HC Deb 04 December 1890 vol 349 cc529-30

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has received any complaint from the suppliant in "Mitchell v. Regina," that in consequence of not having received the balance of compensation on retirement from the War Office, and being thereby unable to pay a certain debt, he was arrested by the head bailiff of Salford Court, Manchester, lodged in Strange ways Prison, Manchester, placed in a cell on the criminal side of the prison, assaulted by a warder, kept for a whole day without proper food, and refused permission to see any doctor; whether, inasmuch as the complaint was investigated by the Home Office, and the statements found to be correct, and the warder officially and seriously admonished, he can explain why all compensation has been refused the officer; and whether the warder who assaulted the gallant officer is the one who was lately tried at the Liverpool Assizes for the murder of a prisoner in Strange ways Prison?


The petitioner in the case quoted complained to me in July, 1888, that, being detained one day in Strange ways Prison, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 4.50 p.m., he was treated in a manner not in accordance with the rules. I inquired into these allegations, and, having reason to think that one of the warders had been rough in his manner and language, I caused him to be reprimanded and cautioned. I was not able to discover that there had been any breach of the Prison Rules, or that there was any ground for compensation. In September, 1888, the petitioner caused the Governor of the prison to be served with notice of action, but has not since proceeded with the action. The answer to the last paragraph is in the negative.


I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if he will, in view of the decision in the Courts of Law in "Mitchell v. Regina," cancel the official letter to the Secretary of State for War, dated Treasury Chambers, 31st March, 1888, printed in the Army Appropriation Accounts, and the Report of the Auditor and Controller General, 1887–8, laid upon the Table of the House of Commons, stating that the Secretary of State for War's contention to be the sole interpreter of Royal Warrants is "unconstitutional, ultra vires, and contrary to the Statute?"


The letter to which the hon. Member refers does not relate to Colonel Mitchell's case, and is not inconsistent with the decision of the Law Courts. The view of the Treasury is that— It would be ultra vires for a Royal Warrant to give to the Secretary of State such a power of interpretation as would prevent them (the Treasury) from forming and expressing their own judgment on the meaning of the Warrant in any points that can affect Treasury action.