HC Deb 21 June 1861 vol 163 cc1425-58

rose to move a Resolution— That the Evidence taken before the Select Committee on Civil Service Examinations proves that the System of Examinations should be modified, in order to meet the requirements of the Public Service. The hon. Members said that the importance of this subject was proved by the fact that there were 105,000 Government places in this country, which were now almost in the hands of the Civil Service Commissioners, and it was, therefore, doubly important to consider the effect which these examinations had produced on the different professions. The Committee on this subject, which was presided over by the noble Lord, the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), had reported very fully and as to the result of the evidence taken before that Committee, two very different opinions had been formed. The noble Lord and those who thought with him were of opinion, as the result of the evidence, that previous to 1855 the Civil Service of this country was very inefficient, but that the system of examination, up to the present time, had been attended with great advantages, and that, although the proposal of throwing open all situations under Government to open competition was not desirable at the present moment, they looked forward to a time when that proposal might be carried into effect, and anticipated that the result would be for the benefit of the country. He (Mr. Cochrane) had read the same evidence very carefully, and he had come to precisely the opposite conclusion—that there was no evidence to show that the Civil Service prior to 1855 was inefficient; that no practical advantage but, on the contrary, great disadvantage had arisen to the public service from the system of examination; and that if the system of open competition was introduced, it would terminate in the ruin of the public administration of the country. He could not comprehend how the Committee could have adopted such a Report as they presented to the House. Twenty-five witnesses were examined by the Committee; of these he struck off six as being Civil Service Examiners themselves, and, therefore, subject to view the matter with partiality. Of the remainder, eleven gave their evidence in opposition to the present system of examination: and there were only four who distinctly stated that they thought it had been beneficial to the country. Mr. Arbuthnot, the auditor of the Civil List, was of opinion that the effect of the competition had been to exclude objectionable men; but that, in the case of the supplementary clerks of the Treasury, it had introduced a class of men above their work, and thus gave rise to discontent and inconvenience. Mr. Trevor said that the present class of clerks were superior in social position, but he did not know that they had been superior for the purposes for which they were wanted. Sir Thomas Freeman tie, Chairman of the Board of Customs, said that in the appointment of inferior officers too much stress had been laid upon intellectual attainments, and too little attention had been paid to physical qualifications. Mr. Tilley, the Assistant Secretary of the Post Office, said that the introduction of the competi- tive system had not made much difference. Mr. Romilly and Sir Richard Bromley gave similar testimony. Sir Thomas Freemantle issued a circular to the heads of departments and the collectors of the outposts, and he received from many of them reports by no means favourable to the new system. The Surveyor General stated that the examination had failed to supply a more valuable class of persons to the service. It was not a superior test of fitness to that which was previously in operation, and many persons might, be rejected for deficiency in mere book learning who possessed qualifications which would be of infinitely greater value. The Inspector General said that no doubt under the present system many men of intelligence and energy had been appointed, but it was equally true that such men were by no means excluded under the former system, nor were instances of superior zeal, intelligence, and efficiency more unfrequent then than they were now; and the experience of the new system went far to establish the fact that a man's general usefulness would not always be on a par with the amount of school education he had received. Prom one office the Report was— I am rather disappointed at finding myself compelled to admit that the clerks in this department who have undergone an examination by the Civil Service Commissioners do not evince more talent, nor display greater energy and aptitude for business, than those appointed within the six years preceding the institution of such examinations. From another— Having had several clerks under my supervision who have been admitted into the service since May, 1855, and also several who were appointed within the six years preceding the examination by the Civil Service Commissioners, I am enabled to state that I have not found the former display any greater energy or aptitude for business than the latter; and although generally tractable, I have experienced both personally and towards the public a self-sufficiency and presumption, from an imagined superiority in having undergone such examination, and also a desire for literature in business, that I have been obliged to check. Of twenty-five Reports, all but one were against the system of examination. One gentleman, said that the officers appointed possessed a better education, but less usefulness, than, formerly; another, that the clerks appointed under the new system were better educated, but had not as good business habits as those who entered the service before 1855, and were not so easily managed. Why did not the Committee quote other witnesses than those who were referred to in their Report, such, for instance, as Mr. Waddington, Mr. Timm, and Mr. Hammond? Mr. Hammond stated that under the old system no clerks were appointed whose conduct during the first six months would not have insured their confirmation. Lord Elgin also gave evidence strongly against the new system, or, at all events, to the effect that the public service had derived no advantage from it. He could scarcely find in the evidence a single sentence in support of the principle of open competition in favour of which the Committee had reported. He could not comprehend how this Report had been drawn up, or how the Committee were able to state that it was based on the evidence which they had received. The only hypothesis which he could form was that several of them had only attended at long intervals. This system, at which Lord Brougham said everybody in the streets held up his hands, had not been introduced in consequence of any dereliction of duty on the part of public officers. Distinguished men declared that at the time there never was such a body of civil servants. Among those who made that declaration was Sir James Stephen. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Oh, oh!] Did the right hon. Gentleman doubt that such an opinion had been given? Sir James Stephen said— In all seriousness, I think that the man whose name stood half-way down the examination list of merit would probably make a better clerk than he whose name stood first. Is this system founded on a truth so evident and on maxims of such universal application that we ought to apply it to 16,000 public offices at once? It is at least a perfect novelty; it is a rule hitherto never enforced in any republic except Utopia; it does not prevail in the legal, or medical, or sacerdotal, or mercantile professions; it is unknown to the great commercial world and municipal corporations among us. Lord Herbert was a very good authority, and he said— A young man who comes fresh from a cramming tutor and answers a few unintelligible questions is not the same thing as a young man who has gone through a regular professional course, and who becomes immediately available for regimental duty. Mr. Chadwick stated that— Some of the most eminent members of the professions, as well as of the Civil Service, have gained their start in actual life—not away from it, but in the midst of practice, so early as to preclude academical accomplishments. The first entrance into life of an eminent civil servant, high in the civil class of the Order of the Bath, was, as he says, in being when a boy pushed through the porthole of a ship into the midst of a coil of rope. It always astonished him how, with opinions such as these, given at the time these gentlemen could be quoted as upholding this extraordinary system of examination. He was afraid the right hon. Gentleman would feel indignant with him for again referring to the questions put by the Civil Service Commissioners; but, notwithstanding the assertion of the right hon. Gentleman that any schoolboy could answer them, he believed they had improved very little since last year. He had been taunted with being the friend of ignorance, and he was aware that he was taking the unpopular view; but he had never denied that a test examination was necessary. What he objected to was that a man's career should be made to depend on the number of marks which he obtained in different branches of science. He would take the examination papers for 1860 and 1861, and he would ask the House whether they really tested the power, the intelligence, and the merits of the young men by whom they were answered— Out of what other languages has the English language been formed? What difference does the English of the Spectator present as compared with that of the authorized version of the Bible? What do you understand by the words 'a good English style?' Give rules for writing such a style. Why, there was nothing with regard to which persons differed so much in opinion as upon "a good style." Essays might be written on the subject. Again, the candidates were asked— What do you understand by a 'figure of speech' in English? Write a series of short sentences, each containing an. example of a figure of speech. They were next required to write an essay on winter, mentioning its duties and amusements. Winter amusements differed with the country in which they prevailed; in Scotland, curling; and in England, hunting possibly were the chief amusements.

