Producing the Goods 2
London Farmers' Markets : The London Development Agency letter
24 September 2004
Thanks for the faxed copy of the letter from Haringey Council.
I do not agree with the line taken by their Head of Legal Services. As advised previously, the definition of “person” in the Interpretation Act (which includes corporate entities) must apply unless the contrary intention appears in the Act. I do not agree that the contrary intention does appear from this Act.
They argue that the intention of the Act is to limit “person” to individuals, except for ice cream trading licences which must be obtained by companies or partnerships. For this interpretation to be correct, the onus is on them to point to something in the Act which either expressly or by implication justifies a deviation from the Interpretation Act. The only justification offered by them is that:
I think this reasoning is illogical and without basis. The requirement that ice cream applicants must provide company details follows logically from the fact that only companies can make ice cream applications. But that does not justify or “clarify” the conclusion that all other types of applications can therefore only be made by natural persons. If that was the intention, the legislature would have said so – especially since the result of such an interpretation would be to disqualify corporate entities from applying for trading licenses. It is a well established principle of statutory interpretation that any case of ambiguity must be resolved in such a way as to make the statute less onerous for the general public and so as to cause less interference with civil rights.
It is important to note that the Council has not offered any logical commercial or regulatory explanation as to why the legislature would have intended to exclude companies from applying for trade licenses generally. The onus is on them to justify their limited interpretation of “person” and I think the reasoning and grounds offered by them are thin.
In my view, the only legislative intent that is clear from the relevant provisions is that the legislature intended to limit ice cream applications to corporate entities. There may be good reasons why this was done and so drafted in the Act. But those reasons are irrelevant to the fact, in respect of all other applications, the Interpretation Act defines “person” as including natural persons and corporate entities and that any intention to deviate from or to limit that interpretation must be apparent from the relevant law. I don’t think that such an intention can be implied merely from the fact that the Act requires ice cream applications to be brought by companies.
I also note that the author of the letter does not deal with our comment that the normal interpretation of “person” as including corporate entities is in line with the legislative approach generally adopted in local authority licensing statues, and the examples of such Acts which we mentioned. As I have said, the onus is on them to justify an interpretation of “person” which is different from the Interpreation Act. The tendency illustrated by the examples will make that difficult.
They also do not deal with the fact that the Act makes provision for a closed list of disqualifying grounds to refuse applications. If the intention was to exclude corporate applicants (except for ice cream licenses), one would expect such an exclusion to be expressly listed as one of the grounds for refusal. Alternatively, one would expect such a qualification to be made clear in the provisions dealing with the application procedure.
I don’t know how you will be taking this further, but it appears they will be sticking to their guns!
Pieter de Waal