The hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. Sinclair) stated on the floor of the house on Monday last that the chief treasury officer who performs the duties of accountant of the house had refused to pay his travelling expenses by air and also those of the hon. member for Comox-Alberni (Mr. Gibson). He said:
I request that Your Honour give the reason which you gave to the accountant of the House of Commons as to why the expense accounts for the hon. member for Comox-Alberni and myself were refused.
This was the first time I heard there was any trouble in connection with these expense accounts; but I took no exception to the hon. member speaking on this matter at the time because he started by saying he rose to a question of privilege. By the time he was through I saw that the main object of his statement was a complaint against a part of the house's administration which is under my control. I then said:
I call the attention of the hon. member to a very well known rule, that the Speaker should not be questioned from the floor of the house.
I nevertheless assured the hon. member that due consideration would be given his remarks.
It is a well known rule laid down in May's 14th edition, page 334, that:
Questions dealing with matters within the jurisdiction of the Speaker should be addressed to the Speaker by private notice.
Payment of members' travelling expenses has always been under the control of the commissioners of the internal economy of the house, who, for the present session, are the hon. ministers of Justice, External Affairs, Finance and Fisheries. Section 16 of the House of Commons Act provides that those hon. ministers shall act together with the Speaker, and section 18 of the act says:
All sums of money voted upon such estimates (the estimates of the house), or payable to members of the House of Commons under the Senate and House of Commons Act shall be subject to the order of the commissioners, or any three of them, of whom the Speaker shall be one.
The commissioners have often considered the members' travelling expenses but they have not yet discussed the advisability of applying section 43 (1) of the Senate and House of Commons Act to travel by air. A meeting of the commissioners was called two weeks ago and had to be postponed because ministers were too busy attending other official business. I will make it a point to submit to them the cases of the hon. members for Vancouver North and Comox-Alberni, which in my opinion deserve the most serious consideration.