Regina v Secretary of State for the Environment Transport and the Regions and another, ex parte Spath Holme Limited: HL 7 Dec 2000

The section in the 1985 Act created a power to prevent rent increases for tenancies of dwelling-houses for purposes including the alleviation of perceived hardship. Accordingly the Secretary of State could issue regulations whose effect was to limit the maximum amount of rent in the proper exercise of that discretionary power. The Act as a whole was intended to strengthen the rights of tenants, and to protect tenants against various forms of potential disadvantage or exploitation.
In interpreting statutes, it is important for the conditions in Pepper v Hart to be strictly followed. It was not legitimate to have regard to a ministerial statement to elucidate not the meaning of a provision but the scope of a statutory power. Nevertheless there was nothing in that case to restrict the nature of the ambiguity or obscurity which might allow reference to parliamentary materials to support interpretation.
Lord Nicholls said: ‘Statutory interpretation is an exercise which requires the court to identify the meaning borne by the words in question in the particular context. The task of the court is often said to be to ascertain the intention of Parliament expressed in the language under consideration. This is correct and may be helpful so long as it is remembered that the ‘intention of Parliament’ is an objective concept, not subjective. The phrase is a shorthand reference to the intention which the court reasonably imputes to Parliament in respect of the language used. It is not the subjective intention of the minister or other persons who promoted the legislation. Nor is the subjective intention of the draftsman, or of individual members or even a majority of individual members of either House. These individuals will often have widely varying intentions. Their understanding of the legislation and of the words used may be impressively complete or woefully inadequate. Thus, when the courts say that such-and-such a meaning ‘cannot be what Parliament intended’, they are saying only that the words under consideration cannot reasonably be taken as used by Parliament with that meaning.’
. . And: ‘This constitutional consideration does not mean that when deciding whether statutory language is clear and unambiguous and not productive of absurdity, the courts are confined to looking solely at the language in question in its context within the statute. That would impose on the courts much too restrictive an approach. No legislation is enacted in a vacuum. Regard may also be had to extraneous material, such as the setting in which the legislation was enacted. This is a matter of everyday occurrence.
That said, courts should nevertheless approach the use of external aids with circumspection. Judges frequently turn to external aids for confirmation of views reached without their assistance. That is unobjectionable. But the constitutional implications point to a need for courts to be slow to permit external aids to displace meanings which are otherwise clear and unambiguous and not productive of absurdity. Sometimes external aids may properly operate in this way. In other cases, the requirements of legal certainty might be undermined to an unacceptable extent if the court were to adopt, as the intention to be imputed to Parliament in using the words in question, the meaning suggested by an external aid. Thus, when interpreting statutory language courts have to strike a balance between conflicting considerations.’
Lord Bingham of Cornhill said: ‘Unless the first of the conditions is strictly insisted upon, the real risk exists, feared by Lord Mackay, that the legal advisers to parties engaged in disputes on statutory construction will be required to comb through Hansard in practically every case (see pp. 614G, 616A). This would clearly defeat the intention of Lord Bridge of Harwich that such cases should be rare (p. 617A), and the submission of counsel that such cases should be exceptional’
Lord Bingham of Cornhill said that a court ‘should not routinely investigate the statutory predecessors of provisions in a consolidation statute’

Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead
Times 13-Dec-2000, [2000] UKHL 61, [2001] 2 AC 349, [2001] 1 All ER 195, [2001] 2 WLR 15, (2001) 33 HLR 31, [2000] NPC 139, [2000] EGCS 152, [2000] EG 152, [2001] 1 EGLR 129
Gazette, House of Lords, Bailii
Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 31, Rent Acts (Maximum Fair Rent) Order 1999
England and Wales
Appeal fromRegina, Ex Parte Spath Holme Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment Transport and The Regions, Secretary of State For Wales CA 20-Jan-2000
Regulations made to ease the effect of changes on the calculation of registered rents were ultra vires and void. The Act under which they were made was intended to control inflation. The purpose of these Regulations was to ease the effect on . .
ConstrainedPepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart HL 26-Nov-1992
Reference to Parliamentary Papers behind Statute
The inspector sought to tax the benefits in kind received by teachers at a private school in having their children educated at the school for free. Having agreed this was a taxable emolument, it was argued as to whether the taxable benefit was the . .
ApprovedMcKiernon v Secretary of State for Social Security CA 26-Oct-1989
A statute granting a power to be amended by a subordinate instrument can only do so by an express power: ‘Whether subject to the negative or affirmative resolution procedure, [subordinate legislation] is subject to much briefer, if any, examination . .
CitedHeydon’s Case 1584
Mischief rule of Iinterpretation
Lord Coke stated the basis of the mischief rule of interpretation: ‘For the sure and true interpretation of all statutes in general (be they penal or beneficial, restrictive or enlarging of the common law), four things are to be discerned and . .
CitedWestminster Bank Limited v The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Beverley Borough Council HL 1971
The Bank’s application for planning permission was refused on the grounds that the development might prejudice the possible future widening of a road. The local authority could have prescribed a building line in accordance with a provision of the . .
CitedRegina v Schildkamp HL 1971
The defendant was accused of defrauding the company’s creditors.
Held: Not guilty. When interpreting a statute, the words of a heading cannot have equal weight with the words of the Act. The courts sometimes have to fill lacunae in . .
CitedMaunsell v Olins HL 1975
The House considered whether a sub-tenant could claim protection under the 1968 Act. This depended on the interpretation of the word ‘premises’ in the context of a sub-tenancy of a cottage on a farm let under an agricultural tenancy.
Held: . .
CitedFarrell v Alexander HL 24-Jun-1976
The House considered the construction of a consolidation Act.
Held: It is ordinarily both unnecessary and undesirable to construe a consolidation Act by reference to statutory antecedents, but it is permissible to do so in a case where the . .
CitedJohnson v Moreton HL 1980
The tenant had, in the tenancy agreement itself, purported to contract ‘not in any event to serve a counter-notice under Section 24(1)’ of the 1948 Act.
Held: A head tenant under an agricultural tenancy has the right to challenge any notice to . .

