MR. VINCENT SCULLY rose to move—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, thanking Her Majesty for her most gracious Order in Council of the 21st day of May last, by which certain persons were directed to examine into and certify the qualifications of all young men proposed to be appointed to junior situations in any department of the Civil Service; and praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to direct the examination to be an open one, and held in public, and that the Examiners do have regard to superior qualifications and merit; and praying also, that a similar Order in Council be issued as to the Diplomatic and Consular Services, with the view to secure greater efficiency in those departments of the Public Service.
In his notice of the Motion he had also included the diplomatic and consular services; but in order to simplify the matter, he should reserve those departments for the present. The two points to which he should confine his remarks were, first, that the examinations for the civil service under the Order of 21st May, should be open to all comers; and next, that those examinations should be conducted in the only manner that could be satisfactory—publicly, in open court, and not in private offices or apartments. Should the House assent to his proposition it would be a great step towards administrative reform, and would carry out practically the abstract resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. B. Lytton). The subject was one which had greatly interested him for a long time, and he had on previous occasions given notice of Motions similar in character to that which he now proposed. Speaking for himself, he must say that the present system of nomination to appointments in the Civil Service was most objectionable, and he had no doubt that all other Members of Parliament had arrived at the same conclusion. He said sincerely that, although he believed no Member of that House had been more assiduous than he had been in his endeavours to promote, in an independent form, the legitimate claims of his constituents, the whole amount of patronage hitherto conferred at his instance was not of greater value than a clerk's salary to conduct his patronage correspondence. Altogether five persons had been nominated upon his recommendation, of whom four had been rejected and one appointed. In one case a candidate for the situation of a revenue officer had been most improperly
rejected on the sole ground that he did not fully answer the description of "a gentleman," being an active partner in a large shop, though fully qualified in other respects. In another case the disappointed candidate attributed his rejection to the circumstance of having been educated at a Jesuit school; but whether that impression was correct or not, it showed the necessity for public examination. A third was rejected because he was unable to produce his baptismal certificate to prove that he was over 19 years of age; and the fourth instance was that of a young gentleman who was rejected on account of imperfect education, with which result the candidate and his relatives would have been dissatisfied, had not he (Mr. Scully) been permitted to inspect the examination papers, when he found that the rejection was quite justifiable. He contended that a public examination would remove any of those false impressions which were now propagated by disappointed candidates, and would benefit the public service by securing the persons most fitted for appointments. The other proposition he made was, that the examination should be open for all comers who chose to compete. He did not render it indispensable that the best answerers should always be the persons chosen, because regard must be had to some preliminary conditions—such as age, character, and business habits. If, after passing the competitive examination and obtaining the appointment, the civil servant gave no further proof of capacity, he would, of course, remain stationary in his profession. Were the principle of appointing civil servants in consequence of their ability once recognised, it would be a step in the right direction, and would lead on to further reforms. There was no practical difficulty in having these examinations open, for they were already carried on upon that plan in reference to appointments in the Indian civil service. That the system he deprecated was necessary for the Government, the Members of that House, or the public, he totally denied. So far as the Government was concerned, it led to ill-will between it and hon. Members, who were pressed by their constituents to solicit appointments which the Government could not grant; and whilst the Member got offended with the Government, the disappointed constituents got offended with the Member; and it would be better, therefore
both for the Members and the Government, that the system should be abolished. Then, with respect to the public, the effect of the present system was, that a number of incompetent persons were appointed to fill the various junior appointments, instead of efficient parties. That must operate to the public injury; and induce the constituent to vote with the improper motive of afterwards endeavouring to obtain a Government appointment either for his son, or for some of his friends or relatives. The effect of such a system upon the morals of the constituents was extremely bad. There was not a post which did not bring him numerous letters from disappointed persons, who had been hanging on, wasting their time and energy in the hope of obtaining a Government appointment; and he had told a young gentleman that very day, that if he had a ten pound note to spare it would be far better to go at once and invest it in a German lottery, than to spend it in idling about in the expectation of getting a Government situation; for he would lose his time and patience, and perhaps die of a broken heart in the end. To show the kind of letters he received, the hon. Member read one in which the writer assured him that he would not have annoyed him as he had done if he had thought there was so much difficulty in procuring an appointment to a public situation; but that he had seen men of no education, of low and vulgar habits, such as servants and others, appointed, and being conscious, as he was, that he was in every way superior to them, he felt himself justified in endeavouring, with the aid of his friends, to release himself from a dependent position. That was only a specimen of the many letters he had received, and he had selected it, because it happened to have come to hand that very day. These observations were applicable to England as well as to Ireland, for the Rev. Richard Dawes, Dean of Hereford, in his remarks on the civil service, had observed that—
The extent to which the expectation of getting some place under Government for a son or a relative, no matter how unfit, influences many voters, is absolutely ridiculous, and gives rise to a want of principle in the exercise of the franchise for which some remedy ought to be found.
As an instance of this absurdity, a clergyman gave me the following a short time ago:—'A farmer, one of his parishioners, told him he had a son who was very sickly, and not at all fit for a farmer, but he thought he would do very well for a place under Government, and asked his advice
how to proceed in trying to get him one. He told him the usual way was, to apply to the Members for whom he had voted, whenever their party happened to be in power. To this the farmer, guided by shrewdness, the result of observation, replied he had always thought so, and that at the last election he had split his votes, and gave one on each side, in order to be sure, whichever party was in power.'
Dean Dawes gave numerous instances of a similar character, and stated that hundreds of appointments were made upon no other principle than that of being given to the relatives of butlers, grooms, gamekeepers, and other dependents of those who had the power of nomination. Among other instances he narrates that—
Some years ago a friend of mine, then a Member of the House of Commons, told me he wished to send a boy, the son of his gamekeeper, to a school in the neighbourhood, in order to qualify him for a place in some Government office. Finding the youth was not sent, I asked him the reason, to which he answered, 'Oh, the boy happened, very fortunately, to carry the game-bag for Lord So-and-So, when he came down on a shooting party,' and having told him of my wishes for him, he said, 'Send him at once, and I will give him a place. I suppose he can write tolerably well, and will soon learn the rest.' My friend added, 'He thought the boy would have been better for a little more schooling,' but so good an opportunity was not to be lost.
He (Mr. Scully) had never tried to obtain situations for persons of that class, but he had for thoroughly competent persons; and he knew that it was a complete waste of time for an independent Member of Parliament to endeavour to influence patronage of a valuable nature. This class of patronage practically belonged to Government officials and heads of departments—they kept it as their pocket-money, and were not generally willing to surrender it to independent Members. He was by no means opposed to the Order in Council of the 21st of May. He understood that it had been in contemplation some time, and that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) had long since expressed himself in favour of the abolition of all patronage by the system of nomination. He believed that right hon. Gentleman was the real author of the passage in the Speech from the Throne, delivered on the 31st of January, 1854, where, speaking of the civil service, Her Majesty said:—
I have directed a plan to be laid before you, which shall have for its object to improve the system of admission, and complete the efficiency of the service.
The order in Council did improve the system of admission, but it did not complete the efficiency of the service; because it expressly directed the examiners not to make any alterations with respect to the nomination of candidates by those who might be charged with the duty of nomination. Under that system a secret examination might be held, which might be used for the purpose of improperly rejecting candidates who would otherwise be considered qualified. It was stated in the recent Report of the Civil Service Commissioners that an Act of Parliament would be necessary to effect the proposed reform. He apprehended that that was a mistake, and in this view he was supported by the high authority of Sir James Stephen. He believed that it was within the Queen's prerogative to carry out administrative reform to the very fullest extent in every department, and for that reason he had put his Motion in the form of an Address to the Crown. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution.
§ VISCOUNT GODERICH
said, on seconding the Motion, that he was extremely glad that the question had been again raised, because he thought that the result which had attended the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury, and the Amendment that was moved to it by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. B. Lytton), could have been but little satisfactory to any one who was interested in the subject. He had ventured to say, in the course of the former debate, that the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire was vague in its terms, and was not calculated to bind the House to any specific course of action. He would not say whether he was right or wrong in the view which he then took, but he was sure that the fate of that Amendment must have convinced everybody that it was not intended to be binding either upon the Government or the House, for it was finally passed at Two o'clock in the morning, and, as he was told by the ordinary channels of information, "amid loud laughter," and under these circumstances he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. V. Scully) was justified in moving his present Resolution. He quite agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman in what he had said with regard to the Order in Council of the 21st of May last. It was a step in the right direction; but, in order to be of any effect, it must be followed by 680 other measures. Indeed, if it were not followed up, it might be productive of mischief rather than of good, because, while it continued the nomination system, it relieved those who exercised it from a portion of the responsibility which now rested upon them. With regard to the promotion of civil servants after their first appointment, that must, of course, be subject to the responsibility of the heads of the departments in which they were employed, but no such consideration was involved in the first appointment. It appeared to him that, under the present state of things, no better means could be devised for making appointments to the public service than the plan contained in the Resolution of the hon. and learned Gentleman. In a former debate upon the subject objection had been taken to abolishing the present system of patronage, upon the ground that to do so would be to interfere with the stability of the free institutions of the country. He had upon that occasion dissented from that opinion, and he had heard nothing to induce him to apprehend that, if a change such as that proposed by the Resolution of the hon. and learned Gentleman were agreed to, any such consequence would ensue. One objection, and to his mind the most serious objection, to the system of open competition was, that no examination to which a candidate might be subjected would be a fair test as to whether he possessed the moral qualities necessary to discharge the duties of the public service; but, whatever force there might be in that argument, he did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wells (Mr. Hayter) could be intimately acquainted with the moral qualities of those Gentlemen whom, under the present system, he appointed to office. Although, perhaps, it was true that the successful passing of an examination was no guarantee that a person possessed the moral qualities necessary to fulfil the duties of a public office, still it afforded a reasonable presumption that the person who so passed did possess them. He would remind the House that the principle contained in the Resolution of the hon. and learned Gentleman had already, in one instance, been sanctioned by the Government—he referred to the case of the civil service of India; and the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Control (Sir C. Wood) had prophesied that the adoption of such a system would give to India a public service such 681 as the world had never seen. What he now wanted was, that by the introduction of a similar system this country might enjoy the benefit of a public service such as the world had never seen. If the Government intended to oppose the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would rise in his place and would explain to the House why it was desirable to introduce such a system in India and not in this country. He had heard it said that the nature of our institutions and the necessity of keeping hon. Members in good humour precluded the introduction of such a system into this country; but, as far as keeping Members in good humour went, he could only say that though he himself had not been much troubled by his constituents, he had heard many hon. Gentlemen complain of being put to great inconvenience by the present system. With regard to persons who were desirous of entering the public service, he believed that, with the exception of those who knew themselves to be unable to undergo the ordeal of an examination, they would prefer being admitted to the service in a manner which would afford the presumption that they were fitted to perform their duty. The scheme proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman was ridiculed by some on the ground that it would compel clerks in the Custom House, and persons holding similar situations, to a literary examination, and that one species of examination was to be instituted alike for weighers and lockers in the Customs, and for candidates for different and higher offices. But it was not true that all these persons were to be subjected to the same examination. What he wanted was to get rid of the system of nomination—a system injurious to the public service and which introduced into it persons unfitted to perform the duties of the office to which they might be nominated—and, he could not see that abolishing such a system could possibly lead to the disastrous results prophesied by some. He thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman had acted wisely in confining his Resolution to the civil branch of the service, and he hoped that the present Motion would extract from the Government something more definite than had been obtained from them in the recent discussion upon this subject. If the present Resolution were agreed to, it would not, of course, give to the country competent Ministers and wise counsels, but it would improve one important branch of 682 the public service, and would establish a principle which must extend to the benefit of all other branches.
Motion made and Question proposed—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, thanking Her Majesty for Her most gracious Order in Council of the 21st day of May last, by which certain persons were directed to examine into and certify the qualifications of all young men proposed to be appointed to junior situations in any department of the Civil Service; and praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to direct the examination to be an open one, and held in public, and that the Examiners do have regard to superior qualifications and merit; and praying also, that a similar Order in Council be issued as to the Diplomatic and Consular Services, with the view to secure greater efficiency in those departments of the Public Service.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman who has brought this subject under the consideration of the House has recommended it to their attention by stating that it is a measure for the furtherance of administrative reform. Sir, Her Majesty's Government are as desirous of promoting administrative reform as either the hon. Member himself or any other Gentleman in. this House. The question, however, which we now have to consider is, what is administrative reform? Is the measure which the hon. Gentleman has proposed a measure in furtherance of administrative reform? Now, Sir, under the term "administrative reform" I conceive two classes of measures. One class consists in an examination of all the existing departments with respect to the classification of their subjects, the distribution of their labour, and the number of persons employed—their duties, their qualifications, and their efficiency. In a former discussion I had the honour of stating to the House that a series of investigations had been instituted by a succession of Governments—by the Government of my noble Friend the Secretary of State (Lord John Russell), by the Government of Lord Derby, and by subsequent Governments—into the different departments of the State; that these investigations were conducted by competent inquirers; that reports were made in consequence of those investigations; and that all the practical recommendations of those reports have subsequently been carried into effect. The best proof which either the present Government or previous Governments could give of their zeal in the cause of administrative reform was by instituting detailed inquiries into the 683 different departments, and by adopting all the practical recommendations that were made for their improvement. Now, I challenge any hon. Member in this House to show that exertions, and well sustained exertions, have not been made by successive Governments for ascertaining defects in the different departments of the State, and for removing those defects and increasing their efficiency. Without, however, dwelling upon that class of administrative reforms, I would now proceed to that other class of measures to which the hon. and learned Member has adverted in his speech—namely, those which have in view the improvement of the general character of the civil service. I need not again travel over the ground which was so clearly explained to the House in the historical account of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), on a former occasion. He explained the steps which were taken for improving the general character of the civil service, which steps resulted in the issue of the Order in Council of May last. That Order in Council was intended to improve the existing state of the civil service, subject to the general conditions by which it is now constituted. At present there are separate examinations in the great majority of the departments; but they are examinations conducted under the authority of the heads of those departments, and they are not conducted according to any uniform and consistent plan. The object of the Order in Council which is now before the House, was to place all those examinations under one Board, who should introduce system and regularity into them, and who should be at the same time independent of all influences connected with the several departments. That was a system founded on the existing conditions of the civil service, and it was intended to establish a sufficiently high standard of qualifications for all new candidates for admission into the civil service, subject, however, to existing rules with respect to nomination and appointment. The Commissioners have been appointed; they have already entered upon their duties; and even the hon. and learned Member who introduced this measure, admits that it is a step in the right direction, and that, to a certain extent, it fulfils the views which he has formed with respect to administrative reform. But he says that it is an unsatisfactory and an insufficient measure; that, though going to a certain extent in the 684 right direction, it stops short of the goal which he thinks should be attained; that it does not make a sufficient advance in the way of reform; and that it is incumbent upon the House, by an address to the Crown, to call upon the Crown to set in motion its prerogative for the purpose, as I understand, of repealing the existing order and substituting another order founded upon different principles. Those principles are set forth in the address moved by the hon. and learned Gentleman; and the three points in which the system which he recommends, differs from that which is now introduced are, that he proposes that the examinations should be public—that they should be conducted in rooms to which the public at large should be admitted—and he further proposes that any person should be allowed to offer himself as a candidate for examination without, as I understand him, being subject to any qualification whatever. [MR. V. SCULLY: No, no!] I do not understand the hon. and learned Member to suggest that there should be any qualification; but admission into the civil service, according to his plan, would be conducted like the election of a Member of Parliament—supposing all qualifications abolished—like, as I am reminded, the election of a Scotch Member.
