1906. NEW ZEALAND.
THE FUTURE ORGANIZATION OF COLONIAL CONFERENCES IN LONDON (CORRESPONDENCE RELATING TO).
Presented to both Houses of the General Assembly by Command of His Excellency.
(New Zealand.—General.) My Lord, — Downing Street, 7th December, 1905. I had the honour to telegraph to you on the 29th ultimo requeeting you to suggest to your Ministers that it might be desirable, in view of all the circumstances of the case, to postpone the meeting of the next Colonial Conference until the year 1907, and that any further discussion of the proposals contained in my despatch of the 20th of April last relating to the organization of future Colonial Conferences had better be deferred until the next Conference meets. (2.) I have now to enclose for the information of your Government copies of a paper (Cd, 2785) in which the recent correspondence on the subject, beginning with my despatch of the 20th of April last and ending with my telegram of the 29th ultimo, has been presented to both Houses of Parliament. I have, &c, ALFEED LYTTELTON. Governor, The Right Honourable Lord Plunket, K.C.M.G., X.C.V.0., &c. Enclosure. COLONIAL CONFERENCE.—CORRESPONDENCE RELATING TO THE FUTURE ORGANIZATION OF COLONIAL CONFERENCES. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command if His Majesty, November, 1905
Table of Contents.
Serial No. From or to whom. I Colony, &c. Date. Subject. I To the Governors of the self-governing colonies] Circular 1905. April 20 Recites the history of previous Conferences ; suggests that the Conferences should in future be styled meetings of the Imperial Council, and that a permanent Commission should be formed to which the details of questions discussed by the Imperial Council could be referred. Encloses copy of a minute from Ministers expressing entire accordance with the principle and details of the scheme and offering suggestions. Reports that Sir W. Laurier desires to be allowed to close the Parliamentary session before replying to No. 1 Reports that his Ministers favour the establishment of an Imperial Council and of the proposed permanent Commission, 2 Governor Sir W. P. HelyHutchinson Cape Colony Telegram June 16 (Reo. July 8). 3 Governor - Gensral Earl Grey (Rec. July 8) 1 Governor Sir H. E. McCallum Natal June 20 (Rec. July 15)
Table of Contents — continued.
No. 1. Mr. Lyttelton to the Governors op the Self-governing Colonies. (Circular.) Mt Lobd, Downing Street, 20th April, 1905. I have the honour to invite your attention to the following observations, and to request that, after conferring with your Ministers, you will furnish me with the views of your Government on the subject to which they relate: — 1 The Colonial Conference which met in the spring of 1887 was summoned by despatch trom Mr Edward Stanhope, Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated the 25th November, 1886. The subjects suggested in that despatch were defence and postal and telegraphic communications. But the Conference when it met also discussed other questions, such, for instance, as those relative to the Pacific islands, the adoption by the colonies of similar legislation to that proposed in the United Kingdom with regard to merchandise marks and patents, the effect of foreign bounties upon colonial su"-ar-production, and questions as to bankruptcy, wills, and the investment of trust funds m colonial securities. Many of the subjects were raised, without notice, at the last moment. 2 In the case of this Conference, the colonies were not specially invited to send their Prime Ministers It was said in the despatch of the 25th November, 1886, " The Conference will necessarily be purely consultative, and it will not, therefore, be material that the colonies should have equal or proportional representation upon it. The desire of Her Majesty's Government would rather be that its constitution should be sufficiently comprehensive to include, in addition to the Agent-General or other specially deputed representative of each Government, any leading public man who may be at liberty to come to England next year and may be specially qualified to take a useful part in the deliberations." _ ~■,.. • ,■, .. 3 The representatives of the colonies who attended this Conference did, in fact, include three Prime Ministers of self-governing colonies, but were for the most part, as was suggested in the above-mentioned despatch, leading public men who happened to be in London in connection with
Serial No. From or to whom. Colony, &c. Date. Subject. To Governor-General Earl Grey Governor - General Lord Northcote Governor Sir W. MacGregor Canada, Telegram Australia, Telegram Newfoundland 1905. July 18 Agrees to postponement of reply. 5 (i 7 (Rec. Aug. 17) July 28 18) Summarises reply of Ministers which is being sent by mail. Encloses copy of a letter from the Prime Minister pointing out that Newfoundland could neither give trade preferences nor contribute to Imperial defence, and expressing doubt whether the time has arrived for the establishment of an Imperial Council. Reports that New Zealand will be represented at the Colonial Conference if it is held early in the Governor Lord Plunket New Zealand, Telegram (Rec. Aug'. 24) 8 9 10 11 To Governor Lord Plunket Governor - General Lord Northcote To Governor Sir William MacGregor To Governor Lord Plunket New Zealand, Telegram Australia Newfoundland. New Zealand, Telegram New Zealand, Telegram Canada August 31 August 16 (Rec. Sept. 19) October 16 October 17 year. Inquires whether an answer to No. 1 may be expected before the Conference; if so, asks that it may be sent as soon as possible. Transmits copy of a letter from the Prime Minister concurring in the proposed formation of an Imperial Council and permanent Commission, but pointing out that if the Conference is not to assemble until June, 1906, it will be almost impossible for Ministers to attend. Points out that it was not intended that the Imperial Council should possess any executive or legislative powers, and expresses hope that the Colonial Government will agree to the appointment of the permanent Commission pending a decision as to a change in the name of the Conference. Inquires when an answsr to No. 9 may be expected. Reports that Ministers regret they cannot send a reply till the elections are over. Forwards, copy of minute from Ministers suggesting " Imperial Conference " as an alternative name for the Conference, and promising full consideration to the proposal to appoint a permanent Commission. Observes that it appears to His Majesty's Government to be doubtful whether sufficient preparation of the subjects to be discussed could be made before the spring of 1906, and requests to be informed whether, in the opinion of the respective Governments, it would be advisable to postpone'the meeting of the Conference until 1907. 12 13 Governor Lord Plunket (Rec. Nov. 14) 14 Governor - General Earl Grey November 17 (Rec. Nov. 27) To 'Governors of self-go-verning colonies Telegram November 29 15
