Wandsworth London Borough Council v Winder: HL 1985

Rent demands were made by a local authority landlord on one of its tenants. The local authority, using its powers under the Act, resolved to increase rents generally. The tenant refused to pay the increased element of the rent. He argued that the resolutions and notices of increase were ultra vires and void, on the grounds that they were Wednesbury unreasonable, and counterclaiming for a declaration to that effect. The tenant proposed adducing some evidence to support his case of unreasonableness. The local authority sought to strike out the defence and counterclaim as an abuse of process, on the grounds that the tenant should be debarred from challenging the conduct of the local authority other than by application for judicial review under RSC, Ord 53.
Held: Mr Winder was entitled as of right to challenge the local authority’s decision by way of defence in the proceedings which it had brought against him. The decision was based on ‘the ordinary rights of private citizens to defend themselves against unfounded claims.’
As a matter of construction of the relevant legislation, those rights had not been swept away by the procedural reforms introducing the new RSC Ord 53. Where the issue of a private law right depending on a prior public law decision is raised as a defence to a claim, then the point does not have to be dealt with by judicial review.
Lord Fraser of Tullybelton said: ‘It would in my opinion be a very strange use of language to describe the respondent’s behaviour in relation to this litigation as an abuse or misuse by him of the process of the court. He did not select the procedure to be adopted. He is merely seeking to defend proceedings brought against him by the appellants. In so doing he is seeking only to exercise the ordinary right of any individual to defend an action against him on the ground that he is not liable for the whole sum claimed by the plaintiff. Moreover he puts forward his defence as a matter of right, whereas in an application for judicial review, success would require an exercise of the court’s discretion in his favour. Apart from the provisions of Order 53 and section 31 of the Supreme Court Act 1981, he would certainly be entitled to defend the action on the ground that the plaintiff’s claim arises from a resolution which (on his view) is invalid: see for example Cannock Chase District Council v. Kelly [1978] 1 WLR 1, which was decided in July 1977, a few months before Order 53 came into force (as it did in December 1977). I find it impossible to accept that the right to challenge the decision of a local authority in course of defending an action for non-payment can have been swept away by Order 53, which was directed to introducing a procedural reform. As my noble and learned friend Lord Scarman said in Reg. v. Inland Revenue Commissioners, Ex parte Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses Ltd. [1982] AC 617, 647G ‘The new R.S.C., Ord. 53 is a procedural reform of great importance in the field of public law, but it does not – indeed, cannot – either extend or diminish the substantive law. Its function is limited to ensuring ‘ubi jus, ibi remedium.” Lord Wilberforce spoke to the same effect at p. 631A. Nor, in my opinion, did section 31 of the Supreme Court Act 1981 which refers only to ‘an application’ for judicial review have the effect of limiting the rights of a defendant sub silentio.’


Lord Fraser of Tullybelton


[1985] AC 461, [1984] UKHL 2, [1984] 3 All ER 83, [1984] 3 WLR 563




Housing Act 1957


England and Wales


CitedAssociated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation CA 10-Nov-1947
Administrative Discretion to be Used Reasonably
The applicant challenged the manner of decision making as to the conditions which had been attached to its licence to open the cinema on Sundays. It had not been allowed to admit children under 15 years of age. The statute provided no appeal . .
ApprovedPyx Granite Ltd v Ministry of Housing and Local Government HL 1959
There is a strong presumption that Parliament will not legislate to prevent individuals affected by legal measures promulgated by executive public bodies having a fair opportunity to challenge these measures and to vindicate their rights in court . .

Cited by:

CitedManchester City Council v Cochrane and Cochrane CA 21-Dec-1998
The tenants held an introductory tenancy under the Act. The council sought possession, after giving notice, and after its review under the Act. The tenants objected, but the Council denied the right of the County Court to hear the objection, arguing . .
CitedBoddington v British Transport Police HL 2-Apr-1998
The defendant had been convicted, under regulations made under the Act, of smoking in a railway carriage. He sought to challenge the validity of the regulations themselves. He wanted to argue that the power to ban smoking on carriages did not . .
CitedRoy v Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster Family Practitioner Committee HL 6-Feb-1992
The respondent had withheld part of the plaintiff’s GP payments saying that he had failed to devote himself full time to his practice. The plaintiff sued, and the defendant sought to strike out his application, saying that his application had to be . .
CitedKay and Another v London Borough of Lambeth and others; Leeds City Council v Price and others and others HL 8-Mar-2006
In each case the local authority sought to recover possession of its own land. In the Lambeth case, they asserted this right as against an overstaying former tenant, and in the Leeds case as against gypsies. In each case the occupiers said that the . .
CitedDoran v Liverpool City Council CA 3-Mar-2009
The claimant sought to set aside an order requiring him to give up possession of a caravan pitch held under the 1968 Act.
Held: The decision to serve a notice to quit which was reasonable on the facts known to the local authority at the time . .
CitedValentines Homes and Construction Ltd, Regina (on The Application of) v HM Revenue and Customs CA 31-Mar-2010
The claimant had applied for judicial review of a decision by the defendant to seek to recover a debt from them. The issue had however been settled in the County Court. Costs were ordered against them, and they now appealed. In a small company the . .
CitedCoombes, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Another Admn 8-Mar-2010
The landlord council brought proceedings for possession. The tenant (C) had remained in possession after his mother’s death, but enjoyed no second statutory succession. He had lived there since 1954 when he was six. C sought a declaration of . .
CitedNorth Somerset District Council v Honda Motor Europe Ltd and Others QBD 2-Jul-2010
Delayed Rates Claims Service made them Defective
The council claimed that the defendants were liable for business rates. The defendants said that the notices were defective in not having been served ‘as soon as practicable’, and further that they should not be enforced since the delay had created . .
CitedManchester City Council v Pinnock SC 3-Nov-2010
The tenant had been secure but had his tenancy had been reduced to an insecure demoted tenancy after he was accused of anti-social behaviour. He had not himself been accused of any misbehaviour, but it was said that he should have controlled his . .
CitedLumba (WL) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 23-Mar-2011
The claimants had been detained under the 1971 Act, after completing sentences of imprisonment pending their return to their home countries under deportations recommended by the judges at trial, or chosen by the respondent. They challenged as . .
CitedManchester City Council v Pinnock SC 9-Feb-2011
The council tenant had wished to appeal following a possession order made after her tenancy had been demoted. The court handed down a supplemental judgment to give effect to its earlier decision. The Court had been asked ‘whether article 8 of the . . .
CitedRuddy v Chief Constable, Strathclyde Police and Another SC 28-Nov-2012
The pursuer said that he had been assaulted whilst in the custody of the responder’s officers. He began civil actions after his complaint was rejected. He repeated the allegation of the assault, and complained also as to the conduct of the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Local Government, Judicial Review, Housing

Updated: 28 May 2022; Ref: scu.181810