The Chair would like to thank the Hon. Member for Edmonton West and other Hon. Members who have participated in the discussion concerning the point of order relating to the publication of proceedings of the standing and other committees of the House.
May I briefly state that the issue raised by the Hon. Member is not new. He himself raised it before, on March 17, 1983. Frequently, Bills are reported with amendments by committees on the same day as they are adopted in committee. That was the case last Friday, and some of the proceedings and evidence of the standing committee to Bill C-9 were not yet available at 11 a.m. in their usual printed form. The Hon. Member for Edmonton West objected because he claimed there was "no proper printed record". The Hon. Member for Lanark-Renfrew-Carleton (Mr. Dick) raised the question as to whether the debate could proceed since some issues of the committee proceedings were not available from the joint distribution branch.
First, let me say that the verbatim record was available in both languages on Monday morning through the Clerk of Committees or through the Journals Branch. Issues Nos. 38, 39, 40 and 41, in their usual printed form, were delivered to the offices of all Hon. Members last night. The Chair had intended to inform Members of the time the printed issues would be available before Private Members' Hour, but it took some time to obtain that information from the Printing Bureau. Normally, the proceedings of committees on Bills have first printing priority after the Order Paper, Votes and Proceedings and Hansard. I am sure that Hon. Members will
June 13, 1984
understand that that in itself is a problem of some magnitude. However, may I reassure the Hon. Member that both the reprint of Bill C-9 and the entire committee proceedings related to that Bill were available to Members, albeit not in their usual printed form. In the circumstances, Bill C-9 was taken up for consideration at the report stage at the first opportunity allowed by the Standing Orders.
If a reprint of the said Bill had not been available or the proceedings of the committee had not been available, the Chair would certainly have informed the House and sought direction. The rules are silent on the form of publication. The Chair hesitates to rule that the proceedings and evidence of a committee must be in their usual printed form before debate on a Bill can proceed. Indeed, the decision to print is a power that belongs to the committees. Could it be argued that, if a committee decided to sit in camera and not to print its evidence, debate on a Bill could not proceed in the House at report stage? What if a printing were delayed by a natural disaster or strike? This is a question the Procedure and Organization Committee may wish to clarify when it meets, for the Standing Orders offer little guidance to the Chair.
There is, however, a precedent. I quote Mr. Speaker Mac-Naughton on March 17, 1965, as reported at page 12479 of Hansard: He said:
The basic question is whether or not a bill in the House of Commons can be discussed, asssuming that the evidence has not been completely finished in its English and French printing. I have made a search of the records since confederation, and there is no case that says that a bill in the House of Commons which is up for discussion cannot be proceeded with until the evidence has been filed. If we were to accept the suggestion of the hon. member for Lapointe (Mr. Gregoire), emotionally pleasing as it may be, nevertheless procedurally in my opinion it would be completely wrong, and would establish a very bad precedent.
That is a ruling of Mr. Speaker MacNaughton.
The Chair would like to make one or two observations at this point. First, there has been an attempt to improve the printing of committee reports. The delays have been very substantially reduced. The Hon. Member for Edmonton West referred to delays of up to a month. I can remember that when I was first elected to the House that was far too usual a practice. Thanks to modern technology and improvements-I would like to think in the administation-the delays have now been reduced.
The present occupant of the Chair is sympathetic to the argument and the concern. I might add that I have not been in a rush to make any final decision, bearing in mind that these transcripts were not available. They were available sometime after six o'clock last night. I feel a little more comfortable about it. However, I really do feel uncomfortable when Hon. Members do not have the transcripts. However, I am guided by the precedent of Mr. Speaker MacNaughton. I am guided by the fact that the rules are silent as to the form of printing.
In the circumstances, I have to reject the point of order of the Hon. Member for Edmonton West following the decision of Mr. Speaker MacNaughton. For now the Chair will contin-
Security Intelligence Service
ue to ensure that, in these unusual circumstances, the manuscripts are made available to those who ask for them through the Clerk of Committees or the Journals Branch.
I can assure Hon. Members that every effort will be made to ensure that transcripts are available promptly in order that we can avoid this kind of situation. However, I can give no assurance that there will not be occasional situations. I understand that the major problem was a breakdown of a piece of printing equipment over the weekend at the Queen's Printer. However, we are conscious of the need for making the transcripts available with the absolute minimum of delay.
Subtopic: CANADIAN SECURITY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE ACT
Sub-subtopic: MEASURE TO ESTABLISH