Mr. Speaker, I am continuing
to quote from what Mr. Asquith said at that time:
I think that in addition to those rules, which I have described as rules of obligation-because it seems to me that they have an ethical value and sanction, as well as being based on grounds of expediency and policy-there are, or there certainly ought to be, rules of prudence specially applicable to ministers and to persons in positions of official
responsibility, rules which perhaps never have been formulated, and which it would be very difficult to formulate in precise or universal terms. One of those rules is that in these matters such persons should carefully avoid all transactions which can give colour or countenance to the belief that they are doing anything which the rules of obligation forbid.
I have read this quotation because, so far as I can ascertain, that was the last time it became necessary, either in the House of Commons at Westminster or in the House of Commons here, to state in such clear and explicit terms the rules of prudence and the rules of obligation which have come down by trial and error, with centuries of precedent, under our type of parliamentary system.
The Minister of Trade and Commerce has indicated that if he had thought there might be the association between himself and the government and the public that has happened, then he might have questioned the wisdom of continuing the use of that name. That is exactly the point before us.
When a minister has the immense power that the Minister of Trade and Commerce has, powers conferred upon him because it was stated that these wider powers would be necessary so that the government could deal with price controls and other controls -when a minister has these wide powers, then that minister surely will not suggest that the name C. D. Howe Company Limited has not some significance beyond that of an ordinary company name.
In any event at a time like this, when in the very nature of things hundreds of millions of dollars of the taxpayers' money are to be spent under the full and unrestrained authority of the Minister of Defence Production, in the preparation of those defence measures which were under discussion in the house yesterday, then there not only should be nothing done which can be open directly to criticism, but there should be nothing done that is open even to indirect criticism, or that gives any colour to the possibility that members of the House of Commons have not reason to repose full confidence in that minister in regard to the expenditure of the enormous sums we are called upon to approve.
Now, the minister himself has stated the relationship of his own family to this company. There is one way in which he could avoid any criticism, and that is to make sure that this company does not retain a name which has a very special significance at this time, and also that no contracts are awarded -and particularly in the circumstances under which these contracts were awarded-in a way that leaves every other contract open to question in so far as that department is concerned.
It is not only government money that is being spent; it is hundreds of millions, billions, of dollars that axe being spent by private companies that must look to the Minister of Defence Production for priority and otherwise. Now, there is no member in this House of Commons who does not know that a nod to any of those private companies, in regard to a company that bears the name of the minister with these immense powers, would be most suggestive and decisive as to what should be done.
It is not necessary to do more than point this out, and to ask the Prime Minister to end the possibility of anything of this kind and to accept these rigid but unwritten rules of obligation and prudence which have been so deeply embedded in our tradition. Unless that is done, then there is only one thing to be said, and that is that from a guilty conscience the charge of "smear" is being made by those whose shameless behaviour opens them to condemnation from every part of this country.