Glamorgan County Council v Glasbrook Brothers

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeThe Lord Chancellor,Viscount Finlay,Lord Shaw of Dunfermline,Lord Carson,Lord Blanesburgh
Judgment Date19 December 1924
Judgment citation (vLex)[1924] UKHL J1219-1
Date19 December 1924
CourtHouse of Lords

[1924] UKHL J1219-1

House of Lords

Lord Chancellor.

Viscount Finlay.

Lord Shaw.

Lord Carson.

Lord Blanesburgh.

Glasbrook Brothers, Limited
The County Council for the County of Glamorgan and Others.

After hearing Counsel, as well on Monday the 3d, as Tuesday the 4th, and Thursday the 6th, days of November last, upon the Petition and Appeal of Glasbrook Brothers, Limited, whose Registered Office is at Cambrian Place, Swansea, in the County of Glamorgan, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely an Order of His Majesty's Court of Appeal, of the 25th of February 1924, might be reviewed before His Majesty the King in His 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 His Majesty the King in His Court of Parliament might seem meet; as also upon the printed Case of the County Council for the County of Glamorgan, the Standing Joint Committee of the Quarter Sessions and the County Council of Glamorgan and Lionel Lindsay, Chief Constable for the County of Glamorgan, 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 His Majesty the King assembled, That the said Order of His Majesty's Court of Appeal, of the 25th day of February 1924, 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 Respondents, the Costs incurred by them in respect of the said Appeal, the amount thereof to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments.

The Lord Chancellor .

My Lords,


The national coal strike, which commenced on the 1st April 1921, came to an end on the 4th July of that year, certain terms being then agreed upon as to the payment of wages to the miners. The Appellants, Glasbrook Brothers, Limited, who are the owners of a valuable group of collieries in Glamorganshire situated about two miles from Swansea, proposed to pay their men (numbering about 1,000) on the agreed scale; but this was not agreeable to the men, some of whom had before the strike been receiving better terms, and they refused to return to work. During the strike the "safety men" at the Appellants' collieries—that is to say, the men employed to attend to the pumping which was necessary in order to preserve the mines from flooding—had been allowed to continue at work; but when the miners decided to remain out on strike they insisted (doubtless as a means of forcing the Appellants to accept their terms) that the safety men should cease work and put severe pressure upon those men to comply with their wishes. During the week beginning on the 4th July crowds of miners went to the collieries, and a deputation representing the miners was admitted to the works and had an interview with the safety men. Picketing which was not of a peaceful character took place, one of the safety men when on his way to the works was pulled off his bicycle; and the workmen's committee informed Mr. James, the agent for the collieries, that "they meant to get all the safety men out." As a result of this pressure the safety men held a meeting and resolved that owing to the pressure put upon them and the insufficient police protection, they would not work any longer; and on Saturday the 9th July the safety men who were expected (six at each of the two principal collieries) did not turn up, and the fires had to be drawn and the pumping discontinued.


On the same day—the 9th July—Mr. James went to the police station at Gowerton and saw Lieutenant Colonel Smith, the Superintendent of the "H" Division of the Glamorganshire Constabulary, told him the facts, and said that it would be necessary to have police billeted in the colliery. Colonel Smith demurred, saying that he was able to protect the collieries without installing a police garrison. He had been keeping what he called a thin shield of police at the colliery to watch and give information if any large body of miners appeared and in that event an ample force of police could at once be sent up; and he thought that with such a body of watchers at the points of danger and a mobile force of police ready for action wherever they might be required he was stronger than with the garrison. Mr. James, however, insisted on his view and asked for a garrison of 100, adding:

"I am of opinion that a garrison is the only thing that will inspire our fellows with confidence to work";


and Colonel Smith gave in, but suggested that 70 men would be enough for the purpose, and said that as it would be "special duty" a requisition must be signed containing a promise to pay. Mr. James, who had been previously authorised by his directors to sign such a requisition, assented, and at once signed a requisition in the following form:—

"Glamorgan Constabulary.

Form of Requisition for special services of police.

Garngoch Collieries,


9th July, 1921.


. . . . . Superintendent, two Inspectors, two Sergeants, and 66 Constables (in accordance with the First Schedule to this Form), are required for Special Duty at the Garngoch and Cape Collieries on the occasion of a strike from 6 p.m. on the 9th July, 1921 to ………………m. on the …………………………………………1921.

I hereby guarantee payment on the conditions specified in clause 'C' of the Second Schedule to this form.

(Signed) A. JAMES.

To the Chief Constable."


The Second Schedule to the above requisition specified the amounts to be paid and the quality of the food to be supplied to the police.


This matter having been settled, the police authorities, without reducing the force of police employed in the district, brought in 70 police from other Divisions in the County and sent them up to the collieries, where they remained until the dispute was settled. For a few days the Appellants employed some naval stokers, but this expedient was not successful and the fires were not at once re-lighted. On the following Tuesday, the 12th July, some of the safety men came to the works and expressed their willingness to resume work if they were billeted at the colliery; and ultimately they all came back and the fires were lighted on the 15th July and pumping resumed. The safety men were informed that a force of police was in billet at the works, and no doubt their presence inspired confidence; but the duty of protecting the wives and families of these men, against whom some cowardly threats had been used, remained of course with the general body of police outside. After these events the behaviour of the miners appears to have improved, and no attack was made on the collieries or (so far as the evidence goes) at the homes of the safety men employed at the works. On the 26th August the dispute came to an end and the garrison of police was withdrawn.


The charges for the pay and expenses of the billeted police, ascertained in accordance with the terms of the requisition, amounted to 2,200 l. 11 s. 10 d., and payment of that sum was demanded of the Appellants, but refused; and thereupon the Glamorganshire County Council, with the Standing Joint Committee and the Chief Constable, brought this action against the Appellants claiming payment of that amount. The Appellants by their Defence did not contest the correctness of the charges claimed, but pleaded that the police officers in respect of whom the charge was made were supplied for the purpose of carrying out the legal duties and obligations of the plaintiffs, which included the prevention of riot and violence and the protection of the Appellants' servants and property against the danger or apprehended danger of injury by reason of riots, violence or tumults, and accordingly that there was no consideration for the agreement to pay, which was signed under compulsion, and they counterclaimed for the expenses of housing and maintaining the police, amounting to 1,330 l. 4 s.


The action was heard by the late Mr. Justice Bailhache, who gave judgment for the plaintiffs (the Respondents) on the claim and counterclaim with costs; and on appeal this judgment was affirmed by a majority of the Court of Appeal (Bankes and Scrutton, L.JJ. Atkin, L.J. dissenting). Hence the present Appeal.


Upon the argument of the Appeal, two points were raised. First, it was argued that, when a subject has need of police protection and has done nothing to increase the risk, he is entitled to protection without payment and an agreement to pay is without consideration and contrary to public policy. Secondly, it was said, following a suggestion made in the Court of Appeal, that on general principles the police authorities are not entitled, except in the cases specifically provided for by statute, to make a charge for police services. It is convenient to deal first with the latter and more general contention.


My Lords, the practice by which police authorities make a charge for "special services," that is to say, for services rendered outside the scope of their obligations, has been established for upwards of sixty years and is constantly followed by every police authority in the country with the approval of the Secretary of State; and it is difficult to understand on what grounds it should now be treated as illegal. No doubt there is an absolute and unconditional obligation binding the police authorities to take all steps which appear to them to be necessary for keeping the peace, for preventing crime, or for protecting property from criminal injury; and the public, who pay for this protection through the rates and taxes, cannot lawfully be called upon to make a further payment for that which is their right. This was laid down by Lord Justice...

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