Westminster City Council v Southern Railway Company

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtHouse of Lords
JudgeLord Russell of Killowen,Lord Macmillan,Lord Wright
Judgment Date20 May 1936
Judgment citation (vLex)[1936] UKHL J0520-1

[1936] UKHL J0520-1

House of Lords

Lord Russell of Killowen.

Lord Macmillan.

Lord Wright, M.R.

Mayor, Etc., of City of Westminster
and
Southern Railway Company and Others,
Mayor, Etc., of City of Westminster
and
Southern Railway Company and Others.
(Consolidated Appeals).

After hearing Counsel as well on Monday the 24th, Tuesday the 25th, Thursday the 27th and Friday the 28th, days of February last, as on Monday the 2d, Tuesday the 3d, Thursday the 5th and Friday the 6th, days of March last, upon the Petition and Appeal of the Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors of the City of Westminster, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of His Majesty's Court of the Railway and Canal Commission, of the 15th of April, 1935, 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 Petition and Appeal of the Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors of the City of Westminster and the County Valuation Committee for the County of Kent, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of His Majesty's Court of the Railway and Canal Commission, of the 15th of April, 1935, 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 (which said two Appeals were by an Order of this House, of the 29th day of July last, ordered to be consolidated, and were in pursuance of an Order of this House, of the 21st day of February last, heard ex parte as to the Pullman Car Company, Limited, called as Respondents in the second named Appeal, they not having lodged a printed case as Respondents in the said second named Appeal, though ordered so to do); as also upon the printed Case of the Southern Railway Company, and also upon the printed Case of the Railway Assessment Authority and also upon the printed Case of W. H. Smith and Son, Limited, lodged in answer to the said Appeals; and due consideration had this day of what was offered on either side in these Appeals:

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 Orders of His Majesty's Court of the Railway and Canal Commission, of the 15th day of April 1935, complained of in the said Appeals, be, and the same are hereby, Reversed, and that the Cause be, and the same is hereby, remitted back to the Court of the Railway and Canal Commission with a Direction (1) That the part of the First Valuation Roll (as completed by the Railway Assessment Authority) relating to the Southern Railway Company should be amended by excluding from the Railway Hereditament the particular hereditaments in question in the first named Appeal (2) That the particular hereditaments at Victoria and Beckenham Stations specified in the second named Appeal should not be restored to the Roll: And it is further Ordered, That the Respondents, the Southern Railway Company and W. H. Smith and Son, Limited, do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Appellants, the Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors of the City of Westminster, the costs incurred by them in respect of the said first named Appeal to this House: And it is further Ordered, That the Respondents, the Southern Railway Company, do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Appellants, the Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors of the City of Westminster and the County Valuation Committee for the County of Kent, the costs incurred by them in respect of the said second named Appeal to this House, the amount of the costs in respect of the said Appeals to this House to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments: And it is further Ordered, That W. H. Smith and Son, Limited, do repay, or cause to be repaid, to the Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors of the City of Westminster, any costs paid to them by the said Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors of the City of Westminster under the Order of the Court of the Railway and Canal Commission of the 15th day of April, 1935, the subject of the said first named Appeal to this House: And it is also further Ordered, That the Cause be, and the same is hereby, remitted back to the Court of the Railway and Canal Commission to do therein as shall be just and consistent with this Judgment.

Lord Russell of Killowen .

My Lords,

1

My noble and learned friend the Master of the Rolls has prepared, and allowed me to peruse, an opinion upon the subject of these appeals, which deals in detail with the points raised and argued before us, and states the conclusion to be reached in regard to each of the premises in question in these appeals.

2

While I agree with his reasoning and conclusions, except as to one comparatively unimportant matter, I have thought it advisable to add some observations of my own.

3

The questions which we have to decide may be said, if envisaged from one point of view, to arise for decision for the first time: but looked at from another angle their solution involves a consideration of former authorities on the question of rateable occupation. They are, however, essentially new questions for we have to decide for the first time whether premises are so let out as to be capable of separate assessment.

4

The Railways (Valuation for Rating) Act, 1930 (which may be conveniently referred to as the Act of 1930) put an end to the system of valuing railways for rating purposes which was formerly prevalent in England, and under which each rating authority valued separately the section of the railway situate within the limits of its own area. The Act of 1930 created a new rating authority, called the Railway Assessment Authority, whose duty it is to prepare at intervals a railway valuation roll showing the net annual and rateable values of every "railway hereditament" in England; the particulars relating to each railway company being entered in a separate part of the roll. Having ascertained the net annual value of the undertaking as a whole, the authority has to apportion that value among all the railway hereditaments in England occupied by that railway company.

5

The relevant matter to note is that nothing which is not a "railway hereditament" is to be included in the roll. Any hereditament which is not a "railway hereditament" is liable to be rated by the appropriate authority, under the general law of rating.

6

The crucial provision of the Act of 1930 at this point comes into view, viz., the definition of "railway hereditament". It runs thus:—

"Railway hereditament means, subject as hereinafter provided, any hereditament occupied for the purposes of the undertaking of a railway company.

Provided that no premises occupied as a dwelling house hotel or place of public refreshment or so let out as to be capable of separate assessment shall be deemed to be or form part of a railway hereditament."

7

Other parts of the Act of 1930 make it clear, in my opinion, that nothing can be a "railway hereditament" unless it is occupied by the railway company; and it was common ground in the arguments addressed to us that the word "capable" in the proviso meant capable both in fact and in law. Further it is to be observed that by the words "subject as hereinafter provided", the proviso is incorporated into the definition. Three results would appear to follow: (1) that premises, by whomsover occupied, if occupied as a dwelling house, hotel or place of public refreshment can never be deemed to be or form part of a railway hereditament; (2) that no premises which, according to law, are in the rateable occupation of some person other than the railway company can be deemed to be or to form part of a railway hereditament; and (3) that such premises might in fact form part of a railway hereditament.

8

It was contended before us that the effect of this statutory definition, by virtue of its reference to capability of separate assessment, gave statutory recognition and effect to certain decided cases, with the result that your Lordships were in some way bound to treat them as correctly decided, and unable to give effect to a contrary view, should you happen to be convinced that such contrary view was right in law. I can attribute no such effect to the definition. It is open to your Lordships to declare what you conceive to be the law, unhampered by any statutory restriction.

9

Before considering the particular circumstances affecting the respective premises which are the subject of this appeal, I would in the first place call attention to Section 91 of the Southern Railway Act, 1924. Under that section the Southern Railway Company, has power to "build … shops … offices or any similar buildings … on … any station or railway of the company … and to … . sell demise let or otherwise dispose of the freehold or any other interest of or in any buildings or any part or parts of buildings erected or to be erected … over any such station … of the company or on the site thereof, and also to demise let or otherwise dispose of the right to build … on … any such station or railway or upon the sites thereof respectively."

10

In other words it has power to carve out of any station separate premises, which though still within the precincts of the station and in one sense forming part of it, may yet be disposed of to others, even for an estate in fee simple. The great majority of the premises which are the subject of this appeal have been so carved out, and are in fact situate within the precincts of Victoria Station. They may nevertheless, though themselves within the confines of the station, which itself is...

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