Equitable Members Action Group, Regina (On the Application of) v Her Majesty’s Treasury: Admn 15 Oct 2009

The applicants sought judicial review of the defendant’s response to a report of the Parliamentary Ombudsman finding maladministration by the defendant in rejecting the recommendation for compensation.
Held: The respondent’s rejection of the recommendations in some cases lacked cogency and fell short of the requirement.
Carnwath LJ said: ”Discussion: In considering the application of Bradley to the facts of the present case, we agree with Mr. Lewis that the subject-matter of the challenges falls into three distinct categories:
i) First, the Government’s rejection of the Ombudsman’s findings (of maladministration or injustice, as the case may be).
ii) Secondly, the challenge to the Government’s rejection of the Ombudsman’s recommendation of a compensation scheme.
iii) Thirdly, the challenge to the Chadwick Terms of Reference, concerning the Government’s proposal for ex gratia payments.
As we see it, it is only in respect of (i), the actual findings of the Ombudsman, that the Bradley approach is directly applicable. Although not bound by them, the public body can only reject the findings of the Ombudsman for ‘cogent’ reasons, that is for reasons other than merely a preference for its own view. That is not a precise test, but it would be wrong in our view for us at this level to attempt a further definition of the ‘cogent’ reasons test or to suppose that there is some exhaustive list of such reasons. What is required instead is a careful examination of the facts of the individual case – with the focus resting upon the decision to reject the findings of the Ombudsman, rather than the Ombudsman’s findings themselves.
Particular factors weighing against rejection in the present case are the complex nature of the Ombudsman’s investigation, together with the fact that her findings were made after taking detailed expert advice, including actuarial advice; and the fact that the public bodies involved in the Ombudsman’s investigation had extensive opportunities to make representations. On the other hand, where it can be demonstrated that the Ombudsman has gone wrong in fact or in law, or where the Government has carried out further work not done by the Ombudsman, the case for rejection may be easier to justify.
As for (ii), the Government’s rejection of the Ombudsman’s recommendation for a compensation scheme, it was not and could not have been submitted that the recommendation was binding on the Government. There was no serious dispute that in this context the legal test is the conventional one of irrationality or Wednesbury unreasonableness. Further, as the context necessarily entails a consideration of the allocation of resources from the public purse, the Court would be likely to proceed with caution before intervening: see, De Smith’s Judicial Review (6th ed.), at para. 11- 014.’
Carnwath LJ, Gross J
[2009] EWHC 2495 (Admin)
Insurance Companies Act 1982 37 45, Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967
CitedEquitable Life Assurance Society v Hyman HL 20-Jul-2000
The directors of the Society had calculated the final bonuses to be allocated to policyholders in a manner which was found to be contrary to the terms of the policy. The language of the article conferring the power to declare such bonuses contained . .
CitedRegina v Local Commissioner for Administration for the North and East Area of England ex parte Bradford Metropolitan City Council CA 1979
The court considered the meaning of ‘maladministration’ in the section.
Held: Lord Denning MR said: ‘It will cover ‘bias, neglect, inattention, delay, incompetence, ineptitude, perversity, turpitude, arbitrariness and so on.’ It ‘would be a . .
CitedRegina v Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration ex parte Balchin Admn 25-Oct-1996
The petitioners complained that the Secretary of State for Transport was guilty of maladministration in confirming Road Orders without seeking an assurance from Norfolk County Council that the Balchins would be given adequate compensation for the . .
CitedRegina v Commissioner for Local Administration ex parte S Admn 11-Nov-1998
Collins J said: ‘So far as injustice is concerned, it is clearly not enough that the Applicant feels that she has been unfairly treated and so has suffered an injustice. The law permits the Commissioner to find maladministration without injustice. . .
AppliedBradley and Others, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions CA 7-Feb-2008
Complaint was made as to a leaflet PEC 3 issued by the Department in 1996, intended to summarise the changes introduced by the Pensions Act 1995, and their purpose. One answer given was: ‘The Government wanted to remove any worries people had about . .

Cited by:
CitedGallagher and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Basildon District Council Admn 9-Nov-2010
The claimant challenged the refusal of the Council to pay compensation as recommended by the Ombudsman. The Council had gathered personal details and information of the claimants in the course of a planning dispute, and then published that . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 19 February 2021; Ref: scu.376139