Opinion Number. 1423

Subject

MEANING OF ‘THE UNITED KINGDOM’ MEANING OF ‘THE UNITED KINGDOM’ in commonwealth legislation: meaning of ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’ in acts interpretation act: effect of ceasing to exist of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland: application to Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Key Legislation

Customs Tariff 1921 s 8: Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921 s 9: Customs Act 1901 s 151A: Acts Interpretation Act 1901 s 18: Irish Free State (consequential Provisions) Act 1922) (U.K.) (13 Geo. V sess. 2 c. 2) s 6

Date
Client
The Comptroller-General, Department of Trade and Customs

The Comptroller-General, Department of Trade and Customs has forwarded me the following memorandum for advice:

In various Acts administered by this Department the expression ‘the United Kingdom’ is used. For example Customs Tariff 1921–1926 section 8 and in several Tariff Items, in the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) 1922–1926 Schedule paragraphs 5 and 6 of the Agreement and in Item 130 of the Tariff schedule, in the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921–1822 section 9 and in the Customs Act 1901–1925 section 151A.

In section 18 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 the following definition appears:

The United Kingdom shall mean the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

In the Commonwealth Gazette No.71 of 30/6/27 appears a proclamation in which the titles of the King are altered by the omission of the words ‘the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of’ and the substitution in their stead of the words ‘Great Britain, Ireland and’.

I would be obliged if you would advise me on the following questions—

  1. Is there now a part of the British Empire to which the term ‘the United Kingdom’ applies?
  2. If that be the case, to what part of the Empire does the term apply?
  3. Assuming the definition of ‘the United Kingdom’ in section 18 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 has not been amended, should the British Preferential Tariff of the Customs Tariff apply to those parts of the Empire to which it applied by reason of that definition?

By the Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Act 1922 the British Parliament provided authority for the doing, by Order in Council, of such acts as were necessary in consequence of the establishment of the Irish Free State.

By Article 1 of the Articles of Agreement between Great Britain and Ireland of 6th December, 1921 it was provided that the Irish Free State shall have the same constitutional status, in the community of nations known as the British Empire, as the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia etc.

Under section 6 of the first mentioned Act an Order in Council was promulgated on the 27th March, 1923, providing, inter alia, that references, in any enactment passed prior to the establishment of the Irish Free State, to the United Kingdom shall be construed as exclusive of the Irish Free State.

The meaning of the expression ‘United Kingdom’ is, however, so far as Commonwealth legislation is concerned, determined by section 18 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 unless a contrary intention appears in any Commonwealth Act, in which the expression is used.

I think that, in the application of the definition, account must be taken of the fact that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in its original signification, no longer exists, and that in view of the alteration in the constituent parts of that Kingdom, the expression now refers to the United Kingdom as existing at present, i.e., Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

I do not think the recent alteration in the King’s Titles affects the question now raised.

The question of the application or otherwise of the United Kingdom preference provisions of the Australian Customs Tariff was dealt with at length in the opinions given by the late Attorney-General on 15th February, 1923, (Opinion No. 39),(1) and also in his memorandum of 22nd May 1923 (No. 49/4/294).(2)

[Vol. 23, p. 261]

(1) See Opinion No.1317.

(2) Memorandum not found.