HC Deb 28 May 1852 vol 121 cc1291-2

said, that as the New Zealand Bill stood first on the Order paper for the Thursday after the Whitsun holidays, it was highly desirable that the House should have all the details that could be collected to enable it to come to a decision upon that measure. By reference to the papers already laid upon the table, it appeared that the Settlement of Canterbury contended that the limit of the proportion payable to the New Zealand Company on land sales was 2s., or one-tenth, assuming 1l. an acre to be the minimum price by law; and that that was not only the limit for the Canterbury Settlement, but for all the Settlements in the island of New Zealand. It appeared also that the answer given by the Colonial Office on this question in September last had been referred to the Law Officers of the Crown, and an intimation was given that that opinion would be communicated to the persons representing the Canterbury Settlement; but that opinion, which was a most important one, he could not find amongst the papers laid before the House. Now, he was the last person who would seek to violate that official rule which had been established for the benefit of the public service—namely, that the opinions of the Law Officers should not be produced; but in one of the pages of the papers produced he observed the opinion of his right hon. and learned Friend the Master of the Rolls and the late Attorney and Solicitor Generals. Considering the whole of the circumstances, therefore, and seeing the important bearing of the opinion to which he had adverted as not being amongst the papers, he begged to ask his right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary to lay that also upon the table of the House.


said, he should not have the slightest objection to produce the opinion, were it not for the rule which the right hon. Baronet had just referred to. It was true the papers his right hon. Friend held in his hand did contain an opinion of the former Law Officers of the Crown; but although by accident or negligence that opinion might have found its way amongst the papers laid upon the table, he would submit to his right hon. Friend whether, after his long official experience, he did not think the rule which precluded the publication of the opinions of the Law Officers was not a good one, and if it were not desirable that the rule should he adhered to? He (Sir J. Pakington) was of opinion that it was a good rule: it was also the opinion of Parliament that it ought to he adhered to, and they should be very cautious how they multiplied precedents for deviating from it. Under these circumstances, he would certainly rather decline laying that opinion before the House; and he had the less hesitation in giving that answer, inasmuch as he believed he was justified in stating, that, if he were to lay it upon the table, his right hon. Friend would find that it had not the least reference to the question now at issue. He believed he would find upon reference to it that that opinion related to a question which arose between the Canterbury Association and the New Zealand Company with regard to the payment of 10s. per acre, which under the existing regulations was payable to the New Zealand Company upon all lands sold by the Association, A question arose whether the whole of that 10s. was to be retained by the New Zealand Company, or whether, by analogy with certain payments in the other Settlements, a proportion of it was not to revert to the Canterbury Association; and he believed he was right in stating that the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown was taken upon that question, and that it had no relation whatever to the question now at issue—namely, what proportion of the land sales in New Zealand ought, in justice and equity, under the Act of 1847, to be paid to the New Zealand Company, in liquidation of the debt due to them for the relinquishment of certain rights in that Settlement.

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