HL Deb 02 December 1936 vol 103 cc564-79

LORD STRICKLAND had given Notice that he would move to resolve, That this House deplores delay in implementing obligations to respect representative institutions in Malta, and regrets the too elastic interpretation given to the Malta (Letters Patent) Act, 1936, which only gives power to revoke and amend Letters Patent, but does not specify, as is necessary in law, any power to withdraw representative institutions or to issue enactments irreconcilable with the Common Law of the Empire.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, within forty-eight hours I am leaving for Malta, where warlike preparations are feverish and an epidemic of plague after months has not been stamped out. I feel the responsibility of rising temporarily on the Opposition side of the House, notwithstanding that many of my friends hold the view that, because of the difficulties under which His Majesty's Government are labouring at present, it is not helpful to criticise His Majesty's Ministers. Nevertheless, I feel it a duty to differ from the view that criticism may not perhaps save us from the fate that has brought down other kingdoms by the spread of an ostrich-like mentality. I hope I shall persuade the majority of this House that a greater measure of recognition and respect for pledges given to maintain representative institutions in Malta would be more conducive to the defence of that fortress than an announcement that a new Constitution has been given to Malta when this has not been done. What has been done under the Malta (Letters Patent) Act of this year is to destroy altogether even the semblance of representative institutions in Malta.

Before proceeding further may I be allowed to congratulate His Majesty's Government on having finally and courageously done what is necessary—almost accomplished what is immediately achievable to eliminate a third foreign language from the education of the Maltese people, a policy which the pro-British and loyal section of politicians in Malta has worked for during the last fifty years. Napoleon achieved the elimination of trilingual education in a week. His Majesty's Government have no doubt also deserved our congratulations on the effective steps that have been taken since last year in placing Malta approximately in a condition of defence. But to assert that the creation of an Executive Council is a new Constitution can be disproved so easily that I feel confident this House will agree with me in deploring that assertion, which is a substitution for fact.

I have had the honour of being Governor of Norfolk Island, and the attempt to govern it without the advice of an Executive Council made it imperative that I should seek and obtain permission to hand over the government to the Commonwealth of Australia. Attempts to govern without an Executive Council bring about the demoralisation of the Civil Service because of the difficulty or impossibility of maintaining discipline by enforcing Colonial regulations. I have also had the honour, as Governor of the Federation of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea, of being responsible for governing the Virgin Islands with an Executive Council. It was necessary to charter a Royal Mail steamer on personal responsibility to get an Executive Council there at all to deal with a case of loss of life because a Government doctor had attempted to extort a fee before attending to the case. Same think that an Executive Council is absolutely necessary in a Crown Colony of the most severe type, such as Norfolk Island or the Virgin Islands, and to assert that a new Constitution has been granted to Malta because an Executive Council has been set up after three years of the equivalent of Martial Law is not correct.

In the Executive Council of the Virgin Islands, where there was not a single white resident, I, as Governor, had no responsibility and no power to put in or put out any of the members of that Council. The new Executive Council in Malta contains some official members and some unofficial members all nominated by the Governor or by the Secretary of State, liable to immediate termination of their period of office, appointed only for three years, and in no way elected. I ask your Lordships to agree with me that that is a complete denial of the covenanted pledges to maintain responsible institutions in Malta. Incidentally one of those selected is the Leader of the Labour Party. He is not there because a system of election has been established, but he does represent the only Party in Malta which, in the opinion of the Maltese, is in any way represented. Coming from the pro-Italian section of the Nationalist Party, after that Party had decided not to accept office in the new Executive Council, there is one who has left that Party and has been entirely repudiated by that Party and who, while remaining in the Executive Council, has declared he is as determined as ever to uphold the Italian language against the policy of His Majesty's Government. That is no form of representation.

Another of those selected from the Nationalist Party has also been repudiated by that Party. One, who once belonged to the Constitutional Party, withdrew from being a candidate of that Party when the Pastoral was issued threatening the penalty of mortal sin on those who voted either for the Constitutional Party or for the Labour Party. That is not a representation of those Roman Catholics in Malta who rely on the safeguards of religious toleration for not being debarred from any office on account of religious tenets. That is a feature of the Constitution which has just been suppressed, and only in part recognised, which would appear to be binding on any Governor who took office under that Constitution. In these circumstances I hope your Lordships will agree that what has taken place in Malta is a withdrawal to the level of the Constitution of the Virgin Islands, where in my time there were not half-a-dozen white visitors.

