HC Deb 28 June 1877 vol 235 cc452-63

rose to call attention to the new regulations in regard to candidates for the Indian Civil Service; and to move— That the regulations for the Indian Civil Service fail to fulfil the condition laid down, when it was opened for public competition, 'That the regulations would deal fairly by all parts of the kingdom and all places of liberal education,' inasmuch as they practically exclude the Scotch Universities, the Queen's Colleges, Ireland, and similar institutions in London and the provinces, from participation in the preparation of candidates, either before or after competition; and because they will act injuriously by tending to withdraw youths from public schools at an early age in order to place them under a course of special training for the entrance examinations. The whole subject was one of great importance, for it involved the future judicial and fiscal administration of the Indian Empire. It was not only of much interest to this country, for these important offices in India had become, by open competition, the inheritance of the whole nation, and not of a class. The influence which it had had upon the education of the middle classes was far from inconsiderable, as it had broadened our idea of school training all over the country. It was necessary to understand the present plan before they could approach the effect of the changes under the new regulations. The existing system was this—Any person might compete for the Civil Service of India between the ages of 17 and 21, and about 250 candidates competed, though only 30 or 40 were passed annually into the Civil Service. After the candidates were entered they became probationers, and received £150 a-year for two years, in order that they might be able to pursue their technical studies, and if they were then successful they could go to India. The change now proposed reduced the maximum age of 21 years to 19, and the candidate could not receive the £150 unless he studied at the University. These were the two changes proposed, and he hoped that Lord Salisbury had not made them without great consideration. His Lordship submitted three questions to the Indian authorities. The first was—"Does the system of open competition answer well, and are you getting good officials under that system? "The unanimous reply from India was in the affirmative, and Lord Salisbury, of course, took no action on that. The second question was—"As it is important for young men to go out early, ought the maximum age to be reduced from 21 to 19?" That was a serious change, which would alter the whole character of preparatory education for the Civil Service in India. Lord Salis- bury, in his despatch, said that Indian opinion was divided, because 38 were in favour of raising the age, and 27 for lowering it; and as they were so nearly balanced, he was obliged to act on his own opinion and that of his Council. That, however, was a most inaccurate way of giving the result of his inquiries, because a large proportion were in favour of leaving things as they were. The opinions were asked of 110 persons, including Judges, Members of Council, Governors, and Civil Servants. Of these, 41 were for leaving things as they were; 41 were in favour of raising the age to 22, 13 for making it 20, and 15 in favour of making it 19. So that the result of the whole of the Indian evidence was that 95 were against the age Lord Salisbury had adopted, and only 15 in its favour. So that Lord Salisbury was technically right in saying that Indian opinion was divided, though it was divided into two very unequal parts. But were English authorities in its favour? First of all the Civil Service Commissioners gave the most cogent reasons why the age of 21 should be retained in preference to 19; but Lord Salisbury said that the Universities were in favour of reducing the age to 19. There were 10 Universities in the United Kingdom, but Lord Salisbury only wrote to two, Oxford and Cambridge. Of those, the latter gave no opinion at all; and at Oxford Dr. Liddell said, reduce the age to 19. The other eight Universities were not consulted at all; so that when Lord Salisbury said the Universities were in favour of the change, he meant that Oxford was in its favour, for the other nine gave no opinion at all. He (Mr. Lyon Playfair) believed that this change arose from the double position Lord Salisbury held—he was Secretary of State for India and also Chancellor of Oxford. His Lordship naturally attached great importance to the distinguished University of which he was the head, and so the Chancellor of Oxford, moved by Oxford, reduced the age to 19 to suit Oxford. Oxford, in his opinion, was wise and India foolish, otherwise Oxford would not have prevailed. On the next point Lord Salisbury did go according to Indian opinion. He asked—"Do you attach much importance to University association and training for the men who go out to India?" and the great majority of the India reporters were in favour of that. The fact, however, was, that they were thinking of Haileybury in the olden time, and the esprit de corps which they got there, and which was so valuable. But that was exactly what they would not now get with the maximum age reduced to 19. The result would be that Oxford, with her wealthy University chest, would, as she was already doing, set up an Indian curriculum, with Indian tutors. Cambridge, which, as an University, was less wealthy, but which had rich Colleges, would do the same in probably a less degree. Then, probably, out of 80 probationers of the two years, 40, if not 50, would be supplied by Oxford, 20 by Cambridge, and the remainder would be dribbled in ones and twos over the Scotch, Irish, and the London Universities, Owens College, Manchester, and the Leeds and other Colleges. This might easily have been avoided. Association might be secured by a monopoly given to a single College at Oxford or Cambridge, but disassociation must result from freedom, even for the several Colleges of a single University to participate in the training. That was pointed out clearly by the Civil Service Commissioners, when the scheme was first broached in 1864. They showed that it might produce University feeling, but could not effect the Association of Haileybury. But University training could be had either before or after competition. Up to 1864, the maximum age had been 22, and then Oxford and Cambridge sent two-fifths of the candidates. On the reduction of the age to 21 they ceased to do so to a large