Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947

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State of Westminster Adoption Act 1947. Archives reference: ABGX 8021 W3675 Box 1. Click on the image to enlarge or download.

On 25 November 1947, New Zealand ratified the Statute of Westminster, establishing independent control of its own legislation. Before this, New Zealand did not have the power to create or repeal all laws.

The Statute of Westminster Act was passed by the British Parliament in 1931, offering legislative independence for self-governing Dominions of the British Empire. The Act removed the ability of the British Parliament to legislate for the Dominions, and established that no act of its Parliament would extend to these territories.

However, New Zealand was reluctant to alter its relationship with Britain, and did not adopt the Act until 16 years later, the last of the Dominions in the British Empire to do so. Although New Zealand had moved from being a colony to a Dominion in 1907, most New Zealanders wanted to remain tied to Britain. When the 1926 Belfour Declaration provided Dominions with more autonomy, New Zealand Prime Minister Gordon Coates called it a "poisonous document".

By enacting the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947, New Zealand gained the ability to request and consent to the power to amend its own constitution. It did this via the Constitution Amendment (Request & Consent) Act 1947. The Act requested, and consented to, the United Kingdom Parliament’s enacting legislation "in the form or to the effect of" the draft Bill set out in the schedule to the Act. The New Zealand Constitution (Amendment) Act 1947 (UK) states: "It shall be lawful for the Parliament of New Zealand by any Act or Acts of that Parliament to alter, suspend, or repeal, at any time, all or any of the provisions of the New Zealand Constitution Act, 1852; and the New Zealand Constitution (Amendment) Act, 1857, is hereby repealed".

Above is the official copy of the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act (Public Act No. 38 in the 1947 Statutes of New Zealand). It is an assented act, a bill which has become an Act of Parliament and part of the laws of New Zealand.

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