Padfield v Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [1968]

Ratio: The Minister had power to direct an investigation in respect of any complaint as to the operation of any marketing scheme for agricultural produce. Milk producers complained about the price paid by the milk marketing board for their milk when compared with prices paid to producers in other regions. The Minister refused to appoint a committee.

Held: The Minister was under a duty to give proper consideration to the question whether to refer the complaint, and any such decision had to be based on good reasons, and consistent with the statutory purpose. The Minister had a discretion so that the real question was how far it was subject to judicial control.
Having summarised the four conventional heads under which the exercise of such a discretion may be attacked, Lord Upjohn said: ‘In practice they merge into one another and ultimately it becomes a question whether for one reason or another the Minister has acted unlawfully in the sense of misdirecting himself in law, that is, not merely in respect of some point of law but by failing to observe the other headings I have mentioned. In the circumstances of this case, which I have sufficiently detailed for this purpose, it seems to me quite clear that prima facie there seems a case for investigation by the committee of investigation. As I have said already, it seems just the type of situation for which the machinery of section 19 was set up, but that is a matter for the Minister. He may have good reasons for refusing an investigation, he may have, indeed, good policy reasons for refusing it . . So I must examine the reasons given by the Minister, including any policy on which they may be based, to see whether he has acted unlawfully and thereby overstepped the true limits of his discretion, or as it is frequently said in the prerogative writ cases, exceeded his jurisdiction. Unless he has done so, the court has no jurisdiction to interfere.’ Lord Upjohn then proceeded to consider the Minister’s various reasons individually and in detail.

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