February 13, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)

LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

The details follow:
The Royal Air Force
Directorate of Contracts under the Air Ministry Director
Principal deputy director 2 deputy directors 1 principal assistant director 5 assistant directors 15 senior contract officers 1 principal accountant 4 senior accountants 1 principal technical costs officer 1 deputy technical costs officer
Turning to the record of the commission, at page 3951, I quote:
Mr. Ralston: When did any matter relating to the Bren gun first come to your attention, officially?
A. In March of 1936-I think it was March 19, 1936; it had to do with the licence matter. Q. I am dealing with the licence matter.
The Commissioner: I am anxious to have it.
At page 3952 Colonel Orde said:
October . . . 1936 was the first time I had heard of Major Hahn having a connection with the Bren gun.
Q. Did you know Major Hahn before that?
A. No.
Q. You did not meet him personally until when?
A. November 19 or 20. 1937.
Q. Thirteen months after?
A. Yes.
At page 3953 Colonel Orde said:
On October 19, 1936 . . . The Master General of the Ordnance, General Caldwell, spoke to me in the matter of licence, generally, with which I had dealt about four or five months before-in the month of March, before . . . General Caldwell, if I remember rightly, spoke to me; and I am not sure whether I saw him alone, or who it was mentioned the matter.
He was not sure about it.
By the Commissioner:
Q. I suppose it was vague at that time?
And at page 3954:
Colonel Orde: Yes, it was pretty vague. So far as I was concerned, just an isolated incident in the course of my work . . . The instructions I got from somebody-and as I say, I am not
Bren Gun-Mr. Pouliot

And then an answer by Colonel Orde on page 3979:
On December 22 I made revisions of several of the provisions of the first draft.
Look at that, Mr. Speaker. There are many eminent counsel like yourself, in this house, and there are also many business men. I ask them to consider the actions of this man who holds the high position of judge advocate general in the Department of National Defence. Look at how he does his work. His answer continues:
They were just made on slips of paper, and they were either handed to Colonel Dewar or they were cut out and pinned to the earlier draft.
Lots of pins. Pins are dangerous for balloons. Then we find the following on page 3984:
The Commissioner: I am attaching some
consequence to this thing. Was it the draft agreement, that is exhibit No. 33, plus these revisions Colonel Orde made that went to the interdepartmental committee?
Mr. Ralston: I hesitate to make any statement without having compared them; I would have to compare them to see. I am afraid 1 have assumed that was so.
The Commissioner: I have assumed that too, but it may not be correct. I do not think Colonel Orde probably knows. What has been interesting me for some time is what was the document that the Department of National Defence sent on to the interdepartmental committee, who stood behind it, who said, "Well, now, if it were not for the interdepartmental committee, why we would pass this, but as a matter of fact it has got to go in there and there it is." That is the point. I am assuming, unless someone should tell me to the contrary, that Colonel Orde's draft of December 22, being exhibit No. 33, plus the revisions of November 22, 1937, was the document that went on to the interdepartmental committee.
The Witness: I am practically certain that was what happened because soon after the committee met I was making some further amendments. I was working on a draft which embodied my draft of the 22nd November, plus the amendments of the 22nd December, plus some further suggestions.
And then another question by the commissioner to Colonel Orde, as reported on page 3985:
Q. I was wondering if Colonel Orde, before he was dealing with the drafts, whether he saw the memorandum of December 10, 1937, which is exhibit No. 31. He may not have had it before him, but just before w'e pass on I should like to clear up that. That has been in my mind. That is the memorandum, I think, by the Master General of the Ordnance. It is a memorandum by someone.
Mr. Ralston: It is a memorandum of the
Master General of the Ordnance.
The Witness: I do not remember particularly seeing this particular memorandum. I saw
during the course of my duties numerous memoranda, but I cannot identify them by reference to any particular dates.
By the Commissioner:
Q. Look at the last paragraph and read it and see if you recall that that was before you at the time?
A. I may have seen it later. I remember seeing it some time.
Q. You do not think it was there when you were making the draft?
A. Oh, no, I mean it looks familiar and I may have noticed it when glancing through the file.
Q. Was there any discussion around that time, in the month of December, 1937, or January of this year, with reference to the last paragraph?
A. I have-
Q. Do you remember whether there -was any conversation with you as to whether that was wise or unwise, whether it might be well to have it stricken out before it went to the interdepartmental committee as an unwise suggestion?
A. I do not remember anything, I do not remember myself.
Q. You do not remember any discussion?
A. No.
Q. Have you the right paragraph, the one that deals with the chartered accountants?
A. Yes. It reads-
Colonel Orde then read the paragraph dealing with the employment of a reliable firm of chartered accountants. The questions by the commissioner continue:
Q. You do not recall that?
A. I have a vague recollection of hearing something discussed, but only informally. It never came to my attention.
By Mr. Ralston:
Q. I was asking you about interviews with Major Hahn during the period in which the interdepartmental committee were considering the Canadian contract. Did you have discussions with him?
A. Oh, I had numerous discussions with Major Hahn and the deputy minister, either in the deputy minister's office or consequent upon Major Hahn's seeing the deputy minister and being instructed to see me.
It is probable that at times Major Hahn went to the deputy minister's office, but as his visits related to the legal part of the contract the deputy minister always referred him to the judge advocate general, Colonel Orde. I ask hon. members to listen to this so that they will be in a position to see whether Colonel Orde is to be credited in connection with his interviews with Hahn. The evidence continues on page 3987:
By the Commissioner:
Q. Over what period?
A. Running from somewhere in January until I think towards the end of January.
And again on page 3988:
By Mr. Ralston:
Q. Just to clear that up. To go further with that. Does that mean you had no interviews with Major Hahn in February?

