Westminster 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Held: Although the Act had withdrawn the obligation to provide assistance for many asylum seekers, those who were infirm and whose infirmity was not a consequence of their destitution, had not been excluded. Only able bodied destitute asylum seekers were excluded from benefit, and they had to rely upon the respondent. The House considered the value of the Explanatory notes now published with Acts: ‘Insofar as the Explanatory Notes cast light on the objective setting or contextual scene of the statute, and the mischief at which it is aimed, such materials are therefore always admissible aids to construction. They may be admitted for what logical value they have.’ Lord Steyn: ‘The starting point is that language in all legal texts conveys meaning according to the circumstances in which it was used. It follows that the context must always be identified and considered before the process of construction or during it. It is therefore wrong to say that the court may only resort to evidence of the contextual scene when an ambiguity has arisen.’


Steyn, Slynn, Hoffmann, Millett and Rodger LL


Times 18-Oct-2002, [2002] UKHL 38, [2002] 1 WLR 2956, [2002] 4 All ER 654, [2002] HLR 58, (2002) 5 CCL Rep 511, [2003] BLGR 23


House of Lords, Bailii


National Assistance Act 1948 21, Immigration and Asylum Appeals Act 1999 95 116


England and Wales


CitedPrenn v Simmonds HL 1971
Backgroun Used to Construe Commercial Contract
Commercial contracts are to be construed in the light of all the background information which could reasonably have been expected to have been available to the parties in order to ascertain what would objectively have been understood to be their . .
CitedReardon Smith Line Ltd v Yngvar Hansen-Tangen (The ‘Diana Prosperity’) HL 1976
In construing a contract, three principles can be found. The contextual scene is always relevant. Secondly, what is admissible as a matter of the rules of evidence under this heading is what is arguably relevant, but admissibility is not decisive. . .
CitedInvestors Compensation Scheme Ltd v West Bromwich Building Society HL 19-Jun-1997
Account taken of circumstances wihout ambiguity
The respondent gave advice on home income plans. The individual claimants had assigned their initial claims to the scheme, but later sought also to have their mortgages in favour of the respondent set aside.
Held: Investors having once . .
CitedRiver Wear Commissioners v Adamson HL 1877
It was not necessary for there to be an ambiguity in a statutory provision for a court to be allowed to look at the surrounding circumstances.
As to the Golden Rule of interpretation: ‘It is to be borne in mind that the office of the judge is . .
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 . .
CitedRobinson v Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Others HL 25-Jul-2002
The Northern Ireland Parliament had elected its first minister and deputy more than six weeks after the election, but the Act required the election to be within that time. It was argued that as a creature of statute, the Parliament could not act . .
CitedRegina v Westminster City Council ex parte A, London Borough of Lambeth ex parte X and similar CA 17-Feb-1997
This was an appeal from orders of certiorari quashing the decisions of three local authorities refusing to provide accommodation for the respondents, four asylum seekers, whose applications for asylum were presently being considered by the Secretary . .
CitedRegina v Wandsworth London Borough Council, Ex Parte O; Leicester City Council, Ex Parte Bhikha CA 7-Sep-2000
The applicants were immigrants awaiting determination of their applications for exceptional leave to remain, and who came to suffer from serious illness. Each applied for and was refused assistance from their local authority.
Held: The . .
CitedWahid v London Borough of Tower Hamlets CA 7-Mar-2002
Gilliatt The appellant suffered from schizophrenia. He was refused permission to apply for judicial review and for orders requiring the local authority not just to provide suitable accommodation but better . .
Appeal fromWestminster City Council v National Asylum Support Service CA 10-Apr-2001
. .
At first instanceWestminster City Council v National Asylum Support Service Admn 27-Feb-2001
. .