Give a list of English historians, characterizing each of them by a single epithet. Compare the influence of the ballad writer in early times with that exercised by the press at the present day. Sketch briefly the course of the chief wars waged by Great Britain in Hindostan. All these questions, it would be borne in mind, were to be answered in the space of two hours. As if they were not suffi- ciently comprehensive the next had an even wider scope— Of what use to Great Britain are its several colonies and dependencies? Then it semed as if some sentimental examiner took the matter in hand, forgiving the verse,— Few the words that I have spoken; True love's words are ever few; Yet by many a speechless token Hath my heart discoursed to you; he required it to be translated into Latin! The next thing required was that the candidate should Write a short sketch of the origin of Parliaments in England, and show how their power has progressively increased. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laughed at these questions; it was very natural that they should do so, but he could truly state he had no wish to throw ridicule on the gentlemen of great ability by whom these questions were framed. It might be said that all these were matters which young men should know, but within the time limited and for the object which was in view they seemed to be unnecessarily comprehensive. The Examiners next required the young man to Write a letter describing the overland route to Calcutta via Marseilles, and containing information on the natural productions of the States through which the writer is supposed to pass, and on their commercial relations with other nations. Why that was not a question, it was a volume.

Write a short life of the Emperor Napoleon I. And then came a question which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer could probably answer better than most persons— Enumerate the struggles which England has entered into with the Chinese Empire since 1830. He also found a question which might lead to some awkward discussions— Give the names and essential characters of the minerals which enter into the composition of the building stones ordinarily employed. Why, that was a question very interesting just at present to the Houses of Parliament; and another followed of hardly less importance— From what class of substances are the noxious odours of the Thames likely to originate; what conditions are most favourable to their development, and what means ought to be resorted to in order to destroy them?


inquired whether the questions selected by the hon. Member had reference to Civil or Military Examinations?


said, they were some of the questions sot on the part of the Council of Military Education. "What he contended was that the competitive system, whether applied to the Military or Civil Service, was equally objectionable. Young men were not only required to answer questions of the class which he had illustrated by selections, but they were also obliged to write essays. For these one of the subjects given was "a panegyric on Garibaldi, General Havelock, and Sir Isaac Newton." That particular question was intended for Civil Service candidates. Among the other subjects given for these essays was "The Recent Visit of the Queen to Germany;" with a suppositions case, "How it would be most advisable that a young man should spend a two months' holiday from a public office?" The Commissioners were very particular about "Garibaldi's expedition to Sicily," and repeated that subject no less than five or six times. But perhaps the most remarkable of all the headings for essays which he had encountered was "The late Tight for the Championship between Tom Sayers—[Great laughter and cheering, which interrupted the conclusion of the sentence.] Many Gentlemen were interested in geological inquiries, and differed in the views which they entertained on those subjects, but an entirely new idea was started for the benefit of the young men about to be examined— Give the evidence for the submersion of the British Isles at several periods. State when the last of these submersions took place, and by what phenomena it appears to have been accompanied. He thought he had sufficiently proved to the House that he was justified in declaring, first, that the Report was not maintained by the evidence; and, secondly, that the Civil Service Commissioners still continued the same description of questions as those to which he had last year called the attention of the House. He believed the system required modification. He lamented that the Committee had not secured gentlemen well able to give the information; that they had not examined old diplomatists like Sir Hamilton Seymour or Lord Stratford de Redcliffe; or military men of station like his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, and ascertained from them what the effect of those examinations had been on the class of men entertaining those respective services. The British army was proud of being officered by gentlemen. The Crimean war did not prove that our officers had deteriorated, or that they were incompetent for the discharge of their duties. Then what a number of first-class diplomatists we had at this moment representing Her Majesty in foreign counties. He had no hesitation in saying that this was a dangerous principle which we had introduced into the public service; and we ought to inquire into and weigh it well before we broke up the old system. Quieta non movere—it was dangerous to tamper with the old system, under which such admirable officers had been obtained for the service of the country, unless it could be clearly shown that the new would be productive of greater benefit to the country. Hon. Gentlemen knew what the opinion was out of doors. Persons did not like to express that opinion in public; but, privately, men competent to form an opinion on the subject would tell them that the public service Avas deteriorating under the new system, and it was with a view of preventing such deterioration that he begged to move— That the evidence taken before the Select Committee on Civil Service Examinations proves that the system of examinations should be modified, in order to meet the requirements of the public service.


seconded the Motion.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words— The evidence taken before the Select Committee on Civil Service Examinations proves that the system of Examinations should be modified, in order to meet the requirements of the Public Service. —instead thereof.


wished to explain that when he put on the paper his Amendment to the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. B. Cochrane), he expected that that Motion would come on in a different form. But, according to the rules of the House, it was not competent to him to move that Amendment now, because his hon. Friend made his proposition as an Amendment on the Motion for going into Supply. He hoped, however, that within the next two or three weeks he should be able to submit to the House a Motion affirming the same principle as that embodied in the Amend- ment—namely, that the best mode of procuring competent persons to fill junior clerkships in the Civil Service would be through a system of competitive examination, open to all subjects of the Queen who fulfil certain conditions as to age, health, and character. For the present he should confine his observations to a partial defence of the Report of the Committee. The noble Lord the Chairman of that Committee (Lord Stanley) was present, and would be able to answer his hon. Friend; but, as he had the honour to move for the Committee, he was anxious to say a word on its constitution. His hon. Friend had charged the Committee with having framed a report which was inconsistent with the evidence taken before it. Now, who were the Members of that Committee? Among them were Sir William Hayter, Sir William Jolliffe, Lord Robert Cecil, Mr. Monckton Milnes, Sir Stafford Northcote, Mr. Bright, Mr. Lowe, Mr. Roebuck, Mr. Collins, Colonel Sykes, Mr. Maguire, Mr. Tite, Mr. Clay, and himself. The House would observe that he had nominated Gentlemen who were not supposed to favour the system which he advocated. He appealed to hon. Members whether the Committee was not one which fairly represented the various opinions entertained in that House on the subject of competitive examinations? The Committee examined witnesses, not, as his hon. Friend seemed to suppose, chosen for any particular views to promote the object which he and other Members entertained in regard to open competition; but they examined witnesses who, to some extent, were prejudiced against the views which he and others entertained. They examined permanent Secretaries and heads of Departments; they examined gentlemen who had entered the Civil Service under the old system, and who, if they had a prejudice, would have had one in favour of that system under which they had obtained admission, and under which they had worked. They examined gentlemen connected with the Civil Service Commission—the Commissioners themselves, the Examiners, and the Secretary; but it would have been idle for them to go into an inquiry as to what the public opinion—"the educated public opinion—was on this subject. They already knew what that opinion was, and that it was generally believed that open competition would be the result of the system which at present prevailed. There were two branches of inquiry into which the Committee could not enter—the one, the effect of the present system of patronage on the public service and on the Members of that House; the other, how far throwing open the Civil Service would affect the public education of the country. Though the Committee did not feel at liberty to enter into those branches of the inquiry, he believed they were as important as any that could be discussed in reference to this subject. But taking the narrowest ground and looking at the question merely as it bore on the efficiency of the public service, he had no doubt that if hon. Members perused the evidence with attention, they would arrive at the conclusion to which, the Committee had come. The gentlemen whom they examined declared, he thought unanimously, that the present system of examination, if it did nothing else, excluded inefficiency. What was the meaning of that? His hon. Friend had passed very lightly over this part of the case; but if the system did nothing more than provide a check against the admission into the public service of inefficient men, that alone would be a sufficient ground on which to defend it. But it did more. The public service was conducted at a great cost to the country, its efficiency was of enormous importance to the State, and we ought to get the best men we could for the money. How were we to accomplish that? The Committee were told by the most trustworthy and competent witnesses that, under the existing system, the country did get the best men. His hon. Friend had amused the House by reading some of the questions put to gentlemen who proposed to serve in the Artillery and the Engineers, for whom peculiar qualifications were necessary. One of these was a question about the submersion of Great Britain, which his hon. Friend thought exceedingly amusing; but for the Engineers an examination in geology was thought necessary, and every hon. Member must be aware that if the Examiner entered into the most superficial view of that subject he must, ask questions of that kind. For the Indian Civil Service an examination in chymistry was deemed right, because it was thought advisable that gentlemen in that service should have been instructed in the various branches of a first-class education. He would put it to his hon. Friend whether his Parliamentary avocations had not prevented his paying that attention to natural science which these candidates might be expected to have given? Certain tests of ability and intelligence were required, and the Civil Service Examiners had only selected those tests which were common not only to the public Universities and schools of this country, but also to those of all Europe. He was unwilling to enter upon the defence of the Report of the Committee, because the noble Lord who presided over it was present; he could not, however, refrain from protesting against the course which the hon. Gentleman had, upon the Notice which he had placed upon the paper, taken in impunging the examination papers and denouncing the whole system of examination for the public service and the scheme of public competition, instead of frankly and boldly bringing his opinions forward and taking the sense of the House upon it.


