May 29, 1951 (21st Parliament, 4th Session)


Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)


Mr. Speaker:

May I be permitted to make a statement at this time. A few days ago the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell) brought to my attention a practice which is becoming very common in the house of hon. members rising on so-called questions of privilege. This irregularity has also been brought to my attention by other hon. members from time to time throughout the session, and more especially during recent weeks. It has also been the subject of unfavourable comment in the press.
There are only two types of questions of privilege. One affects a member personally and is a matter of personal privilege, and the other is one which affects the privileges of all hon. members of the house. It is neither a question of personal privilege nor one which affects the privileges of all hon. members to inform the house that an athletic organization or any organization, or any citizen or citizens, have brought distinction to a member's constituency by winning a championship. Nor is it a question of privilege to bring to the attention of the house the fact that certain school children or others are in the gallery. No reference should1 at any time be made to the gallery except on the occasion of the attendance in the gallery of a distinguished representative of another country. It is highly improper at any other time to refer to the gallery. If the practice continues, either of referring to championship teams or to school children in the gallery, every hon. member will feel called upon to do likewise when occasion arises, as otherwise he will feel that his constituents may think
fMr. Howe.]
that he is ignoring them. May I therefore suggest to hon. members that they refrain in the future from making these references.
There is another matter to which I think reference should be made at this time. It is with respect to the procedure regarding the asking of questions. I would refer hon. members to standing order No. 44. This standing order provides for the placing of questions on the order paper, which is the usual procedure, and should be followed whenever possible.
It has nevertheless been the practice in our house to allow a certain number of oral questions, and it is not my purpose to discourage members from asking questions of the proper type, as I feel that these questions create a more lively interest in the business of the house. These oral questions are asked when the orders of the day are called, and are frequently asked without notice. I would, however, emphasize that these oral questions should be asked only in connection with very urgent and important matters-of public concern, and only if it would not be in the public interest, to place them on the order paper and receive answers in accordance with the method provided for in the standing orders. They should always be brief. No debate is permitted, and the reply should be as concise as possible. The questions should not be prefaced by the reading of letters, telegrams, newspaper extracts or preambles of any kind. See Beauchesne's third edition, paragraphs 297, 298. I ask the co-operation of hon. members in observing these rules.
While I am making these references, may I also take the opportunity of thanking hon. members for the co-operation* which they have given; me in* my endeavour to enforce the rule which prohibits the reading by private members of previously prepared speeches. On February 20 of this year I reminded hon. members of the rule, and for a short time it was generally observed. However, during the debate on the budget a very considerable number of members reverted to the undesirable practice of reading their speeches. The reading of long speeches, especially by private members, would not be tolerated at Westminster, and I might point out that we would be required to follow the usages and customs of the British house if our standing orders did not prohibit the reading of speeches. The House of Commons is not a debating society nor an assembly which is gathered together to listen to the reading of essays. It is a forum where members may express themselves freely in accordance with the established rules on all matters of public interest.

I believe that during this session fewer speeches have been read than in former sessions, but I am very hopeful that the practice of reading speeches, except in the case of government statements or important statements by the leader of the opposition or by leaders of other groups, will be wholly discontinued.

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