HL Deb 05 May 1936 vol 100 cc748-84

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I rise to move the Second Reading of a Bill to remove the limitation of His Majesty's power to revoke or amend the Malta Constitution Letters Patent and to declare the validity of certain Ordinances of the Governor of Malta. The affairs of Malta come not infrequently before your Lordships' House. They are, however, on this occasion brought before the House in circumstances which differ somewhat from those which have usually prompted their discussion. Your Lordships are accustomed to Motions relating to Malta which are put forward in the name of that member of your Lordships' House who is particularly associated with the Island. But upon this occasion the initiative has been taken by His Majesty's Government, who seek for powers from Parliament to enable them to place the constitutional position in the Island upon a regular and permanent basis.

The Bill is a simple measure of three clauses, and it at least has the virtue of brevity to commend it. I trust that I shall not have to trespass overlong on your Lordships' time in explaining it to you. Its technical purpose is as follows. The effect of its first and principal clause is to remove the existing limitation upon the power of His Majesty to revoke or amend by further Letters Patent the provisions of the Malta Constitution Letters Patent. When a measure of responsible government was granted to Malta in 1921 the Letters Patent under which the grant was made contained a provision which, in effect, largely surrendered the right of His Majesty in Council to legislate for the Island by Letters Patent. This right was reserved with regard to certain matters, but only in a limited degree. 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. When it becomes law and the limitation is removed the Crown will be restored to the position which it held prior to 1921, and will have a full and undoubted right to legislate for Malta by virtue of the Prerogative. The second clause of the Bill declares that all Ordinances enacted by the Governor of Malta between the commencement of the Malta Constitution Act of 1932 and the commencement of the proposed new Act were validly enacted. This clause is in effect a provision for the removal of doubts, and I shall have more to say on this point later on in my speech. Clause 3 provides that the Act shall come into operation on the 15th July next, and also repeals Sections 1 to 4 of the Malta Constitution Act of 1932.

That, briefly, is the technical scope of the Bill, but what I am sure will be of more interest to your Lordships is the question of the policy which lies behind it. On that I would just say at this point, what is, I think, already fully obvious to those who have followed the recent history of Malta, that as soon as the Bill is passed the Government intend to submit to His Majesty the proposal that the new powers derived from it-should be utilised to effect some modifications in the existing constitutional position which, in their view, conditions in the Island demand.

Before I explain the details of the proposed constitutional changes the House may well desire to know something of the history of the present Constitution. The present Constitution was established in 1921, and it was admittedly of a novel and experimental character. Perhaps the salient feature of that Constitution was the dyarchical principle on which it was based. The object in view was to give the Maltese real responsibility for the conduct of local affairs while at the same, time, in view of Malta's strategical position, matters of Imperial concern were reserved to the Imperial Government. Consequently two distinct Governments were set up each endowed with legislative and executive powers in its defined sphere.

There was on the one hand the Maltese Government responsible to the Legislature, consisting of an Assembly and a Senate constituted on a representative basis, and, on the other hand, you had the Maltese Imperial Government which dealt legislatively and executively with reserved matters vested in the Governor, subject, of course, to instructions from His Majesty's Government at home. The Constitution was a written one embodied in Letters Patent, and I think, therefore, it will be evident that the existence of two complete Governments and the necessity for defining the line of demarcation between them has resulted in extremely technical and complicated constitutional documents. To show what an extremely complicated structure we have been dealing with, I think it is only necessary for me to point out that there were no fewer than five Councils in connection with it. There was the Executive Council, the Nominated Council, the Privy Council, the Legislative Assembly and the Senate—obviously a top-heavy system for a country which, in the words of the Royal Commission, is about the size of the Isle of Wight, with a population nearly the same as that of Portsmouth and Southsea, or Catania in Sicily. I think there can be little doubt that even if local conditions had been favourable such a Constitution had so many inherent mechanical defects that it would have been surprising if it had worked successfully.

It first broke down in the year 1930. Your Lordships will recollect that unfortunate difficulties arose between the local ecclesiastical authorities and the local Ministry which made it necessary for the then Labour Government to intervene and suspend the Constitution. After that came the Royal Commission under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Askwith. It was appointed to examine the very difficult and delicate situation which at that time obtained. The Commission reported early in 1932, and so far as the main point which was then before them was concerned—namely, the settlement of the difficulties between the Church and the State—the outcome of their labours was completely successful. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a high tribute to Lord Askwith's chairmanship on that occasion. He dealt with an extremely difficult and delicate task with consummate skill and consummate success. He arrived there already with a high reputation as an eminent conciliator, and his work for Malta merely added one more distinguished act of service to those which he had already rendered to the State.

On the constitutional side of the issue before them the Commission took the same moderate and conciliatory view as they did with regard to the difficulties that had arisen between the Church and the State. Their attitude may be said to be that, although they recognised the defects of the Constitution and the difficulties of Parliamentary government in a small island, it had not been finally proved that the 1921 Constitution had failed. They therefore recommended that it should be given a further trial. At the same time they fully realised the dangers that might be found in the future. I think I can best illustrate the point by quoting a passage from the Report which runs as follows: It may be true to say that it [the Constitution] has not worked well and that friction has arisen from time to time with the Imperial side of the dyarchy, and also much friction as between the political parties and with reference to the Church…. Valetta is a small place and rumour spreads very quickly. Politics are discussed in an energetic and often in an acrimonious manner; and this naturally has great effect in a city where most of the politicians are lawyers accustomed to disputes and all know each other's history and family relationships, on which both politicians and the Press frequently comment in highly satirical terms. His Majesty's Government therefore accepted the recommendation that the Constitution should be given a further trial.

It was actually restored in the summer of 1932. His Majesty's Government had every desire to give responsible government a reasonable chance, and I can assure your Lordships that the conclusions at which they have now arrived as to its impracticability have not been reached without trial, patience and deliberation. In other words the hopes of the Government have not been fulfilled. Like the Labour Government in 1930, the present Government felt obliged to suspend the Constitution once again in the autumn of 1933. The reasons for that suspension are probably well known to your Lordships. They were briefly these. Restoration of responsible government in 1932 had been made subject to certain provisions with regard to the language question and particularly to the teaching of languages in the schools. These provisions had the full approval of both Houses of Parliament here at home. As time went on it became apparent that the local Nationalist Ministry had embarked on measures, the object of which was in effect deliberately to evade that policy. Ministers were given opportunity to modify their policy, but declined to do so. They were therefore dismissed and direct administration was taken over by the Governor.

The suspension of Parliamentary government was effected in virtue of a provision in the Constitution empowering the Governor to take over the administration upon the Secretary of State for the Colonies declaring that he was satisfied that a grave emergency had arisen in the Island. The then Secretary of State made a declaration that he was satisfied to that effect, as he was undoubtedly entitled to do in the circumstances then prevailing in Malta. With regard to the legal basis of that action, His Majesty's Government entertained at the time, and they entertain now, no doubt that it was as well-founded in law as it was clearly right in policy. The provision of the Constitution which was invoked was, however, intended only to be used in times of emergency. It was never contemplated that the Government of the country could be permanently based upon it. His Majesty's Government have no wish to take advantage of a legal technicality to support a position which is not in accord with the ideas of the framers of the Constitution. Their intention therefore is to place the Government of the Island upon a permanent and more regular basis: and the powers which they now seek from Parliament will be used for this purpose.