A greater departure from the law of England—the Common Law that applies to the Colonies—is to be found in the method in which the Letters Patent of this year are being interpreted. The Letters Patent Act of this year gave power to the Crown to amend the then existing Letters Patent and to repeal them altogether. That Letters Patent Act also repealed certain clauses of the Malta Constitution Act of 1932—not all the clauses. The Preamble remains, the Title remains, also the assertion of the legal fact, which is most important—namely, that once a Constitution has been granted to any Colony, or even promised, it cannot be withdrawn without an Act of Parliament, if it specifically, in operative words—words admitted by the highest Courts of Law to be operative—does give power to the King to legislate by Letters Patent and Orders in Council. According to precedent, and following the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the Common Law of England does apply to the Colonies and entitles any British subject to decline to pay taxes unless the imposition thereof is supported by a representative asembly. Moreover, the precedents are to the effect that the mere granting of power to the King to legislate by Orders in Council does not carry authority to delegate that authority unless the authority to delegate that power is inserted in an Act of the Imperial Parliament. Nothing of this appears in the Letters Patent Act of this year. There is no transfer to the King; no granting of power to the King to legislate for a Colony not acquired by conquest from the Maltese, or of power to delegate such authority.

Allow me to put briefly before your Lordships the history of the grant of rower to the Crown to legislate for Malta by Orders in Council. The first Act of this Parliament passed for that purpose was enacted in 1801, when an Act was passed for Malta, and Malta alone, giving power to the King to legislate by Order in Council and Letters Patent. That Act also asserted that Malta is part of Europe. That Act was repealed in 1872 by one of the periodical Statute Laws Revision Acts, but it was there stated specifically that the clause which declared Malta part of Europe was not repealed. Later on, in 1876, in the Customs Consolidation Act, the same declaration was made that Malta is part of Europe. In 1848 a Constitution was granted to Malta, a Constitution of a very severe type, with a permanent official majority. When that was granted the Act of 1801 was "spent," in the terms of the Act itself, inasmuch as the Act provided that the power to legislate should not extend after events that happened six weeks after the first meeting of Parliament after 1814.

The Act of 1843 provided that the King could legislate by Letters Patent and Order in Council for the Falkland Islands, for settlement on the Coast of Africa and for territories adjacent to the Coast of Africa, and it is only by an Interpretation that Malta could, under that Act, be the subject of legislation by Order in Council and Letters Patent. But no authority derived from this Imperial Parliament can be traced for legislating for Malta by Letters Patent. From the very beginning of the association of Malta with England the people if Malta have repeatedly claimed by reputations and petitions at least that measure of representative government which had been granted by a former Norman King, Roger of Sicily, which save a very restricted measure, of representation, but there was a representative institution. Now many of my friends say that it is imprudent under present conditions to have a system of election in Malta that might, by external influence and bribery, bring about the equivalent of a plebiscite which might be embarrassing to international situations. I have said nothing in this House either to-day or in the past criticising the suspension of all responsible Government in Malta under present conditions. What I have been asking, and what I ask to-day in the interests of defence of the fortress, is that the present Executive Council should not contain any unofficial members who are not elected in some way or another, even if they are elected by groups—that is to say, to represent the nobility as under the old Constitution, or to represent the Chamber of Commerce, or the graduates of the University, or the landowners.

It is quite easy to copy the Constitution of King Roger the Norman and to establish some imitation, be it only a mere simulacrum, of representative institutions upon which it can be said that the promises made to the Maltese and the obligations derived from International Law had been carried out, in view of the fact that the Maltese had established an elected assembly as the governing force of the Island, as was the case when the French were defeated, the Maltese being the principal co-belligerents with England and Portugal in driving out Napoleon Bonaparte from that Island. I have not asked for more than can be granted without danger and with advantage for the present, but I can assure your Lordships' House that there is nobody in Malta who does not feel deeply humiliated by its being said that the present selections of unofficial members of the Executive Council are representatives of all Parties in Malta. Such representation can only derive from some system of election. How can a Governor just arrived know who does or does not represent a Party? He has to ask his private secretaries and entourage. He meets few people. It is most dangerous for the prestige of the Government. Mistakes are always made; they are unavoidable; but if those mistakes are the result of election there is an answer. What is more, the Imperial Government and the King's representative in Malta has an opportunity, as a result of election, to know who the real leaders of the country are, and he would be safe from picking up individuals who have lost all credit and all representation and have been turned out of their Parties.

