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R v Secretary of State for the Home Department


[2021] EWCA Civ 193
Dates of case

Appeal and cross-appeal concerning the fees charged to children applying to register as British citizens.

The claimants, led by the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, alleged that the fees – more than £1,000 – are ultra vires the British Nationality Act 1981 and breach the principle of legality, being substantially in excess of the administrative cost and unaffordable to many child applicants and thereby cutting down rights conferred by Parliament.  In a widely reported judgment, the High Court (Jay J) rejected this argument.  However, Jay J allowed the claim on the secondary ground that the Secretary of State had failed in the procedural duty to have regard to the best interests of children when fixing the fees at their present level.  He declined to quash the regulations setting the fees.

The Court of Appeal refused the appeals brought against each aspect of Jay J’s judgment.  In doing so, it made important observations concerning the related principles of ultra vires and legality.  Following the intervention of both the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Clerk of the Parliaments, the Court also made observations concerning Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689, which regulates the use to which Parliamentary materials may be put in legal proceedings.

The Court of Appeal granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Nicholas Chapman, led by Sir James Eadie QC, represented the Secretary of State.

The judgment can be found here.

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Nicholas Chapman

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