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each of them only to those who sent him. The former alternative will surely not be accepted even by the most hardened party politician as fit for the government of the Empire as a whole. The latter may be contemplated without a shock to the political conscience; but, if state delegates are all we can get, why do we want so many of them, or such an elaborate machinery for appointing them?
Turning to the matter of a federal parliament's occupation, it may be doubted whether, having regard to the conditions that must be taken as fixed, it would be such as to justify the creation of so vast and complex an apparatus. Legislatures and all other organs of government exist, after all, not for themselves but for the business they have to do. What would be the business of a Pan-Britannic federal parliament? Not to tax the states of the Empire for imperial purposes; for it is clear that the Dominions are not minded to confer any such power; and the same may be said of tariffs and fiscal dispositions generally. Therefore one of the chief reasons for the existence of an elective assembly is necessarily wanting in this case.
Is legislation, then, to be its main function? It is quite true that in many commercial and other matters uniform laws throughout the Empire are desirable. But there is no reason to believe that this end cannot be attained by identical legislation in the component states; in fact, much has already been done in this way, notwithstanding the lack of any formal coordinating authority whatever, and has also been done under even greater difficulties in the United States. Not only the substance but the form of the law of negotiable instruments, to take a fairly old example, has been assimilated throughout our English-speaking jurisdictions.*
In any case the framing of uniform laws in matters of commerce and the like is work for experts; and the only way in which a large elective assembly could get it done would be to delegate it to a select committee.
* British India stands outside because the Government of India began the process of codifying earlier. The discrepancy, such as it is, must be regretted, but the Anglo-Indian codes have been taken as models in several colonies and protectorates, and even a federal parliament of the Empire would hardly compel the Government of India to recast them.
There is no reason to suppose that such a committee could not be appointed, if thought fit, by some simpler process than setting up a federal parliament, or that its recommendations, if addressed simultaneously to the several Governments of the Empire, would fail to receive attention. Any more general and ambitious legislative powers appear to be sufficiently ruled out by the exclusion of taxing power.
There remains the direction of foreign policy. Whatever it may be the passing fashion to say, that part of public business cannot be conducted, beyond laying down the most general principles, by debate in a large assembly; the execution would, under any possible constitutional scheme, remain with the successors of the Imperial War Cabinet, where it is already. Thus it would seem that a good many members of our super-Parliament, when we had brought it together, would find themselves without much Parliamentary occupation, and we might even have cause to remember Bagehot's warning: 'If you employ the best set of men to do nearly nothing, they will quarrel with each other about that nothing.'
It is not clear, moreover, that the best men would come; even within the Dominions there is some reluctance to seek federal in preference to state or provincial offices, and the attractions of a wholly untried imperial legislature do not seem likely to be more powerful. Again, in 1911 Sir Joseph Ward suggested 300 as the numbers of an imperial House of Representatives. If the men would come, can the Dominions at present spare so many of their best? It does not appear useful to pursue these doubts farther, but it must be remembered that they disclose only some aspects of a wider question: namely, whether our British Parliamentary procedure and its accompanying methods of party government and discipline, framed as they have been with almost exclusive regard to domestic politics, are really appropriate to the conduct of imperial affairs.
*Another plan which has been put forward by several writers, and last year in a well-considered paper by Mr Herbert Samuel, is, as mentioned above, the formation of a council or senate of moderate numbers. Its functions,
The English Constitution,' ed. 1878, p. 261.
less ambitious than those which would justify the existence of a federal parliament, would aim chiefly at keeping the executive of the Empire in touch with the legislatures, and through them the people of the Dominions. There is no exact precedent for such a body, nor any near analogy that I know of; but there is no precedent for the British Empire itself. In this way it would be possible to establish useful coordination and improve communication between the Governments of the Empire with the least amount of organic change. Far from superseding the periodical Imperial Conferences, a council of this kind would prepare their business and give it a continuity which hitherto has been imperfectly maintained.
