HC Deb 01 May 1893 vol 11 cc1681-705
MR. HANBURY (Preston)

rose to call attention to the Report of the Royal Commission on Civil Establishments. Having pointed out that there was nothing of a Party nature involved in the question, he stated that in the year 1886 a Royal Commission was appointed by the late Government to inquire into the Civil Service generally, partly for the purpose of ascertaining how far the organisation under the Play fair scheme was working successfully, and how far the numbers and cost of the Civil Service generally might be reduced without any loss of efficiency to the Public Service. In September, 1888, the Commission issued its second Report, in which they made certain recommendations. The first was that means should be taken to ascertain with regard to each Department what the normal establishment of that Department should be; that power should be given to revise the strength of that Department from year to year, giving the Treasury or some body in the future the power to reduce these establishments as well as to check their growth, which latter was the only power the Treasury up to that time possessed. The second recommendation, briefly stated, amounted to this—that instead of having a large Upper Division and a Lower Division not very much larger, in future, in all Departments where there was a necessity for an Upper or First Division at all, it should be very much smaller, and that the great gulf hitherto fixed either by regulation or by practice between the first and second, or Upper and Lower Division, should be swept away once and for all, and that Lower Division clerks should have every opportunity of rising to a Higher Division, and that promotion should take place by merit only. Another recom- mendation was that there should be uniform regulations and rules governing the administration of all these Departments, and one reason for making that recommendation was in order to facilitate transfers which would have the effect of opening out greater chances of promotion for really efficient servants and enabling redundant clerks to be transferred from one Department to another. The Royal Commission, looking to the fact that in the first place the system of pensions was a very costly one indeed, and in the second place that under the existing system there were very few opportunities of removing from the Public Service servants who had either ceased to be competent or who had risen to a rank in the Service they were not fitted to occupy, felt that some means should be enforced by which these officers could be retired from the Service, and that at the same time there should be a system of pensions which, whilst doing justice to the valuable servants of the State, should cost something less than the system which had hitherto done so much to swell the Non-effective Vote. The first step which the Royal Commission suggested, in order to carry out their recommendations, was to appoint a body which, acting under the Treasury, should have more power to control the Public Service and the various Departments than had been the case up to the present time. The two main faults in connection with the Treasury control over the other Departments of the Civil Service were these:—It had hardly sufficient touch with the other Departments, and it was not able to take the initiative in reforming those other Departments, which he was inclined to think was somewhat aggravated by the fact that instead of the Treasury being a strong body drawing some of the more efficient servants from other public Departments to itself, whenever a good appointment was going in any other Department it sent away one of its own clerks, and so weakened the Treasury, which ought to be a strong controlling body in public administration. The object of the Report of the Royal Commission was to inaugurate a body which should be able to initiate reform; which should be more in touch with the rest of the Departments than the Treasury had been hitherto; and which would not merely be able to prevent any excess in numbers and salaries, but should always be able, when occasion arose, actually to reduce the numbers in a given Department. In order to do that, the Royal Commission recommended that every Department should at once be called upon to draw up a scheme showing exactly how many men would be required to form the Department and what salaries they should receive. He was sorry to say that that recommendation had not been carried out by all the Departments. The opinion of the Royal Commission was that all the Departments of the Civil Service should be treated as a whole, that they should all be subject to the same rules and regulations, and that there should be no privileged Departments. He hoped in future the Government would see that such was the case. There was one Department there was no excuse for—namely, the Foreign Office—which had actually refused to listen in any way to the Government or the Royal Commission, and had not formulated any scheme such as had been suggested. If