§ MR. V. SCULLY
So far from proposing that there should be no qualification, my object is, that the person who has the best qualification should be selected.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Yes, I understood the hon. Gentleman quite correctly. What I meant to say was that, according to his plan, it would be permitted to any person, without any qualification whatever, to propose himself as a candidate. His qualifications would be subsequently ascertained by a process of examination; but there would be no preliminary qualification required to enable a man to constitute himself a candidate. Well, that, therefore, would be the second principle which the hon. Gentleman proposes. First, he says, there should be entire publicity in examinations; any person should be permitted to become a candidate for admission into the civil service; and, last of all, the object of the examination should be, not to ascertain whether a candidate comes up to a certain standard—whether he possesses certain prescribed qualifications—but to ascertain which is the best out of a given number of persons—that is to say, that 685 the examination should be strictly competitive—that it should be, as it were, a race between a number of competing candidates. That is the system which the hon. and learned Member embodies in his Resolution, and which he now calls on the House to address the Crown by its prerogative to introduce in abrogation of the Order in Council lately issued. The necessary effect of the adoption of the plan of the hon. and learned Member would be, that all these civil servants, many thousands in number, being servants of the Crown—that is to say, acting in various departments under the control of persons holding their offices from the Crown—would be appointed without any reference to the power of the Crown, and without any reference to persons appointed by the Crown, but by their own proposal of themselves as candidates, and by the choice of a body of examiners. These examiners, I presume, would be appointed in the ordinary manner by the Crown; but the Act which would constitute any candidate a Member of the civil service would be a certificate of a Board of Examiners, which certificate, as I collect from the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, it would be incumbent on the Crown, or the representative of the Crown, to recognise as the title of admission to the civil service, and there would be no veto on the part of the Crown upon the appointment of any person who had received his certificate from the Board of Examiners. I have troubled the House with these explanations, in order that we might be certain that we fully understand the proposition of the hon. and learned Member. I will now, with the permission of the House, examine the different points of his proposal. In the first place, there is the question of publicity. Now, the examinations, as conducted at present, are principally—I believe exclusively—in writing. Certain questions are proposed to the candidates to answer. Those questions are in writing. The candidates have papers given them to copy, and questions to answer in writing, by which their proficiency in writing and arithmetic are judged of, and, as I am informed, no part of the examination is conducted by oral questions and answers. That being the case, I need scarcely remark that the admission of the public would be wholly nugatory, and that there would be no advantage in admitting the public and in allowing them to see a number of gentlemen sitting round a table answering questions in writing. I presume, 686 therefore, that the hon. Gentleman wishes the mode of examination to be altered and oral examination to be substituted. Now, I am not sufficiently acquainted with the details to be able to offer any opinion as to the advantages of oral as compared with written examinations, but I have no reason to suppose that the present system, which has now been followed for several years in all the different departments, has been the result of accident—on the contrary, I believe it has been the result of experience proceeding tentatively—that it has been found the most convenient and efficient mode of conducting these examinations—and therefore I doubt exceedingly whether the hon. Gentleman, for the purpose of attaining what he calls publicity of examination, would confer any benefit upon the public service by substituting oral for written examinations. The hon. and learned Member has stated, that in all the University examinations the public are admitted, and that, therefore, the opportunity is afforded of judging as to the manner in which these examinations are conducted. Now, I speak under the hon. Gentleman's correction, but my experience leads me to believe that a very large number of University examinations are not conducted orally, but are conducted exclusively in writing. I believe, that at Cambridge, all the University examinations are conducted by written questions and written answers; and therefore I really do not know whether the public or Members of the University not concerned in the examinations are admitted. If they are, I conceive that their presence must be wholly unimportant. I can only say that examinations for scholarships at Oxford are entirely in writing, and I that no members of the University are allowed to be present; and I am at a loss to know what advantage would result from publicity or that the smallest inconvenience arises from the exclusion of the public. I think, in fact, that the public, if admitted, would be an annoyance to the persons engaged in writing answers, that the attention of those persons would be distracted, and that they would themselves be the first to complain. They would say they had had no fair chance, that they had been disturbed by the admission of strangers; and I really conceive that, with reference to the interests of the candidates themselves, as well as to those of the public, the principle of publicity is altogether objectionable. But the publicity of examinations is perhaps, after all, not a very important part of the hon. 687 and learned Member's case. The really important part of the hon. Gentleman's motion is, that he proposes permission to all persons to offer themselves as candidates, and to make the examination a competitive examination. The first objection that occurs to everybody who considers his proposition must be, that if we adopt the principle of a competitive examination, and if we impose upon the examiners the duty, and confer upon them the power, of selecting the persons they consider the best—that is to say the fittest—for the offices that are vacant, you will entirely get rid of the principle of personal responsibility in the choice of persons for the civil service. At present every person who is appointed to a public office, whether it be a high office or a junior clerkship, or the office of tidewaiter, is appointed on the responsibility of some person—either on the responsibility of the head of the department, or on that of the Board of Treasury. In that way, if an improper appointment is made, we can fix the responsibility on some definite Member of the Government for that improper appointment, and we can call him to account. But suppose that, under the system which the hon. and learned Gentleman recommends, an improper appointment is made—and he will not go the length of saying that his system of competitive examination will work with infallible regularity, for the Board of Examiners may err in selecting a person for the public service—who is responsible for this improper appointment? The examiners may say that they proposed certain written questions in English literature, history, and the other subjects of examination, to all the candidates; that they read their answers without knowing their names, as is the practice at examinations, and that then, affixing marks to those who answered the questions in the best way, they added up the numbers, and made their decision in favour of those who had the greatest number of marks. This plan excludes favour and affection, and the examiners may say that they gave the certificates to those candidates, and recommended them for appointments. But by this system, as I have already said, all personal responsibility is lost. That is one great objection to the hon. Member's plan. Another is that, although you can by such an examination as the hon. Member contemplates estimate the intellectual acquirements of the candidate to a certain extent, yet there are no means 688 of gauging his moral qualities. What you want in a public office is not, generally speaking, a man of ambitious, eager disposition, seeking to advance himself rapidly in the world, but a trustworthy person, who will industriously and attentively perform the duties assigned to him by his superiors in office. But how will you ascertain these qualities by a merely literary examination? What will be the class of persons who, in the great majority of cases, will succeed under the system proposed by the hon. Gentleman? It will be found that schoolmasters, ushers, and persons employed in the practical business of education will be the most successful candidates. They are more apt in arithmetical questions, and will be able to give the best replies to such ordinary problems as are proposed to candidates at similar examinations. They are the most experienced in the process of examination; they will come to the trial with the advantage of experience; and we must expect to see that persons of that class will be, to a great extent, successful, without reference to their moral character or their previous conduct. I hope I shall not be understood as casting any reflection upon the respectable and useful class of the community to which I have referred, whose employment I honour as much as any man; but I wish to suggest, for the consideration of the House, whether, by establishing a general system of competitive examination for the introduction of candidates to the civil service, it will be advisable to give an advantage to that class beyond other classes of the community? My noble Friend who seconded this Motion, remarked that the civil service was divided into two classes—one the superior clerks of the superior offices, who must be men of intelligence; and also the much more numerous class of civil servants in the revenue and other departments, whose employment will scarcely bear the name of intellectual. I do not know whether the House will think that a great advantage can arise from a competitive examination for boatmen of the coastguard, tide-waiters, weighers at the Customs, Post-office messengers, and messengers for the public departments. The House is aware of the class from which they are taken, and the duties they have to perform; and can any assignable benefit be pointed out, either direct or indirect, as likely to arise to the public service by making the appointments of such officers depend upon a literary competition? No 689 doubt it is most desirable to have a standard examination for the officers of every class, including the lowest, in order that they may rise above a certain level, and possess those qualifications which may fit them for their respective situations. But I will ask the hon. and learned Member what benefit can arise from a competitive examination in the nature of a prize to be bestowed upon the literary qualifications of persons of the description I have alluded to? If the competitive examination is not to take place in the case of tide-waiters, can it apply to the higher class of appointments? The House will not shrink from approaching this part of the subject, which the hon. Gentleman has avoided. If you make the appointment of every clerk who holds a humble situation in a public office depend upon a competitive examination, can you stop with him, and not apply the same principle of competition to persons holding the higher and more important situations? Will he undertake to appoint permanent Under-secretaries of State, or a permanent Secretary of the Treasury, or a permanent Secretary of the Admiralty, by literary competitive examinations? Will he undertake to appoint judges of County Courts or Commissioners of Bankruptcy by competitive examination? To rise higher, will he undertake to appoint Judges of the superior courts by competitive examination of all barristers? If this principle is so good, if it is to work with perfect mechanical regularity for clerks in public offices—who, allow me to say, often exercise difficult and responsible functions in obscurity—is it not impossible to say that the principle cannot be carried further? If it cannot be said in reason and common sense that the principle cannot be carried further, you cannot stop at the point at which the hon. Member thinks it necessary; and then I want to know if there is any Member of this House who will get up and say he is willing to trust all the great permanent appointments of this country, the Judges, and appointments of that description, to competitive literary examination? If the hon. Member obtain the assent of the House to an address to the Crown, by which he asks the Crown to make an alteration in the appointment of the civil servants which the Order in Council does I not make, it is utterly impossible that he can stop at the point at which he has now fixed it, and not carry it to the whole permanent civil service of the country. In examining this principle of competitive examination 690 for civil servants, it is natural that we should look to the general experience of mankind. There is a certain presumption that a great principle, for the first time proposed for practical adoption in the year 1855, is liable to some strong objections, which have escaped notice on the first consideration, and to which many hon. Members have not yet called the attention of the House. If we look back in history, we do not find that any country hitherto, whatever its form of government, has ever selected its civil servants by competitive examination. I will not weary the House with historical allusions, but let us only take a great republic of antiquity, the great masters of government and jurisprudence, who are the authors of almost all that is important in practical politics—I mean the Romans. Did the Romans ever think of appointing their consuls, or prætors, or any of the great officers who administered their affairs at home and carried their triumphant eagles over the whole of Europe, by competitive examination? Looking at more modern times, is there a single country which has ever adopted that principle? Did the republics and sovereignties of Italy ever adopt it? Did the great Spanish Monarchy, even when it extended its dominion over the Indies as well as over a great part of Europe, adopt it? Did France, in the plenitude of her power, ever think of appointing her civil servants by competitive examination? Has England, the great mistress of civil science in modern times—have our descendants, the Americans, who, according to the opinions, perhaps, of some hon. Gentlemen, have outstripped their progenitors in political wisdom, and who have carried, at all events, to the utmost extent, the principle of popular democratic government—have the Americans ever resorted to competitive examination for their civil servants? So far from this being the case, it is well known that the popular jealousy in the United States of America, when a party succeeds to power, is lest they should not make a clear sweep of all administrative officers—lest they should respect any permanent civil servants, and not fill the whole of the appointments in the hands of the general Government with the dependents of the party which lately acceded to power. I speak with information derived from persons who cannot be mistaken upon the subject, and who have assured me, that the popular jealousy in America is directed against the permanent retention of civil 691 servants upon the ground of merit, and is always expressed in favour of appointments on purely political grounds. I am not defending that principle; I think it more fair to the civil servants that each political party should respect the permanent appointments of its predecessors, and by so doing contribute in the most important manner to the proper and regular administration of the Government. No person would more deplore than I should to see that sacred principle violated. I merely refer to the example of America for the purpose of showing how far the practice of that unquestionably enlightened popular form of government is from recognising the principles recommended by the hon. and learned Gentleman. We have heard a great deal in recent debates of the incompetence of the Government to manage its own affairs—of the ignorance of the persons appointed to public offices to discharge their duties—of the inefficiency of aristocratic holders of public places—and of the importance of following the example of the mercantile classes in the administration of the business of the State. Let us see if we can derive any light from the example of the mercantile bodies with respect to the appointments of civil servants. Do we find that joint-stock companies, railway companies, dock companies, and the numerous bodies organised for various commercial and mercantile purposes, under special Acts of Parliament, in different parts of the kingdom, in appointing their servants resort to the principle of competitive examination, and not of discretionary choice? I think I can defy the hon. and learned Member who made this Motion to point out a single instance of the voluntary adoption by these enlightened bodies, who are guided by nothing but their own interests and the interests of their shareholders, of the principle of appointing their secretaries, managers, and the numerous persons they employ, upon a system such as he recommends. Do they not all inquire into character, obtain recommendations, and select the person whom they think the fittest, precisely in the same manner as the public servants are selected by the State? But if the hon. Member's principle be good for the civil service of the Crown, he cannot stop there; he must apply to the municipal functionaries, to all persons employee by magistrates, and by public bodies exercising in different manners a delegated authority, of a peculiar nature. If competition 692 for offices be made a matter of public right, can any reason be assigned why you should allow a person to come forward as a candidate by competitive examination for a clerkship in the Home Office or the Treasury, and debar him from being a competitor for the office of town-clerk, clerk to the magistrates, governor of a county prison, clerk to a board of guardians—in fact, any one of those numerous municipal and local offices with which this country abounds, and which I strongly suspect in number are not less than those in the civil service of the Crown. If the hon. Member is consistent in his principles, if he really believes in their efficacy, and thinks they can be safely acted upon, he is bound not to address the Crown, but to bring in a Bill to apply precisely the same principles to all the local officers to whom I have referred. The noble Lord (Viscount Goderich), who seconded the Motion, said he hoped it would be explained to him how it was, that while the principle was admitted with respect to the Indian service, it was not admitted with respect to the general service of the Crown. I will state the reasons why I think there is a great difference between the case of England and the case of India. Everybody knows the great embarrassment which the Indian patronage has created in the government of this country. We know that at the end of the last century it was one of the great causes of struggles in this House,—that it was the engine by which Mr. Pitt overthrew the Coalition Government of Mr. Fox and Lord North—and the country really was alarmed at the idea of the purity of the Government of this country being corrupted by the enormous bribes of the Indian patronage. It was charged upon Mr. Fox, and believed by the country, that he intended to make himself independent of the Crown, and, by his possession of the Indian patronage, to create for himself a power which should be independent of the people on the one hand, and of the Crown on the other. It is my firm conviction that those charges were greatly exaggerated, and that the public laboured under a great delusion in taking that view of the India Bill. Nevertheless, it is an undoubted fact that those representations were believed by the country, and were the main cause of the overthrow of the Coalition Government, and the subsequent accession to power of Mr. Pitt. That i an example of the great difficulties which 693 the men of that day, whose abilities none would wish to underrate, found in the way of arriving at a practical solution of the question of Indian patronage, and the enormous influence which its exercise had upon the domestic policy of this country. It has always remained a problem only partially solved. There has always been a jealousy with regard to the distribution of Indian patronage, until, by the measure proposed to the House upon the last occasion of renewing the East India Company's Charter, it was endeavoured to solve the problem by making those appointments dependent upon competitive examinations, in order to take them out of the hands of the East India Company—an anomalous body exercising a sort of imperium in imperio—on the one hand, and not to bestow it upon the Government on the other. This expedient appears to me to be a fair solution of the difficulty. But I must observe that when civil servants are appointed to the Indian service, they do not at once succeed to political power. When civil servants land in India, although from the moment of their landing they become entitled to salaries, yet they are not armed with any public functions; those functions only commence when the officer is selected by the Government for the performance of some specific duty. Therefore, even under the system now existing in regard to India, there is an act of selection and of discretion on the part of the Indian Government. There is another difference in the principle with regard to India and the proposition now before the House. That principle was embodied in an act of Parliament which was deliberately considered by this as well as the other House; whereas, the hon. Member proposes to set the Royal prerogative in motion by a simple Address from the House of Commons, without affording any opportunity of consideration to the other House, as they would have in the ordinary course of proceeding. Now, with respect to the Order in Council which is under our consideration, I wish to call the attention of the House to some circumstances. It is admitted to be a step in the right direction. It unquestionably secures, if honestly and effectively carried into effect—and I can give the House a most positive assurance that in making appointments, and in all steps subsequent to this measure, the Government has acted with the most perfect good faith, and with the sole view of rendering the new system as