the Jubilee celebrations, together with the Agents-General and many Governors and other officials of the Crown Colonies. i. No definite arrangement was made at this Conference for the holding of further meetings, but at the close of the proceedings Sir Henry Holland (afterwards Lord Knutsford), then Secretary of State for the Colonies, said that he " looked forward hopefully to future Conferences." 5. The second Colonial Conference, which met in the year 1897, was convened in the following manner : In his despatch of the 28th January, 1897, conveying to the Premiers of the self-govern-ing colonies the invitation to be present at, and take part in, the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of Her late Majesty's accession, Mr. Chamberlain expressed the "hope of Her Majesty's Government that their presence here might afford a valuable opportunity for the informal discussion of many subjects of great interest to the Empire." Accordingly, on the 24th June, 1897, the Prime Ministers of Canada, New South Wales, Victoria, New Zealand, Queensland, Cape Colony, South Australia, Newfoundland, Tasmania, Western Australia, and Natal assembled at the Colonial Office for the discussion of certain Imperial questions with the Secretary of State for the Colonies. 6. The questions to be discussed were proposed by Mr. Chamberlain in his speech at the opening of the Conference, and included political relations, defence, commercial relations, and matters connected with ocean cables, the establishment of an Imperial penny post, and alien immigration laws. It is worthy of observation that in connection with the subject of commercial relations Mr. Chamberlain referred to a suggestion which had been made at a meeting of the Australian Prime Ministers at Hobart that a Commission should be appointed to inquire into the feasibility of closer commercial arrangements within the Empire, in favour of which a resolution had been passed at that meeting. Mr. Chamberlain stated that if it were the wish of the other self-governing colonies to join in such an inquiry Her Majesty's Government would be glad to take part in it, and to make arrangements for the purpose. 7. On the question of the political relations between the United Kingdom and the self-govern-ing colonies the following resolutions were carried: — " (1.) The Prime Ministers here assembled are of opinion that the present political relations between the United Kingdom and the self-governing colonies are generally satisfactory under the existing condition of things." Mr. Seddon and Sir E. N. C. Braddon dissented from this resolution, thinking that some step in advance might be taken. " (2.) They are also of opinion that it is desirable, whenever and wherever practicable, to group together under a federal union those colonies which are geographically united." " (3.) Meanwhile the Premiers are of opinion that it would be desirable to hold periodical Conferences of representatives of the colonies and Great Britain for the discussion of matters of common interest." The second and third resolutions were carried unanimously. 8. The third Colonial Conference took place in the year 1902. In a telegram on the 23rd January of that year Mr. Chamberlain intimated the desire of His Majesty's Government to take advantage of the presence in London of the Prime Ministers of the various self-governing colonies in connection with His Majesty's coronation to discuss with them various important questions of public interest. The subjects intimated in that telegram were political and commercial relations of the Empire and its naval and military defence. The various Governments were also invited to furnish a statement of any subjects which they thought might be usefully discussed, and, with a view to facilitate and give a definite direction to the discussion, they were asked to furnish the text of any resolutions which they might desire to submit to the Conference. 9. In addition to the Prime Ministers of the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand, Cape Colony, Natal, and Newfoundland, the Conference was assisted by the Minister of Defence for the Commonwealth of Australia and by the Canadian Ministers of Customs, of Militia and Defence, of Finance, and the Canadian Postmaster-General. The Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the President of the Board of Trade were also present at the discussion of the questions affecting their special Departments. 10. Important resolutions were passed at this Conference with regard to the proposal to establish a system of reciprocal preferential treatment of products and manufactures within the Empire in respect of Customs duties, and as to other matters. The resolution to which it is desired at present to call attention is the following : — " That it would be to the advantage of the Empire if Conferences were held, as far as practicable, at intervals not exceeding four years, at which questions of common interest affecting the relation to the Mother-country and His Majesty's dominions over the seas could be discussed and considered as between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Prime Ministers of the selfgoverning colonies. The Secretary of State for the Colonies is requested to arrange for such Conferences after communication with the Prime Ministers of the respective colonies. In case of any emergency arising upon which a special Conference may have been deemed necessary, the next ordinary Conference to be held not sooner than three years thereafter." 11. It will be observed that these Conferences have, step by step, assumed a more definite shape and acquired a more continuous status. Their constitution has lost the vagueness which characterized the assembly of 1887. The Conferences now consist of the Prime Ministers of the self-governing colonies, together with the Secretary of State for the Colonies, assisted, when the subjects of the discussion make this advantageous, by other high officials of the United Kingdom and the colonies. 12. Again, the first three Conferences met in connection with the presence of the colonial representatives in London incidental to important Imperial celebrations. But by the resolution passed at the last Conference, and already quoted, future meetings will be at prescribed intervals, and will be