there was one Department which wanted looking into, and thoroughly to have the public eye brought upon it, so that it should be treated in the same way as other Departments, it undoubtedly was the Foreign Office. There was another Department which had not formulated any scheme—namely, the India Office. He knew perfectly well that the India Office stood in a somewhat different position to the other Departments, because it was not paid for by the English ratepayers, but by the people of India. But he did think, in common justice to the people of India, although that Department could not be brought under the purview of the Royal Commission as not being paid for by the taxpayers of England, there was no reason why it should be treated differently to the other Departments, and the India Office ought to be forced to comply with the new regulations laid down for the Civil Service. This normal establishment, when once it could be formulated, was to be inquired into at once, and periodically. There was also to be a permanent Committee, consisting of an officer of the Treasury and the heads of four other Departments; and this new Committee was to be formed for the purpose, as was stated, of suggesting reforms, securing uniformity of regulations, and facili- tating transfers. The proceedings of this Committee were to be recorded. He did not find any Order of Council dealing with that permanent Committee; or that any steps had been taken to insure that its proceedings should be recorded or its recommendations put on record. He thought that record was an important matter, in order that they might see how often the Committee sat, what evidence was brought before it, and what recommendations were actually made. Nor was he able to see that in the future this permanent Committee was to have any initiation at all; but, as far as he could see, it was only to be called into action when the Treasury consulted it. The great complaint hitherto had been that the Treasury had no initiative, and, therefore, reforms in the Civil Service could not be regularly carried out; but if the Treasury, having no initiative itself, was to call into action a permanent Committee which in itself had no initiative, he was afraid they would be no nearer reform than they were before. He believed it was the fact that neither the Treasury nor the permanent Committee would in the future, any more than in the past, have any power to cut down numbers. That was very important indeed, because not only was it desirable to prevent establishments growing, but occasions might arise when it was quite possible, and indeed desirable, to reduce the numbers in a particular Department. He would pass to the second head of the recommendations of the Commission. The idea was that there should be a small Upper Division and a much larger Second Division, and that promotion from the bottom to the top should be by merit alone, and not by seniority, because he ventured to say that the great curse of the Civil Service up to this time had been that the good and bad had gone up to the top together, and there had been no proper moans of promoting the meritorious and keeping down those who did not deserve to rise. He recognised that at the present time—and it might be for some years—it would be difficult to give promotion to many a man who merited it. Although there was this gulf between the Upper and Lower Division, still there were at the present moment, and might be for some years, many redundant clerks whom it was impossible to transfer to other Departments, whom it would not be fair to other Departments to transfer, and whom it would be ruinous in the interests of economy to pension out and retire from the Service on the present terms for retirement, which were very expensive, and even then the advantages to the Second Division clerks would for some time be small, because they had to face the fact that the Upper Division had got to be smaller in the future; therefore, as a matter of fact, there would be fewer vacancies to be filled by those Lower Division clerks. While promotion by merit involved that the meritorious should rise, it was essential, in order to produce a state of things under which the meritorious should rise, that they should keep down and even turn out of the service those who were really inefficient. If they were going to keep down the inefficient members of the Civil Service it was most essential to do it in the earlier years of their service, as it was more difficult to do it later on. One of the most important recommendations of the Commission, he was sorry to say, had not been carried out. They recommended that with every public servant the first year should be a year of real probation. In that year it should be ascertained whether he was thoroughly fit for the Public Service, because many a man might pass by examination who might not have the qualities fitting him to be an efficient servant of the Crown. He regretted that this valuable recommendation had been taken no notice of whatever.


