May 11, 1944

NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

There was a point of order raised by my hon. friend here arising out of an error on the part of the minister, who announced that he was reading from a letter from Lord Beaverbrook when he intended to read from a statement enclosed in a letter from Lord Beaverbrook. That emerged afterwards. There is no doubt that the minister said that he was reading from a letter from His Lordship, and I assumed at the beginning that it was an official letter and therefore that it was entitled to be tabled in this house. But the actual position seems to be this, that Lord Beaverbrook prepared a statement for the House of Lords, and then enclosed a copy of it in a letter to the minister. The statement which he made in the House of Lords was properly read by the minister to the house. I do not

Post-War Civil Aviation

think he was called upon to read a personal letter. What happened was that the minister fell into error in the first place and thereby led us into error, and then later corrected the position. I conceive the rule to be this, that any official communication read to the house should be tabled, but personal letters should not be tabled and should not even be referred to.

May I be permitted to say a word on one other point arising out of the minister's statement? I understood him to say that the British government in the first instance had accepted the Canadian proposal. My question is based on a statement in a Canadian press dispatch which appears in the Ottawa Journal this morning entitled "U.K.-"

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

This has gone beyond what is before the Chair. As I understand it, the leader of the opposition raised the point of order that the letter read by the minister should be laid on the table. If there is any other hon. member who wishes to speak on that point, I shall be glad to hear iiim.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

Mr. Speaker, I should like to follow what my colleague said, with this. I think the hon. member for York-Sunbury has in a general way cited the rule correctly. The rule as mentioned in the third edition of Beauchesne, at page 111, reads as follows-and I quote it now because this point frequently comes up and there is a great deal of misunderstanding about it:

It has been admitted that a document which uas been cited ought to be laid upon the table of the house, if it can be done without injury to the public interest. The same rule, however, cannot be held to apply to private letters or memoranda. On the 18th May, 1865. the attorney-general, on being asked by Mr. Ferrar if he would lay upon the table a written statement and a letter to which he had referred on a previous day, in answering a question relative to the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, replied that he had made a statement to the house upon his own responsibility, and that the documents he had referred to being private, he could not lay them upon the table. Lord Robert Cecil contended that the papers, having been cited, should be produced; but the speaker declared that this rule applied to public documents only.

That same rule was laid down by you, Mr. Speaker, last session in connection with a document which was read by the hon. member for North Battleford (Mrs. Nielsen). I support what my colleague the Minister of Finance (Mr. Ilsley) has said, that the reading of a public document enclosed in a letter does not compel for a single instant the laying on the table of the private letter in which that public document was enclosed.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

May I add one word,

Mr. Speaker? Whatever may have been the argument against tabling this document, the

minister quickly and strangely surrendered to the request I made, and I can only hope that in the public interest he will continue to surrender. My point is that once the minister had read, as he said, the full letter to the house, he took away any possible argument against tabling it that there was from the governments point of view on the ground that it was a private or personal matter. He could not possibly say that of a letter which had been read; therefore I am going to ask that the letter be tabled. If I am not permitted to do that under the rules, I am afraid there is nothing I can do about it, but certainly I think I am right in my request.

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CCF

Joseph William Noseworthy

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. NOSEWORTHY:

I think this is a

point which should be cleared up. I ran into the same difficulty in this house on March 27 last, when I was reading from a personal letter and the Minister of Munitions and Supply, at page 1879 of Hansard, asked that the letter be tabled. I then asked whether the rules of the house obliged me to do so, and the Minister of Mines and Resources (Mr. Crerar) said: "They certainly do." And the Minister of Munitions and Supply said: "Oh, yes." I then laid the letter on the table under protest, but the next day received it back from the Clerk of the House, who told me that the rules of the house did not permit me to lay the letter on the table.

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NAT

Thomas Langton Church

National Government

Mr. CHURCH:

Is this motion debatable,

Mr. Speaker?

