HL Deb 26 February 1931 vol 80 cc163-94

LORD DENMAN had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government whether they propose to appoint an accredited representative to His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia, and whether the Letters Patent and Royal Instructions issued to Governors-General and Governors have recently been varied; and move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in asking the Question which stands in my name on the Paper this afternoon, I desire in the first place to make it clear that I make no reflection of any kind on the recent appointment of Sir Isaac Isaacs as Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. Sir Isaac Isaacs has been for many years in public life in the Commonwealth, and he is a well-known member of the legal profession. Your Lordships are all aware of the prominent, perhaps I might say predominant part which noble and learned Lords take in the proceedings of this House, and the fact that Sir Isaac Isaacs is a well-known lawyer will certainly be no disadvantage to him in discharging the duties of his new office.

At the same time, this appointment is important in that it marks a departure from the hitherto accepted practice, at all events in the case of the Commonwealth of Australia. In one sense, perhaps, it may be said that it is the direct outcome of the Imperial Conference of 1926 and, in view of the Conference, and of the agreement that was reached in it, no one could question the right of the Government of Australia or the Government of any other Dominion to recommend to His Majesty any one whom they think fit to fill these posts. It is interesting to observe in this connection that, with the exception of the Irish Free State, no other Dominion has, hitherto at all events, adopted the course which Australia has recently taken. The noble Earl, Lord Clarendon, has but lately gone out to take up his appointment in South Africa. Another well known member of your Lordships' House, Lord Bessborough, is to succeed Lord Willingdon in Canada. I listened the other day to an address to the Empire Parliamentary Association by the Attorney-General for New Zealand, Sir Thomas Sidey, in which he stated that New Zealand was well content with the hitherto accepted method of appointment from this country, and that the Government of New Zealand preferred that, in the case of that Dominion, the Governor-General should remain the channel of communication between the Government of the Dominion and the Home Government.

Then there is the case of the Australian States. The Governors of the Australian States are still appointed from this country and, so far as I am aware, they still correspond direct with the Dominions Office. Your Lordships are aware that the Commonwealth of Australia is a federation—a rather loose federation—of the Australian States. These are sovereign States with their own rights, and they have hitherto jealously resisted any encroachment on those rights. I believe I am right in saying that they were not consulted as to the agreement reached in the Conference of 1926, but resulting from that. Conference the curious position has arisen in Australia at the moment that, whereas the Commonwealth was a party to the agreement of 1926 and is acting on that agreement, the Australian States have not hitherto followed the example that the Commonwealth has set in this matter.

Your Lordships will observe that I have a Question on the Paper with regard to the Letters Patent and Royal Instructions issued to Governors-General and Governors. I am informed that some modification in one or both cases has now become necessary. That is a rather technical point with which my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley is more familiar than I am, and which I leave him to develop should be take part later in this discussion.

I now come to the most important of the Questions that I have put on the Paper this afternoon. It is this. At the present time the Home Government have no longer a representative in the Commonwealth of Australia. The Governor-General of the Commonwealth obviously cannot act in that capacity. He is no longer the channel of communication, and I imagine that it is only by courtesy of his Ministers that he even sees copies of the Despatches which pass between the two Governments. He has no responsibility of any kind to the Home Government. In Canada and South Africa, under somewhat similar condi- tions, High Commissioners have been appointed to keep touch between the Home Government and the Governments of those Dominions. In South Africa there is, of course, the special reason that the High Commissioner is responsible for the welfare of the native races. If in the case of Canada, which is less than a week's journey from this country, it is found necessary that a High Commissioner should be appointed to keep touch with the Government at Ottawa, surely it is all the more necessary in the case of Australia, which in point of distance is so much more remote, that we should have some representative to keep in touch with the Government at Canberra.

There is this special reason at the present time. Australia is passing through a period of depression, of severe, though I hope and believe only temporary, depression. Important decisions, we gather from the Press, are being taken from week to week and almost from day to day. I submit to your Lordships that a representative should be appointed without delay to keep the Home Government in touch with the Government of the Commonwealth, to inform the Home Government of the trend of events in the Commonwealth, to interpret public opinion in this country to the people of Australia, and so to serve as a link between this country and the Government and people of the Commonwealth. I hope that the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, may be able to give me something more than a non-committal answer on this point this afternoon. Your Lordships will observe that I have a Motion asking for Papers. If there is any correspondence which the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, can lay that has taken place between the Commonwealth and the Dominion Office, I hope he will do so. I beg to move.


My Lords, I must apologise for speaking again so soon, but as I was the last member of the House to be in Australia I feel anxious to take some part in this discussion. I find myself between the speech made by Lord Denman and an engagement of a public character in the not very far distant future, and therefore I beg leave to say something to your Lordships at once. The really important thing, I think, is that people in this country do not quite realise the change which has taken place in the position of Governor-General since the time when Lord Novar was there. There has even been a very considerable change since Lord Stonehaven was out there. The house in which he lived in Melbourne has been turned into a high school for girls.

I should like, however, to take this opportunity of expressing my admiration for the work done by Lord Stonehaven while he was in Australia. He devoted a great deal of energy and ability to carrying out his duties, and he travelled, mostly by air, all round that great Continent. I doubt if anybody, even any Australian, knows so much of Australia as does the noble Lord who was the last Governor-General. There has been a great change even since his time. In addition to the change of housing there has been since 1926 changes with regard to the powers, duties and emoluments of the Governor-General. No longer is he the channel of communication between the Dominions Office and the Prime Minister of Australia. In future he will live at Canberra. I have had the pleasure of seeing Canberra. It is the most beautiful garden city in the world, but nearly all garden and very little city. There is a charming house for the Governor-General, who will live in beautiful surroundings, but it is far remote from centres of population, and a Governor-General who lives there will find it very difficult- to keep himself in touch with the current and trend of public opinion in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and elsewhere.