efficient as possible—if I 694 say, it is honestly and effectively carried out, it cannot fail to secure efficiency on the part of those employed, by ascertaining that every person appointed possesses a certain amount of qualification. It may not secure the best of a given number of persons, but it will secure a certain amount of qualification. I will now state the result of the examinations which have taken place since the Commissioners have been in office. They have granted to clerks certificates in ten cases, and refused them in five others. They have granted fifteen certificates for subordinate officers, and refused them in four cases. This result, accomplished in a few weeks, must satisfy the House that the examination is not a mere form, but that it is essentially an investigation into the abilities and acquirements of the candidates. The Order in Council is so drawn that, if any head of a department wishes to select a certain number of persons whom he might propose as candidates, he may express his desire to the examiners that the best of them might be selected for appointments, and it will be competent for them to conduct the examination on the plan of competition. The order was drawn intentionally, so as to give a considerable latitude of action; and, if hon. Gentlemen will refer to the terms of it, they will find that it is competent for the head of any department to send in eight or ten names to the examiners, with a request to them to select one or two of the fittest, who should thereupon receive appointments. It does not go the length of throwing open to the world at large, without any qualification, pecuniary, intellectual, or otherwise, being exacted, the right of becoming candidates for admission to the civil service. The Order was framed with the object I have stated, and it was intended it should be carried out in the most honest and effectual manner. It was issued only last May, and has scarcely been in operation for six weeks. Under these circumstances I would ask the House whether it thinks it would be desirable, so soon after the promulgation of this Order in Council—which cannot be denied to be an important security—more important, in my opinion, than by any subsequent measure can be added—for the efficiency of the public service, to address Her Majesty to issue another, founded upon an entirely different and novel principle? I would appeal to them, would it not be right to wait until we have had some experience of the working of this 695 Order in Council—to wait until another session, when we shall have better means of judging whether the Order has proved sufficient or not? If the hon. Member should then not be satisfied with the information voluntarily furnished by the Government or obtained from returns, other means of inquiry will be open to him; but, at all events, I trust the House, in considering the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, will not be disposed so soon to call upon the Crown to rescind the Order recently issued, for the purpose of trying the somewhat questionable experiment proposed by the hon. Gentleman. But there is another objection to the course which it is proposed the House should adopt. The present Order in Council was, as I have said, intended to improve the existing system; it proceeded on the basis of the existing method of appointments in the civil service, and it attempted by regulations, undoubtedly new in character, but still consistent with the existing state of things, to introduce ameliorations and improvements. A change to this extent is fairly within the limits of an Order in Council, and may with propriety be carried into effect by the prerogative of the Crown. But when the hon. Gentleman asks the House to assent to a principle altogether new, and proposes to dispossess the Crown of so vast a number of appointments, to give the public at large a right which they never before enjoyed, and to introduce a system fundamentally different from that now existing, let me ask him, is not the proper course to introduce a Bill embodying the regulations he proposes to establish, which can be deliberately considered, not only by this, but also by the other House, which could be discussed in principle on the second reading, and in details in committee? Instead of that, we are called upon, suddenly and quite unprepared, to assent to a Resolution which involves an entirely new principle, and which might lead to consequences which it is impossible in this debate to discuss. The very terms of the Motion are scarcely unambiguous, without the explanation we have derived from the explanation of the hon. Gentleman in his speech. It says, "that Her Majesty may be pleased to direct the examination to be an open one." Now, I confess, when I came down to the House, I was not sure whether the hon. Gentleman meant that the examinations should be open to the public, or that it should be open to any member of the public 696 to present himself as a candidate for examination. It is explained to mean that every member of the public should have a right to become a candidate. It is desirable that Resolutions of this important description should be free from ambiguity, so that there could be no doubt of the meaning of the proposition. For the grounds I have stated, I trust the House will agree with me when I propose to move the previous question to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. I have no hostility to the views of the hon. Gentleman, the general spirit of which I approve. I disapprove altogether the idea of finality as connected with the Order in Council. I admit that the subject is new. I believe that the interest which the public takes in it is likely to throw great light upon the subject, and to strengthen the hands of reformers and persons who wish to insure the efficiency of the public service, and who are friendly to the object which the hon. and learned Member wishes to promote. But I hesitate to assent to all the conclusions embodied in his Resolution; and I hope the House will not be induced to commit themselves, after a single debate, and after the summary view the hon. Member took of the subject, to agree to so important, so novel, and so wholly unprecedented a principle as that which he proposes, and that they will support me in the course which I take when I move the previous question.
§ Previous question proposed, "That that Question be now put."
§ MR. WILKINSON
said, he was anxious to take this opportunity of stating, that he concurred with those who were urging on Ministers some improvement of the present system. It appeared to him that the right hon. Baronet (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had raised up a great many giants for the purpose of overthrowing them, for he found nothing in the Resolution about a competitive or literary examination. What they must get rid of was the system of patronage which the hon. and learned Gentleman complained of—solicitations by private Members of Parliament in favour of those for whom they were interested. An hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) had alluded to a pledge, said to have been taken by a noble Lord on that side of the House (Lord Goderich), to the effect that his shadow should never again darken the doors of the office of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wells (Mr. Hayter). For his 697 (Mr. Wilkinson's) part, it was not necessary for him to take that pledge, because he could say with truth, that his shadow never had darkened the doors of the right hon. Gentleman's office; still, everybody knew that this practice did extensively prevail, and it was very desirable that it should be abolished. That was an object which he hoped to see attained, and the best way of arriving at it was, by the adoption of the hon. and learned Gentleman's Resolution, which would not go to the abolition of the Order in Council. He was sure the Government were sincere in saying, that their only wish was to carry out this reform, and he wished to express his opinion of the necessity for their so doing.
said, that the Resolution proposed, as the bases of appointment to the civil service, superior qualification and merit—than which none more free from objection could be pointed out; but he could very well conceive that the Government did not desire to see established any system that could interfere with their patronage; for patronage might be very convenient for a Government at times, more especially for those who now sat on those benches. He had heard it said, that Government could not exist without patronage; but he thought that a Government which could not exist on its own intrinsic merits should not exist at all. The noble Lord at the head of the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had both said they desired administrative reform; but when he found them opposing a Motion which took, at least, one step in that direction, he could arrive at no other conclusion than that it was a mere matter of policy and not of honest conviction, which made them agree to the Resolution brought forward by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. B. Lytton), and that they had no real intention of carrying out practically measures of administrative reform. He would support the present Motion as a step in the right direction, for he believed that we should not have administrative reform till we had the abolition of all patronage in the junior appointments in the civil service. Having offered these remarks, perhaps the House would allow him to allude to some matters personal to himself that occurred in a debate which had that evening been referred to, and which had no indistinct bearing on the question now before the House. It had been stated in that House and elsewhere, that he was a 698 teller of "virulent untruths," and he hoped he should be permitted to occupy their attention for a short time while he referred to those charges, at least, which had been made against him in that House. He hoped that the charge which had fallen from the hon. and right hon. lips which preferred it had been uttered in a hasty moment, and therefore he should pass it over without resentful comment: but he wished to allude to certain statements made by the First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Charles Wood), in correction of others which he (Mr. Lindsay) had made, involving points which it concerned his character for veracity to clear up. He had stated that 3,000 horses which were to be sent to the Crimea, could not be sent there for lack of transport—and it was said, in reply, that the number was not 3,000, but 2,810; the statement he had made, therefore, was not a "virulent untruth," but was substantially founded on fact. He further stated, at the same time, that offers of tonnage at low rates had been made to the Government, and that they were pitched into the waste basket. The answer was, that military officers did not like sailing vessels. But other Governments had sent out horses in sailing vessels with less loss than the British Government had incurred by sending out horses in steamships. Had the offer to which he had alluded not been pitched into the waste basket, the Government might have hired a magnificent fleet of sailing vessels at a cost to the country of 96,000 l., while the cost of the steam fleet which had been engaged was 300,000 l.; so that the transport of horses by steamships instead of sailing vessels had entailed upon the country an expenditure of 204,000 l. He had further stated that a ship named the European had been offered to the British Government, but had not been engaged, on account of the frivolous conditions to which the owner was required to submit. The answer to this statement was, that the European was refused by the Government because she had not sufficient height between decks. Now, the height required by the Admiralty was seven feet six inches, and the height of the European between decks was seven feet six inches and a half; while the height of the Oneida, the vessel engaged by the Government at Greenock, was only seven feet four inches. He had also stated that a ship which was offered to the Government had been ordered to come round from the Clyde to Deptford or Liverpool 699 for survey, but that the owners declined to agree to such condition until they were aware whether the ship was to be accepted or not. Now, that ship was ordered to proceed either to London or Liverpool, not to be fitted, as the right hon. Baronet had attempted to mystify the House by suggesting, but to be surveyed. The owner could have had no objection to send the ship to either port to be fitted, and he said, "Send down surveyors to see that the ship will suit you, and I will send her round either to Deptford or Liverpool to be fitted." He (Mr. Lindsay) had said that it would have cost the owners 400l. to send the ship round to either of those ports, but he had been informed by the owners themselves that the cost would have been 1,000l. It had been stated, that he had an interest in some of the vessels to which he had referred; but the owners of those ships said, "Neither Mr. Lindsay nor Mr. Gladstone has been, directly or indirectly, connected with the two steamers named, nor does the former give directions concerning them, or interfere in any possible way with their management." The next statement he had made, to which exception had been taken, was, that a ship had been sent from London to the Tyne for twelve tons of iron tanks or cylinders, and it was said that the real weight was fifty tons. On a former occasion he had produced an order from the First Lord of the Admiralty, ordering a valuable ship to proceed to the Tyne to take on board twelve tons of iron tanks or cylinders, and whether the weight actually to be taken on board was twelve tons or fifty tons was a matter which might be settled between the late and present First Lords of the Admiralty. He (Mr. Lindsay) certainly thought the most businesslike course would have been to convey those cylinders to Deptford, and to send them thence to their destination at the first convenient opportunity. In reply to his statement, it was said that the owner of the ship in question could not have made any strong remonstrance against the order of the Government, and the First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir C. Wood) read an extract from a letter he had received from the owner; but he (Mr. Lindsay) would ask whether there had been no personal and verbal remonstrances on the subject? If not, why did the last First Lord of the Admiralty insist that the ship Robert Lowe should proceed to the Tyne? He (Mr. Lindsay) had stated that a ship had 700 been ordered to Woolwich to have her engines inspected. It so happened that the captain who was at the time in charge of the ship was now in England, and, chancing to have read the former debate, wrote to him (Mr. Lindsay), saying that he could fully confirm the statement he had made. [The hon. Member here read an extract from an affidavit made by the captain, embodying passages from his log, stating that, contradictory orders having been given, the ship was detained eight days in order that her engines might be inspected, the cost of the detention to the country, calculated at the rate at which she was engaged, being from 600 l. to 800 l. The captain complained of the contradictory orders he had received, mentioning that one day he was directed to take on board 200 tons of coals, the next day he was ordered to discharge them, and on the following day to retain on board as much as might be necessary for the working of the ship. The captain also referred to the conflicting orders he had received from different departments with regard to the shipment of guns, he having been ordered on one day to take on board certain guns, while on the next day he was directed to send them on shore.] This was not a document got up for the occasion, but consisted of entries made in the log at the time. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) said, that, although the Tynemouth, which was sent on this fool's errand to Woolwich, was under repairs, she had been reported by Mr. Gladstone as ready to go to sea the next day, while her engines were not in a fit state to take the vessel down the river. It appeared, however, from a letter from the captain, that the machinery of the ship was not out of order, beyond "a few odds and ends to be put to rights, which all engines required," and that the vessel would be ready to proceed to sea as soon as the stores were on board. He might state, in reply to the right hon. Baronet's assertion, that the last shipment of Government stores was made at two o'clock in the afternoon, those stores consisting of cases containing clothes for the troops, and that the vessel proceeded to sea the same day at a quarter before three o'clock. It hardly became the right hon. Baronet, as a Minister of the Crown, to read garbled extracts in support of his case. Now, with respect to the next point, he had stated elsewhere that the returns ordered by the House were not correct. In January 701 last he moved for a return of the quantity of stores sent to the East, and also a return of the number of transports employed, the price paid, and the work performed, &c. He had said that these returns were not correct, and that he questioned whether there were any books from which they could make a return; and he thought that the fact that they took five months to make them, was conclusive on that latter point. When the returns were laid upon the table of the House, it was proved that they did not contain a single item of commissariat stores. It was not for him to say that he wanted to know what those stores were; the House wanted to know, and that was sufficient. At all events, the return was not such a one as was ordered. As to the transports, he stated that the return was incorrect, and he pointed out one ship, the Tynemouth. What mattered it what the ship was so long as it was a ship respecting which he had the best information? He showed that the return, so far as it affected that ship, was incorrect in every column. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he had taken the wrong dates. No such thing, for he was far too cautious to state that which he was not prepared to prove. He took the same dates as were referred to in the return laid on the table—namely, the 10th of June and the 18th of December. In the period of time which elapsed between those dates, the return stated that the ship had made twelve voyages; he said it had made twenty-one voyages; every column was wrong, and if, as respected that ship, every column was wrong, he had a right to assume that the return was incorrect as respected the other vessels. He had now disposed of each of the principal points, but there were some other points of a delicate nature which he would refer to, because they affected the management of his own business as a merchant. The right hon. Gentleman must have had a weak case, indeed, when he attacked him in his private capacity of a merchant. The best answer he could give to that, was to refer to what he was when he commenced life, and what he now was. The manner in which he progressed would prove whether he had managed his business well or otherwise; but the right hon. Baronet was not justified in inquiring into his private affairs in the way in which he had. The right hon. Baronet spoke of certain ships which belonged to him being condemned 702 as unseaworthy. Now, it happened that two emigrant ships were built in advance of the age; and who said they were unseaworthy? The Government. It was at their order that the Swarthmore was recalled. That ship belonged to a highly respectable firm at Liverpool, and it was recalled at a loss to the owners of 8,000l., because it was said by those whom the right hon. Gentleman employed that she was unsteady, and would topple over. She never did topple over, although, since that time, she had sailed 10,000 miles in all weathers. It was true that upon her last voyage, when she was coming home, and after she had sailed 8,000 miles in all weathers, she encountered a hurricane that dismasted her, and she had put into Tahiti. There was nothing strange in that; many a ship, in such a hurricane, would have gone to the bottom of the sea. She was only obliged to put into Tahiti for repairs, and now the right hon. Baronet said, "Here is a ship for you!" He (Mr. Lindsay) maintained that that ship was a new and a superior one; she was now in this country, and he asked any gentleman competent to form an opinion upon a ship to go and inspect her. The best answer he could give to the prejudices of the Government surveyors, who always retarded progress, was, that there had been more than 100 ships built upon the same lines, and they were the fastest ships that sailed on the ocean, and none of them had toppled over. He would not go back three years and rake up a particular ship, but would refer back three months, and tell the right hon. Gentleman of a ship that did topple over. It was a Government ship, and she toppled over as soon as she came into the hands of the Government, because the Government injudiciously altered her. That ship was the Perseverance, and the following was the information he had obtained about her:—Her Majesty's ship Perseverance was originally built for the Peninsular and Oriental Company, as a fast mail and passenger packet, with flush deck. Official folly added poop and forecastle. The "Official Establishment of the Navy" gave her the masts, yards, and anchors of a 74-gun ship, without regard to her form, build, or capabilities. Hence the natural consequences—she upset in dock at Woolwich, the masts and yards smashing in the roof and wall of the new sawmills, while the hull broke and otherwise displaced the solid granite 703 blocks of the dock, altogether involving repairs far exceeding her present or original value. She was sent away to Sheerness, and the masts of a 28-gun frigate substituted. The directors of the Peninsular and Oriental Company were then appealed to, who appointed officers and men to equip her for sea; but official routine so baffled every attempt or suggestion of the experienced captain appointed that she yet retained the anchors suitable for a 74—aggregate weight some thirteen tons, contract value 900l.—instead of anchors of an improved construction, half the weight only, and 300l. value, such as were supplied to the Himalaya, nearly double her tonnage. The Admiralty, or "established anchor of the navy," be it remembered, had been condemned by a committee of naval officers and civilians (who were appointed by the Admiralty) as the least efficient of seven other improved plans submitted to them. He referred to that because he happened to be on the Committee.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is now going into a matter not personal to himself. On any matter personal to himself the House will extend their indulgence to him; but, having gone into matters not personal to himself, nor referring to the subject before the House, I think the hon. Member ought not to pursue that subject.