soleh' for the transaction of business. It may therefore be said that an Imperial Council for the discussion of matters which concern alike the United Kingdom and the self-governing colonies has grown into existence by a natural process. In the opinion of His Majesty's Government it might be well to discard the title of " Colonial Conferences," which imperfectly expresses the facts, and to speak of these meetings in future as meetings of the " Imperial Council." They desire, without pressing , it, to make this suggestion for the consideration of the colonial Governments. 13. The Secretary of State for the Colonies would represent His Majesty's Government. India, whenever her interests required it, would also be represented. The other members of the Council would be the Prime Ministers of the colonies represented at the Conference of 1902, or, if any Prime Ministers should be unable to attend, representatives appointed for that purpose by their Governments. The permanent body of the Imperial Council would be thus formed, but, as in 1902, their consultations could be assisted, when necessary for special purposes, by other Ministers belonging either to the Imperial or to the colonial Governments. 14. Upon these points His Majesty's Government would be glad to have the opinion of the colonial Governments. It would probably be desirable that the future composition of the Imperial Council should be one of the subjects for discussion at the approaching ordinary Conference to be held in the summer of 1906. 15. His Majesty's Government doubt whether it would be wise or necessary to give by any instrument to this Council a more formal character, to define more closely its constitution, or to attempt to delimit its functions. The history of Anglo-Saxon institutions, such as Parliament or (he Cabinet system, seems to show that an institution may often be wisely left to develop in accordance with circumstances and, as it were, of its own accord, and that it is well not to sacrifice elasticity of power of adaptation to premature definiteness of form. There is every reason for confidence that the meetings of the Imperial Council (if this name prove to be acceptable to the colonial Governments) will promote unity both in sentiment and action of the States which, together with the Crown colonies and dependencies, constitute the British Empire, and it may be said, without exaggeration, that upon this unity the peace and the welfare of a large part of the world depend. 16. His Majesty's Government now desire to make a suggestion to which they attach considerable importance, for the consideration of the colonial Governments. 17. It is obvious that the Prime Ministers of the colonies, when they come to London for these meetings, cannot remain there for long, on account of their important duties at home. It is therefore desirable that subjects which they may agree to discuss should be as much as possible prepared beforehand by a body on which they would be represented, and should be presented to them in as concise and clear a form and with as much material for forming a judgment as possible. In questions of defence this work is already done by the Imperial Defence Committee, on which also His Majesty's Government desire to obtain from time to time the presence of colonial representatives. The present proposal relates, therefore, not to defence questions, but to those of a civil character. 18. Again, it would be useful that there should be such a body in permanent existence to which the Imperial Council at their meetings could refer questions for subsequent examination and report. A reference of this kind might, for instance, have been made to such a body, if it had existed, b}' the Colonial Conference of 1897 with regard to the questions mentioned above (paragraph 6). 19. Or, to take more recent instances, resolutions were passed at the Colonial Conference of 1902 with regard to the state of the laws affecting shipping, to the position of the mail-services between different parts of the Empire, and to questions of freight charges and the securing of suitable steamers for Imperial service in time of war. Resolutions were also passed in favour of the adoption of some system for the protection of patents in the various parts of the Empire, of the adoption of the metric system of weights and measures for use within the Empire, and of a cheaper postage within the Empire. 20. In most of the cases the very form of the resolution indicated the need for subsequent inquiry into facts, and into the best practical means of carrying into effect the principles expressed, and obviously the Colonial Conference itself had neither the time nor the means to make such inquiry. Whether it should be made and how it should be made was, in fact, left to the discretion of each Government. 21. His Majesty's Government desire to express their opinion that it would have greatly conduced to acceleration of business and to the utility of the work done by the Conference if there had then been in existence a permanent Commission, representing all the States concerned, to which in each case the Conference could have directly referred the task of examining facts and reporting as to the best way of carrying out the principles laid down. 22. In addition to those already mentioned, other questions will readily occur in which it is desirable to harmonize, so far as possible, the legislation of the United Kingdom and the colonies. Sometimes in matters of joint concern an attempt has been made to arrange an ad hoc Conference containing representatives of the several States interested. But this is found in practice to be difficult to effect, and there has to be much correspondence and loss of time before such a Committee can be brought together. 23. Both in the United Kingdom and in the colonies, when questions arise in regard to which Governments and Parliaments require more light and knowledge before taking action, it is usual to appoint Royal Commissions or departmental committees to inquire into the subject and to. suggest solutions. His Majesty's Government desire to submit for consideration the proposal that His Majesty should be advised to appoint a Commission of a more permanent kind to discharge the same functions in regard to questions of joint concern. The Commission would only act upon references made either by the Imperial Council at their meetings or at any time by His Majesty's Government together with one or more of the colonial Governments. Its functions would be of a