said that the one year's probation was already enbodied in an Order in Council dated 12th February, 1876.


said, that, at any rate, it was shown to the Commission that that probation was never insisted upon as it ought to be. He passed from that to another test of the efficiency of a public servant which the Commission thought it necessary to insist upon, and that was that during the first six years of a public servant's career in the Lower Division his annual increment should never be granted to him unless he had a certificate issued by his superiors saying he was a person well qualified to have promotion and increased pay. That he knew had been done, but the certificate had not been recorded; and unless certificates of this kind were recorded good-natured superiors were only too ready to regard incompetent public servants with more laxity than if they knew their certificates were to be placed on record, so that if a man they had certified as competent turned out to be inefficient they would be called to account. There was one great evil the House would have to deal with. Before the Commission witness after witness stated that, often when they tried to keep down the inefficient members of the Public Service so that the efficient should be promoted, some Member of Parliament went to the Department and threatened to raise a difficulty in the House if promotion were not given to a particular man. It was the London Members especially who were complained of; and if one of these clerks happened to be a Member's constituent it was more than the life of the head of a Department was worth to refuse the promotion that ought to be withheld on public grounds. This was a thing that, in the interests of the Public Service, all hon. Members ought to protest against. It was deteriorating to the Public Service. He did not say hon. Members were not entitled to speak on general grounds: but they ought not to go to the head of a Department and terrorise him into giving promotion to any individual who did not deserve it. Another thing that ought to be dealt with more vigorously than had been done by Order in Council was the prohibition of private work in office hours and the holding of offices connected with public Companies, which, diverted public servants from their official duties during office hours. A public servant ought not to be serving as a Director when he was required to be in his office, and in his office he ought not to engage in private work. He would point out that it was to the interests of the public servants themselves that they should give their whole time, because if they did not they were not qualified to receive their pensions; therefore, in their own interests, they should be compelled to comply with these conditions. The Commission strongly urged that the rule on this subject should be rigidly enforced, and they then quoted a very admirable regulation of the Colonial Office which, he was sorry to say, was the only office that carried out a strict regulation of this kind. What had the Order in Council done? He thought, to a certain extent, it did really endeavour to carry out the recommendation on this subject; but it was so loosely worded that it failed to effect its object in one or two particulars. In the first place, the Royal Commission did not limit this employment to Companies, but it extended to work of any kind. The Order in Council only limited it to work in connection with the management of Companies. He was told there were several public servants acting as auditors and doing the work in office hours, and, as this was not considered to be management, the regulation was evaded. Then, again, he said that all public servants, both past and future, whether they had been Directors of public Companies in the past, or whether they intended to be in the future, should be prohibited doing work of this kind. But the Order in Council did not carry out the object aimed at. It did not say that Directors were not to be allowed to be Directors of public Companies, but it said they were not to be allowed to accept directorships. It did not, therefore, touch the case of those who were Directors of public Companies at the time this Order was carried into effect. He hoped it would be laid down that during office hours no public servant should be allowed to act as a Director of a public Company. Outside office hours, of course, they had the right to dispose of their own time, but during office hours all public servants, high and low, should be expected to be in their places. The Royal Commission recommended that in every Department of the Civil Service there should be an attendance book, and that every member in the office should be obliged to sign, thus showing when he entered the office, when he left for luncheon, when he came back, and when he left the office for the evening. That rule was to be equally applied to both the Higher and the Lower Divisions. It was no excuse to say that in the Higher Divisions work was sometimes done at home. The influence of example was so great and the efficiency of a Department as a whole so bound up with this discipline that the regulation ought to be strictly enforced instead of being loosely framed and evaded as it was now in several cases. With regard to the Lower Division, the Order in Council was most explicit and, to his mind, most satisfactory. To his mind there should be no distinction. It was not ordered in the Higher Division that the attendance book should be signed. There was no such attendance book in the Higher Division.


The regulation is that an attendance book should be kept in every Department for recording the times of arrival and departure.


wanted to know why there was this difference in the wording of the regulation? In the Lower Division it was required that the clerks should sign the book. In the Upper Division the clerks were not required to sign the book, and, as a matter of fact, they did not sign it. Why was not the regulation enforced in both Divisions? The attendance book lay on the table, but how many of the Upper Division clerks signed it? There was a distinction which the Royal Commission did not sanction, and which he held was thoroughly unfair. Again, the holidays of the Higher Division were much longer than those of the Lower Division.


Second Division.


