Regina v Secretary of State for Health ex parte Quintavalle (on behalf of Pro-Life Alliance): HL 13 Mar 2003

Court to seek and Apply Parliamentary Intention

The appellant challenged the practice of permitting cell nuclear replacement (CNR), saying it was either outside the scope of the Act, or was for a purpose which could not be licensed under the Act.
Held: The challenge failed. The court was to give effect to the intentions of Parliament, and statutes were to be read accordingly. The words which suggested it only applied to those which had human life given by fertilisation were words of description and not words of exclusive definition.
The words ‘where fertilisation is complete’ were intended not to qualify which embryos were protected, but the time at which they were protected. This was an Act passed for the protection of live human embryos created outside the human body. The essential thrust of section 1(1)(a) was directed to such embryos, not to the manner of their creation. The process was within the scope of the Act, and could accordingly be licensed under it. There was a ‘clear purpose in the legislation’ which could ‘only be fulfilled if the extension [was] made’.
Lord Bingham said: ‘The basic task of the court is to ascertain and give effect to the true meaning of what Parliament has said in the enactment to be construed. But that is not to say that attention should be confined and a literal interpretation given to the particular provisions which give rise to difficulties. Such an approach not only encourages immense preliminary complexity in drafting, since the draftsman will feel obliged to provide expressly for every contingency which may possibly arise. It may also (under the banner of loyalty to the will of Parliament) lead to the frustration of that will, because undue concentration on the minutia of the enactment may lead the court to neglect the purpose which Parliament intended to achieve when it enacted the statute. Every statute other than a pure consolidating statute is, after all, enacted to make some change, or address some problem, or remove some blemish or effect some improvement to the national life. The court’s task, within the permissible bounds of interpretation, is to give effect to Parliament’s purpose. So the controversial provision should be read in the context of the statute as a whole, and the statute as a whole should be read in the historical context of the situation which led to its enactment . . There is, I think, no inconsistency between the rule that statutory language retains the meaning it had when Parliament used it and the rule that a statute is always speaking . . The courts have frequently had to grapple with the question whether a modern invention or activity falls within old statutory language . . a revealing example is found in Grant v Southwestern and County Properties Limited [1975] Ch 185, where Walton J had to decide whether a tape recording falls within the expression ‘document’ in the Rules of the Supreme Court. Pointing out, at p190, that the furnishing of information had been treated as one of the main functions of a document, the judge concluded that a tape recording was a document.’
Lord Steyn noted that Acts were generally to be construed as ‘always speaking’ unless they were in an exceptional category dealing with a particular problem. Otherwise the court was free to apply the meaning of the statute to the present day conditions.

Bingham of Cornhill, Steyn, Hoffmann, Millett, Scott of Foscoe, LL
[2003] UKHL 13, Times 14-Mar-2003, [2003] 2 WLR 692, [2003] 2 AC 687, (2003) 71 BMLR 209, [2003] 1 FCR 577, [2003] 2 All ER 113
House of Lords, Bailii
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 1(1)
England and Wales
Appeal fromRegina (Quintavalle) v Secretary of State for Health CA 18-Jan-2002
A cloned cell, a cell produced by cell nuclear replacement came within the definition of embryo under the Act. The Act required that fertilisation was complete.
Held: The act could be applied in a purposive way. The legislative policy was that . .
AdoptedRoyal College of Nursing of the United Kingdom v Department of Health and Social Security HL 2-Jan-1981
The court was asked whether nurses could properly involve themselves in a pregnancy termination procedure not known when the Act was passed, and in particular, whether a pregnancy was ‘terminated by a medical practitioner’, when it was carried out . .
CitedGrant v Southwestern and County Properties Ltd ChD 1974
The court had to decide whether a tape recording fell within the expression ‘document’ in the Rules of the Supreme Court.
Held: The furnishing of information had been treated as one of the main functions of a document, and the tape recording . .
CitedCabell v Markham 1945
In discussing the purposive approach to the interpretation of statutes, the judge held: ‘Of course it is true that the words used, even in their literal sense, are the primary, and ordinarily the most reliable, source of interpreting the meaning of . .
CitedChristopher Hill Ltd v Ashington Piggeries Ltd HL 1972
Mink farmers had asked a compounder of animal foods to make up mink food to a supplied formula.
Held: There was reliance as to the suitability of the ingredients only.
Lord Diplock said: ‘Unless the Sale of Goods Act 1893 is to be allowed . .
CitedRegina v Burstow, Regina v Ireland HL 24-Jul-1997
The defendant was accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm when he had made silent phone calls which were taken as threatening.
Held: An assault might consist of the making of a silent telephone call in circumstances where it causes . .