I think the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cochrane) has not quite laid sufficient ground for so important a Motion—because if he brings it to a division he calls upon us to reverse the decision of a very important Committee upstairs, which the House will hardly be prepared to do upon the reasons he has submitted. Although this is the longest day of the year, yet it was hoped this would be one of the shortest of Sessions; and the House is, I think, hardly in a state of mind to enter upon the merits of a somewhat abstract question. Having sat upon the Committee upstairs, I am bound to say that the Resolution to which the Committee came represented rather the state of mind of the majority of the Committee than the result of the evidence. The hon. Member (Mr. Hennessy) has read the names of the Members of the Committee, and any one cognizant of the opinions of those hon. Members must see that he went into the Committee with a very well-secured majority. I do not impugn the fairness of the Committee, but I may appeal to any one who will read the evidence to say whether it justified the Report? The Committee was composed of Gentlemen who attached more importance than I do to the system of competitive examination. I trust that in nothing that I have done either here or elsewhere have I ever been the advocate of ignorance. I am in favour of instruction, and of giving encouragement to education in every possible manner. But the position I hold is that an undue prominence has been given to these Civil Service Examinations, that results have been expected from them which are not likely to be realized, and that they cause an enormous degree of individual trouble and even suffering without any correlative public good. It must be remembered that in this Civil Service examination you have established a new and expensive branch of the public service. It is impossible that among the body of gentlemen thus employed there should not be a strong esprit de corps, that they should not exaggerate the importance of their functions, and induce others to believe that the whole efficiency of the public service depends on a set of clever boys answering a set of clever questions. But the clever boys will not necessarily make the best public servants. Every one's experience furnishes him with instances of the little adequate success in public life of those who have gained the highest University distinctions. It does not follow that those youths who give evidence of the power of fixing their attention and acquiring knowledge must necessarily make the best public servants. I am not prepared by voting for the hon. Gentleman's Motion to join in a vote of censure upon the Select Committee, but I think he is justified in bringing the matter before the House, and I should be glad if hon. Members will take down the blue book from their dusty shelves and run their eyes over the evidence taken by the Committee; I wish they would read the evidence given, for example, by Mr. Waddington'—a man who combines the knowledge of the scholar with the acuteness and administrative faculties of the best men of the world—and then contrast that with the evidence given of casual failure on the part of certain officers whom it was necessary to bring together on a sudden—say ten years ago, on the collection of the census. Hon. Members would then be in a condition to say whether the Committee have given fair weight to the evidence before them. We, the minority, protested against the interpretation of the evidence, and that, I think, will be the decision of any one who reads the blue book. The Committee were presided over by the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) with great judgment and ability. I do not wish to throw any slur upon their fairness. The majority availed themselves of their privilege, and they made the Report in which the noble Lord illustrated his opinion in an able manner, but in which the Committee did not, I think, give all the weight it deserved to the opinion of such witnesses as Mr. Wadding- ton. One plain result of your system of examination is that it has effected one good purpose of excluding great inefficiency; but it does not necessarily follow that you ought to carry it much further, or that you should go on to institute a competitive examination for all the offices of the State. A competitive examination is, in fact, the most uncertain of all examinations. Take the case of three young men competing for an office. If two out of the three happen to be men of ability, the test is a good one for the third, but if they happen to be men of little or no ability he may gain an easy victory. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer prefers the system of examination that prevails in another country, and which was recently illustrated by a Chinese gentleman who resides in this country, and who is the Chinese Examiner for the Civil Service Commission. This gentleman mentioned with pride that in his native country he came out of an examination where there were no less than 8,000 candidates. I do not know whether the aspirations of my right hon. Friend would bring about such a result. I should not myself desire to Bee it, nor do I think our present system of competitive examination compensates for the annoyance it causes to individuals by the benefit it confers upon the State.


I congratulate my hon. Friend who has brought forward this Motion on having at last succeeded, after four or five unsuccessful attempts, in bringing this subject fully and fairly before the House. I can only say that if any one of those gentlemen in whom he takes so strong an interest, and who have not been fortunate enough to satisfy the requirements of the Civil Service Commissioners, had shown half as much industry and. perseverance in supporting their pretensions as he has on their behalf, I do not think there would have been any grievance or failure on their part. My hon. Friend has raised two questions which, though connected, are at the same time quite distinct. On the general argument I am ready to meet him—namely, as to the merits or demerits of a, system of public competition. But he has also made a specific charge against the Committee, that the Report to which they came is contrary to the evidence on which that Report professes to be founded. Now, a charge of unfairness against a Committee is one of a grave character, and I wish that my hon. Friend, if he thought him- self justified in preferring such a charge, had gone more into detail, and had furnished more ample proof in support of his assertion. Because, when you are dealing with evidence extending through 400 folio pages, it is not a very satisfactory way of giving the general effect of that evidence to look for any sentence you may find here or there in favour of your own view, instead of collecting the general sense and purport from the perusal of the whole. I have not been able, in the short time that has passed since my hon. Friend addressed the House, to refer more than cursorily to the evidence which he professed to cite; but I have seen enough to enable me to say that, even in regard to the witnesses referred to, the statements of my hon. Friend are not entirely borne out by the evidence. My hon. Friend began by quoting Mr. Arbuthnot, and made a great point by representing that, according to Mr. Arbuthnot's evidence, certain clerks coming into the service by the competitive system are, from their position, dissatisfied with their appointments. Now, going rapidly over the evidence, I find that Mr. Arbuthnot has given the following answers:— Q. 795.—That being the case, do you think it is fair to ascribe what you call the discontent in that class to the system of competition?—Certainly not. And he goes on to state what, in his belief, is the real cause of this alleged discontent— Q. 796.—Do you think that the fact of holding those offices up to competition does to some extent induce men to think them more valuable than they really are?—I cannot say. I think that the salaries are fixed much too high for the class of work that is required, and that that has tempted men of superior intelligence to compete for them. Therefore, according to Mr. Arbuthnot, whatever may be the reason of the discontent to which my hon. Friend referred, the competitive system is not the cause. I quote this instance, not because it is in itself particularly important—for the class alluded to is a very limited class—but I refer to it because it is an example of the manner in which the evidence has been dealt with by my hon. Friend.


