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Sittings and Business

The PRESIDENT (14:26): Honourable members, before we go into question time, I thought I might make a few points of clarification on asking questions and responding, as much for new members as for existing members. Before calling upon honourable members desiring to ask questions on notice today, I would like to remind the council that the object of question time is to elicit information and, when leave is sought, to make a brief explanation prior to asking a question. Such explanation should be as brief as possible. The granting of such leave does not in any way permit members to make any inferences or imputations, give opinions or debate the matter.

I feel it is necessary to remind members of standing order 109 concerning questions, which reads:

In putting any Question, no argument, opinion or hypothetical case shall be offered, nor inference or imputation made, nor shall any facts be stated or quotations made…except by leave of the Council and so far only as may be necessary to explain such Question.

Blackmore enlarges on the point in these words:

As the object of questions is simply to elicit information, they are surrounded by the law of Parliament, with strict limitations, which extend also to replies…In the matter of questions, the rule is most strict against anything approaching debate or the introduction of debatable matter in either question or answer.

With respect to answers to questions, May’s Parliamentary Practice, 23rd edition, at page 354 states:

An answer should be confined to the points contained in the question, with such explanation only as renders the answer intelligible, though a certain latitude is permitted to Ministers of the Crown; and supplementary questions, without debate or comment, may, within due limits, be addressed to them, which are necessary for the elucidation of the answers that they have been given.

I would add that, in giving a reply, ministers should not debate the matter and should avoid expressions which call for observations from other members and excite debate.

As honourable members know, some latitude is allowed in respect of questions without notice when leave is granted to enable the member to explain his or her question, but such leave is granted unanimously by the house and if, during the statement, any honourable member objects to it, he or she has only to draw attention to the fact and the statement must immediately cease and the question be asked. I hope that assists the honourable members.

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