I have no doubt that the House will ask in what particular manner these powers are to be used. I shall now endeavour to answer that question. It is intended that the form of government to be set up in Malta will be on Crown Colony lines. I should explain that Crown Colony government is a somewhat inexact piece of nomenclature which is used to describe various forms of government. It is sometimes used to mean a somewhat narrow and autocratic method of governing a Colony: but this is not its only sense—and it is not the sense in which I use it now. Many forms of Colonial government which fall short of responsible government are described as a Crown Colony government. Responsible government is, of course, the fully-fledged Parliamentary system with an Executive composed of Ministers who are responsible to Parliament. But between that and the one-man type of autocracy there are many varieties of constitutional growth of which examples may be found in the Colonial Empire.

The present system in Malta is of the strictest Crown Colony variety. All power is placed in the Governor who, subject to the instructions of His Majesty's Government, exercises it within his unfettered discretion. This system, although it has been justified by circumstances and by its recent results, is admittedly a somewhat drastic form of government for a people who have attained the point of political evolution which has been reached by the Maltese. His Majesty's Government are anxious as soon as possible to introduce a more liberal system and to establish channels through which the people of the Island will be in a greater measure associated with the conduct of their own affairs. It is felt that, even in existing conditions, some step in that direction can now wisely be taken. But the progress towards a more liberal system must be made by stages if we are to learn the lesson of the past. Advance must be gradual if it is to be successful. His Majesty's Government therefore propose as soon as the Bill becomes law to take the first step by establishing an Executive Council comprising, together with officials, a number of nominated unofficials. It is hoped in this way that it will be possible to associate with the Government a number of Maltese of standing and experience whose knowledge of local affairs should be of great assistance to the Governor. Such a Council will afford the Governor a regular method by which he may make contact with and consult with unofficial opinion. It will provide a proper and regular channel through which unofficial opinion may be expressed upon the day-to-day business of the Administration. I cannot commit myself as to the detailed constitution of the Council, but it will be an advisory body and the unofficial element will be nominated by the Governor.

The present intention of His Majesty's Government is that this Constitution should not be of more than an interim and provisional character. They feel that, after the vicissitudes of the last few years, the Island's greatest need is a rest from Elections and political dissensions. But they hope that it will in course of time be possible to go further in the direction of associating unofficial opinion with the Government. I can naturally give no pledge now upon the matter and it is not possible to foresee circumstances which may arise in the future. But His Majesty's Government feel that the Maltese people are entitled to look forward to the eventual establishment of some form of representative government. By representative institutions I mean not responsible Government with Ministers but a Legislative Council comprising, in addition to official members, a number of unofficial representatives chosen by popular election. There seems reason to hope that these proposals will find a wide measure of local acceptance. The Provisional Government, though, of course, like any other Government it may be open to criticism on a number of points of detail, has, broadly speaking, proved an undoubted success. It has relieved the Island of the acrimony of Party politics and bitterness which has in our view done so much harm in the past. The Island was tired of the squabbles of the politicians and wanted a form of progressive administration in the interests of the people as a whole. The Provisional Government has made a good beginning in this direction, and in this connection I want to pay tribute to the work of the late Sir David Campbell, whose death we all so deeply regret, and also to that of Sir Harry Luke, the Lieutenant-Governor.

May I quite shortly tell your Lordships of some of the achievements of the present administration? In the first place it has entirely restored the financial position, which had seriously deteriorated while the Nationalist Ministry was in office. Then it has carried through a number of judicial reforms of a very important character indeed, with which no previous administration had ventured to deal. The Maltese language has now taken the place of Italian as the language of the Courts. The procedure of the Courts has been reformed, with the result that the number of cases pending before the Civil Court was reduced from 1,043 in October, 1934, to 434 in July, 1935. Then, in 1935, a system of radio distribution was established in the Island, and by March of this year already 1,000 subscribers had been connected. In the social and economic spheres great progress has been made. Many of the public health services have been greatly improved, and a really great improvement is that the problem of undulant fever has at last been tackled.

Anybody who knows Malta at all is aware that the ravages of this disease are one of the curses of the Island. As your Lordships know, it is caused by goats' milk. The goats are driven through the streets of the town and milked at the doors of the houses, and they transmit germs and contaminate the streets. No Government so far has attempted to interfere with this age-long custom. I will not go into details, but two proposals have been made: first, to render goats immune by inoculation; and secondly, to pasteurise the milk at Government-controlled stations. I venture to say that if this problem is solved an immense service will have been rendered to the Island as a whole. There are other matters, like the question of refuse disposal, which are also being dealt with. The present system of collection is a real menace and disgrace to the public health of the Island and it is hoped that a scheme will shortly be introduced to deal with the problem. In education and public works great strides have been made. I will not trouble your Lordships with details now, though there is a great deal I could say on these two subjects.

Agriculture is, of course, the principal industry of the Island and it occupies some 50,000 of the inhabitants. We are doing everything we possibly can to foster and improve the different forms of agriculture which are practised there, and for these purposes free grants of £30,000 have been made from the Colonial Development Fund. The important industry of fishing, which has been badly neglected up till now, is also being helped in various ways. Again, the commercial and industrial possibilities of the Island have also been taken up, and a special officer from the United Kingdom with wide experience of trade has recently been appointed as Trade Development Officer. I think it will interest the House to know that for the first time this year Malta participated in the British Industries Fair at Olympia, and the success which attended its exhibit far exceeded expectations. Finally, the Island is being developed from the tourist industry point of view, and it is hoped that the construction of a first-class modern hotel will shortly be undertaken. I think that what I have just said definitely proves that the interests of Malta and all its inhabitants have not been neglected in the past two or three years, and therefore are not likely to be neglected in the future under the new system of government which we intend to introduce.

I now pass for a moment to Clause 2 of the Bill. Clause 2 declares the validity of all Ordinances of the Governor enacted between the commencement of the Malta Constitution Act, 1932, and the commencement of the new Act now proposed. The House will no doubt want some explanation of this, particularly as a case is now pending on appeal before the Privy Council which impugns the validity of a certain Ordinance passed by the Governor. The object of the clause is to remove any doubt which may exist as to the legality of the laws passed during the provisional régime The Government are not prepared to admit that there can be any real question of the validity of anything which has been done. They are advised that the action taken has been within the powers conferred by the Letters Patent, and their view has been upheld by the decision of the Maltese Courts of First Instance and of Appeal in the case to which I have already referred.

But, my Lords, as legislation by Parliament is necessary to deal with the Constitution, it seems desirable to take the opportunity to put this matter beyond any question. It may be felt—I dare say-it will be felt—that there are objections to validating while the case is pending. His Majesty's Government appreciate that point of view, but do not consider that in this case the objections can be sustained. If the Government had taken no action and the present appellants before the Privy Council were to secure a reversal of the decision already given by the two Courts, then His Majesty's Government would immediately have to propose legislation to cure the position by declaring that the legislation of the Provisional Government was valid. This would obviously be essential, as otherwise the whole administration of Malta would be in a state of legal chaos. In these circumstances I venture to say that there is much to be said for validating now and saving the litigants from a long and expensive action from which, even if they were successful, they could derive no practical benefit—


They could.


If it were an action in which personal liberty or property were involved, the objections to legislation would be undoubted, but this case does not raise any personal matters of this sort.