Will the noble Lord read Questions 772 and 805?


I do not think it is my business to read over such portions of the evidence as my hon. Friend may select; I am only endeavouring to show that his own witnesses do not support his attack on the Report of the Committee; but if my hon. Friend thinks I am doing injustice to his argument, other hon. Members who take the same view with my hon. Friend will be able to reply to my remarks. I am simply defending the Report of the Committee. With respect to the evidence of Mr. Tilley, I do not find any fault with the manner in which it has been used by my hon. Friend. That evidence is, on the whole, unfavourable to the system of competition; and, unfavourable as it is, it will be found summed up in the Report. And here let me say once for all, that, whatever other fault may be found with our Report, there is one part of it to which I believe my hon. Friend can take no objection, and that is the summary given of the evidence of the witnesses. The fairness of that summary may be relied on, and I will tell the House why. All parties were represented on the Committee; there was considerable difference of opinion on the abstract question of competition or no competition; every proposition which admitted of dispute, and a good many which I should have thought admitted of no dispute, was controverted, yet it will be seen that those paragraphs in which the evidence was summed up were passed without any division, or with not more than one division. That is a sufficient proof that the summary fairly represents the bulk of the evidence taken before the Committee. I now go on to the case of Mr. Romilly. That gentleman was quoted by my hon. Friend as being one of those who evidence was hostile to the principle of these competitive examinations; but, in answer to questions put to him, he stated (Q. 2,749–50) that the effect of the examinations before the Civil Service Commissioners had been to increase the efficiency of the clerks, and that previously to the Civil Service Examinations certain clerks, totally inefficient, came into his office, but that since that time no such case had occurred, and that he thought there was now a marked difference. That gentleman went on to say, at Q. 2,810, that many years since, before the Civil Service Commissioners were in existence, a gentleman was appointed in his office who could hardly read or write—he was, in fact, almost an idiot, and there was the greatest possible difficulty in getting him out of the office. I think, therefore, that it was not a very wise proceeding on the part of my hon. Friend to call Mr. Romilly as a witness in his favour, if, as he said, he wanted to prove the deterioration of the service in consequence of the examination test. I proceed to the case of Mr. Waddington. Everybody knows that he was a strong opponent to the institution of the Civil Service Commissioners, and my hon. Friend quoted evidence formerly given by him to that effect. He is not now favourable to the system of unlimited competition; but, from his answers to questions put to him before the Committee, the House will see that it is not reasonable to cite him as being one of those whose evidence is entirely opposed to the system of competition; for he answers the questions put to him thus— Q. 3,013.—Taking into consideration the system of limited competition among a certain number of candidates, do you think that that system has decided advantages over one of simple nomination? Answer.—I should prefer it, undoubtedly; and I think it is not open to any objection on the score of inconvenience, and that it does give some additional chance of having superior men. And in the next answer he goes on to add, that— Within the limit where no great inconvenience is produced by the number of candidates, he should prefer a more extended competition. Yet the hon. Gentleman quotes Mr. Waddington as one of the witnesses to whose evidence justice has not been done. I do not wish to weary the House with extracts; but still, as we have been charged with misrepresenting the evidence, it is necessary to show that the charge is without foundation. Mr. Hammond is my hon. Friend's last witness, and he says (Q. 3,433) that he is— Perfectly satisfied with the clerks who have been appointed since competition has been established; he has no reason to doubt that they will come up to the standard required. And now I think I have done something to refute the charge brought against us if I show that four out of the five gentlemen cited by my hon. Friend have given answers which, in a more or less degree, are favourable to the system of competition, while the fifth, whose evidence is partially unfavourable, is quoted at full length in the Report. I now pass on to a minor matter, and I do not think my hon. Friend dealt quite fairly with the House when he read out the list of questions which excited so much amusement. They were not questions put by the Civil Service Commissioners, or to candidates for the Civil Service, and, therefore, have nothing to do with the evidence taken before this Committee, but they were introduced in the present discussion because it was thought that they would throw ridicule or odium on the system. It is not my business to defend the aptness of every particular question asked by every Examiner, and in the list read by the hon. Member there were some which, perhaps, had better not have been put. At the same time I think that, even in reference to these questions, justice has not been done by the manner in which they have been quoted, because anybody who heard my hon. Friend read them out would suppose that these were questions which every candidate was expected to answer. So far from that I find that the five or six subjects for English composition which excited so much amusement have been selected, not at random, but very ingeniously for his purpose, from a list of sixty-nine subjects, on any one of which a candidate might write his essay. If you are to have a test of English composition, a considerable latitude of choice must be given, and it cannot affect the general character of the examination that some out of a long list of questions had better not have been put. Then my hon. Friend says, "Why did you not examine other witnesses besides those which you called?" I do not think that either members of the diplomatic body or military officers are at all likely to know so much of the requirements of the Civil Service as those witnesses whom we did examine. I deny most strenuously that we refused to call any witnesses on the ground that their views were hostile to the views of a majority of the Committee. I know enough of the feeling of those with whom I sat to feel assured that if there was any bias in the matter they would be more scrupulous of hearing in the fullest extent the case of those who constituted a minority rather than the case of those whose views they themselves supported. Both parties were fairly represented. Our discussions were animated, and not brief, and no complaint was ever made by any Member of the Committee that material evidence was excluded. With regard to the more general question of limited or unlimited competition, I almost hesitate to go into arguments which have been so often reiterated. But I must just observe that my hon. Friend cuts the ground altogether from beneath his feet when he says—not very consistently with his former remarks— that he does not object to a mere pass test, however severe. The strongest argument for a competitive examination is that a mere pass test can never be kept up. When there are the interests of the candidate on one side and only the interest of the public on the other, there is always an inclination to lower the test, and make the admission easier; and thus a test which at the beginning is very strict often ends in being no test at all. But the moment you introduce the competitive element that difficulty altogether vanishes, because, although an Examiner may be inclined to show tenderness to a candidate who ought not to pass, he has no possible motive to favour one candidate in preference to another. My hon. Friend complains that when a competitive examination is the mode of entering the service a man's career depends on the accident of his examination being successful. No doubt, no test that you can devise, whether intellectual or otherwise, can be absolutely conclusive. Accident plays a large part in all human affairs. All men do better at one time than they do at another. But when it is said that a man's career may turn on an accident, let us look at the matter on the other alternative. Is it not better that a man's career should depend on the accident that he has done a little better or a little worse on one particular day than on average occasions, than that it should turn on the accident of his having been born in a small constituency, whose representative is intimate with a Minister having a good deal of patronage at his command? It has often been said, and may be said again to-night, that the system gives irresponsible patronage to the Examiners. But, replying to that in advance, I say that I can as little conceive that the system gives to the Examiners an irresponsible patronage over the Civil Service appointments, as I can conceive that the Judges of the land have an irresponsible power over property because they decide the disputes of those who come before them as litigants. The hon. Gentleman has proved that the Examiners are not irresponsible; for he, and another hon. Friend of mine on a former occasion, have given ample proof of willingness to criticise whatever they may do amiss. Their decisions—I do not mean in individual cases, but the general principles upon which those decisions are formed—are subject to the criticism, and, if need be, to the censure of the House, and that responsibility is much more likely to be enforced than the responsibility of a person holding a judicial office. We do not complain of the irresponsibility of a magistrate or a County Court Judge when they judicially decide on cases which come before them; and yet it is very difficult to say that the magistrate who sentences a man to imprisonment, and the County Court Judge who tries claims to considerable property, do not exercise quite as important powers as the Examiners when they decide that a man shall or shall not enter the Civil Service. Then, there is the old objection of "cramming." If, when the word is used, it is meant to apply to a candidate who learns for the purpose of the examination by rote something which he does not understand, then, in that strict sense, cramming is one of the rarest things possible to happen, because it is much more difficult for a man to learn that which he does not understand in order to reproduce it from memory on paper, than to learn that which he does understand. If all that is meant by cramming is that candidates acquire a good deal of knowledge for the examination which they afterwards contrive to forget, I do not deny that cramming takes place; but to it I see no objection. "We all of us at some period of our lives do the same. Counsel, who have to get up briefs, or Members of this House who wish to speak on questions of the day, must prepare themselves in much the same manner; and I believe there is no better test of a capacity for business in its higher branches than the power to acquire accurately, and to reproduce easily, knowledge which has been gained for the occasion. A good deal has been said as to the test being an intellectual test, and not a test of moral character. My answer to that is that in the case of the Civil Service Commissioners there is precisely the same test of moral character as in the case of patronage exercised by a Minister. Any one against whom anything is known is not admitted; and it is idle to say that the knowledge of a Minister as to the persons whom he is appointing goes further than that. I do not defend the system of competition merely on the ground that it is an assistant to public education. Of course, the object is to get the best men to carry on the work of the Civil Service; and we ought not to sacrifice that object to any other consideration, however important. But there is one point which we ought to consider, and it is this:—I believe that any person who is interested in our Parliamentary form of Government and in the purity of public life must be glad to do that which in him lies to diminish—I do not say that kind of patronage which is exercised before the public, the right of appointing to high and important places, because that right is generally exercised in a very fair spirit—but to diminish or restrict that kind of patronage which, from its unimportance, is not exercised under any check or control from public opinion, and which, nevertheless, in some constituencies, may be as effective a means of demoralization as the most open bribery. I do not mean to dwell upon that. I should have been prepared to go into a general discussion; but before doing so I should have preferred to hear more fully what can be said on the other side. My chief object is to vindicate the fairness of the conclusions to which the Committee came, and to show that the Report is fairly founded upon the evidence before us. And if the House will only bear in mind the instances which the hon. Gentleman has himself selected, and the comments which I have made on those instances, I think they will not come to the conclusion that we have abused the important power which the House reposes in every Committee—that of investigating and reporting upon facts which from their multiplicity and minuteness cannot possibly be examined in detail by the House itself.


