HC Deb 21 July 1881 vol 263 cc1454-5
MR. GORST asked the Secretary to the Admiralty, Whether the jurisdiction of Sir Arthur Gordon as High Commissioner under "The Pacific Islanders Protection Act, 1875," is not by that Act restricted to a jurisdiction over subjects of Her Majesty; and, whether Sir Arthur Gordon has any authority, as Governor of New Zealand or otherwise, to levy war against the natives of the Solomon Islands, who are 2,000 miles distant from New Zealand; and, if so, under what statute, or by what Commission, such authority is constituted?
MR. TREVELYAN Sir, the jurisdiction of the High Commissioner extends over British subjects, and British subjects only. In reply to the hon. Member on Monday, I stated that Sir Arthur Gordon had authority to sanction the sending of the Emerald. The circumstances under which that sanction was asked for are these. Up till 1880, on the Australian station, and on the Australian station alone, it had been the custom for naval officers to resort to force for the protection of British subjects, without any requisition from any diplomatic or any other civil authority. As almost the last act of their administration, the late Board of Admiralty determined that, in cases where immediate and instantaneous action was not required, the sanction of the High Commissioner would have to be obtained before armed force was used, in order that the naval officer might act in conjunction with the civil authority in the Pacific as elsewhere. It must be re-membered that all the world over, however strong may be the requisition of a Consul or other civil functionary, a naval officer must, and often does, use his own discretion, and is absolutely responsible to the Admiralty for the manner in which he uses it.