Yes; Second Division. They should endeavour to make a distinction; but it should not be one that gave an air of superiority to one Division. The interruption reminded him that they wished to change the names of these divisions from Upper and Lower to First and Second Divisions. That was the intention—to put them all on au equal footing. These Second Division men were most meritorious, and many of them were quite qualified to rise into the Higher Divisions of the Service of the State. But these superior persons of the Upper Division were not to be called clerks, but "officers;" the term "clerks" was only for the Lower Division. He thought that was really ridiculous. As he was saying, the Higher Division had longer holidays than the Lower Division. Under 10 years' service the Upper Division had 36 days holidays, while the Lower Division men had only 14 days. Over 10 years it was 48 days and 21 days, respectively. There was another recommendation both in the interest of merit and of economy, and that was that all the services ought to be treated as a whole, so that every clerk should be liable to serve, not only in his own Department, but in any other Department if necessary. In order to carry out that recommendation, it was necessary to warn persons entering the Public Services that they were so liable, and he should like to know whether that had been done? Again, if those changes were to be effective, there must be attendance books, and the hours should be the same; at present, the First Division clerks were only called upon to serve six hours, while the Second Division clerks were required to serve seven. The idea was that the latter should not be called upon to serve the seven hours without extra remuneration. It might be doubted whether they had power to require them to do so. He was sorry that that kind of distinction had been drawn, and more favour shown to the Upper Division than to the Lower. What was happening at the present moment? All the clerks in the Lower Division were serving seven hours; and those who were promoted before 1889 were to get a small addition to their salaries; an addition which was hardly an equivalent—£16 he thought it was.




said, that was not an equivalent. He did not see why favour should be shown the Upper Division clerks in this matter, and he, therefore, thought they ought to be called upon to serve seven hours as the others did. He was for having the same regulations guiding both Divisions. Another thing was that if they were going to have a system of transfer from one Department to another they should retire all public servants at one age. Sixty-five was the ago fixed by the Royal Commission, and he regretted that there were several Departments which refused to be guided by that rule. The Treasury, however, ought to enforce retirement at a certain age. He had only another remark to make; he would not go into details, as he understood that would be done by those following him. He wished to say a word as to the system of pensions. There were two ways of dealing with them. If properly managed they could be used to secure retirement even before the age of 65 in the case of inefficient or supernumerary servants; and they could be used to effect great economies in cutting down the Non-effective Votes. Up to recent times pensions had been calculated on the last three years of service. The Royal Commission recommended that the calculation should be based on the salary of the last 10 years; and when a Royal Commission, which had gone so thoroughly into the matter, made such a recommendation, as being just and at the same time conducive to economy, no Government ought to disregard that recommendation, and take five years instead of 10 years as the basis for calculation. He was sorry to say that the Government——


The late Government.


He was not referring to one Government more than another. He was sorry to say the late Government was much to blame. This was no Party question; and he brought it up to enforce upon this Government, and any other that might come, that the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners should be carried out. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would bear this in mind. He had only two objects in view. One was to make it much more possible in the future to reward merit in public servants than it was now—it was impossible to reward merit unless the inefficient servants were got rid of in some way—and the second object was to promote economy. As to the reward of merit, he was sure he would be borne out by the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. H. H. Fowler), who sat on that Royal Commission, and who had seen numbers of the Second Division clerks and heard the evidence respecting them, when he spoke of the efficient aid which their examination gave to the Public Service. The examination was undoubtedly one of the best in the interests of the Public Service, and numbers of the men were, in his opinion, qualified to hold the highest offices, and, indeed, to his knowledge, some of the present heads of Departments had risen from the lower grades of the Service. If an opportunity were given to these Second Division clerks of rising by steady degrees, the country would be as well served as it had been in the past, and no country had been better served than this country by its Public Departments.