extent, because as Undergraduates entered at 19, they could not graduate before 21. This reduction did not operate against the Scotch and Irish Colleges, as they entered students at 17, who could graduate at 20, and either enter the competition directly or go after a special training of six months. For this reason, both Scotland and Ireland sent many more candidates than corresponded to their population. Now, all that Oxford and Cambridge required was either to shorten their curriculum, or to receive Undergraduates intended for competition at an earlier age than at present. That, in fact, was contemplated in the impending reforms for those Universities. All that was necessary would have been to give 500 or 1,000 marks to all men who were B.A.'s from any part of the Kingdom. That would have given a great stimulus to candidates from Oxford and Cambridge, and the other Universities would have had a fair chance also. But Lord Macaulay had insisted on the importance of haying general before technical education. That was the experience of all professional training—a good studium generale first and technical training after. On that point, too, Indian opinion was very emphatic. Out of the 110 Indian reporters, no less than 101 said that the two years of probation were wholly required for such technical subjects as English, Anglo-Indian, Hindu, Mahomedan, and Roman Law; Indian History and Geography and Political Economy. But all that was new to Oxford and Cambridge. Their glory was to teach learning for its own sake, and regardless of its appliances, and now, regardless of their peculiar genius, they were going to convert them into mere technical schools. They could only do that also by tempting them with £12,000 of public money to become technical schools with a practical monopoly. This was, moreover, entirely contrary to the principle which the eminent Committee of 1854 laid down for the Civil Service in India. That Committee included Lord Macaulay, Mr. Lefevre, the father of the hon. Member for Reading, and other persons eminent for their knowledge of India, and they took the greatest trouble in forming a scheme. The principle laid down was that no part of the Kingdom and no school should be exclusively set apart for the Civil Service in India, and their rules accordingly dealt fairly with all parts of the Kingdom. The effect of the new scheme, on the contrary, would practically shut out all the Universities except Oxford and Cambridge, as they would not find it worth their while to set up an Indian curriculum with Indian tutors, and that being so Lord Salisbury would very properly not recognize them. The Scotch and Irish Universities, as he had shown, could not compete for the probationers, and they were now shut out from preparing them before competition. Because as their students could only graduate at 20, they could not now send students as before between 17 and 19. It was clear that candidates must now begin their special preparation at 15 or 16, a year before they could even enter the Universities. But what did Lord Salisbury himself say as to the effect of Scotch Universities on the history of our Indian Empire? His words were— It was undoubted that most of the great men to whom the Indian Empire was owing were Scotchmen, and that the Scotch Universities had done a noble work in preparing the Civil Servants for the administration of India. Then why exclude them for the future? Another effect of the change which he objected to was that it offered great facilities to the rich and shut out the poor. Hitherto the Scotch and Irish Universities had been remarkably successful in sending out poor men. But neither Scotland nor Ireland had great public schools like England, and it was owing to their Universities that poor men could get a good education. But in the future these could be of no use as regarded our Indian Empire to the poor inhabitants of those countries. It was a mistake, however, to suppose that the English public schools would be benefited by the new regulations. He had no doubt that it had been thought in the India Office that Eton, Harrow, Rugby, and other of our great schools would be able to send up men direct, but they had not been able to do so; the crammers had been able to beat them entirely, and they would do so in future. He had Lord Salisbury's authority for saying that the crammers must in the end win and remain masters, both of the schools and the Universities. To take a boy away from school and all his early associations, to deprive him of his best years of bright boyhood, and to place him in the hands of a crammer, was one of the most deplorable results of these new regulations. Lord Salisbury and his Council were, no doubt, much influenced in their change by the terrors that London was a bad and dangerous place for the training of probationers. The professed "moral responsibility" of Oxford and Cambridge had charms for him. He would not believe the Civil Service Commissioners when they said they had ascertained no evils of a London residence. Their words ought to be before the House— Further reflection and observation have tended to confirm the Commissioners in the belief that young men who have already given the best proof of steadiness and self-control by success in an arduous Commission, a system under which they are left free to choose for themselves the place and manner of their studies, is a better preparation for the perfect liberty which they are so soon to enjoy in India than any supervision that the discipline of a College could supply. If there were any real dangers in a London residence, the new Eegulations would increase them tenfold, because in future they were likely to apply to the great proportion of the 250 candidates who come up to the London Special Trainers, and not only to the few probationers. For by the new system they brought boys to London at a very much younger age, before they had attained any stability, and when the perils of London would be infinitely greater to them. But had London done such harm in the past? The Civil Service Commissioners stated in their Report that they had never had to refuse a certificate of good conduct to a probationer. He wanted to know what were the recommendations by which this change was supported? He had shown that they did not come from India—indeed, that Indian opinion was against the change. His complaint was best summed up in the terms of the Resolution of which he had given Notice; but which the Forms of the House prevented him from moving.


