• In the case of R Alconbury Ltd v Environment Secretary 2001 UKHL 23, it was insufficient for there to be a breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights where an administrative decision was made by a non-independent decision-maker.
  • It was found that proportionality should be used in common law as a stand-alone standard of review, rather than in connection with the HRA 1998.

Facts of the Case

  • D, the Environment Secretary, considered and made decisions in respect of planning permission applications under various powers of statute.
  • The Cs brought an action under judicial review to assert that D’s statutory powers were in contravention to Article 6(1) of the ECHR. Article 6 provided that the right to possess civil rights and obligations was certain to be determined by both an independent and impartial tribunal.


  • Had D acted outside of their statutory powers?

Held by the House of Lords

  • The House of Lords allowed the appeal and found that D had not acted unlawfully, and that Article 6(1) ECHR was not contravened.

Lord Slynn of Hadley

Elaborate on the judgment

  • His Lordship found that the statutory powers conferred to the Environment Secretary were conferred to allow him to undertake government policy. [48]
  • In terms of judicial control, the court shouldn’t undertake the reviewal of the substantive merits of the Environment Secretary’s decision, “in view of the difference of function between the minister exercising his statutory, for the policy of which he is answerable to the legislature and ultimately to the electorate, and the court.” [49]

Lord Nolan

  • Lord Nolan emphasises the duty of the Environment Secretary as being granted by Parliament should not necessarily be called in question.
  • “A degree of central control is essential to the orderly use and development of town and country. Parliament has entrusted the requisite degree of control to the Secretary of State, and it is to Parliament which he must count for his exercise of it. To substitute for the Secretary of State an independent and impartial body with no central electoral accountability [read; a Court] would not only be a recipe for chaos: it would be profoundly undemocratic.” [60]