Cresswell v B.O.C. Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date24 June 1980
Judgment citation (vLex)[1980] EWCA Civ J0624-2
Date24 June 1980
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)

[1980] EWCA Civ J0624-2

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

Civil Division

On appeal from decision of the Lands Tribunal.


Lord Justice Megaw

Lord Justice Eveleigh and

Lord Justice Watkins

G. D. Cresswell (Valuation Officer)
B. O. C.. Limited

Mr. ALAN FLETCHER (instructed by Solicitor of Inland Revenue) appeared on behalf of the Appellant.

Mr. GUY SEWARD (instructed by Mr. G. W. Beck) appeared on behalf of the Respondents.


We need not trouble you further, Mr. Fletcher.


I shall ask Lord Justice Eveleigh to deliver the first judgment.


This is an appeal from the decision of the Lands Tribunal, dated the 26th February 1979, dismissing an appeal by this Appellant from a decision of the Local Valuation Court for Cumbria given on the 2nd November 1976, which ordered the deletion of the description and assessment of a hereditament Weighbridge and Premises, Low Plains, Castlerigg, Cumbria, from the Valuation List. The point in dispute in the case is whether fish bred and kept in tanks fox sale as food are "livestock" within the meaning of Section 2 of the Rating Act 1971.


Section 26, sub-section. (1), of the General Rate Act 1967 provides: "No agricultural land or agricultural buildings shall be liable to be rated or be included in any valuation list or in any rate", "agricultural land" is defined in sub-section (3) of that section, and "agricultural buildings" in sub-section (4).


The Rating Act of 1971 extended the definitions. The marginal note to Section 1 of that Act reads: "Extension of definition of 'agricultural buildings' and 'agricultural land' for purposes of derating in England and Wales"; and sub-section (1) of that section reads: "In section 26 of the General Rate Act 1967 (in this Part of this Act referred to as 'the principal section') the expression 'agricultural buildings' shall include any building which is an agricultural building by virtue of section 2, 3 or 4 of this Act". We are not concerned in this appeal with the expression "agricultural land", which is referred to in Section 1, sub-section (1)(b). So one then turns to Section 2 of the Rating Act 1971, and sub-section (1) of that section reads: "Subject to subsections (2) to (4) of thissection, each of the following is an agricultural building by virtue of this section - (a) any building used for the keeping or breeding of livestock". The word "livestock" is referred to again in Section 1, sub-section (3), which reads: "In this Part of this Act 'livestock' includes any mammal or bird kept for the production of food or wool or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land".


The premises in question were situated in Low Plains, Castlerigg, Cumbria. At that site operations were carried on or the production of edible fish, mainly rainbow trout. Eggs were imported from California and other parts of the world. They were placed in small tanks on racks. Later, young fish were transferred to other circular tanks, where they developed into fry, and the fish were fed in those tanks. They were finally removed for sale as food.


Now, the President of the Lands Tribunal, who came to the conclusion that the premises were exempt from rating, arrived at the conclusion that the fish in question were "livestock". He said: "In my judgment the ordinary meaning of the word in an agricultural context is something which is alive and is stocked for the purposes of providing food".


Mr. Fletcher, on behalf of the Appellant, the Valuation Officer, has submitted that Section 1, sub-section (3), is restrictive of any possibly wide meaning that might be given to "livestock" standing on its own in Section 2. It is to be noted that there is no specific definition of the word "livestock" in the Act. Therefore, says MR. Fletcher, the livestock with which one is concerned is mammal or bird for the purposes set out in sub-section (3) of Section 1. The Respondent,however, has said that in the first instance one should look at Section 2 and ask the question: Is the fish "livestock" or not? - and that question should be approached in a general way, regarding the word "livestock" as having a meaning of creatures that are not deadstock. He says that Section 1, sub-section (3), is extensive and not restrictive, but is for the purpose of this case irrelevant, because, applying the natural meaning of the word "livestock", the fish in question already come within the meaning of that word in Section 2.


He also has submitted to this court that the decision of the Lands Tribunal was in effect a decision of fact, applying a possible meaning and reasonable meaning of the word "livestock", and he has submitted that this Court cannot go behind that decision. For that submission he has relied upon the case of Cozens v. Brutus, 1973 Appeal Cases, 854, and in particular upon the words of Lord Reid at page 861. It is not necessary to recite that well-known passage, but Counsel has summarised the case by saying that where a statute uses an ordinary word and a judicial authority has the task of deciding whether or not something comes within the meaning of that word, then unless the decision is so unreasonable that the Court can say that no reasonable tribunal could arrive at that conclusion, we must not interfere. To my mind, there is a short answer to that point, namely, that the learned President in fact gave his definition of the word "livestock" in the passage which I have already quoted; this Court is in a position, therefore, of seeing the meaning that he ascribed to that word, and if this Court itself ascribes a different meaning, then of course the Court can interfere, for it would then be a question of law as to whether or not the Lands Tribunal applied the correct definition to the word inquestion. For myself, I have come to the conclusion that the learned President did not apply the correct definition, but employed a definition that was wider than that justified by the wording in the 1971 Act.


For myself, I would be inclined, at a first look at Section 2, to say that "livestock" there contemplates domestic animals or birds which are found on agricultural premises and which are supported by the land. In my judgment, Section 2 is the basic section granting relief, and the word "livestock" is there used in its ordinary meaning, but in an agricultural context. The agricultural context is, of course, made clear by the fact that what is being extended by the 1971 Act is the definition of "agricultural buildings" and "agricultural land". Indeed, the heading of Part I of the 1971 Act reads "Agricultural derating in England and Wales". So, consequently, it is livestock which one, in the ordinary sense of the word, associates with agriculture; and, to my mind, that does refer to domestic animals.


Taking that view, as I do, of Section 2 of the Act, I regard Section 1, sub-section (3), as extensive. It will allow to be brought within the exemption provided by the statute animals of an uncommon kind which may be kept for the production of food or wool or for the purposes of use in the farming of land, and could therefore include animals that are not usually regarded as domestic. For the present case, I would first look at Section 2 and having decided, as I say, that the fish in this case do not come within the ordinary meaning of the word "livestock" in an agricultural context, I would go no further. However, as an aid to construction of "livestock" in Section 2,I think it is permissible to have regard to sub-section (3) of Section 1, and it seems to me that Parliament there are revealing the kind of creature that it...

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