R v Paddington Valuation Officer. ex parte Peachey Property Corporation Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeTHE MASTER OF THE ROLLS,LORD JUSTICE DANCKWERTS,LORD JUSTICE SALMON
Judgment Date01 June 1965
Judgment citation (vLex)[1965] EWCA Civ J0601-4
Date01 June 1965
CourtCourt of Appeal
The Queen
and
Paddington Valuation Officer and Anr.
Ex parte Peachey Property Corporation Limited

[1965] EWCA Civ J0601-4

Before:

The Master of the Rolls

(Lord Denning)

Lord Justice Danckwerts and

Lord Justice Salmon

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

(From: The Divisional Court)

Mr. Desmond Ackner, Q. C., Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, Q. C. and Mr. H. Lester (instructed by Mr. G. L. Leigh) appeared on behalf of the Appellants, Peachey Property Corporation Ltd.

Mr. Eric Blain, Q. C., Mr. J. Raymond Phillips and Mr. W. J. Glover (instructed by the Solicitor of Inland Revenue) appeared on behalf of the Respondent Valuation Officer.

Mr. David Widdicombe, Q. C. (instructed by the Clerk to the City of Westminster) appeared on behalf of the Respondents the City of Westminster).

THE MASTER OF THE ROLLS
1

The Peachey Property Corporation, Ltd., own a great number of houses and flats in London and elsewhere. In particular they own a big block of flats known as Park West near Marble Arch. There are 629 flats there. It was designed and built for the purpose of flats. Hence these flats were called throughout the case "purpose built flats". This serves to distinguish them from flats in converted houses. There are many Georgian and Victorian houses in the Paddington area which were designed and built as single dwellings, but owing to changing times have been converted into flats and maisonettes. They are called "flats in converted houses".

2

The Peachey Property Corporation, Ltd., complain that they and their tenants in Park. Vest have been badly treated in regard to the rates on their purpose. built flats. They say that the Valuation Officer for Paddington on the one hand has rated the purpose built, flats at too high a figure: and on the other hand has rated the flats in convertedhouses at too low a figure. They say that this is because he Has prepared the whole of the valuation list on the wrong footing. The valuation list for Paddington contains 31,656 dwellings. The Peachey Corporation say it is all bad. They ask the Court to issue a writ of certiorari so as to quash the list altogether; and they ask the Court to issue a writ of mandamus so as to order the Valuation Officer to make a new list. The issue thus raised is of great importance. It is acknowledged that the Valuation Officers for the whole of London have prepared their lists on a similar footing to the Paddington list. It may be that the rest of England has also been prepared in like manner. If the Paddington list is bad, so also may be valuation lists up and down the country.

3

Before I deal with the facts, I propose to deal with the law: for it helps to see the issues involved.

4

I. What is the proper remedy?

5

The first question is whether the remedy by certiorari or mandamus is open at all, seeing that there is a remedy given by statute. The statutory remedy is contained in sections 40 to 49 of the Local Government Act, 1948, as amended by sections 1 and 3 of the Lands Tribunal Act, 1949. Summarised, the remedy is this: The Peachey Property Corporation, if they are aggrieved, are entitled to make proposals for the alteration of the valuation list. They can propose alterations, either downwards or upwards. On the one hand, they can ask that the values on their own Park West flats be reduced. On the other hand, they can ask that the values on other people's flats in converted houses be increased. If the Valuation Officer does not agree to the proposals, the Peachey Property Corporation can appeal to the Local Valuation Court. If that Court decides against them, they can appeal to the Lands Tribunal. The decision the Lands Tribunal is final, save that on a point of law there is an appeal to the Court of Appeal: and thence, in turn, with leave, to the House of Lords.