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

There is no motion before the house. With respect to the point of order raised by the leader of the opposition in regard to the letter read by the Minister of Munitions and Supply, it appears to me that there is nothing for me to decide, because the house has taken cognizance of the letter. Objection was taken by the leader of the opposition regarding this letter, and the Minister of Munitions and Supply replied to that by reading the letter in full into Hansard. We are not dealing with a departmental report. As Bourinot so aptly says, at page 243, "No document can be regularly laid on the table unless in pursuance of some parliamentary authority." Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, third edition, page 145, paragraph 385, says with regard to papers which are laid before the house:

Papers are laid before the house in pursuance of

(1) Provision of an act of parliament;

(2) An order of the house;

(3) An address to the crown;

(4) The command of the crown;

(5) Standing orders of the house.

The letter in question does not come within any of these categories, therefore it need not

Post-War Civil Aviation

be laid on the table as a parliamentary paper. It may be tabled for information during a debate, but there is no motion before the chair at this moment. It is true that it could have been said, and it was so stated by the Minister of Finance, that the document need not be laid on the table of the house if it be against the public interest. Paragraph 278, on page 111, states:

It has been admitted that a document which has been cited ought to be laid upon the table of the house, if it can be done without injury to the public interest.

If there was a debate and that debate contained some reference to a document which was cited by a minister of the crown, undoubtedly that letter would have to be placed on the table of the house, according to the well-known principle that you cannot in a court of law seek to supply evidence from a document without producing the document. But there is no debate before the house, and therefore the position is, I take it, that I have nothing to decide. The letter has been read; it is part of the record, and there it must stand.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

May I ask Your Honour

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

I am not going to submit to that kind of thing. If Mr. Speaker asks me to sit down I will sit down, but I am not going to be told to do so by a lot of people across the floor. Your Honour referred to the letter having been read in full. I should like the minister to state whether what he read is the letter in full?

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

It is, with the exception of one sentence.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

May I ask the Minister of Munitions and Supply a short supplementary question arising out of his reply to the hon. member for Lake Centre? Did I understand him to say that in the first instance the United Kingdom government, or the Beaverbrook committee-whichever he may designate-had accepted a Canadian-sponsored plan regarding post-war international regulation of civil aviation? Had they actually accepted it, and if so, is it not a fact that they have now abandoned it? I would think that that is so, from the Canadian Press report, but I want to know if they had actually committed themselves to the plan. I am not sure that he made that clear.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

I have tried to make it clear that the plan has not been presented to anyone for acceptance or rejection.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

It was a basis-?

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

It was put forward as a basis for discussion. It has neither been accepted nor rejected. But I think my hon. friend will see, if he reads Lord Beaverbrook's letter which I put on Hansard, that the conference was interested in it.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

This matter is a most important one. The minister in his answer to the question as to what took place yesterday in the House of Lords, referred me to a letter dated on April 26. This press dispatch dealing with what took place in the House of Lords yesterday states that Lord Beaverbrook, the Lord Privy Seal, disclosed that last year's commonwealth discussions provided for an all-red route, presumably an air route girdling the globe and operating entirely on an empire basis. The question I wish to direct to the minister is this. Did Canada come to an agreement with the empire countries at the commonwealth conference for an all-red route? That question, Mr. Speaker, arises directly from the discussion which took place in this chamber when the convention was before the house, and I ask whether or not Lord Beaverbrook properly set forth the facts in that regard in the House of Lords yesterday.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

I have not seen Lord Beaverbrook's statement in the House of Lords. I have seen the official statements of all the conferences which have been held to this date. I gave the house the official statement, that is the agreed statement issued from the conference recently held in London, and I find no reference to any such discussion. It is well understood in discussions of this type that the agreed statement is the only information which can go forth from the conference.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

Does the minister say there was no agreement on an all-red route?

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

There was no agreement

resulting from any of the discussions. All meetings have been for the purpose of exploratory discussions. They resulted in discussions, not agreements.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Proposals?

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May 11, 1944