HC Deb 15 November 1888 vol 330 cc1248-50
MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)

I wish to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies a Question of which I have given him private Notice. It is, whether he can state to the House what answer has been given by the Secretary of State to the Agent General for South Australia with reference to the request of the Government of that Colony that it may be consulted, or confidentially communicated with, before the appointment of a Governor. Perhaps I may say, in putting this Question, that I never for an instant contemplated moving the Adjournment of the House to-day on the subject of the answer about the Government of Queensland, given to me on Monday last, which was perfectly clear and precise. I am sorry that anyone should have been inconvenienced by that supposed Motion.


In reply to the right hon. Gentleman, I will read to the House the following letter addressed by the Colonial Office to Sir A. Blyth:—

"Downing Street, Nov. 15, 1888.

"Sir,—I am directed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 13th instant, conveying the renewed request of your Government that they may have an opportunity, before any appointment is made, of expressing an opinion with regard to the person whom it may be proposed to appoint as Governor of South Australia. Lord Knutsford regrets that he is not able to give to this request any other answer than that returned to the Government of Queensland last month in the letter which was read in the House of Commons by the Under Secretary of State on Monday last. It would be a great satisfaction and assistance to the Secretary of State in the performance of a very responsible duty if it were possible in some manner to ascertain, before the Queen's pleasure is taken, that the gentleman whom he thinks suitable is also acceptable to the government and people of the Colony in which he is to represent Her Majesty for several years; and Lord Knutsford trusts it will be understood that the inability of Her Majesty's Government to comply with the wish of your Ministers in this matter is in no way connected with any indisposition to consult their views in other cases whenever practicable. As Lord Knutsford stated to the Agent General for Queensland, Her Majesty's Government feel precluded by the conditions of the Governor's office from having recourse to the advice of the Colonial Ministry in regard to the selection of a Governor. There are certain extra Colonial functions, in the discharge of which the Governor must be responsible to the Crown alone, and his action in regard to which does not interfere with, or affect the full responsibility of, the Ministers in the internal affairs of the Colony. But independently of his more strictly Imperial duties, the Governor occupies a position in regard to political matters which ap- pears to preclude the local Ministry from taking any part in his selection. The antagonism between parties in the Colonial Parliaments has frequently been very strong; and on the retirement of the Ministry which had virtually controlled the selection of the Governor, the succeeding Ministry might not improbably feel doubt as to his impartiality. For example, in dealing with the question, often one of much difficulty, whether a dissolution of Parliament ought to be granted or withheld, if the Governor should, however bonâ fide, act in accordance with the political interests of the party which had approved his appointment, his fairness might not improbably he called in question by the other side. Indeed, it seems obvious that in this and similar cases the relations of the Governor to the Colonists, as well as to the Crown, might be gravely embarrassed. I am further to point out that a public man of high standing could not well be asked to undertake an office subject to the approval of others at a distance, who may have little information as to his fitness; hut, beyond such personal considerations, the Constitutional obstacle which has been referred to appears to Lord Knutsford to be insurmountable."