I wish to call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that an answer to a question with regard to freight rates on the Prince Edward Island railway which appeared on the Order Paper yesterday was not printed in ' Hansard.' The only answer that appears in the official report is that the answer had been filed with the Clerk of the House. I should like to know why the invariable rule of the House has been departed from.
matter except that the Clerk of the House informs me that the answer consisted of a long series of statistics which it is not usual to print in ' Hansard,' and that the clerk will furnish copies of the answer as may be desired. My hon. friend will remember that there was some discussion about this matter on a previous occasion, and it was stated that the practice which was followed has been pursued for some time.
If the right hon. Prime Minister will pardon me, I do not think there was any previous discussion about this matter; probably it was about a return. It seems to me that the answer to this question should not occupy msre than
a page of ' Hansard.' The object of asking the question was to have the information published.
If a member does not distinguish his question by an asterisk, the minister to whom the question is addressed hands the answer to the Clerk of the House who causes it to be printed in the official report of the Debates.
me to be growing of late-and it should be more carefully avoided-of putting on the Order Paper questions which require answers containing long lists of figures, and which should more properly be made as a notice of motion. Owing to the desire, 1 suppose, to give the information, these questions are allowed to pass, and their being printed occasions a conflict with the rule which was established some years ago, that nothing should go on ' Hansard ' except what was read in the House-excepting, perhaps, figures given in the Budget Speech, by the Minister of Finance. That rule was laid down, and has been adhered to ever since. It was with reference to questions of this kind that the matter was discussed in the House some time ago, and it was decided then that in such cases, after an exhibit of what was proposed to go into ' Hansard ', the answer should be filed with the Clerk of the House. That was my understanding, and since then I have been endeavouring to follow that rule, although I have given no instructions with regard to questions and answers.
A member has the privilege of putting a question. If the minister thinks that it should stand as an order for a return, he has only so to declare, but if he chooses to answer the question, then the rule provides that the question be handed to the clerk and that the clerk shall put it on ' Hansard.'
There seems to be a misapprehension here which should be corrected. The rule provides that answers can be given orally or in writing. Sometimes an answer which is given orally contains a long list of figures, and, the figures not having been read, they should not go into ' Hansard ', but if the member does not ask for an oral answer, and the answer is given in writing, the rule is that the answer shall be given to the clerk, who puts it upon the pages of ' Hansard.'
That does seem to be a plain statement of the rule. It is a matter in which I have not interfered in any way whatever, nor has my right hon. friend, as I know. In cases where the answers are long and cumbersome, it would be better in future, I think, for the ministers to let the questions stand as notices of motion. But in cases where that is not done you have the answer printed, as the rule seems to require.