• In the case of Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service [1984] UKHL 9; [1985] AC 374, the House of Lords held that the unions did not have legitiimate expectation of being informed and it was not up to the courts to state whether this was fair based on national security reasons.
  • This case was about judicial review, prerogative powers  trade unions and constitutional laws.

Facts of the Case

  • According to the Civil Service Order in Council 1982, C could no longer be trade union members based on D’s instructions.
  • C pursued the route of judicial review and contended that the PM should have consulted the unions prior to this decision.


  • Were these circumstances open to court review?
  • How fair was the decision-making?
  • Was this justified according to national security?

Held by House of Lords

  • Appeal dismissed – judicial review applies to royal prerogative powers however in this case national security triumphs trade union decisions.

Lord Diplock

Grounds of administrative action

  • “Judicial review has I think developed to a stage today when without reiterating any analysis of the steps by which the development has come about, one can conveniently classify under three heads the grounds upon which administrative action is subject to control by judicial review… That is not to say that further development on a case by case basis may not in course of time add further grounds. I have in mind particularly the possible adoption in the future of the principle of “proportionality” which is recognised in the administrative law of several of our fellow members of the European Economic Community; but to dispose of the instant case the three already well-established heads that I have mentioned will suffice.”
  • The first ground of illegality is whether “the decision-maker must understand correctly the law that regulates his decision-making power and must give effect to it.”
  • The second ground of irrationality comes from Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation [1948] 1 KB 223 which “applies to a decision which is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question to be decided could have arrived at it.”
  • The third and final ground of procedural impropriety relates to procedural fairness and natural justice.

Lord Roskill

Justiciable and non-justiciable uses of the prerogative

  • “I do not think that that right of challenge can be unqualified. It must, I think, depend upon the subject matter of the prerogative power which is exercised. Many examples were given during the argument of prerogative powers which as at present advised I do not think could properly be made the subject of judicial review. Prerogative powers such as those relating to the making of treaties, the defence of the realm, the prerogative of mercy, the grant of honours, the dissolution of Parliament and the appointment of ministers as well as others are not, I think, susceptible to judicial review because their nature and subject matter is such as not to be amenable to the judicial process. The courts are not the place wherein to determine whether a treaty should be concluded or the armed forces disposed in a particular manner or Parliament dissolved on one date rather than another.”