Campbell College, Belfast (Governors) v Northern Ireland Valuation Commissioner

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeLord Reid,Viscount Radcliffe,Lord Guest,Lord Pearce,Lord Upjohn
Judgment Date21 April 1964
Judgment citation (vLex)[1964] UKHL J0421-1
Date21 April 1964
CourtHouse of Lords

[1964] UKHL J0421-1

House of Lords

Lord Reid

Viscount Radcliffe

Lord Guest

Lord Pearce

Lord Upjohn

Governors of Campbell College Belfast
Commissioners of Valuation for Northern Ireland

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause Governors of the Campbell College Belfast against Commissioner of Valuation for Northern Ireland, that the Committee had heard Counsel, as well on Tuesday the 18th, as on Wednesday the 19th. Thursday the 20th, Monday the 24th, Tuesday the 25th and Wednesday the 26th, days of February last, upon the Petition and Appeal of the Governors of the Campbell College Belfast, of Belmont, in the County of Down, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland of the 29th of March 1963, might be reviewed before Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, and that the said Order might be reversed, varied or altered, or that the Petitioners might have such other relief in the premises as to Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, might seem meet; as also upon the Case of the Commissioner of Valuation for Northern Ireland, lodged in answer to the said Appeal; and due consideration had this day of what was offered on either side in this Cause:

It is Ordered and Adjudged by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in the Court of Parliament of Her Majesty the Queen assembled, That the said Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland of the 29th day of March 1963, complained of in the said Appeal be, and the same is hereby Reversed: And it is hereby Declared, That the Campbell College, Belfast is a hereditament used by the Appellants exclusively for charitable purposes, and is therefore exempt from rates: And it is further Ordered, That the Respondent do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Appellants the Costs incurred by them in the Courts below, and also the Costs incurred by them in respect of the said Appeal to this House, the amount of such last-mentioned Costs to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments: And it is further Ordered, That the Cause be and the same is hereby, remitted back to the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland, to do therein as shall be just and consistent with this Judgment.

Lord Reid

My Lords,


The question in this case is whether a well known fee-paying school near Belfast is exempt from payment of rates. It is not disputed that the school is within the class of educational charities in the legal sense explained in C.I.R. v. Pemsel [1891] A.C. 531, and it is not disputed that eleemosynary educational charities are exempt by statute. The question is whether the statutory exemption is wide enough to include other educational charities. Admittedly the question depends on the proper interpretation of section 2 of the Valuation (Ireland) Amendment Act, 1854, which is in these terms:

"In making out the Lists or Tables of Valuation mentioned in the said firstly herein-before mentioned Act, the Commissioner of Valuation shall distinguish all Hereditaments and Tenements, or Portions of the same, of a public Nature, or used for charitable Purposes, or for the Purposes of Science, Literature, and the Fine Arts, as specified in an Act of the Sixth and Seventh Years of Her Majesty, Chapter Thirty-six; and all such Hereditaments or Tenements, or Portions of the same, so distinguished, shall, so long as they shall continue to be of a public Nature, and occupied for the public Service, or used for the Purposes aforesaid, be deemed exempt from all Assessment for the Relief of the destitute Poor in Ireland and for Grand Jury and County Rates."


It is not disputed that if this section stood alone the legal meaning of the words "used for charitable purposes" would include all educational charities. But the Respondents maintain that this phrase must be interpreted in the light of the position as it was, or was understood to be, at the time when the Act was passed, and that in any event the meaning of the phrase has been so settled by decision and usage that a new interpretation ought not now to be put on it. I must therefore examine the history of rating exemption, but I shall make my examination as brief as is consistent with accuracy. The ground has been ably covered by the three judgments in the Court of Appeal in this case.


