This is the second day that this issue has arisen. Perhaps it is time to review what the Standing Orders actually say and what the expectations of members are.
When the bells for the vote started ringing, there were 30 minutes. It is an obligation of the members to be in the chamber when the 30-minute bell has expired.
I think it is obvious to all members that over the past months, or possibly years, members have slipped into the habit of starting to enter the House or getting ready to enter the House when the clock hits zero. In fact, it is the responsibility of members who want to participate in the vote to actually be in the chamber and to be ready for the vote when the clock hits zero.
As members also know, it is standard practice that the whips for both the government and the official opposition will be out in the lobby and will come down into the chamber together and take their seats. In almost all cases, members know they need to be in their seats at that point, so the vote can proceed.
What we had happen both yesterday and today is that one of the two whips, the government whip yesterday and the opposition whip today, waited until the bells expired and very quickly thereafter entered the chamber by themselves, addressed the Chair, and then took their seat. It is, in fact, not necessary for either of the whips to enter the House. The Speaker can rise and call the vote as soon as the bells have expired. It has become standard practice, in the co-operation that makes this place work better for all of us, that those two whips do that together.
However, it is important to point out to all hon. members on both sides of the House that this is a practice; it is not a rule.
In terms of who is or is not eligible to vote, the issue is that the member needs to be in the chamber in order to hear the question. That is the test for whether they can vote or not. I know that in the past, as I said, it has become common practice that members have been in their seats, sitting, when the two whips take their seats, at which point the chair occupant rises to put the question.
However, it is important to point out that this is not, in fact, absolutely necessary.
It is impossible for the Speaker to keep track of where all 300 members are as the question is being put. To a certain extent, there is an onus on the members not only to be on time but, if they are not here on time, to own up to that and to either not participate in the vote or, if it is pointed out, to subsequently say that their vote ought not to be counted. As is the practice and as members will know, there are times when members rise on a point of order immediately following a vote and point out that another member arrived late, was not here on time, and in their view, did not hear the question being put.
On that basis, being in one's seat, while always a very good idea, is not an actual requirement for being able to participate in the vote. Hearing the question is the requirement.
I have a suggestion for all hon. members. We can avoid this unfortunate circumstance in the future if members pay closer attention to the clock and actually arrive in the House, ready for the vote to be taken, when the clock hits zero, rather than be standing in the lobby.
The Chair is pleased to hear so many members applauding that, knowing that they will all be doing that in the future.
This month is, for many of us, our 10th anniversary of being elected to this place. We all know that there are rules and that there are Standing Orders. However, to a certain extent, this place only works with the good will and co-operation of all members.
After 10 years, the Chair is also aware that toward the end of session, particularly in June when the days get longer, the weather gets warmer, and thoughts of returning to our constituents grow fonder in our hearts, it gets a little crazy around here. I would say that we have had ample evidence of that in the past two days.
I will close with this. If the Minister of Justice says he was in the chamber and he heard the question being put, the Chair will accept that on the word of the minister. I will point out to all hon. members that in the future, the way to avoid this is to actually be in their seats, where they can hear the question being put clearly.
The chief government whip is rising on a point of order.