HC Deb 17 July 1890 vol 347 cc101-3

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 2.

(4.45.) MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)

This Bill appears to me to be very strangely drafted. There is a clause at the end which apparently was introduced as an afterthought, and by it Vice Admiralty Courts throughout the British possessions are abolished. Yet in Clause 9 there is power given to establish Vice Admiralty Courts; and, therefore, it seems to me a most difficult matter to construe this Bill, having regard to Clauses 9 and 17.

*(4.46.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight

The Bill was prepared as far back as 1885, and has been the subject of most careful negotiation between the colonies and the Colonial Office. The power of establishing Vice Admiralty Courts, to which the hon. Member has drawn attention, is merely for the purpose of enabling them to be established in small colonies where the ordinary provisions do not apply. The scheme is one to secure that there are Courts of Admiralty in all British possessions.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 17.

(4.48.) MR. A. O'CONNOR

This is the clause which abolishes Vice Admiralty Courts throughout the whole of the British possessions. Now, under the Interpretation Act of last year the words "British possessions' were held to include "all possessions of the Crown, whether self-governing colonies or not." Under Sub-section 3 of this clause all officers of Vice Admiralty Courts who sustain any pecuniary loss in consequence of the abolition of the Courts are to receive reasonable compensation. Where, I want to know, does the Government claim to obtain the Constitutional right of imposing a money charge upon self-governing colonies in respect of officers whose functions are brought to an end, not by the action of the colony in the first instance, but by the action of the Imperial Parliament? I submit that this is a very questionable proceeding in point of Constitutional Law.

*(4.50.) SIR R. WEBSTER

I understand the hon. Member to raise this point so far as it affects the self governing colonies. I may inform him that the Bill was specially referred to those colonies, and their consent obtained to the Bill. I do not think there is anything unconstitutional in inserting the provision.

(4.51.) MR. A. O'CONNOR

If the consent of the self-governing colonies has been obtained, would it not be proper to set that fact forth in the Preamble, and thus save the Constitutional rights of these Governments?

*(4.52.) SIR R. WEBSTER

I do not think it is either necessary or usual.

Clause agreed to.

Bill reported, with an Amendment; as amended, to be considered to-morrow.