Such a body would represent the states of the Empire neither in strict proportion to their population nor with entire disregard of it; for, although Rhode Island has two seats in the Senate of the United States and New York has no more, we could not at this day give Newfoundland exactly the same weight as Canada. There would be no great difficulty in providing for a periodical revision of the number of councillors allotted to each state, including in the case of Crown colonies the groups of minor colonies which it would be necessary to form. Election by the legislatures of the states, according to the method of proportional representation which is now sufficiently familiar, would seem the obyious course, but I see no grave reason why every component state should not settle the mode of election in its own way. For the singular case of India some special provision would be required; the difficulty would be less than that of representing India in a strictly Parliamentary assembly. The members would hold office for a fixed term, such as three or five years, with freedom of reelection; the alternative of a longer term and no reelection would make the council, to my mind, too much like a board of officials, the very last thing the Dominions are likely to want.
With regard to the business of a Council of the Empire, it would fall under several categories, with
The Supreme Council of War established by the Western Allied Powers in November 1917 is in some respects analogous, and its working may be found instructive.
functions and authorities appropriate to each. One thing such a Council might do, which fails to get adequately done at present, would be to work out questions of more than departmental scope as recommended to its consideration by the Imperial Cabinet or any of the Governments, or arising from the discussions of the Imperial Conference. This would be done without hurry, in an air free from partisan clamour, and with facilities for assistance from whatever special experience or technical knowledge could be found within the Empire; and the result might take the form either of a report or of definite proposals for uniform legislation in all or some of the states. There would also be standing committees, on trade and commerce for example, reporting periodically without waiting for specific instructions.
Further, the Council might well be entrusted with the elaboration and regulation of matters already laid down in principle by concurrent legislation, or by the assent of the Governments of the Empire to proposals formulated by the Imperial Cabinet. Such ordinances would be analogous to the Orders in Council and departmental orders made under statutory authority, by which a large and increasing part of our administration is carried on for peaceful as well as warlike purposes. The more important of these enactments might be subject to the dissent of any state if expressed within a limited time, in the same way as the provisional orders with which we are familiar are laid before Parliament and become operative if neither House objects. There could be no question of giving the Council any compulsory fiscal authority, but it might very well be charged by the Imperial Cabinet with the duty of preparing a scheme of proportionate contribution for common purposes to be submitted to the Governments of the Empire. The members of the Cabinet and the Council would know the minds of their constituent states well enough to make it likely that their proposals should be of a practicable kind. Nevertheless there might be occasional dissent; in which case our state would be no worse than it is now. The part of the Council would be confined to suggesting the objects to be provided for and the quotas to be contributed; the actual voting of the sums to be raised, and the mode of raising them, would remain with
each legislature. A scheme of this kind would not be an annual budget, though it would need revision at fairly short intervals. Anything beyond this in the way of uniform fiscal measures would have to be reserved for the Imperial Conference.
As the Council would do most of its work through committees, about one hundred seems a reasonable number for the whole; with fewer one could hardly be sure of finding all the special abilities required, while, if there were many more, there would be danger of the body as a whole becoming undistinguished and ineffectual. The fate of the Privy Council, which might and ought to have been the very body of men to supply the want, stands before us as a warning. It seems of no great importance whether membership of the Privy Council (being made one Privy Council of the whole Empire, as Mr Poley has proposed) should be a qualification for membership of the Council of the Empire or not.
The Imperial Cabinet would be in constant touch with the Council, and the members of the Cabinet would be entitled to attend the Council's meetings if not already members of it (for in a select and not very large body the process of 'finding a seat' is not to be recommended). It is not necessary for the present purpose to advance any conjecture on the normal formation of the Imperial Cabinet itself in the near future.
One alternative policy, which still has a few supporters, has not been here considered; I mean that of openly renouncing all ties between the United Kingdom and the Dominions except that of personal allegiance to the Crown, and treating their relations as those of independent allies. It is not easy to believe that the formalities of international diplomacy would be found less inconvenient than those of the Colonial Office, or to see how the one monarch of half-a-dozen sovereign states, exposed to receive conflicting advice from any two or three of his half-dozen cabinets, could discharge his duties to all of them at once. The best that can be said for such a position is that it would make an opportunity for a man of genius; but a monarchy that demanded genius of its king would not be constitutional. Our history furnishes no better analogies than the personal union with Hanover and the relations of Great