The question of privilege is quite simply stated. It is an established rule
Inquiries of the Ministry binding this parliament that when a minister of the crown intimates that action has been taken embodied in a public document, he must thereupon at once table that document. Yesterday the minister was asked to table the document. He said-and Your Honour upheld that view-that he would table it in due course. He did not table it yesterday. He did table it today. I submit that was an infringement of the rights of this parliament. In seeking to explain the matter the minister indicated that when he made the announcement he had not mentioned an order in council. I wish to submit to Your Honour that this point of privilege is well taken because the minister indicated that an order in council was in existence. I wish to read his words in order to prove to Your Honour that he infringed that rule.
It is not necessary to read them. They are in Hansard for everybody to read, as I said earlier. If there is any matter of privilege, or if the privileges of the house have been offended by the delay of the minister in tabling the order in council, the hon. member has made his point sufficiently, and I do not think that we ought to take up time in debating the matter.
Is it not a question to which parliament should have an answer, namely as to whether this order in council had been passed when the minister referred to it yesterday morning or whether it was passed at a meeting of the cabinet held yesterday afternoon?
I am not aware that I ruled that the house was entitled to know the time it was passed. It seems to me that would be inquiring into the secrecy of council. I have ruled, and the question has been asked, as to the day on which the order in council was passed.
On the point to which you have just referred, Mr. Speaker, namely as to the secrecy of cabinet proceedings, may I say this. We have been told on previous occasions by members of the government that certain questions we asked could not be answered because they related to discussions which were still going on in cabinet and which had not yet been made final. Surely that is the whole point of this issue. Was the minister yesterday morning telling us about an action that had been made final in cabinet by order in council, or was he merely reporting something that was more or less a matter of secret discussion? This matter could be cleared up if we could be told at what time that order in council was passed.
I am sorry, but I cannot agree with the hon. member that he is entitled to inquire as to the exact time of the passage of the order in council. It is apparently dated January 31, and the minister answered that it was passed on January 31. The question of privilege was with regard to whether the minister should have tabled the document at the conclusion of the announcement yesterday or this morning, as he did, and that point has been sufficiently dealt with.
I cannot see any question of privilege there. If the hon. member wants to cite any authority or to argue the point, of course I will hear him, but I do not see that there is any question of privilege of the house involved in the facts that the hon. member has presented.
May I say a word on that matter, Mr. Speaker. Is it not true that if action had not been finally taken by the government, the minister should not have brought the question up in the house; because a previous decision had been made that we in the opposition are not permitted to discuss these matters which have not been made final in cabinet.