said, that after that intimation, he would merely allude to matters strictly personal to himself, and take another opportunity of adverting to this portion of the subject. He spoke at great disadvantage, considering that he was encroaching on the indulgence of the House, but he would not detain them much longer. The right hon. Baronet said that "the hon. Gentleman had entered into contracts for the delivery of coals, but somehow or other he never performed his contracts in time;" and he picked out three contracts amounting to 10,000 tons. He went back some ten years and raked up those three. He admitted that he had been behindhand in 1852, but that was a most extraordinary year. Ships could hardly be got at any price; still, the firm of which he was the head, did bring up coals, though at a great loss. But if they had been behindhand in those three instances, what was that, considering the extent of the whole series of contracts, which amounted to 600,000 tons? He would, however, prove that the right hon. Baronet was not justified in 704 saying that they never did bring them up in time on any occasion. If the business at Austin Friars were not better conducted than the business at the Admiralty, he should have been a bankrupt long before even those contracts. The right hon. Baronet stated that in May, 1852, Messrs. Lindsay contracted to ship a certain quantity of coals in August of that year, which were not, however, shipped until June, 1853. Now, what was the fact? The contract which he produced stated that there should be delivered 1,500 tons in June, July, and August, 1852; and in June, 1852, there were shipped 2,131 tons, being 631 tons over the amount specified. In the month of July there were shipped 1,065 tons, being 196 tons in excess of the quantity for the two months. In March, 1853, they shipped in the British Tar 593 tons. Two months then elapsed, over which, from some accident, they had no control; they offered the East India Company ships with Glasgow and Liverpool coals, but they refused to have them because they were not the coals specified, although they were a kind of coal which the Government were then using, and they shipped in June 710 tons, so that, although as regarded the two latter months they were behind the contract, they were within the time. What, however, would it have been if they were behind 710 tons, or even 7,000 tons, in contracts of such magnitude, especially when the extraordinary character of the time was taken into consideration? But the East India Company took very good care to make them pay for it, for they charged a demurrage of 296l. upon those two months. He had not answered all the points alluded to, as he had to confine himself to matters strictly personal; he would not say one word about the French charter, further than that it was no more like an English charter-party than night was like day. He should embrace another opportunity to clear up matters on which he had not touched at present, and he hoped he should do so to the satisfaction of all who felt any interest in the differences between him and the right hon. Baronet.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
I am glad to avail myself of the opportunity which the speech of the hon. Gentleman has given me, of making a short statement to the House, on some points in which he has questioned here and elsewhere the accuracy of what I have said on a former occasion. In making 705 that statement, I shall strictly follow the example of the hon. Gentleman, and confine myself to those matters which are personal to the hon. Gentleman, and which for the same reason are also personal to myself. Now, the hon. Member, in the very last point to which he referred, put words into my mouth which I never used. I never said that in no case had the hon. Gentleman ever performed a contract which he had entered into with regard to coals, and I did not go back for a term of ten years. The best proof that I did not do so, is in the very case which the hon. Gentleman has himself brought forward, which is the oldest case to which I referred, and which, as he himself has correctly stated to-night, relates to a contract made in 1852—three years ago, and not ten. When I made the statement to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, I had before me a return from the East India Company, of the time at which the coals were to have been delivered, and of the time at which they were delivered. I hold that return in my hand at this moment, and I find that the statement I made was perfectly correct. The last delivery of coals under that contract, which ought to have been made in August, 1852, was not made, in point of fact, till June, 1853. The hon. Gentleman, in truth, has to-night corroborated the accuracy of my statement, for he said himself, that the last delivery of 583 tons of coal, under that contract, was in June, 1853. I stated, therefore, quite correctly, that the contract in question was not performed within eleven months of the time at which it was engaged to be performed. I am perfectly aware, and I stated so at the time, that circumstances might have occurred to lead to the non-performance of the contract. I only claim a similar allowance for the departments of Government, in respect of circumstances which they may not be able to control. The hon. Gentleman complains of my having referred to private transactions. I maintain that I had a perfect right to do so, within certain limits, in rebutting the charges made by him. I said on a former evening, and I repeat it now, that when hon. Gentlemen tell us that the Government business is inexplicably ill-done, that it is all a chaos of confusion, and that private establishments are conducting their affairs much better, it is perfectly legitimate for me to show that the contracts which have been undertaken by the hon. Gentlemen who put forward these 706 statements have not always been so very punctually performed. I have not gone into any transactions of private parties which have not already appeared in public papers, or which are not public contracts; but I hold myself perfectly justified in referring to such transactions, in dealing with their sweeping accusations against public departments. If it be not the meaning of those Gentlemen who advocate administrative reform that the public servants do their business remarkably ill, and that private establishments do it a great deal better, I do not know what point it is that they are continually pressing on this House. If it can be shown, as I think I have shown, in the case of one of the principal champions of this opinion, himself a private merchant, or at any rate in the case of his firm, in the management of whose concerns he takes the most active part, that he or they do not manage their affairs even as well as the Government, it certainly appears to me a perfectly legitimate and complete answer to the assertion that private establishments transact their business much better than the Admiralty transact theirs. The hon. Gentleman complains that I have raked up cases that have occurred during several years, but, in truth, I merely alluded to instances of mismanagement which have recently appeared either in the public prints or in public documents, and which came before me officially when I was at the head of the India Board. With regard to the Swarthmore, I can only say that I never used the words which the hon. Gentleman has put into my mouth as to the vessel "toppling over." What I said was, that she had been reported by the surveyor of the Emigration Board to be unfit and unsafe for the conveyance of emigrants. The hon. Gentleman imputes unfairness to the surveyors of that Board, and says, that when she was repaired at Tahiti, it was in consequence of accidental damage. I repeat my former statement that she was surveyed at Tahiti, in consequence of opinions which were entertained by her own master, as to her unseaworthiness. The report which was then made, and made too by surveyors who could not be influenced by the Admiralty, was as follows—This vessel carries in her construction itself such elements of ruin, that, unless considerable alterations are made, one can only expect to stop her actual leaks, without removing their causes, which will operate whenever the vessel labours at sea.707 That is the report of the perfectly impartial persons appointed to survey the vessel. The hon. Gentleman then referred to another vessel, and the accusation which he made against the Admiralty was, that they had ordered her from Devonport to Woolwich to be surveyed. I denied their ever having done so, and, to-night, the hon. Gentleman, though he has read a long letter from the master of the Tynemouth about different things, has made no attempt to prove his assertion. With regard to the fitting of this vessel, the hon. Gentleman has again disputed, as he did in his letter addressed to The Times, the accuracy of my statement, and he now accuses me of reading garbled extracts from a letter. Now, be it observed, that upon the occasion to which the hon. Gentleman refers I read no letter at all. I stated, and I repeat that statement now, that on the 4th of June Mr. Gladstone reported that the Tynemouth would be ready to go to sea the next day. The hon. Gentleman accuses me of having stopped at a particular word in the letter, in order that I might not put the House in possession of the full truth of the matter. I repeat, again, that I read no letter at all. The hon. Gentleman has himself read a letter, but, with his inveterate inaccuracy, he has read a letter which is not of the same date. My statement was, that on the 4th of June Mr. Gladstone stated that the vessel was ready to go to sea the next day; and the hon. Gentleman has read a letter, dated the 31st of May, five days before. He says that I read that letter—which is not true—and that I gave only a garbled extract from it, which, of course, cannot be true either. But I will now read part of the letter of the 4th of June. I hold in my hand the letter from Mr. Gladstone. I do not think it worth while to read the whole of it, but I am perfectly ready to do so if it be the wish of the House. There had been considerable delay in the fitting of this vessel, and, in order to facilitate the fitting, certain stores, consisting of coals and other things, were sent to the dock, and it was understood that the transport would be ready to go to sea at the time specified. Shortly before the time fixed she was surveyed by an officer of the Government, in order to see whether she would be ready or not. The surveyor made inquiries of the workmen on board, and the result of those inquiries was, that he was convinced that she would not be ready for sea at the time named. The principal 708 part of the letter of Mr. Gladstone relates to the stores to be put on board the vessel before leaving the dock, but in reference to her being ready he uses these words—"The ship may go to sea to-morrow, unless you have more stores to send"—that is to say, that as far as the work of the owners of the ship was concerned, she would be ready for sea the next day, that is, the 5th of June. Now, the real question is, was she ready to go to sea on the 5th of June? And upon that point I will take the liberty of reading the report of Mr. Galloway, the engineer who surveyed the vessel, dated the 6th of June, and addressed to the Secretary of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade. Mr. Galloway says—In accordance with your letter of yesterday I beg to inform you that early this morning I proceeded to Blackwall, and examined the machinery of the steamship Tynemouth. I find that workmen are at present busy on the repairs, which will probably be completed by noon on the 8th instant, when I will attend on board again to complete the survey and deliver declaration. Should all parts be in order, the result of the next examination I will immediately report to the Board, and beg herewith to enclose an extract from my note book referring to this steamer.I hardly think it necessary to trouble the House with this extract, which is merely a statement of the work requiring to be done. The House will remember that on a former occasion I read a report from the same officer, dated the 8th, reporting that, even at that date, the vessel was not in a condition to go to sea. I have here, however, a report signed by Commander M'Donald and by Mr. Bateman, who also surveyed the vessel on the 8th of June, and this is their account of her—In compliance with your order, we proceeded to Greenhithe to inspect the Tynemouth, No. 102. Found she had completed adjusting her compasses at 9 a.m. The master was absent. The chief officer informed us the ship's articles were in town, and that all the crew were not on board. The engineer and the foreman of the men working at the engines informed us that they would not be completed before evening, and very likely not before the morning. The donkey engine would take two or three days to complete. The certificate from the Board of Trade surveyors was not on board. The ship's hold was not properly stowed, as a quantity of shot was scattered about, without any attempt to keep them from moving as the ship rolls. We left orders with the chief officer to have it all put to rights, the ship cleared up, articles ready on board for inspection at 9 a.m. of the 9th. They had also lost an anchor from the bows by letting it go without any chain being attached, through some accident, for which they were then sweeping.709 I will not trouble the House by again reading the report of the surveyor to the Board of Trade to a similar effect, also, made on the 8th of June, and clearly showing that at that time the vessel which was said to be ready for sea on the 5th of June, as far as the owners were concerned, was not in a condition to go to sea, and she ultimately left the river without having obtained the required certificate from the Board of Trade. With regard to the Robert Lowe, I have before stated why that vessel was ordered to go to Newcastle, and I need not now repeat those reasons. The hon. Gentleman again accuses me of having read a garbled extract from Mr. Gladstone's letter. I read the whole of the letter, and the whole of the order made upon it, so that there again the hon. Gentleman is not justified in his accusation. There only remains the question of the weight of the articles to be brought up. The hon. Gentleman says, that he has in his possession an order for the Robert Lowe to go for the purpose of bringing up "twelve tons of cylinders or tanks." I do not believe that he ever received such an order, and I believe he has fallen into a mistake between the weight of the combustibles, and that of the cylinders. [Mr. LINDSAY: I have the letter here, and will hand it up to the right hon. Gentleman.] Sir Charles Wood, after reading the letter, continued: I find that it is exactly as I supposed, the words in the letter are, "twelve tons of combustibles," and yet the hon. Gentleman, with the letter in his hand, said to-night that the order contained in it, and which he professed to quote from the letter, was for twelve tons of cylinders or tanks. The House may by this example judge of the hon. Gentleman's accuracy. The weight of the cylinders was about sixty tons, and that of the powder and combustibles with which they were to be stowed about twelve tons, making together somewhere between seventy and eighty tons, as I stated upon a former occasion. I now come to another point. The hon. Gentleman said that he had been told by the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster, that he had bought 3,000 horses, conveyance for which was wanted by the 1st of May. I have shown to the House, and the hon. and gallant Officer has himself stated, that he said nothing of the kind, and that the assertion of the hon. Gentleman was totally and entirely without foundation. The hon. Gentleman now treats this very lightly. I am sorry 710 he should think that making assertions for which he had no authority is a light matter; but he is not more accurate in his statement of to-night. He now says that he stated that 3,000 horses required transport upon the 1st of May, and that I had admitted that the real number then wanting transport was 2,800. What I said, however, was very different. I said that upon the 1st of May the demand made upon the Admiralty was for 2,000, and not 3,000 horses, and that the demand from the beginning of May up to the middle of June was for 800. The actual number for which requisition had been made up to the 1st of May was 2,030, the subsequent demand up to the 15th of June brought the number up to 2,800, of which upwards of 2,650 had been embarked at the time when I spoke. But I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to avail himself of the number for which transport was demanded subsequent to the 1st of May, as having been wanting transport before that date; even the hon. Gentleman must himself sec how unfair such a proceeding would be. The hon. Gentleman then referred to the case of the Columbian, and he attempted to represent that I had said that she had been ordered round to the river to be fitted, and not to be surveyed. I said no such thing. I said that she had been ordered round to be surveyed and fitted. That is no extraordinary order, and I quoted three other vessels which had been ordered round to be surveyed and fitted in the same way—one to Deptford, and two to Liverpool—one of them being the Robert Lowe, in the management of which the hon. Gentleman takes so lively an interest. There is only one other case, and I allude to it because the hon. Gentleman has now repeated it for the fourth time; and I think the House will see, therefore, that his statement is made after due deliberation and consideration. It is in reference to the European. He made it at Drury Lane, he made it in the House, he made it in a letter to The Times, he has again made it in the House, and he challenges that the veracity of his statement, or of my statement, shall be tested in the case of the European. Now, Sir, I am willing to accept that challenge. I will take the letter addressed to The Times, because I apprehend that to that he cannot object. In that letter the hon. Gentleman says—I stated, further, that the European was hired to the French Government, because her owners were disgusted at the difficulties raised by 711 the Admiralty. Sir C. Wood assured the House that she was rejected because her height between decks was not sufficient to allow her to take in horses, for which a height of 7 ft. 6 in. is required. Now, the height between decks in the European is 7 ft. 6½ in., as may be proved by actual measurement. From this it follows that the comparative merits of Sir Charles Wood's veracity and mine may be ascertained by a foot rule; and I ask for no greater favour than that they may be submitted to that practical test.I will not promise to submit to the test of a foot rule, because the hon. Gentleman may have had the opportunity of measuring the European lately, which I have not had; but I will now state to the House the ground upon which my statement was made. I said that no conditions whatsoever were imposed on or asked of the owner of the European; but I said distinctly that she was refused partly on account of the price, and partly on account of her height between decks; and I will now read to the House the letter from the Admiralty refusing the European. It is as follows—I am commanded by the directors of the transport service to acquaint you, in answer to your letter of the 1st inst., that they decline your offer of the European steamer at the price stated, observing that her height between decks is not sufficient to enable her to carry horses.I think that this is a pretty complete proof what the grounds were upon which the Admiralty refused the European. Now, as to the question of the height between decks. I hold in my hand, and anybody may see it who chooses, the original tender of the European—that which was sent in by the brokers when she was tendered to the Admiralty. Now, that document is signed by the partner of the hon. Gentleman, "George Gladstone, for John Gladstone." I believe I am correct in stating that John Gladstone is the father of George Gladstone, and, as I have stated before, when the hon. Gentleman came into Parliament his contracts were transferred into the name of John Gladstone; but the management of all the business appears to have remained in the hon. Gentleman's firm. Here, then, are the dimensions of the European, as stated in the document signed by George Gladstone:—Height of between decks in three places—1, at the stem, 6 ft. 6 in.; 2, at the fore part of the engine-room. 6 ft. 6 in.; and 3, at the stern-post, 6ft. 6 in. Now, Sir, I should like to ask what means we had of knowing the height of the vessel if we were not to believe the document which was signed by the partner of the hon. Gentleman himself? I know 712 very well that in another vessel—the Columbian—the height was altered afterwards. Whether that has been done with the European I know not; but what I do know is, that she was rejected because she was not of sufficient height between decks, and that the height was taken from the dimensions in the tender which was sent in and signed by Mr. George Gladstone, the partner of the hon. Gentleman.
