July 18, 1946

PRIVILEGE

MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER

LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

The question of privilege raised yesterday by the hon. member for Peterborough West (Mr. Fraser) is very important as it bears upon one of the main privileges of members of parliament, namely the right to seek information on matters of administration for which the government is responsible to the House of Commons.

The hon. member sent in for the order paper a series of questions inquiring as to the number of motorcycles declared surplus by the army and air departments and asking how many of these vehicles had been disposed of through War Assets Corporation. The officer of the house whose duty it is to see that such questions are in order pointed out to the hon. member that the information sought could be obtained from the special committee on war expenditures and economies which was appointed on March 22 by the following resolution:

That a select committee be appointed to- examine the expenditure defrayed out of moneys provided by parliament for national defence and demobilization, and for other services directly connected with the war, including the disposal of surplus war assets, and to report what, if any, economies consistent with the execution of the policy decided by the government may be effected therein . . .

It seems, therefore, that the committee is the proper authority from which the information should be sought in connection with expenditures for defence, demobilization, and -please note-"for other services directly connected with the war, including the disposal of surplus war assets." The hon. member's questions come within the purview of the committee's powers. It is a well known principle in parliamentary procedure that the house cannot deal with matters referred to committees until those committtees have completed their work and reported to the house. I see in "May's Parliamentary Practice," 14th edition, recently published, the following as a type of question enumerated as being out of order:

Dealing with matters referred to a royal commission or with matters before a parliamentary committee or with matters within the juris-[DOT]diction of the chairman of a select committee or the authorities of the house. No question can be asked regarding proceedings in a committee which have not been placed before the house by a report from the committee.

Moreover the chairman of this committee on war expenditures and economies, the senior member for Halifax (Mr. Isnor) has invited all the members of the house to ask questions dealing with matters referred to the committee. On March 26, as reported in the minutes of the proceedings of that committee, he said that the hon. member for Eglinton (Mr. Fleming) had asked to appear before the committee and follow up a question placed on the order paper; and he added:

You are all familiar as to the answer given by the Minister of Reconstruction (Mr. Howe) yesterday, that Mr. Fleming would have the opportunity of asking the question before this committee. I have given this matter some thought, and I am just offering this to you as a suggestion, not* as a ruling. I am going to

Privilege-Mr. Fraser

suggest to you that you give Mr. Fleming an opportunity at once to place his questions on file here with a view to having them answered, but in the future I ain going to suggest that other members of parliament who are not members of this committee should pass along their questions either to the chairman or to another member whom they may select to place them before the committee. I think that in fairness to the members of this particular committee, Mr. Fleming arid others should follow that suggestion so as to give our own members an equal opportunity to have questions answered which they have in mind and have had in mind for some time. There are some questions that Mr. Probe. Mr. Stewart and Mr. Shaw had before the committee last year that have not as yet been dealt with. I feel in fairness to them that my suggestion should be followed. Is it your pleasure that we hear Mr. Fleming to-day with that understanding as to future members?"

The motion was carried; the hon. member for Eglinton thanked the chairman and submitted a series of questions. This was good parliamentary practice. A matter cannot be before a committee and before the house at the same time; and the proceedings of a committee should not be interfered with by answers to questions and reports laid on the table of the house.

In disallowing for the time being the hon. member's questions, I fully realize that his right to seek information is unimpeachable, but I am merely pointing out to him that he is following the wrong procedure. It is his privilege to file his questions with the chairman of the war expenditures and economies committee. I would therefore ask the hon. member for Peterborough West to try the committee, and if he does not succeed there, he will be free to adopt any course which will be open to him under the rules of the house.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

I think perhaps there is another matter to be considered. In view of the importance of the decision which Mr. Speaker has just rendered, may I be permitted to say one word with respect to it, before seeking to appeal to the house with respect to Your Honour's ruling?

