Colleagues, I am now ready to rule on the point of order raised by the chief government whip on November 4, 1996 concerning the admissibility of the motion moved by the hon. member for Crowfoot with regard to Bill C-234, an act to amend the Criminal Code.
I thank the Chief Government Whip, the hon. member for St. Albert and the hon. member for Crowfoot for their views on this matter.
The text of the motion is as follows:
That, no later than the conclusion of Routine Proceedings on the tenth sitting day after the adoption of this motion, Bill C-234, an act to amend the Criminal Code, shall be deemed reported back to the House without amendment.
The chief government whip challenged the admissibility of the motion. There are two aspects to the argument that he presented. First, that the hon. member for Crowfoot did not have the right to move this motion on the rubric Motions in Routine Proceedings. Second, that the motion represented an attempt to interfere improperly with the committee's proceedings on the bill.
In support of the contention that the hon. member for Crowfoot should not move his motion during Routine Proceedings, the Chief Government Whip referred to the rulings of May 30, 1928, May 11, 1944, May 2, 1961 and April 28, 1982. I want to assure the House that, in examining this matter, I have taken these precedents into account. The Chief Government Whip also referred to Speaker Fraser's ruling, at page 17506 of the Debates of July 13, 1998, in which he stated that Routine Proceedings are not the exclusive purview of the governement. As I noted in my ruling of September 23, 1996, I am in agreement with the view of Speaker Fraser.
I would like now to turn to the second aspect of the chief government whip's presentation in which he claimed that the motion, particularly the words "without amendment", would constitute an improper interference with the proceedings of the committee and would violate the conditions set down in my ruling of September 23, 1996.
As members may recall, in my ruling on page 4561 of the Debates I indicated:
-the Chair may well accept, after due notice, such a motion, on the condition that it is strictly limited to the terms of the committal of a bill to a committee and that it is not an attempt to interfere with the committee's proceedings thereon. In so doing, the House would have an opportunity to determine whether the bill should remain in committee or be reported back.
The Chief Governement Whip argued that the motion was a clear attempt to interfere improperly with the committee's proceedings on the bill, that it would order the committee to complete its study, and that the committee could not amend the bill. I must disagree with the hon. members's interpretation of the terms of the motion.
The motion as it stands on the Order Paper does not interfere with the committee's ability to complete its consideration of Bill C-235 and report it back with or without amendment. The motion does not require the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs to complete its study of Bill C-234 by a certain time.
The motion moved by the hon. member for Crowfoot in fact provides the committee with a period of time in which to consider and report the bill if it so chooses. At the same time, the motion provides the House with a mechanism to remove the bill, which is its property, from the committee so that the House itself can take up consideration of the bill.
In fact, such a mechanism is not unusual to our practices. Standing Order 81(4), dealing with the referral of the main estimates to committee, states that the committee shall report, or shall be deemed to have reported back to the House not later than May 31.
As the matter now stands, the committee has not reported the bill. Speaker Francis noted in a ruling at page 3963 in the Debates of May 23, 1984:
The Chair can hardly be aware of what is taking place in the committee without a report from the committee.
This is also noted in May's 21st edition at page 500:
The House is not formally aware of the detailed proceedings of any committee until the bill has been reported.
The House does not know what has occurred in committee and, consequently, cannot know what amendments the committee has made to the bill. Therefore, if the House wishes to, once again, take possession of the bill, then the inclusion of the words "without amendment" establishes clearly that the House will be dealing with the text of the bill it adopted at second reading.
This can be the only logical course that the House can follow and it has been done in the past. I would refer hon. members to the motion adopted on March 22, 1995, pursuant to Standing Order 78(2), with regard to Bill C-77, an act to provide for the maintenance of railway operations and subsidiary services. This motion, to be found at pages 1259-60 of the Journals , stated in part:
-if the Bill [was] not reported from the committee during Routine Proceedings on March 23, 1995, the Bill [would], at the conclusion of Routine Proceedings on that day, be deemed to have been reported from the committee without amendment.
Finally, I can find nothing in the terms of the motion which would prevent the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs from reporting Bill C-234 back to the House either before the adoption of the motion or before the sitting day specified in the motion, if it were adopted by the House. Should the committee report the bill before the 10th sitting day after the adoption of the motion, as currently worded, the House would deal with it in accordance with our usual practices. The objective of the motion moved by the hon. member for Crowfoot, that the bill be reported back to the House, would have been met.
Therefore I find that the motion as it stands on the Order Paper is in order.
In the discussion on this question it was mentioned that if the matter is not disposed of, it is transferred to Government Orders. It was suggested that the Chair intervene in this procedure. The wording of Standing Order 66, however, is quite clear, as is our practice. It is not the place of the Chair to interfere in this.