The Statute was to be passed in 1931. All Dominions were able to review and suggest any amendments to the proposed legislation.
The Statute of Westminster preserved what were then considered to be the two essential unities – the unity of the person of the Monarch, by maintaining that the succession, if changed, should be changed simultaneously and in the same way; and the unity of the identity of the Monarch by maintaining that the title, if changed at all, should be changed simultaneously and in the same way. The second of those two unities, the unity of title, is deliberately departed from by the agreement which this Bill implements.
The 1926 imperial conference refined the status of the white colonies, giving them equal status with Britain in the British Commonwealth of Nations. The 1931 Statute of Westminster confirmed what was meant by the dominion status of Australia, Canada, the Irish Free State, Newfoundland, New Zealand and South Africa.
India, was excluded because there was an active independence movement, because she shunned dominion status and because Britain had a different relationship with India than she did with the rest of the empire.
As a document, the Statute of Westminster 1931, calling for provincial parliamentary sovereignty, is in keeping with the larger British tradition, and exemplifies the English expansive style to the fullest when proclaiming liberty. Unlike the American experience, the British tradition of liberty has always centered on a king or queen. Liberty, whether inherently due to all citizens or bestowed as a special gift or exemption, comes down from God, through the blessing of the king, and finally disseminated to the receiving citizenry. However obscure the crown becomes in real political proceedings, it has always been the figurative mouthpiece for the rights and liberties for the people.
The British Crown was now divisible and the king was monarch of each commonwealth country separately. A member of the commonwealth would now hold the position of Governor General. The laws of the dominion could now clash with those laws of Britain, the dominions could run their own foreign affairs and they could sign agreements with other countries. British laws no longer applied to the dominion and countries could leave the Commonwealth at the own choice.
The British Commonwealth of Nations was the result of the 1926 Balfour Declaration which stipulated that the relationship between Britain and her Dominions was equal in status. This stipulation was formalized officially in Section 4 of the Statute of Westminster in 1931. It stated: 'No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this Act shall extend, or be deemed to extend, to a Dominion as part of the law of that Dominion, unless it is expressly declared in that Act that that Dominion has requested, and consented to, the enactment thereof.'
Under the Statute of Westminster (1931) and related international conventions, the Parliament of each independent country under Elizabeth II stands co-equal, and the consent of each is required to modify relevant international legislation pertaining to the laws of succession of the shared monarch. The Queen's constitutional duties with respect to her other countries, states and provinces outside the UK are generally performed by her relevant governors-general, governors and lieutenant-governors, who are by convention often eminent members of the local community, commonly appointed by the Queen on the advice of that state's prime minister or premier (but sometimes elected).
At the time of its coming onto force the Statute applied in full only to the Union of South Africa and the Irish Free State, and apart from Section 7, to Canada. […] It must be emphasized that Australia did not adopt these sections until 1942 and New Zealand only in 1949; Newfoundland had not adopted any f them when in March 1949 she gave up her Dominion status and became the tenth province of Canada. The delay of Australia and New Zealand in adopting the Statute seems due to their belief that it was not really necessary, when the existing constitutional conventions gave them virtually all the freedom they desired...
The Statute of Westminster, 1931] provides that no law hereafter made by the United Kingdom shall extend to any of the dominions otherwise than at the request and with consent of that dominion.
Years after the event, the initial doubts continued to be expressed about rendering into law that which should be left to custom and practice. Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia (1939-41 and 1949-66), was a continuing critic, claiming that Statute of Westminster was 'open to grave criticism'. It did a 'grave disservice' and was a 'misguided attempt' to reduce to written form what was 'a matter of spirit and not of the letter.'
The object of the Statute of Westminster 1931 was to give de jure recognition to the independence of certain of the principal Colonies, that is to say, to confer dominion status on the Dominions. By convention rather than formal act, this recognition had existed de facto for a number of years. The Statute of Westminster laid down the basis of membership of the British Commonwealth, namely that the Crown is the symbol of the free association of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and that they are united by a common allegiance to the Crown.