July 1, 1931 (17th Parliament, 2nd Session)


William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)



May I draw
the attention of my right hon. friend to the case he cited to this committee? He spoke of a civil servant in the foreign office in Great Britain whose name had been brought into a discussion. This man had been dismissed from the service and considerable discussion took place in the House of Commons.

Supply-Royal Grain Commission
In the course of my remarks, I said that if a civil servant were guilty of a misdemeanour or if his work were of a character which demanded his dismissal, certainly his name might be brought into public discussion and nothing could prevent this being done. In such a case the minister would foe obliged to make some public explanation as to why the officer was no longer retained. However, so long as a civil servant is performing his duties in a department and the minister did not find it necessary to dismiss or suspend him, the minister must take full responsibility for the actions of his officers. In the latter part of his remarks my right hon. friend admitted that. He did so when he said that a minister was responsible for his staff and for what they did, but then he veered away from the stand he had previously taken and said: This officer had ceased to be one of my officers; he was made the secretary of the commission and it was as secretary of the commission and not as an officer of the department that he is responsible. Let my right hon. friend read his own opening remarks and he will see that he began by admitting quite frankly that the error was one which had occurred in his own department At that time he was seeking to protect or excuse the Minister of Trade and Commerce and he stated that as Minister of External Affairs he must take the responsibility for the mistake which had occurred. I think it would have been better for him had he held to that ground.
May I go a step further. I do not agree with my right hon. friend in what he says about his obligation to lay a document on the table of the house without first perusing it. He is responsible for everything he does. My right hon. friend was responsible-this is the crux of the whole situation-for the appointment of the commission itself and as a consequence of his having appointed the commission he becomes responsible to parliament for any of its errors.

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