October 10, 1945 (20th Parliament, 1st Session)


Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. M. J. COLDWELL (Rosetown-Biggar):

Mr. Speaker, I rise to draw to the attention of the house a matter which I think affects the privileges of the house and the rules of the house.
Yesterday, the hon. member for Rosthem (Mr. Tucker), parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, presented the first report of the special committee on veterans affairs and moved that the report be concurred in.
This committee consists of sixty members. I learned accidentally this morning that twenty-four members attended the meeting of the committee at which the business reported was transacted.
Standing order 65 governs the procedure of select special committees. Paragraph 3 of standing order 65 says:
A majority of the members of a special committee shall be a quorum, unless the house has otherwise ordered.
The house had not so ordered; therefore the presence of thirty-one members was required to transact business. Only twenty-four were present.
The notes on the standing order in Beau-chesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, I think, are quite clear, and indicate that no valid business could be transacted under the circumstances; hence no reports should have been submitted to this house yesterday.

Standing Committees
la this respect, Mr. Speaker, we have followed the interpretatioa of a similar standing order in the British House of Commons; for on July 3, 1907, Mr. A. J. Balfour raised the question of the validity of work done by a committee without a quorum. Mr. Speaker then said this, in part:
It is rather difficult to deal with hypothetical cases but on the assumption that the committee met and proceeded without a quorum, I should be of the opinion that the committee, properly speaking, was never constituted and did not meet, and that none of the work done could be accepted as being the work of that particular committee.
This is an important committee. Its need is urgent. I am not asking the house or you, Mr. Speaker, to rescind the motion of yesterday. I am merely raising the question that these rules which protect minorities in this house should be observed when organizing the work of all other special committees of this house and that care should be exercised by those submitting such reports that the rule for our protection has been complied with. I wish to draw it to your attention so that this may not occur again.
Hon. IAN A. MACKENZIE (Minister of Veterans Affairs): I must say, Mr. Speaker, that I am quite in agreement with the point raised by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar. But over a number of years-and I have been in the house for more than fifteen years-for the purpose of organizing in our various committees we have proceeded possibly with a certain amount of disregard of some of the basic rules. It was the intention yesterday to ask the house to validate the routine proceedings of the committee, consisting, as my hon. friend rightly said, of twenty-four members. I think that, to put the matter beyond dispute, to-morrow morning, when that committee meets with, I believe, the quorum now recognized by the house, we had better repeat the proceedings which were gone over yesterday and have everything perfectly in order. I think the point raised by my hon. friend is well taken, but we were anxious to get ahead with the business of a most important committee, and I believe that if we were wrong in law we were right in equity.
Mr. COLD WE'LL: I did not wish to delay the committee.

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