R v Preston Supplementary Benefits Appeal Tribunal ex parte Moore

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Judgment Date05 March 1975
Judgment citation (vLex)[1975] EWCA Civ J0305-1
Date05 March 1975

[1975] EWCA Civ J0305-1

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

Appeal by John Christopher Moore from judgment of the Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice dated 25th October, 1973.

In the Matter of an application by John Christopher Moore for an order of certiorari and

In the Matter of a decision dated 3rd August 1972 made by the Preston Supplementary Benefits Appeal Tribunal


The Master Of The Rolls (Lord Donning),

Lord Justice Stephenson and

Lord Justice Geoffrey Lane.

The Queen
The Preston Supplementary Benefits Appeal Tribunal Ex parte Moore

Mr. L. BLOM-COOPER, Q.C., and Mr. J.C. HARPER (instructed by Mr. H.E.G. Hodge) appeared on behalf of the appellant.

Mr. HARRY WOOLF and Mr. NICHOLAS PADFIELD (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) appeared on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Security) respondents.

Appeal by Malcolm Barry Shine from order of the Divisional Court. refusing leave to move for an order of certiorari.

Mr. PETER LANGAN (instructed by Messrs. Maples Teesdale & Co., agents for Messrs. Swann, Dodson & Co. of Sheffield) appeared on behalf of the appellant, Mr. Shine.

Mr. HARRY WOOLF and Mr. NICHOLAS PADFIELD (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) appeared on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Security.


These are the first cases we have had under the Supplementary Benefits Act 1966. In each case it is a student who makes a claim. Each was in receipt of a grant from the local education authority. Each seeks to supplement the grant on the ground that, during the vacation, he is unemployed and entitled to supplementary benefits.


The Supplementary Benefits Act 1966 is an important part of the edifice of social welfare. It costs the taxpayer £600,000,000 a year. The purpose is to provide support for those who are in need and are not engaged in remunerative full time work. The dominant principle is that every such person shall he given weekly a sum of money to meet his needs. His "requirements" are to be paid for by the State to the extent that he is unable to pay for them out of his own "resources", see Section 4(1) of the Act and Schedule 2, Paragraph 1.


So far as "requirements" are concerned, there is a schedule for calculating the sums of money that a person requires, see Schedule 2, Part II. So much money a week for husband and wife. So much a week for a person living alone. So much for a "householdor" who is directly responsible for household necessities and rent. And so forth. One of the cases here raises the meaning of the word "householder".


So far as "resources" are concerned, those are to be calculated according to Part III of Schedule 2. They consist of his capital resources and his income from earnings or investments. Both are to be expressed in terms of a weekly sum. But there are elaborate provisions saying that various things are to be disregarded, such as the first £300 of his capital, and the first £1 a week of his income. One of the cases here raises the meaning of the word "resources".


In many cases the calculation of "requirements" and "resources" is simply an arithmetical exercise. First, find the applicant's weekly "requirements". Next find his weekly "resources". Then deductthe resrouces from the requirements. And you have the answer. It is the benefit to which he is entitled. But there is a special provision which says that "when there are exceptional circumstances" a greater amount may he awarded, or the allowance may he reduced or withheld, so as to take account of those circumstances, sec paragraph 4(1) of Schedule 2.


There are also provisions designed to prevent abuse. If a person got benefit by fraud, misrepresentation or non-disclosure, he can be made to repay it, see section 26 of the Act. If he disposes of his own resources deliberately, so as to get benefit, he is regarded as still having those resources, see Schedule 2, paragraph 27.


It is apparent that this great piece of social welfare demands a big organisation to run it. The Statute (Section 1) says that it is t be administered by a Commission called the Supplementary Benefits Commission. This is a body corporate. Its members (not more than 8) are appointed by the Minister. They decide major points. But the day-to-day work - in all the various offices - is done by clerks of the Ministry. They do all the calculations and award the money. If any applicant is dissatisfied he has a right of appeal to an Appeals Tribunal (see Section 18). Each Tribunal consists of a Chairman and two other members. These are by the Statute to be appointed by the Minister. In nearly all cases the Chairman and members are laymen or women with no legal qualifications. They have officers to assist them who are clerks of the Ministry.


