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The unusual question the Supreme Court has just decided: What, at law, is a “government policy”?

The answer, given in the judgment about Heathrow expansion, is not what you might think

By David Allen Green  

Tail fins of aircraft parked at Terminal One, Heathrow. Photo: Tim Ockenden/PA Wire/PA Images

The word “policy’” is vague. Sometimes, in politics, it appears to be a word even without any meaning. A politician may be said to have a good policy, a bad policy or no policy—and sometimes all three at once about the very same thing.

For lawyers, the word does have meaning, or a range of meanings. There is the special definition of the word in respect of insurance contracts. A judge may also decide a case one way or the other on the basis of “public policy,” which is not (or should not) be another term for the social and…

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