February 13, 1956

PC

George Stanley White

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Whyte:

Is it not the case that, owing to the difficulty of reporting hon. members, who usually speak in the direction away from you, the report taken of speeches in this house often omits very material sentences, and therefore, sir, it may often happen that in an important debate phrases or words are omitted or inserted which did not actually leave the lips of the speaker?

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Subtopic:   MR. GARDINER REFERENCE TO REMARKS IN DEBATE ON FEBRUARY 10
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

That is so, and I have had complaints from the reporters that when hon. members, and I am sorry to add, right hon. members, turn their backs on the chair and address the benches below the gangway, it is very often very difficult to catch exactly what is said. I have given instructions in cases of that kind that it is the duty of the reporter to leave a blank if he is not able to take down the next words, and to ascertain from other sources what was said, and fill up the blank in that way.

Later on in 1944 Mr. Speaker Clifton Brown was called upon to rule upon the same subject and he reiterated the ruling made by Mr. Speaker Lowther in 1914.

That therefore is the situation in the United Kingdom and those are the rules which I think should apply in our own house. I am fortified in that view by another fact. In 1948 the standing committee on debates held meetings. I think it is the last time the standing committee on debates held meetings. Prior to that date there was a meeting I think in 1932 or 1933 and some in 1924 or 1925. But in 1948, as appears at page 490 of the Journals of 1947-48, I read in the report which was concurred in by the house the following, being paragraph 4:

That the pages of the daily edition be kept intact so that, after permissible corrections are made, the pages of the daily edition can be used for the bound edition as originally printed, and that-

And I draw your attention to this portion:

-changes suggested by members be confined strictly to correction of errors and essential minor alterations.

To me these are the guiding rules with respect to the execution of our duties; I refer to the duties of the editor of debates, myself, the Clerk or anyone else who may have anything to do with the matter in this house.

Some hon. members may say, "If those are your views, you are far away from having observed them in dealing with the point that is now before us". I will agree that is so. The only excuse I have, if any, is this. Whereas of late hon. members have been, so far as I can ascertain, perhaps more particular than ever with respect to any changes which might be made in Hansard, it looks as though even in the United Kingdom, when it comes to figures, quotation or statistics, about which one may have doubt, and especially when the house is sitting in committee and not with the Speaker in the chair, more latitude has been given. Indeed, in 1924 I find that the house even considered the possibility of

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?

Alfred Dryden Hales

Sir William Byles:

May I ask you whether it has not long been the practice of hon. members to make slight verbal alterations in the proof which reaches them in order to make their meaning more precise and accurate?

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

That might be their habit, but it rests with the editor of the official report to consider whether that amendment or alteration does materially affect the sense.

Hansard-Altering of Report eliminating Hansard in committee and reporting only speeches made when the Speaker was in the chair. In the order of reference of the committee on debates which studied the matter-and this is found at page 504 in 1924-one question before it was this:

2. Whether it is desirable, in the interests of economy of time, labour and expense, that the report of the debates in Hansard should be limited to set speeches as may be delivered when Mr. Speaker is in the chair, with or without a brief report of proceedings in committee.

On the other hand, in the United Kingdom when the house sits late at night whereas they do not allow members to go upstairs to correct their speeches, they will allow this, and it is a suggestion reported in the Journal of the Society of Clerks at the Table in Empire Parliaments for 1947, page 38, volume 16:

It is suggested that in the case of these later speeches members should not seek to do any revision later than 10.30 p.m., except on special points of difficulty or doubt, involving names, figures, or quotations.

As I said before, if we had been in different circumstances than those which prevailed just a few minutes before six o'clock on Friday night, the matter would have been dealt with in the house.

I believe that from now on it should be made certain, and I think the house will agree with me, that the editor of debates should, if these rulings I have quoted constitute a proper authority for the manner in which hon. members want to have their Hansard protected, be guided by those rulings without any reference whatever to anybody else. /If an alteration is to be made in our debates, the matter should be dealt with on the floor of the house. This matter of the Speaker or the Clerk or anyone else having to do with this editing of debates, and being called upon to judge what may be taken out or put in, is putting those persons in the position of being censors. There is always the chance-as a matter of fact I would say it would be an illusion to think that if any material changes are made to Hansard they will not be picked up.