There is an important provision which says that "any determination of the Appeals Tribunal shall be conclusive for all purposes", see section 18(3) and 26(2). The Tribunal are under a duty to provide a statement of the reasons for the decision, if required! but there is no appeal to the High Court from their decision, see Section 12(1) and Schedule I, paragraph 20 of the Tribunal and Inquiries Act 1971.But their proceedings may be removed into the High Court by order of certiorari, see section 14(1) of that Act.


The two casts before us arise out of applications for an order of certiorari. They are brought under the established power of the High Court to supervise inferior tribunals. The High Court can quash any decision of an inferior tribunal for error of law which appears on the face of the record. The "record" is generously interpreted so as to cover all the documents in the case. An "error of law" is also interpreted generously so as to include a wrong interpretation of a Statute, or a wrong application of it to the facts of the case. But certiorari is a discretionary remedy. And the important question in this case is how far the High Court should interfere with the decisions of the tribunals on supplementary benefits. Before considering this question, I will state the facts of the cases before us: because they illustrate the problem.




John Moore was a student of engineering at Harris College, Preston Lancashire. He was a married man aged 24 with a wife and two daughters, aged 3 and 1. The Lancashire Education Authority awarded him a grant for the academic year 1971/72. It was his last year at the college. Though the last vacation ended on 31st August 1972, the last term ended on 30th June 1972. He could then be expected to got a job and earn his own living.


For this last year the Education Authority made him a grant of £850.40. It was made up of three parts:


Student's own allowance for term time and travel £383.40


Student's maintenance allowance for vacation 42.00


Dependants' allowance for wife and two children 415.00




This was paid to him in three instalments: £328.40 at thebeginning of the Autumn term: £267 at the beginning of the Spring term: £245 at the beginning of the Summer term. By the end of the Summer term, on 30th June 1972, he had spent all those sums and had nothing left. He registered for work it the Department of Employment. They had nothing to offer him. So on 3rd July 1972, he claimed a supplementary allowance from the Supplementary Benefits Commission. They calculated the benefit payable to him at £4.10. It was arrived at as follows:




Husband and wife 9.45


Two daughters 3.40


Rent allowance 2.05






Vacation Grant 1.90


Dependents' Grant 7.98


Family Allowance 0.90


£ 10.78


Benefit£14.90 less £10.78 makes £4.12: rounded off to £4.10.


Mr. Moore was dissatisfied with that award. He pealed to the Preston Appeals Tribunal. On 3rd August 1972, they upheld the assessment of £4.10, but they made a special addition of £3.00 extra on the ground that there were exceptional circumstances, see paragraph 4(1)(a) of Schedule 2.


Mr. Moore moved the High Court for an order of certiorari to quash the decision of the Tribunal. He made no complaint about the calculation of his "requirements". These came to £14.90. But he did complain about the calculation of his "resources". He was represented by Mr. Blom-Cooper, Q.C., who made this submission on the meaning of "resources": He said that it meant his actual resources, that is the means which a man has presently available and to which he can resort to pay for his needs. On this meaning Mr. Blom-Cooper said that Mr. Moore had no "resources" on 30th June 1972: because hehad spent all of the grant and had nothing left.


Mr. Blom-Cooper pointed out that on the face of the record, it appeared that the Supplementary Benefits Commission had treated "resources" as having a different meaning. They treated it as meaning his notional resources, that is, the money which a man has notionally in hand to pay for his needs. Thus the £415 which was awarded (as part of the grant) for his wife and two children was paid so as to cover the 52 weeks from 1st September 1971 to 31st August 1972. That works out at £7.98 a week. And the £42 which was allowed as a vacation grant was paid so as to cover the 22 weeks of the vacation. That works out at £1.90 a week for the weeks of the vacation up to 31st August...

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