That is the crying need of Malta at present in the interests of the fortress. After the Constitution of 1848, which could only be legalised by admitting that the Maltese had a right to accept or reject the Constitution, the acceptance thereof brought it within the Common Law of England which no doubt was a proper legal proposition. The only other legal argument is that the Falkland Islands Act and the African Settlements Act could be extended to Malta by interpretation, because Malta is near Africa. After that we had the British Settlements Act, passed in 1860, which bears upon the question whether, when the King has power to legislate by Letters Patent, he has or has not power to delegate the Royal Prerogative. Then we come to the De La Warr Constitution of 1887. It was decided to grant that Constitution and to recognise the status of equality of the Maltese nation, which had been admitted time after time by such authorities as Lord Glenelg, Secretary of State for the Colonies, by speeches in this House, and by the Royal Commission whose Report was accepted by Parliament. The De La Warr Constitution was proclaimed in 1887 to give the most ample form of Crown Colony Constitution that could be drafted without establishing responsible Government, but it is obvious from the drafting of the Act and the words used therein that the Law Officers of the Crown then realised that, as the Act of 1801 was spent, they had to have a new Act, which was passed in the same year, 1887. The Constitution was granted in December; the British Settlements Act was passed earlier in the year.

That Act, according to the Preamble, only applied to unoccupied land without a Legislature where British settlers might wish to establish themselves. No clause of the Act could be applied to Malta under the Preamble if reconcilable with the operative words of the law. It could not apply to Malta even under a clause that contains glaring contradictions and mixes up what is a "possession" and what is a "settlement." That clause, it might be argued, according to one interpretation, which is obviously erroneous, brings under the Act all British Possessions outside the United Kingdom. The glaring contradictions in that Act were the subject of a strenuous debate in the House of Commons where it was abundantly demonstrated that the Act contained contradictions extending to an irreconcilable degree. The Secretary of State, then Sir Henry Holland, would accept no amendment and no argument. He would give no elucidation of the glaring contradictions beyond bringing forward an opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown on a narrow issue which referred in particular to New Guinea, and the Secretary of State said that in view of that opinion the Bill of 1887 did little that was new and he would not enter into any further discussion as to the contradictions therein which members of the House of Commons showed to be so glaring as to be destructive of a part of the Act.

Under that Act of 1887 Malta, being out of the United Kingdom, was to be treated as something adjacent to Africa, and unfortunately Malta has been repeatedly thought of as African for various purposes. For hundreds of years in the Middle Ages Malta was treated ecclesiastically as African, and subjected as such to the Archbishopric of Palermo. To the struggle as to whether Malta should be treated as African or European is due the present legal muddle, which can only be solved before the Privy Council. Be that as it may, the British Settlements Act, 1887, is the only foundation in law for Letters Patent enacting the Constitution of 1887 under a statute, but in so far as that Constitution was accepted by the people of Malta it is good at Common Law. A sufficient title would be an Act of Parliament that lays down clearly what it means and is not contradicted by decisions accepted by Mr. Secretary Ormsby-Gore in the House of Commons: these decisions must be repeated on again going to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. I have endeavoured to obtain the best legal advice available in England on these legal difficulties, and the conclusion is that the best course is to go to Malta, refuse to pay taxes, and start over again on a specific case in order to protect the rights of the people of Malta, and thereby assist materially His Majesty's Government in a desire to act legally and justly.

Your Lordships may remember that when the Malta (Letters Patent) Act of 1936 was before your Lordships' House an offer was made so to draft the Bill as to get over the legal difficulty, but not a single Amendment was allowed to be made, not a comma or contradiction could be changed. The draftsmen were very capable in not going beyond the instructions given and they avoided attacking the English Common Law in a manner that would have affected adversely Southern Rhodesia and other parts of the Empire. All this has taken place for Malta at a time when a very liberal Constitution was being granted to India based on a promise contained only in the Preamble of an Indian Bill. We all know that the Preamble is not an operative part of an Act of Parliament. We know also that an Act which makes any change in the Common Law must be explicit in the text as well as in the Preamble in declaring what it is doing. I would point out that what is being done in Malta is unjust to neutrals in politics and the loyal majority, when selecting persons to be selected from various Parties, even from the pro-Italian Party. Wrong has been done by selecting members of those Parties who have been repudiated by their Party organisations or who previously resigned from their Party. The selection has been accompanied by the gift of a salary, and social position, and then saying that they represent something they had left behind. Thus they represent nothing but themselves or that great body which in every country is eager under any circumstances to accept pay, promotion and social prestige at the sacrifice of principle.