Cited by:
CitedQuintavalle, Regina (on the Application of) v Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority CA 16-May-2003
A licence was sought so that a couple could have a child who would be tissue typed to establish his suitability to provide an umbilical cord after his birth to help treat his future brother. A licence had been granted subject to conditions, and the . .
CitedKirin-Amgen Inc and others v Hoechst Marion Roussel Limited and others etc HL 21-Oct-2004
The claims arose in connection with the validity and alleged infringement of a European Patent on erythropoietin (‘EPO’).
Held: ‘Construction is objective in the sense that it is concerned with what a reasonable person to whom the utterance . .
CitedQuintavalle v Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority HL 28-Apr-2005
The parents of a boy suffering a serious genetic disorder sought IVF treament in which any embryo would be tested for its pre-implantation genetic status. Only an embryo capable of producing the stem cells necessary to cure the boy would be . .
CitedRegina v Z (Attorney General for Northern Ireland’s Reference) HL 19-May-2005
The defendants appealed their convictions for being members of proscribed organisations. They were members of the ‘Real IRA’, but only the IRA was actually proscribed.
Held: The appeals failed. In construing an Act of Parliament it may be of . .
CitedKay v Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis HL 26-Nov-2008
The claimant had been involved in a monthly cycle ride through central London which had continued for many years. The ride took place without any central organisation and without any route being pre-planned. They objected to being required to apply . .
CitedHM Treasury v Ahmed and Others SC 27-Jan-2010
The claimants objected to orders made freezing their assets under the 2006 Order, after being included in the Consolidated List of suspected members of terrorist organisations.
Held: The orders could not stand. Such orders were made by the . .
CitedHM Treasury v Ahmed and Others SC 27-Jan-2010
The claimants objected to orders made freezing their assets under the 2006 Order, after being included in the Consolidated List of suspected members of terrorist organisations.
Held: The orders could not stand. Such orders were made by the . .
CitedGaunt v OFCOM and Liberty QBD 13-Jul-2010
The claimant, a radio presenter sought judicial review of the respondent’s finding (against the broadcaster) that a radio interview he had conducted breached the Broadcasting Code. He had strongly criticised a proposal to ban smokers from being . .
CitedBritish Pregnancy Advisory Service v Secretary of State for Health Admn 14-Feb-2011
The claimant sought a declaration that the administration of an abortifacient drug was not ‘any treatment for the termination of pregnancy’ for the purposes of section 1 of the 1967 Act, allowing the piloting and possible adoption of early medical . .
CitedBritish Bankers Association, Regina (on The Application of) v The Financial Services Authority and Another Admn 20-Apr-2011
The claimant sought relief by way of judicial review from a policy statement issued by the defendants regarding the alleged widespread misselling of payment protection insurance policies, and the steps to be taken to compensate the purchasers. They . .
CitedRobertson v Swift SC 9-Sep-2014
Notice Absence did not Remove Right to Cancel
The defendant had contracted to arrange the removal of the claimant’s household goods on moving house. The claimant cancelled the contract, made at his housel, but refused to pay the cancellation fee, saying that the contract not having been made at . .
CitedTrail Riders Fellowship and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Dorset County Council and Others CA 20-May-2013
The Fellowship had applied for orders upgrading public rights of way. The council rejected the applications saying that the digital mapping software used to repare the maps submitted were not compliant with the requirements of the legislation. They . .
CitedEnglish Bridge Union Ltd, Regina (on The Application of) v The English Sports Council and Others Admn 15-Oct-2015
The claimant Union claimed that the defendant should recognise the game of bridge as a sport. The defendant had adopted a definition from Europe which required physical activity, and the Union said that this was a misconstruction of its Royal . .
CitedTransport for London v Uber London Ltd Admn 16-Oct-2015
TFL sought a declaration as to the legality of the Uber taxi system. Otherwise unlicensed drivers took fares with fees calculated by means of a smartphone app. The Licensed Taxi drivers said that the app operated as a meter and therefore required . .
CitedTrail Riders Fellowship and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Dorset County Council SC 18-Mar-2015
Objection had been made that a plan, used to register a right of way before it would disappear if un-registered, was to the wrong scale and that therefore the application was ineffetive.
Held: The Council’s appeal failed. The plan was too . .
CitedLittlewoods Ltd and Others v Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs SC 1-Nov-2017
The appellants had overpaid under a mistake of law very substantial sums in VAT over several years. The excess had been repaid, but with simple interest and not compound interest, which the now claimed (together with other taxpayers amounting to 17 . .
CitedBarlow v Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council CA 1-Jun-2020
Presumption of dedication dates back.
The claimant tripped over a tree root raising a path in the park. The court was now asked whether the pathway through a public park, but which was not a public right of way, was maintainable at public expense as a highway governed by the 1980 Act. . .
CitedHuman Rights Commission for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland : Abortion) SC 7-Jun-2018
The Commission challenged the compatibility of the NI law relating to banning nearly all abortions with Human Rights Law. It now challenged a decision that it did not have standing to bring the case.
Held: (Lady Hale, Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson . .
CitedOwens v Owens SC 25-Jul-2018
W petitioned for divorce alleging that he ‘has behaved in such a way that [she] cannot reasonably be expected to live with [him]’. H defended, and the petition was rejected as inadequate in the behaviour alleged. She said that the section should be . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Health Professions, Administrative, Constitutional

Leading Case

Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.179803