More than that it is not as if the Governor-General would be constantly in touch with Ministers. Generally speaking their offices are not to be found in Canberra. The Royal Military College has been moved from Duntroon, and altogether I am afraid the Governor-General will find himself in a rather isolated position, with a small Civil Service, and without any University. What is he to do when he wants to get in touch with Australian feeling and sentiment? He might go occasionally and stay with the Governors, but I am not sure that the Governor-General would be welcome if he went and stayed too often with the Governors in those various big cities. Apart from that the only practical solution that I have heard is that he should take up his quarters on an Australian man-of-war and travel round from one big city to another, occupying the quarters of the Admiral. To find somebody who is a good sailor and well qualified to cross the Australian Bight several times each year, without being the worse for it, would make it rather difficult to find a suitable person to occupy the office. Sir Isaac Isaacs is well able to carry out the duties of the office. To go out from here demands great sacrifices, and it demands when we do send anybody out that he should be the very best that England can find, and I ask myself whether in most cases men of that kind are not able to do better work for the Empire here in London than out in Canberra.

The change which has taken place in no way reflects upon the loyalty of Australia. The change that has taken place is in the position of the post of Governor-General, and in view of the change which has taken place, a change desired by Australians themelves, it does not seem to me at all surprising that there should be a change in the source to which the Australian Prime Minister looks to find the Governor-General. In view of this change I do most heartily support the urgent appeal made by Lord Denman that there should be a High Commissioner appointed, if possible without delay. I believe that in Canada the High Commissioner has rendered very valuable services, officially and unofficially, and I am sure that with the appointment of a suitable person in Australia equally good work will be done. In the absence of a Governor-General appointed from home, I think it is desirable that the appointment of a High Commissioner should be made as soon as possible.


My Lords, I join with reluctance in this discussion. Having been for six years Governor-General it is difficult to abandon the detached, nonpolitical habit of mind which is so essential in that office. I must own, however, that I strongly opposed the alteration in the status of the Governor-General effected by the Home and Dominion Governments at the time of the Coalition Government in this country. In my experience when delicate matters had to be handled the Governor-General was a useful shock-absorber, intervening between the Home and Dominion Governments, at a time at any rate when both Prime Ministers were what may be described as dominant personalities. Party politicians are seldom the best instruments for dealing at a distance with inter-Imperial affairs, and it was part of the business of the Governor-General to keep Ministers, both at home and in the Dominions, conversant with the trend of affairs in both countries, also to tone down asperities when conflicting opinions occurred and to choose a propitious moment for discussing them. The Governor-General's whole time should be given to this, while Ministers have little leisure except for what is forced upon their attention by the exigencies of modern political life.

Under the new arrangement these duties, as has been so well described, have been removed from the Governor-General's sphere, and in Australia they have been delegated to no other official. Consequently, His Majesty's Government is deprived of the advantages of the services I have described, which were formerly rendered by the Governor-General, who, to my mind, was, thanks to the prestige of his office, far the best instrument for their performance. The anomaly of this state of affairs is increased by the fact, of which mention has already been made, that Governors of States still represent both His Majesty and the Home Government, and communicate, so far as I know, with the Secretary of State for the Dominions. Since these alterations have been made in the status of the Governor-General, a new situation has arisen through the appointment of a local Governor-General. I have much regard for Sir Isaac Isaacs, and would only question the method of his appointment, and express my fear lest the Governor-General should come to be looked upon as a mere Party appointment, a state of affairs which would entirely alter the character of the office, and leave the State without an impartial head possessing the confidence of all Parties in the country and able to give impartial information to the Crown. I could name men I have known overseas who were as well fitted to represent the Crown as any of His Majesty's subjects, but, even so, it is hard to think of one who, for some political cause or another, is as well suited to the office as the best of those sent out from home.

As I have indicated, I have never been reconciled to the alteration in the status of the Governor-General, yet I never anticipated so complete a change in the nature and system of the appointment as has recently occurred. This has happened owing to the omission, when the change took place which made the Governor-General solely the King's representative, to safeguard His Majesty's Prerogative in the matter of the appointment of His representative, and so make it impossible that His hand could be forced. Mistakes in procedure are no doubt due to inadvertence, for one has to remember that ingrained respect for tradition and constitutional practice is a plant of slow growth, and that time alone can convince a young community and inexperienced politicians of its importance. But the growth of such an understanding should be encouraged. The Governor-General is now the last remaining link between the Crown and the Dominions. It should lie made as effective as possible.

My noble friend Lord Denman has referred to the subject of the High Commissioner. I can well understand his doing so, but I am not prepared to welcome the multiplication of posts. There is much too much of that going on already. The High Commissioner from the home country to a Dominion is a political appointment, and likely to be a costly one. Dominion High Commissionerships in London are necessary, as we all know. The Trade Commissioners were useful overseas, but in what respect a High Commissioner can with advantage supersede a Governor-General, I Own, is entirely beyond my comprehension. One can speak the more freely on this subject with respect to Australia for I am confident that the Commonwealth, which is as loyal to the Crown as the old country herself, will consider long and well before she permanently differentiates her practice from that of the sister Dominions overseas in the nomination of His Majesty's representatives.


My Lords, I venture to approach this subject rather from the point of view with which I have been particularly associated, the point of view of the States of the Commonwealth. When the Balfour Declaration of 1926 was made it was pos- sible, and even perhaps wise, to apply that Declaration to Dominions which had a unitary form of Government; but to apply that Declaration to a Federation, such as Australia is, involves you in many constitutional difficulties which I see no possibility of surmounting. For, remember what the Commonwealth is.

The Commonwealth was created by the assent of the States created by this Imperial Parliament, and at the request of the States which then held all the sovereignty which had been delegated to the Australian people; and that Commonwealth was an assembly of certain powers which previously had belonged to the States in the hands of one Federal Parliament. But the powers which were delegated to the Federation were enumerated and limited. It was only those powers which were given to the Federal Parliament which could be exercised by that Parliament. All the remaining powers which an omnipotent Parliament can exercise remained in the hands of the States. And my experience has been—I am not sure whether that is not the experience of those who have more recent knowledge of Australia than I have—that any proposition to extend the legislative or administrative powers of the Federal Parliament have been, almost invariably, strenuously objected to by the States themselves. But—what is more significant still—when these powers have been submitted to the people of Australia by a Referendum, I think without exception the people of Australia have declined to allow the extension of the Federal power.

