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Judges and the law
Judges and the law

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6.8 Extrinsic aids

Extrinsic aids are matters which may help put an Act into context. Sources include previous Acts of Parliament on the same topic, earlier case law, dictionaries of the time, and the historical setting. In addition, Hansard can now be considered. Hansard is the official report of what was said in Parliament when the Act was debated. The use of Hansard was permitted following the decision in Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart (1993) where the House of Lords accepted that Hansard could be used in a limited way. It permits Hansard to be used where the legislation is ambiguous or obscure or leads to an absurdity, and the material relied on comprises one or more statements by a Minister or other promoter of the Bill and such other parliamentary material as is necessary to understand the statements, and the effect and the statements that were relied on have to be clear.

Extrinsic aids also include international conventions, regulations or directives which have been implemented by English legislation. It is thought that English law should be interpreted in such a way as to be consistent with international law. Section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998 expressly states that as far as it is possible to do so, an Act must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the rights in the European Convention on Human Rights. This only applies to any case where there is an issue of human rights.