It does.


It raises only a question of broad public policy with which His Majesty's Government in the public interest feel bound to deal without further delay.


My Lords, before the noble Earl concludes, may I ask him whether it is possible for him to give the House, briefly, an outline of this case, to say what it is?


I do not think that the House would expect that from me now. If your Lordships really wish, I will deal with it in my reply, but I do not think that your Lordships will want it at this stage. In conclusion, I want to say that it is only after the fullest consideration that His Majesty's Government have come to the decision they have reached. They have approached this subject in no narrow or carping spirit. They intend, as I have said, to use the new form of government for the good of the Island on progressive and liberal lines. They have no intention of allowing the Crown Colony régime to become stagnant and reactionary. Its performances in the last two years are an earnest of their intention of showing an active spirit in the future. I am sure that all of us must realise that the Maltese people, with their long and honourable history, have ideals and aspirations which we not only respect but which actually appeal to us. I had the pleasure of spending over a year in Malta at the beginning of the War, and I should like to pay a warm tribute to the unswerving loyalty of the Maltese people in those, times; and indeed they have given a further example of their admirable temper during the recent period of tension in the Mediterranean.

The association between Great Britain and Malta has already been a long and, I believe, a happy one. A firm Government must clearly be maintained in the Island—that is essential. Malta is a fortress, and a naval base of immense importance in the scheme of Imperial defence. Recent events in the Mediterranean have made only too clear the necessity for the Imperial authorities to retain control of the administration; but it will be a Government with the minimum of interference with personal liberties—a Government ready and anxious to recognise the special traditions and culture of the Maltese people. May I emphasise in particular that there is no intention whatever to interfere with the religious liberties of the people, or the position of the Roman Catholic religion as the religion of the Island as established by law. It is in such a spirit of good will and co-operation that we want to see this measure accepted, and I hope that it may usher in a new period of progress and prosperity for the Island. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Plymouth.)

LORD STRICKLAND, who had given Notice that on the Motion for the Second Reading he would move, That the Bill be read 2a this day six months, said: My Lords, it would be ungrateful not to recognise that the noble Earl who has just sat down has offered a crumb of comfort to the people of Malta, some of whom—those who represent the pro-British section of the population—would have been satisfied with half a loaf, while others are demanding the whole loaf. The Bill as it stands offers nothing at once, and the tone of the speech of the noble Earl clearly indicates that very little is to be expected in the near future—so little that there is no recognition, apart from a few kind words that have no effect in substance, of Malta in the Imperial scheme under the Crown.

The last remarks of the noble Earl give the key to the position. This is panic legislation, notwithstanding that the apprehension of war has recently passed away. The real question before your Lordships' House is whether there are sufficient grounds to sabotage the Constitution of Malta that was passed by your Lordships' House and this Imperial Parliament so recently as 1932. That Constitution has not had a fair chance. Four years of trial: can that be held seriously to be a fair trial for a Constitution? No, my Lords. However easy it may be to find reasons for sweeping it away, there is no reason to assert that that Constitution has had a fair chance. Just the opposite has occurred. The noble Earl has paid a compliment to the acumen of the Maltese lawyers. That acumen transpires in the structure of this Bill. On the other hand, while the noble Earl, in laying this Bill before your Lordships' House, has done so with the simplicity of a dove, behind it there has been the guile of a serpent. This is, in fact, whitewashing legislation of a nature that has no examples in our legislation since Tudor times, when Acts of Parliament asserted as facts incidents which could not bear investigation and when, afterwards, Bills were passed to say that black was white.

To assert that all Ordinances passed by the late Government are valid is to assume judicial functions. The validity of laws is a matter for our tribunals to deal with. There are now before His Majesty's Privy Council questions from our Colonies as to legislation having been passed ultra vires in other parts of the Empire besides Malta. I ask your Lordships why in the case of Malta is this House invited to usurp the functions of the King's Privy Council—functions which the Privy Council are exercising with regard to other parts of the Empire, and as to which any subject of His Majesty, under the rights granted by Magna Charta, has a right to appeal to the Privy Council, to obtain justice and obtain the opinion as to the law of the Judicial Committee and not of the noble Earl, and even less of the lawyers who have drafted this Bill for him. I will proceed to explain that and your Lordships may have new light thrown upon this subject.

When your Lordships' House undertakes judicial functions it is differently constituted. Counsel are heard at the Bar. The rules of evidence are respected. The efforts made by suitors to obtain justice are dealt with according to custom. All that has been swept away. If this Bill is to have the effect of justifying this usurpation very strong grounds have to be shown for such a step, and the Bill has to be greatly amended. It is admitted as part of the law of England that no dealing with the Prerogative of the King, either to take away from it or to add thereto, is to be assumed by implication. What has been done? The Preamble of the Bill uses the words "and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid "; but as I understand the Common Law of England that is not sufficient indication. I am not questioning the omnipotence of Parliament. I am only suggesting that the draftsman has perpetrated what he was forbidden to draft. Parliament is omnipotent. Parliament cut off the head of Charles I. No doubt Parliament might pass a Bill to say that it never was cut off, but there are limits to what your Lordships should be asked to do. We may remember the axiom, Summum jus sœpe summa injuria est; and we should remember Est modus in rebus; sunt certi denique fines, Quos ultra citraque nequit consistere rectum. New clauses will be necessary if this Bill is likely to obtain the acquiescence of those who are members of the Bar in this House or in another place to the constitution of a special tribunal in this devious, surprising manner.

It is also surprising that such legislation should have been proposed so soon after the arrival of a new Governor, with every hope and expectation that he would have the sympathy and support of all Parties in making a success of his very difficult duty of defending the fortress of Malta. But the Bill has been sprung suddenly, and without any justification for haste, before the new Governor has any possibility of making a report. Why has this been done? To pi-event him from reporting, to nail him down to what has happened before, to tie his hands behind his back in his effort to remedy grievances and departures from the law that are likely in his opinion to be indefensible, and as to which, if he had a free hand to report, he might differ very considerably from his predecessor and from the policy of the Colonial Office, in view of the ability and earnestness with which we are all confident that he will approach his duties. Military reasons for what appears to be hasty panic legislation also obtain in India. There self-government has been granted by an interpretation of a Preamble of an Act, for a vast subcontinent with 215 languages and a very small percentage of educated people. In that Government of India Act there are two whole chapters giving authority to Governors both of the Central Government and the Provinces to suspend representative government. The Government tell us that everything is quite simple, that everything has been done quite legally. It has not been done in two chapters, not even in two whole clauses, but on the interpretation of a few words, which were put into the law, as the clause itself states, to protect self-government from detriment. And the very clause put in for that purpose is now distorted to satisfy the noble Earl. It has satisfied very few, if any, lawyers that I have met, except such as have been feed as special pleaders.

