HL Deb 31 July 1860 vol 160 cc418-23

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.


said, he was naturally unwilling to offer anything like serious opposition to a measure on its third reading, especially in the absence of the Minister who had framed the Bill and was responsible for it. Had the papers now on the table been produced at an earlier stage they would have better known the grounds on which it proceeded; and, having now given those papers his best consideration, he must say they did not appear to him to furnish sufficient reasons for pressing the Bill in the present Session. The petitions he had presented against this Bill were signed, among others, by two members of the Executive Council of the Colony, two of the Administrative Council, and five of the Representative Assembly. The Bill was founded on the recommendation of the Governor; but there was a serious difference of opinion between the Governor and his ministers on the subject. It was much to be regretted that there should be this want of cordiality and friendly feeling between them. The Governor was supported by the Bishop of New Zealand, the late Chief Justice, the late Attorney General, and a considerable number, though not all, of the missionary clergy of the colony: while in the opinion of the members of the Council the measure could not fail to excite strong public dissatisfaction, and such a proposal could not have been made to the Colonial Legislature with any chance of success. It could not work in harmony with the representative institutions of the colony. It was strange that in the eighth year after giving a representative constitution to New Zealand they should propose to pass a measure without the sanction of the constituted ministers of the colony, or the concurrence of the Administrative Assembly, ousting the regular authorities of the colony from the control of a large portion of their domestic affairs. It was in his opinion extremely desirable that the Bill should not be passed into a law until it had been regularly submitted to the consideration of the colonists and its provisions adequately discussed. What, he should like to know, had happened since the Bill had been laid before Parliament to recommend its adoption to the House? Nothing. But it was the fact that an in surreotion had broken out in New Zealand, and in that circumstance of itself a sufficient reason was, he thought, to be found for proceeding with due caution in the course of legislation which was proposed. Upon these grounds he trusted the House would see the expediency of postponing the Bill until next Session; while he must also express a hope that the Home Government would before long become alive to the propriety of giving to the colonists more power of disposing of questions such as that which the Bill involved than they at present possessed. The system, he might add, of withdrawing Native questions from the control of colonial authorities was not that which had been pursued by this country in past times, nor was there in the Act regulating the constitution of New Zealand any provision which could be regarded as debarring the General Assembly of the colony from dealing with matters so immediately affecting their welfare. It was indeed contended that the Home Government, being responsible for the military defences of the colony, were bound to keep the affairs of the Natives in their own hands instead of allowing them to be disposed of by the colonists; but the answer to that argument was that, however much we in this country might be interested in the position occupied by the Native population, the interest of the colonists themselves in the matter was still greater. He was, however, prepared to admit that there was some validity in the argument, and he regretted that the colonists had shown so little disposition to weaken its force, inasmuch as when the outbreak took place they had, instead of relying on their own strength and skill to meet the emergency, looked for assistance to the old system of military support from home. That was the more to be lamented, because, in the northern island of New Zealand the colonists were nearly equal in number to the Native population; for it appeared from the census which had been taken three years ago, that the whole English population of the colony was not far from 33,000, while the whole of the Natives did not amount to more than 51,000 or 52,000; while the former rapidly increased, and the latter unfortunately exhibited a progressive diminution. The condition of the Native tribes could not be looked upon as wholly satisfactory, and from the papers on the table, which contained very full information, one was led somewhat to doubt the justice of the enlogiums passed on former Governments. One of the objects pointed out in these despatches was the enabling of Natives to individualize their title to land; while another, by far the most important and difficult that could arise, was whether the Natives in future should continue to deal respecting their lands with the Crown, or directly with the settlers. Sooner or later the rule on this point would have to be relaxed, and the question, which each year became more difficult, required the united consideration of the ablest minds in the colony. He was disposed to agree with Lord Carnarvon, whose colonial administration had gained for him great credit, that the present system must, at all events, be continued for some little time, though he stated, on the authority of Mr. FitzGerald, who had been Prime Minister of the Colonial Administration, that the disputes with the Natives had commenced, almost without exception, with the Government or their agents, and in no instance through any act of the colonists. The measures relating to the Natives passed by the General Assembly of New Zealand, most of which had been ratified by the Home Government, had been attended with very beneficial effects, and the sum of £7,000, which was placed by the Civil List at the disposal of the Governor for objects of importance to the Native population, was always largely added to by that assembly. It was proposed by this measure to constitute a divided authority, by creating a new Council, based not on the old, well-known colonial system, but according to the bad modern plan of nomination. He should be glad to have the opinion of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) on the subject. No inconvenience could possibly follow from the postponement of the measure to another Session, and he assured the House that it was regarded with great uneasiness by those who were best acquainted with the affairs and interests of the colony. He therefore begged to move that the Bill be read a third time that day three months.

