HL Deb 20 November 1888 vol 330 cc1614-7

said, he rose to put to the Secretary of State for the Colonies a Question of which he had given him private Notice—namely, whether he could communicate to the House the reply sent by Her Majesty's Government to the telegraphic despatch received from the Acting Governor of Queensland in reference to the appointment to the Governorship of that Colony. The difficulties which appeared to have arisen respecting the appointment of Sir Henry Blake to the Governorship of Queensland were of a twofold nature. There was first the question of how far that particular appointment was a suitable or an unsuitable one; and there was also the question which had been raised as to what was the right, if any, which a Colony possessed of selecting or of being consulted as to the appointment of a Governor. As to the first point, he desired to say very little. If the Secretary of State for the Colonies thought it advisable to enter into that part of the subject, and to give his reasons to the House for the appointment, their Lordships would, no doubt, be glad to have his explanations; but he felt that under the circumstances that might not be desirable, and, as far as he was concerned, he would not press for any information on that point. But what appeared to him to be a matter of much greater importance was the question whether a self-governing Colony had any kind of right of selection in the appointment of Governors. It seemed to him that a very grave and serious Constitutional question was raised in connection with that matter. The Governor of a Colony was not merely sent out by his Sovereign to exercise certain functions. He was the direct representative of the Sovereign; he was even more than a mere representative of the Sovereign, but in many respects it might almost be said that he actually was the Sovereign for the time being. That was to say, he not only exercised the functions delegated to him by the Sovereign, but he represented absolutely the person of the Sovereign in the Colony to which he was appointed. Therefore, for a Colony to set up a claim to have any right to select a Governor appeared to aim to be not only un-Constitutional, but of necessity to bring about, or be the first stop towards bringing about, that which they would all deeply deplore—namely, a tendency to separation, and to break up the British Empire. It was scarcely an exaggeration to say that if a Colony had a right to select a Governor it had an equal right to choose the Sovereign; and if it had no right to select the Sovereign, he hold that, constitutionally, it could not have any right to select the Governor who was to represent the Sovereign. He, therefore, could not but think that, if in the Colony they had reflected on the grave Constitutional questions which they had raised, they would not have entertained the views that were attributed to them. He admitted that he thought in some cases the greater self-governing Colonies might reasonably expect that the Governors sent out to them should be of a certain status and position. The great Colonies in Australia had developed in a comparatively short time into large and important communities. At the same time the position of Governor had very much changed—in some respects it had diminished, in others increased in importance. It was obvious that with telegraphic communication and self-government the Governors of self-governing Colonies had not that importance and power in some respects which they formerly enjoyed. Administrative ability, although of the utmost importance, was not the sine quâ non which it was at one time. But if the status of a Governor had deteriorated in that respect, it had increased in what might be called its social aspect, and it therefore became of more importance that a Governor should be able adequately to represent the Sovereign in that point of view. He thought also that every legitimate means should be taken to ascertain that the appointment to be made would be one that was suitable, and not only so, but acceptable likewise. Further than that he would not go.


In reply to the Question which my noble Friend has put to me, whether Her Majesty's Government have returned an answer to the reasons for the opposition on the part of the Queensland Government to Sir Henry Blake—reasons which Her Majesty's Government thought fit to call for—I have only to state that those reasons are still under the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. As regards the production of Papers, it would not be for the pnblic interest to produce them at the present moment; but I see no reason why they should not be hereafter laid on the table. I regret that I am unable to deal with many matters which have been brought to your Lordships' attention by the noble Earl. I shall content myself with expressing a general concurrence with what has fallen from him, but I think your Lordships will agree with me that the discussion on the general subject just now would serve no good end. It would be premature, it would not advance the public interest, and it might tend to impede a satisfactory solution of the important questions that are now under consideration. I would also add that, as regards one very important part of this case to which the noble Earl has referred, the opinion of Her Majesty's Government has in fact been expressed very clearly and very fully in a letter which was addressed to the Agent General of South Australia on November 15, and which has been read in the other House. I am sure your Lord ships will agree that this is not the fitting occasion for discussing the particular appointment in question, and the merits or demerits of Sir Henry Blake. I desire to assure your Lordships that in making the selection I was not unmindful of the great responsibility which attaches to every Secretary of State in selecting a Governor, whether for a Crown Colony or for one under responsible Government.