India was a conquered country; not so Malta. The rights of the Maltese cannot, with any knowledge of the circumstances, be dealt with in the airy, sketchy manner that you have heard to-day. The rights of the Maltese to no interruption of representative governernment are unassailable. The proposals of the noble Earl confess to an interruption. There is to be a period of government assisted by a nominated body without any right to popular representation. This is quite unjustifiable. It is a repudiation of solemn covenants and treaties entered into in the name of the King of England at the time of the annexation of the Island. And there is something stronger than covenants and treaties: there is the position established by International Law. The English, the Maltese and the Portuguese were co-belligerents against the French, and, as victorious co-belligerents, they acquired a title of sovereignty over Malta. The part that England has in that title is limited. The King of England was one of several conquerors. The terms of the partition were afterwards settled at the Congress of Vienna and in the Treaty of Paris. The Maltese had rebelled against the French and the rebellion had become a successful revolution. A Government had been established which was representative, and that Government was based on the rehabilitation of representative institutions granted to Malta by a Norman King at the time when Norman Kings governed England. I admit—and I have said so repeatedly—that that form of government was representative without being responsible, and it is open to His Majesty's Government to deny responsible government on strict legal grounds. But it is not open to His Majesty's Government to deny representative institutions for a single day. Such is the policy of His Majesty's Government in this Bill.

What is being done is going to endanger the defence of Malta. The cry that England is not keeping her promises will be universally accepted; it will be accepted by the loyalists because no contradiction can be found against it. It is the truth, if we do not have some form of representative institutions immediately established. The great objection to this Bill is that it challenges the Common Law of England as set out by Lord Mansfield in the Grenada case, Campbell versus Hall. To the Island of Grenada there was made a promise of representative institutions. Before the Constitution was enacted, when it was only promised, the Governor attempted to pass an Ordinance to collect taxes. A merchant of the name of Hall refused to pay. The case came before that great lawyer, the Earl of Mansfield, and his brother Judges, and they formulated and explained the Common Law of England in the sense that once a Constitution had been promised—only promised—there could be no taxation without representation. That is the Common Law of England, and that is what this Bill assails, apart from the Bill's incongruity as being irreconcilable with the principles of International Law, Malta not being a ceded territory, not being an unoccupied territory turned into a Colony, but a sister nation of the great Commonwealth under the Crown of England.

You cannot expect a nation with our history in Malta, an educated people, a loyal people, to put up with this interpretation of the most cherished points of our history. May I ask the noble Earl whether he is aware that the Executive, in the days of the Earl of Mansfield, did not propose a Bill to this House to declare the Grenada Ordinance valid? It was alive to the monstrosity of such an action as a denial of justice under Magna Charta. We in Malta could likewise on a personal claim test the suspension of the Constitution by a misinterpretation of an amendment to a clause put in to protect religious toleration, to protect the Constitution. We have followed the example of Grenada. We had to wait a year before there was a violation of rights that could not be altered except by Act of Parliament. The Governor had the right to keep Parliament shut for a year. We had to wait a year before we could bring the personal matter before the Courts, and we had to take care that that matter dealt with private property, that there could be no claim whatever that it was a subject of general interest affecting all the population. It was hardly a matter of municipal interest. Certain newspaper posters were put up on private property. Some people thought they were not beautiful, that they were ugly, and an aesthetic Ordinance was passed under which regulations were enacted to take them down. They were posters put up on the property of the present editor of the Times of Malta.

That legislation was so outlandish that, pending this appeal before the Privy Council, the Government of Malta itself passed an Ordinance revoking it. They "queered the pitch" of the Privy Council in a most unjustifiable manner, even more unjustifiable than is the present Bill. The noble Earl says that his legal advisers are quite confident that they have the law on their side before the Privy Council. If they are so very confident, why do they not go on with the case? They do not go on with it because they have not the slightest hope of success. I should imagine that nothing would be more in the interests of the Crown, and of those who commit these blunders, than to wipe the floor with the suitors before the Privy Council; but they have fixed the date for this Bill coming into operation so close that it is impossible to get a judgment before that date. Everything has been done to push this case with the utmost rapidity, but even the Solicitor-General has been producing delays. Is that the attitude of legal advisers confident that they are in the right?

But there is more to be said on this point. On the face of the record there are reasons why no English lawyer would want to risk his reputation defending such a case. It has already been before the Judicial Committee on a point of procedure, and the Judicial Committee administered a most severe reprimand to one of the Judges sitting on the appeal because he had written an article about the case before him in a newspaper in which he is one of several unlimited partners. Notwithstanding that his continuing in the case was challenged, he determined to go on sitting, and his colleagues allowed him to go on sitting. That was objected to before the Privy Council. The judgment of the Privy Council was read in Court in Malta before the sentence of the Malta Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal's judgment asserts that the Maltese are entitled to representative institutions by virtue of the Covenants under which Malta was annexed to the Empire, and that judgment reversed that part of the judgment in the first Court which asserted that Malta had been acquired by cession.

The noble Earl on two occasions came to an agreement in this House on behalf of the Government that legal points were not to be discussed until we had obtained a judgment from His Majesty's Privy Council. That will be found on record in the OFFICIAL REPORT on two occasions. Why has the noble Earl departed from that agreement? It is obvious. The reason is that no English lawyer could object to an order for a new trial being obtained from the Privy Council when one of the Judges sitting on the Bench wrote an article on the subject in his newspaper. That is the reason why this Bill is being passed. That is where the guile of the serpent comes in. There is worse still to put before your Lordships. Pending this Bill the Colonial Department has agreed to increase the salaries of the Judges. Yes, my Lords, that has been done. An increase in the salaries of the Judges has been repeatedly denied by the loaders of both Parties in Malta. Your Lordships have had no explanation of this feat of Machiavellian statesmanship. When this; litigation was first started I put it to your Lordships that if the Governor lost the case the next constitutional step would be an Address to the King for his removal. I am surprised that the noble Earl has been a party to increasing the salaries of the Judges pendente lite, when there have been all these imputations and other imputations, and when the Court was attempting to call lawyers to account for contempt of court.

Why deprive servants of the Crown of an opportunity of clearing their character before the Privy Council? Is it because the Colonial Department has supported them "right or wrong" that the Government is reluctant to face a date in December, or some date when there is some hope of obtaining a decision before this Bill comes into force? Where is the hurry, and where is the need of denying justice before the Privy Council? Where is the hurry when no representative Government is being given? No responsible Government has been asked for by the loyalists in Malta. We waited patiently when the Constitution was taken away and we were degraded from the position of quasi-Dominion status to the level of St. Helena. We promised that we would raise no trouble. We raised no trouble. We said that we would follow, constitutionally and loyally, constitutional means. We approached the local Courts in order to get the decision of the Privy Council, not the decision of local tribunals. That liberty has been taken from us, the liberty to which we are entitled by the solemn promises of the King of England when Malta was annexed, and the liberty to which we are entitled by Magna Charta, to which all British subjects are entitled.

We did not expect to have a special tribunal established as is being done to-day behind the scenes and behind the words of this Bill, subject, of course, to discussion in Committee and the consideration of Amendments by which alone this transfer of the Prerogative would be a credit to an Assembly holding any single member of the Bar among its members. The meaning of these promises and compacts has been continuously confirmed, as I have shown your Lordships on previous occasions. A century ago there was a speech by Lord Glenelg, to which I referred in this House last year. Half a century ago, when the Constitution of 1887 was granted, we had sympathetic speeches from the then Lord Derby, the then Earl of Onslow, Reginald Earl De La Warr, and from other noble Lords, all based on the so far uncontradicted meaning of these promises. The Constitution of 1887 was, therefore, granted. The Bill of 1932 was based on those promises. There was a recent confirmation in another place. Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Amery, two outstanding statesmen of this generation, accepted the promises in the same light.