You have, therefore, a Parliament representing the Federation of Australia, which is not all-powerful, but is a Parliament for dealing with certain subjects. You have a Government which is a Government which does not hold total sovereignty over the whole of Australia, but exercises certain functions of sovereignty, and only those functions. Now, attempt to apply the Balfour Declaration to such a situation as that. Attempt to apply the formula, which is that Dominions are self-governing communities, owing no subordination, either in domestic or external matters, to any other part of the Empire. Perhaps I have not got the words exactly, but that is the sense. In the first place, the Commonwealth Parliament has not got complete control of its internal affairs. A large part of the internal affairs of Australia remains and will apparently continue to remain in the hands of the States. The whole of the territory of Australia, with the exception of the Federal Government area and the Northern Territory, is physically under the administration of the States. You have not got the condition sine qua non which enables the application of the Balfour Declaration to the Commonwealth of Australia.

As a consequence of that division of sovereignty, you have the division of the representation of the Sovereign. As has already been pointed out—and I need not enlarge upon it—the Governors of the States are still appointed, and must he appointed, from this country. The States have their rights by the Statute which created the Commonwealth. It is impossible to alter the legal condition of things in which the sovereignty is partitioned between the Commonwealth and the States, save by one of two methods. Either the Imperial Act of 1900 may be amended—it would need to be drastically amended—or, I admit, it is within the power of the people of Australia, through their own Federal Parliament, to alter their own Constitution. But, observe that to give effect to that it is necessary to have a very special system followed there. You have to have the assent of the States and the assent of the majority of the people of Australia, neither of which, it seems probable, will be obtained by a Federation desiring, as they may desire, to rectify the present condition of things.

I come to the existing state. As I understand—and I shall be corrected by the Secretary of State for the Colonies if I am wrong—the present system of appointing a Governor of a State is by the recommendation of the Secretary of State for the Dominions to His Majesty the King, who appoints a person on the advice of the Secretary of State. That Governor, when he has been appointed, receives certain documents, Letters Patent and Letters of Instruction as to what his conduct shall he when he exercises the office of Governor. Those Letters Patent and Letters of Instruction in my time certainly contained instructions which severely limited the power of the State Government to exercise those functions which are laid down in the Balfour Declaration. Certain Acts of Parliament were peremptorily ordered to be reserved for the approval of the Crown, such approval being then, at least, exercised on the advice of the Secretary of State.

What is the present position? The Secretary of State will no doubt inform us whether those Instructions still hold good and whether the reserved Bills, which deal with a great variety of subjects, which are enumerated—I need not weary the House by enumerating them—are still submitted to His Majesty for approval by the Secretary of State. I maintain it cannot be otherwise because you cannot submit them on the recommendation of the Ministers of the Commonwealth, because the States would strongly object, and it would be wholly unconstitutional to allow a Commonwealth Minister to interfere between the self-governing State and the Secretary of State and His Majesty. Yet is it a fair use of words to describe Australia, which in the vast majority of its area is governed by a Governor who is appointed from this country on the recommendation of the Secretary of State, and who is under obligation to submit the legislation or certain classes of legislation to the Secretary of State—for that is in fact the case—for his approval, as fulfilling the description of it and of the other Dominions in the Balfour Declaration? The fact is that the Imperial Conference of 1926 and the Imperial Conference of 1930, not having the advantage of the presence of representatives of the States, were misled into forgetting that there is a vast constitutional difference between a Federation and a unitary Government. What was applicable, and easily applicable, to the Dominion of Canada, to the Union of South Africa, and to New Zealand, is inapplicable to Australia because of her constitutional situation.

I must pass on from that to matters which are more germane to the Question which my noble friend Lord Denman has asked and the matter immediately before us. I should like to ask whether the Royal Instructions and Letters Patent issued to Governors of States remain as they were prior to 1926 or whether they have been altered, and in what respect they have been altered. I can hardly conceive they can have been altered, but no doubt the noble Lord who will reply will give a definite answer to that question. The Governor-General is appointed on the recommendation of the Ministers of the Commonwealth. I should like to get perfectly clear on that matter. His Majesty appoints the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Ministers of the Commonwealth. Has airy Minister of the Imperial Government here in London got any shadow of responsibility for the advice which is so given? I understand not, that they have divested themselves in some way of all responsibility, and that it would be irregular and unconstitutional to use the only method which lies in the hands of Parliament for criticising the action of Ministers. If, for in-stance, there was an attempt made in the House of Commons to reduce the salary of the Secretary of State for the Dominions on the ground that a certain person had been appointed to a certain Dominion, the answer would be that this had passed from his control and that the Government were not in any sense responsible for the advice which had been given.

There is a certain uncertainty existing in the minds of a large and not unimportant section of the people in Australia on that subject. The noble Lord has perhaps had the advantage, and the Dominions Office certainly have had the advantage, of reading the opinion of two very distinguished lawyers in Australia on this question. Sir Edward Mitchell, who is a leading K.C. and a person with the very highest reputation in Australia as a lawyer, has been officially and professionally consulted by certain persons in Australia as to the legal position of the recently appointed Governor-General and he has expressed an opinion in which he says:— Granted that the Ministers of the Crown in England have divested themselves of all responsibility for the appointment, then I have a certain opinion. The opinion, I understand, is not accepted, nor would I press for the opinion to be accepted by your Lordships, but it is of importance to remember that there has been a legal opinion given by two gentlemen of very important position in the Bar in Australia to the effect that if there had been dissociation of the Minister of the Crown from advice to the Crown on the subject of appointment then certain consequences follow. In addition to the opinion expressed by these two gentlemen, there has been a letter, of which I have a copy, written by the Chief Justice of Victoria, who is also Lieutenant-Governor of that State, expressing the same views.

