Padfield v Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

CourtHouse of Lords
JudgeLord Reid,Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest,Lord Hodson,Lord Pearce,Lord Upjohn
Judgment Date14 Feb 1968
Judgment citation (vLex)[1968] UKHL J0214-1

[1968] UKHL J0214-1

House of Lords

Lord Reid

Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest

Lord Hodson

Lord Pearce

Lord Upjohn

Padfield and Others
and
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Others

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause Padfield and others against Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and others, that the Committee had heard Counsel as well on Tuesday the 18th, Wednesday the 19th and Thursday the 20th, days of July last as on Monday the 18th, Tuesday the 19th and Wednesday the 20th days of December last, upon the Petition and Appeal of George Padfield, of Chambers Manor, Epping Upland, Epping, Essex, Geoffrey Loveys Brock, of Blackwall Farm, Compton, Guildford, Surrey and Henry Steven, of Medhurst, Trotts Lane, Westerham, Kent, 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 27th of July 1966, 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 minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food lodged in answer to the said Appeal, (which said Appeal was heard ex parte as to the Respondents the Milk Marketing Board, they not having lodged a Case in answer to the said Appeal, though ordered so to do); 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 27th day of July 1966, complained of in the said Appeal, be, and the same is hereby, Reversed: And it is further Ordered, That the Cause be, and the same is hereby, remitted back to a Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice with a Direction to require the Respondent, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to consider the complaint of the Appellants according to law: And it is also further Ordered, That the Respondents do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Appellants the Costs incurred by them in the Courts below, and also two-thirds of 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.

Lord Reid

My Lords,

1

Since 1933 there has been in operation a Milk Marketing Scheme for England and Wales made under Statutory provisions now contained in the consolidating Agricultural Marketing Act 1958. Under that scheme producers are bound to sell their milk to the Milk Marketing Board and that Board periodically fixes the prices to be paid to the producers. England and Wales is divided into eleven regions. In each region producers receive the same price but there is a different price for each region. One reason for this is that the cost to the Board of transporting milk from the producers' farms to centres of consumption is considerably greater for some regions than for others. The lowest price is paid to producers in the Far Western Region and the highest is paid to producers in the South Eastern Region: prices paid in the other nine regions vary but fall between these two extremes. The present differentials between the regions were fixed many years ago when costs of transport were much lower. For the last ten years or so South Eastern producers have been urging the Board to increase these differentials but without success. It appears that the present differential between the South East and the Far West is 1�19 pence per gallon: South Eastern producers contend that the figure should be in the region of 3 1/2 pence per gallon. As the total sum available to the Board to pay for the milk they buy in all the regions is fixed each year, giving effect to the contention of the South Eastern producers would mean that they and perhaps the producers in some other regions would get higher prices, but producers in the Far West and several other regions would get less.

2

This matter has been considered by two independent committees and their recommendations would, at least to some extent, favour the contention of the South Eastern producers. I only mention this fact because it shews that their contention cannot be dismissed as wholly unreasonable or inconsistent with the general Scheme.

3

The Milk Marketing Board is comprised of twelve members from the regions, three elected by all producers in the country and three appointed by the Minister. The Board of course acts by a majority of its members. It is said that members each have in mind, quite properly, the interests of their constituents, that the adoption of the proposals of the South Eastern producers would be against the financial interests of the constituents of most of the members, and that the experience of the last ten years shews that the South Eastern producers cannot hope to get a majority on the Board for their proposals.

4

The 1958 Act provides two methods by which persons aggrieved by the Board's actions can seek a remedy. The first is arbitration. The South Eastern producers attempted to invoke that remedy but it is now common ground that arbitration would be inappropriate. To give effect to their contention would require a readjustment of the price structure all over the country and this could not be achieved by arbitration.

5

The other possible remedy is that provided by section 19 of the 1958 Act which is in these terms:

"(1) The Minister shall appoint two committees (hereafter in this Act referred to as a 'consumers' committee' and a 'committee of investigation') for Great Britain, for England and Wales and for Scotland respectively.

(2) A consumers' committee shall�

( a) consist of a chairman and of not less than six other members, who shall be such persons as appear to the Minister, after consultation as to one member with the Co-operative Union, to represent the interests of the consumers of all the products the marketing of which is for the time being regulated by schemes approved by the Minister; and

( b) be charged with the duty of considering and reporting to the Minister on�

(i) the effect of any scheme approved by the Minister, which is for the time being in force, on consumers of the regulated product; and

(ii) any complaints made to the committee as to the effect of any such scheme on consumers of the regulated product.

(3) A committee of investigation shall�

( a) consist of a chairman and either four or five other members; and

( b) be charged with the duty, if the Minister in any case so directs, of considering, and reporting to the Minister on, any report made by a consumers' committee and any complaint made to the Minister as to the operation of any scheme which, in the opinion of the Minister, could not be considered by a consumers' committee under the last foregoing subsection.

(4) On receiving the report of a committee of investigation under this section the Minister shall forthwith publish the conclusions of the committee in such manner as he thinks fit.

(5) For the purpose of enabling any committee appointed under this section to consider any matter which it is their duty under this section to consider, the board administering the scheme to which the matter relates shall furnish the committee with such accounts and other information relating to the affairs of the board as the committee may reasonably require, and shall be entitled to make representations to the committee with respect to the matter in such manner as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Minister under this Part of this Act with respect to the procedure of the committee.

(6) If a committee of investigation report to the Minister that any provision of a scheme or any act or omission of a board administering a scheme is contrary to the interests of consumers of the regulated product, or is contrary to the interests of any persons affected by the scheme and is not in the public interest, the Minister, if he thinks fit so to do after considering the report�

( a) may by order make such amendments in the scheme as he considers necessary or expedient for the purpose of rectifying the matter;

( b) may by order revoke the scheme;

( c) in the event of the matter being one which it is within the power of the board to rectify, may by order direct the board to take such steps to rectify the matter as may be specified in the order, and thereupon it shall be the duty of the board forthwith to comply with the order.

Before taking any action under this subsection the Minister shall give the board notice of the action which he proposes to take and shall consider any representations made by the board within fourteen days after the date of the notice.

����

(8) Any order made under paragraph ( a) of subsection (6) of this section, under paragraph ( c) of that subsection or under the last foregoing subsection shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament, and any order made under paragraph ( b) of the said subsection (6) shall not take effect unless it has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament."

6

With a view to getting the Minister to take action under this section the present Appellants, who are office bearers of the South Eastern regional committee of the Board, approached the Minister and met officials of the Ministry on 30th April 1964. The outcome of that meeting was unsatisfactory to them and on 4th January 1965 their solicitors wrote to the Minister making a formal complaint and asking that the complaint be referred to the Committee of Investigation. The nature of the complaint was stated thus:

"4. These acts and/or omissions of the Board...

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