To-day there are a few compliments and a few references to the attachment of the Maltese people to their history, but what does it all mean when you squeeze the sponge? An indefinite period of no representation. There is where the breach of treaty comes in, and I warn your Lordships' House and His Majesty's Government that you are impairing the defence of Malta and depriving the Governor of a legitimate opportunity of making a success of his Administration; you are estranging your friends, and you are giving a weapon to an enemy against which there is no defence except the expression of a hope that the time may come when you may have another Secretary of State. That is not much of a consolation, not much of a defence. In the Constitution of 1887, which is a substantial compromise, you have a way out to-day, or will have one before the Bill reaches a Third Reading in another place. That Constitution had the advantage of giving ultimate power to the Governor. What the noble Earl offers was also in that Constitution—contact through the Executive Council with local opinion. But those Executive Councillors, in the 1887 Constitution, had to be elected, and if public opinion changed and they lost their election others came in their place. That is reasonable.

Those of us who want to strengthen English rule say: "Put an honest interpretation on the promises by which England acquired Malta. Limit them as far as you like. Limit them merely to representative government. Do not claim responsible government and then you will have everybody with you who is worth having, but otherwise you will have only a solemn recrudescence of the inferiority complex which has again been spread over Malta." One Governor after another has worked with loyalists against the inferiority complex. Loyalists see all their life's work gone to protect an unintelligent Administration, an Administration concerning which other words might be used.

I could not sit down open to the challenge of proofs for what I have been saying as to pacts and covenants, as to what is the International Law protecting the rights of the people of Malta. We must not set aside International Law when we are accusing other authorities of breaking covenants and pacts. I have avoided using the word "treaty," because the noble Earl on another occasion said there was no treaty with the Maltese. I use the word "covenants" because we now talk of covenants, of the Geneva Covenants, the Covenant against poison gas, and so on. The whole of this Bill is poison gas. I will quote to your Lordships what Lord Nelson said on October 25, 1798. Nelson blockaded Malta with the aid of the Portuguese, and summoned the French in Valetta to surrender. He said this: The situation is such that the inhabitants are in possession of the whole Islands, except the City of Valetta. The people of the Island are under arms against you. My object is to aid the good people of Malta. This is a declaration of the position of an ally, no more and no less.

After the surrender the promises of the King of England were in the following terms. These terms are carefully copied to fit in with the terms that were extracted from the First Grand Master who was Sovereign of Malta—a recognition of the Constitution granted by the Norman King of Malta, Roger of Sicily, who established a form of government similar to that to-day in the Channel Islands. I have been to the Channel Islands to see how it is administered, and it is administered in accordance with what happened under ancient history in Malta. The promise of the King of England was conveyed by Civil Commissioner Cameron on July 15, 1801. These words were then addressed to "the Maltese Nation ": Charged by His Majesty the King of Great Britain to conduct all the affairs (except the military) of these Islands of Malta and Gozo, with the title of His Majesty's Civil Commissioner, I avail myself, with the highest satisfaction, of this opportunity to assure you of the paternal care and affection of the King towards you; and that His Majesty grants you full protection and the enjoyment of all your dearest rights. He will protect your churches, your holy religion, your persons and your property. The phrases are somewhat oracular, but they are similar to what were used in the Treaty of Quebec.

Before concluding I cannot be silent under the challenge behind the noble Earl's words on the subject of religious toleration. The noble Earl has not seen through the memorandum prepared for him. The Act of 1932 that we are about to sabotage provided safeguards for religious toleration under an Act of the British Parliament. Your Lordships are now invited to sweep away those safeguards under an Imperial Act, and to substitute safeguards that will have nothing more behind them than legislation that can be changed from day to day. Religious toleration is not wanted merely for Roman Catholics or ultra-clericals. Religious toleration under this Act of the British Parliament is extended to every form of belief, including Asiatic religions, Paganism and Atheism. Religious toleration is the bright flame of English rule all over the world. If there is religious intolerance, Governments will be swept away and those who pull the strings will be destroyed with them. I claim that the Roman Catholics educated in England who understand their religion and practise it in the way it is practised in England have a right to be protected in Malta against the religious intolerance of ultra-clericals whose views are not far removed from those of the Spanish Inquisition. That protection will be taken from us by this Bill, and in place of an Act of the British Parliament there will be Orders in Council enacting Letters Patent.

Let this Bill be referred to a Select Committee. Let lawyers who are impartial consider whether this Bill is not a challenge to the jurisdiction of His Majesty's Privy Council. In the Colonies we rely upon His Majesty's Privy Council for justice when, because of local prejudice, it has been denied to us. What will the other Colonies think if this Bill to deny justice and to whitewash the doings of certain officials in Malta is passed? It will mean the destruction of what is most precious in the Empire. I hope that if this Bill is to be read a second time it will not be given a Second Reading in a hurry, and that it will not be read a second time to-day. I think I am entitled by my long experience in Malta and my long service under the Crown in other parts of the Empire to say what will be the effect in Malta of passing this Bill. I have seen through the tricks in Malta even if the noble Earl cannot see through half of them. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out (" now ") and at the end of the Motion insert (" this day six months ").—(Lord Strickland.)


My Lords, my noble friends and my friends in another place have examined this Bill and I am desired to offer our opposition to it on grounds which I shall state very briefly. We consider that after only twelve years trial of the present Constitution it is too soon to pass judgment and to take this very retrograde step of taking away all popular representation in this Island. The noble Earl in his speech in introducing the Bill again paid a tribute to the loyalty of the Maltese people. I notice that on November 1, 1934, the noble Earl, speaking for the Government, said: His Majesty's Government not only believe—they know—that the vast majority of people in Malta are absolutely loyal to the Crown and to the Empire, to whatever Party they belong. After the noble Earl's declarations to-day and in November, 1934, I think we should be given further reasons why this step should be taken.

As for Clause 2, I must express my personal dissatisfaction with the explanation given by the noble Earl. I do not see why your Lordships should not have been given some reference to the case so that we should know what it was about. I knew nothing about it, and I am indebted to the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill for telling us something about it. It seems to me certainly very questionable that when a case is sub judice before His Majesty's Privy Council a Bill should be brought in to deny justice to His Majesty's subjects. When I read Clause 2 I thought it was an ordinary case of indemnity for possible illegal acts, but the noble Earl hag said that the Colonial Office and His Majesty's Government and everyone else concerned—if I understood him aright—are perfectly satisfied that they have committed nothing illegal during the abnormal period. If that is the case, why should there be an indemnity?

If the Government are afraid of discontent or subversive movements or have any, other reason for this extreme step, this backward step, surely the worst way in which to proceed is to abolish the Constitution or to amend it in the direction of Crown Colony government. You give a handle to every agitator and every ill-wisher of the British connection in Malta. We know there is agitation going on, and that there are subversive movements, espionage and so on. You will play right into the hands of these people if you give them this weapon to use against us. For these reasons I have been asked to offer opposition to the Second Reading of the Bill.


My Lords, I cannot claim in the same way as the noble Lord who moved the rejection of this Bill, by lineage or possessions or by work for so many years in and about Malta, the intimate knowledge which he has of that Island, but, as the noble Earl who introduced the Bill was kind enough to mention, I was Chairman of the Royal Commission of 1931. Therefore I had an opportunity of an intensive study during some months of the disputes that were then going on in the Island, and for some months afterwards I was engaged in going through a vast mass of documents in order to produce the Report which was accepted by Parliament and on which many changes were based. I agree that the chief and principal duty of that Commission was to do their best to settle the serious difficulties that had arisen between the Catholic Church and the Government of Malta, and to find a way by which what threatened to be a most dangerous dispute of an Imperial character might be obviated as far as possible. It may be said that in the long run that difficulty has largely, if not entirely, ceased.

