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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 80a

—No. 2.— — The Earl of Onslow to Lord Knutsford. — (Received 2nd March 1891.)

page 10

—No. 2.—

The Earl of Onslow to Lord Knutsford.

(Received 2nd March 1891.)

My Lord,


I Addressed your Lordship in a Despatch on the 23rd instant* with reference to the recent appointments which I have made to the Legislative Council of New Zealand.

In that Despatch your Lordship will have noticed a paragraph in which I informed your Lordship of the action which I should have taken in a hypothetical case.

As a matter of fact, that case actually presented itself, though it never assumed an official character, and my Ministers are anxious that the negotiations which took place between us should not be made public, lest it should embarrass them in Parliament.

I desire, however, that your Lordship should be in possession of the whole of the facts, as it is possible that the course of recent events in New Zealand may form a precedent for future action.

Ministers informed me early in the last Session of Parliament that they were desirous of adding to the Legislative Council, but were not anxious to tender any advice on the subject till the latest possible date, and they inquired whether I would accept their advice at any time. I replied that I would carefully consider their advice on the subject, with a view to its acceptance; but I thought that, both for their sakes and my own, that advice should be tendered before any catastrophe occurred to the Ministry.

None of the votes of want of confidence moved had any chance of being carried, and Ministers did not, therefore, deem it necessary to tender advice.

The General Election took place, and the result was as unexpected by Ministers as by the Opposition.

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Ballance, in a public interview, and in the paper of which he is editor, demanded the dismissal of Ministers if they should not voluntarily resign, and maintained that, constitutionally, Ministers had no right to offer advice as to any fresh appointments.

It subsequently appeared that the prospects of parties were neither so favourable to the Opposition, nor so disastrous to the Government, as was at first generally believed to be the case.

Ministers agreed to summon Parliament, and to resign as soon as it had met, but intimated privately to me that they wished to advise the appointment of not less than 11 Councillors in a House of 39.

This appeared to me to be so undue a proportion as to make a dangerous precedent, in case a Minister should wish, for party purposes, to swamp an adverse vote in the Upper House.

The Premier asserted that the Government had pledged itself to these gentlemen, as to some of whom it could not possibly be pretended that they would strengthen the House, or that they were appointed or any but party purposes. In some cases the appointments were, without doubt, merely rewards for desertion from the Opposition cause.

The Premier then said that either Ministers had my confidence or they had not. If they had, I ought to accept all their advice; if not, to dispense with their services; and he directed that the "Gazette" summoning Parliament, which had been put in type and was being struck off, should not be issued.

The latter fact becoming public caused much speculation as to its cause. With the Premier's consent, I consulted Mr. Bryce, formerly Minister for Native Affairs, and the most prominent supporter of the Government in the House of Representatives. His views coincided with mine, and, after some negotiation, the Government agreed to retain office on my consenting to appoint to the Council six of the 11 names suggested, and they agreed to give me a formal assurance that those six were recommended solely with the view of adding strength to the House and not for party purposes, and, further, that they page 11 were the six men, if not in New Zealand, at least of their party, best calculated, in their opinion, to increase the efficiency of the Legislative Council.

I trust that your Lordship, in considering my Despatch above referred to, will do so in conjunction with the information herein laid before you.

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


&c. &c. &c.

* No. 1.