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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 80a

Enclosure 1 in No. 9

page 19

Enclosure 1 in No. 9.

Ministers respectfully desire, through his Excellency, to direct the attention of the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to a difference between his Excellency the Governor and his Ministers, on a question which Ministers think involves the status of a self-governing Colony of the Empire.

The facts are briefly as follows :—Immediately after the last general election the then Governor, Lord Onslow, appointed upon advice, seven members to the Legislative Council. The Government of Sir Henry Atkinson was, as the result of the election at the time, in a minority, and resigned office upon the day of the meeting of Parliament. Mr. Ballance was sent for to form an Administration and his Government was supported by a large majority of the House of Representatives. A short session was held, and the General Assembly was prorogued to enable the Government to bring down their policy in another session. In that session their principal measures were carried by large majorities in the House, but some of the vital points of policy in these measures were defeated by still larger majorities in the Legislative Council, the position of the Government in the second Chamber on the question being represented by adverse votes of 18 to 5.

In the majority were included six out of the seven members (the seventh being the Speaker) appointed on the advice, at the time, of a defeated Ministry. During the recess, and shortly before Lord Onslow's departure from the Colony, Mr. Ballance advised his Excellency to appoint twelve members, as the least number thought necessary to allow the Government to be fairly represented in the second Chamber, and to enable the legislative and other functions which constitutionally pertain to this branch of the Legislature to be adequately performed.

Between the time of Mr. Ballance's Government being formed and when advice was tendered to Lord Onslow there had been six deaths, one vacation through absence, and leaves of absence extending over the next ensuing session, while it was notorious that several Members were, through old age, extremely unlikely to attend the next meeting of Parliament. Notwithstanding these facts, Lord Onslow refused to appoint a greater number of Councillors than eight, which number Ministers refused to accept. Lord Onslow left a confidential memorandum* (which he was good enough to submit to Mr. Ballance for perusal) for his successor in which was contained an extract from a Wellington Opposition newspaper extremely hostile to the Government, containing reasons for not accepting the advice of Ministers. The responsibility was transferred from Lord Onslow to his successor, Lord Glasgow.

Between the departure of Lord Onslow and the arrival of Lord Glasgow the strength of the Council was still further diminished by one death. Upon the arrival of Lord Glasgow Mr. Ballance tendered his Excellency the same advice as he had given Lord Onslow, namely, to call 12 new members to the Council. His Excellency declined to accept the advice, but offered to appoint eight, with an additional member when the written resignation, telegraphed by the Agent-General, of the Honourable Randall Johnson arrived in the Colony. Ministers declined to accept a less number than they advised. Since then a Member of the Council, the Speaker, Sir Hurry Atkinson, has died, while another has resigned. In this position the question remains.

Ministers would point out that the Parliament is in session, and they are answerable to the House of Representatives for the advice tendered to his Excellency. It has been alleged that they ought to have resigned when their advice was declined, but they relied on the constitutional practice as expressed in "Todd's Parliamentary Government in the British Colonies, 1880," p. 590, which is as follows: "They would be responsible for the advice they gave, but" could not strictly be held accountable for their advice not having prevailed; "for, if it be the right and duty of the Governor to act in any case contrary "to the advice of his Ministers, they cannot be held responsible for his action, "and should not feel themselves justified in retiring from the administration of "public affairs."

"Ministers are of opinion that the responsibility of appointments to the Council page 20 should have rested with the responsible advisers of his Excellency, and that the refusal to accept their advice is in derogation of the rights and privileges of a self-governing Colony, In this case his Excellency is placed in the position of acting without advice, unless it be the advice of persons who are not responsible, and withdraws from those responsible the confidence which the Constitution requires him to repose in them, upon the inadequate ground that, nine are preferable to 12 additions to the Council.

It is further to be observed that while the advice of a Government that had just been defeated at a general election was accepted, the advice of a Ministry enjoying the confidence of a large majority of the representatives of the people is declined. Ministers, in fact, are impelled to the conclusion that the way in which their advice has been treated is more in harmony with the methods of a Crown Colony than with the practice followed in a great self-governing Colony which has long enjoyed the advantages of a free Constitution and a wide autonomy within the limits of the Empire.

(signed) J. Ballance. Premier's Office, Wellington,

* See page 23