I withdraw the word "false" at your request, Mr. Speaker, and I will say "inaccurate," because I sent the clerk of the committee to notify the hon. member of the meeting. His remark was false so far as I was concerned. Whether he received the notice or not I do not know; anyway he came to the meeting shortly afterwards. The hon. member proceeded to protest because he said that it was unfair that one side of the question of oleomargarine should be discussed without the opposite side being notified. He did not take the ground, when he entered the room, that the committee was discussing a question without having authority to do so He took the ground simply that it was unfair that one side of the question should be heard without the other side being notified, and he demanded that the committee rise and adjourn until the other side could be present. I pointed out to the hon. member that as an old member of this House, as chairman of an important committee, he should well know the rules which govern committees and which state that a member of the House who is not a member of a committee has no right to interrupt the proceedings of that committee without first obtaining permission from the Chair and from the committee. After that the hon. member put in a scribbled note, which I found hard to make out. I do not know what it meant. Then he, in a very gruff manner, said that he refused to stay, and he withdrew. I think my course in calling the committee together to hear these gentlemen was quite in accordance with the precedent which had been followed for many years in that committee. As we met merely to hear discussions of interest to the agricultural interests of the country, I think we were not very much out of order.
I was a little disappointed that the hon. member for South Cape Breton did not include the cabinet in his objection to getting information on matters that are liable to come before the House. He objected to our committee hearing people who might give us information on a subject that is of vital importance, a matter that, possibly, as members of this House we shall be called upon to decide in the very near future. I think I speak for many members of the- committee when I say that we felt we had not sufficient information on the subject to decide it as we should, and we were pleased to hear members of the Dairy Council and anyone else who might appear. A motion was passed, before the committee adjourned this morning, that an opportunity should be given anyone who might wish to do so to prevent the case in favour of oleomargarine. Now, if a committee of this House is going to be denied the privilege of obtaining information on any important question in regard to which certain evidence is considered essential, I presume that the hon. member for Cape Breton South and Richmond (Mr. Carroll) would also object to the cabinet meeting these people and hearing their views on the subject. The cabinet, of course, is far more responsible than any group of members of parliament, but I submit nevertheless that the members of this House are undoubtedly charged with some responsibility. I do not wish to prolong the debate, but I'though it only proper that I should submit these remarks.
Some time earlier in the session I gave an undertaking to the hon. member for Cape Breton South (Mr. Carroll) that an opportunity would be afforded him before the session was over to debate the resolution which appears in his name on the order paper. Probably this is an opportune time for me to ask the House if it would agree that the hon. member should be allowed to take up his resolution. If it is the wish of the House that this be done, the resolution might be made a special order for consideration to-morrow. In that event, before the House proceeds to the Orders of the Day to-morrow I shall move that the resolution be taken up.
In support of the opinion expressed a moment ago with regard to the duties of select and standing committees of this House, I may refer to a motion made on Monday, February 12, 1923. The right hon. the Prime Minister on that day moved:
That the select standing committees of this House shall severally be empowered to examine and inquire into all such matters and things as may be referred by the House.
It is obvious therefore that only such questions as are referred to the committees may be discussed by them. I am bound to say, of course, in justification of the course followed by the standing committee on Agriculture, that unless exception is taken, as has been taken this afternoon, to the investigation of any matter outside of the scope of the subject submitted to a committee for its consideration, a very wide latitude is generally accorded such a committee as that on agriculture. Strictly speaking, and adhering to the letter of parliamentary procedure and constitutional practice, certainly no committee can deal with a question unless that question is specially referred to it. For this view I have ample authority. I add this rider, however, that very wide latitude is given an important committee such as the committee on Agriculture, when no exception is taken by any hon. member that a resolution standing in his name, which it is intended he shall bring before the House, is being anticipated and prejudged by a discussion or by any evidence brought before that committee. I understand that the incident is closed.
Right Hon. ARTHUR MEIGHEN (Leader of the Opposition):
I rise, Mr. Speaker,
merely to put myself on record in this matter, because it may be wise at a later date that I should have done so. I submit that the conduct of a committee cannot come before the Speaker of this House for a ruling merely on a complaint of an hon. member of the House; and further, that the conduct of the committee in question has never been before you, Sir, for any ruling. There is a method of bringing the conduct of any committee before parliament, but that method has not been adopted in this instance, merely, on a question of personal privilege. Hon. members have certain rights, and to say that those rights in this case have been exceeded, and exceeded to a considerable extent, is to my mind to express a very obvious truth. That, however, was not what I rose to say. I rose simply to observe that the conduct of the committee was not properly before the House, nor was it, either properly or improperly, before the Chair.
Of course, I have May and Bourinot in my favour. I wish to assure the House that I have the highest opinion of the ability of the right hon. member (Mr. Meighen) and of his knowledge of the rules.
I would however refer the House to Beau-chesne's under Rule 47, paragraph 479, which reads in part:
May says, p. 241, that "the proceedings of the House may be interrupted at any moment, save during the process of a division, by a motion based on a matter of privilege, when a matter has recently arisen which directly concerns the privileges of the House, and in that case, the House will entertain the motion forthwith."
I consider that the grievance, founded or unfounded, which an hon. member may have against the proceedings of a committee constitutes the subject matter of a question of privilege.
With all deference to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I beg to submit that you have not grasped my point. I do not take any exception at all to the quotation from May; what I say is that the mere rising to a question of privilege on the part of an hon. member, even though the subject matter of the question may have arisen in a committee, does not bring before the Speaker of the House for decision the question of the conduct of that committee. It may be quite true that the conduct of the committee was wrong, but I submit with all respect that that question is not before you, Mr. Speaker, for a ruling.
A question of privilege is in order at any time during a debate when an hon. member declares that the privileges of the House are being infringed upon. The question . is not restricted to the individual privileges but to the collective privileges of the House.
I understood the Prime Minister to ask the consent of the House to have the resolution standing in the name of the hon. member for Cape Breton South with regard to oleomargarine brought up for discussion to-morrow. As a member of the special committee which is inquiring into agricultural conditions, I wish to enter my protest to that resolution coming up before the report of that special committee is submitted to the House. We have taken evidence on the question of the manufacture of oleomar-
4 p.m. garine in Canada, and as the report of the committee has not yet been brought down and probably will not be brought down for a few days, I think that a discussion of the hon. member's resolution would only be anticipating that report.
I think, that evidence given before a special committee of the House cannot be discussed in the House before that committee has reported. I am sorry that the chairman of the committee is not in his place.