Transfers of Governance

August 1st, 2019 by James Goudie KC

The Home Secretary decided to approve proposals to transfer the governance of Fire and Rescue Services (“FRSs”) to the Police and Crime Commissioner (“PCC”) for the area. A challenge failed before Garnham J in R (Shropshire & Wrekin Fire Authority, Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority, and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Authority) v SSHD (2019) EWHC 1967 (Admin).  The question of substance was whether the proposals were “in the interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness” (“the 3Es”) within Section 4A(5) of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 (“the 2004 Act”) as inserted by the Policing and Crime Act 2017.

Garnham J said:-

“48.  In my judgment there is here no clear, unambiguous explanation in the parliamentary material that would justify reference to Hansard by either party.

49. The objective for any exercise of statutory interpretation is to determine the intention of the legislature. The starting point, and often the finishing point, for that exercise is the natural and ordinary meaning of the words used. …

50. …  where the meaning is clear on the face of the statutory provision in issue, there is no need to resort to other canons of statutory construction.

51. … it is not appropriate to adopt a purposive construction, to seek a meaning that serves to promote the apparent objectives of the Act, if that is inconsistent with the plain meaning of the words used in the text of the statute.”

“53. What is the natural and ordinary meaning of the words used depends, however, not just on the dictionary definition of each word but also the syntax of the expression used, its context and a proper understanding of any technical expressions deployed. …”

“64. …  in my judgment, the meaning of the expression is clear; the proposal must be shown to be in the interests of economy and of efficiency and of effectiveness. It follows that, whilst the expression must be considered as a whole, the Act requires that individual consideration is given by the Secretary of State to each of the 3Es. …

65. An important element of that consideration, however, is the meaning of the word “economy” in this context.”

“75. … The expression “in the interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness” does require consideration of each of the Es. But it does not demand proof that the proposal will necessarily result in some overall savings to the public purse. “Economy” has a broader meaning than that; in my judgment, it means careful management of available resources or, in other words, keeping expenditure as low as possible consistent with achieving the objective in view.

76. It follows that I agree with the submission … that something can properly be regarded as being “in the interests of economy” even though it is not shown that it will lead to spending less money overall. …”

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