amid cries of "Spoke," said, I must just say one word in explanation. The Robert Lowe was obliged to come to London. In the European the height 7 ft. 6 in. is from deck to deck, not from deck to beam.
§ SIR C. WOOD
The whole particulars of the European were given in the usual form, not applicable to her only, but in the same manner as the hon. Gentleman's firm had filled up other tenders. They were given in the printed form, and the heights stated are those which I have read to the House.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he wished to bring back the House to the debate from which it had diverged about an hour and a half ago, and which was far too important to be set aside by a mere personal discussion. He thought that those who were interested in the question had every reason to congratulate themselves that this important subject had at last attracted attention in a form in which its merits could be fairly debated, and that they might further congratulate themselves upon the tone of the speeches which had been delivered, and upon the weakness of the arguments which had been directed against the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Cork. He imagined that the form in which the Government proposed to meet that Motion, by moving the previous question, was in itself an acknowledgment on their part that the views propounded in the Resolution were not unworthy of consideration, and were not to be absolutely negatived, although the present might not be the proper time for considering them. The reason given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it was not expedient, so soon after the Order in Council had been issued, to revoke it, seemed also to favour that view. But it appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman had unconsciously misrepresented the effect and meaning of the Motion, because he spoke of it as if its object were to revoke the Order in Council recently issued, and 713 to substitute for it a new and untried scheme. He (Sir S. Northcote) did not understand that the Address, if agreed to, and still less the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. V. Scully), would imply any request to tire Crown to modify the Order which had been issued. The Motion as originally drawn, proposed that the Order should be altered so as to admit the desired competition; but it had been altered in accordance with the suggestion made by the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), that to attain this object it would not be necessary to make any alteration in the Order, but only to give directions that such competition should be allowed. If he had understood that the effect would be to revoke the Order, he should consider the Motion most inexpedient. The real point to which the Motion was directed, was, that in place of nominating candidates to undergo a fixed examination, it should be altogether opened, subject to such tests and precaution as the examiners might recommend or the Crown direct;—and if that was the effect of the proposal, he did not think it was open to the grave objections which had been raised to it by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If he thought it would go to a revocation of the Order, he should deem it inexpedient to vote for it; but, looking upon it as in no way cancelling or revoking that Order, he should give it his support. The first objection which the right hon. Gentleman took to the Motion was this. He said, "Here is a proposition to have an open competition for appointments in the civil service, into which, everybody, without any examination as to his qualifications, is to be allowed to enter. The effect will be, that you will deprive the Crown of its rights, and it will no longer have a veto on account of unfitness, want of moral qualifications, or on any other grounds." That would be true if the hon. and learned Gentleman proposed to repeal the Order in Council; but the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman proposed no such thing, but ought rather to be read in conjunction with the Order in Council. The Resolution in no way touched upon that part of the Order in Council which directed that candidates for the public service, after passing the preliminary examination, should enter upon a period of probation. He conceived that the purport of the Resolution was to abolish the system of nomination, and throw open the entrance to 714 the public service to all candidates subjected to such tests and precautions as the examiners or the Crown might recommend. Such a scheme was not open to the objection taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said, that it would do away with a security of great importance—namely, the personal responsibility of those who appointed persons to offices in the public service. He was perfectly ready to admit that personal responsibility in making appointments to the public service, if properly exercised, would be a safe guarantee as to the fitness of persons appointed; but all persons conversant with the mode in which such, appointments were usually made must know how little personal responsibility there was in the matter. He did not mean to say that there were no exceptions; but it must be within the knowledge of all who were acquainted with these matters, that in the greater proportion of appointments to inferior office's in the public service no such responsibility existed. Why, advertisements appeared in the public press offering such appointments for a consideration, and in one, which was signed "F. P.," a sum of 500l. was required, with the notification that the offer would not be repeated, and that no adventurer need apply.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
wished to explain, that what he had meant to say was, that every appointment made was made either upon the responsibility of the Treasury, or upon that of the head of the department to which any person might be appointed.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Just so. He did not intend to imply that any person putting such an advertisement into a newspaper was responsible for the appointment; but he wanted the House to consider the way in which these things were managed. Now, supposing "F. P." had received an answer to his advertisement, he would make sure of getting 500l., and would try to influence some Member of that House, or, what was more likely, somebody who knew a Member of that House, or perhaps even somebody who had a friend who had some connection with a Member of that House. The Member to whom the application was made, probably made an application to the Secretary for the Treasury, and though it was undoubtedly true that if the application was agreed to, and the person appointed turned out to be unfitted to perform the 715 duties of the office to which he might be appointed, the Member of Parliament who had made the application would be responsible to the Treasury for it, still the same security would be afforded by the scheme of the hon. and learned Gentleman. By that scheme the examiners would, as far as responsibility was concerned, stand in the place of Members of Parliament, and would at the same time say to all persons who were disposed to accept office in the public service, "Come forward and show yourselves fit, and you shall have situations." It was a common thing to say that the class of advertisements to which he had referred was a scandal and disgrace; but he should like to be informed how, under the present system, persons who felt themselves qualified to fill an office in the public service could, if they were not connected with some Member of Parliament, make their claims known, except by adopting some such plan? He wished particularly to impress on the House that the scheme of the hon. and learned Gentleman included the principle of probation after passing an examination, and, for his own part, he would not regret seeing that probation much more stringent than it at present was. It was objected to the scheme that it would afford no test of the moral qualification of the parties, and that the class of persons most likely to succeed in the examination would be schoolmasters. Now, with regard to that objection, he could only say that, since the intellectual status of schoolmasters had been improved, it appeared upon high authority that persons were most anxious to engage the services of those individuals to aid them in carrying on their business transactions; and if that were the case, why should they not prove equally useful in the service of the country? Another objection which was taken to the scheme of the hon. and learned Gentleman by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, that if it were applied to clerks, where was it to stop? Was it to be extended to higher and more permanent offices? His answer to that interrogatory was "No." The cases were widely different, the one being only admitting a man upon the strength of having passed an examination to a state of probation, while the other was appointing a person to a higher office with a full knowledge of his previous services. The right hon. Gentleman deprecated the introduction of this principle, because he said that it had never been adopted in any 716 age or country; but that opinion of the right hon. Gentleman was, he thought, unfounded. There was a distinct precedent for the adoption of such a principle in the case of France, where a system of competitive examination, called "concours universel," had been in operation for a considerable period with regard to certain professions. It was originally applied to the medical profession, and afterwards extended to the public schools, and to the naval and military schools; and in a printed report by the Minister of Marine, dated March 3, 1852, that functionary set forth that his department was in a bad state, that the persons employed in it were too numerous, too badly paid, did too little work, and did not give much attention to it; he added that a smaller number of officials, better paid, would speak less and do more, and the remedies he proposed were to improve and simplify the procedure in the office and to improve the character of the appointments by the application of the concours. That had been done, and it was understood to have succeeded completely. With regard to the system of competition proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Cork in his temperate and sensible speech, two objections were taken to it—one being that it would not work well for the civil service itself; the other—which he believed to be the real and most formidable objection—that it would upset our present system of party government, and would derogate from the authority and dignity of the Crown. Now, it could scarcely be contended that the honour and dignity of the Crown would be impaired by promoting the efficiency of the public service; and, as to the other point, he would ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who had occupied positions in the Government, what they had gained and what they had lost by the present system of patronage as compared with the system which, throwing aside patronage, would establish greater efficiency in our public offices? But then it was said, "Why not as well propose to extend this principle of competition to all the higher offices of the State?" This was altogether out of the question. The men who held such offices did not arrive at them by going through a course of training in the lower ranks of the service as clerks; they attained to their positions by a course of training in Parliament, by their power as debaters, and their wide and accurate views upon public matters, or perhaps by their connection 717 and influence. But, whatever might be the mode in which they gained office, certain it was that, when called upon to preside over any department of the public service, it was their interest and for their reputation that that department should be in the most efficient state possible. The Duke of Newcastle, both in point of ability, experience, character, and disposition, was a very fair average specimen of those noblemen and gentlemen who became the heads of public departments. Well, was the Duke of Newcastle to be blamed for the failures which took place in his department at the outset of the war, or was it not the fact that those failures arose to a very great extent from the inefficient machinery with which he had to work? It seemed to him as though his Grace was very much in the position of our Sappers and Miners, whose tools broke in executing the works before Sebastopol, and he was, perhaps, very little more deserving of blame than any were. If noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen had any regard to their own present and future reputation as heads of the departments over which they were called upon to preside, they would see that those departments were placed in a thoroughly good working condition, and if that object could be gained by the surrender of their patronage, he thought they could not long hesitate to make that sacrifice. It was on these grounds that he had determined to give his support to the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, that as far as he had understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech, he had gathered from it that the right hon. Gentleman was in every way anxious to improve the public service, and did not commit himself to reject any scheme of competition, but was only unwilling, on a sudden, by a simple vote of this House, to adopt a system which even its advocates did not regard without some expression of doubt, and did not quite understand. He hoped it would not be supposed that those who had considerable doubts as to the desirability of open competition, and its success in procuring good clerks and servants, and who opposed such a proposal, were hostile to any improvement in the public service. He confessed that, having had some experience in that service, and having been ten years in one office, he did not at all concur in that general censure which was so strongly thrown upon the public departments; 718 and he had seen with much surprise and much pain the language in which the Report of Sir Charles Trevelyan was drawn. He admitted that Sir Charles Trevelyan stated, in explanation, that he did not intend to cast a slur upon the public service; but anybody who read that Report must come to the conclusion—and this was the effect it had had upon the public mind—that the public service was crammed full with persons who were mere drones, and incapable of doing their duty. Now, his (Sir F. Baring's) experience was quite in opposition to this, and he could say, without hesitation, that when he left the Treasury there was ample talent there to perform the duties required; and if it had been subsequently found that this was not the case, it must have been the fault of those who did not seek out, encourage, and bring forward talent in the office. He believed that that was generally the experience of gentlemen who had been at the head of departments. They had heard a good deal about the inconvenience of patronage to the public service. Now, were they going to introduce the system of competition merely for the purpose of getting rid of the trouble which Members of Parliament experienced in receiving applications from their constituents? Or were they really desirous of ascertaining what scheme would give them the best public servants, and would fill their offices with the best clerks? The last seemed to him to be the most important point, and he would trouble the House with a few observations in regard to it. When they talked of getting rid of patronage, of selection, and of nomination, and proposed to substitute open competition, he would remind them that a certain number of nominations was now made without any reference whatever to political interest. When he was in the public service, a certain number of vacancies in the Excise were always reserved for the purpose of being given to the sons of deserving officers, and those were bestowed, not by the selection of the Treasury, but of the heads of the departments under whom they had served. Under the new system it was proposed to sweep away entirely all such appointments; yet he did not understand that the warmest administrative reformer objected to an arrangement so beneficial, both to public servants and to the public service, by which the long and faithful services of the father were taken into consideration when the 719 son was a candidate for an appointment. They were told that the same practice ought to be followed in the public service and in that of private individuals; but was there any one, whatever might be his business or employment, who, if he found the son of a man that had faithfully served his family capable of discharging the duties of a situation at his disposal, would not feel it just to give that son a preference over other parties? Every one who had any cognisance of the exercise of patronage could bring forward case after case in which rewards had been properly bestowed upon public servants by placing their sons in the public service. He would mention two cases, both referring to Ministers now gone. The first was that of a naval officer, Captain Bathurst, who fell at Navarino in the command of his ship. To his son, Lord Grey gave a clerkship in the Admiralty. The second was that of the surgeon who volunteered to go on board the Eclair, a service more dangerous than commanding a storming party before Sebastopol. He died in the performance of his duty, and Lord Auckland gave his brother the first piece of patronage at his disposal. There was also the son of Mr. Crafer, who had been for so many years connected with the Treasury. It was all very well to talk of open competition; but were they prepared to say that the only answer to such applications as that of the widow of Captain Bathurst must be a reference to examiners and the system of competition? He did not believe the public mind would go with them to that extent. Before the commencement of this debate a very proper question was asked—whether those who had been wounded in the late engagements would receive a preference in the appointments to employment for which they were fit? The House cheered that question. But if they adopted the system of selection entirely by competition, would these men have to be told that they must go before examiners, and that their appointment would depend upon whether or no there were other men examined better than themselves? He did not believe that the system of open competition could long be kept up when claims of this kind were urged; public feeling would not support it. But were they quite sure that open competition would give them the best clerks? What was it they wanted? This was at the bottom of the whole question. Practical men who had 720 been brought up in the service, like Sir Alexander Spearman—men who had risen from the ranks—did not by any means express confidence as to the result of the system it was proposed to adopt. But the Report which had been laid before them would lead them to believe, that under that system gentlemen would become candidates for clerkships who had taken honours at Oxford and Cambridge—men of high talents and ambition. But supposing that were so, he would ask, were these the persons that made the best clerks? They were, no doubt, admirably adapted for the professions for which they were intended; but what was wanted, for 99 clerkships out of 100, was a steady, honourable, conscientious man, who would perform the duties intrusted to his charge—not a statesman or a first-class University man. No doubt, greater ability was required for a higher class of appointments; but what position could be more unfortunate than that of a wretched individual at the head of an office who had under him a parcel of gentlemen over-educated for their situations, men of great ambition, who were anxious to push forward, but found themselves condemned to subordinate employments and to dull and often stupid labour? He had a high respect for the ability and integrity of Sir Charles Trevelyan, with whose appointment he had something to do, but he should be very sorry to have a whole office full of Sir Charles