March 2, 1948

HONG KONG

LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, I rise to a question of privilege. The question of privilege relates to the publication in the Ottawa Evening Citizen of yesterday, March 1, 1948, of what purports to be a series of quotations from a letter which Mr. George A. Drew addressed to me on July 11, 1942, respecting the Hong Kong inquiry.

The press report, apart from other allegations, contains certain statements respecting myself as Prime Minister which are not in accord with the facts. With respect to Hong Kong, it is in effect alleged that after the government of Japan changed on October 16, 1941, and before the expedition sailed on October 27, I received messages from the United Kingdom government in the nature of the most complete warning of the probability of early hostilities. Not only is such a statement not correct, but the fact is that both before and after the expedition sailed and, indeed, until the very eve of the Japanese attack, such information as I received from the British authorities was to the effect that an early attack upon Hong Kong was not anticipated.

In my opinion, such information as the Canadian government received, at the time, from the British authorities is in complete accord with the finding of the commissioner, Chief Justice Duff, in his report, namely, that "the best informed opinion available to the Canadian authorities was that hostilities would not arise in the near future."

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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PC

John Bracken (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. JOHN BRACKEN (Leader of the Opposition):

I am sure the house has listened with interest to the comment of the Prime Minister on the report that appeared in at least two papers yesterday. The house was expecting a statement such as the Prime Minister has given. I wish now to ask this question. In view of the state of the public mind with respect to this matter

Some lion. MEMBERS: Oh, oh.

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order.

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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PC

John Bracken (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BRACKEN:

In view of the state of the public mind with respect to this matter, will the Prime Minister not now reconsider his decision with respect to making available in full the letter which has given occasion to so much discussion in the press and outside?

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. A. L. SMITH (Calgary West):

Mr. Speaker, I rise to a question of privilege which affects every member of the House of Commons. It is this. Last night we read in two Ottawa newspapers, perhaps not the whole but a considerable portion of a letter which we have sought to get in this House of Commons now for a matter of weeks.

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

You have a copy of it.

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SMITH (Calgary West):

I have not a copy of it.

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

Your party has.

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SMITH (Calgary West):

I will speak for myself; you look after yourself. Why should this House of Commons be treated by this government with contempt when they will not give us a letter which the general public already has? That is my question.

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. G. DIEFENBAKER (Lake Centre):

I too, Mr. Speaker, rise to a question of privilege arising out of the publication of the excerpts in last night's Ottawa Citizen. I am not condemning the newspaper for doing this, but my point of privilege is that the publication of these letters indicates that newspapers can publish what we in parliament are denied the right to see or discuss. This is a matter which affects our privileges. It is no longer a question merely of Mr. Drew and his relationship to this matter. It is a question whether or not parliament shall be outraged or circumvented by statements, made in answer to a request for the tabling of this correspondence, which have not been in accordance with the facts. According to last night's paper-

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. The hon. member understands perfectly well that it is against the rules to enter into a debate on this matter, because there is nothing before the house.

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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PC

Arza Clair Casselman (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Progressive Conservative Party)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. CASSELMAN:

It is a question of privilege.

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

It is the right of the hon. member to rise to a question of privilege, but I would ask him to state his question of privilege and be as brief as possible.

Hong Kong Inquiry

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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LIB

Thomas Reid

Liberal

Mr. REID:

Who gave the material to the paper if the hon. member did not? Why does he not publish it all?

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

My point of privilege is this, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister said that the reason these letters could not be produced to parliament was that it would result in the revelation of ciphers.

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

That was never given at all.

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

Let us get on with the business of the house.

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. member will understand the difficult position in which the Speaker is placed. I have to ask hon. members to abide by the rules, but at the same time I have to protect freedom of speech. Actually there is nothing before the house. The hon. member knows perfectly well that there is a way in which he can bring about a debate in respect to a matter which interests him, and that is through a motion. If the hon. member feels that a certain matter should be discussed in the house, the proper way to have it discussed is through a motion, and on such a motion I would permit debate. Since I have not the right to do that at the moment, I must ask the hon. member to abide by the rules. -

Topic:   HONG KONG
Subtopic:   LETTER FROM MR. DREW TO PRIME MINISTER- REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF MARCH 1
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March 2, 1948