maintained that the opinion he had on a former occasion expressed—that the Civil Service Commissioners possessed an irresponsible power—was a correct one. He had heard nothing at present to confute it. The noble Lord who had just resumed his seat had compared them to County Court and other Judges; but he saw no affinity between them; the one had to decide upon a right, the other upon the merits of a candidate. The Commissioners were not only completely irresponsible, even to public opinion, but they contended that if they were once made responsible their utility would be gone; and, therefore, it was that they declined to give the grounds on which they arrived at their decision, contending that nobody had any right to make any inquiry into the course of proceeding which they might have followed; yet on that decision rested the patronage of all the public offices in this country. He asked the House was that a position which could be maintained for one moment? and whether the Government could point to any; other body of men who were totally irresponsible? He had ventured to impugn that position last year, and inasmuch as it had been now alluded to, he had thought fit to revert to this question of responsibility, and to show that by their own language they would consider that if once they were made responsible they would be rendered useless.


I do not rise to trouble the House with anything like a reply to the speech of the hon. Member who introduced the subject, for it would be quite superfluous to do so after the able speeches of the hon. Member for the Queen's County (Mr. Hennessy) and the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley). The hon. Member who has just sat down has very judiciously avoided any defence of the statements of the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. B. Cochrane), and has raised another issue which forms no part of the proposition in the Motion. I really must appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton as to the manner in which he has treated this question. I believe him to be the last man in the House who would be guilty of wilful misrepresentation; but, through, the inveteracy of the prejudices—I might almost say of the passions—with which he has approached the discussion of the subject, he has certainly fallen into unconscious misrepresentation. For instance, my hon. Friend cited Sir James Stephen as a witness to the admirable condition of the Civil Service in the golden age prior to the introduction of these abominable examinations; but the passage which he quoted refers to a totally different matter, and embodies Sir James's opinion on the competitive system, which, as all the world knows, was unfavourable in the last degree. Sir James Stephen, in his evidence, divided the civil servants in the Colonial Department into three classes:—The first class, he said, comprised the narrow circle of men of admirable abilities; and the second the men who performed their duties diligently and faithfully. Sir James went on to say— The members of the third class, who formed the majority of the members of the Colonial Department in my time"—ranging from 1812 to 1818 or 1850—"possessed only in a low degree, and some of them in a degree almost incredibly low, either the talents or habits of men of business, or the industry, zeal, or knowledge required for the effective performance of their appropriate functions.


I believe I copied accurately the passage which I read from Sir James Stephen's evidence.


