QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| PETER STRAWSON LIMITED
|- and -
|THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ENVIRONMENT FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS
Ms Elisa Holmes(instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) for the Defendant
Hearing dates: 16 November 2010
Crown Copyright ©
His Honour Judge Mackie QC:
"Adjustment of obvious errors
Without prejudice to articles 11-18, an aid application may be adjusted at any time after its submission, in cases of obvious errors recognised by the competent authority".
Outline of entitlements
"Please check the field numbers shown above are correct and you wish to claim on these fields:
We need you to reply within 21 days of the date of this letter to resolve this Dual Claim and continue processing your claim."
Further provisions of the Community legislation
"The area for which all conditions laid down in the rules for granting the aid have been met; in the case of the single payment scheme, the area declared may be deemed as determined only if actually being accompanied by a corresponding number of payment entitlements".
"P30. Mistakes that can be classified as obvious errors can be corrected without reduction at any time, provided RPA recognises that you acted in good faith and that there is no risk of fraud. The following types of mistake may be classified as obvious errors, but each case will be considered on its own merit:
1. clerical errors such as missing information, empty boxes or incorrect statistical information. These kinds of errors must be obvious to RPA from a simple examination of the application;
2. contradictions that come to light when RPA compares information in the same application, either manually or by computer. Examples of these kinds of errors include arithmetical mistakes and inconsistent information (declaring the same parcel twice in a single claim or declaring the same parcel for two types of usage);
3. anomalies involving parcel numbers or references detected when the application is cross-checked against databases – for example, reversed figures (parcel no. 1169 instead of 1196), mistakes in map reference numbers, or mistakes in parcel numbers as a result of a map-reading error."
Submissions of the Parties
"Where a public authority has issued a promise or adopted a practice which represents how it proposes to act in a given area, the law will require the promise or practice to be honoured unless there is good reason not to do so. What is the principle behind this proposition? It is not far to seek. It is said to be grounded in fairness, and no doubt in general terms that is so. I would prefer to express it rather more broadly as a requirement of good administration, by which public bodies ought to deal straightforwardly and consistently with the public. In my judgment this is a legal standard which, although not found in terms in the European Convention on Human Rights, takes its place alongside such rights as fair trial, and no punishment without law. That being so there is every reason to articulate the limits of this requirement – to describe what may count as good reason to depart from it – as we have come to articulate the limits of other constitutional principles overly found in the European Convention. Accordingly a public body's promise or practice as to future conduct may only be denied, and thus the standard I have expressed may only be departed from, in circumstances where to do so is the public body's legal duty, or is otherwise, to use a now familiar vocabulary, a proportionate a proportionate response (of which the court is the judge, or the last judge) having regard to a legitimate aim pursued by the public body in the public interest. The principle that good administration requires public authorities to be held to their promises would be undermined if the law did not insist that any failure or refusal to comply is objectively justified as a proportionate measure in the circumstances".
"Whilst reliance is not essential, lack of reliance will often be relevant in deciding whether or not it would be fair and/or in the interests of good administration to correct a mistake. There was no reliance here".