Now when those views are expressed, not by irresponsible persons but by lawyers of the first eminence in the State, it is necessary, I think, in the interests of the people of Australia, that these questions should be clearly stated. I do not ask the Secretary of State to express a legal opinion, but I do ask him to make it clear to the people of Australia what the actual situation is. There should be no confusion nor uncertainty in their mind. They should know the conditions under which this appointment has been made, by whose recommendation it has been made, and who assumed the responsibility. One further question on that. If there has been a transfer of responsibility from the Secretary of State in this country to Ministers in Australia, then I presume the King has accepted his new advisers on the advice in the first instance of somebody. I take it the advice to change his advisers—I dare say the Secretary of State will understand what I am driving at—must have been given as a consequence of the Declaration of 1926. I do not know whether the advice was given during last year when the appointment was made first of all to New Zealand, subsequently to South Africa, and finally to Australia, and I do not know whether the change of advisers was accepted on the advice of Ministers, or whether there was an earlier advice given to His Majesty to accept a change of advisers.

May I say a word regarding the office of Governor-General? It is quite clear that if a Governor-General is appointed on the advice of certain Ministers then, in the event of the necessity of his recall, the advice must be given from the same Ministers who recommended his appointment. That is to say, if the Governor-General in any Dominion falls foul of or falls out with the Ministers to whom he is accredited, whether he be a citizen of the Dominion or whether he is sent from here, it is within the scope of the Ministers first giving advice that he should be appointed to advise His Majesty that he should be recalled. Now advice given for the recall of a Governor does not frequently occur, but it does occur. It has occurred in the past, and it is conceivable that when the Governor-General or the Governor of a Dominion is the nominee of a particular Party, as he will be under the new system, that he may have to occupy one of two situations. He may either have to accept without question and without comment the advice which is given to him by his Ministers, whatever that advice may be, or he must expect, if he declines to accept that advice, that the Ministers will recommend to His Majesty that he should be recalled.

I do not know whether your Lordships are very familiar with Australian local history, but if you are not may I recall to you what took place in Queensland some ten years ago perhaps? I can put it very briefly indeed, but it is significant and illustrative of the case I wish to make. In Queensland some ten years ago there was a desire on the part of the Ministry of the day to abolish the Second House of the Legislature. They brought in Bills for the abolition of the Second House, which Bills were rejected by the Second House itself. They then adopted the constitutional procedure for solving a deadlock. There was a Referendum on the subject whether the Bill passed in the Lower House should become law despite the opposition of the Upper House. The Referendum took place, and the people of Queensland, by a very large majority, declared that they did not desire the abolition of their Upper House, but, as democracy frequently does queer things, they at the same time re-elected the Party which supported the Ministry that brought in the Bill.

The Party coming back into office then presented an advice to the Governor of the State to appoint sufficient members of the Upper House—it was an appointed and not an elected Upper House—to swamp that Upper House, and so carry the Bill through against the desires of the Upper House. At that time the Governor of Queensland, Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams, was on the verge of retiring, and had in fact retired before the matter came to a crisis. The man who succeeded him was a locally appointed Lieutenant-Governor, who assumed the reins of office as Governor. He was a friend and supporter of the Party in power, and he had no hesitation whatever in disregarding the opinions of the electorate as expressed in the Referendum: he created a sufficient number of members of the Upper House to swamp it, and that Upper House was in fact abolished. I am not discussing whether it was wise or unwise to abolish the Upper House, but it does indicate, when you have a Governor who is a nominee of a particular political Party in any country you like, that Governor is likely to be under the compulsion of accepting the advice of the Ministers who created him, or, if there is a change of politics, he may find himself advised to do things which in his conscience he thinks he ought not to do and find himself recalled on the advice of the Ministers who are responsible for his appointment.

I do say rather seriously that Constitutions generally in this world require something in the nature of a protector. It is not peculiar to Australia that it is desirable that the Constitution should have somebody who can protect that Constitution against the excesses of any particular Party. The Governor-General in the past has been such a protector of the Constitution. The Governor-General in the future, if he attempts to exercise that office, will, I think, find himself rejected and recalled by the faction who happen to be in power. I know that very large numbers of people in Australia desire to see their Constitution protected. They do not desire to hand over the control of the Constitution to the Party which happens to be in office for the time being. Democracies change their ways, so do oligarchies. Anyhow democracies do change their mind, and it is important in the interests of Australia—I speak here for a large number of Australians—that there should be a protector outside the influence of political power in Australia to protect the permanent interests of the people of Australia against the passing whims of those who happen to have achieved power for the time being.

I must apologise to your Lordships for having detained you longer than I intended, but the matter is really of some importance, and not merely to us here. It is important that there should be close relationship between the Australian people and ourselves. It is of even greater importance to the Australian people. They have not many opportunities of expressing their views to the people of this country. They are remote. They are very often of necessity inarticulate in public life—anyhow in the public life of this country. But those of us who know Australia—and there are some in this House—who are intimately acquainted with Australian feeling, have almost an obligation to speak when occasion arises in order to assist Australians. A large section, it may be a large majority (I am inclined to think it is) of Australians look upon recent changes which have taken place with regret. They desire to maintain a relationship free from political influence over their Governor-General, a relationship in which their Governor-General can exercise real functions, not merely rubber-stamps as they are sometimes described, but functions to protect the people and protect the Constitution of Australia against the assault of those who may very easily have ceased to represent the majority.

There is only one further question which I should like to ask the noble Lord. It is whether he has any correspondence on this matter. In 1926 when the question of the substitution of locally-appointed for what is sometimes called in Australia imported Governors, was under discussion, there was a White Paper issued by the Government dealing with the correspondence. It was Command Paper No. 2683 of 1926 and it sets out the argument—and a very vigorous argument—by the Government of Victoria against the substitution of a local Governor for one from this country. I am informed that there is no correspondence extant on this subject. It may be that there is correspondence which is of such a confidential nature that it cannot be published, but I would urge upon the Government, if they can see their way to publish the origin of this very important constitutional change, that they should do so, not to satisfy the curiosity of people in this country, not to satisfy those who are students of the constitutional and historical development of our Empire, but to satisfy the reasonable desire of the people of Australia to be informed how it has come about that this very large constitutional change has been effected.