Cited by:
Appealed toRegina, Ex Parte Spath Holme Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment Transport and The Regions, Secretary of State For Wales CA 20-Jan-2000
Regulations made to ease the effect of changes on the calculation of registered rents were ultra vires and void. The Act under which they were made was intended to control inflation. The purpose of these Regulations was to ease the effect on . .
CitedWilson v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry; Wilson v First County Trust Ltd (No 2) HL 10-Jul-2003
The respondent appealed against a finding that the provision which made a loan agreement completely invalid for lack of compliance with the 1974 Act was itself invalid under the Human Rights Act since it deprived the respondent of its property . .
CitedAmiri Flight Authority v BAE Systems Plc CA 17-Oct-2003
The appellant had contracted to purchase maintenance from the defendant of aircraft it had also purchased from them. They sought damages for negligence, saying the defendants had failed to prevent a known risk of corrosion. The defendants argued . .
CitedWestminster City Council v National Asylum Support Service HL 17-Oct-2002
The applicant sought assistance from the local authority. He suffered from spinal myeloma, was destitute and an asylum seeker.
Held: Although the Act had withdrawn the obligation to provide assistance for many asylum seekers, those who were . .
CitedRegina (Amicus etc) v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Admn 26-Apr-2004
The claimants sought a declaration that part of the Regulations were invalid, and an infringement of their human rights. The Regulations sought to exempt church schools from an obligation not to discriminate against homosexual teachers.
Held: . .
CitedRegina on the Application of Jackson and others v HM Attorney General CA 16-Feb-2005
The applicant asserted that the 2004 Act was invalid having been passed under the procedure in the 1949 Act, reducing the period by which the House of Lords could delay legislation; the 1949 Act was invalid, being delegated legislation, had used the . .
CitedJackson and Others, Regina (on the Application of) v Her Majesty’s Attorney General Admn 28-Jan-2005
The 2004 Act had been passed without the approval of the House of Lords and under the provisions of the 1911 Act as amended by the 1949 Act. The 1949 Act had used the provisions of the 1911 Act to amend the 1911 Act. The claimant said this meant . .
CitedOakley Inc v Animal Ltd and others PatC 17-Feb-2005
A design for sunglasses was challenged for prior publication. However the law in England differed from that apparently imposed from Europe as to the existence of a 12 month period of grace before applying for registration.
Held: Instruments . .
CitedHaw, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and Another CA 8-May-2006
The applicant had demonstrated continuously against the war in Iraq from the pavement outside the House of Commons. The respondent sought an order for his removal under the law preventing demonstrations near Parliament without consent which was . .
CitedWright and Others, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Health Secretary of State for Education and Skills Admn 16-Nov-2006
The various applicants sought judicial review of the operation of the Protection of Vulnerable Adults List insofar as they had been placed provisionally on the list, preventing them from finding work. One complaint was that the list had operated . .
CitedHanoman v London Borough of Southwark CA 12-Jun-2008
The claimant had exercised the right to buy his flat from the defendant. After the lease had been executed he sought to assert that the price should have been further reduced to allow for rent disregarded by the defendant because it been covered by . .
CitedJoyce v Secretary of State for Health Admn 1-Aug-2008
The claimant appealed against a decision of the Care Standards Tribunal regarding misconduct, and being placed on the list to prevent her working with vulnerable adults. She was said to have fallen asleep while on night duty. The court considered . .
CitedBritish Broadcasting Corporation v Sugar and Another Admn 2-Oct-2009
Disclosure was sought of a report prepared by the BBC to assess the balance of its coverage of middle east affairs. The BBC said that the information was not held for purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature. One issue was whether . .
CitedSugar v British Broadcasting Corporation and Another (2) SC 15-Feb-2012
The claimant sought release of a report prepared by the respondent as to its coverage of the Arab/Israel conflict partly for journalistic purposes, and partly for compliance.
Held: The appeal failed. Where the report was prepared even if only . .
CitedBogdanic v The Secretary of State for The Home Department QBD 29-Aug-2014
The claimant challenged fines imposed on him after three illegal immigrants were found to have hidden in his lorry in the immigration control zone at Dunkirk. The 1999 At was to have been amended by the 2002 Act, and the implementation was by the . .
CitedWhitston (Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK), Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice Admn 2-Oct-2014
The claimants challenged the selection by the defendant of victims of meselothemia as a group were excluded from entitlement to the recovery of success fees and insurance premiums paid by successful claimants from unsuccessful defendants.
CitedThe Manchester Ship Canal Company Ltd and Another v United Utilities Water Plc SC 2-Jul-2014
The court was asked: ‘whether a sewerage undertaker under the Water Industry Act 1991 has a statutory right to discharge surface water and treated effluent into private watercourses such as the Respondents’ canals without the consent of their . .
CitedThe Public Law Project, Regina (on The Application of) v Lord Chancellor SC 13-Jul-2016
Proposed changes to the Legal Aid regulations were challenged as being invalid, for being discriminatory. If regulations are not authorised under statute, they will be invalid, even if they have been approved by resolutions of both Houses under the . .
CitedForge Care Homes Ltd and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Others SC 2-Aug-2017
The court was asked who is legally responsible for paying for the work done by registered nurses in social rather than health care settings. Is the National Health Service responsible for all the work they do or are the social care funders . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Landlord and Tenant, Housing, Constitutional

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.88618