Mr. Fleming (Eglinlon):
Mr. Chairman, this is a pretty far fetched question of privilege. I had hoped that all hon. members would address themselves to making some progress with these items instead of threshing straw that has already been well threshed. Furthermore, let me make it very clear that in other years final supplementary estimates have usually been dispatched in about two days, because final supplementaries are usually of a uniform character. They are usually simply further amounts required for purposes that have already been approved by parliament in adopting the main estimates. That is the character of most of the items.
This year, apart from the short commencement that was made on March 23, three days were set aside for these final supplementary estimates; Wednesday, March 28, Thursday, March 29 and Friday, March 30. Those three days fell far short of being enough for the carrying of these items. Indeed, only a minority of the items were disposed of then. This, I think, is not an indication that the committee proceeded to deal with these items at normal speed.
There is other business of the house that has to be done, and some attempt has to be made to advance business that there is some hope of advancing when it is quite clear that the committee has been bogged down on items in the estimates. We brought these estimates back again last Friday, April 6, and we passed one item in an hour and a quarter.
There is no ground for complaint about our calling item 730 today, because it was made very clear to hon. members this morning why that course was being proposed. It remains with the government, when the government is introducing estimates as its business on a government day, to call the particular items that it is asking the committee to pass. We did not complete the discussion of item 729 last Friday, April 6, or at least the item was not passed, and as certain hon. members had indicated on Monday of this week that they wished to discuss a subject that had been raised in the debate on item 729 it seemed to me we would be affording them a better opportunity for debate by proceeding in the manner that is now indicated, that is to say, by proceeding with item 730 and disposing of it and the balance of the items, and then returning to those items that have been held over, namely the items on external affairs and item 729, and have an orderly debate on those.
I think it would impress hon. members as a grave waste of manpower to have those officials who must be in attendance in connection with the many items that still remain to be considered sitting around waiting if we are to have an extended debate on item 729 or on the items pertaining to external affairs. My suggestion, which was communicated to hon. members opposite this morning and was not objected to by them, was simply that in the interests of orderly procedure we would start with item 730, dispose of the balance of the items, and then return to the items which had been held over, namely the external affairs items and item 729. That proposal was made and this course is put before the committee in the hope of an orderly and expeditious procedure. I would hope, Mr. Chairman, that we could proceed. The sooner we dispose of these other items, the sooner we will be able to have a debate on item 729 and the external affairs items.