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Administrative Law Notes

Administrative Law

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Administrative Law notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambridge. These notes cover all the major LLB aspects and so are perfect for anyone doing an LLB in the UK or a great supplement for those doing LLBs abroad, whether that be in Ireland, Canada, Hong Kong or Malaysia (University of London). These notes were formed directly from a reading of the cases and main texts and are vigorous, concise and very well written. Everything is conveniently split up by topic as you can see by th...

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Tomkins, ‘In Defence of the Political Constitution’ [2002]

The “political constitution and indeed generally, are in need of both defending and praising” (aims to look at relationship of law with politics & particularly to respond to Loughlin’s theory.

Tomkins highlights the difference between red-light and green-light theories of admin law (introduced by Harlow and Rawlings, and later amber and blue rinse views). Initial divide was based on four principal differences of view: (a) on law, (b) on the state, (c) on notions of control, (d) on liberty.

RED-LIGHT theorists believe:

  1. That law is autonomous to and superior over politics;

  2. That the administrative state is something which needs to be kept in check by the law;

  3. That the preferred way of doing this is through rule-based adjudication in courts;

  4. That the goal of this project should be to enhance individual liberty where liberty is conceived as being the right to be left alone, the absence of external constraints (an idea of liberty best realised by having small government).

This tends to reflect a more politically conservative view. Paradigm example is the model of illegality where Parliament enacts legislation which confers discretion on an executive decision-maker to do x, decision-maker does y and this decision is challenged by way of judicial review resulting in court invalidating y on the ground that Parliament did not authorise decision y – from the red-light perspective, the court is merely enforcing the will or at least expectation of Parliament

GREEN-LIGHT theorists believe:

  1. That law is nothing more than a sophisticated (or elitist) discourse of politics and is neither autonomous from politics nor superior to administration;

  2. That public administration is not a necessary evil to be tolerated, but a positive attribute to be welcomed;

  3. That the objective of administrative law and regulation is not merely to stop bad administrative practices, but is to encourage and facilitate good admin practices (to control administration by channelling and guiding and courts not necessarily best vehicle to realise these objectives);

  4. The goal of this project should be to enhance individual and collective liberty where liberty is conceived of as something which is, if not constituted by the state, then is at least facilitated by it, and is certainly not necessarily threatened by it (e.g. goal of the state might be to house the homeless and feed hungry and educate young, etc. and role of admin. law is to help state perform these tasks well).

More politically progressive – paradigm example of this model might be a complaint made to Parliamentary Ombudsman, resulting in Ombudsman investigating the complaint and reporting back to the government department against whom the complaint was made

RED LIGHT theories are rooted in 19th century Diceyan constitutional analysis and GREEN LIGHT theories are focused on questions of law’s relationship specifically to public administration.


  • One can see the recent argument about the constitutional foundation of judicial review as being an argument between red- and amber-light theorists.

  • Those who argue that the ultra vires rule is the proper foundation of judicial review are defending a position which has close associations with red-light theory. Those who posit that the common law is the proper foundation of judicial review are making a strongly amber-light argument

AMBER-LIGHT theorists believe:

  1. (With red-light theorists) that law is both discrete from and superior to politics;

  2. That the state can successfully be limited by law, although that law ought properly to allow for the administration to enjoy a degree – albeit controlled degree – of discretionary authority;

  3. That the best way of controlling the state is through the judicial articulation and enforcement of broad principles of legality;

  4. That the goal of this project is to safeguard a particular vision of human rights.


  • this view of administrative law is “as narrowly focused on judicial remedies as are red-light theories, but it elevates the constitutional role of the judiciary considerably beyond that advocated by red-light theorists”.

  • Paradigm example of theory in practice is the case in which Parl confers a broad discretionary statutory power on a decision-maker and the decision-maker exercises his discretion in such a way as to touch on what the judges subsequently hold to be a fundamental or constitutional right

  • Recently and especially after the Human Rights Act 1998, there has been a “growing desire to strike out such executive decisions on the ground that they violate such supposed rights”. Sir John Laws in 1995 said that “a democratic constitution is in the end undemocratic if it gives all power to its elected government”.

On Loughlin

  • All three models rest on a different appreciation of the relationship between public law and politics. Significant part of LOUGHLIN’S ARGUMENT is that this legal challenge to politics is a more generally experienced manifestation of what he calls liberal-legalism (Loughlin defines the objective of liberal-legalism as to secure “the enclosure of politics within the straitjacket of law”).

  • Tomkins considers whether this negative portrayal of politics is wise or even appropriate. The philosophical assumption upon which liberal-legalism is founded is that the relationship between law and politics is a polarised one.

  • Tomkins seeks to show that POLITICS AND LAW ARE DEEPLY ENTWINED WITH EACH OTHER: he distinguishes distributive justice from corrective justice:

    • Loughlin argues that for Aristotle distributive justice was “essentially a matter of politics” whereas corrective justice was “purely a question of law”.

    • But Tomkins shows they’re related (e.g. with corrective justice, he discusses the politics of the English judiciary and the techniques and methods of interpretation and with distributive justice he looks at the welfare...

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