The 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 provisions of the relevant enabling Act.
Held: The appeal succeeded as to the ultra vires issue.
Lord Neuberger said: ‘Turning to section 9(2)(b) itself, as a matter of ordinary language, the relevant parts of the draft order do not seek to ‘vary or omit services’: rather they seek to reduce the class of individuals who are entitled to receive those services by reference to a personal characteristic or circumstance unrelated to the services. Of course, the words of section 9(2)(b) have to be interpreted in their context, and I accept that a sufficiently clear and strong context could justify a different conclusion, in the sense that the words of section 9(2)(b) could, as a matter of language, just about extend to a regulation such as the draft order. Nonetheless, that is not their natural meaning, and, of course, the natural meaning of the words in question is an important factor in an issue of statutory interpretation, particularly when they suggest that a so-called Henry VIII power does not extend to authorise the subordinate legislation in question.’
Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury PSC, with the agreement of the other members of the court, cited with approval the following passage in Craies on Legislation, 10th ed (2012), edited by Daniel Greenberg, at para 1.3.11: ‘as with all delegated powers the only rule for construction is to test each proposed exercise by reference to whether or not it is within the class of action that Parliament must have contemplated when delegating. Although Henry VIII powers are often cast in very wide terms, the more general the words used by Parliament to delegate a power, the more likely it is that an exercise within the literal meaning of the words will nevertheless be outside the legislature’s contemplation.’


Lord Neuberger, President, Lady Hale, Deputy President, Lord Mance, Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hughes, Lord Toulson


[2016] UKSC 39, [2016] AC 153, [2016] HRLR 17, [2016] WLR(D) 384, [2016] 3 WLR 387, UKSC 2015/0255


Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC, SC Summary, SC Summary video, SC Vid am, SC video pm


Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 9


England and Wales


At AdmnThe Public Law Project, Regina (on The Application of) v The Secretary of State for Justice The Office of The Children’s Commissioner Admn 15-Jul-2014
The claimant challenged the lawfulness of the 2014 Regulations which amended the entitlement to legal aid for those failing a residence test: ‘ the effect of this amendment will be to exclude those who have a better than fifty-fifty chance of . .
At CAPublic Law Project v The Lord Chancellor and Another CA 25-Nov-2015
Lord Chancellor’s appeal, with permission granted by the court below, against the decision of the Divisional Court granting a declaration that legislation which the Lord Chancellor proposed to introduce by statutory instrument would be unlawful. Mr . .
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 . .
CitedF Hoffmann La Roche and Co A G v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry HL 1975
No Indemnity for misadministration
The Secretary of State sought an interlocutory injunction under the Act to restrain the appellant from charging prices in excess of those fixed by a statutory instrument he had made. The appellant argued that the statutory instrument was ultra . .
CitedThe Sunday Times (No 1) v The United Kingdom ECHR 26-Apr-1979
Offence must be ;in accordance with law’
The court considered the meaning of the need for an offence to be ‘in accordance with law.’ The applicants did not argue that the expression prescribed by law required legislation in every case, but contended that legislation was required only where . .
CitedSilver And Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 25-Mar-1983
There had been interference with prisoners’ letters by prison authorities. The Commission considered Standing Orders and Circular Instructions in relation to restrictions on correspondence. The rules were not available to prisoners and were . .
CitedMalone v The United Kingdom ECHR 2-Aug-1984
COURT (PLENARY) The complainant asserted that his telephone conversation had been tapped on the authority of a warrant signed by the Secretary of State, but that there was no system to supervise such warrants, and that it was not therefore in . .
CitedMcKiernon 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 . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for Social Security, Ex parte Britnell (Alan) HL 1991
The applicant claimed and was paid benefits. There was later determined to have been an overpayment. A sum was recovered by deductions, but then he was granted only supplementary allowance. No deductions could be made from that, but the respondent . .
CitedRegina 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 . .

Cited by:

CitedMiller and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Exiting The European Union SC 24-Jan-2017
Parliament’s Approval if statute rights affected
In a referendum, the people had voted to leave the European Union. That would require a notice to the Union under Article 50 TEU. The Secretary of State appealed against an order requiring Parliamentary approval before issuing the notice, he saying . .
CitedIngenious Media Holdings Plc and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Revenue and Customs SC 19-Oct-2016
The tax payer complained that the Permanent Secretary for Tax had, in an off the record briefing disclosed tax details regarding a film investment scheme. Despite the off the record basis, details were published in a newspaper. His claims had been . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Legal Aid, Constitutional

Updated: 19 July 2022; Ref: scu.566880