Mr. Speaker, I am vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.
What the hon. member said about the way we proceeded is correct. However, I think the member raised a very important point about procedure. It would be worthwhile having an enlightened decision from the Chair on this so we could use it later on.
When I gave consent for the committee to follow this procedure, I was very familiar with Bill C-46 and aware of the consequences and the speed with which they wanted it passed, given that it pretty well had universal approval. We also knew that there were a lot of women's groups and that the Supreme Court had reached decisions that concerned Bill C-45.
All this resulted in the opposition's agreeing in full knowledge of the situation to not follow the rules. What I would like clarified-and it is your job, I believe, Mr. Speaker-is that I do not perhaps entirely agree with the way my colleague has interpreted the new powers of the committees. I think there is a rule providing that, following second reading, the committee receives the bill, hears witnesses and so on.
There are two questions I would like you to answer The first is this: What rule prevails under the Standing Orders? The second question I would like you to answer to help the committees eventually is: If the members of a committee, in this case the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, unanimously agree to proceed other than in the way the rules provide, is it legal for them to do so?