I have no doubt my hon. Friend did so. What I say is that it referred to a different point from that on which he claimed the support of Sir James Stephen's opinion. Sir James, however, told us further how the large class of inefficient men whom he had described came to hold office. He said— The members of that class to which I have given the designation of the third class were, without exception, men who had been appointed to gratify the political, domestic, or personal feelings of their patrons—that is, successive Secretaries of State. I am somewhat surprised that my hon. Friend should presume to challenge the fairness of the Report of the Committee, regardless of the fact that it was composed of men to whom the House gave their confidence, that it embraced every shade of opinion, and that the view adverse to competition was backed up by the support of two Secretaries to the Treasury on opposite sides of the House, who found no reason to appeal against the decision of the Committee. Yet my hon. Friend comes down armed with a great blue book, reads certain passages, selected in the manner of which the noble Lord opposite has exhibited the fairness, and calls on the House to reverse the decision of the Committee. A stranger proposal I have in my Parliamentary experience scarcely ever heard. I regret for the sake of my hon. Friend himself, but also for the sake of others, the keenness and warmth with which he presses this question. I cannot think that he is sufficiently mindful of what we owe to the Civil Service Commissioners. It is beyond dispute that these Gentlemen are engaged in the performance of a duty which is in itself a very difficult one, and which, moreover, they have to fulfil in the face of great pressure from personal and selfish interests. They are the friends and champions of the public interests against interests of another character—very watchful interests, which, without the countenance which they receive from the hon. Member, are always sufficiently vigilant and determined in carrying out their purposes. I think that Gentlemen in that position are entitled to be spared being made the subjects of ridicule and sarcasm, especially of ridicule and sarcasm founded upon selections of questions made with so much, I am sure involuntary, but substantial unfairness as those of my hon. Friend. What I think most unfair in his mode of dealing with this subject was that in the early part of his speech he led us to suppose that he was dealing with questions asked of candidates for situations in the Civil Service, strictly so called, and proceeded to quote a number of questions which we imagined were to be put to letter carriers, clerks, or tidewaiters; and it was not until he was interrupted in a very timely manner by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn that he, with apparent reluctance, disclosed that the questions as to the component parts of stone and the submersion of the British islands were not to be asked of letter carriers, tidewaiters, or clerks, but of gentlemen who were intended for the service of Engineers, and who, therefore, absolutely required a knowledge of those subjects. The persoverence of my hon. Friend is so great that I have no doubt that even, although his Motion is negatived to-night, he will return to the charge; but I do beseech him, if he does so to make his attack, if he pleases, with so much courage and as determined a spirit as he has shown to-night, but, at the same time, with greater care, with greater fairness, and a more anxious desire to do justice, not merely to the feelings, for that is but a small matter, but the efficiency of those gentlemen who were engaged in most important duties. My hon. Friend is very zealous for a test examination; but I am afraid that the reason he is so fond of such an examination is that for which other persons dislike it. If we could really keep a test examination up to the mark, I do not think that there is much to be said against it. That, however, is impossible; and, knowing that defection is the necessary law of test examinations—that they are perpetually tending downwards, therefore it is that my hon. Friend professes his inclination and admiration for them. I will not enter more at length into this subject, which has been succinctly, but very ably treated by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn; but I must tell the hon. Member for Honiton that he quite misapprehends the ease when he speaks of the discussion in which he has been engaged, and the system which now exists, as one of competitive examination. The truth is, it has been only to a very limited degree a question of competitive examination. It would, indeed, be absurd to think that such a system could be brought to a final test and judgment upon the evidence which is now in our possession. It appears to me that the Committee upon the whole took a judicious course in not attempting to make any great change of principle in this system, but endeavouring to make it what it professes to be, and to provide that it shall be really, even though to a limited extent, a system of competition. The main object of the Committee was to provide that the competition, which now exists should have a certain foundation which should be given to it by a previous test examination. As my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes) has said, the competion under the present system is in many cases almost nugatory; it may, in some instances, happen that all the candidates are unfit to stand. At all events, we cannot judge fairly of the principle of the present system until by some such means as are recommended by the Committee a test examination shall be introduced, in order to insure the reality of the subsequent competition. I think that the evidence which has been quoted, especially that of Mr. Waddington, who, though formerly an opponent of, has now given his sanction to, the principle of a limited competition, shows that this system, as far as it has gone, has upon the whole done good. If we desire to prevent a recurrence to the intolerable abuses of the old system, and to secure the full benefit of the new one, we must proceed in the spirit of the cautious and judicious recommendations of the Committee; and if we do not try anything of a broader character let us at least endeavour to insure the reality of that competition which we have adopted as the condition of first entrance into the lower offices of the public service.


said, that after the language in which the right hon. Gentleman had addressed his hon. Friend, the Member for Honiton, and the severity with which he had challenged his statements, he should not be acting fairly to his hon. Friend as one who thought with him if he did not say a few words upon the subject. The reference of the right hon. Gentleman to the opinions of Sir James Stephen was a fair sample of the mode in which Motions of this kind were always met. They urged that this system was causing the decay of the Civil Service, and were answered by being told that before that system was introduced there existed great abuses. It was true that Sir James Stephen had spoken in severe terms, which were indignantly pro- tested against at the time, of the old Civil Service as it existed in his time; but it was equally true that he had spoken in terms still stronger and still more contemptuous against the system of competition. The right hon. Gentleman, the noble Lord, the Member for King's Lynn, and his hon. Friend, the Member for the King's County, had all relied much upon the verdict of the Committee; but, constituted as that Committee was, consisting as it did of ten eager competitionists, of four who were opposed to competition, and of one Gentleman whose opinions were not decided, its Report could not be held to be a fair representation of the opinion of the House of Commons, nor was it a tribunal to which any one could appeal with confidence. Nothing could have been more unjust than to charge his hon. Friend with garbling the extracts which he read from the evidence, and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, taking the opinions of the whole of the witnesses, his hon. Friend had not rather understated than overstated his case? The opinions which Sir Thomas Fremantle obtained from public servants engaged in the Custom House would show whether or not his hon. Friend had misrepresented the facts. One gentleman said that there was about the clerks who had been appointed under the new system a self-sufficient presumption arising from imagined intellectual superiority. Another gentleman spoke of "a desire for literature in business." Another complained of "a fondness for discussion, argumentative display, and private reading and writing during office hours." One head of a department complained that his clerks looked upon their duties as beneath their abilities, and another stated that "the clerks possessing more intellectual abilities than their duties require become dissatisfied with the motony of their occupations, and are less valuable than clerks of sufficient though less attainments." These were strong and important statements, especially coming as they did, not from private individuals, but from heads of Departments, who suffered from the defects of which they complained. His noble Friend complained that a charge of unfairness had been impliedly made against the Committee, and had not been substantiated by evidence in detail. The Committee had certainly not given to the evidence of the Custom-house officers the weight which they deserved; but there was a far stronger point against them.