protested in the strongest manner against the important business of the evening—namely, the consideration of Votes in Supply—Votes which the Government stood in need of if they were to avoid national bankruptcy—being interfered with, if not wholly thrown aside, by no fewer than 35 Motions. The right hon. Gentleman had devoted a great deal of time to this question, and he had delivered an able and interesting speech, and he wished the speech had been made on some night when the House was not asked to vote money. He hoped the money would be voted that night, and that the Estimates would not be deferred to a late period of the Session, when there would be no opportunity for discussing them.


pointed out that the complaint of the hon. Member for Preston, that Supply was delayed by these Motions, was not well founded, it having been the immemorial practice of the House to discuss grievances before Supply, and the Government having through a recent concession the power to take as many Mondays as they pleased for the Estimates, when only grievances pertaining to those particular estimates could be brought up. His right hon. Friend had been deprived, by the action of the Government, from bringing on the Motion the last time it was on the Paper, and therefore Government could not complain of his doing it now. His right hon. Friend's able speech had been thrown away, for not only was he unable to take a division upon the subject, but very few of his Colleagues upon the front Opposition Bench had been present to support him, and six out of the seven or eight Members of the Ministry present had been fast asleep the whole time, and yet the speech was one well worthy of attention, but a debate always fell flat if a division could not be taken on it. The right hon. Gentleman had exposed the extremely insidious plan which had been devised by the Secretary of State for India who was the head of Oxford University, and who nominally in the interests of India had adopted a plan which was really prejudicial to India and would do no good to anybody except the University of Oxford. It was, in fact, an insidious plan for benefiting Oxford at the expense of all the other Universities and Colleges in the Kingdom.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Playfair), in his otherwise fair speech, had made one observation which seemed to be quite uncalled for, and it was that the duties of Secretary of State for India and Chancellor of the University of Oxford were incompatible. He also insinuated, as did also the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), that Oxford, and Oxford alone, owing to his noble Friend's position as Chancellor of that University, was to get the benefit of the changes referred to. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had thought it right to impute such motives to a Minister of the Crown. What the Secretary of State had mainly to consider was the interests of the Indian Civil Service. When Lord Salisbury came into office the system of competitive examination had been in existence for some time. It was, however, represented to him that the present system of training through which all candidates after competition had to pass was not the best that could be devised. Lord Salisbury took opinions on the subject, and. an overwhelming preponderance of representations came to him from India that the association of candidates after they had passed their examination would be most desirable. Under the former system every candidate was obliged to live in London for two years. He had no doubt that, on the whole, they behaved very well; but he would appeal to the parents of young men to say whether, if they had sons between 18 and 21, they would like under such circumstances to turn them loose in London for two years with the knowledge that the only control exercised over them during that period would be a periodical examination? Lord Salisbury kept the system of competitive examination intact; but he found that the only way to obtain the advantages of association was to induce the young men to go to the University. It was then necessary that the limits of age should be reduced, and the Secretary of State reduced the maximum age from 17 to 19, instead of 21. He accordingly laid down the rule that they must go to some College—giving a broad and liberal interpretation to the selection—and he said that only those who complied with this condition should have the allowance of £150 a-year, now given to them during their period of probation. It was never intended that this rule should exclude either the Irish or Scotch candidates. Dublin University had not protested against this arrangement, nor had he heard that either the Queen's Colleges or the Scotch Universities had been prevented from sending up their quota for the competitive examinations. There were probably certain institutions to which young men went at certain ages, and they might be affected by the new limits of age; but it was an entire delusion to suppose that the reduction of age would affect the candidates who came up from the Scotch Universities. He believed that the great majority of them left their Universities under the age of 19. The real complaint against the proposed alteration on the part of the Scotch Universities was that candidates would not be able to take their degrees previous to passing the competitive examination by which they could alone become eligible for the Indian Civil Service. He repeated, that what the India Office had to think of was the interest and con- venience of the Civil Service, and the majority of the India Council agreed with the Secretary of State in thinking that association was absolutely necessary for these young men. If this association could only be accomplished by reducing the age, the Secretary of State was bound to do what was best for India, even if it affected the interests of some Educational institutions. The scheme had not yet come into operation; but if it were found to be attended with prejudicial results, it would be proper and opportune on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to point out its disastrous effects. At present, to speak of such results, was prophetic anticipation. The best consideration had been given to the Regulations, which it was believed would operate beneficially, and which were not intentionally framed to exclude either Scotchmen or Irishmen. If in their operation they were found to have such an effect, representation of the fact would be listened to, and such alterations made as would remedy the evil.


