I would like to make a statement to the house regarding questions. It is not generally known that oral questions
are not permitted under any rule in this house. Standing order 44 provides for placing questions on the order paper seeking information relating to public affairs, and it adds that if any member requires an oral answer he may distinguish his question by an asterisk. In former years a few urgent questions were orally addressed to the government on the orders of the day being called, but now all kind of questions are asked at that stage of the proceedings. Most of them could be placed on the order paper. Even newspaper clippings and telegrams, the accuracy of which has not previously been ascertained, are then read and included in the official report of debates. This practice is resorted to on the ground that it is followed in the United Kingdom House of Commons. There could be no greater mistake. The rule at Westminster is quite different from that, and it could be followed with advantage by this house. Our standing order No. 1 provides that:
In all cases not provided for hereafter or by sessional or other orders, the usages and customs of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and northern Ireland as in force at the time shall be followed so far as they may be applicable to this house.
What is the custom today in the United Kingdom house? I cannot find it in a better place than in the 14th edition of May's "Parliamentary Practice", published a year ago under the control of Sir Gilbert Campion, K.C.B., present clerk of the United Kingdom house. Let us quote what he says at page 332:
Notice of a question to a minister or other member is usually placed upon the notice paper, unless the question relates to a matter of urgency or to the course of public business. The custom formerly in vogue, of giving notice of questions by reading the question aloud, is no longer allowed, unless the consent of the Speaker in the case of any particular question has been previously obtained. Notice of a question is given by delivering the terms thereof in writing to the clerks at the table during the sitting of the house.
This is the same as our standing order 44 respecting written questions. But with regard to oral questions, the same authority says at page 340:
Questions which have not appeared on the paper, but which are of an urgent character and relate either to matters of public importance or to the arrangement of business, may be taken after a quarter to four o'clock, provided they have been submitted to the Speaker and have been accepted by him as satisfying the conditions imposed by standing order No. 7 and provided notice has been given to the minister concerned.
This is a very wise rule. Under the practice now followed here, a member may have shown his question to the minister concerned but he has kept it away from the Speaker, who, taken-
by surprise, has no idea of the wording of the question and still is called upon to decide whether the question is in order or not. This is unfair to the Speaker, who is thereby placed in the same position as a judge called upon to render judgment without having seen the documents in the case. I venture to suggest that we accept the United Kingdom practice whereby the Speaker be shown beforehand any question to be addressed to ministers. Our procedure in this matter is hardly parliamentary. The time has arrived when it should be governed by practical rules.
Subtopic: ASKING OF QUESTIONS ON THE ORDERS OF THE DAY-STATEMENT OF MR. SPEAKER