Transport (Respondent)
- Context: The case involved a conflict between British legislation and European Community law.
- Legislation in Question: The UK's Merchant Shipping Act 1988 imposed certain conditions on fishing vessels registered in the UK, affecting many Spanish fishermen who operated in British waters under the British flag.
- Issue: Factortame Ltd, representing the interests of these Spanish fishermen, argued that the Act contravened European Community law, specifically the principle of freedom of establishment.
- Application for Interim Relief: Factortame sought an interim order to suspend the application of the Act while the case was being decided.
- Key Legal Question: Whether UK courts had the power to suspend national legislation that was potentially contrary to European Community law.
- House of Lords Ruling: Initially, the House of Lords held that it had no power to suspend an Act of Parliament.
- Reference to European Court of Justice (ECJ): The case was referred to the ECJ to determine whether EU law allowed national courts to grant such interim relief.
- ECJ Decision: The ECJ ruled that national courts must have the power to grant interim relief to protect rights under EU law, even if this meant suspending national legislation.
Legacy and Importance
- Supremacy of EU Law: The case affirmed the principle that European Union law takes precedence over conflicting national laws of member states.
- Power of National Courts: It established that UK courts could suspend national legislation if it contravened EU law, enhancing the role of courts in protecting European Union legal principles.
- Impact on UK Constitutional Law: The case highlighted tensions between parliamentary sovereignty and the obligations of EU membership, playing a significant role in the ongoing debate about the UK’s relationship with the EU.
"Factortame Ltd v Secretary of State for Transport" is a pivotal case in the context of the relationship between UK law and European Union law, demonstrating the direct effect and supremacy of EU law within member states.