HC Deb 25 July 1864 vol 176 cc2034-9

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time." —(Viscount Palmerston.)


said, he had opposed the Bill at every stage, and it was rather singular that the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the measure was never in his place when the Order was called. He was always out of the House when the discussion commenced. On a former occasion he ventured to say it was irregular that an opposed Bill should be moved by any one except the Minister in charge of it; and he begged leave to ask the opinion of the Speaker on that point.


said, the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench were responsible for such Bills.


It is an Order of the House.


said, that petitions had been addressed to the House by medical officers in Her Majesty's Indian service, complaining that the Indian Government were treating them very badly. Only a few days ago a petition was laid on the table from the College of Surgeons, reciting the grievances of these gentlemen, the gist of the statement being that changes had been introduced by the Government to the disadvantage of medical officers belonging, not only to the Indian, but also to the Home service. Under these circumstances the number of candidates for medical appointments had declined in proportion as the Government injured the service. In 1858 an Act was passed providing that all medical appointments in India should be given by open competition. The Secretary of State alleged that open competition had failed, because the number of candidates had fallen off more and more every year; but that result was attributable not to the failure of competition, but to the ill-treatment of the service. The right hon. Gentleman, instead of redressing the grievances of the medical men, proposed to do away with open competition and to appoint an efficient body of medical officers, thus endangering the safety of the Indian army. The Bill had been brought in late in the Session, and hurried through to its last stage without opportunity being given for discussion in anything like a complete House. It proposed, in lieu of the present statutory regulation under which the appointments were made, to place the old and arbitrary power of selection in the hands of the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman said he intended to obtain medical men for India from the Queen's army; but the army of the Queen itself was at that moment inadequately supplied with medical men. The right hon. Gentleman asked them to repeal the only statute which established open competition, and then he said he would avail himself of a warrant by which such competition was established. But that warrant might at any moment be withdrawn, and, moreover, the provisions of the Bill made no mention of it whatever. He begged, therefore, to move that the Speaker leave the Chair, in order that in Committee he might move the insertion of words which might make the Bill a useful measure.


said, he would second the Motion. The Queen's army, from which it was proposed to draw medical men for India, was most insufficiently provided with medical officers. If there was an army in the world which had a right to expect that no expense would be spared in supplying it with a proper medical staff, it was the British army. Some foreign armies might be more exposed to the bullet, but no army was so much exposed to every kind of climate. It seemed to be utterly impossible to make any impression on the Government on that subject. Even the disastrous experience of the Crimean war, in which thousands and thousands of men were sacrificed in consequence of the inadequacy of the medical staff, appeared to have been lost upon the Government. The medical service of the army was composed of a body of gentlemen who had never failed in their duty at home or abroad; but, owing to the treatment these gentlemen received, medical men of good standing could no longer be got to enter the service, and the Government were obliged to resort to the introduction of an inferior class of men. He protested on the part of the army against the manner in which the medical department had been treated, and unless something were done in the interval he would move an address to the Crown on the subject early next Session.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the words "That the," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "said Order be discharged,"—(Mr. Hennessy,) — instead thereof.

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


said, he wished to know whether the right hon. Baronet meant to do away with open competition. The refusal to answer that question created suspicion. He had reason to believe that the competitive system had succeeded well, and he made the statement, on the authority of an Indian medical officer. Several petitions, however, had been sent up to him that day for presentation to that House, protesting that the Warrant of 1858 had not been carried out. As things stood young men were deterred from entering the medical service; hut, if an alteration were made, the services of a highly educated body of men would be rendered available and their rights secured, As to drawing assistant-surgeons from the Queen's army, they were told the other night that for the last eighteen months the supply of that body had fallen short by forty men. There must be something radically wrong in the system, cither with reference to the position or the pay of these officers, for if they gave men sufficient encouragement to enter, there would be no difficulty in obtaining a proper supply.


