Mr. F. B. CARVELL (Carleton, N.B.) asked for leave to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the desirability, in the public interest, of immediately enlarging the power of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the contracts regarding fuses, etc., called the Meredith-Duff Commission, by providing for widening the scope of the inquiry into the matters referred to the commission.
And leave having been granted,
He said: I wish to present to the House certain facts as the result of the investigation of the Meredith-Duff Commission, so called. In doing so it is not my intention to in any way refer to any evidence given before the commission as indicating what has been proven or has not been proven, or anything of that kind. I realize that this is a matter which is really sub judice at the present time, and a matter to be desired by the commission, and that it would be highly improper on my part, especially as I am a counsel before the commissioners, to make any comment or reflection of any kind. Therefore, in the remarks I make, I will endeavour to confine my statements and my arguments entirely to the question of whether or not it is in the public interest to enlarge the scope of the inquiry. And in order to make the discussion as short as possible, I wish to refer to many
things generally, without quoting page and date. It is within the knowledge of every member of this House that some weeks ago the right hon. leader of the Opposition moved that a Committee of this House he appointed for the purpose of investigating matters relating to the Shell Committee, which ceased to exist some time in the latter part of November, 1015. That motion was voted down by the House, and
two days afterwards the right hon.
Prime Minister informed the House that the Governor General in Council had appointed a commission for the purpose of investigating three contracts specially mentioned and one other in case it should come within the purview of the commission, or words to that effect. I am not going to read that Order in Council, 'because it is on Hansard and is a matter of record. Since Wednesday of last week that commission has been proceeding under the terms of the Order in Council, witnesses have been sworn and examined and cross-examined. Perhaps it would not be anjiss if I should take this opportunity of stating publicly that I feel that counsel representing the Government is presenting the case in as fair and as able a manner as is possible- and that is saying a great deal when I am discussing Mr. I. F. Hellmuth. But, Sir, the investigation is developing a condition of affairs regarding the doings and status of the old Shell Committee which was certainly a revelation to every person who had anything to do with the commission, and which, I think, must be a revelation to a large majority of the members of this House. I refer to the fact, brought out before the commission, that at least from and after the first day of October, 1914, down to the day when the Shell Committee ceased to exist, on November 30, 1915, four members of that committee, namely Messrs. Bertram, Cantley, Watts and E. Carnegie, legally occupied the position of contractors with the British Government, as represented 'by the Minister of Militia and Defence. All of these gentlemen have not in any way claimed that they were entitled to any part of the profits which may have come out of the transaction. I want that to be particularly stated, 'because three of them have already been examined and have repudiated the idea of taking profits to themselves. But they all contend that legally they would be entitled to the profits if profits were made, and I think the converse would be true-at least, I know that this was admitted by one of them-that if
losses were made they would be responsible for theip. I think they all say that they approached the Prime Minister and brought up the question as to what their position would be in case of losses taking place. The Prime Minister was very careful, they say, not to make any promise; he told them that they would cross that bridge when they came to it. They went on; that bridge was not reached; therefore they were not called upon to discuss it. The substance of it all, however, was this: the Prime Minister said: "We want the shells; go on,
and if there are losses we will have to discuss that later." That, I think, would be a fair way of putting it; at least, that is the way the witnesses have placed it before the commission.
I shall not go over the correspondence leading up to the first contract, because it was placed on Hansard by the Minister of Militia in an address delivered in this House on the 25th or 26th of January last. However, the sum and substance of it was that a number of cablegrams having passed between the British War Office and the Minister of Militia, we had authority-I say " we;" I mean the Dominion of Canada; I would call that the Government of Canada-had authority to supply the British Government with 100,000 empty shrapnel shells, 18-pounders, at $8.55 each, and 100,000 empty 15-pounder shrapnel shells at $8.30 each. On the first day of October a contract was entered into between the Minister of Militia and Defence, representing the British War Office, and four gentlemen of a committee of seven or eight. I want to read this agreement, as found on page 30 of the evidence taken by the commission :