As hon. members Know, the transcript of speeches made in this house is issued to the press gallery about 20 minutes after the take is reported. Members can always have access to the editor's room to check the speeches that are being made. There are all those hon. members who were in the house at the time the speech was made, most of whom have very good memories and can recall what was said. We cannot therefore eliminate something from Hansard without there being a chance that some repercussions will take place. I think the minister himself

fMr. Speaker.]

did know that, and I certainly knew it. At the time I conceded to what I thought was a reasonable request by the minister, based on the fact he was in committee of supply and was dealing with figures. Under the circumstances, they appeared to be minor alterations such as would be allowed according to the guiding rule recommended by the committee on debates in 1948 and concurred in by the house.

What are we going to do in the present circumstances? We are in the full house, and we are exercising our powers. I think, myself, that the words that have been omitted, now that they have been repeated in the statement made by the minister, should be reinserted in the revised edition where they should have been all along. It is a matter which is now of public concern, and I would suggest that the words eliminated be reinstated. They are not so considerable as some hon. members may think. I have the typescript here, and the omissions consist of two phrases in the reply made by the minister to the hon. member for Quebec West (Mr. Dufresne). There is one where it says, "They used only 6,000 pounds of margarine. Then they had other fats, neither margarine nor butter, amounting to 53,000 pounds." Then, later, the figures omitted were, "13,591 pounds of margarine and 103,146 pounds of other fats." Those are the words that have been omitted.

My ruling at this point would be-

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Subtopic:   MR. GARDINER REFERENCE TO REMARKS IN DEBATE ON FEBRUARY 10
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

I trust there will be no ruling until you have heard the views of hon. members.

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Drew) has just said, "I hope there will be no ruling until you have heard from hon. members." I do not know exactly what the Leader of the Opposition has in mind, but the editing of the debates is in the hands of an employee of the house who is under the authority of the Speaker. If advice is required, he seeks it from the officials, that is the ones who are above him, and in this case that is what he has done. The Speaker takes full responsibility for what he has done and at the first opportunity submits what he has done to the house.

Now, I did indicate why I took the action that I did. It is because I have doubts that I propose to redress the situation by suggesting that the words omitted be reinserted.

I would tell the Leader of the Opposition that I could even go a step farther and at this moment I could submit my conduct to the house and ask for the yeas and nays.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

May I, in deference, submit to you that before you do anything that purports

to be in the way of a binding decision, you permit hon. members to make comments in regard to the situation?

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Would the Leader of the Opposition proceed now?

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. George A. Drew (Leader of ihe Opposition):

Hansard-Altering of Report It cannot be done by any member of the house on his own initiative, as was done in this case. What is rfiore, Mr. Speaker, I submit in deference that it cannot be done by the Speaker except under the authority of the house. It can only be done by the authority of this House of Commons, which is the supreme authority in matters of this kind.

There are plenty of precedents in regard to this. On April 7, 1933, the then member for Temiscouata, whom most of us remember very well, objected to. a certain word used by a member about him in debate, and Mr. Speaker said at page 3804 of revised Hansard:

If the hon. member for Temiscouata believes that the word referred to him, I will direct that it be expunged from Hansard.

I would like to point out what happened on that occasion.

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order. Will the hon. member be good enough to give me the date of the incident?

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

April 7, 1933. The then leader of the opposition, Right Hon. Mackenzie King, made the following statement, which appears at page 3805 of Hansard I just referred to, and I quote his words:

Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to take exception to what Your Honour may have done in the way of expunging possible objectionable phrases from Hansard, but I would ask if it is not part of the privilege of the house to control its own records, and whether the house should not, before any statements are expunged from the records, pass a resolution in the first instance. I raise this point now because Your Honour has made decisions which equally affect members on both sides of the house. I did not wish to take exception to anything done in the past but I respectfully submit so far as the privileges of the house are concerned that His Honour the Speaker is the servant of the house in this as in all matters, and the house should itself determine whether anything is to be expunged from any of its records.

That was the statement of Mr. Mackenzie King, the leader of the opposition at that time. The Speaker then made this- reply, as reported immediately afterwards on the page of Hansard I have referred to:

I will take the remarks of the right honourable gentleman under consideration.

Then, having given the matter the appropriate consideration, Mr. Speaker Black, on April 10, gave his ruling as follows, as reported at page 3855 of Hansard. I submit that this has stood unchallenged as the appropriate statement in regard to matters of this kind. I quote:

On Friday, April 7, the right hon. the leader of the opposition raised the point that the house having control of its own records, the house should, before any statements are expunged from the official report of the debates, pass a resolution to that

effect, and he submitted that the Speaker being the servant of the house in this, as in all matters, the house itself should determine whether anything is to be deleted from any of its records.

In the case in point, the first opportunity I had of fully understanding the words complained of was when I saw the official report, and since I should have ruled them out when they were uttered I consider I was justified in ruling them out from the chair as soon as the house sat again. I agree that in dealing with Hansard the Speaker's authority is subject to the approval of the house.

Instructions for any alteration in the official report of the debates should not be given without communicating them to the house in session, and for this reason, whenever I have deemed it advisable to direct that certain statements be expunged, I have done so from the chair, thus giving a ruling which, under standing order 12, is subject to an appeal to the house.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the situation here is one in which the minister could have apologized to the house, as he should have done.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

I am quite prepared to do that when you sit down.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

At least, Mr. Speaker, we have a grain of encouragement to say that the debate has brought this conviction to the mind of the Minister of Agriculture, and we welcome it. But it goes much farther than that. This subject is not one where figures or quotations were in doubt. This is not a case of a minor change. This is a case of tearing Hansard apart. This is a case of changing the whole context after that part of the debate, and in relation to statements which could have been corrected at a subsequent time by the proper procedure.

Now, if it were possible for Hansard to be changed in this way its effectiveness would be completely destroyed. No matter what we may argue as to the degree of official authority that is to be interpreted as applying to these records, the fact remains that they are described as the official report of debates and they are the only official reports we have. The whole context must remain in its proper form if we are in fact to have an understanding of what took place.

It must be remembered that in the proper course of their duties many hon. members may not be present in the house on a particular day. It is not only the members of the government who have legitimate reasons for being out of the house on many occasions. As every hon. member knows, many committees sit while the house is sitting and members are outside of the house. Unless the record conforms to the meaning and intent of the debate itself, hon. members who were doing their proper business as members of the house on committees or otherwise are denied the opportunity of knowing what took place here.

It is of vital importance that the integrity of the debates be fully protected, and I submit, Mr. Speaker, that this matter should not be left where it is. I submit with deference that circumstances have arisen which make it appropriate that this should go before the standing committee on debates for inquiry as to the procedure which has taken place and what actually did take place in this instance. Perhaps the Speaker could inform us whether Hansard had already refused to make the changes when requested by the Minister of Agriculture. If it did we should know that, because in that case it was no minor alteration but an alteration which Hansard had already refused to make when it was requested by the Minister of Agriculture.

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

May I deal with the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition. In line with the conversation I had with the editor of debates during the last recess he did refuse to alter the words and that is why he submitted the matter to me. That is why the Minister of Agriculture came to my office to see me. I communicated with the editor of debates this morning again and I said: "In your opinion was it such a material change in view of the fact that figures were involved and the house was in committee of supply?" He did tell me that he did not think it was such a considerable change but in the light of the conversation we had during the recess it was the type of change which he felt he should refer to me.

As I told hon. members before, I would not have dealt with this matter in any shape or form had it not been for the fact that I thought it was merely a minor essential alteration and having regard to the fact that the house was in committee of supply, the accuracy of figures was under consideration and, as I say, I was impressed by the circumstances that there was an inference there about institutions being guilty of something which had been indicated in the house.

The Leader of the Opposition will permit me to tell him and the house that so far as the editors of debates are concerned they are not responsible for one second for anything that has happened. As a matter of fact, I pay them a tribute for their integrity, their independence, their conscientiousness and their impartiality. I will say further that if there is one man who is responsible for this it is not the Minister of Agriculture but the Speaker of the House of Commons.

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?

Some hon. Members:

No.

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Oh, yes, I am.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Knowles:

Under pressure.

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G7509-71


Hansard-Altering of Report


LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Oh well, pressure-it all depends what you mean by pressure. The Minister of Agriculture did not insist that I do it-

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February 13, 1956