Earl COMPTON (York, W.R., Barnsley)

said, he ventured to intrude upon the House to urge that the claims of the Civil servants, to whom reference had been made, should be considered without further delay. He was glad to hear the hon. Member who spoke last stating that this was no Party question. The claims of these servants of the State deserved a patient hearing, and he trusted they would be heard, and the claims dealt with by Her Majesty's present Government. He hoped sincerely the Government would be willing to listen to what they had to state. As to the Second Division clerks, the proposal brought forward involved no question of additional expenditure. It was not a matter of expense. He was anxious to do what he could in the direction of economy; but, as he had said, there was no additional expenditure involved in this case. The hon. Member who opened the discussion had alluded to the recommendation of the Royal Commission as to the necessity of opening the door to the Second Division, so that they might be able to rise up to the First Division. Well, paragraphs 8, 48, and 115 of the Report showed that, in the opinion of the Commissioners, it was necessary that this door should be opened. If that were the case, and there were meritorious clerks whom they all desired to see promoted, then, he asked, why was it that they had competitive examinations? Was it because they wanted, in the First Division, men of different education, and of a different class, to the men in the Second Division? From an answer which had been given to a question in the House, it would seem as if only 18 appointments had been made from outside during the past five years. But if 18 vacancies had been filled from outside, that had been distinctly to the detriment of those who had waited for promotion. As to the appointments made from the inside during the last five years, he did not think there had been more than about 50 promotions from the Second Division to the First Division. The large majority of these promotions had been in the Inland Revenue Office. None of them had been made while the Royal Commission sat, and the men in the Second Division were waiting in the expectation that something would be done to advance their interests; but they had been disappointed. In the Legacy Duty Office this year there had been an open competitive examination. At that time eight Second Division clerks who had been trained in the Office were promoted, and 11 clerks entered by competition. But. what happened? Why, notwithstanding that the eight who were promoted had been working in the Office and were familiar with all its routine, they were made inferior to the 11 who were brought in from outside. Over the heads of the eight were placed men who had no experience of the office or of the duties, and those who were familiar with the Department would know that these Second Division clerks who had been promoted, and who had frequently had to do First Division work before their promotion, were set to teach their duty to those who came in from the outside and who were placed over their heads. What he wished to know was, why it was necessary that there should be any competitive examination? Was the reason because the Department required men of a different social status in the First Division, and of higher education to the men in the Second Division? If that were so, why wore not the Second Division clerks allowed the chance of entering into the competitive examinations with outsiders? At any rate, they should be allowed that chance. Moreover, the Second Division clerks were anxious to have some answer to the numerous requests they had preferred. They had a right to know what it was that disqualified them from taking the vacancies which now and then occurred instead of having those vacancies filled up from the outside. He was sure the Treasury was anxious to do what was right in the matter, but he thought that many just claims had been overlooked.

*MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)

