Regina v Tower Hamlets London Borough Council, ex parte Chetnik Developments Limited: HL 1988

The House was asked whether a rating authority could refuse to repay rates which had been paid by mistake.
Held: ‘Parliament must have intended the rating authorities to act in the same high principled way expected by the court of its own officers and not to retain rates paid under a mistake of law . . unless there were, as Parliament must have contemplated there might be in some cases, special circumstances in which a particular overpayment was made such as to justify retention of the whole or part of the amount overpaid.’ When considering an exercise of a statutory discretion where there is no checklist given by the statute as to how it is to be exercised, how wide is the discretion? Lord Bridge said: ‘Before deciding whether a discretion has been exercised for good or bad reasons, the court must first construe the enactment by which the discretion is conferred. Some statutory discretions may be so wide that they can, for practical purposes, only be challenged if shown to have been exercised irrationally or in bad faith. But if the purpose which the discretion is intended to serve is clear, the discretion can only be validly exercised for reasons relevant to the achievement of that purpose.’ The powers of local authorities conferred upon them for public purposes are conferred upon them ‘as it were upon trust and not absolutely’ and that they can only be lawfully used in the right and proper way which Parliament when conferring them may be presumed to have intended.


Lord Bridge


[1988] 1 AC 858


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedC v London Borough of Lewisham CA 4-Jul-2003
The applicant lost her flat and had been refused emergency housing for herself and her child. She had a very troubled history with severe emotional trauma, and was disorganised. He application was refused on the ground of her having become . .
CitedUniversity of East London Higher Education Corporation v London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and others ChD 9-Dec-2004
The University wanted to sell land for development free of restrictive covenants. It had previously been in the ownership of both the servient and dominant land in respect of a restrictive covenant. The Borough contended that the restrictive . .
CitedKleinwort Benson Ltd v Lincoln City Council etc HL 29-Jul-1998
Right of Recovery of Money Paid under Mistake
Kleinwort Benson had made payments to a local authority under swap agreements which were thought to be legally enforceable when made. Subsequently, a decision of the House of Lords, (Hazell v. Hammersmith and Fulham) established that such swap . .
CitedElectoral Commission, Regina (On the Application of) v City of Westminster Magistrates Court and Another CA 19-Oct-2009
The UKIP party had accepted substantial donations. The donor had, through, he said, inadvertent error, had failed to ensure that he appeared on the electoral roll. The party had not taken all reasonable steps to verify his registration as required. . .
CitedThe Electoral Commission, Regina (on The Application of) v City of Westminster Magistrates Court and Another SC 29-Jul-2010
UKIP, a political party had accepted donations from an individual who had ceased to be a registered voter. An application had been made for forfeiture of the sums given. The court was now asked whether the Act created a presumption in favour of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Administrative, Local Government

Updated: 16 June 2022; Ref: scu.184317