Eastwood (W. & J. B.) Ltd v Herrod

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtHouse of Lords
JudgeLord Reid,Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest,Lord Guest,Viscount Dilhorne,Lord Pearson
Judgment Date25 February 1970
Judgment citation (vLex)[1970] UKHL J0225-1

[1970] UKHL J0225-1

House of Lords

Lord Reid

Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest

Lord Guest

Viscount Dilhorne

Lord Pearson

W. & J. B. Eastwood Limited
and
Herrod (Valuation Officer)

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause W. & J. B. Eastwood Limited against Herrod (Valuation Officer), that the Committee had heard Counsel, as well on Tuesday the 9th, as on Wednesday the 10th and Thursday the 11th, days of December last, upon the Petition and Appeal of W. & J. B. Eastwood Limited, whose registered office is situate at Burns Lane, Warsop, in the County of Nottingham, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal of the 24th of June 1968, might be reviewed before Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, and that the said Order might be reversed, varied or altered, and that the Petitioners might have the relief prayed for in the Appeal, or 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 G. E. Herrod (Valuation Officer), 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, of the 24th day of June 1968, complained of in the said Appeal, be, and the same is hereby Affirmed, and that the said Petition and Appeal be, and the same is hereby, dismissed this House: And it is further Ordered, That the Appellants do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Respondent the Costs incurred by him in respect of the said Appeal, the amount thereof to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Lord Reid

My Lords,

1

The Appellants produce broiler chickens for the market. They occupy 1,150 acres at various points on which are a large number of buildings including 72 broiler houses each of which houses 22,000 birds. These birds are hatched in a hatchery and transferred to broiler houses when a day old and they are kept for ten weeks in the broiler house and then sent to a packing station to be killed and dressed. To provide the eggs from which these birds are hatched day old cockerels and laying hens are bought and put in 20 layer houses. The cockerels are put out on land amounting to some 20 acres for fifteen weeks when eight weeks old, but neither the laying hens nor the broiler chickens ever go out of the buildings. The 20 acres on which the cockerels are put out is changed from time to time but otherwise substantially the whole of the 1,150 acres is used to grow barley for feeding the birds. But this is not nearly enough. There is a mill on the land where this barley, other grain purchased and other foodstuffs are made up into suitable food for the birds. The grain grown on this land is only about 13 per cent. of the total grain used in the mill.

2

The question in this case is whether all these buildings are exempt from rating by reason of the provisions of the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928. The Appellants claim that they are agricultural buildings within the meaning of section 2(2) of that Act. This claim was rejected by the Local Valuation Courts. Then the Lands Tribunal, following earlier authority which I must deal with later, allowed the claim. But their decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal.

3

Section 2(2) of the Act is as follows:

"In this Act the following expressions have the meanings hereby respectively assigned to them:—

' Agricultural land ' means any land used as arable meadow or pasture ground only, land used for a plantation or a wood or for the growth of saleable underwood, land exceeding one quarter of an acre used for the purpose of poultry farming, cottage gardens exceeding one quarter of an acre, market gardens, nursery grounds, orchards or allotments, including allotment gardens within the meaning of the Allotments Act, 1922, but does not include land occupied together with a house as a park, gardens (other than as aforesaid) pleasure grounds, or land kept or preserved mainly or exclusively for purposes of sport or recreation, or land used as a racecourse; and for the purpose of this definition the expression 'cottage garden ' means a garden attached to a house occupied as a dwelling by a person of the labouring classes:

'Agricultural buildings' means buildings (other than dwelling-houses) occupied together with agricultural land or being or forming part of a market garden, and in either case used solely in connection with agricultural operations thereon."

4

The argument for the Appellants can be briefly stated in this way. This definition of "agricultural land" includes "land exceeding one quarter of an acre used for the purpose of poultry farming". Their whole undertaking is a poultry farm and the whole of this 1,150 acres is used for the purposes of poultry farming, because the whole of the produce of that area is fed to the poultry. And all these buildings are used solely in connection with this poultry farming. So one must examine the definition of "agricultural buildings" to see whether this argument is consistent with it.

5

This definition is awkwardly drafted because, although market gardens are included in the definition of "agricultural land", they are dealt with separately in the definition of "agricultural buildings". So agricultural land in the definition of agricultural buildings" must, I think, be read as meaning agricultural land other than market gardens. Moreover the definition assumes what has long been recognised when dealing with English rating statutes, viz. that agricultural land does not include the sites of agricultural buildings and that agricultural buildings include the land on which they are built.

6

If, then, I take that part of the definition of agricultural buildings which deals with agricultural land and leave out that part which deals with market gardens, I find that, to qualify as an agricultural building, a building must (1) be occupied together with agricultural land and (2) be used solely in connection with agricultural operations "thereon". I shall return to an argument that "thereon" must be given a special meaning here: but, neglecting that argument for the moment, it appears to me to be obvious that "thereon" means on the agricultural land together with which the building is occupied. In the present case it is agreed that all these buildings are occupied together with the 1,150 acres which is admittedly agricultural land. So the question is whether they are used solely in connection with the agricultural operations on that land. It does not matter whether the uses which are made of the buildings are in themselves agricultural operations. What does matter is whether those uses are solely "in connection with" agricultural operations on the agricultural land.

7

It appears to me to be clear from the context and the apparent intention of the Act that "agricultural buildings" must have been meant to include at least all types of ordinary farm buildings in use when the Act was passed. And, as methods of farming change, I would presume an intention to include new types of such buildings. I do not think it difficult to construe the definition as including all such kinds of buildings. But the buildings in this case are not ordinary farm buildings and the question is, how much farther the definition should be held to go.

8

The key words are "used in connection with" agricultural operations on the land. Ordinary usage of the English language suggests that the buildings must be subsidiary or ancillary to the agricultural operations. Logically it may be that if A is connected with B, then B must be connected with A. But language is not always logical and I think it would be at least unusual to say of an ordinary farm that the agricultural land is used in connection with the buildings. And I am reinforced in my view by the strong impression that this de-rating was intended to benefit agriculturists but not those conducting commercial enterprises where the use of agricultural land plays only a small part in the enterprise. If that were so then we would have the unreasonable result that there would be no derating of the buildings if the use of agricultural land played no part or only an insignificant part, but de-rating of all the buildings if the use of agricultural land played any more than an insignificant part in the whole enterprise. Such a dividing line cannot have been intended by Parliament and I would only accept it if there were no reasonable alternative construction.

9

It is true that attaching to the definition the meaning which I prefer will lead to there being many borderline cases. Rigid dividing lines may often be preferred to making the test one of degree. But on the other hand, as the history of the interpretation of this definition by the Courts shews, an unreasonable dividing line leads to even greater difficulty. I do not foresee serious difficulty if "used in connection with" is held to mean use consequential on or ancillary to the agricultural operations on the land which is occupied together with the buildings.

10

No doubt this must be interpreted in a reasonably liberal manner. To take one example: a common type of farming when the Act was passed was to buy in store cattle in the autumn, keep them in courts, feed them largely on the produce of the farm, and sell them when fat. The cattle never went on the agricultural land, but the bulky produce which they consumed might not always have been easy to sell off the farm, and the manure which they produced was often thought to be essential for the maintenance of high fertility. No one would have said that the courts in which these cattle were housed were not agricultural...

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