purely consultative and advisory character, and would not supersede but supplement those of the Colonial Office. The Commission might be constituted at first for a term of years, and then, if it were found to be useful and successful, it could be renewed. The Commission would, it is proposed, consist of a permanent nucleus of members nominated, in a certain proportion, by His Majesty's Government and the colonial Governments, but there should be power to the Commission to obtain the appointment of additional members, when necessary, for the purpose of making special inquiries. The persons appointed by the several Governments to be permanent members of the Commission would no doubt be men of business or of official experience, and their remuneration would rest with the Governments which they respectively represented. 24. The Commission would have an office in London, as the most convenient centre, and an adequate secretarial staff, the cost of which His Majestj"'s Government would be willing to defray. It would probably be convenient that the Secretary of the Commission should also act as Secretary to the Imperial Council when it met. He would be responsible for keeping all records both of tin . Council and the Commission. 25. If His Majesty's Government find that there is sufficient primd facie agreement on the part of the colonial Governments, they will cause a more definite scheme for the constitution of the Commission to be prepared and forwarded to the colonial Governments for their observations. 26. A despatch in identical terms has been sent to I have, &c, Alfred Lyttelton. No. 2.—Cape Colony. Governor Sir W. F, Hely-Hctohinson to Mr. Lyttelton. (Received Bth July, 1905.) Sin, — Government House, Cape Town, 16th June, 1905. I duly forwarded to Ministers your despatch of the 20th April, containing a series of suggestions in connection with the approaching Colonial Conference, with a minute, of which a copy is enclosed. I have now received a minute from Ministers, a copy of which I forward herewith, stating tKat they are in entire accord with the principle and in regard to the details of the scheme, so far as they are set forth in your despatch, for the establishment of an Imperial Council aided by a Permanent Commission of Inquiry ; and making suggestions in connection with the future discussion of the subject. I have, &c., Walter Hely-Hutchinson. Enclosure 1 in No. 2. Governor to Ministers. (Minute.) Government House, Cape Town, 11th May, 1905. The Governor transmits to Ministers a despatch, which he has received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, making a series of important suggestions in connection with the approaching Colonial Conference which is to be held in the summer of 1906. A despatch identical in terms has been sent to the Governors-General of Australia and the Dominion of Canada, and to the Governors of New Zealand, Natal, and Newfoundland. The Governor would be glad to receive from Ministers any observations they may desire to make on the suggestions made in the despatch. I have, he, Walter Hely-Hutchinson, Governor. Enclosure 2 in No. '2. Ministers to Governor. (Minute. No. 1/324.) Prime Minister's Office, Cape Town, 15th June, 1905. Ministers have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of His Excellency the Governor's minute of the 11 tli May last, transmitting, for their information and observations, a despatch received from the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies containing a most interesting review of past events leading up to certain proposals of the very greatest importance to the future governance of the Empire. 2. With the principle, and in regard to the details of the scheme so far as they are set forth, providing for the establishment of an "Imperial Council" aided by a permanent "Commission of Inquiry," Ministers are in entire accord. 3. Undoubtedly the creation of some recognised body having a continuous status, and before whom matters of commercial and political concern affecting alike the United Kingdom and selfgoverning colonies of the Empire could be debated, is of the very highest importance, and that the meetings of such a body should be at regular and stated intervals and not subject to the variations and uncertainty of historical celebrations is equally desirable. 4. As to the definition of the functions of the proposed " Imperial Council," Ministers quite acknowledge the inexpediency of any premature attempts at experimental and artificial delimitation, but it will, no doubt, become necessary at the first meeting of such a Council to discuss this and other important points which sire difficult to deal with by despatch-writing when so many Governments are concerned. 5. In regard to the question of defining the constitution of the Council, Ministers certainly think this cannot be undertaken under existing conditions. Consideration must be given, among
other things, to the remarkable dissimilarity prevailing in the several self-governing colonies of the Empire both in respect of the number and character of their people, and of their geographical inequalities, which render it impossible to propose any fair representation proportional to the lelative degree of importance and interest of each colony. Therefore, recognising the difficulties in the way of making any line adjustments in respect of elective representation, Ministers are forced to the conclusion that the introduction of any such proposal at present might lead to unfortunate differences, which would prejudicially affect the success of the scheme. 6. So long as the functions of the Council remain deliberative this postponement is possible, and Ministers trust that this may continue so until the arrival of that happy condition when the various South African colonies are possessed of full self-government, and bound together with ties resembling those of the Australian Confederacy and the great Canadian Dominion. 