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Canadian Constitution: Patriation Proposals

Volume 414: debated on Monday 27 October 1980

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2.48 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what proposals were made, or information given, by Mr. Mark McGuigan, Canadian Minister of External Affairs, and Mr. John Roberts, Minister of Science, Technology and the Environment, concerning the patriation of the Canadian constitution during their recent meetings with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

My Lords, the two Canadian Ministers came as emissaries of the Canadian Prime Minister to tell Her Majesty's Government of the intentions of the Canadian Government on this subject.

My Lords, does the position of Her Majesty's Government remain as stated by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, on 25th July 1979, that if a request to patriate the Canadian Constitution were to be received from the Parliament of Canada it would be in accordance with precedent for the Government to introduce in Parliament, and for Parliament to enact, appropriate legislation complying with that request, as we have done on the 14 occasions since Confederation when the Federal Parliament has made such requests? Has the noble and learned Lord noted that the Canadian House of Commons voted by 156 to 83 in favour of the proposals presented to it by Mr. Trudeau? Would the Government publish a document setting out the basis on which the Canadian Legislature is asking us now to act?

My Lords, no request has been received as yet from the Canadian Legislature and I notice from the public prints that it is still going through that Legislature. So far as I know, there is no change in the constitutional position since 27th July. It so happens that the Parliamentary Answer I have was given in another place by my honourable friend Mr. Luce; it would surprise me if it were different from that which was given by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne.

My Lords, are the Government satisfied that Canadian Ministers are sufficiently alive to the embarrassment which might be caused to this Parliament if proposals which were controversial inside Canada were to be put forward?