May 31, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)

CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. H. A. STEWART (Leeds):

I desire to discuss briefly this very important report. My first comment is that it is unfortunate that the motion for adoption of a report upon which a committee has spent so much time, which report is found in the votes and proceedings of April 27, is brought forward only in the last day or two of the session. I say that because it is a report of far-reaching effect, of importance to the large body of public servants and to the public at large.
I was a member of the committee which had this matter under consideration, not this year but the year before, and I think we may all agree that the investigation was indeed a searching one. A great deal of time was spent in reviewing individual files and in hearing the testimony of witnesses who could give any information upon the matters which the committee had under consideration. I wish to pay a tribute to the committee for the searching character of their investigation and the thoroughness with which they dealt with all these subjects, and in the main I approve of their report.
One inevitable result of this report, and one upon which I think there is almost unanimous consent, is the vindication of the conduct of the civil service commissioners in the administration of the act. There was unfortunately, I believe, some suspicion, some suggestion, that the administration had not been exactly what it should be, and everything that pointed in that direction was brought forward, discussed, considered and answered. I think we may agree that the commissioners came through that investigation with a clean sheet. They have a difficult duty to discharge, a great many cases to deal with; and a review
4794 COMMONS
Civil Service-Report oj Committee
of these numerous files failed to disclose anything in the nature of maladministration, wilful misconduct or anything that seriously reflected upon the administration of the civil service commission. That may be said also of the chief officials who appeared before the committee.
Another most fortunate result of the report is the recognition of the value of the merit system. I do not find in this report or in anything that took place before the committee any serious contention that the merit system i3 not in the public interest. I say that after an experience of the working of this system for twenty years. I do not believe there is a member in this house who would assume the responsibility of moving that appointments on the basis of merit be discontinued. I say, therefore, that our experience over a period of twenty years and after all these investigations is a vindication of the adoption of the principle of appointments to the public service on the basis of merit and of competitive examination, which is embodied in the Civil Service Act.
Having once adopted that principle, I think it is very difficult for us logically and convincingly to argue that any appointment should not be made by the civil service commission. If we adopt the general principle that the merit system is sound, then where are we to draw the line and say that this or that class of appointment should not be made by the commission but can be better made in some other way? It appears to me to be illogical and unsound, and a disposition, not an unnatural one, to cling to the old system of patronage. There are those who think that that is the proper system with respect to all appointments, but I believe those who hold that view are very few. There are those who believe that it is not sound with regard to any appointment, and I find myself, after considerable experience, in the ranks of the latter.
Any member of parliament who has had much experience will admit that there is no advantage either to himself or to his party in the long run to be derived from appoints ments or from political patronage.

Topic:   CIVIL SERVICE ACT
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR CONCURRENCE IN SECOND AND FINAL REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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