HC Deb 27 July 1893 vol 15 cc644-5
SIR SEYMOUR KING (Hull, Central)

I beg to ask the Secretary of Stale for the Home Department, with reference to the Petition of General M. F. Fischer, Royal Engineers, presented to this House and printed in the Appendix to the Twelfth Report of the Committee on Public Petitions (16th–29th May, 1893), page 89, in which the Petitioner appeals to this House on the ground that, as he alleges, he has been illegally deprived of certain rights guaranteed to him by the Government of India Act through the operation of a Royal Warrant, and, being desirous of raising the question of the legality of the said deprival, has, during the past three years, endeavoured to have a Memorial submitted to Her Majesty through the Home Secretary, in accordance with "The Petition of Right Act, 1860," but "has been denied all access to Her Majesty as a British subject," under a letter, dated 27th May, 1890, written by direction of the late Homo Secretary, declining to recommend that the Petition should be endorsed with Her Majesty's fiat in the usual manner unless Clause 10 of the said Petition was withdrawn by the Petitioner; whether the ground on which the Secretary of State refused such recommendations is that the War Department is the proper authority to deal with Clause 10 of the Petition; whether the effect of this decision was to deprive the Petitioner of the opportunity of raising by a Petition of Right the question of the competency of the Crown to override an Act of Parliament by a Royal Warrant; and whether he claims the power to prevent, by withholding the fiat, any Petitioner from raising that or any other Constitutional question by a Petition of Right; and, if so, whether he will state the statutory authority under which he has acted in this case?


I am informed that General Fischer's Petition was referred both to the War Office and the India Office and the Attorney General. The result of the correspondence was that on the 27th May, 1890, General Fischer's solicitors were informed that the Secreary of State understood that the War Department was the proper authority to deal with Clause 10 of the Petition, but that if General Fischer would submit another Petition omitting Clause 10, or authorise the withdrawal of it, the Secretary of State would recommend that the Petition should he at once endorsed by Her Majesty. On the 30th May, 1890, a copy of the Petition was handed to General Fischer's solicitors to enable them to draw the Petition afresh if their client decided that this should be done. The Secretary of State does not claim any power, by withholding the fiat, to prevent any Petitioner from raising any Constitutional question by Petition of Right; but as it appears that the question raised in Clause 10 impeaches the action of the Army Purchase Commissioners, it did not seem to be one fit to be submitted to Her Majesty on Petition of Right. I was not aware, until this question was asked, that the Petitioner had raised any objection to the withdrawal of Clause 10.