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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 80a

— No. 11. — — The Marquess of Ripon to the Earl of Glasgow. — [Answered by No. 16]

— No. 11. —

The Marquess of Ripon to the Earl of Glasgow.

[Answered by No. 16].


My Lord,

I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Despatch of the 8th August* respecting the question which had arisen between yourself and your Ministers with regard to certain proposed nominations to the Legislative Council of New Zealand.

This question has been referred for my consideration by agreement between you and your Ministers. I have carefully considered it, and in so doing I desire to say that I fully appreciate the difficult position to which you succeeded immediately on your arrival in the Colony, to assume for the first time the duties of a Colonial Governor.

I had, however, no hesitation, in advising you by telegraph on the 24th instant,* to accept the recommendation of your Lordship's Ministers; and I now proceed to indicate the reason which led me to that conclusion.

The Legislative Council, as I understand, consisted, at the date of your Despatch, of 35 Members, and your Government proposed that to this number an addition should be made of 12, making altogether a Chamber of 47 Members, a number which is not larger than that which has existed in previous years, and the case is therefore distinguishable from those in other Colonies when it was proposed to make so many additions that the Chamber would have exceeded all former limits.

* No.9.

* No. 10.

page 40

In the House of 35 Members, I gather that your Government could only rely on the consistent support of five. I do not assume that the remaining 30 Members could all be considered as opposed to the policy of your Ministers, but it seems to me that your Government is entitled to hold that it is not adequately represented, either for speaking or voting purposes, in the Upper Chamber, and that if the 12 Members were added as they desire they would only have 17 consistent supporters in a House of 47- In considering this aspect of the question, I am clearly of opinion that the only fair and satisfactory mode of estimating the representation of the present Government in the Legislative Council, and of judging whether their claim to be allowed fuller representation is one to which no constitutional objection can be taken, is to examine the results of the voting in that House on the measures with which the Government of the day is identified.

I cannot, therefore, conclude that the proposed appointments constitute one of those cases to which the term "swamping" has been applied, in which the proposed addition of Members at the instance of the Government for the time being has been so great, in proportion to the balance of parties in the Upper Chamber, as to overthrow that balance altogether.

Your Lordship was willing to appoint nine new Members, and your Government desired that 12 should be appointed. It can hardly be considered that the difference between these limits is so great or important as to require a Governor to assume the very serious responsibility of declining to act on the advice of his Ministers, and possibly of having in consequence to find other advisers. Moreover it must be remembered that these appointments under the Colonial Law of 1891 will be for seven years only, and not for life, as in the case of some other Colonies possessing a nominated Upper House.

I have therefore dealt with the merits of the particular case on which my advice has been sought. But I think it right to add that a question of this kind, though in itself of purely local importance, presents also a constitutional aspect which should be considered on broad principles of general application.

When questions of a constitutional character are involved it is especially, I conceive, the right of the Governor fully to discuss with his Ministers the desirability of any particular course that may be pressed upon him for his adoption. He should frankly state the objections, if any, which may occur to him, but if, after full discussion, Ministers determine to press upon him the advice which they have already tendered, the Governor should, as a general rule, and when Imperial interests are not affected, accept that advice, bearing in mind that the responsibility rests with the Ministers, who are answerable to the Legislature, and, in the last resort, to the country.

A Governor would, however, be justified in taking another course if he should be satisfied that the policy recommended to him is not only, in his view, erroneous in itself, but such as he has solid grounds for believing, from his local knowledge, would not be endorsed by the Legislature or by the Constituencies.

In so extreme a case as this, lie must be prepared to accept the grave responsibility of seeking other advisers; and I need hardly add, very strong reason would be necessary to justify so exceptional a course on the part of the Governor.

I have &c. (signed)


The Earl of Glasgow