It is sought by the Bureaucracy to show that under present conditions in Malta everybody wants Crown Colony Government, and that nobody wants any form of representative government by election. Can any of your Lordships believe that? It is evident that under the system of Bureaucracy which now is omnipotent in Malta no-one dare tell high officials that they are wrong and that the majority desires any other system. Let us take as a test of where the majority lies the popularity of the various organs of the Press. The section of the Press that is pro-British demands the restoration of some form—even an attenuated form—of representation for the sake of showing that the present Government is keeping promises. It will be found that the newspapers that demand representation are patronised to an extent greater than all the other sections of the Press put together. People in Malta do not like paying for anything of which they do not approve and the people of Malta seldom buy newspapers unless those organs represent their opinions. To say that all the people of Malta prefer Crown Colony Government of a severe type and do not want any form of election is a very deplorable way of not adopting a practical solution and meeting the situation. But little is required; namely, let us either re-establish some form of representative institutions or let us abolish a nominated element in the Executive Council that may represent nobody. The system now adopted merely results in testing by trial and error what is the price at which members of a Party may change sides. The use of that test to our rivals may be to establish a sort of tariff that will be very useful in future emergencies to such as nay want to gain over against England a large number of those who may be scheduled as subject to similar influences.

But there is a worse result of this system. Your Lordships will see at once that if persons are promoted to paid office, or are to have salaries, as members of the Executive Council, that come in monthly—an ambition that is common with all nationalities round the Mediterranean, including France and Italy—it will follow that if such "loaves and fishes" are given to any who change their politics, the preferment must be given in disregard of justice to those who deserve better treatment. There may be ten applicants for an office when only one can get it, and the other nine are added to the dissatisfied. If any are dissatisfied because they deserved better than the recipient but did not get the post, then every time there is any appointment, additional enemies of the Government are created of a most dangerous description. That process augments the dissatisfied from year to year, and disaffection accumulates to a degree which is detrimental to the safety of the fortress, because it is based on injustice. By the present system great power for psychological suggestion is inevitably vested in that small section of the Bureaucracy who are immediately round the Governor and organised to support, each other. No Governor, however industrious and experienced he may be, even if he has been for several years in office overseas, has worked very hard, read many newspapers and studied all he could, can possibly with efficiency or conscientiousness ascertain "who is who" without the advice of private secretaries and an entourage. The only remedy for that psychological dilemma is to have some form of group election.

This use of patronage in Malta for the purpose of completing the Executive Council has gone so far that one of the newly-elected members of the Executive Council held a public political meeting, while he still kept on as a member of the Executive Council and was still clinging to the perquisites of office. He has before this been turned out of Ministerial office by Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, now Lord Swinton, for non-co-operation—which is obviously, the Colonial Office word for "disloyalty." This same newly-selected Councillor at a public meeting declared his continued allegiance to the policy that the Italian language should have and regain its old position in Malta. He went further, and informed the public meeting that he was accused of being a candidate for a Judgeship and in reply thereto he was pleased to say that for "the present" he was not. That sort of public display by an Executive Councillor demoralises those aspirants to office in Malta who have real claims based on long service, and who perhaps are and have been absolutely neutral in politics. These arguments are unanswerable, and are put before your Lordships with circumspection and with a full sense of responsibility.