With regard to the other parts of the Report we recommended, as the noble Earl said, that a trial should again be given to a Constitution which had many doubtful clauses in it and was extremely obscure and many parts of which gave no powers of interference by the Imperial Parliament without an Act, in many small matters where the parties entered into very violent quarrels. That was the condition of affairs, and there had been breaches of what was then the reserved power of the Crown by the Parliament from time to time. Certainly education, to which the noble Earl alluded, was a reserved matter. Following upon the Report of the Royal Commission changes were made in the education in the primary schools and in the first class of the secondary schools, and at a later date still further changes. Those changes were certainly drastic. Then the Government—not under the noble Lord who spoke in this House—by means of the Minister of Education, backed up by his Government, certainly put every possible spoke in the wheel to prevent the wish of the Parliament here, the Colonial Office here, from being carried out. In consequence, the state of emergency was proclaimed, and it may be said that the Government of the day was stung by the attitude of the Government in Malta. Since that date emergency after emergency has come forward, and I do not think that anyone can seriously say that there has not been emergency during the last months. But at this period, and if it occurred again at any other period, with a big and vital fortress, it would become necessary for supreme power to be put into the hands of the Governor and the naval and military forces, who should not be obstructed by debates in a rather quarrelsome national assembly.

Malta is much attached to Europe; she does not want to be thought to be a "black" country, as it were, or to be connected with Africa, but to adhere to Europe. Of her own free will she came in and joined the British nation more than a century ago and allied herself with what she conceived to be the most powerful nation in the Mediterranean. She had, through the long years of her civilisation, many rulers; some of them left some traces behind, others left practically none. Of those rulers, prior to the junction of the Maltese and the English, there were the Grand Masters of the Knights of Malta, men coming from all nations of Europe with the exception of this country. Sometimes a representative of one nation succeeded the representative of the same nation in a small succession, and then another nation got in. Each of those Grand Masters, according to his national upbringing, would probably endeavour to make some impression upon the more cultured people of Malta. There was a suzerainty, too, of the Sicilian Kings. Being so close to Italy, not knowing anything of England before that, it is not to be wondered at that there is still a considerable affinity among certain classes in Malta towards Italy. When, however, that is magnified too much, and we are dealing with a country with which we have found such difficulty in dealing, it is and, I think, always will be a matter of importance that it should be possible for a state of emergency to be declared in Malta.

This Bill is a short Bill, and what it does is to put back under the power of the British Government the matters that were given up by the Prerogative of the Crown in 1921. It also sweeps away two small clauses of an Act of Parliament, so that the Colonial Office should not have to come to Parliament again to get rid of them. It repeats many things by implication which are already contained in Ordinances of the Governor, Ordinances which are justified by a clause in the Bill. It allows the Crown to legislate in the future and gradually to give back, as the noble Earl said, by degrees a form of government which will be less unwieldy, less impossible to work, and less difficult from many legal points of view, for the benefit of the Island.

I was struck by the tribute paid to the government of Sir David Campbell and to the many improvements which had been made in Malta. I hope those will continue. Apart from this, and the question of whether a representative Government could have been given them or not, there has been great improvement. There is a promise of more improvement, and there is more than a strong indication by the noble Earl that the Government propose—quickly, it may be, if the present emergency ends, or slowly if it continues—to bring in a system in which the Maltese shall be consulted about their own affairs and have some say in the government of their own Island. I personally formed a very high opinion of the ability, the quickness, the loyalty, and the energy in many ways of the Maltese. They have had but a short time during which to learn representative government. It may be said that it was the fault of the few that they threw away their chances, and that they must be educated and ought to have a greater chance in the future. That can come in the future years more gradually than it did in the past, and that the previous failure will be borne in mind is pretty certain. I trust that when changes are made, pressure will not be brought to bear over and over again for more and more improvement, but that instead of that the Maltese will try to work at the Government in their Island and show that they are worthy of doing it.

There are one or two questions I would like to ask the noble Earl. I notice that in the last clause of this Bill there are repealed certain provisions dealing with the Judges and the trade unions.


Hear, hear.


The question of the trade unions would be a matter which would be dealt with if any representative Government were established in the future, but with regard to the Judges, I regard that as a very serious matter. The Maltese, like the law. I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, has not given indications that he also likes it, particularly the Privy Council, which the rest of the Maltese do not like because it is a rather expensive proceeding. The Judges deserved an increase of pay. They were very badly paid. They have, on the whole, proved themselves to be men of great ability, and I think that with the feeling for the law which there is in Malta, it would be a very serious thing if it were thought that the position of the Judges was imperilled by this new form of government. The position of the Judges has been often laid down. It was very much altered by the Royal Commission, and there is an. Ordnance of 1935, I see, which deals with their tenure, their qualifications, their remuneration, their length of office, and how and when they can be turned out. There is also a similar code, not of such a drastic kind, with regard to the magistrates, from whom some of the Judges may be recruited. I should like to ask the noble Earl, particularly in view of what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Sankey, as late as 1932, that there was no intention of interfering with the position of the Judges, whether that would not hold now, or whether His Majesty's Government cannot give out some hint that the Judges need not consider their position at all imperilled, and that the people of Malta should not have a feeling that justice was not being adhered to.

I cannot say that the noble Lord who objected to this Bill has been very mild in his language. I cannot really suggest that he "cooed like a dove," and I do not like to suggest that he is a "serpent," but really on a Bill of this character, to suggest that there was interference with the Prerogative of the Crown, the jurisdiction of the Courts and the integrity of a draftsman; the muzzling of a Governor; a breach of the promise of a Norman King, and a breach of the undertakings given to the Maltese; intentional delays on the part of the Law Officers of the Crown; an improper increase of the salaries of Judges; and an interference with the judgment of Lord Mansfield in Campbell versus Hall, with which this Bill has nothing whatever to do—in vulgar phrase, I would call that "a bit thick." I really think that the exaggeration which has taken place must, in his cooler moments, seem rather absurd to the noble Lord himself. He is very sincere, but he does carry things to a length in his denunciation, which I feel the noble Earl does not deserve, after the speech which he made to this House. I understand that the Government are going by steps, and if the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, could reiterate the idea that there is no notion of excluding the Maltese entirely from having any say in what is the business of their own Island and the business of themselves; that the British Government intend to use the abilities of the Maltese, so that they may be able to have not necessarily a dyarchy but, at any rate, that cohesion between the minds of the two sets of people of which there has been better signs during the last few years, and which is so vital to the happiness and success of Malta—if he could say this I should be glad.