7. The aim of the Empire in establishing such an organization is to have a common Council to guide the nation in its thoughts and legislation in matters of Imperial concern. And that there is every justification for desiring that the proposed Council should possess merely consultative and advisory power for the present, Ministers would only refer to the importance which has been attached to the resolutions passed by the Colonial Conferences in the past. 8. It may reasonably be said that the greatest question engaging the attention of almost all sections of His Majesty's subjects at the present day is partially the outcome of the deliberations of the last Conference, at which important resolutions were passed in regard to the establishment of a system of reciprocal preferential treatment of products and manufactures within the Empire in respect of Customs duties, &c. This action on the part of the Conference is also very largely responsible for the grant by the South African Customs Union of a preferential treatment of British goods imported into this country, and the growing tendency on the part of colonies to more fully recognise their obligation in regard to naval defence. 9. Thus it is clear that these Conferences, although merely deliberative, have promoted action as well as stimulated sentiment. For these reasons, therefore, Ministers urge the adoption of the suggestion embodied in the thirteenth paragraph of the Secretary of State's despatch, dealing with the proposed constitution of the Council. The recommendation reads as follows: — " The Secretary of State for the Colonies would represent His Majesty's Government. India, whenever her interests required it, would also be represented. The other members of the Council would be the Prime Ministers of the colonies represented at the Conference of 1902, or, if any Prime Minister should be unable to attend, representatives appointed for that purpose by their Governments. " The permanent body of the Imperial Council would be thus- formed, but, as in 1902, their consultations could be assisted, when necessary for special purposes, by other Ministers belonging either to the Imperial Council or to the colonial Governments." 10. With regard to the second portion of the scheme—namely, the appointment of a permanent " Commission of Inquiry," to gather and systematize knowledge for the use of the Imperial Council—Ministers consider that such an Intelligence Department, well equipped as it no doubt would be with information and facts requiring examination with a view to harmonizing the legislation of the United Kingdom and the colonies, is an essential adjunct, and will very materially facilitate and expedite the work of the parent body. Ministers accordingly favour its appointment on the lines indicated, and also approve of the proposals regarding the secretariat. They further agree that the Commission should be composed of men with business or official experience, but are somewhat doubtful as to the wisdom of the permanency of such appointments. The secretariat would, of course, have a continuous status, but Ministers are of opinion that better results might be obtained if the members of the Commission were appointed for a fixed period of years. However, having agreed upon certain broad principles Ministers consider that the greater part of such details might be better left to a round-table Conference. 11. In conclusion, Ministers desire to express their appreciation of the great thought and care bestowed upon this important matter by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and to convey their thanks for the very full manner in which Mr. Lyttelton has discussed the various points for the information of the colonial Governments. T. W. Smabtt. No. 3.—Canada. Governor-General Earl Grey to Mr. Lyttjelton. (Received 10.55 p.m., Bth July, 1905.) (Telegram.) With reference to Colonial Conference: Laurier asks that you will allow him to close session before forwarding minute of Council on your despatch of April 20th.* He says that date of prorogation is in sight, and that it is impossible for Council to take up additional work to that which has to be completed before end of session. He promises to have a despatch ready within the week after prorogation. The date of prorogation is uncertain, but that it will be before Ist August I do not expect. No. 4.—Natal. Governor Sir H. E. McCalhim to Mr. Lyttelton. (Received 15th July, 1905.) Sin, — Government House, Pietermaritzburg, Natal, 20th June, 1905. With reference to your despatch of the 20th April,* I have the honour to inform you that my Ministers are of opinion that the establishment of an " Imperial Council " would be beneficial
alike to His Majesty's Government and to the colonies, and they are therefore in favour of the proposal made in paragraph 12 of your despatch. 2. Ministers are also in favour of the appointment of a Commission such as that referred to in the 23rd paragraph of your despatch, and they would be prepared to consider favourably the more definite scheme for the constitution of such Commission, which His Majesty's Government propose to submit. I have, &c, Henry McCallum. No. s.—Canada. Mr. Lyttelton to Governor-General Earl Grey. (Sent 5.20 p.m., 18th July, 1905.) (Telegram.) In answer to your telegramf as to Colonial Conference, I have no objection to postponement of reply to despatch of 20th April.* Ido not desire to hurry your Government on the matter. No. 6.—Australia. Governor-General Lord Nobthcote to Mr. Lyttelton. (Keceived 11.35 a.m., 17th August, 1905.) (Telegram.) Referring to your despatch of 20th April,* Colonial Conference, see my despatch, confidential, 16th August, J by last mail, of which following is substance: — Begins: Prime Minister observes that in addition to matters mentioned in your letter there is question of preferential trade which was submitted to Conference, 3rd May, 1887, by Sir Samuel Griffith, and in connection with which Mr. Hofmeyr, representing Cape Colony, made important proposal. This Government fully indorses view that the title " Colonial Conference " inadequately expresses importance and nature of meetings, which may be better described as those of an Imperial Council, and while my Ministers agree that the future composition of that Council should be discussed at the next meeting of Conference, I am advised that if it is not to assemble until June, 1906, it would be almost impossible for Ministers to attend. Parliament will then be in session, and the general election will follow shortly after, provided, of course, that Parliament is allowed to continue for the full period for which members were returned. Ministers highly appreciate consideration which His Majesty's Government have given to the convenience of colonial Ministers by endeavouring to reduce as far as possible their absence from parliamentary and other duties. They concur in advisability of appointment of a body of a permanent nature to collate the details of subjects to be considered by the Council. In the event of the suggestion for the appointment of a permanent Commission being adopted, it is considered that Australia should be allowed two representatives at least, one of whom should be the High Commissioner, when appointed, or his substitute. My Ministers agree that the ( 1) proposed Council should be left to develop by adaptation as circumstances may require, and share the confidence that its establishment will promote that unity both of sentiment and action within the Empire on which the peace and welfare of a large part of the world depends. No. 7.