Roche v Minister for Industry and Commerce

JurisdictionIreland
CourtSupreme Court
Judgment Date01 January 1978
Date01 January 1978
Docket Number[1971 No. 1141 P.]
Roche v. Minister for Industry and Commerce
Thomas C. Roche and Bula Limited
Plantiffs
and
The Minister for Industry and Commerce, The Attorney General and Patrick Wright
Defendants
[1971 No. 1141 P.]

Supreme Court

Compulsory acquisition - Minerals - Minister of State - Statutory powers - Indiscriminate vesting order - Provisions of statute ignored - Statute - Interpretation - Ordinary meaning - Order declared invalid - Minerals Development Act, 1940 (No. 31), ss. 3, 14, 15.

Sub-section 1 of s. 14 of the Minerals Development Act, 1940 states that whenever it appears to the Minister for Industry and Commerce that there are minerals on or under any land and that such minerals are not being worked, or are not being worked efficiently, and the Minister is of opinion that it is desirable in the public interest with a view to the exploitation of such minerals that the working of such minerals should be controlled by the State, the Minister may by order compulsorily acquire such minerals in fee simple. Sub-section 2 of s. 14 states (a) that the Minister's order "shall specify the nature, situation, and extent of the minerals to which it relates" and (b) that the order "may be in respect of all the minerals on or under any particular land or in respect of any particular such mineral . . ."

The first defendant purported to make an order under s. 14 of the Act vesting in himself the minerals under the lands of the plaintiffs. Having invoked s. 14 of the Act, the order of the first defendant stated that "all minerals . . . under the land described in the schedule to this order are hereby vested in the Minister for industry and Commerce in fee simple." The plaintiffs sought, and obtained, in the High Court an order declaring that the order of the first defendant was invalid on the ground that it did not specify the nature, situation and extent of the minerals being acquired. On appeal by the defendants it was

Held by the Supreme Court (FitzGerald C.J., Walsh, Budd, Henchy and Pringle JJ.), in disallowing the appeal, 1, that the duty of the first defendant in accordance with the plain meaning of the provisions of sub-s. 2 (a) of s. 14 of the Act of 1940 was not lessened by the terms of sub-s. 2 (b) of that section.

2. That, in making his order, the first defendant had failed to comply with the provisions of sub-s. 2 (a) of section 14.

3. That, before making an order under s. 14 of the Act of 1940, the first defendant (inter alia) must make an appraisal of the particular substances which lie unworked, or inefficiently worked.

Cases mentioned in this report:—

1 The State (Randles) v. Minister for Industry and Commerce (High Court — 13th April, 1973).

2 Brace v. Abercarn Colliery Co. [1891] 2 Q.B. 699.

3 Buckley and Others (Sinn Féin) v. The Attorney General [1950] I.R. 67.

4 The State (Crowley) v. Irish Land Commission [1951] I.R. 250.

5 Foley v. Irish Land Commission [1952] I.R. 118.

6 McDonald v. Bord na gCon [1965] I.R. 217.

7 East Donegal Co-operative v. The Attorney General [1970] I.R. 317.

8 Murphy v. Corporation of Dublin [1972] I.R. 215.

9 Errington v. Minister of Health [1935] 1 K.B. 249.

Appeal from the High Court.

On the 15th March, 1971, the Minister for Industry and Commerce made the Minerals Acquisition (Nevinstown and other townlands, County Meath) Order, 1971. By that order the Minister purported to vest all minerals under the lands of Patrick Wright in the Minister in fee simple pursuant to s. 14 of the Minerals Development Act, 1940. Notice of the making of the Minister's order was not published in the Iris Oifigiúil until the 23rd March, 1971. Meanwhile, on the 18th March, Thomas C. Roche signed a contract to purchase the lands of Patrick Wright without knowledge of the Minister's order.

The plaintiffs issued a plenary summons in which they claimed (a) a declaration that the Minister's order was invalid in so far as it purported to acquire compulsorily the lands of the plaintiffs or one of them; (b) a declaration that the said order was ultra vires the Minister; and (c) a declaration that the provisions of s. 14, sub-s. 1, of the Act of 1940 were invalid having regard to the provisions of the Constitution of Ireland 1937. By order of the High Court made on the 21st February, 1972, the name of Patrick Wright was struck out as a plaintiff and added as a defendant, after he had expressed a wish not to continue to make his claim. On the 13th April, 1973, O'Keeffe P. delivered a reserved judgment in which he held that the plaintiffs in the Roche action were entitled to a declaration that the Minister's order was invalid on the ground that it did not specify with reasonable particularity the nature, situation and extent of the minerals being acquired. The first and second defendants appealed to the Supreme Court.

On the 21st March, 1972, O'Keeffe P. made a conditional order of certiorari in The State (Randles) v. The Minister for Industry and Commerce[1972 No. 71 SS.]1 (High Court — 13th April, 1973). in which he directed that a similar order of the Minister should be quashed, unless cause were shown to the contrary. On the 13th...

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