In re Racal Communications Ltd; In Re a Company: HL 3 Jul 1980

Court of Appeal’s powers limited to those Given

The jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal is wholly statutory; it is appellate only. The court has no original jurisdiction. It has no jurisdiction itself to entertain any original application for judicial review; it has appellate jurisdiction over judgments and orders of the High Court made by that court on applications for judicial review: ‘There is in my view, however, also an obvious distinction between jurisdiction conferred by a statute on a court of law of limited jurisdiction to decide a defined question finally and conclusively or unappealable, and a similar jurisdiction conferred on the High Court or a judge of the High Court acting in his judicial capacity. The High Court is not a court of limited jurisdiction and its constitutional role includes the interpretation of written laws. There is thus no room for the inference that Parliament did not intend the High Court or the judge of the High Court acting in his judicial capacity to be entitled and, indeed, required to construe the words of the statute by which the question submitted to his decision was defined. There is simply no room for error going to his jurisdiction, nor, as is conceded by counsel for the respondent, is there any room for judicial review. Judicial review is available as a remedy for mistakes of law made by inferior courts and tribunals only. Mistakes of law made by judges of the High Court acting in their capacity as such can be corrected only by means of appeal to an appellate court; and if, as in the instant case, the statute provides that the judge’s decision shall not be appealable, they cannot be corrected at all.’
Lord Diplock said: ‘The break-through made by Anisminic . . was that, as respects administrative tribunals and authorities, the old distinction between errors of law that went to jurisdiction and errors of law that did not, was for practical purposes abolished. Any error of law that could be shown to have been made by them in the course of reaching their decision on matters of fact or of administrative policy would result in their having asked themselves the wrong question with the result that the decision they reached would be a nullity.’ But there was: ‘no similar presumption that where a decision-making power is conferred by statute upon a court of law, Parliament did not intend to confer upon it power to decide questions of law as well as questions of fact. Whether it did or not and, in the case of inferior courts, what limits are imposed on the kinds of questions of law they are empowered to decide, depends upon the construction of the statute unencumbered by any such presumption. In the case of inferior courts where the decision of the court is made final and conclusive by the statute, this may involve the survival of those subtle distinctions formerly drawn between errors of law which go to jurisdiction and errors of law which do not that did so much to confuse English administrative law before Anisminic . . ; but upon any application for judicial review of a decision of an inferior court in a matter which involves, as so many do, interrelated questions of law, fact and degree the superior court conducting the review should not be astute to hold that Parliament did not intend the inferior court to have jurisdiction to decide for itself the meaning of ordinary words used in the statute to define the question which it has to decide.’

Lord Diplock, Lord Salmon, Lord Edmund-Davies, Lord Keith of Kinkel, Lord Scarman
[1981] AC 374, [1980] UKHL 5, [1980] 2 All ER 634, [1980] 3 WLR 181
Supreme Court Act 1981 15, Companies Act 1948 441
England and Wales
CitedRegina v Medical Appeal Tribunal ex parte Gilmore; Re Gilmore’s Application CA 25-Feb-1957
The claimant had received two injuries resulting in his total blindness. He sought an order of certiorari against the respondent who had found only a 20% disability. The tribunal responded that its decision, under the Act was final.
Held: In . .
Majority OverruledPearlman v Keepers and Governors of Harrow School CA 14-Jul-1978
The court considered the finality of decision of a county court judge regarding the interpretation of the phrase ‘structural alteration’ in the 1974 Act. Paragraph 2 (2) of Schedule 8 provided that the determination of the county court judge ‘shall . .
CitedDeighton v Cockle CA 2-Dec-1911
Where, an order haying been obtained for judgment under Order xiv., judgment is not signed until more than twelve months afterwards, the case does not come within Order lxiv., r. 13, and therefore it is not necessary that the notice of intention to . .
CitedAnisminic Ltd v Foreign Compensation Commission HL 17-Dec-1968
There are no degrees of nullity
The plaintiffs had owned mining property in Egypt. Their interests were damaged and or sequestrated and they sought compensation from the Respondent Commission. The plaintiffs brought an action for the declaration rejecting their claims was a . .

Cited by:
CitedKemper Reinsurance Company v The Minister of Finance and others PC 5-May-1998
(Bermuda) An appeal Court did have jurisdiction to hear an appeal against the discharge of leave to apply for certiorari order, since this was outside scope of the rule in Lane v Esdaille.
Lord Hoffmann said: ‘Nevertheless, the limited nature . .
CitedG v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Interim Decision) CA 9-Mar-2004
A certificate had been granted by the Home Secretary that the applicant was suspected of terrorism, and he had accordingly been detained under special procedures. When his case had come before the Special Immigration Appeal Tribunal, they had . .
AppliedWestminster City Council v O’Reilly and others CA 1-Jul-2003
The defendant sought to appeal against a decision of the High Court on a case stated by the Magistrates.
Held: A decision by the High Court on an appeal by way of case stated from the Magistrates was final, and no further appeal lay to the . .
CitedRegina (G) v Immigration Appeal Tribunal; Regina (M) v Immigration Appeal Tribunal Admn 25-Mar-2004
The applicants sought judicial review of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal’s refusal of leave to appeal. The court had to decide whether such a right survived section 101 of the 2001 Act.
Held: The right to have a judicial review could only be . .
CitedSinclair Gardens Investments (Kensington) Ltd, Regina (on the Application of) v The Lands Tribunal CA 8-Nov-2005
The claimant appealed against a refusal of judicial review of a decision of the Lands Tribunal.
Held: A decision of the Lands Tribunal could only be judicially reviewed in exceptional cases where there was either a jurisdictional error or a . .
CitedRegina v Manchester Crown Court ex parte Williams and Simpson 1990
If an application to prefer a Voluntary Bill is successful there is no right of appeal, and nor can the decision be made subject to judicial review. . .
CitedLumba (WL) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 23-Mar-2011
The claimants had been detained under the 1971 Act, after completing sentences of imprisonment pending their return to their home countries under deportations recommended by the judges at trial, or chosen by the respondent. They challenged as . .
CitedEvans and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Attorney General SC 26-Mar-2015
The Attorney General appealed against a decision for the release under the Act and Regulations of letters from HRH The Prince of Wales to various ministers and government departments.
Held: The appeal failed (Majority). The A-G had not been . .
CitedRegina v Hull University Visitor, Ex parte Page; Regina v Lord President of the Privy Council ex Parte Page HL 3-Dec-1992
The decisions of University Visitors are subject to judicial review in that they exercise a public function. English law no longer draws a distinction between jurisdictional errors of law and non-jurisdictional errors of law.
However, the . .
CitedLee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd and Others SC 10-Oct-2018
The court considered whether a power of appeal to the existed.
Held: A power did exist under FETO, and the CANI having mistakenly excluded a power to appeal the Supreme Court could nevertheless hear it. Both appeals were allowed. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, Company, Constitutional

Leading Case

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.182917