Amendment moved, to leave out "now" and insert "this Day Three Months."


said, this was a measure affecting not only the prosperity but it might be even the salvation of au important colony, and the well-being of one of the finest Native races, and though the noble Duke in introducing the Bill bad stated that it did not owe its origin to anything which had recently happened, he feared if it were now passed such would inevitably be the appearance it would assume in the eyes of the colonists. Therefore, as legislation was not urgently required, he would venture to add his advice to the recommendations of the noble Lord that the Government should not pass the measure during the present Session. Their Lordships, he thought, would be much better prepared to deal with the subject if they were in possession of the opinion of the Duke of Newcastle, which was not contained in the papers produced, though the Governor had applied for it, in order to be able to meet the Representative Assembly in New Zealand in March, 1860. It was probably, therefore, on record, and that as well as other documents ought to have been produced. For instance, he wanted to know why this Bill had not, in the first instance, been carried through the Colonial Assembly, instead of imparting to it an Imperial aspect? The House, he thought, in case they sanctioned the measure, would be making a most hazardous experiment, that of creating an imperium in imperio in the shape of an irresponsible Native body without powers of taxation. For these they would be compelled to resort to the Representative Assembly, on which a slur was cast by the very formation of a new deliberative body, in defiance of the promise of a responsible Government. The Governor had expressed his opinion that their Native Council, consisting of unpaid gentlemen voluntarily discharging public duties, would be a target for abuse and misrepresentation from all sides. Was this desirable in the present state of the colony? After all the names of only two members had been mentioned, those of the Bishop and Dr. Martin, whom the Government recommended for the office. Another defect in the Bill was that it provided no security for the Imperial loan. On the whole, it would be most advisable to withdraw the Bill for the present Session. Meanwhile they might receive a more decided opinion from the Government, as well as hope for a more settled state of things in the island itself. He had heard that it would meet with considerable opposition in the other House, where there certainly was no need of any additional difficulties being thrown in the way of the prorogation of Parliament.


said, he bad heard nothing from either of the noble Lords, though both were most competent to pronounce an opinion on the question, which induced him to concur in the desirability of postponing this Bill for another Session. As to the petition which had been presented, even if it had been unanimous, it would not have had preponderating influence with their Lordships, and he was informed that there were many colonists who held different views. The Crown could abdicate its duty of looking after the interests of the Natives, who were as much its subjects as the settlers, and it was on that principle that this Bill was brought forward. It was merely carrying out the reservation which had been formerly made with regard to the Natives, and also as to the disposal of land. He quite agreed that the measures of the General Assembly were on the whole well considered; but still there was a feeling of prejudice on the part of the Natives which did not induce them to receive in the most favourable manner the measures passed by the Legislature. If the Crown could appoint persons to this Council who would command the confidence both of the settlers and the Natives, the result would not only be that the Government would work more smoothly, but greater concessions would be obtained from the Natives with regard to lands than could be obtained by any measures passed by the Legislature. The noble Lord (Lord Lyttelton) said that no persona were more interested in a just settlement of these questions than the settlers themselves; but where individuals had an immediate interest in view they were not always able to form a calm judgment as to what was the best policy for the future. He hoped their Lordships would allow the Bill to be read a third time without further delay.


said, that as his noble Friend (Lord Lyttleton) had referred to him, he had only to say in a few words that he felt himself more incompetent to give an opinion on the affairs of New Zealand than he did some time ago, because he had not so closely followed the circumstances of the colony. Looking, moreover, at the papers on the table, he found that there was no very recent correspondence between the Governor of New South Wales and the Colonial Office on the subject to enable him to form an opinion. Looking, however, at the self-apparent features of the case, he believed it was absolutely necessary that some control should be exercised over the local Legislature, because in reference to the views they would naturally take they could not be said to represent the Natives in the colony—it might be said that the local Legislature had interests which were antagonistic to the interests of the Natives, and therefore the Government of this country should retain some control in their hands. He could not help saying, however, that the Bill contained elements of considerable danger, and he should have been better satisfied if the noble Earl the President of the Council had felt himself authorized to postpone the carrying of this measure to another Session, he thought that if official responsibility had rested upon him, he (the Earl of Derby) should not have taken the step adopted by the Government; but as he was imperfectly acquainted with the subject, and the extent of the real or probable danger against which the Government had to provide, he would not take the responsibility of advising the rejection of the Bill which the Government, with more information than he possessed, seemed to think necessary for the welfare of the colony, though he confessed he thought this a hazardous experiment.

On Question, That ("now") stand Part of the Motion? Resolved in the Affirmative: Bill read 3a accordingly and passed, and sent to the Commons.

House adjourned at Eight o'clock, to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.