HC Deb 11 June 1903 vol 123 cc650-1

I wish to ask the Prime Minister a Question, of which I have given him private notice, with reference to the telegraphic message which is published in this morning's newspapers and which appears to have been received by a public office on the 6th inst. from the Governor of New South Wales. With reference to that message I would ask whether the view therein expressed of the intentions of his Majesty's Government with regard to preferential duties and retaliatory tariffs is accurate. Perhaps I may make my question more explicit by saying that the message refers to a certain declaration, and expresses great satisfaction at the declaration of the British Government of certain intentions. [Cries of "Read it."] When and where and by whom were these declarations made?


As I understand the right hon. Gentleman, the Question does not refer, and indeed, can hardly refer, to the whole of the message which is published in the newspapers. I presume it refers to this paragraph— Also realising that what is Canada's turn to-day may be Australia's to-morrow, they express great satisfaction at the declaration by the British Government that every self-governing colony shall be secured in the free exercise of its right to enter into closer trade relations with the mother country. That, I understand, is the paragraph to which the right hon. Gentleman calls my special attention. I do not know what declaration the Governor of New South Wales referred to in this statement; but I have to say on behalf of the Government that we certainly could not look with indifference on any attempt to penalise a British colony in the exercise of its right to enter into specially favourable commercial relations with the mother country.

*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, shire, Forest of Dean)

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what the Governor of New South Wales has to do with this matter, having regard to the fact that it concerns the Commonwealth of Australia?


What is referred to in that declaration?


That is precisely what I informed the House I cannot say. Perhaps the right hon. Baronet will address any Question on the subject to the Colonial Secretary, as being more competent to answer it.


Then I will ask the Secretary for the Colonies whether it is not the constitutional fact that these matters depend on the Commonwealth and not on the six colonies?


That is perfectly true, but I do not see how that interferes with the expression of opinion on the subject by any Government of any of the self-governing colonies in Australia.