Cited by:

CitedRegina (on the Application of Mani) v London Borough of Lambeth CA 9-Jul-2003
Where a destitute and disabled asylum seeker had a clear need for care and attention, the local authority had a duty to provide it. The claimant was an asylum seeker, with impaired mobility and a history of mental halth difficulties. At first he was . .
CitedRegina (on the Application of A) v National Asylum Support Service, London Borough of Waltham Forest CA 23-Oct-2003
A family of asylum seekers with two disabled children would be destitute without ‘adequate’ accommodation. What was such accommodation?
Held: The authority was under an absolute duty to house such a family. In satisfying such duty, it was . .
CitedRegina, ex parte O v The London Borough of Haringey, The Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 4-May-2004
The court considered the duties of local authorities to support infirm asylum seekers with children.
Held: The authority had an obligation to support the adult, but the responsibility for the children fell on the National Asylum Support . .
AppliedS, Regina (on Application of) v South Yorkshire Police; Regina v Chief Constable of Yorkshire Police ex parte Marper HL 22-Jul-2004
Police Retention of Suspects DNA and Fingerprints
The claimants complained that their fingerprints and DNA records taken on arrest had been retained after discharge before trial, saying the retention of the samples infringed their right to private life.
Held: The parts of DNA used for testing . .
CitedAttorney General’s Reference (No 5 of 2002) HL 14-Oct-2004
The Attorney General sought the correct interpretation of section 17 where a court was asked as to whether evidence obtained from a telephone tapping had been taken from a public or private network. A chief constable suspected that the defendants, . .
CitedRegina v Montila and Others HL 25-Nov-2004
The defendants faced charges under the two Acts. They raised as a preliminary issue whether it is necessary for the Crown to prove that the property being converted was in fact the proceeds, in the case of the 1994 Act, of drug trafficking and, in . .
CitedIn re P (a minor by his mother and litigation friend); P v National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers HL 27-Feb-2003
The pupil had been excluded from school but then ordered to be re-instated. The teachers, through their union, refused to teach him claiming that he was disruptive. The claimant appealed a refusal of an injunction. The injunction had been refused on . .
CitedPhillips v Rafiq and Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) CA 13-Feb-2007
The MIB appealed from a judgment making it liable for an award of damages to the estate of the deceased who had been a passenger in a vehicle which he knew to be being driven without insurance. The estate had not sued the MIB directly, but first . .
CitedKing v The Serious Fraud Office CACD 18-Mar-2008
Restraint and Disclosure orders had been made on without notice applications at the request of South Africa. The applicant appealed a refusal of their discharge.
Held: Such orders did not apply to the applicant’s assets in Scotland. The orders . .
CitedM, Regina (on the Application of) v Slough Borough Council HL 30-Jul-2008
The House was asked ‘whether a local social services authority is obliged, under section 21(1)(a) of the 1948 Act, to arrange (and pay for) residential accommodation for a person subject to immigration control who is HIV positive but whose only . .
CitedPersimmon Homes (South Coast) Ltd v Hall Aggregates (South Coast) Ltd and Another TCC 10-Oct-2008
The parties had agreed for the sale of land under an option agreement. The builder purchasers now sought to exercise rights to adjust the price downwards.
Held: The provisions had been intended and had achieved a prompt and binding settlement . .
CitedMucelli v Government of Albania (Criminal Appeal From Her Majesty’s High Court of Justice) HL 21-Jan-2009
The House was asked whether someone who wished to appeal against an extradition order had an obligation also to serve his appellant’s notice on the respondent within the seven days limit, and whether the period was capable of extension by the court. . .
CitedRollins, Regina v SC 28-Jul-2010
The court was asked whether the Financial Services Authority had a power to prosecute money laundering offences under the 2002 Act, or whether, as contended by the defendant, its powers were limited to sections under the 2000 Act.
Held: The . .
CitedOceanbulk Shipping and Trading Sa v TMT Asia Ltd and Others SC 27-Oct-2010
The court was asked whether facts which (a) are communicated between the parties in the course of without prejudice negotiations and (b) would, but for the without prejudice rule, be admissible as part of the factual matrix or surrounding . .
CitedHorton v Henry CA 7-Oct-2016
No obligation on bankrupt to draw on pension fund
The trustee in bankruptcy appealed against a decision dismissing his application for an income payments order pursuant to section 310 of the 1986 Act in respect of income which might become payable to the respondent from his personal pension . .
CitedHutchings, Re Application for Judicial Review SC 6-Jun-2019
The appellant, a former army officer challenged proceedings against him as to the death of a civilian shot in Northern Ireland in 1974. His trial had been certified for trial by judge alone, and without a jury under section 1 of the 2007 Act.
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Local Government, Health, Immigration, Benefits, Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 23 March 2022; Ref: scu.177452