The Committee reported directly in favour of open competition; while, with the exception of Mr. H. Chester, who was a member of the Society of Arts, all the heads of Departments had pronounced an opinion strongly against it. Sir Thomas Fremantle, Mr. Tilly, Sir Benjamin Hawes, Mr. Romilly, Sir Richard Bromley, Mr. Sargeant, and Mr. Waddington had, among others, said that open competition would be injurious to the public service, and some of them had used the strongest terms in expressing their opinion; yet the Committee had, despite that fact, reported that the evidence which they had received was in favour of open competition. Now it appeared to him to be impossible to adduce a stronger case of a verdict against evidence. But if he were to make any positive charge of unfairness in the matter, it would be with respect to the composition of the Committee, who, not unnaturally, drew up a Report in accordance with the opinions which the majority of its members were from the first known, to entertain. He had risen to repel the attack made upon his Friend, the Member for Honiton, and would not, therefore, further pursue that subject. But he would express his surprise that the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Oxford, should, with his experience, have endorsed the opinion that test examinations were incapable of being maintained at the level on which they were originally placed. That the noble Lord, the Member for King's Lynn, who was a Cambridge man, should entertain that view he should not be so much astonished; but, be that as it might, there was at Oxford a certain standard fixed to which every candidate was expected to come up, and, although that system had been going on for the last thirty or forty years, he had not the slighest complaint that the standard had been lowered either in deference to the wishes of the parents of the candidates, or from other causes; the complaint, on the contrary, being that it had risen year by year. It was, he might add, unjust to charge those who took the same view of the subject under discussion as he did with being animated by a desire to set themselves in opposition to merit or to protect ignorance. The first question in reference to persons seeking public employment should be as to their merit; and for his own part, he was ready to admit that examinations properly conducted were, to a certain extent, a very efficient means of ascertaining merit. While, however, he made that admission he could by no means concede that because a man was found to possess some scholarly and literary merits, he was, as a matter of course, fitted to be appointed to a clerkship in a public office, or to be nominated to an ensigncy in a Inarching regiment. There ought, he maintained, to be some sort of connection between the examination to which a candidate was subjected and the profession which he was about to adopt. The supporters of the present system discovered that a youth could compose an eloquent panegyric on Garibaldi, or turn love verses into the form of a Latin elegy, and then they were ready to make him a clerk in an office, to post up accounts, or send him to govern a whole district in India. To proceed upon that system was, however, he should contend, just as absurd as it would be to appoint a man Archbishop of Canterbury because he happened to be a good rifle shot, or to give him the command of an army in the field because he was able to preach an effective sermon. It was this incompatibility to which the opponents of this system objected. It was said that this system worked equally well for the candidates as for the public service, and that there was nothing so onerous or burdensome to a candidate for a public appointment as to have to loiter in antechambers seeking for the patronage to great men. Now, for his own part, he was far from desiring that that should be the case; but having adverted to the point, he might be permitted to draw attention to the injury which was inflicted on the candidate under the present system. Great eulogiums had been passed on the Civil Service Commissioners, and he should be the last to seek to detract from their merits; but he must, at the same time, remind the House that those eulogiums were beside the question. Parliament, in dealing with the subject under discussion, was legislating, not for a few years but for all time, and it might be that new Commissioners with very different characters from the present might be appointed under very different circumstances. Bearing those considerations in mind, he should endeavour to point out to the House the injury which was by the existing system inflicted on the candidate. That system had, he should contend, been justly called a system of irresponsible patronage. It was, indeed, sought to be maintained that the Judges of the land might, with as much propriety, be called irresponsible as the tribunal to which he was adverting. There was, however, the striking difference between the Judges and the Commissioners that the former transacted their business in the light of day, and that their proceedings were published in the newspapers and freely commented upon by the community at large—so that if it should happen by any chance that one of their body was found to be corrupt or incapable, public opinion might immediately be brought effectually to bear upon the matter; the Civil Service Commissioners, on the other hand, conducted their proceedings in the dark, ascertaining from written papers what the merits of the several candidates were, deciding upon those merits without any publicity, and pronouncing a decree from which, though it might involve the success or ruin of a young man, no appeal was allowed, either to a superior Judge appointed to revise the verdicts of his inferiors, or, as was proved by the experience of last year, even to the House of Commons itself. Without, therefore, wishing to say one single word which could be construed as offensive to the Commissioners, he could not help declaring it to be his opinion that such a system as that of which he was speaking was fraught with danger in a constitutional country like England. They had no right to hand over that patronage of the Crown which escaped public attention to men who judged in the dark, who had no check from publicity, and from whose decision there was no appeal; and he believed the House of Commons would before many years be disposed to look upon the question in a much more serious light than was at present the case. There was as yet, he was aware, no chance of inducing hon. Members to set aside a system on behalf of which it might, perhaps, with some reason be urged that it had not yet had a fair trial; but he could not, at the same time, help saying that he did not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer was justified in charging those who held opposite opinions on the question from himself with being neglectful of the public service, because they had deemed it their duty to point out the vices of a tribunal which had no parallel in England.