My Lords, craving as I do the indulgence which I understand your Lordships are accustomed to accord to members who address this House for the first time, I am moved by very special circumstances because I have only recently given up the office which is under discussion. Having had experience of it both under the old régime and the new, I am very well aware of the delicacy of discussing at all a post which is in essence the representation of the Sovereign. But having had that experience, and realising the importance of one part certainly of the speech of my noble friend Lord Denman, I feel that I should be lacking in respect to your Lordships' House if I did not endeavour to contribute such experience as I can.

The essence of this new system is that it represents the growth of the feeling of nationality which is a prominent feature in all sections of the Empire. Australian nationality is a very real thing to an Australian—just as real as Scottish nationality is to a Scotsman—and it is absolutely compatible, indeed it is only compatible in its present form, with absolute loyalty to the Empire and particularly to the King. It is only in England, I think, that that question of nationality does not hold so prominent a place. I have seen many instances of Scotsmen, Welshmen and Irishmen occupying high positions in England and nobody appears in the least surprised. In Glasgow, I met two Englishmen holding high positions and they were pointed out as rather curiosities. The same is more or less true of other parts of the Empire. It is only in London apparently that we are so broad-minded that nationality is overlooked.

But there is a very important point in that connection; that is that now, although the Sovereign is represented in the Commonwealth, the British people as such and the British Government as such have no representative there at all. That, I think, is the essence of the whole question which your Lordships are considering to-day. My noble friend Viscount Novar and other noble Lords who have preceded me have drawn attention to the changes which have occurred in the position of Governor-General. I had experience for two and a-half years of the old system when the Governor-General was the representative of the Govern- ment as well as of His Majesty, and latterly I had experience under the new régime when the Governor-General represented only the Sovereign. I had experience also of two Governments drawn from opposite political Parties in the Commonwealth. May I say at once that both Governments carried out in the letter and in the spirit the obligations imposed by the Declaration of the Conference of 1926, that the King's representative should occupy so far as public affairs are concerned mutatis mutandis the same position in the Dominions as His Majesty occupies here at home.

I say that in particular with regard to a reference made to Despatches. I think either my noble friend Lord Denman or the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, said that the Governor-General would never see Despatches except through the courtesy of Ministers. That is not so. The Governor-General receives copies of Despatches both in and out and copies of telegrams both in and out as a matter of right. The only change that has occurred in that respect is that instead of his receiving two sets of Despatches and telegrams and sending one copy to the Government, the Government receive two copies and send one copy to him. I myself was not so strongly opposed as my noble friend Viscount Novar to the change, because I could not help contemplating the possibility of a situation arising such as has in fact arisen, when there might be matters that would form the subject of discussion between His Majesty's Government at home and the Federal Government in which opinions might differ acutely, and I thought it was better that the King's representative should not act as the channel of communication in such circumstances.

But that does not alter the fact that all the duties so well described by my noble friend Viscount Novar still require to be done—such matters as glossing over differences of opinion, discussing matters in a friendly way with Ministers, keeping Ministers here at home thoroughly and intimately informed of changes of opinion and of the general point of view in the Dominions. All that work ought to be done, but I frankly say that the analogy of an Ambassador who in a foreign country represents the Sovereign and does perform all those duties as well, is not, in my humble judgment, applicable to a Dominion because the status of the Sovereign in a Dominion is quite different from the status of the Sovereign in a foreign country, so that if it may seem an anomaly that any subject should be considered capable of pretending that he is the King—because that is what it amounts to—we are not a logical people, and our Constitution is not a logical one.

The fact remains that, having had experience of both types of Governor-Generalship, I never noticed the slightest difference in the attitude of the public at large, of His Majesty's subjects in Australia, after the change occurred. An expression was used on one occasion that I always think very accurately descriptive of the real position of the Governor-General. The Chairman at a dinner which I attended, in proposing my health—an experience which we all had such an enormous number of times that we ought to enjoy permanent good health for the rest of our lives—said: "You, Sir, are not the link that unites us to the old country, but it is your mission to keep the link bright."

The difficulty of the new situation is that the link must manifestly be attached to both ends, and my successor lacks the attachments in this country which would enable him to act as the visible being who is sent out by the King for the purpose of representing His Majesty, and who, equally, is a stranger in any connection in the Dominion, except as Governor-General and as representative of His Majesty. I do not think the point is very important, so far as the Governor-General is concerned, because no one could deny that my successor, Sir Isaac Isaacs, is certainly as distinguished a man as could possibly have been sent out from here. He has risen to the highest office. A man who is considered fit to be Chief Justice of the Commonwealth is surely equally fit, from his attainments and experience, to be the representative of His Majesty. There remains, however, the question of the link, and for the moment the link requires re-establishing. I hope that the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, will be in a position to give us a very satisfactory assurance on that point.

Let me refer for a moment or two to the magnitude of the material interests. I have alluded to the more or less sentimental interests, and no one who has had experience of life in the Dominions, or indeed of public life in this country, will under-rate the inestimable value of the sentimental ties. After all, it is sentiment that is responsible for nine-tenths of the great deeds that have been performed, and the sentiment that attaches Australia to this country is so strong that I believe it will stand us in good stead in future, in peace time, just as it did in wartime. I think the point of view that we should take is that we should give the opportunity for the expression of that sentiment to someone who goes out with the mission of representing the people from whom the Australians are mainly sprung.

I hope it will not weary your Lordships if I invite you to consider the position of Australia and its population. It is often stated that Australians boast, and boast quite rightly, that they are, to the extent of 90 per cent., British in origin. The latest figures are those from the census of 1921. The population of the Commonwealth was then just under 5,500,000, and of that number over 4,500,000 were born in Australia; 459,000—almost half a million—were born in England; Scotland was responsible for 108,000; Ireland for 105,000; New Zealand came next with 38,000; and then Germany with 22,000. Those with other birthplaces represented a very small number. I think that gives you a picture of a country which is not only intensely British by origin, but intensely English. The English are not a demonstrative people and—I speak with respect of Scotsmen: I have not found them demonstrative either. I think my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley was quite right in suggesting that there is probably more feeling in the Commonwealth than has been given expression to in regard to the change, but I would venture to suggest that this is a matter which we would do much better to leave alone, that we cannot help by discussing it and we might say things that would be resented in Australia from the point of view of Australian nationality.

