News of the Week Can Minister Requisition Vehicle Already Hired to the Crown ?
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ON Monday last, Mr. Robert Lane, of Lane's Garage, Catterick, Yorkshire, applied, by summons, to Mr. Justice Farwell in the Chancery Division for a declaration that the Minister of War Transport had acted ultra vires in requisitioning a vehicle belonging to him (Mr. Lane) which was already in the possession of the Crown under a hiring contract,
Mr. G. R. F. Morris said it was regarded as a test case because a large number of other vehicles Was hired under contract to, or had been requisitioned by, the Crown. Mr. Lane hired the vehicle to the Minister under contract on May 30, 1940, and on March 28, 1941, he received from the Regional Transport Commissioner a notice purporting to requisition or acquire the vehicle on behalf of the Minister, under Defence Regulation 53. The question raised by the summons was whether the Crown, already in possession of a vehicle under a hiring contract, could invoke the Defence Regulations to requisition or acquire the vehicle and so obtain an advantage in regard to hiring rates.
He contended that as the contract had not been terminated by any breach provided for in its terms, the requisition notice was of no effect.
The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell, K.C.) said that the contract contained a provision that it could be terminated by notice at any time, Mr. Justice Farwell, in his judgment, said he was unable to see-that there was anything in the emergency legislation that prevented the Crown from taking the step which it had taken in this case. It was said that if the hiring contract be still in existence when the notice of requisition was given thAn the notice could not be good, because it would be a breach of the hiring contract. In this case—and he was only concerned with the facts in this case—the notice of requisition terminated the contract.
The summons must be dismissed, with costs.