Public Law

Compare and contrast the principles of Wednesbury unreasonableness and proportionality. Is there room for both in English Law?

      Wednesbury unreasonableness and proportionality are principles of judicial review[1].   The underlying principle of judicial review is the doctrine of Ultra Vires which means “beyond the power”. Judicial review is a concept which has been of rapid developed in modern years but still the main principles remain. This is public authorities must exercise their powers within the law without abuse of power. This is evidenced in Rooke’s Case (1598)[2] and Leader v Moxon (1773)[3]. There’s a danger that boundaries between procedure and merits may become blurred and judges may overturn decisions if they personally disapprove. A case of the courts reviewing actions of public authorities in this dangerous way is Roberts v Hopwood (1925)[4]. The problems in Roberts v Hopwood carried weight in the Court of Appeal in the leading case Associated Provincial Picture Houses v Wednesbury Corporation (1947)[5]   of which the Wednesbury principle arrived from.
      In Wednesbury the court had to consider the legality of a condition imposed under statute. The statute permitted such conditions as the authority think fit to impose. In this case the condition was that no children under the age of 15 could be admitted to the cinema on a Sunday. This condition was not unreasonable. In the judgement of this case Lord Greene MR said “A court may set aside a decision for unreasonableness only when the authority has come to a conclusion so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it.”
      Following Wednesbury, in Council of Civil Services Unions v Minister for the Civil Service (1984)[6], Lord Diplock described such a decision as “a decision which is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person could have arrived at it.”
      The main principle of Wednesbury is when a decision held to...