Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to what my colleague had to say. I have heard his proposal for a standing committee on science and technology before, and I certainly would encourage anything within the system, a committee being one example, that would focus the extraordinary resources which the federal government already has in the area of science and technology, including financial resources, physical resources in terms of laboratories, and human resources in terms of scientists. Anything that could focus it I would certainly support.
I want to ask the hon. member about committees. He is right. That is where there should be some changes if this is to empower members of Parliament. I would like to ask him about a technical thing which I believe restricts the influence of our committees.
Mr. Speaker, as you and the hon. member know, on each standing committee there are typically 16 or 18 members with an appropriate distribution from the parties. There has to be a quorum of a certain number for regular events, to pass motions and so on, and they have a much smaller quorum for hearing witnesses and taking evidence and that kind of thing.
It is my thought that if committees are allowed to travel, it automatically empowers the members. It seems to me that when members go to Nunavut or Quebec or somewhere else to hear evidence they hear people speaking on their own ground and the members come back to this place empowered as a result.
There are at least two problems with regard to this. They are technical problems. It is possible now to have a quorum to hear witnesses, so it is not always necessary for 16 or 18 people to travel. There is a problem, however, that is, the committees are supposed to represent all parties in the House. Two of our parties have only 12 or 13 members and as a result it is a great burden on them if one of them has to leave for a few days to conduct hearings.
A committee may decide to travel and visit certain parts of the country to study whatever it is studying, but the motion requesting permission to travel comes to the House and requires unanimous consent. It almost never gets it. This is not, by the way, refusal from the government side, but often from the opposition side, and as I have said, I understand that problem.
Can the hon. member think of any way that we can develop enough confidence in the House that committees can designate five or six members who can travel and then a mechanism whereby we could get permission for them to travel in a relatively easy way?