Bren Gun-Mr. Pouliot
A. Oh, I had some. I learned subsequently Major Hahn had come to England somewhere towards the end of January and that is why the interviews stopped then, at least for the time being.
Q. Did you have some interviews with him again in March?
A. I had some with him in February, around the end of February, after his return from England, and in March.
He had intimated before that his interviews were from the beginning to the end of January. The evidence continues with a question by Mr. Ralston:
Q. That is what I wanted, the period over which you had those interviews.
The Commissioner: Did Colonel Orde keep
any diary or contemporaneous memoranda from which he can refresh his memory in any way, or does he just base that on memory?
The Witness: I wrote during that period two or three memoranda which I think are already in as exhibits.
By the Commissioner:
Q. They were contemporaneous?
A. Contemporaneous.
Q. That refreshes your memory?
A. That refreshes my memory.
Then on page 3990 there is the following:
The Commissioner: That is, he had no interviews with any solicitor representing Major Hahn or the John Inglis Company in connection with the Canadian contract?
Mr. Ralston: In connection with the Canadian contract.
I must explain here that Mr. Lash, K.C., was appearing on behalf of the British government as well as on behalf of Major Hahn, When Mr. Orde met him, he did not meet him in his capacity as counsel and solicitor for the British government, but only as counsel and solicitor for Major Hahn. Then, again on page 3991, a question by Mr. Ralston:
Q. Did he ever tell you that Mr. Plaxton was engaged as a legal representative, until at the time I was going to deal with, that is March 17?
A. No knowledge of any connection with the Plaxtons at all.
That is to be noted. The evidence continues :
By the Commissioner:
Q. Did you have any indication, as far as the Canadian contract is concerned, by correspondence that Blake, Lash, Anglin & Cassels were acting?
Listen to how he answers this question:
A. It is rather hard to describe the situation. Major Hahn was continually up and down between Ottawa and Toronto and he was in and out of my office so many times. He would dash back with some suggested change and then he would come back two or three days afterwards. I do not know whether it is in order to mention it, but Mr. Lash's firm had been engaged in connection with certain other contracts of a similar type and I derived considerable comfort from knowing that Mr. Lash was at the other end of it.
Here is the judge advocate general of the Department of National Defence, who is entirely and absolutely incompetent, and who takes comfort from the fact that he is helped by counsel acting for the other parties. It is enough to disbar any lawyer whose name appears on the law list, and I do not see why this has not been brought out by other members who have spoken previously. It is something formidable. Here we have a man who, according to the evidence, can hardly sign his name, who oannot draft a contract, who has had no experience. You know the number of people who are engaged in that sort of work in the British war office, the British admiralty and the British air force. Here we have that man with a grade 4 clerk and a grade 3 stenographer, both of them incompetent, both making plenty of mistakes which were the cause of 'trouble. He cannot do anything; he has to rely on counsel for the other party ito do his own work. I continue quoting:
By Mr. Ralston:
Q. Did you ever discuss the contract with the Department of Justice?
A. No.
Q. Did you ever see Mr. H. A. W. Plaxton as the representative of Major Hahn previous to the signing of the Canadian contract?
A. No.
Then it goes on:
By the Commissioner:
Q. Why did you leave in the clause:
The party of the first part will provide or grant to the party of the second part an exclusive licence to manufacture the Bren gun in Canada.
Who told you to do that?
A. Instructions that I had got previously.
My time is not up yet, Mr. Speaker, but it soon will be, and I wonder if the house would have any objection to letting me finish reading this part of the evidence, which may take about fifteen minutes. I do not intend to say anything that will hurt anyone, but I want to put on record part of the evidence which is now downstairs and which is very difficult for hon. members to obtain.

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
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