Oxford University Press - Online Resource Centres

Broadbent: Public Law Directions

Chapter 10

1. What is administrative law?

Administrative law is concerned with regulating the exercise of power by government in its widest sense so as to include not only central and local government but also other bodies exercising statutory powers. The powers exercised by government are largely statutory, though in the case of central government they also come from the common law in the form of the royal prerogative.

2. What matters does administrative law cover?

It covers the public law functions of government, and it covers the whole range of those activities that involve the exercise of discretion by the government.  It also covers the question of whether the government has carried out any duties it is under.

3. What are the purposes of administrative law?

There is much debate about this. Some commentators see it as a mechanism for accountability, holding government and other public bodies to account for the exercise of power placed in their hands by statute or in the case of central government by the royal prerogative. Others see it as a mechanism for promoting good administration.

4. What is judicial review? How does it differ from an appeal?

The object of judicial review is to examine the legality of the exercise of statutory powers by government, and involves the court looking at the statutory provision in question and the way in which it has been used by the decision maker in order to determine whether the decision maker has acted within the powers that have been granted by Parliament to that individual or body.  It is not as such concerned with the question of whether the decision is right or wrong but rather with the broader question of whether the decision has been reached in a correct manner and is one within the range of possible decisions that a reasonable person could have come to. An appeal involves a rehearing of the case in order to determine whether the original decision was soundly based.

5. What other mechanisms exist to resolve or avoid disputes relating to administrative matters?

There are a number of non court based ways of dealing with disputes between individuals and public bodies, including complaints procedures, tribunals, inquiries, the various forms of ombudsman, and other forms of alternative dispute resolution such as negotiation.