• In the case of R v Home Secretary, ex p Northumbria Police Authority [1989] QB 26, prerogative powers are to be effective in the absence of statutory expression towards the existence of such powers.
  • In other words, if a statute fails to preclude prerogative powers, they remain effective.

Facts of the Case

  • D put forward a circular which expressed that in the future, the Home Secretary is to undergo maintenance of a central store of plastic baton rounds and CS gas.
  • The circular included a procedure enabling the local police to buy these.
  • C, the Northumbria Police Authority, applied for judicial review against D and asserted that D did not possess the power under the royal prerogative to maintain peace to supply the above to the police in the absence of police authority.
  • The Northumbria Police Authority argued the above using section 4(4) of the 1964 Act: “police authorities are to provide for the supply of equipment to their local forces.”


  • Could the Home Secretary argue that its prerogative powers are enough of a justification to supply the equipment without the police authority’s consent?

Held by the Court of Appeal

  • The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and found that the 1964 Act prohibited the Home Secretary from using its prerogative powers as a justification to supply the equipment in the absence of the authority’s consent.

Croom-Johnson LJ

  • It was held that Parliament held the prerogative power when determining the approach to disruption management, which was a task delegated to the Home Secretary.
  • “The Divisional Court rejected that submission for reasons with which I wholly agree; namely that section 4 does not expressly grant a monopoly, and that granted the possibility of an authority which declines to provide equipment required by the chief constable there is every reason not to imply a Parliamentary intent to create one.”

Purchase LJ

  • His lordship emphasised that a piece of legislation must expressly deprive the minister of its prerogative powers before such an action can be taken. In the absence of this deprivation, prerogative powers are upheld by the courts and cannot be disapplied using discretion.
  • “Where the executive action is directed towards the benefit or protection of the individual, it is unlikely that its use will attract the intervention of the courts. In my judgement, before the courts will hold that such executive action is contrary to legislation, express and unequivocal terms must be found in the statute which deprive the individual from receiving the benefit or protection intended by the exercise of prerogative power.”