said, he desired to address the House for a short time on this matter, because he had more than once brought under the notice of the House the flagrant disregard of the recommendations of the Royal Commis- sion of which the Civil Service complained, and of which they were the victims. The particular class whose case he wished to bring under the notice of the House were the Second Division, and this because their case was one than which it would be impossible to conceive one more hard or more unjust. Nor was there, so far as he was aware, a show of justification or excuse for those broken promises—because promises they were, as he would show the House. He recollected the remarks only last week of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to increase of salaries in the great Government Departments, and he deprecated as much as any hon. Member the pressure which he was told was put on candidates to use their influence to make the State more generous, and to redress grievances which were sometimes wholly imaginary. No such pressure had been put on him, and he would have paid no attention to it if it had been tried. But the case of the Second Division in the Civil Service involved no extra cost to the State. On the contrary, if the just aspirations of the Second Division were satisfied the State would be pecuniarily a gainer, and a system of promotion from the Second to the First Division would be established which would be conducive to the interests of the Service, and which would be in harmony alike with the principles of justice and policy. The Second Division constituted the great bulk of the Clerical Establishments of the Public Offices, and now had considerably over 8,000 clerks. The majority of these had given over 10 years' service, and many over 17 years. They acquitted themselves creditably in the discharge of their duties, and the Ridley Commission, the Treasury, the permanent heads of Departments, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had successively paid high and well-merited tributes to the qualifications of the men who composed the Second Division. Nevertheless, the avenues of promotion had been, and, as far as could be seen, were likely to remain, closed against this meritorious class, and this in spite of a letter from the Treasury in 1884 stating that their Lordships looked forward to the First Division being largely replenished from the Second Division. "Looked forward." Yes; and so did the Second Division clerks themselves. And they were still looking forward. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War told him that afternoon that his intentions which he announced to the House on 11th March remained unaltered. But was it not time to get beyond the stage of "looking for-ward" and of good intentions? The Ridley Commission in paragraph 8 of the Second Report reported— We think the door of promotion to all the upper posts should be opened to any clerk who has shown that he possesses the necessary qualifications He ventured to submit that this recommendation contained only the rudimentary principle on which any business establishment would be conducted. In such establishments the heads, in their own interest, would desire that the responsible and higher posts should be filled by those whose acquaintance with their work had been matured by long service in their various offices; and surely such expectations of advancement, if not known to be entirely illusory, constituted of themselves a valuable stimulant to industry and zeal, which were in themselves the highest and best contribution to efficiency and good organisation in any office. In paragraph 118 of the same Ridley Report the Commissioners reported— The essence of their proposal is to assign a greatly-increased share of work to the Second Division, and in connection with this object to improve their standard of pay, and to attach to their class certain specific staff appointments for which they are specially qualified. Not only had that recommendation not been acted upon, but it had been flagrantly disregarded.


No, no!


said, the statistics would prove that he was right. He believed that the whole of the vacancies in the First Division during the last four years, instead of being awarded to experienced Second Division clerks, had been given to young men outside the Service who were without any previous training or experience, but were placed by a stroke of the pen above the heads of the older Civil servants. When these young men were imported into the Service over the heads of the Second Division clerks it was the Second Division clerks that trained the new arrivals. The Ridley Commission recommended that the doors of promotion should he open to all deserving clerks. When he stated that, with the exception of the Admiralty, the Chief Secretary's Office, and the Board of Trade—and even there the exceptions were extremely limited—no promotions to the First Division from the Second Division had been made in any Department presided over by Cabinet Ministers, it would be realised that the prospect of promotion held out to the Second Division clerks had been completely illusory and deceptive, and that the recommendations of the Ridley Commission on this head had been flagrantly ignored. But not only was the course taken unjust and unnatural, but it was extravagant, for the salary of a new arrival placed in the First Division started at £150 or £200 a year; if, on the other hand, a Second Division clerk was promoted to the First Division, a vacancy in the Second Division would be created, and the person appointed to fill it would begin with a salary of £70 a year. He did not believe such a system as he had described, unjust and extravagant as he had shown it to be, was approved by right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite any more than he believed it was by the House. Indeed, he thought it would not exist if only right hon. Gentlemen could spare the time to look into the matter a little for themselves, instead of leaving it entirely to the permanent Heads of their Departments. It was with this object that he had ventured to make these remarks, and not, he assured the right hon. Gentleman, from any spirit of insubordination amongst the Second Division itself. In the interest of economy and justice, he commended the subject to the right hon. Gentleman; he hoped it would receive his early attention, and in that case he was confident that a grievance which was unjust, and which arose from unfulfilled engagements and unredeemed promises, would not any longer remain unredressed.