I say this for a very simple reason. Noble Lords who preceded me referred to the various sources of the Commonwealth Constitution. Since the Commonwealth was created, there has come into existence a new body, the Imperial Conference, whose authority has never been clearly defined. There again I think we have to fall hack upon the, perhaps, illogical but common-sense way in which we do things, for I take it that the authority of the Imperial Conference has to be referred back to the Parliaments that send the various Ministers who come to the decisions taken at the Conference. I suppose that, if the Parliament that sent a Minister to the imperial Conference did not endorse the decision taken in the name of that Parliament at the Conference, then the decision would be turned down. In no other way would it be possible to prevent effect being given to a decision of the Conference such as has made possible this far-reaching change in the appointment of the Governor-General.

But it is for the Government of this country, as it seems to me, to decide to take the indispensable step of appointing the best man they can find to perform the duties, which are not being performed now, of representing the interests of the average man in the street, whose interests are, I suppose, to be looked after by His Majesty's Government—the interests of English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh in Australia. There are in Australia, at the moment, only two representatives of the British Government. They are both very able officials, but they have not the status which would enable them efficiently to discharge these important functions. This is most important, perhaps now more than at any time, and it will be increasingly important, for Australia is passing through very great difficulties, out of which I firmly believe that we shall help her before very long. But there are a great many things that Australia must do herself before she can be helped. When Australia realises the need for taking the action that has already been indicated to her, and when she takes that action, I hope that this country will be the first to lend her a helping hand and that, by so doing, we shall contribute to overcoming the period of difficulty through which she is passing.

Let me give you one example of a practical kind of intervention which the High Commissioner is in a position to exercise in this country, but which nobody is in a position to exercise in Australia. The noble Lord's successor at the Dominions Office made a state- ment, in the course of a debate on a Vote of Censure in another place, with regard to the higher duties which, he said, were imposed on British goods entering Australia as compared with the duties on similar goods entering Germany. The High Commissioner at once took up the point, and pointed out that that statement was incomplete, because in spite of the higher duties that Australia charged Australia imported £144,000 of sewing machines as against Germany's £57,000. So that from our point of view Australia was still a more valuable customer than Germany.

I recall an analogous case in Australia where lack of someone occupying the position of High Commissioner was very much felt. Australia owes the world £1,100,000,000. £526,000,000 is owed in Australia, £520,000,000 in this country, and £47,000,000 in the United States. Of that Debt £290,000,000 is represented by War Debt, and of that War Debt the amount owed to Great Britain is £92,000,000. The amount of that Debt, compared with the whole Debt of Australia, is not very important, but a great deal of prejudice was stirred up in Australia, representing the attitude of the British Government as being inconsiderate towards Australia in regard to her War Debt. There was no one who had the right, or whose business it was, to reply effectively, as would have been done by a High Commissioner, in the Australian papers, although it is true that Australians themselves in a great part of the Press countered this allegation, pointing out that it was not the whole story. That is not enough, and as times get more difficult, and as Australia emerges from the difficulties in which she finds herself at the present time, there will be many opportunities which can only be taken by some one enjoying the confidence of the Government here, and who by his personality can earn the confidence of the Australians. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will be able to assure us that the Government have found the right man for this important work, and that he will be sent out to take over at the earliest moment his important duties.


My Lords, no one can have listened to the instructive debate, or rather to the series of expositions of experience to which we have listened, without feeling what an advantage it is that this House should have present here those who have acted as Governors and Governors-General in our great Dominions. Unfortunately these expositions of experience have taken up a good deal of time, and I cannot venture to detain your Lordships very long in answer. Yet I must in justice to what has been said do what I can in that matter. I shall save time and possibly obtain a better statement if I arrange my reply with reference not to particular speeches but with reference to the subjects referred to. The debate has ranged over a rather wide area, but I think noble Lords will not feel I am discourteous in confining my reply to the three main points, in which I think I can include some reference to some other of the details mentioned.

The most important subject that has been running through nearly all the speeches to which we have listened is the changed position of the Governor-General. That changed position of the Governor-General, is a matter, as Lord Stonehaven very properly mentioned, of some delicacy, and there are some things which, as he suggested, we cannot help by discussing, but we may injure. Therefore if I observe a certain restraint I hope your Lordships will not think it is reticence. It is because the subject is a little difficult, and it is difficult to speak plainly without being liable at a distance to be misunderstood. Of course the guiding principle which has led to the change is not the making of the present Government. It all arises from the declaration of the Imperial Conference of 1926, and I must recall to your Lordships that that was not a decision, as was incidentally said by Lord Novar, of a Coalition Government. It was actually a full-blooded Conservative Government which was in charge of affairs in 1926.


I never attempted to evade the point that it was so. In fact I rather emphasised that I thought they had rather made a slip.


