An Introduction to Administrative Law

By Peter Cane | Go to book overview

10
Estoppel

INTRODUCTION

IN private law estoppel is a many-faceted principle. For example, the doctrine of promissory estoppel in contract law prevents a contracting party, under certain circumstances, from enforcing strict legal rights under the contract because of a promise made not to enforce them; the doctrine of proprietary estoppel in land law disentitles a person (A), under certain circumstances, from denying that another (B), who has acted to his or her (B's) detriment in reliance on a belief that he or she owns certain property, actually has an interest in the property when A has fostered in B the belief that B has the interest. A closely related concept of private law is that of waiver: for example, by his or her conduct a party to a contract may be held to have waived the right to have the contract performed on a particular day. These examples of estoppel and waiver have one basic characteristic in common: they are all cases in which, for some reason, a party is denied the right to assert (or 'is estopped' from asserting) what are admitted to be his or her strict legal rights. So, all cases of estoppel involve a contrast between strict law and some notion of equity which relieves a party of the strict legal consequences defined by a contract or title-deed.

No attempt should be made to draw detailed analogies between any particular type of estoppel or waiver in private law and the doctrine of estoppel in public law. The analogy should be taken no further than the common characteristic noted at the end of the last paragraph: the doctrine of estoppel in public law is primarily concerned with whether a public body ought to be denied the right to rely on and assert the fact that one of its decisions or actions is ultra vires and, therefore, not binding on it. In other words, the primary role of estoppel in public law is to provide a means of creating exceptions to the doctrine of ultra vires.

The language of estoppel is also used in another context. As a general principle, an intra vires decision is binding on the authority which makes it. However, the law does recognize that the demands of public policy can sometimes justify a public authority in changing or revoking

-218-

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An Introduction to Administrative Law
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Clarendon Law Series ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Contents xxxv
  • Part I - Rules and Principles of Judicial Review 1
  • 1 - The Nature of Judicial Review 3
  • 2 - The Scope of Judicial Review Public Law and Private Law 12
  • 3 - Applicants 42
  • 4 - Remedies Uses and Availability 62
  • 5 - Procedures 89
  • 6 - Authority 109
  • 7 - The Decision-Making Process (i) 133
  • 8 - The Decision-Making Process (ii) 160
  • 9 - The Output 208
  • 10 - Estoppel 218
  • Part II - Rules and Principles of Liability II 231
  • II- Introduction 233
  • 12 - Liability in Tort 241
  • 13 - Government Contracts 257
  • 14 - Restitution 276
  • Part III- Information 279
  • 15 - Information and Litigation 281
  • 16 - Government Secrecy and Freedom of Information 292
  • Part IV - Non-Judicial Control 301
  • 17 - Parliament the Constitutional Functions of Parliament 303
  • 18 - Investigating Complaints 314
  • 19 - Tribunals 331
  • Part V - Wider Perspectives on Judicial Control 345
  • 20 - Constitutional and Political Background 347
  • 21 - Judicial Review and the Administrative Process 378
  • Index 393
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