My Lords, I am sure the House is ready to come to a decision, and therefore I do not intend to take up your Lordships' time for more than a few moments, but I notice that in his speech, moving the Second Reading of this Bill, my noble friend used the expression "fortress" as applicable to Malta. That reminds me of the same expression being used by one even greater than my noble friend. I remember an occasion when the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was Secretary of State for the Colonies, and I was present at a conversation in which the subject of Malta turned up. On what particular point it arose I cannot now remember, but I do remember that Mr. Chamberlain said: Remember that Malta is a fortress and must be regarded and treated as such. Those words made a very great impression on me at the time, and I have never forgotten them. Personally I cannot help thinking that if the late Mr. Chamberlain had been a member of the Government when the Constitution of Malta was started, in 1921, it probably would never have been carried out. Anyhow, in the few years of its existence it has twice had to be suspended, and if Mr. Chamberlain in those days was so keen to regard Malta as a fortress, I venture to submit to your Lordships that under present conditions, when the question of Imperial defence becomes of such vast importance, we ought to be very careful and remember his views on that point.

I should only like to add that I do not share the apprehensions of my noble friend beside me on the question of the effect of this Bill on religious toleration in Malta. I am quite prepared, I am sure we all are, to accept my noble friend as an expert on matters connected with Malta, but he will forgive me if I say that when I use the word "expert" I use it in the sense that I believe the late Lord Salisbury used it—namely, that an expert was a good witness but a very bad judge.


My Lords, before I came down to this House I had some doubt as to whether I really approved of the passing of this Bill, but, having listened to the speech of the noble Earl who introduced it, I thought he gave such satisfactory assurances as to the intentions of the Government as regards the Maltese Constitution that I am rather surprised at the attitude taken by the noble Lord, Lord Strickland. The noble Lord's chief objection was the possibility that the Maltese should be deprived of representative government, but the noble Earl gave full assurances that representative government was given to the people of Malta. Lord Strickland asked what would the attitude of the people of Malta be in time of war if this Bill were passed. I quite agree that everything has been done to give confidence in our rule, though Italian propaganda, ever since the famous speech of Signor Mussolini in which he talked about nostra Malta, has been intense in Malta, and also in Egypt. It is desirable that there should be no doubt in the minds of the people of Malta that, without due consideration, they will not be deprived of their rights to conduct their own affairs, and therefore I heard with satisfaction the speech made by the noble Earl. Malta is in a very peculiar position. As the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan, said, it is a fortress, and has been regarded as a fortress. At the same time the Maltese have their own national feeling, their intense belief in their own history, and in the charm of their Island. Therefore everything must be done to give them satisfaction, consistently with the fact that Malta is a fortress. Having listened to the debate, I am quite convinced of the desirability of supporting this measure.


My Lords, this Bill interests me both as a Colonial and as a lawyer. I am particularly happy to see that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has returned to the House, and I hope he will correct me if I am wrong in saying that it is entirely contrary to practice, precedent, and the laws of natural justice for the Legislature to intervene in matters which are sub judice. That, to my mind at any rate, is the kernel of this case, and your Lordships may or may not have noticed that when the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, dwelt on that aspect of this Bill he skated as quickly as he could over what he, no doubt very wisely and very rightly, regarded as particularly thin ice. If this Bill becomes law, Malta, I suggest, will be a country whose liberty will be a thing by stealth, its trade a thing by permission, and whose only hope of freedom will lie in the chance that some future British Government may have a higher conception of stewardship than that evinced by the present Government.

As I walked across the Park this afternoon, people were lolling in the sunshine, enjoying not only the sun but liberty. If this Bill becomes law, you will take away the liberty of the Maltese, and in my submission you will add insult to injury. I do not think I should be revealing any State secret if I reminded your Lordships that the maladministration of Maltese affairs during the last two or three years has become quite notorious, and this Bill was described by the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, as a whitewashing measure. That of course it is, nothing more nor less. Lord Strickland has been taken to task by one noble Lord for his language. I would rather compliment him on his restraint, and in that connection I would remind your Lordships that Lord Strickland is a man who has been Governor of the Leeward Islands, Governor of Western Australia, Governor of Tasmania, and Governor of New South Wales. In addition to that he is a constitutional lawyer of no mean repute, and I imagine it would be common ground that he has forgotten more about Malta than anyone in the Colonial Office is ever likely to know. That being the case, I think we may assume from his years that he has got tired of fighting for fighting's sake, and that he has come here to-day to oppose this Bill in all sincerity and because he recognises it for what it is, a piece of gross injustice. It must be a sad and bitter day to come here in this Parliament, whose long history has been nothing but a struggle for liberty, and listen to us debating whether we are going to deprive the Maltese of their liberty.

I am very gratified to see here this evening the noble Viscount who was at all material times Secretary of State for the Colonies, and upon whose shoulders rests the primary responsibility for the trouble which has occurred in Malta of recent years. He has this evening the opportunity, of which I trust he will avail himself, of lifting at least a corner of the veil of mystery which has enshrouded Maltese affairs for some time. I hope that in doing so he will also explain to your Lordships why it is that he was engaged in suspending the Constitutions of those Colonies he administered, whilst almost in the same breath urging Parliament to grant a new-and quite unnecessary Constitution to a territory administered by a colleague. This is rather a serious matter we are debating this afternoon, which may have repercussions all over the Empire. It hardly seems to me to be a fit subject for playing the game of follow-my-leader in the Government Lobby. I speak from the Cross Benches, and it matters little to me whether the Government succeed or fail in most cases; but I think in this particular case it would be very unfortunate if this Bill were given a Second Beading after what we have heard about it from the noble Lord who moved its rejection this afternoon.

LORD STRICKLAND My Lords, I will not long detain your Lordships in exercising the privilege of replying. My remarks will be restricted to salient points. In the first place the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan, said that Mr. Chamberlain would not have approved of the Constitution of 1921. I agree that Mr. Chamberlain would not have approved of full responsible government for Malta, if it had then been known that a Lateran Treaty would have followed and that under the Lateran Treaty it might be possible for the Bishops of Malta to be scheduled with the Bishops of Italy. The remarks of Lord Askwith were out of place when he said that this Bill restores to the Crown powers to pass Letters Patent that were previously taken away from the Crown. The Crown never had power to pass Letters Patent for depriving the Maltese of representative institutions even for a day. We have appealed to the Privy Council and we have the judgment of Lord Mansfield establishing what we submit is the Common Law of England. Perhaps the noble Lord has forgotten, or has never heard of, the accepted comments on the case of Campbell versus Hall, but he must know what is an accepted point of Common Law—namely, that once representative institutions are granted there can be no taxation without representation even in a conquered country, unless an Act of Parliament is passed for the purpose.


What Campbell versus Hall did was this. It said that the Crown could not take back by Prerogative legislation such powers of the Crown's Prerogative as the Crown had already parted with. It did not say that they could not be resumed by Act of Parliament.


That case laid down exactly what I submitted to your Lordships it does say in explaining the present question before the Privy Council. Another consequence which would follow from the views of the noble Lord who has just sat down is that the clause in the Bill which he commented on is a clause that gives the Crown the right to repudiate solemn treaties with the Maltese that have been acknowledged and confirmed for more than a century. That is in fact what this Bill does. On the part of the Government there could be no contradiction, and there has been no contradiction to-day, of the fact that Malta was acquired from the French by the Maltese and the English as victorious co-belligerents, and therefore the Maltese have a right to the representative institutions which they had set up when they had conquered Malta from the French. The Maltese have the right accruing from the confirmation of the privilege of representation which they had confirmed to them from the time of the Norman rule over Malta. It is a very serious responsibility to set these claims aside by assuming the attitude of not having read about them or of not remembering them.

