Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):
I have the honour once again, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Your Honour's committee on procedure and organization to move concurrence in a report presented by this committee. I am grateful once more to the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Baldwin) for offering to second my motion. There are three parts to the brief remarks that I should like to make on this occasion.
First of all, sir, I should like to say a few words about the structure of Your Honour's committee and the work that committee is doing. As hon. members will recall from the first report of the committee which Your Honour tabled on March 25, the main committee has been divided into three subcommittees. The hon. member for Edmonton West (Mr. Lambert) is chairman of one of those subcommittees; the hon. member for Northumberland (Miss Jewett) is chairman of another, and I have the honour of chairing the subcommittee on procedure. All three of these committees, as well as the main committee, have been working very hard on the matters assigned to them and it is my understanding that very shortly each of the other subcommittees will have reports to be presented to the house. On those occasions the other subcommittee chairmen will be moving concurrence in the reports. I should like to express my own personal pleasure at working on both the subcommittee and the main committee. We are tackling a big job with earnestness and seriousness, and I dare to hope that as the weeks go by we will be able to make considerable progress, as I believe we have done already.
The second thing I should like to say, Mr. Speaker, is to draw particular attention to the provisional standing order that we are asking the house to adopt by the motion to concur in the third report of the committee which was tabled two days ago. This new provisional standing order, which would carry the number 15(2-a), will make provision regarding the making of statements on motions. Many members may not even realize that
thus far we have no standing orders and no provision whatever for the making of statements on motions. This is a practice that has grown up, and tradition seems to rule the day. Therefore, by not having any standing orders governing this matter, Your Honour has to be guided by precedents, by incidents in the past, and by judging the situation as it arises from day to day.
It is the feeling of the subcommittee, shared by the entire committee-in fact our decision in this matter is unanimous-that we should have a standing order governing the making of statements on motions so that Your Honour will have something to go by. We feel that provision should be made for statements to be made on motions by ministers of the crown, but we feel that something should be said to impose certain limitations. Therefore in our proposed standing order we say such statements should deal only with announcements or statements of policy and that they should present only such facts as it is deemed necessary to make known to the house; and we add the proviso that the making of statements on motions should not be designed in such a way as to provoke debate at that stage.
In the standing order we add the provision that one spokesman for each opposition party should be permitted to comment briefly, subject to the same limitations. I think all members will agree that in practice we have expanded on this procedure, which was not provided for at all, and on too many occasions we have had a five man debate in which nobody else can take part, which leaves us all with the feeling that we have taken too much time and that we have not actually dealt with any item of the business before the house.
I could, but I am not going to, cite examples of faults on both sides of the house. I have gone out of my way to speak to some of the front benchers on both sides of the house, and I find there is general agreement that we could improve this item of our business to the advantage of the house as a whole. I hope the house will accept the motion for the concurrence in this report; that it will accept this proposed standing order; that with the cooperation of the members we can get away from having irregular debates on statements made on motions and that we can have instead, when they are necessary, statements of fact from the government side and brief comment from spokesmen on the opposition side of the house.
The third thing I would like to say is that I hope hon. members will look at this proposal in the context of what this committee has endeavoured to present to the house thus far. As time goes on we shall have other proposals to bring in, but thus far we have been dealing with what I think is a justifiable criticism, that the house has been taking too long with its preliminaries, that it has been taking too long to get down to the business of the day.
We agree that questions are an important part of the house business. So are statements on motions and motions for the production of papers, but to the extent that we have taken an hour and even two hours on these preliminaries we have created the impression of being too slow in getting down to the business of the house. We feel that by a combination of our proposals thus far, what we have done about questions and what we now propose to do about motions, we can reach the point where we will get down to the day's business sooner, we can offset the criticism about spending too long on preliminaries, we can improve the image of the house and we can, in fact, get down to our work that much quicker.
We propose that this provisional standing order should be in effect from the date on which this motion is concurred in until the end of the session, unless otherwise ordered by the house itself, and our committee hopes that the house will adopt this rule unanimously.
Subtopic: CONCURRENCE IN THIRD REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE