HC Deb 01 August 1908 vol 193 cc2093-4
MR. G. GREENWOOD (Peterborough)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether there is any precedent previous to The Natal Indemnity Act, 1906, of a governor of a self-governing colony, duly authorised to give the Royal Assent to an Act of the Colonial legislature, deliberately withholding such assent until after the dissolution by him of the Colonial Parliament by which such Act was passed; and whether such procedure is sanctioned by the Colonial Office as legal and constitutional.


Sir H. McCallum was authorised on the 13th of August, 1906, to assent if martial law were withdrawn. It was not withdrawn till 1st October, and he then assented. In so acting he appears to have been carrying out the instructions of the Secretary of State consistently with constitutional usage, and the question whether the Colonial Parliament was or was not in session could not affect the legality of his action. I am not aware of any particular precedent or that any precedent was necessary. No precedent to the contrary has ever been cited.


I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to the fact that Her Majesty's Government in the year 1867 declined to advise the Crown to assent to a Bill of Indemnity for New Zealand, where martial law had been proclaimed pending actual warfare, on the ground that its term were too widely drawn and would cover acts wantonly and recklessly committed; whether the terms of the present Indemnity Bill for Natal are in substance identical with those of the New Zealand Bill to which the Royal Assent was so refused; and whether His Majesty's Government will, following this precedent, decline to advise the Crown to assent to the Natal Bill in its present form.


. Yes, Sir, I am aware that an Indemnity Act was disallowed in 1867 on these grounds. The Natal Bill is perhaps open to a similar objection, but, as I have explained, were His Majesty's Government to instruct the Governor to decline to assent, martial law, would be prolonged, and this is a result which it is generally agreed should if possible be avoided.

In answer to a further Question by the same hon. Member,


said: I think it is undesirable to in any way jeopardise the situation which happily now shows signs of improvement as between the two Governments.

Forward to