—Newfoundland. Governor Sir William MacGregob to Mr. Lyttelton. (Received 18th August, 1905.) Sir, — Government House, St. John's, 28th July. 1905. With reference to your despatch of the 20th April,* I have the honour to enclose herewith copy of a letter I have received from my Prime Minister with reference to the creation of a Colonial Council. I have, &c, Wμ. McGregor. Enclosure in No. 7. Sib, — Colonial Secretary's Office, St. John's, Newfoundland, 27th July, 1905. Referring to your communication of date the 18th instant, and enclosed copy of a telegram received by Your Excellency from the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, having reference to his despatch of date the 20th of April last, I have the honour to intimate that it is with very great diffidence that your Ministers venture to express an opinion as regards the expediency of establishing an Imperial Council to consist of the Prime Ministers of the self-governing colonies, presided over by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The question has to be considered from two standpoints : Is it to be merely an advisory Council, or a Council with executive functions or legislative powers ? In either case it implies a voice in the polic}' of the Empire, and that privilege would necessarily carry with it corresponding responsibilities and obligations to be assumed by the colonies represented in that Council. Such being the case, while all the colonies will doubtless be as one in respect to the wisdom and correctness of the principle, and would doubtless desire to aid in its adoption, there are some struggling communities—and this colony is one of them—whose revenues are required for public benefit, and for
* No. 1. f No. 3. J'No. 10.
increasing the capabilities of the country in which we live; and any direct contribution towards Imperial defence, or any trade preference, would be practically impossible. If an Imperial Council were established, as Mr. Chamberlain pointed out in his opening address to the Colonial Conference in 1902, these are the two subjects which would immediately call for its attention. After very careful consideration of the questions involved in the proposal of His Majesty's Government, and of the circumstances of the respective colonies, your Ministers have some doubt whether the time has arrived when the principle involved in the formation of an Imperial Council can be advantageously carried into practice, and as to whether the object aimed at by His Majesty's Government cannot for the present be best achieved by periodical Conferences upon the lines of previous Colonial Conferences. I beg to return herewith the despatch under reference. I have, &c, R. Bond, His Excellency Sir William McGregor, K.C.M.G., C.8., &c. Prime Minister. No. 8.-—New Zealand. Governor Lord Plunket to Mr. Lyttelton. (Received 1.40 p.m., 24th August, 1905.) (Telegram.) I have to state, in reply to your despatch of 20th April,* that New Zealand will be represented at Colonial Conference if it is held early in the year, so as to enable representative to leave London at the beginning of May. No. 9.—New Zealand. Mr. Lyttelton to Governor Lord PijUnket. (Sent 3.20 p.m., 31st August, 1905.) Referring to your telegram of 24th August,! Colonial Conference, may I expect your answer to proposals in my despatch of 20th April* before the Conference, or does your Government prefer to discuss them at the Conference? If the former, I should be much obliged if I can have views of your Ministers as soon as possible. Australia, Cape, and Natal Governments have sent answers favourable to proposals ; no answer received as yet from Canada. No. 10.—Australia. Governor-General Lord North cote to Mr. Lyttelton. (Received 19th September, 1905.) Sib, — Governor-General's Office, Melbourne, 16th August, 1905. Referring to your despatch, dated the 20th April, 1905,* relating to the continuance of the Colonial Conferences under the title of " Imperial Council," I have the honour to transmit herewith a copy of correspondence which has taken place between the Prime Minister and myself, which will, I think, be found to clearly express the views of the Commonwealth Government upon this important subject. I have, &c, Noethcote, Governor-General. Enclosure 1 in No. 10. —Commonwealth of Australia. Prime Minister's Office, Melbourne, 19th July, 1905. My Lord Colonial Conference. With reference to Your Excellency's memorandum of the present date, forwarding a copy of a telegram received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, asking whether he may be shortly furnished with a reply to his despatch of the 20th April last, I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that tiie despatch only reached me to-day, but will receive immediate consideration. I have, &c, His Excellency the Governor-General. Alfred Deakin. Enclosure 2 in No. 10.— Commonwealth of Australia. My Lord, — Prime Minister's Office, Melbourne, 16th August, 1905. In continuation of my letter of the 19th ultimo on the subject of the proposed Colonial Conference, I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that by some mischance the despatch of the Secretary of State for the Colonies to my predecessor, dated the 20th April last, appears to have been lost sight of until the 19th idem, when it was brought under notice. 2. The proposals were, however, considered by this Cabinet at the earliest opportunity, and in compliance with Mr. Lyttelton's wish I subjoin, for his information, a brief epitome of the views of the Government on the subjects to which they relate.
