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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 80a

Enclosure 12 in No. 9. — Memorandum for His Excellency

page 22

Enclosure 12 in No. 9.

Memorandum for His Excellency.

Ministers beg to acknowledge the receipt of his Excellency's Memorandum of the 8th inst., and desire to notice one or two matters therein. His Excellency remarks that the "best information he was able to obtain was pro "cured solely from public documents, and the Memorandum left by Lord "Onslow." Ministers reply that no public documents have ever been submitted to them by his Excellency of any kind bearing on the question, and they have had no opportunity of expressing any opinion upon them. The same observation will apply to the Memorandum left by Lord Onslow in so far as it was treated confidentially, and although a Memorandum (probably that referred to) was sent the Premier for his inspection, no copy was kept, and his Excellency has never asked for the opinion or advice of Ministers on this confidential Memorandum. Moreover the circumstances affecting the Council have greatly changed since the departure of Lord Onslow, and his Memorandum could hardly be supposed to express the present condition of affairs.

Ministers take exception to the statement "that the idea underlying the "whole case of Ministers is that whatever measures an Administration bring "forward are certain to express the feeling of the country." It would be more correct to say that measures passed by large majorities of the House of Representatives within eighteen months of its election are sufficient to entitle Ministers to the confidence of his Excellency, and to express in terms not to be misunderstood in a self-governing community that the measures do express the feeling of the country.

Ministers notice that his Excellency points out "that the suspensory powers "conferred by the Constitution on the Second Chamber is a constitutional check "intended to give power to the Electorate through the intervention of the Legislative Council at any time to step in and control legislation," and that "this plan ensures greater freedom to the Electorate than that favoured by "Ministers." Ministers reply that the argument if applied in practice would prove immediately destructive to the Constitution. It means that with the sanction and support of the Governor the Council is at all times to possess the power to impose a penal dissolution on the country; that a Nominee Chamber is to be accepted as a better judge or exponent of the feelings of the country than the representatives of the people; and that a decisive majority in the Second Chamber is to be maintained by the representative of Her Majesty in order to "control legislation." It also means that a majority irresponsible for its acts may harass, by the expense and worry of an election, the representative body, and it suggests the fatal position that the Governor is to be associated with the Council as to the practical application of the doctrine.

If Ministers could believe that this was the true intent and meaning of the Constitution they would despair of its survival beyond the popular recognition of the fact, but they have not so read it, and hope, for the sake of the Constitution, that such a construction may not prove to be accurate.

The construction may be stated (in accordance with actual facts in recent history) to be this. A majority in the Legislative Council should be in harmony with the minority in the House of Representatives when the Liberals are in power, with a penal dissolution suspended over the heads of the Government; but when the Conservatives are in power they should have majorities in both Chambers without the "Constitutional check." If the first plan ensures "greater freedom to the Electorate," it is difficult to describe the constitutional bearings of the second. Yet Ministers have asked for no more than a respectable minority in the Second Chamber. It is against the application of such constitutional doctrines as these that Ministers respectfully enter their protest.


page 39

Ministers thank his Excellency for the information that the series of correspondence will be sent to the Secretary of State, and request that this Memorandum may be included.

Premier's Office, Wellington, (signed)

J. Ballance.