Royal London Mutual Insurance Society Ltd v Finance & Economics Committee

CourtRoyal Court
Judge(Ereaut, Bailiff and Jurats Le Cornu and Vint):
Judgment Date26 January 1982
Date26 January 1982
(Ereaut, Bailiff and Jurats Le Cornu and Vint):

F.C. Hamon for the appellant;

H.M. Solicitor General for the respondent.

Administrative LawCommittees of Statesjudicial reviewcourt to consider whether proceedings before committee generally satisfactory, whether committee legally entitled to make decision and whether could be reasonably reached in circumstances

Trade and Industrylicence to tradejudicial review of administrative decisioncourt to consider whether proceedings before committee generally satisfactory, whether committee legally entitled to make decision and whether could be reasonably reached in circumstances

EREAUT, BAILIFF: In 1978 the Appellant applied to the Respondent, in accordance with the provisions of the Regulation of Undertakings and Development (Jersey) Law, 1973, as amended (hereinafter called "the Law"), for a licence to re-open an office at 11, Union Street, St. Helier. After an exchange of correspondence and interviews with the States Economic Adviser, the Respondent refused to grant a licence for that purpose. The Appellant now appeals against that decision.

The appeal is brought under Article 5(5) of the Law, which provides

"(5) Any person aggrieved by the decision of the Committee to refuse the grant of a licence or by any condition attached to the licence, may appeal, either in term or in vacation, to the Royal Court within two months of the date of the notification of the Committee in the matter, on the ground that the decision of the Committee was unreasonable having regard to all the circumstances of the case."

This is the second appeal under the Law. In the first appeal under the Law, namely, Rowland (B.H.) v. Finance & Econ. Cttee., 1981 J.J. 169, the Court in its judgment considered at some length the proper approach in the consideration of appeals under the Law, and decided for the reasons there given that it should adopt the same approach as had been adopted by the Royal Court in considering appeals from decisions of Committees of the States under other enactments.

That approach may be summarised as follows. The duty of the Court when considering an appeal from a decision of a Committee of the States is to consider the following three questions, namely:

(1) Were the proceedings of the Committee in relation to the application, the rejection of which gives rise to the present appeal, in general sufficient and satisfactory

(2) Was the decision one which the Law empowered the Committee to make

(3) Was the decision reached by the Committee one to which it could reasonably have come having regard to all the circumstances of the case

and if the answer to all the three foregoing questions be in the affirmative, to maintain the decision of the Committee, irrespective of whether or not the Court would itself have come to the same decision upon consideration of the same material.

The Solicitor General urged us to adopt that approach in this case. Counsel for the Appellant described it as too restrictive and contended that the duty of the Court in such circumstances was to consider the application "de novo"; however, he conceded that because the Superior Number of the Royal Court, in Habin v. Gambling Licensing Auth., 1971 J.J. 1637, had rejected such a contention in analogous proceedings, he could not properly urge the Inferior Number to come to a contrary conclusion, but he expressly reserved his right to raise that contention on an appropriate occasion.

We agree with counsel that this Court could not be properly urged to depart from the view expressed by the Superior Number. Furthermore, we wish to say that the approach adopted by the Court in the first appeal under the Law appears to us to have been correct. It follows that in arriving at our decision in this case we have conceived it to be our duty to consider the three questions to which we have referred and, if our answers to all three questions are in the affirmative, to maintain the decision of the Committee irrespective of whether or not we would ourselves have come to the same conclusion upon consideration of the same material.

The relevant circumstances of this case as put to us are as follows:

The Appellant is an old-established Company registered in England. It has an annual premium of some 35,000,000 and, being a Mutual Insurance Society, distributes its profits to its policyholders. It first opened an office in Jersey in 1936, and has ever since continued to have policy holders in the Island. It presently receives premiums from some 1,500 families in Jersey. It continued to do business in Jersey throughout the Occupation of the Channel Islands by enemy forces, and when the fourteen life assurance offices represented in the Islands, because of their isolation from their parent companies, formed an Association to continue business during that period, the then Superintendent of the Appellant was elected Secretary and its offices became in effect the Chief Office of the Association.

Subsequently, the Appellant decided to move from rented accommodation, and on 19th February, 1971, purchased a property, 11, Union Street, to serve as its Jersey office. The property included some dwelling accommodation. Attached to the consent of the Housing Committee were two conditions as follows:

"l. That there shall be no diminution of the existing amount of private dwelling accommodation at the property;

2. That the private dwelling accommodation shall be occupied by employees of the purchaser Company, and their immediate families or other persons specifically approved by the Housing Committee."

In 1975, the Appellant decided for the first time to close its Jersey office and to administer its business from its Southampton office. It retained its property at 11, Union Street, but let it to a Mrs. Ballantyne, a tenant qualified under the Housing Law, who then lived in the dwelling accommodation and conducted a curtain supply business from the former office, having been granted by the Committee a licence under the Law to do so.

The Appellant continued to do business in the Island through its two resident local agents and an Inspector made regular fortnightly visits from the Southampton office. But after a period it concluded that this arrangement was not satisfactory for its business and eventually decided that it wished to re-open an office in Jersey with a resident Superintendent. On 28th September, 1978, therefore, the Appellant wrote to the Economic Adviser to seek advice as to whether it would be permitted to re-open a branch office in Jersey, either at its own property 11, Union Street (if it could come to a satisfactory arrangement with the tenant) or at some other address which would include both office premises and accommodation for its Superintendent. The Economic Adviser replied that the matter was one for the Finance and Economics Committee, who would be influenced by the benefit which would accrue to the Island, and he asked for details of the number of policy holders in Jersey, the local premium income, the contribution to local tax revenues and the number of persons to be employed in the office.

The Appellant supplied all that information (including the fact that the tax paid for 1977 was 870.40), and stated that its personnel requirements would be limited to a Superintendent from England and a clerk who would be a Jersey resident. It offered to send a representative to discuss the making of a formal application, but the Economic Adviser suggested in reply that, as he believed that he now had sufficient information and because the Committee might well decide that the request for permission to open a branch office was straightforward, and agree readily to issue the necessary licence if an application were made, he would raise the matter with the Committee at its next meeting. To this the Appellant agreed.

The matter was duly raised with the Committee, which decided, on 3rd January, 1979, that if an application were to be made under the Law it would not be minded to grant consent

"as the arrangements proposed were not sufficiently in the Island's best interests to justify the granting of a consent."

On 4th January, 1979, the Economic Adviser wrote to the Appellant to advise that the Committee had decided

"that, on the basis of the information presently available, the additional pressures to be placed on the Island's resources were not offset by sufficient benefits to...

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