How Far Statutes Affect the Crown

How Far Statutes Affect the Crown

The Crown is not bound by a statute unless it is directly or by necessary implication referred to or, perhaps, the statute is one which does not touch the right or property of the Crown, legislation is presumed to be for subjects only.

‘Since laws are made by rulers for subjects a general expression in a statute such as ‘any person,’ descriptive of those upon whom the statute imposes obligations or restraints are not to be read as including the ruler himself. [Diplock L.J.] British Broadcasting Corporation v. Johns (Inspector of Taxes), (1965) Ch 32, p. 78

When the King gives his assent he does not mean to prejudice himself or to bar himself of his liberty and his privilege, but he assents that it shall be a law among his subjects. Willion v. Berkley, (1562) 1 Plowd. 223

The true rule is probably . . . more likely that it is not that the Crown merely legislates for its subjects but that very often the Crown legislates for itself and its subjects, and that, when the legislation in question is one which would otherwise affect, or which would affect, the Crown’s rights, interests and prerogatives, then the Act does not’apply to the Crown unless the Crown is specially named in that sense. [Wrottesley J.] Attorney General v. Hancock, (1940) 1 K.B. 427; the quotation is from the report in (1940)

All E.R. 32, p. 34

This presumption extends to the Crown’s servants and agents as well as to the Crown itself, Commissioners of Public Works v. Pontypridd Masonic Halt Co. Ltd., (1920) 2 K.B. 233 but there are many persons and bodies whose position as servants or agents of the Crown is not altogether clear. A relatively simple case is that of Trinity House. This is ‘nothing more than an amalgamation by authority of state of a vast number of bodies having general authority over the lighthouses and beacons and buoys throughout the country for the general con­venience. It is a corporation with very great powers vested in it by statute, but in no possible sense can it be deemed to represent the Crown. All the great officers of state are . . . emanations from the Crown. They are delegations by the Crown of its own authority to particular individuals. That is not the case with Trinity House, which has its nature and origin defined with sufficient clearness to enable us to say that at any rate it is in no sense an emanation from the Crown, nor in any way whatever a participant of any royal authority.’ Gilbert v. Corporation of Trinity House (1886) 17 Q.B.D. 795, per Day J.

The test seems to be the nature of the function performed by the person or body in question. Defence is indubitably a function of the Crown, and so a territorial association has been held entitled to exemption from the operation of statute when it acts in pursuance of Crown purposes, not only in so far as it occupies or seeks to occupy land or buildings by itself or its staff, Territorial Forces Association v. Philpot, (1947) 2 AH ER 376 but also in exercising its statutory powers to lease redundant or unused premises to members of the public. Territorial & Auxiliary Forces Association of the County of London v. Nichols, (1949) 1 KB 35 On the other hand, the British Transport Corpora­tion was held to be in no sense a servant or agent of the Crown, Tamlin v. Hannaford, (1950) 1 KB 18 and since broadcasting is not a province of government and the British Broadcasting Corporation was an independent body corporate which was not exercising functions created by the government, it was held by the Court of Appeal not to be entitled to immunity from payment of income tux. British Broadcasting Corporation v. Johns (Inspector of Taxes) (1965) Ch. 32 If, however, ‘Parliament intends that a new corporation should act on behalf of the Crown (and) says so expressly, as it did in the case of the Central Land Board by the Town and Country Planning Act 1947,’ Tamlin v. Hannaford, (1950) 1 KB 18, per Denning L.J. this will, of course, conclude the matter.

Cases in which the presumption that legislation does not affect the Crown has been applied

On several occasions it has been held that the Crown is not bound by Rent Restriction Acts. Clark v. Downes, (1931) 145 LT 20; Wirral Estates, Ltd. v. Shaw, (1932) 2 KB 247; Wheeler v. Wirral Estates, Ltd., (1935) 1 K. 294; Rudler v. Franks, (1947) KB 530

The Land Transfer Act, 1897, which vested the legal estate in land in the personal representatives of a deceased person, did not bind the Crown, and the legal estate in escheated land did not, under section 1, vest in the Solicitor to the Treasury as the Crown’s nominee. In v. Hartley, (1899) p. 40

As it is a prerogative of the Crown not to pay tolls, rates or other burdens in respect of property, it was long ago established that the Poor Relief Act, 1601, which authorized the imposition of a poor rate on every ‘inhabitant and occupier’ of property in a parish did not apply to the Crown, or to its direct and immediate servants, whose occupation was for the purposes of the Crown exclusively. Mersey Docks & Harbour Board v. Cameron, (1864) 11 HLC 443, per Westbury L.C. end Lord Cranworth So property occupied by the servants of the Crown exclusively for public purposes, as by the Post Office, R. v. Smith, (1857) 26 LJMC 105 or a territorial association, Pearson v. Holborn Union Assessment Committee, (1893) 1 QB 389; Wixon v. Thomas (1911) 1 KB 43 as a court-house, Hodgson v. Carlisle Local Board of Health (1857), 8 E & B 116 or as a prison, R. v. Shepherd, (1841) 1 QB 170 was all held exempt and is not now rateable to the general rate.

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