I point out that there is an elementary rule with respect to these matters that it may be important for this committee to keep in mind. We are now creating a precedent. The legislation speaks for itself. It is what this house passed. What the minister had in his possession at the time the legislation was drafted and passed must be tabled if it is to be made part of the record here, and the minister, in my opinion, may not read a portion of it. It came from his files, not from the public files of this country. It is a new departure, but if you, Mr. Chairman, think it is the proper course to pursue with reference to the business of this house, well and good.
There is a general rule, I think, that memoranda passing between a minister and his "officers with respect to the preparation of anything that subsequently comes to the house are privileged and are not produced in the house.
I should like, if the minister will allow me, to make one objection. Anyone who has been four or five years a minister of the crown has found in his department a
great number of private memoranda, prepared by the previous ministers or their deputies, and they are regarded in the department as private. I think during the five years I was minister I could have produced, had I been prepared to do so, some private memoranda that would have astonished this parliament. It is not proper; it has never been done, and I think it is unwise to establish a precedent at this time.
As a matter of fact the minutes of this meeting would have to be quoted from this file; I do not think anyone would object to my quoting them. The minutes of the meeting of the committee are contained in this file. These letters are the deputy minister's letters. This appears to be the deputy's file, not the minister's. I presume that this particular document may be one that was sent to the deputy by the minister.
Do you realize, Mr. Chairman, the purport of that observation? " I presume this is a document sent by the minister to the deputy"; on that statement of facts the allegation was made that that was the minister's memorandum.
The objection is that it is the minister's memoranda to his deputy. It is a breach of good political morals for the minister to attempt to read from or to produce it to this house. There are certain rules of decency that succeeding ministers have always complied with in relation to their predecessors and the correspondence of their predecessors, especially that of their own deputies and clerks.