I know the noble Viscount did not wish to evade the point, but he referred to a Coalition Government. It was a slip on his part. The guiding principles in the matters referred to in the Motion are to be found in two passages of the Summary of Proceedings of the Imperial Conference, 1926. The first is as follows:—

In our opinion it is an essential consequence of the equality of status existing among the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations that the Governor-General of a Dominion is the representative of the Crown, holding in all essential respects the same position in relation to the administration of public affairs in the Dominion as is held by His Majesty the King in Great Britain, and that he is not the representative or agent of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain or of any Department of that Government. It seemed to us to follow that, the practice whereby the Governor-General of a Dominion is the formal official channel of communication between His Majesty's Government in Great Britain and His Governments in the Dominions might be regarded as no longer wholly in accordance with the constitutional position of the Governor-General. It was thought that the recognised official channel of communication should be, in future, between Government and Government direct. The representatives of Great Britain readily recognised that the existing procedure might be open to criticism and accepted the proposed change in principle in relation to any of the Dominions which desired it. Details were left for settlement as soon as possible after the Conference had completed its work, but it was recognised by the Committee, as an essential feature of any change or development in the channels of communication, that a Governor-General should be supplied with copies of all documents of importance and in general should be kept as fully informed as is His Majesty the King in Great Britain of Cabinet business and public affairs. May read another paragraph:— A special aspect of the question of consultation which we considered was that concerning the representation of Great Britain in the Dominions. By reason of his constitutional position, as explained in Section IV (b) of this Report, the Governor-General is no longer the representative of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain. There is no one therefore in the Dominion capitals in a position to represent with authority the views of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain. We summed up our conclusion in the following Resolution, which is submitted for the consideration of the Conference:— 'The Governments represented at the Imperial Conference are impressed with the desirability of developing a system of personal contact, both in London and in the Dominion capitals, to supplement the present system of intercommunication and the reciprocal supply of information on affairs requiring joint consideration. The manner in which any new system is to be worked out is a matter for consideration and settlement between His Majesty's Governments in Great Britain and the Dominions, with due regard to the circumstances of each particular part of the Empire, it being understood that any new arrangements should be supplementary to, and not in replacement of, the system of direct communication from Government to Government and the special arrangements which have been in force since 1918 for communications between Prime Ministers.' Your Lordships will notice that there is the change in the position of the Governor-General, and then there is the further change in the channels of communication supplementary to the Governor-General.

With regard to the change in the position of the Governor-General—and this has a bearing on the delicate question of how the Governor-General is now appointed in the Dominions—the subject was a matter for consideration at the Imperial Conference of 1930, and the Imperial Conference of 1930 quoted the passage I have just read, and the conclusion which they drew from it was that the parties interested in the appointment of the Governor-General are His Majesty the King, whose representative he is, and the Dominion concerned. Now, it is not for me to put a gloss upon that. The subject is one to which it is not possible to give a plain and universal reply, because the Dominions all differ among themselves in the degree in which they have been evolved and the wishes of the Dominion Governments with regard to this matter. But, of course, any questions as to the propriety of the action which has been taken by Dominion Ministers in relation to the appointment of a Governor-General is peculiarly a matter for the Dominion Parliament concerned and not, I suggest, for this Parliament. Now, that is about as far as I think we can usefully go with that particular matter.

With regard to the channel of communication, there again the attitude of His Majesty's Government in this country—the previous Government as well as the present Government—has been to go slow, let constitutional practice work itself out, following the desires and the need of the several Dominion Governments from time to time. In 1928 the late Government did appoint a High Commissioner at Ottawa, no doubt—I do not remember—but no doubt, at the request, and certainly with the warm concurrence, of the Dominion Government concerned at the time. With regard to South Africa, a different arrangement was made. In South Africa the Governor-General had an Imperial Secretary, and it was arranged that the Imperial Secretary should act as United Kingdom representative in the South African Union. And now that arrangement has been altered. The present Government, on the retirement of the Earl of Athlone, took the opportunity of separating the offices of Governor-General of the South African Union and High Commissioner, and a High Commissioner has been appointed. That High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Stanley, is entrusted with dual functions—namely, those previously performed by the High Commissioner in South Africa, in particular the administration of the three Native Territories in South Africa, which His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom is still responsible for, and also the representation of the United Kingdom Government to the Union Government. That is only an instance of how we have had to take into account the particular circumstances of each Dominion with regard to this attempt to get another channel of communication.

Now, in Australia the circumstances have been different, and the system adopted—in fact during the lifetime of the late Government—was that the Dominion Government maintained a liaison officer in London, in close touch with the various Departments of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. Now, I think we may say that, as far as it went, the value of that system was fully recognised, and I should like to bear testimony to the good work which was performed by Major Casey in initiating that service. Major Casey has just retired, and it is only due to him to say that the late Government, I believe, and certainly the present Government, have found that form of connection between the two Governments of the greatest value. The same facilities as were afforded to Major Casey will, of course, be extended to his successor, whom His Majesty's Government are very pleased to welcome. Now, that is another way of having the connection. It was not thought wise by the late Government, nor has it been thought wise by the present Government, to impose any one method of communication between the two Governments. We feel the need for it more or less in particular Dominions. At the present time, the Dominion of New Zealand has not asked for any change, either with regard to the Governor-General or with regard to the representation of Governments—from Government to Government. And I think the wise course has been adopted of not hurrying New Zealand, not attempting to influence them. As long as they are contented with the older system there is no reason why His Majesty's Government should wish, out of any desire for a logical uniformity, to make any alteration there.

The particular Question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Denman, and again by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley—the position in the Commonwealth of Australia—is that we have, as has been mentioned, a Trade Commissioner there. He, of course, does not fulfil these functions, but there has been a special representative of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom for migration purposes, appointed under arrangements made by the late Government. That has been of considerable use within the limited sphere of migration purposes, and my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs has already indicated, in reply to Questions in the House of Commons in December, that it was the intention of the present Government to review the question of the representation of the United Kingdom in the Commonwealth of Australia. This review is at present in progress, and I am not in a position to say what will be done. But the importance of the subject is fully recognised, but also the importance of not, shall I say? forcing the pace. We must proceed with the cordial concurrence which His Majesty's Government in Australia has always shown, and will continue to show, we are quite sure; but we cannot go too fast.

One other word about the channel of communication. The noble Lord, Lord Stonehaven, whom I may take the opportunity perhaps, unworthy as I am, to welcome to this House, referred to the happy expression of a link which has got to be kept bright. He pointed out that a link, to serve its purpose, must be attached at both ends. My Lords, metaphors are a little dangerous. I thought at first it was a very brilliant metaphor, especially the keeping it bright; but, of course, a link which is attached at both ends might become a chain. I do not want to follow the metaphor at all. I appreciate the necessity for a link, but I am quite sure the noble Lord himself would be the first to say that a link which looked like a chain, even if it were not a chain, would not be the most suitable—


The noble Lord will forgive me. I quoted what an Australian said.


