HL Deb 04 February 1964 vol 255 cc6-7

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the prerogative of mercy in Southern Rhodesia rests solely with the Governor acting on the advice of his Council: or if it may rest with the Governor alone or acting on the advice of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom.]


My Lords, under the Southern Rhodesia (Constitution) Order in Council, 1961, the Governor may in Her Majesty's name and on Her Majesty's behalf exercise the prerogative of mercy. When deciding whether to do so he is bound, under the Constitution, to act in accordance with the advice of the Governor's Council, which consists of the Prime Minister and Ministers of Southern Rhodesia. The exercise of the prerogative, therefore, does not rest with the Governor alone, nor is he required to act on the advice of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his full Answer. May I further ask him if it is a fact that Section 49 of the Southern Rhodesia Constitution, which I believe deals with the prerogative of mercy, is one of those sections which can be amended by Parliament in this country without reference to the Government of Southern Rhodesia?


Article 111 of the Constitution reads as follows: Full power and authority is hereby reserved to Her Majesty by Order-in-Council to amend, add to or revoke the provisions of Sections"— and one of the sections is Section 49— and any Order-in-Council made by virue of this section may vary or revoke any previous Order so made".


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor whether, apart from any particular provisions with regard to the Constitution in Southern Rhodesia, it has not been the consistent practice of all Secretaries of State for the Colonies to regard and hold the Governor of the Colony entirely and personally responsible, as the representative of the Sovereign, for exercising the prerogative of mercy, without reference either to the Secretary of State or to any Council?


My Lords, I do not think I could give a very full answer to that question without a considerable amount of research. I am aware of one case, in 1947 I think it was, when, under the grant of power to a Governor to exercise the prerogative by Letters Patent, the view was expressed that there was a residual power left in this country. I know views upon that differ, and I myself cannot speak as to what has been the practice of successive Secretaries of State on this matter.