House of Assembly Proceedings

From The Daily News, April 6, 1932

Tuesday, April 5, 1932

The House met at three o'clock in the afternoon, pursuant to adjournment

As soon as the House opened the delegation from the Citizen's Committee consisting of J. M. Howell, chairman, J. H. Devine, secretary, Rev. W. E. Godfrey and Mr. H. A. Winter, K.C., appeared at the bar of the House with their petition, which was handed to the Clerk of the House who read it.

To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the Honourable House of Assembly:

THE PETITION of the undersigned humbly sheweth as follows:

1) Your Petitioners are the Executive Committee of a body of citizens appointed to organize and conduct a public meeting which was held in St. John's on Monday the 4th instant.

2) The said meeting numbered some two thousand people, representative of all classes, sections and creeds in the community, and would have been attended by many thousands more if the capacity of the building in which it was held had permitted.

3) At the said meeting the following Resolutions were unanimously passed, namely:

“WHEREAS at the opening of the present session of the Legislature certain charges of a most serious nature were preferred by a former member of the Executive Council against the Prime Minister and Secretary of State;

AND WHEREAS the said charges alleged facts which, if proved, would constitute not merely criminal offences of the gravest kind but breaches of duty by persons in the highest positions of public trust and responsibility;

AND WHEREAS motions in the House of Assembly for a full inquiry into the said charges have been repeatedly rejected notwithstanding that one of the most serious among them has been corroborated by another member of the Executive Council;

AND WHEREAS without such full inquiry it would appear that appropriate legal action with regard to the said charges would be either impossible or at least delayed and seriously embarrassed.;


First, that in the opinion of this public meeting of citizens, the matters above recited and the position resulting from them, affect the honour, dignity, welfare, and safety of the whole country and threaten to undermine the legal and political structure of its society;

Secondly, that this meeting places itself on record as deploring and protesting, in the name of justice and morality, against the matter aforesaid;

Thirdly, that, in order to give effect to such protest, a Petition be forthwith drawn and presented by this meeting and such other citizens of the country as may be of the same mind to the House of Assembly, now in session, humbly praying that it take such steps as may seem to it necessary or desirable for the full and proper consideration and investigation of the said charges, to the end that they be finally and conclusively proved or disproved and such other action be taken thereon as justice and the dignity of the people may require.

Fourth, from the expressions of opinion made at the said public meeting, from communications received from all parts of the country and from other evidences, your Petitioners are encouraged to believe and do firmly believe, that the above Resolutions truly reflect and embody the opinion and wish of an overwhelming majority of the people of this Dominion.

Your Petitioners Therefore Humbly Pray
1) That your Honourable House be graciously pleased to give its immediate and most earnest consideration to the matters above recited and resolved.

2) That your Honourable House with all possible dispatch order that a full, final and conclusive inquiry be appointed and held into the grave charges aforesaid, either by a suitable Committee or Committees of your Honourable House, or by trial by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland in accordance with the laws of the Dominion.

3) That if in your opinion, Mr. Speaker, or that of your Honourable House, there exist difficulties, formal, technical, or substantial, in the way of such inquiry or trial they be immediately removed, whether by amendment of the Rules of your Honourable House or by Act of Parliament or otherwise, as in your wisdom you may see fit and as necessities of the case may require.
And as in duty bound your Petitioners will ever pray, etc.,

(Sgd.) James M. Howell, Chairman
W. Ewart Godfrey
Harry A. Winter
Thos. J. Molloy
J.H. Devine
Wilfred Canning
T.H. Stevenson
K.M. Blair
Eric Bowring
C.J. Carter [Journal]

Hon. the Prime Minister moved that the petition be received and referred to select committee of five members of the House, to be appointed by the Speaker, to ascertain and advise what steps the House should take to carry out the prayer of the petition.

Mr. Emerson rose to a point of order in that the Prime Minister was a principal and should not be permitted to make a motion in this connection. Whereupon Mr. Bradley said he would make the motion.

Mr. Puddester thought that the Prime Minister should leave the House whilst the matter was being considered.

Hon. the Prime Minister asked the Speaker if he should leave, and was told that whilst it was not absolutely necessary he thought it was better that he should do so. The Prime Minister then left the Chamber, whereupon Hon. Mr. Bradley again moved the above motion, seconded by Hon. Mr. Bindon.

Mr. Emerson held that the appointment of a select committee called for a notice of motion, which would mean further delay. When a petition is presented two courses are open; either to consider the prayer of the petition, or if it is a matter of administrative action, appoint a select committee. This was not a matter of administrative action. It is a petition that asks that its prayer be heard at once.

Mr. Alderdice was of opinion that an attempt was again being made to evade the issue. Already there were a few thousand people outside the House, and unless this matter is disposed of promptly there will be many more in a few days.

Mr. Bradley did not see how a reasonable solution could be arrived at in any other way than in passing the resolution he had moved.

Mr. Alderdice again claimed that the attempt was nothing more or less than one to evade the issue.

Hon. the Speaker felt that in order to dispose of the matter, if the committee was appointed it could sit whilst the House was in session.

Mr. Puddester asked if he meant by that, that the House should adjourn whilst the committee was meeting. In his opinion the only proper course to take was to adjourn the House until the committee was ready to make its report. This thing has gone far enough now, and he thought that unless the House adjourned no more business would be dealt with until the charges made in th House had been proved or disproved.

Mr. Emerson pointed out that although the matter had been dealt with twice before, there had been no suggestion from the government side of the House as to enquiry, and now for the first time the Government was proposing an enquiry, and it is simply because once again they are responding to force. An enquiry must be held, and he reiterated what Mr. Puddester had said that no more business should be done until an enquiry be held.

Mr. Puddester asked if the mover of the motion was prepared to adjourn the House until the matter was disposed of.

Hon. the Speaker said that as far as he was concerned he was prepared to do whatever the House thought was right. Anything was satisfactory to him, although he could see a technical difficulty.

Mr. Alderdice asked the House if anyone could imagine a state of affairs where the Prime Minister is openly accused of forgery and robbery, and he will not answer the charges or permit an enquiry to be held into them. All kinds of difficulties were being seen now, instead of giving exactly what the petition asked for.

Mr. Speaker again reiterated that he wanted to know [was] what the House desired and whatever it was, he was willing to do. He placed himself in the hands of the House.

Mr. Puddester pointed out to Mr. Speaker that when he put himself in the hands of the House on former occasions the opposition was voted down by the government majority. This was a matter that required a quick decision and the only way out was to adjourn the House until the committee is ready to report. Otherwise the first thing will be is that the Usher of the Black Rod will be summoning the members to the council chamber before the committee has time to do anything.

Hon. Mr. Bradley said he was willing to accede to the suggestion of Mr. Puddester and would, after this resolution was passed, move for an adjournment until Monday next.

After some further deliberation it was practically agreed to pass the motion for the committee and adjourn the House until Monday. Before the motion could be put, however, an uproar started in the gallery and in the midst of it the Speaker declared the House adjourned until this afternoon at three o'clock.