Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939
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Emergency Powers Defence Act 1939
Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939
Long titleAn Act to confer on His Majesty certain powers which it is expedient that His Majesty should be enabled to exercise in the present emergency; and to make further provision for purposes connected with the defence of the realm.
Citation2 & 3 Geo. 6, c. 62
Royal assent24 August 1939
Other legislation
Repealed byEmergency Laws (Repeal) Act 1959
Status: Repealed

The Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939 was emergency legislation passed just prior to the outbreak of World War II by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to enable the British Government to take up emergency powers to prosecute the war effectively. It contained clauses giving the government wide powers to create Defence Regulations which regulated almost every aspect of everyday life in the country. Two offences under the regulations were punishable with death.[1]


The Act was passed in reaction to the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 and provided the government with powers from 24 August 1939. It was originally intended to be in force for only one year,[2] and made general provision for prosecuting the war effort. In particular, it provided for the following:

Extension of powers

The Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1940[3] extended the 1939 Act for another year, and provided for annual extensions by parliamentary resolution.[2] It significantly extended the Government's powers under the Defence Regulations to require persons "to place themselves, their services and their property at the disposal of His Majesty."[2]

The Emergency Powers (Defence) (No. 2) Act 1940[4] enabled the creation of special courts to administer criminal justice in war zones, as well as authorizing them to punish offenders for violating the Defence Regulations.[5]


The Act was repealed on 25 March 1959 by the Emergency Laws (Repeal) Act, 1959,[6] but the last of the Defence Regulations did not expire until 31 December 1964.[7]

See also

Further reading

  • Cotter, Cornelius P. (1953). "Constitutionalizing Emergency Powers: The British Experience". Stanford Law Review. 5 (3): 382-417. doi:10.2307/1226448. JSTOR 1226448.
  • Jennings, W. Ivor (1940). "The Emergency Powers (Defence) (No. 2) Act, 1940". Modern Law Review. 4 (2): 132-136. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2230.1940.tb02739.x. JSTOR 1090251.
  • Leeson, David (2012). "Emergency Powers Acts (1920, 1926, 1939-1940, 1964)". In Martel, Gordon (ed.). The Encyclopedia of War. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-40519037-4.


  1. ^ Butler, T.R.F.; Garsia, M., eds. (1943). Archbold Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice (31st ed.). pp. 1524-1525.
  2. ^ a b c Jennings 1940, p. 132.
  3. ^ 3 & 4 Geo. 6, c. 20
  4. ^ 3 & 4 Geo. 6, c. 45
  5. ^ Jennings 1940, p. 133.
  6. ^ Emergency Laws (Repeal) Act 1959, 7 & 8 Eliz. 2, c. 19, Fourth Schedule (Part I)
  7. ^ 1959 Act, s. 10

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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