HL Deb 21 April 1904 vol 133 cc830-2

My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government if they will communicate to the House the correspondence between the Colonial Office and the New Zealand Government with regard to the Preferential Trade Act. I may inform the noble Duke that in addition to this information a desire has been expressed that he should also let us have copies of Mr. Seddon's Bill as it was introduced and as it finally passed the New Zealand Parliament. I should also like to ask whether it would be at all possible that copies of the debate in the New Zealand Parliament should be circulated to Members of your Lordships' House.


My Lords, in reply to the Question of the noble Earl I must remind him of the Conference of Colonial Ministers in the summer of 1902, at which the Ministers decided that they would recommend to their respective Governments that some system of preference should be granted to those trading from this country with our Colonies. In pursuance of that recommendation the New Zealand Government have passed this new measure under the title of the Preferential and Reciprocal Trade Act. The Colonial Office had had no correspondence upon this particular measure with the Governor in New Zealand. The first communication we received from Lord Ranfurly was on 21st November, two or three days after the measure was passed, in which he said that he had much pleasure in informing the Secretary of State that this Bill had been passed by the New Zealand Legislature. The noble Earl will remember that we discussed in your Lordships' House some six weeks ago the different matters and schedules in that Act, and I took the opportunity at that time to point out to the noble Earl that the preference granted to goods going from Great Britain and from our Colonial possessions into New Zealand was considerable compared to the duties on foreign goods entering that colony. Indeed, in the 3rd Schedule, if my memory serves me correctly, the foreigner has to pay 20 percent. while British goods go in entirely free. I think the noble Earl will not be surprised that in reply to the telegram received from the Governor of New Zealand the Secretary of State telegraphed in the following terms— His Majesty's Government have received with much satisfaction your telegram of 21st November reporting that the New Zealand Legislature have passed a Bill granting preferential rates of Customs duties to the united Kingdom. They regard this spontaneous con-cession as a further proof of the steadfast determination of the people of New Zealand to promote the strength and solidarity of the Empire. One or two other telegrams passed in connection with this Preferential and Reciprocal Trade Act, and a despatch of some length from the Governor, all of which I will cause to be printed and to be sent to any noble Lord who applies at the office of the House of Lords for them. With regard to the supplementary Question which the noble Earl has put to me, whether we can supply your Lordships with copies of the debates which took place on this measure in the New Zealand Legislature, I do not imagine that there will be any difficulty in getting a copy of those debates. I will do my best to carry out the noble Lord's wishes and see whether it will not be possible at the same time that these Papers are printed to supply also a copy of the debates.


There was one Question asked by my noble friend to which the noble Duke has omitted to make any reply. The noble Earl asked whether the Bill as introduced by Mr. Seddon, as well as the Act as actually passed, con be laid before the House. I hope there will be no objection to that.


I will certainly make inquiry as to whether we have the exact Bill as it was introduced into the New Zealand Parliament by the Prime Minister, and will endeavour to comply with the noble Marquess's request.


I think the noble Duke had better complete his concession to my noble friend and allow these Papers to be circulated. Papers that are placed in the office only to be had when asked for are hardly ever seen. I think the noble Duke should allow the Papers to be circulated in the ordinary way.


I will certainly consent to that if the noble Lord wishes it. I thought that only a few noble Lords were anxious to see these particular Papers and that it was hardly worth while circulating them to every Member. But I am perfectly prepared to fall in with the view of the noble Lord.


I should like to ask the noble Duke whether it is not rather a new departure to circulate the debates of other Legislatures. I hope before the noble Duke does circulate these debates he will ascertain whether there is any precedent for such a course.


There is a very recent precedent for the proceeding which is proposed. His Majesty's Government have stated that they intended to treat the Transvaal on the footing of a self-governing colony as far as they possibly could, and they have recently laid before Parliament the whole of the debates on the Labour Ordinance. I hope that is a good enough precedent.

House adjourned at twenty minutes before Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.