Trevelyans. Sir Charles was now the right man in the right place; but he was sure no office could work well in which all the clerks possessed Sir Charles's ability and anxiety to do work. The two gentlemen who drew up the Report saw this difficulty; they knew that no one was so uncomfortable to every one about him as a man who was doing work that he fancied to be beneath his ability; and the remedy they proposed was, to throw the greater part of what would be called the drudgery upon supernumerary clerks, reserving the gentlemen appointed by competition for the higher duties of the office. He could only say, that if he should ever happen to fill an office, after the new system had been adopted, his first prayer to Sir Charles Trevelyan would be to find him an extra batch of supernumerary clerks, and to take away all the gentlemen who had been appointed by competition. These supernumerary clerks were excellent men—not, however, because particular attention had been paid to their 721 selection, but simply because of the slight tenure upon which they held their offices, being liable to dismissal at a week's notice if they did not perform their work to the satisfaction of their superiors. The real history of all the difficulties connected with the public offices was, in fact, not the difficulty of appointing good and efficient men, but the habit of not removing those who were found incompetent for performing the duties of their office; and this was partly owing to the impediments which that House placed in the way of a Minister who was anxious to do his duty. It was said, however, that there was now a close system of appointments, and that they should be thrown open to all the world by means of competition. No doubt, to do this would be holding out a very tempting bait to the country; but those who thought that competition would have such a wide effect would certainly find themselves to have been egregiously deceived. Look at their proposed examination. What they required from the generality of clerks in a public office was, that they should be able to write a good hand, to read English, and have a knowledge of the first four rules of arithmetic; or, if they went beyond those qualifications, perhaps they would look for a little book-keeping, and in a few instances for a smattering of French. Now, if four men should be found equal when tried by this standard—which was quite as high as they need go—how were they to settle which was to have the appointment? They would probably extend the examination to some of the "'ologies;" and under the new system he was informed that questions were to be put to the candidates on chemistry. Where several competitors were equally qualified upon points that were essential, if they wished to get at the best educated man they must obviously turn to matters that were not absolutely necessary; and, that being so, was it, quite certain that instruction in the higher branches of knowledge, such as Greek and Latin, was obtainable at so cheap a rate as to place situations for which those acquirements were requisite, really within the reach of the poorer classes? On the Contrary, would not the practical operation of their vaunted competitive system, which was to be open to all the world, ultimately be to throw all the best appointments in the public service into the hands of the richer portion of the community? It so happened that he had himself been the author of a competitive scheme. When Lord Melbourne 722 came to the Treasury, he recommended to his Lordship a plan under which, instead of nominating one individual for an appointment, they sent in three or more names, the best of whom was generally chosen, although they were not bound to select at all, because he knew of an instance in which there were three candidates, all of whom were rejected as being unfit. Never in his life had he to perform a more difficult task than that of hitting upon a form of examination which should secure exactly what was wanted. If, for instance, they disregarded the age of candidates, and merely looked at a particular standard of qualification in all cases, they might, indeed, obtain the services of the best man at the time of his appointment, but not those of the man who, twenty years afterwards, would prove the best public servant. And here he must tell the whole truth. Those who succeeded him in his office must have considered that his scheme worked very ill, for Sir Robert Peel, after receiving a report from the officers of the Treasury, came to the conclusion that it was very unsatisfactory, and the principle of competition was consequently abandoned. It was rather surprising, indeed, that this circumstance was not mentioned in Sir Charles Trevelyan's recent Report, because that gentleman was one of the officers of the Treasury, both when the plan above described was in existence, and at the time it was found not to have answered; and, surely, in a matter of this kind they should be guided by the lights of experience. Under that system, in one particular case an examination took place, and the best man was chosen, and he afterwards turned out well. The second best man, although rejected in this instance, soon got another public situation; but after the competitive scheme was abolished, he returned to the Treasury; and this second man, at an examination, actually proved to be the best man in the very office from which he had before been excluded. No doubt, however, nothing could be more inconvenient to hon. Members of that House than the constant applications to which they were subject under the present system of distributing public patronage; but, if they had the moral courage to do what was their duty in this matter, they might easily be relieved from this annoyance. Our present system was bad, not from the appointments being defective, but, first, because seniority was almost as a matter of course 723 promoted instead of the best man; and, next, because of the great difficulty experienced in removing the unfit men who were to be found in the public service. Yet the proposed scheme of the Government provided no effectual remedy for either of these evils. True, there was to be a reference to the Commissioners, who were to keep a sort of ledger, in which were to be registered the merits of different officers, in order to serve as a guide in the granting of promotions. This, however, was likely to work even worse than the existing system. There was no analogy whatever between the public service and the management of a private office. In private establishments every employer appointed his own servants; but the heads of public departments were not to be allowed to choose their subordinates. Again, every private employer gave promotion at his own will and pleasure; but that House was rather inclined to favour seniority as the rule for promotion in the public offices. In the higher class of appointments, every private firm was also at liberty to pass by its own inferior clerks, and select the best persons in an open market. At present the staff employments were open to the public, and the Government had the right to appoint the best men for such situations; but, according to the views of the hon. Member for Dudley (Sir S. Northcote), which he regarded with some alarm, the clerks were to have a vested interest in all staff appointments, and the hands of the Government were to be tied in respect of all selections for the higher offices. Instead, therefore, of assimilating the practice of the public departments to that which prevailed in private establishments, which wisely placed everything under the authority of the heads of the firm, the scheme now devised would do everything to limit and restrict the control of the heads of departments; and those who anticipated an improvement in the public service from its adoption, were, in his opinion, doomed to serious disappointment.
Sir, if I rightly understand the question upon which we are about to vote, it is not so much whether every expression in the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork is well adapted to the purpose which he has in view, as whether even fair exceptions might not be taken, either on the ground of ambiguity or on other grounds, to certain expressions contained in it: it is, however, on neither 724 of these questions we are about to vote, but on the issue raised by the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, after having used arguments which might be urged against pronouncing an opinion in favour of a system of competition at any time, contends that it is unsuitable to pronounce any such opinion at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman supports his argument by the statement that the Order in Council lately issued establishes and makes compulsory a system of examination for admission into the lower grades of the civil service, and then proceeds to argue that we ought not to take any further step until we have ascertained how this measure is likely to work. I wish to point out to my right hon. Friend that the case does not stand as he has placed it. Whether happily or unhappily, the passing of the Order in Council is not the last step which has been taken in this matter by the Government or by the House. My right hon. Friend might have used his arguments for the purpose of giving a negative to the Resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for Herts (Sir E. B. Lytton). It was, however, after the Motion of the hon. Baronet had been agreed to under the circumstances stated by a previous speaker that the present Motion is brought forward, and, as it appears to me, at a time when the House by assenting to it might with propriety show to the country what it was that it meant by agreeing to that Motion of the hon. Member for Herts. And there are some reasons for putting the question—"What do you mean by that Resolution?" This is a time, I think, when it is eminently desirable for the House to leave no doubt on the minds of the people of this country as to whether it is in earnest or not with regard to the reform and improvement of our administrative establisbments—a question which now occupies so large a share of public attention. I ask this question—Is the Resolution of the hon. Baronet, standing alone, calculated to make the intentions of the Government clear, or is it not? I take the Resolution, and I must confess that it appears to me to be a collection of vague and, bald generalities, which may be understood to mean anything or nothing, according to the will and inclination of those who adopt it. The speech of the hon. Baronet was full of meaning; he mentioned a long catalogue of measures, including those which, I believe, lay at the root and foundation of all improvements 725 —namely, measures for setting free the admission to the public service. I have no complaint to make as to the speech of the hon. Baronet; and those who heard it cannot doubt but that he knows what he is about, and that, whether right or wrong, he is in earnest in what he recommends. All sorts of speeches were made in support of his Motion. There were those of Gentlemen meaning much, others of Gentlemen meaning little, and those of Gentlemen meaning nothing at all—because they asserted that all that could be done had been done, or that everything which could be done was included in the established routine and practice of the country. That this Resolution passed as it did, I regret; for if it is possible to conceive anything which would make an unfavourable impression on the country with respect to this subject, it is, firstly, the unhappy circumstance that the House expressed itself, with regard to it, in language susceptible of all sorts of significations; and, secondly, that the Resolution which embodied its views was adopted under circumstances such as my noble Friend (Viscount Goderich) has described. This, then, in my opinion, is eminently a time when the House ought to consider what further duty it is incumbent on it to take with regard to this matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the right hon. Baronet who has just sat down, have adduced arguments to prove that the House ought not now to express an opinion as to free admission to all the lower grades of the public service. The Chancellor of the Exchequer quotes the examples of other nations, and referred us to the Romans and the Americans. I admit that the Romans were great masters of civil wisdom; but really to say that, because the Romans did not adopt particular institutions, they are not suited to the meridian of the present age, would be to admit a doctrine which would lead not only to the non-introduction of many improvements, but to the removal of many of those institutions which we most dearly cherish—to the total extirpation of our existing form of Government. The right hon. Baronet will not find a prototype of the House of Commons among the Roman institutions; and, to make an appeal which will go more directly to the heart of the right hon. Baronet, I will remind him that he will find nothing among the Roman institutions that bears the slightest resemblance to our national debt. Neither, with all his eru- 726 dition—of which no man possesses more—can he extract anything from the history of the Romans at all parallel to that loan which he has so successfully raised during the present year. With regard to America, I am not disposed to speak lightly of the American institutions; they are marvellous creations of human wisdom, but creations which have been brought into existence under many disadvantages which we are free from, and, perhaps, under some advantages which we do not possess. But I cannot therefore admit that in matters of Government we ought to cross the Atlantic for a pattern to conform to; and, least of all, as regards patronage and admission to office, shall I seek for our pattern in America. The right hon. Baronet has pointed to Joint-stock Companies and to private institutions, which do not admit persons by competition in the sense in which the word is proposed to be used. They certainly do not admit this system, because the principle of private interest which presides over the management of these institutions is a self-acting security, and as perfect a guarantee as human infirmity will admit of, that the best men will be chosen for the best places as they fall vacant. You are enabled in private institutions to dispense with all that machinery which the nature of public establishments obliges you to call to your aid. In the public service you cannot count upon that uniform vigour and vivacity which the nature of private institutions permits, and you have therefore to choose the best possible substitute. The question, therefore, which we have to consider, is, not whether we ought to follow the example of private institutions, but whether we have, through the means suited to the nature of public institutions, and available at our command, put ourselves in possession of the best system which circumstances will enable us to establish, for the purpose of providing the fittest persons to carry on the business of the public service? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring) has made a very clear, fair, and able statement of the view of the case, which is opposed to the Motion of the hon. Member for Cork. When I say it was a fair statement, I would qualify the epithet in one small point, because I do not think it was altogether fair of the right hon. Gentleman to lay on the back of Sir Charles Trevelyan the responsibility of all that is unfavourable in the recent delineations of the public service. If the 727 right hon. Gentleman has read the Bluebook, it is remarkable that he should have passed over without notice the delineation of that service given by Sir James Stephen, a man of the greatest ability, of long experience in the civil service, and a man, too, who is utterly opposed to the system of free competition. Why, Sir, if Sir Charles Trevelyan has chastised the civil service with whips, Sir James Stephen has chastised it with scorpions. The fact that Sir James Stephen, after having given that description, winds up his paper by what appears to me to be an elaborate plea in favour of the right of mediocrity to be pensioned and charged upon the public, makes the picture which he has drawn of the present system all the more remarkable and all the more pungent. But, Sir, I do not think it is necessary for my argument to rely upon any extravagant description of the present state of the civil service. With regard to the higher offices in that service, they are generally well filled—in many cases admirably filled; and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bear me out in saying that the officers of the civil service with whom he is brought into daily contact are men who would do honour to any service in the world. But, then, I must observe, with regard to them, that the mode in which they are selected is not the most satisfactory; because, in consequence of the weakness, the impotence, and the deadness of all the lower limbs of the service, when you want a really able man for a really responsible situation—being bound by the bad system of promotion by seniority in the service—you are obliged, three times out of four, to go out of the civil service, and bring in your able man from other ranks of life. Take, for example, Mr. John Wood, the head of the Inland Revenue Board, Sir Charles Trevelyan, the permanent Assistant Secretary at the Treasury, Mr. Merivale of the Colonial Office, and the generality of the gentlemen who have filled the post of permanent Under Secretaries—these are all instances in which you have been obliged to go out of the bounds of the service to get the men you wanted. Mind, I am opposed to a monopoly of succession in the civil service. It is utterly impossible that you should give the civil service a monopoly of succession under the existing system. If you organise any such monopoly you will bind the political administration hand and foot, and you will make it 728 impossible to carry on the public service. But if I am asked whether I think it desirable that the great bulk of the higher offices of the civil service should be given to the members of that service, my answer is, that I think it desirable that the lower ranks of the service should be brought to such a state that you might safely recruit the higher ranks from them. The general rule is, that you have to go out of the service for your able men; the general rule ought to be, that you should find your able men within the service. The fact that you bring in so many persons from without greatly retards promotion in the service, and the general result is, I fear, to equalise the good, middling, and bad. Under such circumstances, it is impossible that the state of any service should be satisfactory, and it is no reproach to the members of any service so situated to say that it is unsatisfactory. This unsatisfactory state has no doubt been modified at times by a vigorous Administration, and occasionally by sacrifices of patronage on the part of heads of departments which did them the highest honour. Of these I do not know one which is more conspicuous than the measure adopted by Lord Liverpool in days when there was no administrative reform—when, perhaps, the words had never been heard—by which the whole business of promotion in those two great departments which are connected with the collection of the revenue, both Inland and Customs, was given over bodily into the hands of the chiefs of the departments. This surrender of promotion into the hands of authorities who are perfectly disinterested with respect to the first nominations has, I believe, worked well on the whole, and has mitigated the evils of the service. I do not, however, stand upon any strong description of those evils. I say the public has a right to be served by the best men who can be got for the money it offers. It is not enough to say that the charges of gross incompetency brought against the civil service cannot be made good—the question is, does your system place at the command of the public the best men which the market of talent and character will supply for the price offered? I say it does not. But while there is in the lower and middle ranks of the civil service a much lower average of talent than the public has a right to expect, there is also a vast mass of collateral evils connected with the system which the hon. Member for Cork has done well to expose. 