acknowledged that in troubling the House with any remarks on that occasion he did so on personal grounds, because he was connected with one of the Scotch Universities—namely, that of Aberdeen, and he had had an opportunity of finding out what sort of men went to Scotch Universities, and, in his opinion, the hard work they had there fitted them for service to their country afterwards. That being so, they had to consider what was the effect of this Minute on those men. The noble Lord had said that they were not affected at all. They were affected very much indeed. The noble Lord said that they might get their education before they were 19; but at the present moment they passed their degrees at the University first, and then came up for examination. It was impossible for them to subject themselves to this examination and then go to the University afterwards. The effect of this system would be to exclude the students of Scotch Universities from the part which they had hitherto taken in the Indian Civil Service. One-tenth of the whole came from the Scotch Universities, and they would all acknowledge the ability with which that Service was conducted. The question was whether they would support and endorse a system the practical working of which would be to throw the Indian Civil Service into an Oxford or Cambridge College, more probably into an Oxford College? He did not consider that the argument for the association of young men before they went out to India carried conviction with it; for how could they secure association? The system might result in a special Oxford College for the purpose of the Indian Service; but he ventured to think it would be better if students had been left to run their chance of competing in an examination in London. He believed that some people entertained the idea that the moral conduct of the students would be better preserved by their being at Oxford rather than in London; but if they were so weak in their morale that they required that protection, so much the worse for the future government of India. He trusted that the scheme would be regarded as purely tentative, and he doubted whether this particular plan of giving a monopoly to a particular College of Oxford would answer.


said, the idea of there being any association necessary for the training of young men for the future government of India was a bit of nonsense. The simple question was whether a monopoly should be given to the English Universities. He had gone through a competitive examination, and he thought the examinations ought to be open to all young men who believed they were competent to go through the ordeal, and that they should not be confined to the sons of the great and independent, who had influence which was used for their relatives or friends. Some slight concession had been made by the Government to the Irish Universities; but the appointments were reserved principally for Oxford.


remarked that all those who had spoken against Lord Salisbury's scheme had spoken on behalf of Scotland and Ireland, and not of England. He believed that English University opinion was by no means unanimously in favour of Lord Salisbury's scheme. That opinion rather was that the attendance of students of one particular class at the University, taking no part in its ordinary work, would be a curse to the University and no great advantage to the students.


observed that if the facts stated by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Lyon Playfair) were correct, the opinion of those most competent to judge—namely, the Indian officials—had been given decidedly against the proposed change. Lord Salisbury thought it important to have the opinion of these officials for his guidance, and it now appeared that 95 were against the reduction of age and only 15 in its favour. If that were so, why should the opinion of those Indian officials be completely disregarded by the noble Lord? The proposed change would be a most serious interference with the interests of the Scotch and Irish Universities. He hoped the proposal would receive more consideration before anything was done in the matter.