British Oxygen Co Ltd v Board of Trade: HL 15 Jul 1970

Cylinders containing hydrogen gas were being put on a trailer pulled by a tractor for the purpose of delivery to the premises of the purchaser. One of the issues before the court was whether the function of the hydrogen trailers and the cylinders were essentially that of storage or distribution.
Held: It was reasonable and right for a public authority to make known to those interested the policy it was going to follow: ‘by doing so fruitless applications involving expense and expenditure of time might be avoided’. If a policy is not to be applied in accordance with its meaning, as would have been the case on the original wording of section 6.1 of the licensing policy, there can be no such guidance.’ and
As to the manner of implementation of a discretion given by statute: ‘Since there is a rule that a public authority is not entitled to fetter its discretion, it is obliged to keep open the possibility of not applying that policy in any particular case if the specific circumstances of that case warrant the disapplication of the policy in relation to it.’
Lord Reid said: ‘So a storage tank built on wheels for convenience might not be regarded as a vehicle if its real purpose was storage rather than transportation. But the primary purpose of the hydrogen cylinders with the trailer appears to be for delivery and not for storage of the hydrogen.’
. . And ‘The general rule is that anyone who has to exercise a statutory discretion must not’ shut his ears to an application ‘ (to quote from Bankes LJ . .). I do not think there is any great difference between a policy and a rule. There may be cases where an officer or authority ought to listen to a substantial argument reasonably presented urging a change of policy. What the authority must not do is to refuse to listen at all. But a Ministry or large authority may have had to deal already with a multitude of similar applications and then they will almost certainly have evolved a policy so precise that it could well be called a rule. There can be no objection to that provided the authority is always willing to listen to anyone with something new to say – of course I do not mean to say that there need be an oral hearing. In the present case the respondent’s officers have carefully considered all that the appellants have had to say and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so. The respondent might at any time change his mind and therefore I think that the appellants are entitled to have a decision whether these cylinders are eligible for grant.’
Viscount Dilhorne found that ‘storage ends when delivery to a customer begins’

Viscount Dilhorne, Lord Reid
[1971] AC 610, [1970] UKHL 4, [1970] 3 All ER 165, [1970] 3 WLR 488
Industrial Development Act 1966
England and Wales
CitedRex v Port of London Authority Ex parte Kynoch Ltd CA 1919
Bankes LJ said: ‘There are on the one hand cases where a tribunal in the honest exercise of its discretion has adopted a policy, and, without refusing to hear an applicant, intimates to him what its policy is, and that after hearing him it will in . .

Cited by:
CitedRegina (on the application of S) v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, Regina (Marper) v Same CA 12-Sep-2002
The applicants had been charged with offences, but later acquitted. On arrest they had had DNA samples and fingerprints taken, and the details added to the national DNA database. The police refused to remove the records after the acquittals.
CitedRegina (on the Application of Chorion Plc) v Westminster City Council Admn 5-Oct-2001
A licensing policy had been challenged and then amended by the defendant council to meet the claimant’s concerns. Though the remaining issue was as to costs; the judge had to decide whether the challenge had been well founded.
Held: The policy . .
CitedRogers, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Health Admn 15-Feb-2006
The claimant suffered breast cancer. She sought treatment from the defendant with a drug called Herceptin, and now sought judicial review of the refusal of such treatment. Various stages in the licensing of the drug were yet to be completed. It was . .
CitedRegina v Eastleigh Borough Council, Ex parte Betts; In re Betts HL 27-Jul-1983
Mr Betts applied to Eastleigh for accommodation under the 1977 Act. They said that he had no local connection and referred his application to Blaby where the applicant and his family had formerly been living. Blaby accepted the referral and offered . .
CitedOzbek v Ispwich Borough Council CA 4-May-2006
The claimant applied to be housed as a homeless person. The authority sought to refer him to a different authority under s198. As an asylum seeker, he had been given assistance both in Portsmouth and Southampton before coming to Ipswich. He said . .
CitedSecurity Industry Authority v Stewart and Sansara Admn 17-Oct-2007
Various parties challenged the granting and withholding of licenses to operate as door supervisors (bouncers). The SIA regulated the grant of licences, and published criteria for their grant. It had been said that the inclusing of very minor . .
CitedOxfam v Revenue and Customs ChD 27-Nov-2009
The charity appealed against refusal to allow it to reclaim input VAT. It also sought judicial review of the decision of the Tribunal not to allow it to raise an argument of legitimate expectation. The charity had various subsidiaries conducting . .
CitedSecretary of State for The Home Department v Pankina CA 23-Jun-2010
Each claimant had graduated from a tertiary college and wished to stay on in the UK. They challenged the points based system for assessing elgibility introduced in 2008 after they had commenced their studies. The new rules tightened the criteria for . .
CitedGujra, Regina (on The Application of) v Crown Prosecution Service SC 14-Nov-2012
The appellant had twice begun private prosecutions only to have them taken over by the CPS and discontinued. He complained that a change in their policy on such interventions interfered with his statutory and constitutional right to bring such a . .
CitedSandiford, Regina (on The Application of) v The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs SC 16-Jul-2014
The appellant a British Citizen awaited execution in Singapore after conviction on a drugs charge. The only way she might get legal help for a further appeal would be if she was given legal aid by the respondent. She sought assistance both on Human . .
CitedSandiford, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs CA 22-May-2013
The appellant, a British national and European citizen was in prison in Bali convicted of a criminal charge for which she might face the death penalty. Having insufficient funds she sought legal assistance from the respondent for hr appeal, and now . .
CitedHesham Ali (Iraq) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 16-Nov-2016
The appellant, an Iraqi national had arrived in 2000 as a child, and stayed unlawfully after failure of his asylum claim. He was convicted twice of drugs offences. On release he was considered a low risk of re-offending. He had been in a serious . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Evidence, Administrative

Leading Case

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.197780