I have a statement I
should like to make to the house. Now that the debate on the address has been completed, I have been concerned with what I am sure has been evident to all members of the house, namely, the breach of the rule which deals with the reading of speeches. I would refer hon. members to Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, at page 95, citation 293, which states:
Besides the prohibitions contained in this standing order, it has been sanctioned by usage both in England and in Canada, that a member, while speaking, must not:
(o) read from a written, previously prepared speech.
As long ago as April 19, 1886, a resolution was adopted by the house, which reads:
That the growing practice in the Canadian House of Commons of delivering speeches of great length, having the character of carefully and elaborately prepared written essays, and indulging in voluminous and often irrelevant extracts, is destructive of legitimate and pertinent debate upon public questions, is a waste of valuable time, unreasonably lengthens the sessions of parliament, threatens by increased bulk and cost to lead to the abolition of the official report of the debates, encourages a discursive and diffuse, rather than an incisive and concise style of public speaking, is a marked contrast to the practice in regard to debate that prevails in the British House of Commons, and tends to repel the public from a careful and intelligent consideration of the proceedings of parliament.
During the course of the debate members have been reading from manuscripts without
Precedence jor Government Business
regard to the rule, and all sides of the house have practised it. I think that I express the general sense of the house when I say that this practice is to be deplored. It is true that the debate just completed was very important, as hon. members are likely to be quoted thereafter for their attitude now, and in consequence they wish to have the written word before them rather than rely on the inspiration of the moment to find the proper expressions. I wish to intimate to the house that I shall have to insist upon members observing the rule. I realize the difficulty of enforcing it and the chair can only do so with the positive support of all members.
On a former occasion I agreed, and the house consented, that when important statements involving government policy are made by ministers on behalf of the government, such statements could be read rather than expressed extemporaneously. This practice is,
I understand, being followed in the British House of Commons and it has been extended here to include statements made by the official leader of the opposition, whose status is regulated by section 42 of the Senate and House of Commons Act, chapter 147.
There is another matter to which I wish to refer. That is standing order 37, which reads:
No member except the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition, or a minister moving a government order and the member speaking in reply immediately after such minister or a member making a motion of ' no confidence" in the government and a minister replying thereto, shall speak for more than forty minutes at a time in any debate.
The house in generous mood usually consents to an extension of this rule beyond the forty minutes. But I feel that hon. members rely upon the indulgence of the house to obtain extra time. It may be that some ministerial statements require a longer period than forty minutes, and it would be inappropriate and perhaps inadvisable that the rule should be applied to them Here, again, however, I think all such ministerial statements should be prepared in view of and be in conformity with the rules of the house. I must, therefore, point out that the Chair should not be placed in a position where discrimination is necessary and hon. members must realize that with every right to be heard in the house, such hearing must be subject to the rules of the house.