6

Mr. Eric Blain contended strongly before us that, as Parliament had provided this specific remedy, the Peachey Property Corporation ought to go by it. There was a code of procedure, he said, specially designed by Parliament, to deal with grievances such as these. That was their proper course. Indeed their only course. Such specific remedy being given, they could not resortemedy of certiorari or mandamus. He supported this contention by reference to Pasmore v. Oswaldtwistle Urban District Appeal Cases 3877, ( ( Stepney Borough Council V. John WalkerRex v. City of London Assessment Commttee1907 2 King's Bench 76477 1934 Appeal Cases 365). Now those case's" certainlywarrant the proposition that, if the Peachey Property Corporation were attacking the assessment of any one particular he reditament, or any small group of hared it aments, such as all the houses in a particular terrace, their only remedy would be that statutory remedy. By which I mean that, if and in so far as they are attacking particular assessments within a valid, valuation list, they must go by "the remedy which Parliament has provided, namely, to make proposals to alter those assessments. But if and in so far as they are attacking the valuation list itself and contend that the whole list is invalid (as they do), then I do not think they are confined to the statutory remedy: for the simple reason that the statutory remedy is in that case nowhere near so convenient, beneficial and effectual as certiorari and mandamus. I suppose that in theory the Peachey Property Corporation might make proposals for the alteration of ever one of the 31,656 hereditaments in the list, but that would in practice be impossible. Mr. Blain conceded this but he suggested that a few test cases might be taken, and proposals could be made for altering those few assessments, and a decision given by the Lands Tribunal. But one side or the other might not agree on what should be taken as test cases. And in any case the procedure would be most deficient because there could be no discovery against the occupiers. I am therefore of opinion that the existence of the statutory remedy Is no bar to this application. The case falls within the general principle that the jurisdiction of the High Court is not to be taken away without express words; and this applies both to the remedies by certiorari and mandamus: (see Regina v. Medical Appeal Tribunal 1957 1 Queen's Bench 574); and also to the remedy" by declaration: (see Pyx Granite. Company v. Minister of Housing 1960 Appeal Cases 260, 286, 304).

7

II. Is the applicant a "party aggrieved"?

8

The second question is whether the Peachey Property Corporation are persons aggrieved so as to be entitled to ask for certiorari or mandamus. Mr. Blain contended that they are not persons aggrieved because, even if they succeeded in increasing all the gross values of other people in the Paddington area, it would not make a pennyworth of difference to them. Strange as it may seem, owing to the way expenses are borne in the County of London, the rate poundage of Paddington would remain the, same even if the assessments of the flats in converted houses were greatly increased. If the assessments were increased by £1,000,000, the rate poundage would be reduced by a penny. But I do not think grievances are to be measured in pounds, shillings and pence. If a ratepayer or other person finds his name included in a valuation list which is Invalid, he is entitled to come to the Court and apply to have it quashed. He is not to be put off by the plea that he has suffered no damage, any more than the voters were in ( Ashby v. "white 2 Lord Raymond 738). The Court would not listen, of course, to a mere busybody who was interfering in things which did not concern him. But it will listen to anyone whose interests are affected by what has been done, just as it did in Greenbaum's case (1955) 58 Local Government Reports 629, and in ( Attorney. General of the Gambia v. NJie 1961 Appeal Cases 617). So here it will listen to" any rate payer who complains that the list is invalid.

9

III. Are certiorari and mandamus available?

10

The third question is whether certiorari and mandamus are available in respect of a valuation list. The Divisional Court thought they were; and Mr. Blain did not contend otherwise. The Valuation Officer is a public officer entrusted with a public duty. He has legal authority or power to determine questions affecting the rights of subjects, namely, to assess the values of hereditaments. This power carries with it the duty to act "judicially", which means, I think, fairly and justly in accordance with the statute. if he declines or fails to carry out this duty, he isamenable to mandamus: and the list itself is liable to be quashed on certiorari: see ( Rex v. Electricity Commissioners 1924 1 King's Bench 121); ( Regina v. Manchester Legal Aid Committee 1952 2 Queen's Bench 413); ( Ridge v. Baldwin 1964 Appeal Cases at pages 757.9).

11

IV. The resulting chaos.

12

The fourth question is what is to happen if the valuation list is quashed. It was said that it would be a nullity from the beginning. The rating authority would have to go back to the 1956 list which was based on 1939 values: see section 34 (2) of the Local Government Act, 1948. It would be necessary, it was said, to unravel all the assessments and payments since 1st April, 1963. The result would be chaos. I do not accept this at all. It is necessary to distinguish between two kinds of invalidity. The one kind is where the invalidity is so grave that the list is a nullity altogether. In which case there is no need for an order to quash it. It is automatically null and void without more ado. The other kind is when the in validity does not make the list void altogether, but only avoidable. In that case it stands unless and until it is set aside. In the present case the valuation list is not, and never has been, a nullity. At most the Valuation Officer acting within his jurisdiction. exercised that jurisdiction erroneously. That makes the list avoidable and not void. It remains good until it is...

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