Page v. Hull University Visitor [1993]

This case became the leading
authority.
Page, a lecturer, was made
redundant.
Argued that terms of his
appointment did not allow termination on this ground.
University Visitor dismissed
argument.
Page sought JR of visitor’s
decision.
Browne-Wilkinson gave leading
judgment in House of Lords.
Recognised extension of ultra
vires doctrine.
Distinction between
jurisdictional and non-jurisdictional errors should be discarded.
Any error of law made by
administrative tribunal or inferior court in reaching its decision can be
quashed for error of law.
Due to a presumption that Parliament
only delegates legal power on condition it will be used on correct legal basis.
Therefore any decision which
was erroneous under general law would be ultra vires and therefore correctable,
provided it was a relevant error (ie
affecting the decision / decision–making).
However exception to this
general principle in present case because Visitor was applying not general law
of land but peculiar domestic law of the University, of which courts have no
cognisance.
Ultra vires doctrine
therefore cannot apply.
Visitor cannot err in law in
reaching his decision since the general law is not the applicable law.
[But case left unclear
whether a varying presumption still existed for administrative bodies on one
hand and inferior courts on the other]
[This case also put an end,
virtually, to concept of error of law of face of record.
Pre-Anisminic, fact error fell within decision-maker’s jurisdiction did
not always mean decision could not be quashed.
If error of law was apparent
‘on the face of the record’ it could be quashed simply because it was legally
wrong.
But now no distinction
between jurisdictional and non-jurisdictional errors.
So concept of error of law on
face of record is, according to Browne-Wilkinson, ‘obsolete’]