said, lie thought that if the remarks of the noble Lord could be said to be directed against any body in particular that body was the House of Commons, who had, he con- tended, appointed an unfair Committee. If, he might add, the noble Lord was BO strongly opposed to the composition of that Committee as he seemed to be, he, among other Members, ought to have objected to its appointment. He thought, however, that the fairness of the Committee was to be inferred from the modification of its Report, which did not go to the full length of either opinion. The noble Lord was evidently very much dissatisfied with that Report; and, for himself, as a pledged competitionist, be might say that lie also was, in a certain degree, dissatisfied, or rather unsatisfied, with the extent to which it went. The Committee stated that they were undoubtedly of opinion that the evidence which they took made strongly in favour of open competition, but that they were anxious to avoid such precipitancy in the adoption of the system as might lead to a reaction in public feeling. They then proceeded to advise the adoption, not of a system of open, but of limited competition, founded on nomination. The evidence which they received from the public servants, he might add, was to the effect that the present system was successful so far as it went, that it required to be developed, but that they regarded it as not having been sufficiently tried to enable them to speak with sufficient confidence With respect to it. Of the witnesses, of whose impartiality there could be no doubt, an immense majority was favourable to the present system. Seven or eight gentlemen holding high office—Mr. Hammond, Sir Benjamin Hawes, Mr. Romilly, Mr. Sargent, Mr. Trevor, and Major Graham—in the different departments, all spoke of the system as having worked well; the evidence of two other witnesses did not touch the particular question; and there were but four witnesses who, on the whole, objected cither to the system of examination or to that of competition. Mr. Lingen, of the Education Board, who objected to competition, confined himself entirely to theory, and did not adduce any facts in support of his arguments. Mr. Arbuthnot of the Treasury was peculiarly placed, being, in fact, the representative of the old body of civil servants. In his opinion the system worked well with regard to the superior clerks in the Treasury, and, no doubt, it excluded dunces; but, with reference to the supplementary clerks, be thought it bad worked unfavourably. Happening to know something of the condition of the supplementary clerks he cross- examined Mr. Arbuthnot, and elicited that the discontent prevailing among them was in no way caused by competitive examination, but arose from the erroneous and false system of salaries which was adopted. Sir Thomas Fremantle, though favourable to the system in one or two points, was, on the whole, decidedly opposed to it, and that fact was in no way disguised by the Report of the Committee, but his evidence was fully and fairly set forth. However, as additional opportunities were afforded of investigating the statements made anonymously by officers at the outports, the extraordinary stories about persons physically unfit for duty who were appointed by the Civil Service Commissioners, to the exclusion of others in every way qualified, had entirely broken down; for it turned out, as would be seen by reference to the last Report of the Civil Service Commissioners, that every one of the incompetent persons was originally nominated and recommended by these very officers at the outports who now complained of them. The Civil Service Commissioners recommended a scheme in which physical qualifications would be the test, and Sir Thomas Fremantle, he believed, adopted that scheme. His noble Friend stated that some of the gentlemen appointed were very high and mighty, and altogether above their business. But in the good old times, when men were selected by patronage, he had known a case in which a man was appointed a tidewaiter who was son to an influential voter in a certain borough, which had the honour of returning a Cabinet Minister. He soon found that the post was very much below his deserts, and he declared that he would get his influential friends to remove him; but in the meantime he became so insubordinate that he had to be dismissed. He went to his right lion. Friend and succeeded in getting appointed to another situation, which he held for two or three years; but ultimately he had to be again dismissed for insubordination by the successor of the right hon. Gentleman. Yet this had happened under the patronage system—that golden age, which was now broken up. Mr. Tilley, of the Post Office, said the effect of the Civil Service Examinations was to render it impossible to get proper persons to execute the duties of sorters, letter-carriers, and other inferior officers. But, on cross-examination, he admitted that the best remedy would be in open competition, and that no difficulty whatever existed in getting men from a similar class for the police. The Commissioners wrote to the Postmaster General, proposing that the system, which was apparently favoured by Mr. Tilley and Mr. Trollope, should be adopted. The Duke of Argyll, who was then locum tenens at the Post Office, approved the suggestion, and, physical qualifications having been adopted as the test, the minor appointments were thrown perfectly open to competition; but on the accession to office of Lord Stanley of Alderley, without a single reason assigned, the open system and the physical test were abolished, and the appointments at the Post Office were replaced on their old footing. He did not mean to impute anything improper to Lord Stanley of Alderley, who might have had very good reasons for the course which he adopted; but it was unfair in the same breath to complain of the educational qualifications required by the Civil Service Commissioners as impediments, and to repudiate the improvements which they suggested. The matter ought to be treated in a different spirit. The Commissioners had no wish to interfere with the Departments, but they entertained a belief—which he was persuaded was the right one—that if good men were wanted the appointments should be thrown open to competition. Sufficient evidence had been obtained to show that there was not the slightest inconvenience or danger in open competition, and were it adopted the absurd difficulties which arose from the attempt to enforce a test examination would cease to exist. The way in which the evidence and opinions elicited by the Commissioners had been quoted was most extraordinary. He wished to call the attention of the House to what Sir James Stephen said in evidence, which, in the report of Sir Charles Trevelyan, himself was described as the "evidence of an eminent public officer." In that statement he said that he remembered only four instances in which young men had been introduced into the public service on the ground of eminent fitness. After having attacked the system of open competition, Sir James went on to say that in order to provide a remedy for the evils which existed in his time he would subject each nominee to an examination, to be conducted by strangers to the Government, by men of indisputable learning and integrity, who would admit every candidate who had attained a certain standard of knowledge and reject those who had not. [Mr. B. COCHRANE: He says more.] It was quite true that Sir James Stephen did speak of the rashness of plunging into deep dark waters without first making an experimental attempt; but such an attempt had been made. A Committee was appointed last year on the Motion of his lion. Friend the Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy), and after a full inquiry the Committee made a conscientious Report which, while not going the length to which the private opinion of certainly a large majority of the Members extended, recommended a small tentative experimental advance on the existing system. One witness spoke strongly against the competitive system. He alluded to Sir Richard Bromley, who was in favour of preserving nominations, and said he trusted the system would never be carried to open competition; adding that, as an old public servant, he hoped he should never see the tie which existed between Members of the House of Commons and the public service severed. But what did Sir Richard Bromley say in 1854? Why, he complained that in some branches of the public service there was a want of that moral tone which was so essential in the common affairs of life; and he spoke of men of talent seeing their inferiors advancing before them. Sir Richard Bromley's principal objection to the abolition of the nomination system seemed to be that it would deprive Members of that House of the advantage of putting their relatives and friends into public offices. He believed that to be at the bottom of the whole thing. His hon. Friend had read the titles of some of the essays which candidates were required to write; but there, were others which he might have read with equal advantage. One of these was "Write a letter as to a friend describing the nature and duties of the office for which you are a candidate, and the qualifications you have for it." Another was "Write a letter applying for any place or situation, and mentioning any reason you have in support of your application." Under the existing system there might be a number of able young men, fit to enter the public service, but who could not get nominations because the party with which they had influence did not happen to be in power. Such young men watched every division in that House, and every election; but perhaps the change did not come till they were too old. That was a state of things which we should put an end to as soon as possible. He believed we should never get rid of it till we adopted that which we must soon come to—a system of open competition.


said, he was a Member of the Committee, and he quite admitted that the Report of the Committee was not so strong as he could have wished. At the same time he fully admitted the fairness and impartiality with which the noble Lord had summed up the evidence. The hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to establish that great injury was being done to individuals by the present system. In reply to that he would refer to the evidence of Major Graham, who was appointed the chief of a new office, which was improvised in 1836, that of the registry of births, marriages, and deaths. Mr. Graham said that on the occasion of the establishment of that office many persons were appointed to situations in it who were very objectionable, through age, broken health, bad character, or want of proper qualifications. One person had been a fraudulent debtor, another had been guilty of fraudulent acts, a third was unable from ill health to associate with his fellow-clerks—he had been obliged to live in a separate room, and afterwards died; others were inefficient. The deputy registrar performed no duty for fifteen months; the duties of another officer were transferred to the solicitor to the Treasury. Twelve of the least efficient had been dismissed in 1852, eleven or twelve had been removed afterwards, and four had been dismissed for disgraceful conduct. Now, a new system might have to be improvised any day; but a competitive system would exclude some of the least competent and worst qualified. If a Government were to remain in office, say for ten years or longer, a large class of the community would be deprived of advantages which ought to be open for the benefit of all. He (Mr. Maguire) had been asked over and over again for nominations. But he was compelled to refuse, knowing that in order to obtain them a Member must be a thick and thin supporter of the Government, and if he were to obtain a place the Secretary of the Treasury would look extremely black if he happened lo see him in the opposite lobby. This was not only degrading to a Member of the House, but it impeded his free action. The noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) had said that the present system made the members of the service dissatisfied. But he (Mr. Maguire) had inquired into this, and he found that in no case had this dissatisfaction led to insubordination; men gradually became satisfied with the positions they occupied. Mr. Fremantle, in his examination, was obliged to admit that the Government themselves were not anxious for the exercise of this power. But though it was a source of inconvenience to them, they were unwilling to give it up, as a source of power. Even in the case of candidates who failed, the education and examination which they went through was no loss to them; a class of better educated men was an advantage to the country; they had an increased stock of intellectual power, and were animated by a spirit of emulation. He cordially hoped to see the question carried further by the House.


wished to explain that the noble Lord had misunderstood his statement with regard to Sir James Stephen's evidence. What he meant to say was that Sir James Stephen preferred the system which prevailed in 1855 to the system of competitive examination, which it was then proposed to introduce. The noble Lord complained that he had not proved his assertions from the evidence; but he had been unwilling to trespass on the time of the House by quoting his authorities, and his statement that the Report was not justified by the evidence, had been borne out by the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes). In the present state of the House, so many of his hon. Friends having left their seats, he would not trouble the House to divide. He would, therefore, with the permission of the House, withdraw his Amendment.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Put, and agreed to.