R v IRC, ex parte Natural Fed of Self-Employed [1982]

IR
agreed to waive large amounts of income tax from 6000 workers in newspaper
printing industry who had been defrauding IR.
Application
for JR made by association of taxpayers who alleged IR had failed in duty to
administer tax laws fairly as between different classes of taxpayers.
House
of Lords held:
1. Wrong to
treat standing as preliminary issue for determination independently of merits
of complaint.
Lord
Wilberforce stated this may be appropriate in simple cases where obvious at
earliest stage that applicant has no interest at all, but in others must look
at merits.
[This
introduced second stage in new procedure –
Applicant
has to show strong enough case on merits, judged in relation to his own concern
with it]
2. Inference
made that law as to standing is now same for all remedies under Ord 53.
[But
clear answer given.
Diplock
clearly supported uniform test; Wilberforce clearly did not.
Other
three Lords less forthright.
Some
support for uniform test but with rider that old authorities should not be
discarded altogether.
ie
Some of former rules may still be valid.]
3.
According to Lord Diplock, test sufficiently wide to allow an actio popularis
(citizen’s action) in suitable cases.
Would
be grave lacuna in law if pressure group or even single public-spirited
individual were prevented by outdated technical rules of locus standi from
bringing matter to attention of court to vindicate rule of law.
4. On facts
of case, applicants had failed to show IR had breached duty –
Their wide
managerial powers allowed them to make such arrangements.
But
if it had been shown that IR yielded to improper pressure, or committed breach of
duty of sufficient gravity, applicants might have succeeded.