* 1. f No. 8,
3. It may be observed that, in addition to the matters mentioned in the despatch considered at the Colonial Conference which sat in 1887, was the question of preferential trade. On the 3rd May, 1887, Sir Samuel Griffith submitted the subject, and upon the same date Mr. Hofmeyr, a representative of the Cape of Good Hope, made an important proposal, upon which a general discussion followed, reported in the proceedings to both Houses of the Imperial Parliament. 4. This Government fully indorses the view of His Majesty's Government that the title of " Colonial Conference " inadequately expresses the importance and nature of meetings, which may be better described as those of an "Imperial Council," and while agreeing that the future composition of that Council should be discussed at the next Conference, desires to point out that if it is not to assemble until the summer of 1906 (June), it would be almost impossible for Ministers to attend. The Federal Parliament will then be in session, and the general elections will follow shortly afterwards, provided, of course, that Parliament is allowed to continue for the full period for which members were returned. 5. The consideration which His Majesty's Government have given to the convenience of colonial Prime Ministers attending the Conference, by endeavouring to reduce as far as possible their absence from parliamentary and other duties, is much appreciated by Ministers, who also concur in the advisability of the appointment of a body of a permanent nature to collate the details of subjects to be considered by the Council. 6. In the event of the suggestion for the appointment of a permanent Commission being adopted, it is considered that Australia should be allowed two representatives at least, one of whom should be the High Commissioner, when appointed, or his substitute. 7. Ministers agree that the proposed Council should be left to develop by adaptation as circumstances may require, and share the confidence that its establishment will promote that unity both of sentiment and action within the Empire upon which the peace and welfare of a large part of the world depends. I have, &c, His Excellency the Governor-General. Alfred Deakin. No. 11.—Newfoundland. Mr. Lyttelton to Governor Sir Wμ. MacGregor. Sir, — Downing Street, 16th October, 1905. I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your despatch of the 28th July,* forwarding copy of a letter from your Prime Minister in reply to my despatch of the 20th April, t on the subject of Colonial Conferences, and the suggested establishment of an Imperial Council and a permanent Commission of reference. 2. I am inclined to think that Sir It. Bond's letter was written under some misapprehension of the scope and nature of the proposals made in my despatch. It was not intended to propose that the Imperial Council suggested in paragraphs 12 to 15 of the despatch should possess any executive or legislative powers. It would merely be a continuation, under a more appropriate title, of the existing Colonial Conferences which meet periodically for consultative purposes. 3. I observe that Sir R. Bond's letter makes no reference to the proposal made in paragraph 16 to 25 of my despatch, that a permanent Joint Commission should be constituted to discharge the functions more particularly stated in the 23rd paragraph. His Majesty's Government attach much importance to this suggestion, thinking, as they do, that the future practical utility of the Colonial Conference, or Imperial Council (whichever name shall be finally adopted), depends to a large extent upon the institution of an organized body to do work preliminary and subsequent to the periodical meetings. They hope, therefore, that your Ministers, while reserving (if the) prefer it) their assent to the suggestions as to the change of name of the Colonial Conference, will find themselves able to agree in principle to the institution of the contemplated Joint Commission. The Governments of Australia, Cape Colony, and Natal have already signified their assent. I have, <fee, Alfred Lyttelton. No. 12.—New Zealand. Mr. Lyttelton to Governor Lord Plunket. (Sent 7.20 p.m., 17th October, 1905.) (Telegram.) When may answer be expected to my telegram of 31 August,]: Colonial Conference? No. 13.—New Zealand. Governor Lord Plunket to Mr. Ltttelton. (Received 7.50 a.m., 14th November, 1905.) (Telegram.) Referring to your telegrams of 31st August and 17th October,§ my Ministers regret that it will be impossible to send reply re Colonial Conference till the elections in the colony are over and full meeting of Cabinet can be held.
* No. 7. t No. 1. % No. 9. § Nob. 9 and 12.
