Magor and St Mellons Rural District Council -v- Newport Corporaion; HL 1951

References: [1951] 2 All ER 839, [1952] AC 189
Coram: Lord Simonds
The Court of Appeal had tried to fill in the gaps in a statute where parliament had intended an effect.
Held: Rights to compensation are well capable of falling within the definition of ‘property of a company’ in the relevant provisions of the Corporations Law. The courts should ‘construe very narrowly any substantive or procedural barriers against having recourse to courts for the rectifying of wrongs’. However, in the construction of a statute the duty of the court is limited to interpreting the words used by the legislature and it has no power to fill any gaps disclosed. To do so would be to usurp the function of the legislature. Referring to the speech of Lord Denning MR, Lord Simonds said that: ‘It appears to me to be a naked usurpation of the legislative function under the thin disguise of interpretation.’
Lord Simonds said:’The duty of the court is to interpret the words that the legislature has used; those words may be ambiguous, but, even if they are, the power and duty of the court to travel outside them on a voyage of discovery are strictly limited. If a gap is disclosed, the remedy lies in an amending Act and not in a ‘usurpation of the legislative function under the thin disguise of interpretation’.’
This case cites:

  • Appeal from – Magor & St Mellons Rural District Council -v- Newport Corporaion CA ([1950] 2 All ER 1226)
    Lord Denning considered the strict interpretation rule: ‘We do not sit here to pull the language of Parliament to pieces and make nonsense of it. We sit here to find out the intention of Parliament and carry it out and we do this better by filling . .

This case is cited by:

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    A shopkeeper displayed a flick-knife in his window for sale. A price was also displayed. He was charged with offering it for sale, an offence under the Act. The words ‘offer for sale’ were not defined in the Act, and therefore the magistrates . .
  • Cited – Pountney -v- Griffiths; Regina -v- Bracknell Justices, Ex parte Griffiths HL ([1976] AC 314)
    The applicant was a male nurse at Broadmoor Special Hospital. He was on duty while patients were saying goodbye to visitors. He approached the detained patient telling him to ‘come on’ and allegedly punched him on the shoulder. The patient brought . .
  • Cited – Seal -v- Chief Constable of South Wales Police HL (Bailii, [2007] UKHL 31, Times 05-Jul-07, [2007] 4 All ER 177, [2007] 1 WLR 1910)
    The claimant had sought to bring proceedings against the respondent, but as a mental patient subject to the 1983 Act, had been obliged by the section first to obtain consent. The parties disputed whether the failure was a procedural or substantial . .

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