Without any risk of the imputation of exaggeration it may be said that I have worked the whole of my life for the upholding of Imperial interests, and of Imperial sentiments and of Imperial power in Malta. No one, perhaps, has so much to lose if there were to be a separation of Malta from the Empire. I have not hesitated at any personal risk in the direction of augmenting the union with England. Notwithstanding the want of sympathy which is to be expected by all who criticise the shortcoming of any bureaucracy it at times becomes a duty to ask that officials should defend themselves from the imputation of blunders I am, in conclusion, clearly of opinion, from long experience as one who has spent a whole life in the working and the study of constitutions and the drafting thereof, that on legal grounds the Malta (Letters Patent) Act, 1832, is spent and is being wrongly used to proclaim law. The Letters Patent of 1821 have been completely repealed; there is nothing left to amend, not even the Title, not even the Preamble. On the other hand, the Malta Constitution Act, 1932, has not been repealed; it is still open to amendment. The skeleton is there. A few clauses have been repealed, and the important operative clauses are gone, but that skeleton is hanging in the cupboard of the Colonial Office. It is shaking there as evidence that the Common Law has not been repealed. It is there to proclaim the findings of English tribunals on the rule of English Common Law applicable to the Colonies. What remains upholds the contention that once a constitution has been granted, no taxation can be levied without the concurrence of some form of representative assembly. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That this House deplores delay in implementing obligations to respect representative institutions in Malta, and regrets the too elastic interpretation given to the Malta (Letters Patent) Act, 1936, which only gives power to revoke and amend Letters Patent, but does not specify, as is necessary in law, any power to withdraw representative institutions or to issue enactments irreconcilable with the Common Law of the Empire.—(Lord Strickland.)


My Lords, I think we should all desire to congratulate the Opposition on a new acquisition, and we should also desire to congratulate the noble Lord on his new place on their Front Bench. We have all listened to a long and interesting history of the government of Malta, and certainly I, and I am sure all your Lordships, have learned a great deal of that history. There was, however, one item in that history which has been omitted, and that is the fact that this question, a very important question, which has been put before your Lordships by the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, has been before your Lordships a number of times before and has been very thoroughly discussed. The whole question of whether in fact His Majesty's Government are under any formal obligation to maintain representative institutions in Malta has been discussed in itself. It was discussed at length on a Motion by Lord Strickland in July, 1935; it was again discussed during the debate on the Second Reading of the Malta (Letters Patent) Bill this year—a Bill, now an Act of Parliament, to which the noble Lord has referred. On both those occasions the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, expressed the opinion, and backed it by argument, that there is nowhere an intrinsic obligation on His Majesty's Government to maintain those representative institutions.

But I want to make it clear, and I should like to make this quite clear to the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, who is, I know, most anxious on this point, that while His Majesty's Government do not recognise that they are under any formal obligation in this respect, they nevertheless do not regard the present Constitution as anything other than an interim measure, and it is our most earnest hope that in the course of time, as and when circumstances permit, some more liberal form of Constitution compatible with the admittedly high level of development and culture of the Maltese people may be evolved. The intentions of His Majesty's Government with regard to the future Constitution in Malta were very clearly stated during the debate on the Bill of this year, both in the House of Lords and in the House of Commons, and they were again stressed by the governor of Malta in his Address on the proclamation of the present Constitution. Therefore, His Majesty's Government can, I think, justly claim that there is no justification for an accusation of delay in introducing a more liberal form of Constitution.

There is a further point that the noble Lord has raised, and that is on the question of the interpretation of the Act of 1936. We are again quite unable to agree that we have been guilty of the breaches that are suggested in the noble Lord's Motion, and in his speech. It was just because the Letters Patent of 1921 did not contain a power of revocation or amendment that the right of His Majesty in Council to legislate for the Island was restricted, and that power has definitely now been conferred on His Majesty in Council by the Malta (Letters Patent) Act of 1936. The noble Lord has suggested that that was not made clear in the discussion on that Bill. I have looked very carefully through the whole debates and I find that both in another place and in this House the speeches made by Ministers in charge made that point most abundantly clear. I have here the words of Lord Plymouth, then Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. He said: There was a wide area over which the Crown reserved no power to legislate, and, in particular, it reserved no power to revoke the Constitution as a whole. It is primarily in order to remove this limitation that this Bill is brought forward. I contend that nothing could have made the intention of His Majesty's Government more clear than that.


Intentions are of no weight at law. It is only what is said.


The words of the Act of Parliament were quite definite, but it is the business of the Minister in presenting a Bill to Parliament to make it clear to those who are not able to interpret the Bill before them. The Government, therefore, take the very definite view that there has ben restored to His Majesty in Council complete freedom with regard to revision, and that therefore the revocation of the 1921 Letters Patent was in strict accordance with the provisions of the Act. My answer has not been a very long one, but I think the noble Lord will feel that it has been clear and definite, and that it will therefore make it possible for him not to press this matter. If he does, of course His Majesty's Government will have to oppose it.