The first Act to which we were referred was an Irish Act of 1773 (13 & 14 Geo. III (Ir.) c. 19) "for the better and more certain valuation of houses in Counties of Cities and Counties of Towns". The preamble states that a doubt had arisen "whether all buildings for charitable purposes, and other public buildings in counties of cities and counties of towns, are not liable to be valued and charged with a proportion of taxes and rates under the several Acts of Parliament made for the valuation of houses". Then it is enacted that "no hospitals, public infirmaries, alms-houses, charity schools" (then there are specified some nine types of public buildings) "shall be included in any valuation … nor shall be charged with any part or proportion of such rates or taxes". We know nothing of the earlier Acts of Parliament there referred to, and while this gives exemption to the specified types of buildings it is not quite clear that it prevents exemption being given to any other type of building for charitable purposes or public building.


The next Act of importance is the Valuation of Lands (Ireland) Act, 1831. This Act amended an earlier Act of 1826 which applied to the whole of Ireland and provided for a general survey and uniform valuation. Section 3 provided that "no houses, lands, or tenements which by any law or usage have been heretofore exempted from applotment or assessment for or towards cesses or rates imposed by or under Grand Jury presentment, shall be included in the valuation", and it then conferred on Committees of Appeal and Revision "power and authority to consider and determine the justice and propriety of all such exemptions." We do not know how far exemption by usage extended either in counties or in towns: nor do we know how the justice and propriety of exemptions was or should have been determined. But it seems clear that the Act of 1773 was no longer to be the sole criterion even in the cities and towns to which it applied. The whole matter seems to have been left at large.


The next Act, the Valuation Act, 1832, does contain a definite provision as to exemptions. Section 3 provides that in making out lists the Commissioner of each County "shall distinguish all houses, lands, or tenements of a public nature or used for charitable purposes within every such parish" and that they "shall be exempt from applotment or assessment for or towards all county cess charges and parish rates whatsoever". And section 4 provides that they must be "altogether of a public nature or used exclusively for charitable purposes".


It was argued strenuously that these provisions ought to be read in light of the 1773 Act, so that, while they could be regarded as extending the list of charities set out in the 1773 Act to include other eleemosynary charities, they did not bring in any non-eleemosynary charities. I can see no ground for that. The 1773 Act only applied to certain cities and towns, whereas the 1832 Act was a general act: and, moreover, the 1831 Act had virtually superseded the 1773 Act. The law of Ireland in 1832 did not confine charitable purposes to purposes of an eleemonsynary character, and I can see no good reason for holding that the words of the new rule as to exemption in the 1832 Act should be given any other than their ordinary legal meaning.


Until 1838 there was no Poor Rate in Ireland. Any expense incurred in dealing with the poor was met out of the ordinary County rate. The Poor Relief (Ireland) Act, 1838, made several innovations. Administration of this Act was put under Commissioners in London. Parishes were grouped in Unions and Guardians elected for each Union. And a new tenement valuation was required to be made of all rateable hereditaments, so that a poundage rate could be levied on each separate hereditament. An elaborate specification of rateable hereditaments in section 63 is followed by a proviso which I must quote because much importance has been attached to it. It is as follows:—

"Provided also, that no church, chapel, or other building exclusively dedicated to religious worship or exclusively used for the education of the poor, nor any burial ground or cemetery, nor any infirmary hospital, charity school, or other building used exclusively for charitable purposes, nor any building, land, or hereditament dedicated to or used for public purposes, shall be rateable, except where any private profit or use shall be directly derived therefrom, in which case the person deriving such profit or use shall be liable to be rated as an occupier according to the annual value of such profit or use."


I see no reason to presume that this exemption was intended to be co-extensive with that in the 1832 Act. The whole machinery for the collection of the Poor rate was new and separate from that for collection of the older rates. The collecting authority was separate and the method of tenement valuation and imposition of a poundage rate was new. If the draftsman had intended to keep the same rule for exemptions as that in the 1832 Act there seems to be no explanation for his adopting the new and confused provisions of the provision of section 63. In my judgment the exemption in section 63 must be held to be narrower than that in the 1832 Act. The Appellants found on the words "or other building used exclusively for charitable purposes". But if the word "charitable" there means charitable in the legal sense, not only were the words preceding this general phrase quite unnecessary but the...

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