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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 80a

Copies of Papers and Extracts relating to the Appointment of Members to the Upper House of Representatives in New Zealand and the Colonies. — —No. 1.— — The Earl of Onslow to Lord Knutsford. — (Received 2 March 1891.) — [Answered by No. 5]

page 5

Copies of Papers and Extracts relating to the Appointment of Members to the Upper House of Representatives in New Zealand and the Colonies.

—No. 1.—

The Earl of Onslow to Lord Knutsford.

(Received 2 March 1891.)

[Answered by No. 5]

My Lord,


I have the honour to inform your Lordship that, acting on the advice of my Ministers, I have summoned the following gentlemen to the Legislative Council of New Zealand, viz.: Mr. John Blair Whyte, Auckland; Mr. Francis John Davies Ormond, Hawke's Bay; Mr. Charles John Johnston, Wellington; Mr. Charles Christopher Bowen, Canterbury; and Messrs. James Fulton and William Downie Stewart, Orago.

No fresh appointments have been made to this body since the year 1887; in fact, since the present Ministry have been in office.

On the other hand, several deaths and resignations have taken place, reducing the number of Councillors from 48, at which it stood on the 8th October 1887. to 39 to-day, and of these it may safely be said that, from extreme age, absence from the colony, or other reasons, the effective strength barely exceeds 30.

My Ministers have repeatedly expressed their desire to effect a reform in the Council, to reduce the period of service to seven years, instead of for life, and to limit the number to one-half of those in the House of Representatives. At the same time they considered it to be essential that the whole of the Members should be able, willing, and efficient, for the performance of their duties.

In 1887 they introduced a Bill with this object; but it was discharged before it reached the second reading.

Last Session a Bill embodying the principles declared to be those entertained by the Government was introduced into the Legislative Council by a private Member; was amended by the Attorney-General to meet the views of the Government, and cordially supported by the Government in the Council; but was rejected by that body; and, in the face of that opinion, my Ministers concluded that it would be futile themselves to submit to Parliament a measure on similar lines.

My Ministers refrained from offering me any advice as to strengthening the Council before the expiration of the Parliament and the General Election.

The result of that election has been, as I apprised your Lordship in my Despatch of 18th December 1890,* to make a great change in the personnel of the House of Representatives, and, in the uncertainty as to the political views of the new Members, I have, as I have already informed your Lordship, summoned Parliament at the earliest convenient date.

I had before me the statement of Ministers that it was necessary to summon Parliament, in order that they might ascertain the feelings of confidence towards them entertained by the new representatives of the people, and I, therefore, hesitated before accepting their advice to make these appointments. I thought it my duty to demand from them an assurance that the advice was tendered, less with a view to reward party services, than for the purpose of strengthening the efficiency of the Upper House. That assurance lias been given me, and 1 have, therefore, accepted the advice.

Petitions, numerously signed, have been presented to me, requesting me to defer these appointments till after the meeting of Parliament. It is urged in them that : (1.) The present Ministry are in a minority; (2.) Sir H. Atkinson has pledged himself not to advise fresh appointments till the numbers were reduced below one-half of those constituting the House of Representatives;

* Note printed.

page 6 (3.) The Legislative Councillors now exceed by three or four half the number of the House of Representatives.

I gave due consideration to these representations, and to the spirit in which I believe Her Majesty's Government regard the position of colonies possessing representative government. I trust that I interpret those views aright, in holding that, where there is nothing to the contrary in the Letters Patent of 21st February 1879, constituting my office, or in the Royal Instructions accompanying them, the constitutional practice observed in England should form the main lines for guidance under similar circumstances. I therefore dismissed the first reason, without waiting to inquire as to its accuracy.

Upon the second argument I received the Memorandum*, which I enclose, from Sir H. Atkinson, and which appeared to me to be satisfactory; and, as to the third, I would point out to your Lordship that, though true of the nominal, it is not true of the effective, strength of the Legislative Council, that the House of Representatives has but just been reduced from 95 to 74 Members, while it has not been found possible to effect any reform of the Upper House.

Had it been proposed to me to make fresh creations to the extent of, say, one-third of the existing House, I should have had grave hesitation in accepting advice which might be treated as a precedent for swamping the votes of the existing majority, in order to carry party legislation.

It has, however, long been the practice in England for Ministers, even after a vote of censure has been passed on them in Parliament, to advise the Crown to create a limited number of Peerages, not only for the purpose of strengthening the Upper House, but admittedly as rewards to those who, being qualified for the position of Peers, have rendered political services to the defeated party.

It is the fact that, in 1877, when a vote of want of confidence in Ministers was pending, Lord Normanby declined to accept advice as to an appointment until the result of the vote was known; but on the vote being rejected, he immediately acted on the nomination of Sir George Grey, the Premier. On the other hand, in 1869, a vote of want of confidence was moved on the 15th June in Sir Edward Stafford's Ministry, and carried on the 24th June; but, on the 17th, the Governor, while the debate was pending, accepted his Ministers' advice to raise Messrs. Paterson and Pharazyn to the Council, and on the 25th also accepted their advice to call Mr. Levin to hat body.

Although Lord Carnarvon, in his Despatch of 15th January 1878, approves generally of Lord Normanby's conduct, in the first-mentioned case, I trust that your Lordship will approve of the action which, under somewhat different circumstances, I have thought it my duty to take.

I have, &c.
The Right Hon. the Lord Knutsford, G.C.M.G.


&c. &c. &c. &c.

* Enclosure No.2.

Not printed.