No. 14.—Canada. Governor-General Earl Grey to Mr. Lyttelton. (Received 27th November, 1905.) Sib, — Government House, Ottawa, 17th November, 1905. I have the honour to transmit herewith an approved minute of Privy Council, which gives the views of my Ministers on the proposals contained in your despatch of the 20th April last.* I have, &c, Grey. Enclosure in No. 14. Extract from a Report of the Committee of the Honourable the Privy Council, approved by the Governor-General on the 13th November, 1905. The Committee of the Privy Council have had under consideration a despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to Your Excellency, dated the 20th April, 1905, tracing the history of the various Colonial Conferences and making certain suggestions in relation to that body, upon which His Majesty's Government invite the views of Your Excellency's Advisers. These suggestions briefly are, — 1. That the title of " Colonial Conference " be changed to that of " Imperial Council." 2. That a permanent Commission be appointed to prepare subjects to be discussed by the Imperial Council, which Commission should occupy in the civil sphere somewhat the same relation to the Conference that the Imperial Defence Committee does in regard to military questions. It is further proposed that to such a Commission might be referred questions for examination and report on the best mode of carrying out principles laid down by the Conference. The Committee at the outset are disposed to consider that any change in the title or status of the Colonial Conference should rather originate with and emanate from that body itself. At the same time, being fully alive to the desire of His Majesty's Government to draw closer the ties uniting the colonies with each other and with the Motherland, they are prepared to give the proposals referred to their respectful consideration, and having done so, beg leave to offer the following observations: — Your Excellency's Advisers are entirely at one with His Majesty's Government in believing that political institutions " may often be wisely left to develop in accordance with circumstances, and, as it were, of their own accord," and it is for this reason that they entertain with some doubt the proposal to change the name of the Colonial Conference to that of the Imperial Council, which they apprehend would be interpreted as marking a step distinctly in advance of the position hitherto attained in the discussion of the relations between the Mother-country and the colonies. As the Committee understand the phrase, a Conference is a more or less unconventional gathering for informal discussion of public questions, continued, it may be, from time to time as circumstances external to itself may render expedient, but possessing no faculty or power of binding action. The assembly of colonial Ministers which met in 1887, 1897, and 1902 appear to the Committee to fulfil these conditions. The term " Council," on the other hand, indicates, in the view of Your Excellency's Ministers, a more formal assemblage, possessing an advisory and deliberative character, and in conjunction with the word " Imperial " suggesting a permanent institution which, endowed with a continuous life, might eventually come to be regarded as an encroachment upon the full measure of autonomous legislative and administrative power now enjoyed by all the self-governing colonies. The Committee, while not wishing to be understood as advocating any such change at the present time, incline to the opinion that the title " Imperial Conference " might be less open to the objections they have indicated than the designation proposed by His Majesty's Government. As regards the second suggestion of His Hajesty's Government, the Committee are sensible that such a Commission would greatly facilitate the work of the Conference, and at the same time enhance the dignity and importance of that assembly. They cannot, however, wholly divest themselves of the idea that such a Commission might conceivably interfere with the working of responsible Government. While for this reason the Committee would not at present be prepared to adopt the proposal for the appointment of a permanent Commission, they feel that such a proposal emanating from His Majesty's Government should be very fully inquired into, and the Canadian representatives at the next Conference, whenever it may be held, would be ready to join the representatives of the sister colonies in giving the whole matter their most careful consideration. The Committee advise that a copy of this minute, if approved, be transmitted to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, for the information of His Majesty's Government. John J. McGee, Clerk of the Privy Council. No. 15. Mr. Lyttelton to the Governors of the Self-governing Colonies. (Sent 9.50 p.m., 29th November, 1905.) (Telegram.) I request that you will inform your Ministers as follows: — It was assumed when I sent my despatch of 20th April last,* that, in accordance with the resolution passed at the Colonial Conference of 1902, and quoted in paragraph 10 of that despatch, it would, in the normal course of events, be proper to issue invitations to the next Conference for the
summer of 1906. It appears, however, in the result of the correspondence following upon the abovementioned despatch, that it would not be possible for the Prime Ministers of the Australian Commonwealth and of New Zealand to attend a Conference held later than the spring of 1906. It appears to His Majesty's Government to be doubtful whether it would be practicable to make sufficient preparation before the latter date of the subjects to be discussed at the Conference. A subsequent communication will be addressed to you on this subject at a later date, but in the meantime I should be glad to know whether, in the opinion of your Ministers, it would be advisable in these circumstances to take advantage of the latitude allowed by the terms of the resolution already referred to, and to postpone the meeting of the Conference until the year 1907. The answers received from the colonial Governments in reply to my circular despatch of 20th April last,* with reference to the suggestions for the better organization of the work for the Colonial Conference therein contained, and this telegram, will be published at once. But in deference to the views expressed by the Government of the Dominion of Canada it seems to be desirable to postpone further discussion of these matters until the meeting of the next. Conference. His Majesty's Government consider that the discussion which has already taken place will greatly facilitate the consideration of the subject when the Conference shall assemble. They confidently hope that, following upon the lines of previous Conferences, the next Conference will, in this and in other no less important ways, promote the better union and the collective prosperity of the British Empire. A telegram in identical terms has been sent to [Australia, New Zealand, Cape, Natal, Newfoundland, and Canada]. * No. 1 .
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A-04 THE FUTURE ORGANIZATION OF COLONIAL CONFERENCES IN LONDON (CORRESPONDENCE RELATING TO)., Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1 January 1906
A-04 THE FUTURE ORGANIZATION OF COLONIAL CONFERENCES IN LONDON (CORRESPONDENCE RELATING TO). Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1 January 1906
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