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End of the Debate.
been given to-night.' He added, with respect to the alleged correspondence with Sir Bartle Frere,' I cannot say that, as the facts are before us, there is anything in them to give rise to any constitutional jealousy on the part of this House.'
Section III.—The Ministers Of The Crown And
It is not to be wondered at that no constitutional topic has attracted more attention of late years than that of the true relation between the Ministers of the Crown and Parliament. In the first place, this relation is by its nature of the most subtle kind, and sets at defiance any attempt at legal definition. In the second place, no analogy or precedent for the character of the relation, as it exists in England at the present day, is supplied by the experience of any other country. In other countries the Ministers of the Crown occupy a position either entirely outside the representative Assemblies, as in the United States; or in only casual and desultory connection with them, as under even such free Constitutions as those of France and Italy; or one which is practically adverse to the representative Assemblies, in reference to which the Ministers merely personate the competing and conspicuously jealous attitude of the Crown,—a state of things which seems to be represented in the German Empire. In the third place, the relation as it exists in England at the present moment has been in fact only recently and rapidly developed. It is still, in fact, in process of formation, and may yet have to undergo many a fresh metamorphosis.1
1 It is at present rather a matter of customary constitutional practice than of strict legal necessity that the Ministers of the Crown, or even the Members of the Cabinet, should have seats in either House of Parliament. It still sometimes accidentally happens that, owing either to the necessity of a Minister of the Crown vacating his seat (under the Statute of Anne) when appointed to his office, or to the temporary misadventures of a general election, a Minister of the Crown is sometimes without a seat in either House ^Relation of Ministers to Parliament. 337
The leading characteristic of the relationship between Ministers and Parliament in England is, that the connection between the personality of the Ministers and the two Houses of Parliament is partly assumed to be, and partly is of necessity, as intimate, as capable of fine adjustments to mutual and changing susceptibilities on both sides, and as flexible, not to say transitory, as constitutional machinery could make it. It is not, of course, true that a relationship of this sort is ever attained, even for a time. The competition of parties in the Houses, the play of individual divergence or eccentricity, the intrinsic difficulty of securing permanent co-operation either within the Ministry, or among its supporters, or among its organised opponents, all tend to render the position of a Ministry towards Parliament in any given time far more flickering and uncertain than the above theory assumes. But there is no doubt that in England,—and that increasingly,—confidence and not distrust, unity and not division of action, cohesion and concentration in performance, even where
even when Parliament is sitting. Sir Hardinge Giffard, Solicitor General in Lord Beaconsfield's Government, was for some months in office before he succeeded in getting a seat. It is curious that there does exist a statutory limitation in the other direction, which, by a strange anomaly, is thrust into the middle of the 'Act for the Better Government of India' of 1858, which Act contemplated the addition of a fifth principal Secretary of State. In view, apparently, of some jealousy of undue Government influence in the House of Commons which might thereby result, the fourth section of the Act enacts that' after the commencement of this Act any four of Her 'Majesty's principal Secretaries for the time being, and any four 'of the Under Secretaries for the time being to Her Majesty's 'principal Secretaries of State, may sit and vote as members of the 'House of Commons, but not more than four such principal Secro'taries and not more than four such Under Secretaries shall sit as 'members of the House of Commons at the same time.'
following upon long distraction of counsels, represent the ideal attitude of Parliament and the Ministry when concerting together either for legislative or administrative purposes. The Ministry of the day appears in Parliament, on the one hand as personating the Crown in the legitimate exercise of its recognised prerogatives, and on the other hand as the mere agent of Parliament itself, in the discharge of the executive and administrative functions of government cast upon them by law. In respect of this last-named capacity, it is obviously of the greatest advantage that Parliament should have close at hand the personal officials who are charged with carrying on its own work. So much is recognised even in those countries where the least amount of concerted action seems to prevail as between the executive and the legislative authorities. It is rather where the Ministry are charged with exercising in the name of the Sovereign those acts of prerogative which Parliament is incompetent itself to perform directly, that some jealousy, not to say antipathy, may be conceivably introduced in the conduct of relations otherwise essentially harmonious. In this region lie the stirring topics of foreign negotiations, the management of the Army and Navy, public finance, and, in some important respects, Colonial administration. Of course, with regard to such executive acts as the conferring of honours and dignities, nomination to appointments in Church and State, and even the grant of large classes of charters and privileges, it could not be expected that Parliament, with its unwieldy mass of divers elements and complicated modes of action, could beneficently interfere otherwise than by generally approving or disapproving the Ministry of the day, or perhaps formally censuring glaring outrages or
Parliamentary Checks on Ministers. 339
abuses. But the great topics enumerated above are of a different kind. They are all of them such as must of necessity, at some time or other, come under the direct supervision of Parliament. Most of the affairs they relate to cannot be consummated without the help of funds to be obtained from a Parliamentary grant. They are every one of them topics of the utmost relevancy to the national fortunes and reputation, and such as, the more public education and patriotism are extended, will excite an ever-increasing breadth and intensity of interest throughout the country. Thus, if the consideration of these topics must at some point or other be brought in all its fullness before Parliament, it is a reasonable matter of anxiety on the part of Parliament that its own functions be not unduly forestalled by premature action or anticipatory steps which may, further than is absolutely needed, pledge the conduct of Parliament in one direction or another, and so effectually tie its hands. In cases such as these, where a sort of co-operation is pre-supposed between the Crown on the one hand and Parliament on the other, and yet where the circumstances of every successive practical problem must so far vary as to preclude the use of unbending rules, Parliament has two classes of remedies, or preventives, to avail itself of, for the purpose of guarding its rights. 1. One class is to be found in the practice of cherishing to the utmost the relationship of confidence, unity of spirit and action, and hourly responsibility, in all its dealings with the Ministers, either as a corporate body or as severally administering great Departments of State. 2. The second class of remedies must be found in determining, with such precision as is at all applicable, the duties of Ministers with respect to the time,