Right Hon. Mr. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
I might perhaps report to the house the outcome of the conference which was held yesterday afternoon between the leader of the opposition, the acting leaders of the two other parties in the house and myself with regard to a suggested procedure to facilitate the business of this concluding part of the session.
As the house is aware, it is the privilege of the prime minister on the orders of the day being called when no question is before the chair to make a statement to the house on a matter of policy or on any important matter. A similar opportunity is extended by courtesy to the hon. member who is the official leader
of the opposition. Yesterday I made a statement to the house reviewing the international situation. It did not purport and was not intended to go further than that. To-day the leader of the opposition desires to make a statement in regard to matters of policy or other matters of general concern and interest. A similar privilege is not, under our rules, accorded to leaders of groups. But if the house is agreeable to having its sitting continued in committee of the whole so as to allow greater freedom of discussion, an arrangement might easily be made whereby, by grant of special permission by unanimous consent, following the leader of the opposition, the leaders of the two groups, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and the Social Credit or New Democracy groups, would have the opportunity of also making statements of a like character. I might say we were all of the opinion that this arrangement would be the best. The house would1 continue to sit in committee of the whole, and the ministers in turn would make their statements on the progress of Canada's war effort. This procedure., if acceptable to the house, would enable hon. members to ask questions and would permit as full discussion as the house might wish in a way that would not be possible with the Speaker in the chair.
In order to make the discussion itself as relevant as possible it is thought that it would be best to have the ministers make their statements one after the other until matters of interest with respect to the war effort of the administration during the period of adjournment have been stated to the house more or less in their entirety. Hon. members would then have before them information which otherwise they might be obliged to solicit by means of question and answer. When the statements have been presented it is proposed that we then begin such discussion as may be desired upon the first statement, and, after discussion upon the matters to which it relates, proceed to the other statements in such order as may seem most advisable. For example, this afternoon, if the house agrees to the procedure proposed, the leader of the opposition, who will speak upon the orders of the day with the Speaker in the chair, will be followed in committee of the Whole by the acting leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation party, and he will be followed by the acting leader of the New Democracy party. On the government side it is proposed to have the Minister of Munitions and Supply (Mr. Howe) make a statement, to be followed possibly by the Minister of National War Services (Mr. Thorson). The government would wish to
have the ministers of defence speak at a time which will enable the three ministers to speak as nearly as may be possible in consecutive order. As hon. members are aware, the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Ralston) returned to Ottawa only last night; we would wish to have defence matters discussed together. This arrangement would afford the minister at least some opportunity to prepare himself.
If these suggestions are acceptable to the house, after the leader of the opposition has made his statement, I shall move that the Speaker leave the chair and will suggest that the sitting be continued in committee of the whole with the Deputy Speaker in the chair.
Hon. R. B. HANSON (Leader of the Opposition: The statement just made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) I think substantially covers the arrangement made yesterday afternoon. It will be recognized that the observance of this arrangement depends almost entirely upon consent; I do not see how we can go on at all unless we come to some agreement. Therefore, while all the details of the matter are not exactly to my liking, I hope the house will concur in what the Prime Minister has suggested.