Steele Ford and Newton v Crown Prosecution Service (No.2): HL 1993

The House considered the court’s jurisdiction to award costs out of central funds.
Held: In this case there was no such power, but: ‘still more important, in the present context, is the special constitutional convention which jealously safeguards the exclusive control exercised by Parliament over both the levying and expenditure of the public revenue. It is trite law that nothing less than clear, express and unambiguous language is effective to levy a tax. Scarcely less stringent is the requirement of clear statutory authority for public expenditure.’ The section gave a court no implied power to make an order out of central funds in civil litigation to compensate a litigant for wasted costs: ‘I will not multiply examples, but I hope I have said enough to explain why I cannot attribute to the legislature any general willingness to provide the kind of publicly funded safety net which the judiciary would like to see in respect of costs necessarily and properly incurred by a litigant and not otherwise recoverable . . Some general legislative provision authorising public funding of otherwise irrecoverable costs, either in all proceedings or in all appellate proceedings, would no doubt be an admirable step in the right direction which the judiciary would heartily applaud. But this does not, in my opinion, justify the courts in attempting to achieve some similar result by the piecemeal implication of terms giving a power to order payment of costs out of central funds in particular statutes, which can only lead to anomalies. . . The courts must always resist the temptation to engage, under the guise of statutory interpretation, in what is really judicial legislation, but this is particularly important in a sensitive constitutional area, such as that with which we are here concerned, where we should be scrupulous to avoid trespassing on parliamentary ground. I would hold that jurisdiction to order payment of costs out of central funds cannot be held to have been conferred by implication on the courts by any of the statutory provisions which I have examined. Indeed, I find it difficult to visualise any statutory context in which such a jurisdiction could be conferred by anything less than clear express terms.’

Lord Bridge
[1994] 1 AC 22, [1993] 2 All ER 769, [1993] 2 WLR 934
Supreme Court Act 1981 51
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedRe Law Society of Northern Ireland QBNI 9-Sep-2004
The Law Society of Northern Ireland sought an order to quash a letter from the new NI Legal Service Commission declining to implement the remuneration rates set by the Society. There had been no review of charging rates by the commission for some . .
CitedCorner House Research, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry CA 1-Mar-2005
The applicant sought to bring an action to challenge new rules on approval of export credit guarantees. The company was non-profit and founded to support investigation of bribery. It had applied for a protected costs order to support the . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Legal Professions, Constitutional, Costs

Leading Case

Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.214220