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K v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2023] (Admin)

News | Fri 28th Jul, 2023

Edward Lamb instructed by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has successfully defended a claim for Judicial Review in the Administrative Court.

The case, heard over 2 days,  turned on the statutory interpretation of section 17 of the Child Support Act 1991. The non-resident parent had sought a supersession of his child maintenance calculation as far back as 2011 on the ground that it was incorrectly calculated. This request was refused by the Child Maintenance Service. The Claimant invited the Court to quash this decision on grounds of irrationality and unreasonableness and for his child maintenance liability to be reassessed.

The key question was whether section 17 provided a time limit for an application for the supersession of a maintenance calculation. Edward successfully argued that section 17 was a self-contained and self-defining statutory scheme, from which it was impermissible to read into a general discretion to extend time limits [see R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Abdi [1996] 1 WLR 298]. Moreover that if a purposeful reading of the relevant secondary and subordinate legislation (in this case the Social Security and Child Support (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 1999) appeared to conflict with or fetter a right or discretion contained in its parent and primary statute, the primary statute should prevail.  The argument that there was in any event a cause of action arising from general unfairness, was also dismissed [see Regina (Gallaher Group Ltd and others) v Competition and Markets Authority [2018] UKSC 25]. The Administrative Court further held the claim was out of time and therefore in breach of CPR r.54.5(1).  

Edward was instructed by the Government Legal Department’s Constitutional and Social Care Public Law Team.

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