The noble Lord, Lord Askwith, expressed himself very satisfied with the conciliatory manner in which, in the Report of his Commission, he had dealt with everything when dealing with Maltese affairs. That Report is nevertheless altogether too conciliatory and not always accurate. All the mischief in Malta has come from excessive anxiety to please. There is such a thing as pushing tact to the point where it is the reverse of courageous or wise. As an instance, the Askwith Report went so far as to gloss over facts to the extent that it depicts a convicted criminal who attempted a political assassination as a person of doubtful responsibility and a suitable subject for a charitable institution, as if he were not responsible. He was not in such an institution, he was in prison. Miller was tried before a Maltese jury and condemned to 14 years of imprisonment, and the first remark Sir David Campbell made on reading the Report of the Royal Commission was that, contrary to what was there said, he had seen this person in prison and could not understand much that was in the Report. I congratulate Lord Askwith on having pointed out that this Bill revokes four clauses which contain recommendations and concessions which the Askwith Report gave to the Maltese. From the evidence before the Commission it was decided to redress certain grievances. These four clauses redress four grievances that were remedied by the adoption in the Act of 1932 of the Report of the Commission. These remedies were embodied in the Bill of 1932. These remedies are to be abolished by the new Bill if I have rightly understood Lord Askwith. I may also note that the Bill passed on Lord Askwith's Report contained schedules showing the Ordinances to be retained and detailing the Ordinances not to be declared legally enacted. This Bill is ambiguous and contains nothing in the way of schedules.

The question still is what will be the effect of this Bill on the mentality of the people of Malta. If the language I have used, which has been very carefully chosen to be moderate as well as accurate, has surprised the noble Lord, he will be much more surprised if he hears what has already been said in Malta in anticipation of measures suspending Parliamentary institutions even for a day. What will be said afterwards will be much stronger. The use of this clear and precise language is not for any other purpose than to be helpful and to warn the Government what to expect in Malta. There is no reason for exaggeration. There is agreement that responsible government is at present inadvisable in Malta; but I do not agree that a Bill of this description, which does not respect and acknowledge the treaty rights and covenanted rights and the royal promises made to the Maltese, is one that should become law. I must remind the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, that according to the Letters Patent an emergency must arise and continue in Malta. International affairs to which he has referred do not arise in Malta. I beg leave to assure your Lordships' House that in time of war, if Malta is to be defended successfully, there should be an attempt to put in force the security clauses which form part of the Milner-Amery Constitution of 1921. These have never been tried out in an emergency and I doubt whether they were studied or understood by those responsible for suspending the Constitution in 1933. To govern Malta in time of war without suitable enlightened and sympathetic contact with the civil population is following the bad example of the great Napoleon, who ignored Maltese rights, with the consequence that he lost Malta.


My Lords, I shall attempt very briefly to deal with some of the points that have been raised during the course of the debate. The noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill began by saying that in my speech there was no recognition of Malta in the Imperial scheme, and he went on to say that I had paid a lukewarm tribute to the inhabitants of the Island. I paid—I certainly meant to pay—a whole-hearted tribute to the people of Malta, but the fact of the matter is that the noble Lord always twists what I say-to mean something which I never intended at all. The noble Lord is the politician par excellence. I listened very carefully to both his speeches, and I am still left in complete doubt as to what he thinks would be the proper course for the Government to take in the circumstances which obtain in Malta.

The argument which he has been putting forward is that there appears to be some definite obligation on the part of the United Kingdom to maintain representative institutions in Malta, though not responsible institutions. I have read all the documents that I can find with regard to this particular point, and nothing I have read and nothing I have heard this afternoon has led me to change my opinion on this matter that there is nowhere an intrinsic obligation on the Government of this country permanently to maintain representative institutions in Malta. I have made the Government's view perfectly clear on this subject. A number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Askwith, have shown some uneasiness on the point, but I have explained that in view of present circumstances the intention of the Government was to establish a Crown Colony Government with an Executive Council, an advisory body comprising, amongst others, nominated unofficial members. I also went on to say quite plainly that it was not the intention of the Government to withhold permanently representative institutions from the-Maltese people. On the other hand, they felt they were quite entitled to look forward to the re-establishment of representative government, though not responsible government, in the course of time. I hope that that reassurance, will satisfy some of the noble Lords who sit behind me.

The noble Lord, Lord Askwith, dealt so faithfully with some of Lord Strickland's remarks—remarks which were really grotesque in their character, containing suggestions with regard to the Judges' salaries and attempts to prevent the new Governor from expressing his views about the situation—that I feel I really need say nothing more about them. But a question was raised, not only by the noble Lord who sits behind me (Lord Strickland) but also by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who sits opposite, in connection with the second clause of this Bill, that which we term the validity clause. I have been asked why, if we are satisfied with everything the Government have done, we have not left the position as it is. The point is this, that the position has been questioned. I have explained what kind of a situation would arise in the event of an appeal to the Privy Council succeeding on a matter of this kind. I have explained that the position in Malta from the legal point of view would become absolutely chaotic, and it seems to me that it is not only reasonable but sensible, when dealing generally with the Constitution of Malta, to take the opportunity of removing any doubts which may exist. I can assure the noble Lord that there is no desire, to interfere with any matters of personal property or anything of that kind but if any injustices have occurred, the Government, I feel certain, will be prepared to consider the matter from a sympathetic point of view when this Bill has become law.

I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer, but there is one matter to which I feel I must refer, and that is the matter raised by my noble friend Lord Askwith with regard to the position of the Judges in the future when this Bill is passed. The position is slightly complicated, but I will not take more than a minute or two in explaining it. Section 3 of the Bill when enacted will repeal, as my noble friend said, Sections 1 to 4 of the Malta Constitution Act, 1932. Among those sections which are to be repealed is a section which deals with matters of great importance to the Judiciary—that is, the qualifications for appointment to the Bench of the Superior Courts, remuneration, tenure of office, and so on. I want to explain that when this section of the 1932 Act is repealed, the provisions which it contains will still remain law as, in accordance with Section 6 of that Act, they have been passed into the Malta Constitution Letters Patent, and that reference to that document will show that they are embodied in Section 55 of it.


Will you allow me to interrupt? That does not mean that they are not repealed.


I am advised it does mean that they are not repealed. They are still the law. That is as I am at present informed. It is essential, in the view of His Majesty's Government, to repeal the provision in the 1932 Act because the whole purpose of the proposed Bill is to put the Crown back into a position where it possesses a full and unrestricted Prerogative right to legislate for Malta. It is true that when the proposed Bill is passed the Crown will have perfect liberty to vary by Letters Patent the conditions regarding the appointment and tenure of Judges which are now laid clown by Act of Parliament. We quite appreciate this position, and the Government might very well accept Lord Askwith's argument on this matter. I, therefore, can say this, that while His Majesty's Government naturally cannot bind any future Government, they, for their part, have no intention of taking any action which would derogate from the position of the Judges as established by the provisions of the 1932 Act, or in any way to vary the qualifications for appointment there laid down. I can, accordingly, give Lord Askwith an assurance that similar provisions to those contained in Section 55 of the existing Letters Patent regarding these matters will be re-embodied in the new Letters Patent which will be issued when the Bill becomes Law. I have every hope that that will satisfy my noble friend, and I think your Lordships will now be prepared to give a Second Reading to this Bill.

On Question, Amendment disagreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.