said, that the hon. Member who spoke last had mixed up matters which bore no relation to each other. He had said he had several petitions to present from medical officers in India with reference to the Warrant of 1858, but he had entirely forgotten that there lay on the table the copy of a des-patch sent to India three or four months ago, and remedying the grievances of the existing medical service of India by putting it entirely on the same footing as to pay and allowances as the Queen's army occupied, according to the rank which the officers held. The hon. Member said the object of the Bill was to get rid of the competitive system, and to introduce into the Indian service an inferior class of medical officers. The hon. Gentleman must either not have heard or had forgotten the statements that he (Sir Charles Wood) had made on three or four occasions in that House. The competitive system had not failed in the Queen's army at home, but it had failed in respect to the Indian army. That was, of course, before the improvements had been made in the condition of the medical officers in that country. The object was to get a better description of men for the Indian service. All the assistant-surgeons entered the Queen's army by competition. It was not possible to introduce into the Bill all the regulations that would be necessary to be made, but those regulations would be laid before Parliament. The object of the Bill was to enable the Secretary of State to make certain regulations under which assistant-surgeons of the Indian army might be induced to enter the Indian army, and he believed that the advantages of Indian service were so great that many officers would be induced to avail themselves of the opportunity held out to them. There could be no object in requiring two examinations in such cases. The assistant-surgeon passed a competitive examination upon entering the Queen's army, and it would be useless to call upon him to undergo a second and similar examination upon transferring himself to the Indian service. There were also good medical schools in India from which men might also be drawn. After these explanations, he trusted the House would assent to the third reading of the Bill.


said, that having listened attentively to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he still entertained a belief that the object of the Bill was to get rid of a system which had been deliberately adopted by Parliament—the system of competition in the Indian medical service, and to substitute for it the arbitrary will of the Secretary of State. That was not an object which the House should sanction. It was said that there was a difficulty in getting medical officers for the Indian set vice, and the right hon. Gentleman told them that he was not going to get a worse class of officers than we had at present there. If so, there was no reason to depart from the present system. Let the right hon. Gentleman hold out proper temptations, and there would be a hundred candidates for each appointment. Either there was no reason for the Bill or the standard of efficiency was to be lowered. If, as the right hon. Gentleman assured them, he had introduced many important improvements in the condition of the Indian medical service there would be a sufficient number of candidates at, the next competitive examination. It was a mere question of demand and supply. If terms were proposed such as men of education could not accept, the right hon. Gentleman would not get a sufficient number of proper candidates. The right hon. Gentleman said he wanted to get assistant-surgeons from the Queen's army to enter the Indian service; but then they were told by the hon. and gallant Officer opposite that there was a difficulty in obtaining a sufficient number of assistant-surgeons for the Queen's army. The proposition had filled him with alarm, because he knew that there lurked in many departments a dislike to the whole system of competition. He believed that if the Bill were carried, although he was quite sure the right hon. Gentleman would not depart from his promises, yet in the course of a short time the competitive system would be destroyed root and branch. He implored the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Bill, and not to endeavour in the last days of the Session, by means of a Government majority, to pass a measure which could not be fairly discussed, and which appeared to be so opposed to a system which had received the sanction of Parliament.


said, he rose to join in the appeal. The provisions of the Bill appeared to him to be clear to substitute a system of patronage for a system of competition. He protested against a Bill which professed upon its face to confer unlimited powers being explained by a promise that those powers should only be exercised within a certain limit. That promise would no doubt be observed by the right hon. Gentleman, but he could not bind his successors If the Bill were passed, he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Monsell) in thinking that it would be fatal to the system of competitive examinations, As to the want of candidates for the Indian service, that was to be traced to the inadequate inducements that were held out, and he thought that nothing would be so unwise as to deal in a niggardly spirit with medical officers in such a climate as that of India. Those arrangements which would procure the most efficient medical officers for our troops in India would, in the end, he by far the cheapest arrangements this country could make.


said, he also would express a hope that the right hon. Baronet would not attempt to force the Bill through during that Session. The House should regard with jealousy any measure which tended in the smallest degree to destroy the competitive examination system.


expressed his entire approval of a local medical staff in India, as preferable to putting so many thousands of recruits into the hands of inexperienced persons. At the same time, he denied that the service proposed by the right bon. Baronet was necessary, seeing that the medical service in India was fast improving. He disapproved altogether of the removal of the existing tests, and would point out that while the right hon. Gentleman proposed to form a staff corps, by drawing from Her Majesty's service, there were at the present moment no less than 200 vacancies in that service.


said, he could not understand, if the object of the right hon. Gentleman was to do so little, why he should have taken power in the Bill to do so much. The fact was the service had been up to a recent time very unpopular, but candidates were increasing, and he hoped that as the improvement went on, if they increased sufficiently, the right hon. Gentleman would in the next Session bring in a Bill to do just what was wanted and no more.


asked, whether the right bon. Gentleman would produce the regulations for the information of the House?


said, that he could not produce the regulations before the Bill was passed, because he had no power to do so.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 44; Noes 46: Majority 2.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Order for Third Reading discharged.