Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments First Report


Memorandum by the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions


  1. The Committee has requested a further memorandum on the following point:

  The Department's memorandum of 26 October 1999 takes the view that an injured wild bird is an "article" for the purposes of section 108(4)(f), (g) and (h) of the Environment Act 1995. Explain the grounds for this view. The Department's attention is drawn to the observations of Lord Goddard CJ in Daly v Cannon [1954] 1 WLR 261.

  2. Section 108 of the Environment Act 1995 is in the nature of a general provision giving, amongst other matters, enforcing authorities (as defined in section 108(15)) powers necessary for determining whether any provision of the pollution control enactments is being, or has been, complied with (section 108(1)(a)). The term "pollution control enactments" is also defined in section 108(15) and it will be seen that the term covers an extensive range of environmental legislation. The Department is therefore satisfied that the provisions of section 108 should not be interpreted restrictively.

  3. The case of Daly v Cannon [1954] 1 WLR 261 to which the Committee refers involved the interpretation of the words "no person who collects or deals in rags, old clothes or similar articles ." in section 154(1) of the Public Health Act 1936. The Court held that a live goldfish was not an "article" within the meaning of section 154(1) of that Act. The Department would not in any way seek to dispute this decision because it seems clear on normal construction principles that the term "similar articles" needs to be read in the context of "rags" and "old clothes". The Department notes that Lord Goddard CJ's judgment stated, "Would anybody in ordinary common parlance talk about a goldfish as an article? I do not think they would. If the statute had said "article or thing," as some statutes have said, there could be no doubt, I think, that a goldfish would be a thing". However, the Department considers that in making these comments Lord Goddard was having regard to the context of the word "article" as set out in section 154(1) of the 1936 Act. Indeed, it is noted that at the beginning of his judgment Lord Goddard stated, "The question which we have to decide is whether a goldfish is an article within the meaning of section 154(1)".

  4. There are other cases on the meaning of "article"-

      (1) In Landaff Market Co. v Lyndon, 30 L.J.M.C. 105, a horse was held to be an "article" within section 25 of the Landaff and Canton District Markets Act 1858.

      (2) In J.M. Knowles Ltd v Rand [1962] 1 W.L.R 893, "articles" was held to include livestock. The legislation which was involved was the Road Traffic Act 1960 and the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1949. In that case Lord Parker CJ stated that " "articles" must be given a wide meaning".

      (3) The Australian case of Palmer v B.J. Clarke's (Hampton) Pty. Ltd.. [1966] V.R.7 seems to have held that a maggot was an "article" within the meaning of the definition of "substance" in s.3 of the Health Act 1958 (Vic.); (the Department has not seen the report of the case).

  5. Definition 1V of "article" in the Oxford English Dictionary (second edition) is "a separate thing (immaterial or material)". The Department considers that this definition would encompass an injured wild bird.

  6. In the Department's view, the interpretation of a term in legislation such as "article" will, unless specifically defined, very much depend on the context in which it is used. As mentioned above, the context of section 108 of the Environment Act 1995 is wide. The Department therefore remains satisfied that a dead or injured wild bird will be within the term "article" as used in section 108(4)(f),(g) and(h) of the 1995 Act.

9 November 1999

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