Skip to main content

Canada Bill

Volume 17: debated on Sunday 11 April 1982

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I am tempted to begin my point of order, Mr. Speaker, with the words "Monsieur le President", because I want to put to you a question about the linguistic complications that we shall have next Wednesday on the Canada Bill. I do not know that it is unprecedented—it certainly cannot be historically unprecedented, but it probably is unprecedented in modern times—that we should be considering a Bill which is in English and in a foreign language.

The Bill is translated in annexe A, and therefore if any amendment were made to the Bill a consequential amendment of the French text in annexe A would need to be made, or it would be nonsense in Canada. The rest of the document is schedule B, which is in both languages.

If someone submits an amendment, apart from whether it is out of order on other grounds—I can imagine all sorts of other grounds that might make many amendments out of order—does he have to put it in English and French or just in English? If he submits it only in English, who will translate it into French?

I shall call the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Davis) before I reply, because I believe that his point of order is related to the same subject.

My point of order is related to the same subject, Mr. Speaker, but not to the point raised by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). Would you prefer to deal with the hon. Gentleman's point of order first?

I can tell the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) that I have taken aboard his point and that I shall make a statement to the House at the appropriate time.

I want to raise another point in relation to the Canada Bill, Mr. Speaker, as to whether it is appropriate and indeed within the rules of the House to debate the matter along the lines suggested by the Leader of the House today. I do not ask you to give a ruling immediately,

The right hon. Gentleman made a very bare statement, and we do not know from it whether it is the Government's intention to advise Her Majesty to place her Prerogative at the disposal of Parliament on Second Reading or later. If it is to be done at the time of Second Reading, in my submission it pre-empts the essential issues that are the subject of the proposed petition for leave to appeal to the House of Lords, which may well have been lodged by next Wednesday. Until the decision of the other place is made, the legal position affecting the issues before the House of Lords cannot decisively be made clear. That legal issue relates essentially to the question of the residue of the Crown's obligations in the United Kingdom. That, therefore, is an issue that remains open at present.

All these matters touch vitally, too, the position of Her Majesty, the Governor-General in Canada and the Royal Prerogative as well as the Indian peoples. I submit, therefore, that Her Majesty's consent is the very issue that is before the House of Lords and goes to the heart not only of the legislation but of the litigation.

It cannot be asserted that the legal proceedings are vexatious or frivolous. They have occupied considerable time in the Court of Appeal, and although that court made a decision it was a reserved judgment after several days of argument and several days of deliberation by their Lordships.

An alternative procedure is open. The Secretary of State could refer the matter to the Privy Council by Order in Council under section 4 of the Judicial Committee Act 1833, or that could be achieved by a resolution of this House. At all events, the interests of the House are paramount. Those interests could well be seriously prejudiced by the announcement made by the Leader of the House if the House considers the matter before the House of Lords pronounces definitively on this important constitutional measure. That must be a matter of great concern to the House.

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for saying that he did not expect me to make a statement today. I repeat what I said earlier. I shall make a statement to the House at the appropriate time about all the matters that have been raised.