729 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth says that this desire for a system of free competition arises from the laziness of Members of Parliament, who do not wish to be annoyed by the applications of their constituents, and from a want of moral courage on their part, which prevents them doing their duty in answering these applications. But is this a fair statement of the case? Is there nothing to be considered in the communications which pass between Members of Parliament and their constituents seeking places but the mere trouble? Are the men who seek a favour placed in a position which has such a tendency to maintain freedom and independence of character that we should desire to continue a system under which you are always quite sure to have a large class of men petitioning for that for which they have no right to ask, and which those to whom they address themselves have no right to give? Neither is the position of Members of this House when dealing with these petitioners a very favourable one. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams) has declined to be the medium of such applications; but while the Members for large constituencies can more easily repel such applications, it is not so easy for hon. Members who are returned by small constituencies to do so. For my part, there is no man in the House who is more bound to express his gratitude in this respect to his constituents than I am, from the circumstance that ever since I have represented the University of Oxford I have not known what it was to be troubled with a solicitation of this kind. Hon. Members will, perhaps, say that that is because my constituents are not men likely to be in want of porterships and messengerships; but still there are other offices which would be extremely acceptable to multitudes of young men who have just passed the University; and, with respect to many of my constituents, there is a species of patronage in the shape of livings, for which they might think they had just as good a right to apply as any one else. But the House should remember that this system of patronage has become a part of our national organisation. You cannot look at a copy of The Times without seeing advertisements in which sums of money are offered for Government situations. That is the darkest feature of the picture. But I hold in my hand a cheap book, which may be had for 2s., entitled, A Guide to Government Situations. This 730 is a practical book, and is intended, by its price and form, to induce young men to bestow 2s. upon it in order to find their way into the public service. The book begins with the House of Commons, and teaches the young man to look to that if he wishes to find the way to office. It says—The degree of attention paid to the recommendation of a Member depends upon his value to the party he supports. One of the most zealous and powerful advocates of the Ministerial measures proposed would therefore obtain the patronage of half a dozen vacancies, while the silent supporter who just wakes up in time to record his vote would be disregarded.When the writer talks of a silent supporter, I think he does not know the value which is attached by Governments to a silent support.The influence of Members of Parliament is not confined to those offices in which the appointments are made by the Treasury, but extends, more or less, to most of the Government situations, the patronage in the hands of those Ministers who are temporary heads of departments being dispensed with an equal regard to Parliamentary support. The exceptions to this rule consist in those cases in which an officer of State, sharing Ministerial patronage, obliges his own circle of private friends or distant relatives, by appointing them, or those whom they recommend, to Government situations. The most powerful influence of all, therefore, consists in the union of the claims of private friendship with those of valuable political support. It is as well to observe here, that the greater the number of applications on behalf of one individual that can be brought to bear upon the dispenser of patronage the better. Unless the one supporter be a Member of unusual influence, one will rarely procure an appointment. There seems to be almost a rule now adopted, that each applicant for public employment should have a proposer and seconder, but of course every additional application beyond this will serve to strengthen the case. In soliciting an appointment, the applicant must not be too certain that he has gained his end when the Member or Minister puts his name down upon his list, and promises to do his best for him; nor, indeed, when he may receive an official note from the Treasury or the private Secretary of the head of a department, informing him that his application 'has been received and will be considered;' these are often merely the official modes of quieting or getting rid of applications. If the Member really intend to serve you, he will have to make vigorous application at the proper quarter, where, as before stated, his success will depend upon his influence, and he may even have to be importunate on your behalf.What does this show? It shows that there are a large class of men who are kept continually hanging in this state of expectancy. I ask the right hon. Member for Portsmouth, whom I know to be an eminently virtuous and vigorous public 731 servant, whether he thinks it is favourable to the character of his fellow-countrymen and a good point in our own social system, that at all times, for 1,000 Government offices, vacant in any one year, there are throughout society many thousands who are wasting the flower of their youth and hopes in these applications? The right hon. Gentleman says that if we adopt a universal system of competition, we shall get rid of that which is very creditable to the parties concerned—the disposition that exists to appoint the sons of old public servants to places in our public establishments. But in the first place, this does not touch the life and centre of the case, for, if he thinks that public servants ought to have a quasi hereditary right, let their case be an exception, but do not on their account maintain a general system of nomination. For my own part, I am doubtful and jealous of that system of the hereditary descent of offices in the public service. If you have an established and well-regulated examination, judiciously adapted in every department to the wants and business of that department, does it not follow that the children of the officers of that department will by nature and training have a great advantage in these examinations? They will have grown up in the atmosphere to which other candidates are suddenly introduced, and that is the fair and satisfactory advantage which they will always possess. I must say I am jealous of those acts of charity done at the public expense, and see no reason why the son of an old public servant should be put in his place; it would be much better that he should take his chance according to his merits, although the right hon. Gentleman exhibited, in many circumstances of his description, a disposition to produce an effect upon his audience like that of a man put upon his trial in the Athenian republic, who produced his wife and children at the bar, to move the commiseration of his judges. The right hon. Gentleman says, that if you adopt a system of examination you will have a great many disappointments, that you will have a great many men above their work, and that your best men will not be your best men twenty years hence. There may be a great many disappointments; but are there no disappointments now? Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that the lives of many people are a succession of disappointments? I am certain that applications have been made to me on behalf of the same parties ever 732 since I have been in public life. I regret to be able to bear testimony to the fact, but it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that many men waste their lives in the business of solicitation for offices. I say that the freedom of demand and supply is the best security against this disappointment. If you want to reduce that disappointment to a minimum, make free the access to the public service, and adopt the same principle which governs the supply of corn and meat. It would be easy to make out a strong and imposing primâ facie case with regard to the operations of commerce, and to show that in consequence of the ignorance of private individuals there would always be over-supply here and a deficient supply there, and that it would be necessary to come to the help of the mother-wit of the parties engaged in these operations, and to teach them what to bring to market. But it would be just as futile to teach parties to what market they had better carry their talent; and, if you so arrange your public service as to open it with the greatest freedom, that will be the best mode of regulating the number of applicants for office, and you will reduce to a fifth or a tenth part the present number of disappointed persons who are soliciting you for offices. Just so with regard to men who are said to be above their work. The right hon. Baronet says, you want men who know a little arithmetic, a little history, and a little French; but, I utterly demur to the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman, who speaks as if a clerk were a fixed quantity in all cases. There is nothing, for example, more different than the duties and qualifications of a clerk in the Customhouse and a clerk in the Foreign-office. The right hon. Gentleman forgets that we may hope to carry to a completion that which has made some progress—viz., the division between mechanical and intellectual labour. To effect that division is vital to every sound principle of reform in our public establishments. The question is, can you place a great mass of routine on one side, and of intellectual labour on the other? The state of the case with regard to political offices is, that the head of a department has now no sensible or perceptible interest in appointing a good man. I do not hesitate to state that. If the Secretary of State for the Colonies, for example, appoints a good man as a clerk, the probability is that in three or four years he will leave the public service, because 733 he finds himself yoked unequally with men inferior to himself. I speak of the Colonial Office as it was. I believe it is better now, but the general effect of the system is to equalize the good, bad, and indifferent. Your public servant finds himself doomed to a life of mediocrity—to a life of dissatisfaction and discontent, which is, indeed, the chronic state of the civil service. I want to know whether the discontent of the civil service is not a serious matter for consideration? You cannot say the same of other professions—of lawyers and physicians for example. Particular lawyers are discontented, no doubt; but you cannot say this of any particular class except the civil service; and why? If a man goes into the profession of the law, he does it of his own will—he is responsible to no one—he only asks a clear stage and no favour. There are cases where the claims of private interest, no doubt, make themselves felt; but the basis is just, and, whether a man is fortunate or not, he has no title to complain. But why is it that in the civil service alone the whole mass of the members are in a state of discontent? The documents which they themselves have presented to the Government contain this broad assertion, that they feel themselves wronged and aggrieved by the standard of remuneration they receive; and therefore that they are discontented is, I think, as plain as the sun at noonday. Is it a fact that, taking the civil service as a whole, the public pays worse than other employers? I am not now speaking of the higher places, but of the middle and lower ones—from 100l. up to 500l. or 600l a-year—and I do not hesitate to say, taking the average of those situations, the public pays better than other employers; but if the public pay the good men not as well, the middling men nearly as well, and the infinitely bad men more than they deserve, then the good men have reason to complain. I do not believe you pay good men as well as they ought to be paid, and, moreover, you never will be able to pay them as well as they ought to be paid, without injustice to the public, until you devise more effectual means than you now have in operation of distinguishing between the good and the bad. The right hon. Gentleman fairly admitted that two great evils consist in the system of promotion by seniority and the system of irremovability. I do not think you can do much with respect to irremovability. It is 734 easy on paper to lay down the doctrine that every civil servant ought to be removable at pleasure; and no doubt that is the tenure on which they hold office. But when the cruel question comes between a man's comfort and subsistence on the one hand, and his ruin and beggary on the other, together with the influences which are brought to bear, the imperfect information possessed, and the transitory tenure of place by the heads of political departments, it is vain to trust for efficiency to the last remedy of removal. It is like adopting the principle of Draco's laws, and having none but capital punishment even for the smallest offences. The right hon. Gentleman also says the system of promotion by seniority is a great evil; and in that I agree with him. I entirely agree that the whole question of admission is a secondary question, except as connected with promotion. But has not the evil of promotion by seniority been in full view of our statesmen for generations, and has not every contrivance to counteract it—in all except one or two cases—been a total failure? When that is the case, it becomes wise men to consider whether they cannot devise something of a simpler, broader, and more searching character to lay the axe home to the root of the evil. I say the reason why you cannot escape from promotion by seniority is this—because the basis of admission is not personal merit and desert, but favour and nomination, and you cannot make it intelligible to a man who comes in by favour and nomination that he is to rise by merit and desert. Let him come in by merit, and then I think we shall have reason to hope that promotion by merit, which is now adverse to the general feeling of these establishments, will be recommended by them. That is the real obstacle to promotion by merit, and the real support which has prevented promotion by seniority from breaking down. The fruit of the evil lies in nomination. The cure will be in the abolition of nomination, and, with the introduction of merit as the basis of admission, you will obtain the recognition of merit as the proper basis for promotion. I must confess, if there is one thing more than another which makes me desire to see a change in the system of nomination, it is because I believe it would be an answer to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. The man who is the best man now may not be the best man twenty years hence. That is true in 735 a great majority of cases. The rates of progress in the human mind are infinitely varied, and what you want is a ready choice in each step of the scale. You cannot have that unless the feeling of the service is in favour of promotion by merit, and you cannot have that feeling if you leave admission to nomination without merit. We hear a great number of remedies set forth from time to time. Some people put forward the notion of an exclusive right of succession to the higher offices. I am quite sure those who have had experience will decline to recognise any such law as that. Then, it is said, if greater publicity were given to the exertions of those public servants, the service would be much more effective. It is more easily said than done. The productions of a Secretary of State's office are the joint result of many minds. The getting up of particular cases, the discussion of them, the bringing them to bear from one quarter and another, and finally embodying them, as the views of the Minister, in a document which proceeds from his office, are matters which hardly ever admit of being exhibited to the public in such a way as to enable the public to distribute praise and blame in the proportions in which they are due. But, above all, I must on this and on every occasion enter my protest against the supposition that the only thing we have to do is to increase the pay. The wholesale increase of pay in the civil service would be wholesale injustice to the public. If you want to remedy the evil of not being able to pay the best men well, you must do that by bringing the best men more clearly into view and insuring more rapid promotion, which will be equivalent to a very large increase of remuneration in these offices. There are a great number of objections made to this plan of my hon. Friend. Many object to it as a new-fangled system, unsuited to the genius of the country. With respect to that, I will only say that we have been constantly busied for generations past in the introduction of multifarious improvements into the social and political system, with regard to almost all of which the objection that they were unsuited to the genius of the country has been used. Fifty years ago the system of competitive examinations for fellowships in the Universities was thought very little adapted to the genius of English institutions. But how has it worked? What sort of men has it given us? We are 736 told examination is a system of cramming. I say cramming is the besetting vice of examination; but, on the whole, it has been found practicable to adapt the system of examination to the exigencies of every case, and it has resulted in giving an excellent class of men for the purposes for which you want them. It is said you have no security for the moral character of those who come in under a system of free examination. A system of examination, in my opinion, is unsuited to the more advanced periods of life, and to the higher offices; but, with regard to the talents and merits of men of nineteen or twenty, in nine cases out of ten you find out what they are worth by means of examination; and, moreover, experience proves that almost invariably it is a fair test of moral as well as of intellectual character. My hon. Friend said he had been deceived by testimonials. So have I, over and over again; but the truth is, this is exactly the case in which testimonials may be trusted. It is a curious circumstance that, if there is one class of testimonials to be relied on, it is this class; because young men who come fresh from the hands of their tutors and schools bring testimonials from their tutors and schoolmasters, and they take pretty good care what testimonials they give, when their reputation, and even their livelihood; may depend upon it. I am not responsible for the proposal which my hon. Friend has made. He has acted upon his own judgment with respect to the particular Motion which he has recommended to the House in a speech as wise as it was amusing, and which has been seconded in a very able speech by my noble Friend near me. Judging from the course of this debate, I feel a strong persuasion this question is making way—I may say, is making rapid and steady way—in the feelings of the House. I know very well there exists—it was to be expected there would exist—a good deal of honest prejudice on the subject. I am sure continued discussion is all that is wanting in order to come at the real truth and merits of the case, and I am satisfied the more you come at those merits the more you will be convinced of the danger of the evils attending the present state of things; that those evils are extremely weighty and serious, and that we have it in our power at once to apply an effective remedy and to secure a much greater amount of efficiency to the public service, with much 737 greater satisfaction to the country at large.