My Lords, I beg leave to reply to the statements and opinions of the noble Earl who has just sat down. The noble Earl referred to the declarations made in the House of Commons.


And in this House.


In both Houses. It is glaring that the declarations made by Mr. Secretary Ormsby-Gore in the House of Commons were very different from the declarations made in this House by the Earl of Plymouth and guardedly referred to to-day by the Parliamentary Secretary of the Colonial Department. The declarations made to-day in this House are quite consistent with all the declarations and opinions previously made here, but they are not consistent with the declarations made and opinions expressed on both sides of the House in another place. Moreover, the declarations were made without quoting the legal authority on which they may rest. Law Officers in both Houses were challenged time after time to stand up and say if they could pronounce one word in support of the Bill that is now the Malta (Letters Patent) Act of 1936. No Law Officer would take the risk of imperilling his professional reputation by defending that Bill. There is then a studied omission of the operative words which are necessary in every such Bill. I wish to offer congratulations and to express thanks to the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, inasmuch as in the House of Commons he carefully refrained from repudiating the binding promises and assurances to the people of Malta which have been admitted and repeated for 136 years, and were never contradicted before this Session. They have never been held void or contradicted by any Law Officers of the Crown. No Law Officer has put n different interpretation to the Maltese position under International Law and natural law as acquired by conquest from the French, because every Law Officer knows that it cannot be done. He knows what the decision would be if the matter were again brought before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

It is undeniable that Mr. Ormsby-Gore said explicitly in the House of Commons that His Majesty's Government had deliberately decided to put an end to "one-man government in Malta." Nevertheless, after he had said that—which of course meant something very different to the Executive Council of to-day—it happened that a Despatch did come to Malta reasserting the attitude of the Department before Mr. Ormsby-Gore took charge thereof. Notwithstanding the declarations by Mr. Ormsby-Gore and his admission of the decisions of English tribunals there came from the Colonial Office a Despatch to Malta which astonished everyone in the Island, reasserting the Departmental view held and expressed by Lord Plymouth before Mr. Ormsby-Gore came into office—namely, that there were no promises binding on His Majesty to uphold representative institutions. During the vacation it may have happened that the rubber stamp of the Secretary of State, affixed instead of a signature, may have been wielded by others; perhaps it was a mistake that Mr. Ormsby-Gore's view was contradicted then as now. I am unable to accept any of the legal points of view which are relied upon for saying that these promises and rights under the law of nations are non-existent. If the noble Earl had come here armed with the opinion of His Majesty's Law Officers of the Crown, and if he had laid it on the table, I should have been silent until there had been an opportunity to read and study that responsible opinion on points of law.

There is a precedent when Lord Knutsford was Secretary of State for the Colonies, and when he was put in a position in which he had no answer to the argument that the Act of 1887 required elucidation. He then produced the opinion of the then Law Officers, and suggested that that opinion applied. It did not apply beyond New Guinea, but that is the way he answered. Here to-day we have nothing of the sort. No Law Officer's opinion is quoted, rightly or wrongly. We have to note a studied abstention on the part of all the Law Officers in either House from staking their professional reputation on such contentions, and with all the responsibility of a member of the English Bar I am entitled to offer an interpretation as to that abstention. A member of the English Bar ought under no circumstances to express an opinion on a point of law in a House of Parliament which he does not believe in. We have had a notable precedent when Lord Hailsham was Attorney-General. That noble and learned Viscount, who adorns the highest legal office in the Realm, when in the House of Commons gave advice to the then Ministers on an illegal action of the then Governor after careful consideration. That advice put right the error of the Governor of Malta, who had acted wrongly, and a Bill wrongly assented to had therefore to be disallowed. Now it seems equally impossible for any Law Officer to give an opinion against the Common Law and to agree with these views and opinions which we have heard suggested to-day against the rights of the people of Malta. I put it to your Lordships that in view of the impossibility of bringing forward the opinion of the Law Officers, I have proved my argument, and I am unable to withdraw the Motion that stands in my name.

On Question, Motion negatived.