Selected Decisions Of Speaker James
Jerome 1974-1979, published under the authority of the Clerk of the House of
Commons, Ottawa, 1983. 174 p.
Proceedings in legislative bodies are based
on Standing Orders, written conventions and decisions of successive Speakers.
The latter is the subject of this book, intended as the first in a series
which, when completed, "will bring together in summary form ail the significant
decisions of the Speakers of the Canadian House of Commons".
This volume contains more than one hundred
decisions grouped under fifteen headings such as "Questions",
Adjournment Motion Proposed Under Standing Order 26", "Precedence and
Sequence of Business'. etc. Each ruling is presented in a uniform format with a
paragraph of background information, a brief statement of the issue involved. a
summary of the decision, the reasons given by the Speaker. authorities cited
and references to appropriate pages in Hansard. The type is easy to read with
English on the left hand cage and French on the right. There is both an
analytical and a chronological index.
The format works well in this case but it should
not necessarily be applied to rulings of all previous Speakers. In many cases
they were rulings on Standing Orders or problems that no longer exist. A
decision will have to be made as to whether future books will be primarily
historical works or whether decisions selected will be limited to include only
those which still have some relevance today.
The book will be welcomed by
parliamentarians and staff for it will save them many hours of searching for
references. it is understandable, although unfortunate, that the names of the
many people who collaborated on this collective work are not mentioned
In the course of a session, Speakers deliver
numerous rulings of a routine nature. It would undermine the usefulness of the
book it all such rulings were included. The editors tried to select those
which, in their judgement, were the most significant. Still there is much
repetition with several rulings making essentially the same point.
A more serious problem is caused by the
difficulty of condensing all the nuances of a complicated procedural issue into
a paragraph of background or a statement of the issue. Thus a few of the
rulings seem to contradict each other. For example on July 25, 1975 Speaker
Jerome ruled that an accusation by a newspaper that a Member of Parliament had
leaked budget information to a businessman was a prima facie question of
privilege (p. 20). Three years later "The Chair expressed serious doubts
as to whether the convention of budget secrecy falls within the area of privilege
at all.(p. 36). If the question arises again members will no doubt want to
examine the original material in full.