Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947

Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947
New Zealand Parliament
An Act to Adopt certain sections of the Statute of Westminster 1931[1]
Related legislation
Statute of Westminster 1931 (UK)
New Zealand Constitution Amendment Act 1947 (UK)
New Zealand Constitution Amendment (Request and Consent) Act 1947
Status: Repealed

The Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947 (Public Act no. 28 of 1947) was a constitutional Act of the Parliament of New Zealand that formally accepted the full external autonomy offered by the British Parliament. By passing the Act on 25 November 1947, New Zealand adopted the Statute of Westminster 1931, an Act of the British Parliament which granted full sovereign status and Commonwealth membership to the Dominions ratifying the statute (New Zealand was the last Dominion to do so, as the Dominion of Newfoundland voted to become a part of Canada in 1949).


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The Act's main purpose was to adopt sections two, three, four, five and six of the Statute of Westminster 1931.[1] Section two of the Statute repealed the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865, section three allowed the Parliament to legislate extraterritoriality, section four disallowed the Parliament of the United Kingdom to legislate for the Dominion, except by its own consent. Sections five and six relate to jurisdiction over merchant shipping and Courts of Admiralty.

Section two of the Act ensured that, under section four of the Statute, the request and consent of the Parliament of New Zealand was required for any legislation. It also stated existing statutes of the United Kingdom that applied to New Zealand "shall be deemed so to apply and extend as if they have always so applied and extended according to its tenor".[1] This section allowed the Parliament of New Zealand the ability to amend all of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, a power it took up by passing the New Zealand Constitution Amendment (Request and Consent) Act 1947. The United Kingdom Parliament then passed the New Zealand Constitution Amendment Act 1947 (UK).


New Zealand did not adopt the Statute of Westminster 1931 until 1947 on account of a desire not to foster separatism in the British Empire. At the opening of the 1930 Imperial Conference which drafted the Statute of Westminster, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, George Forbes stated: "New Zealand has not, in any great measure, been concerned with the recent development in the constitutional relations between the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. We have felt that at all times within recent years we have had ample scope for our national aspirations and ample freedom to carry out in their entirety such measures as have seemed to us desirable."[2]

The First Labour Government of Peter Fraser had proposed to adopt the statute in its Speech from the Throne in 1944 (two years after Australia adopted the Act). During the Address-In-Reply debate, the opposition passionately opposed the proposed adoption, claiming the Government was being disloyal to the United Kingdom. National MP for Tauranga, Frederick Doidge, argued "With us, loyalty is an instinct as deep as religion".[3]

The proposal was buried. The National opposition prompted the adoption of the Statute in 1947 when its leader and future Prime Minister Sidney Holland introduced a private members' bill to abolish the New Zealand Legislative Council. Because New Zealand required the consent of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to amend the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, Fraser decided to adopt the Statute.[4][5]


The Bill to adopt the Statute was introduced at the start of 1947, and came up for its third and final reading on 17 October 1947.[6] Concerns were raised about the place of the Treaty of Waitangi, but Martyn Finlay rejected this contention.[6] Ronald Algie raised concerns for the continued access to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which were again rejected.[6] Appeals to the Privy Council remained in place until 2003, with the creation of the Supreme Court of New Zealand. Algie also complained the adoption of the Act was due to changes to the status of British subjects.[6] Other concerns raised included the status of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, and whether the issue was relevant.[6]


The Act was repealed by section 28 of the Constitution Act 1986.


  1. 1 2 3 Edited by Stephen Levine with Paul Harris. "Part I - The Constitution". The New Zealand Politics Source Book. Dunmore Press. ISBN 0-86469-338-9.
  2. Harshan Kumarasingham (2010). Onward with Executive Power - Lessons from New Zealand 1947 - 1957. Institute of Policy Studies, Victoria University of Wellington. ISBN 978-1-877347-37-5.
  3. Cited in Jim Bolger (16 March 1994). Speech to the Annual Conference of the Newspaper Publishers Association. Newspaper Publishers Association.
  4. HISTORY, CONSTITUTIONAL - The Legislative Authority of the New Zealand Parliament - 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
  5. "New Zealand Parliament - New Zealand sovereignty: 1857, 1907, 1947, or 1987?".
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Volume 279. Clerk of the House of Representatives. 17 October - 27 November. Check date values in: |date= (help)

See also

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