Hon. Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence):
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. Yesterday the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew), as reported on page 1947 of Hansard, quoted a press report of November 22 last stating that I had referred to the-
-creation of a defence commitments authority, an entirely new and unprecedented government agency whose function is to enable the military authorities to enter without delay into future contracts for material and equipment which otherwise would have to wait for parliamentary approval next midwinter. Already contracts in excess of $29 million have been placed by this agency.
I think the leader of the opposition expressed some surprise that I should have said that. Of course I said nothing of the kind. There is no new agency. Authority to expend funds is given by parliament, and only by parliament. What happened was this. A representative of British United Press telephoned me and began by asking what was the amount of the defence appropriations for the current year. I told him that there was a cash appropriation and an additional commitment authority. I remember getting the estimate book and referring him expressly to item 243 on page 32. In order to explain to him the difference between cash appropriation and commitment authority, I read the following passage:
-to authorize total commitments for this purpose of $255,514,584, including authority, notwithstanding section 29 of the Consolidated Revenue and Audit Act, to make commitments for the current year of $227,082,515, and commitments for future years of $28,432,069, against which commitments it is estimated that actual expenditures in 1948-49 will not exceed $207,082,515.
That was the authority conferred by parliament, and the only authority conferred by parliament. When the report to which the leader of the opposition referred appeared, I at once telephoned the representative of the B.U.P. who had spoken to me, and pointed out the mistake. He had confused "commitment authority" conferred by parliament with some new authority or agency to make future commitments. That was the
reason for the error in the report. When I pointed this out to him he said that of course I was right, that he remembered what I had said and that he would send out a correction. Whether the correction was sent out or printed, I do not know.
Subtopic: REFERENCE TO REMARKS IN DEBATE ON MARCH 24