Barnard v National Dock Labour Board [1953] 2 QB 18

Key point

  • Public power granted to a body by statute cannot be delegated to another body, this is especially for the case of powers of a judicial nature


  • The Dock Workers (Employment and Regulation Scheme) 1947 granted the power to suspend a worker to the local dock labour board made up of equal number of representatives of workers and employers
  • The port manager suspended workers during a dispute without reference to the board
  • The board did not investigate, did not see the relevant report and made no decision on the matter
  • The suspended workers applied for judicial review

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • Found for the plaintiffs; the power had been granted to the board and could not be delegated to the port manager; at most all the board could is take recommendations from power manager.

Denning LJ

  • ‘While an administrative function can often be delegated, a judicial function rarely can be. No judicial tribunal can delegate its functions unless it is enabled to do so expressly or by necessary implication.’: p. 40
  • ‘So far as the decision to suspend is concerned, as I see it, we are not asked to interfere with the decision of a statutory tribunal; we are asked to interfere with the position of a usurper. The port manager (if he will forgive my saying so) is a usurper, or, at any rate, is in the position of a usurper. I do not mean this unkindly, because I know that he acted in good faith on the authority of the board; nevertheless, he has assumed a mantle which was not his, but that of another. This is not a case of a tribunal which has a lawful jurisdiction and exercises it; it is a case of a man acting as a tribunal when he has no right to do so. These courts have always had jurisdiction to deal with such a case. ’: p. 42