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I must say to the hon. member for Peel that the hon. member for Peterborough West rose yesterday on a question of privilege. If the hon. member will look at standing order No. 12 he will find that it states this:

12(1) Mr. Speaker shall preserve order and decorum, and shall decide questions of order, subject to an appeal-

And so on. I have made a statement in answer to the hon. member for Peterborough West respecting his question of privilege. It was not a ruling on a point of order. Since no point of order was raised, there is nothing before the house. The hon. member knows very well that when the bon. member for

Peterborough West rose yesterday it was on a question of privilege. Therefore I do not believe any debate is permissible, and moreover, there can be no appeal.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

I was seeking to say a word in this connection, with Your Honour's consent, because it is an important matter. I shall try to be constructive in what I . say. I should like very much to be able to say a word about it.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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?

Mr. COLD WELL@

Mr. Speaker, may I ask a question? Did you make a ruling, or did you make a suggestion to hon. members in the house as to what would be good procedure?

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I tried to be very clear. I. said that I was not making a ruling, because no question of order was before the house. The hon. member for Peterborough West rose on a question of privilege, and I told him that I would answer his question to-day. As a consequence of that I made the statement to the house as to what would be good procedure. Now, if the hon. member for Peel wishes to say something I might listen to him, but I give no guarantee that I will let him enter into a debate on the subject.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

Mr. Speaker, I wish only to make a constructive suggestion. In our opinion this is a very important matter, one which goes to the very root of the rights of hon. members of the House of Commons, namely that of asking a question at the proper stage. I point out to Your Honour, with great deference, that in applying common sense to the rule affecting questions asked in the house respecting proceedings before a committee I believe Your Honour should not go so far as to rule out any questions asked in the House of Commons just because a committee might have jurisdiction to deal with a wide variety of subjects. There is a vast difference between the proceedings currently before a committee, and the jurisdiction such committee may exercise, which may never reach the points, of questions the hon. member for Peterborough West or other hon. members may ask here.

The other point is this, if I may say so, that if that ruling were adhered to-and I am hopeful that Your Honour, with your usual fairness, will not hold us too closely to it-

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

He has not ruled.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

I think he has, if I may make that reply to the hon. member for Rose-town-Biggar (Mr. Cold well). Such a ruling would mean that I as a member of the House of Commons, but not a member of the committee on veterans affairs, could not ask a question as to the number cf overseas men

Privilege-Mr. Fraser

still to come back to Canada. If this ruling were followed, I could not ask such a question. The same would apply to questions respecting the Department of National Defence. Every question respecting veterans affairs would fall into the same category.

While I do not wish to take up too much time, this is an important matter and I hope that- what I say will be accepted by Your Honour as a constructive suggestion. If this ruling were followed no question could be asked on the whole matter of industrial unrest in Canada until the committee brought in its report. In all fairness to hon. members who are not members of that committee, surely we cannot go so far as to adopt a rule which would debar them from asking such questions.

The other point is that perhaps some day the estimates of all departments will be referred to standing committees. That has been suggested, and it may be that the rules committee will follow the suggestion in its report. But if that is done I would point out to Your Honour that from that day forward you might as well wipe the order paper clear of all questions, because an hon. member would never be permitted, as an ordinary member of the house, to ask a single question if he were not a member of that committee. It seems to me that this interferes with the rights of hon. members who are not serving on committees. If one is a member of a committee he can ask questions; 'but one cannot attend before all committees. If an hon. member has five questions to ask, he cannot be on five different committees at one time.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

Before sitting down I should like to say one word further.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

Well, if the government is going to take the position that you cannot-

Mr. ST. LAURENT: I object to the hon. member's charging the government with having taken a position. The government has not taken a position on this.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

The government is- taking a position. The very fact that you are standing up in the house is an indication that you are taking a position.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Sit down.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

I will not sit down for you or anybody except His Honour.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. FRASER-REJECTION OF QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ORDER PAPER-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER
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July 18, 1946