Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 33 (4):821-842 (2013)

This review article examines Richard Ekins’ attempt to defend the concept of legislative intention from influential criticism, and to demonstrate its indispensable and central role in statutory interpretation. He rejects accounts of legislative intention in terms of the aggregation of the intentions of individual legislators, and instead, draws on recent philosophical work on the nature of group agency to propose a unitary model, in which the relevant intention is that of the legislature itself, although it is supported by the ‘interlocking’ of the intentions of all its members. The legislature has two relevant intentions: a secondary or standing intention to operate by way of agreed procedures to develop and enact particular proposals for legislation to enhance the welfare of the community; and primary intentions that consist of the content of those proposals once the legislature has enacted them. Ekins restricts the evidence that is relevant and admissible in order to determine the content of such proposals; because they must be ‘open’ to all legislators, and transparent to the community, the evidence must be publicly available. This article summarizes the main theses of the book, and subjects them to critical examination. It concludes that the book adds considerable depth, rigour and theoretical insight to our understanding of these issues. But it also suggests that his argument is vulnerable to criticism at a few points, at least one of which is crucial. The argument needs a better account of what it is that constitutes the content of particular proposals when they are put to the legislature for enactment.
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DOI 10.1093/ojls/gqt016
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