I am afraid the exuberant gentleman at the dinner who proposed the toast did not sufficiently think where the analogy might lead him. But still, I think it is a very happy analogy, so far as keeping the link bright is concerned. But when we are attempting to find ways of attaching things to both ends of it, as we are, we have to be extremely careful that we are not misunderstood, and that we do not go further in the direction of these attachments than is required for communication and expression of the feelings of the respective Governments, and the danger always is that it may be considered as a chain.

Now two other words about the Governor-General. I am aware of the legal controversy which has taken place. I am only a very amateur lawyer but I always look upon counsel's opinion, even that of the most eminent counsel, with a little bit of suspicion, because it all depends on the case and on how it was put to them, and I have not seen how the case was put. In so far as it is a question of law, which, of course, means the interpretation of the Commonwealth Constitution, that appears to be essentially a matter for the consideration of the proper authorities in Australia, and at all events it is not one on which His Majesty's Government in this country had better express any opinion. In so far as it is a matter of constitutional practice and propriety, we must be guided, at any rate, if not governed, by the conclusions of the Imperial Conference. These things have been built up not by correspondence but by oral communication at the two Imperial Conferences. If the noble Lords who raised this question would be good enough to refer to the Summary of Proceedings of the Imperial Conference, 1930, they would see that consideration had been given to some of the points that have been raised. It is proposed, in order to clear up some of the ragged ends, that there should be new legislation in this Parliament, which will appear in due course and which has been agreed to in advance by all the Dominions.


By all the Parliaments?


I cannot remember exactly. In substance, yes; the Parliaments have expressed their approval. It has been done in general, if not in all. We shall not proceed, of course, without the express assent of the Dominion Parliaments. In that Summary Report of the Imperial Conference, 1930, there will be found as much as is possible of the considerations that have passed on some of these subjects. There has been no alteration made recently in the Royal Instructions to the State Governors. These State Governors still correspond direct with the Secretary of State and the Royal Instructions still provide for the reservation of Bills on certain subjects for the Royal Assent and also for the Veto. Those are points which, as regards the Dominions, were specially considered at the Imperial Conference, 1930, and there would have to be legislation on those points in order to bring the present constitutional position into harmony with the law or to bring the law into harmony with the present constitutional position.

Your Lordships will have seen that the Government are fully alive to the importance of providing some one in addition to the Governor-General, whose functions, I believe, will remain of the greatest importance still under the new system. We may exaggerate perhaps the amount of change but there will be functions he will not be able to fulfil under the new system and the Government are fully alive to the importance of providing for those as far as possible. I do not know whether a High Commissioner, such as we have at Ottawa or as we have now at Cape Town, would be able to exercise quite all those very valuable functions, which the Governor-General used to exercise in tactfully dealing with his Ministers, in bringing things to their notice, removing misapprehensions, reminding them perhaps sometimes of things they had forgotten—all those things that pass between a Constitutional Monarch and his Ministers, into which we had better not enquire too closely, which are very private but extremely useful. I am not quite sure that a High Commissioner could quite fill the bill and do all the things that ought to be done but we recognise there must be some such person. Nor do I think a High Commissioner, unless of a rare personality, would really be able to represent the British people to the Australian people. That would be very difficult. I am not sure that he ought frequently to write letters to the newspapers. In some way or other we shall have to be represented.

The noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, asked why we should apply the Balfour Declaration to the Constitution of a Dominion like Australia which is a tight Federation, a very limited Federation. Undoubtedly the Imperial Conference of 1926 meant it to be applied to Australia because it made no distinction between one Dominion and another. Consequently, I do not think it is profitable to discuss whether it was wise to take that step. It was taken and it is irrevocable. We have had, as the late Government had, to work it out as well as we could. There has been no difference of opinion between us and it has been worked out very patiently and purely empirically from point to point. I ask if that is not the better way. At any rate, it is the only way open to English people. We could only do it in that way. No change has been made with regard to the formal law on the subject. There is still the provision about reservation and about the Veto which has, of course, become obsolete.


And the Governor-General's Instructions?


Of course, there will have to be alterations. That is part of the legislation which will have to be brought before your Lordships at a later period following upon the Conference of 1930. On that your Lordships will be satisfied that every care has been taken and will be taken. Now I really would ask your Lordships' permission not to go further on this matter. I have endeavoured to answer the chief points which have been raised. I can only say that the British Constitution is not a logical Constitution. There are lots of things which ought to be put right in form, which can only be put right bit by bit, and sometimes it is better not to attempt to be too logical. Certainly, that has been the practice since 1926 and we have done best by going on those lines. When your Lordships see the new legislation which is indicated in the Report of the Conference of 1930, your Lordships will see that it is proposed to put right several of those loose ends. There is no correspondence that can be produced. It has been done over a table at these two Imperial Conferences and of course a great deal was published in connection with the 1930 Imperial Conference. The Legal Committee, over which I, in another capacity, had the honour to preside and only to preside, went into all these points and produced a Report on these points—I contributed nothing to it—which is really a volume of very great value.


Before the noble Lord sits down, will be tell us if this is the only Parliament that will have no say in ratifying the decisions of the Imperial Conference?


This Parliament will have a say. I cannot say it had any say with regard to the 1926 Declaration, which is, after all, the big thing. There was no debate. Undoubtedly the necessary legislation will be brought in, which can only be effected by this Parliament, for this Parliament is the only one in the whole world which has unlimited functions, and it cannot divest itself of them. Therefore it will come before your Lordships in the form of a Bill, which will give the opportunity of expressing an opinion.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for the courteous reply which he has made on the debate. I would like to urge upon him, if a representative of this country is appointed in the Commonwealth, that too much caution should not be exercised and there should not be too much delay, because, certainly in the opinion of Lord Stonehaven, which is much more valuable than my own, the matter is rather urgent. In his opinion someone should be appointed without undue delay.


I will certainly represent that to my right hon. friend the Secretary of State.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at ten minutes past seven o'clock.