§ MR. TITE
congratulated the House on an expression by the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke, to the effect that this question was making progress. He recollected on a former occasion the hon. Member for Hertfordshire stated that the movement on this question was directed against the present Government, and that it commenced within something like a fortnight after the noble Viscount at the head of the Government assumed the reins of administration. That was a mistake both in matter of time and in matter of fact. He believed that the formation of the present Government dated from the 23rd of February; and the first meeting for administrative reform did not take place until the 5th of May. The administrative reform movement was not a political movement, or aimed in the least degree at the Government; but was simply brought about by the disclosures before the Sebastopol Committee. What the administrative reformers desired was not any such interference with the Government or the patronage of the Government, as some hon. Gentlemen seemed to imagine, but simply an examination of candidates for initiatory appointments—not in the dead languages, but a practical examination: and after that, it was not desired to interfere with the practice of rewarding old servants by advancing them according to their merit. He accepted the declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, thinking that the difference between the motion and what the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed was not very great, and, under these circumstances, he thought it would be wise not to divide the House, as every one appeared to be desirous that administrative reform should prosper.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I think it may safely be said as the result of the discussion that has taken place, that all parties are agreed as to the object we ought to have in view, that object being the filling of the different offices of the Government with fit and capable men. The difference between us arises upon the method by which that object is to be accomplished. And I must in the first place say, that I think a great deal of unjust clamour has been raised with regard to the efficiency and conduct of those persons who belong to the different departments of the State. It has been the fashion to say that the different departments of the 738 State are filled by men incompetent for, or neglectful of, the duties they have to perform. Now, it often happens that somebody goes into a great public office with some application or request that is perfectly inadmissible, and contrary to all the rules of the service to which it applies. When he finds he cannot obtain what he wants, this person goes away in disgust, and runs about the town declaiming against the insolence and incompetency of the clerks of the department—the fault lying all the while with his own application, and not with the manner in which it has been received. Now, though I think we are all agreed as to the object in view, I must say I think that object has been a little forgotten by those who have taken part in this discussion, and that arguments have been used which I do not think exactly those upon which the question ought to be decided. There can be no doubt that it is of the utmost importance to the public interests that the different departments of the Government should be filled by competent persons; but I cannot go along with those who think that the main or one of the principal reasons to be alleged in support of that object is, that Members of Parliament may be relieved from the trouble of corresponding with importunate constituents applying for places under Government. No doubt there is a great inconvenience; and it is the more inconvenient, because I am sure that those who have suffered under it will agree with me in saying, that these importunities are the most frequent and persevering on the part of those who are, perhaps, the least entitled to the offices they wish to obtain. But I think, at the same time, that hon. Members ought to relieve themselves from that inconvenience by the exercise of a little firmness and decision; and I am sure that those who adopt that method will find that they rest not the less well with their constituents for the course they may pursue. Again, we are told that another reason why we should adopt this principle of open competition in preference to the system of nomination, is to avoid the claims arising from the value of long service in different departments, and the principle of seniority. Now, it seems to me that the inconvenience it is sought to avoid would be very much increased by the proposal which is made to open the offices to competition. I am supposing that that would follow which is the object of those who propose this system. We are told that the effect 739 of the setting up of offices to be contested for in examination by all who chose to present themselves, would be, that all the inferior offices and the first nominations would be filled by young men of great and remarkable ability. But if all the lower offices were filled by men of great and remarkable talent, how would the system of promotion be in any degree accelerated, or how would those who belong to the offices be relieved from the disappointments attending the waiting for promotion by seniority? When there are in an office a certain number of persons remarkable for talent and ability, and a number who are not, then, no doubt, the principle of selection sets aside the principle of seniority, and you take out the man who is most distinguished, and put him into the next class; but when all the men in an office are nearly equal in capacity, then it is plain that you are driven necessarily, more or less, to the principle of seniority, and that the promotion in that office will proceed as before. Now, it is said again, I think, that the present system of appointment by selection creates great disappointment. No doubt, there are a great number of persons who pass their lives, as has been said, in repeated applications for offices to which they are by no means qualified, and to which they do not attain; but what would be the extent of disappointment if every young man who thought he had talent for a public office were to come up to be examined, to record his fitness, and to wait for an expected vacancy in which he might be placed in competition with those who came up to be examined along with him? In that case you would have a great many more disappointments, with only this difference, that those who were disappointed would be disappointed by reason of justly awakened expectations. It seems to me, therefore, that you would have a greater amount of disappointment, that the promotion in your departments would not be at all more rapid than it is, and that the only result would be that you would have a great number of young men coming into the public offices who would get disgusted at the length of time they would have to pass in inferior offices, and would quit the public service altogether for the more alluring temptations offered by private enterprise and commerce. I think that the system which has been established, of rigid examination of persons selected by the heads of departments, is that which appears most likely to conduce to the efficiency of the 740 public service. I quite agree with those who say that examination is a real test of capacity. There is not doubt also that examination is sometimes only a test of memory; but, on the whole, it is the best test you can have of the general capacity of an individual. It has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Cork that a public examination would not at all disarrange the examination, or prejudice the person being examined; but I think, on the contrary, with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that interruption would arise from a great concourse of spectators during an examination, which would tend to disturb the operations of the mind; and when the person who is examined ought to have the whole of his faculties intent upon the work he has before him, he would be disturbed and put into an unfair position by the presence and interruption of strangers. Then, again, these examinations being chiefly written examinations, there would be nothing of which a stranger could be a judge; and so I am not all in favour of a public examination. I would entreat the House to content themselves, for the present at least, with the arrangement which has been very recently established. I do not mean to say that the principle of competition might not be practically introduced to some extent; for instance, when the head of a department has several candidates for one vacancy, and all of whom he thinks likely to suit, he may examine them all, and select the one who should then show himself to be the best qualified. I think, however, that it is highly important that the selection of candidates should rest with the person at the head of a department, who is responsible for the character and conduct of the persons he appoints; and if that selection is attended by an efficient examination to ascertain the competency of the individual, it seems to me that the efficiency of the public service will be secured. Now, there is one more difficulty which has been adverted to, and for which I confess I see no effectual remedy. Some persons argue that the highest offices in the departments should be invariably given to those who have risen from step to step within the departments. Others contend, on the other hand, that those higher and more important places should be given to persons taken from other walks of life, and who, from their eminent qualities, have shown that they were fitted for the important duties of the 741 higher posts in the public service. Sir, it is exceedingly difficult—I may say, it is impossible—to adopt either the one or the other of these as an unalterable rule. In general, considering the great, the disheartening slowness of promotion through the public offices, and considering the very small interest of the occupations in which the persons in the offices are employed during the first year of their progress—during many years even—I do not think it is likely that you will find in those offices many men who will be altogether such as you could wish for those higher offices in question. Could such men be found, they would be undoubtedly the proper persons to be selected; but if you give the officers a monopoly of those appointments, you will not, I think, be always able to find persons altogether fit for those situations. But while we are endeavouring to find a method which shall induce young men of distinguished abilities to enter the public service, it must be borne in mind that, from the unavoidable nature of the business to be transacted in those offices, those young men will have to pass a great many years of their lives in occupations which not only give no development to the intellect, but, on the contrary, tend to damp and paralyse mental exertion; and that, therefore, those young men, if they have the qualities we expect of them, are very likely to quit the service before they have been long in it, for more profitable occupations in civil life—for occupations in which distinction and fortune are more easily and more rapidly attainable. But, Sir, upon the present Motion I can only say this, that it is the anxious desire of Her Majesty's Government so to arrange a system of examination as to secure the appointment of competent persons to the different departments of the State; and I should hope the House would, at all events, give the arrangements which have so recently been established a fair trial, which as yet they have not had. If, next year, it should appear that our arrangement has not been successful, it will then be for any hon. Member, who shall think it had failed, to suggest any other method which he may think likely to he bettor adapted to attain the end in view. I should hope, therefore, that the House will agree with the proposition of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. V. SCULLY,
in reply, said, he thought the discussion of the question had been very satisfactory, for the speeches 742 of the noble Viscount near him (Lord Goderich) the hon. Member for Dudley (Sir S. Northcote), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University, had well "ventilated" the subject. He had expected the hon. Member who represented the Administrative Reform Association ("Hear." and laughter)—he meant Bath (Mr. Tite)—would have appealed to the noble Lord at the head of the Government to withdraw his opposition to the Resolution, but he (Mr. Scully) was assured by Friends near him that the appeal was addressed to himself. When that hon. Member had been longer in that House he would learn there were better ways of dealing with a great question than by becoming its bellows-blower for anybody. The objections to the Resolution had not been very formidable, and he should endeavour to meet them. The noble Lord said that Members might relieve themselves of the inconvenience arising from applications for appointments by exercising a little discretion and firmness. He (Mr. Scully) knew of no mode to avoid those inconveniences but either to carry his Motion, or to walk over to the other (the Opposition) side of the House. The wording of his Resolution had been criticised, and it had been said he proposed no qualification at all; but that was not so. He proposed that appointments should be made, having regard to the superior qualifications for the duties of the situation, and he also proposed that the examinations should be public. The arguments of the noble Lord against public examinations would apply to the examinations for the Indian service, which had been established by a recent Act of Parliament. To be consistent, either that Act should be repealed or the present Motion agreed to. He had never proposed a mere literary examination, but one which should be a true test of fitness for office. The right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone) had referred to the difference of acquirements necessary for clerks in the Customs and for clerks in the Foreign Office. He (Mr. Scully) happened to have an official list of appointments made by the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Clarendon), during the six months from 1st April, 1854, and he would now read from it literally and consecutively eight young gentlemen with from three to five names each—Thomas Villiers Lister, Henry Percy Anderson, Charles Stuart Aubrey Abbott, Philip Henry 743 Wodehouse Currie, Greville Richard Vernon, Henry Crichton Stuart, Francis Stanley Maxwell Stephens, Henry Arthur William Hervey, Harry S. C. Clarke Jervoise.He could go into the family history of some of these gentlemen, but that would be invidious, and he would not do so. He believed, however, that many of their numerous appellations (as various as those of Grandees in Spain) would be readily recognised in connection with high Government officials, or with Government Members of either House of Parliament. The question, after all, was, were these gentlemen selected because they were the fittest for the offices they held. Those who believed that men were selected for office on account of their qualifications would vote for the continuance of the present system, and those who thought a better could be introduced ought to vote for his Motion. As a tolerable illustration of the existing system, he might refer to a letter which he had received from a gentleman at whose instance he had recommended for a small local office under Government. This gentleman said—Many thanks for your prompt and kind attention to the recommendations which I and your friends here have made to you on behalf of A. B. It is humiliating to be obliged to ask a Government for so small a favour. The situation is only 10l. a year.To that he (Mr. Scully) replied—I should not wish you to suppose that I have asked the Government for appointments in the public service as favours to me or my constituents. I have simply demanded them as rights belonging to deserving Irishmen, but imposing no obligations of any sort.He had also in his hand an application from a gentleman in the following terms—The Rev. A——B——is about looking for a church living now vacant in the county of Cork, in the gift of the Crown. If you can do anything for him with the Government, without going under a compliment to them, he deserves anything that can be done, and you would always find him a supporter.He was sorry he had not been able to do anything for that gentleman. A common complaint was that there were a class of Members who did not get a fair portion of what was going, while there was another class of Gentlemen who got more than their share. As he had already observed, he believed that all the valuable appointments in the civil service were practically treated as private patronage belonging to leading Government officials, such as heads of departments, Cabinet Ministers, and 744 others, for which no independent Member, especially no Irish Member, need apply; and it was under some such impression that he had taken the very great liberty of addressing, on the 7th of February last, a letter to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, as follows—My Lord—Observing that Her Majesty has confided to you the formation of a new Administration, I avail myself of the opportunity to direct your attention to the circumstance that among the many Members of the late Cabinet there was not one Irishman, and to the further fact that, though a quarter of a century has elapsed since the so-called Emancipation Act, no Roman Catholic has hitherto been admitted to a seat in the Cabinet, but that a large section of the Queen's subjects has remained unrepresented in the Government, and as effectually excluded as ever.For reasons he had formerly referred to, he would not produce any answer to this letter. However, on the 23rd of February he wrote this letter to a certain right hon. Gentleman closely connected with the present Government—Dear Sir—On the 7th instant I addressed to Lord Palmerston the letter of which a copy is inclosed. The recent secessions from the Cabinet afford another opportunity for giving some practical effect to its suggestions. Perhaps you will now consider it desirable to bring them formally under the personal consideration of his Lordship, whose political confidence I presume you enjoy as fully as you are entitled to do from your relative position and long official connection.He was sorry that he was not in a condition to give to the House any answer to this letter. In conclusion, he hoped the hon. Member for Bath would excuse him for not complying with the request he had made, and he hoped the noble Lord would withdraw his opposition, and allow the Motion he had made to pass unanimously.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided:—Ayes 125; Noes 140: Majority 15.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Byng, hon. G. H. C.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Clay, Sir W.|
|Alexander, J.||Cobden, R.|
|Anderson, Sir J.||Cogan, W. H. F.|
|Annesley, Earl of||Colvile, C. R.|
|Antrobus, E.||Cowan, C.|
|Archdall, Capt.||Crook, J.|
|Ball, E.||Crossley, F.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Dashwood, Sir G. H.|
|Barnes, T.||Dering, Sir E.|
|Bass, M. T.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.|
|Bell, J.||Duke, Sir J.|
|Bland, L. H.||Duncan, G.|
|Brady, J.||Dunlop, A. M.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Esmonde, J.||Northcote, Sir S. H.|
|Ewart, W.||Oakes, J. H. P.|
|Ewart, J. C.||O'Brien, P.|
|Fagan, W.||O'Connell, D.|
|Farnham, E. B.||O' Flaherty, A.|
|Fenwick, H.||Oliveira, B.|
|Ferguson, J.||Otway, A. J.|
|Fergusson, Sir J.||Parker, R. T.|
|Forster, C.||Pechell, Sir G B.|
|Fortescue, C. S.||Pellatt, A.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Phillimore, R. J.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Pigott, F.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W.||Pilkington, J.|
|Gordon, hon. A.||Pollard-Urquhart, W.|
|Graham, Lord M. W.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Greenall, G.||Ricardo, O.|
|Greene, J.||Rich, H.|
|Grenfell, C. W.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Greville, Col. F.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Gwyn, H.||Russell, F. W.|
|Hadfield, G.||Sadleir, James|
|Hankey, T.||Sadleir, John|
|Hastie, Alexander||Scholefield, W.|
|Hastie, Archibald||Scobell, Capt.|
|Heard, J. I.||Scully, F.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Seymour, W.|
|Heywood, J.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Hindley, C.||Smollett, A.|
|Hutchins, E. J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Jackson, W.||Stuart, W.|
|Keating, R.||Sullivan, M.|
|Kennedy, T.||Sutton, J. H. M.|
|Kershaw, J.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Kinnaird, hon. A. F.||Thompson, G.|
|Knox, Col.||Thornhill, W. P.|
|Langton, H. G.||Tite, W.|
|Laslett, W.||Tollemache, J.|
|Lindsay, W. S.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Lowe, R.||Walcott, Adm.|
|Lushington, C. M.||Wells, W.|
|MacGregor, Jas.||Whatman J.|
|M'Mahon, P.||Wilkinson, W. A.|
|Maguire, J. F.||Williams, W.|
|Mangles, R. D.||Wise, A.|
|Meagher, T.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Michell, W.||Scully, V.|
|Murrough, J. P.||Goderich, V.|