Re Golden Chemicals Limited: 1976

In issue was a provision in the 1967 Act which stated that, if it appeared to the Secretary of State that it was expedient in the public interest that a corporate body should be wound up, he could present a petition for its winding-up. That power had been exercised by the Inspector of Companies in the Department of Trade acting for the Secretary of State. It was held that there was no obligation on the Secretary of State to exercise the power personally. It had been argued that the exercise of the power involved a serious invasion of the freedom or property rights of the subject and that it should be exercised only by the Secretary of State in whom it had been invested. Brightman J accepted that the power given to the Secretary of State ‘was of a most formidable nature which may cause serious damage to the reputation or financial stability of the company’, but he rejected the notion that a true distinction required to be drawn as a matter of law between powers which the minister must exercise personally and those which can be exercised by an officer of his department, if that distinction was based on the seriousness of the subject matter.
Brightman J’s judgment was based on his rejection of the claim that a distinction should be drawn as a matter of law between those cases in which the exercise of the power would have serious and grave consequences for those affected by it and cases where such consequences were not expected.
Brightman J said: ‘If there is a true distinction which must be drawn as a matter of law between powers which the Minister must exercise personally and those which can be exercised by an officer of his department, I might well come to the view that the power given by section 35 is so potentially damaging that it falls into the former category, however burdensome that may be to a Secretary of State personally. But is such a distinction to be drawn? I find no warrant for it in the authorities. In fact, the reverse. The accuracy of the breath test equipment with which R v Skinner [1968] 2 QB 700 was concerned was of vital importance to every motorist as indeed the judgment of the Court of Appeal recognised . . If a motorist fails the breath test he is arrested. So if the equipment over-registers, an innocent subject is placed under arrest; if it under-registers, a potentially lethal motorist is let loose on the highway. Yet the Court of Appeal decided that although such a ‘vitally important matter might well have occupied the Minister’s personal attention . . there is in principle no obligation upon the Minister to give it his personal attention’: p 709. As Mr Chadwick pointed out, there are important cases in which the Minister will exercise a statutory discretion personally, not because it is a legal necessity but because it is a political necessity.’
Brightman J
[1976] Ch 300
Companies Act 1967
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedH M Attorney General v Foley and Foley CA 21-Aug-1997
. .
Not approvedAdams, Regina v CANI 14-Feb-2018
Appeal against convictions on 20 March 1975 and 18 April 1975 on counts of attempting to escape from detention contrary to paragraph 38(a) of Schedule 1 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 (‘the 1973 Act’) and common law.
Not approvedAdams, Regina v (Northern Ireland) SC 13-May-2020
Secretary of State alone to consider confinement
The appellant had been detained under an Interim Custody Order (ICO) during internment during the troubles in Ireland, and then convicted of attempting to escape and escaping. He now appealed from that conviction saying that the order under which he . .
AppliedRegina v Harper CANI 1990
The appellant had been convicted of a number of serious offences, largely as a result of admissions made by him during interviews by the police. Among the grounds of appeal was a claim that extension of the appellant’s detention had wrongly been . .

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Updated: 08 May 2021; Ref: scu.188388