said, he had to thank the hon. Member who had introduced this question for the very fair and candid manner in which he had dealt with the question. He could say the same with regard to the observations of the other speakers. This was not a Party matter, or one affecting the present Government alone. It was a question as to whether the recommendations of the Ridley Commission had been faithfully and fairly carried out. Looking at the importance of these recommendations, he might say that they had been carried out faithfully to a large extent, though he was quite prepared to admit they had not been carried out completely. This was, however, no reason why they should not be carried out more completely in the future. The difficulties of the case were very great. The late Government, through the Treasury, had to deal with the difficulties, and he thought that anyone who looked at the question with an open mind would admit that those difficulties had been dealt with very fairly by the Treasury. He did not say that in every instance the Treasury carried out the recommendations of the Commission, for, of course, they had to encounter difficulties which the Commission were not aware of. He thought he could show the House how far the recommendations had been carried out. One recommendation was that a normal establishment of each Department should be formulated. No doubt that should be done, but the Treasury had no power to deal with the establishment of the House of Lords nor with the India Office, and very little power to deal with the establishment of the House of Commons. The Foreign Office was not included in the Second Report of the Ridley Commission. It was dealt with separately by the Royal Commission in their fourth Report. The only other Department that had not formulated a scheme was the Admiralty, and there was good reason why the Admiralty had not prepared one. It was owing to the large numbers of the Upper Division in that Department. Those numbers were being largely reduced; and as soon as they were brought down to a certain number, the Admiralty were quite ready to bring forward a scheme. In every Department other than those named schemes had been formulated. The next question raised was that of a permanent Committee, upon which point the Treasury did not agree with the recommendation of the Ridley Commission, and had, in his opinion, good reason for not carrying it out. The Treasury felt that, as long as they were responsible, they were the people who ought to decide as to the constitution and revision of the staff of any Department. They had appointed from year to year a Committee to deal with disputed questions of establishments. At the commencement of each calendar year a Consultative Committee, consisting of five members, was appointed. The names of the gentlemen composing that Committee this year were as follows:—Mr. Milner, of the Inland Revenue Department; Mr. Meade, of the Colonial Office; Sir Evan Mac-Gregor, of the Admiralty; Sir Reginald Welby, of the Treasury; and Mr. Courthope, of the Civil Service Commission. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Hanbury) had referred to the reduction of the numbers in the Departments.


I asked if there was power to reduce the establishments.


There is power.


Who can do it?


said, the Treasury could reduce them. Reductions had already taken place in several of the Departments, but the work of carrying out the Commission's recommendations required time, and none of them would like to do anything harsh with respect to either the Upper Division or the Second Division clerks. The hon. Member opposite said there should be uniform rules and regulations for all Departments. He (Sir J. T. Hibbert) quite agreed that this was a desirable object to have in view, but he did not think it would be practicable, in view of the positions occupied by the two Divisions, to have the same rules in both of them. Hon. Members were aware that the lengths of the holidays were not the same in each Division, although sick leave was the same for both. As to hours, both the Upper and the Second Divisions were being gradually brought under the seven-hours system. An additional payment of £15 had been made to Second Division clerks for the extra hour's work, and he believed that in all the Departments the Second Division clerks now attended for seven hours, and in all Departments, except the Foreign Office, the Home Office, and the Colonial Office, the rest of the establishment also gave seven hours attendance. It had not been thought, however, that those in receipt of the higher scales of salaries were entitled to an increase of pay for the seventh hour. With reference to pensions, the Commissioners had no doubt recommended that the whole system of pensions should be revised, and the late Government brought in a Bill on the subject. Owing to circumstances with which he was not acquainted, not having been in the House at the time, that Bill was not placed on the Statute Book. He quite admitted the force of the reasoning in favour of the re-introduction of that Bill at as early a period as possible. The present Government had their hands full for the moment, and he could not undertake that it should be brought in during the present Session, but he sympathised so much with the objects of the measure that he should use his influence to obtain its re-introduction, if possible, at a later period. Until that Bill had been carried into law it could not be said that the whole of the recommendations of the Commission had been satisfactorily dealt with. Everyone had spoken very warmly of the Second Division clerks. He himself had every sympathy with the Second Division clerks, and he quite admitted that they were well qualified for the work they had to do, and even for the work they might be called upon to do if they were promoted to a higher position. Here a difficulty at once arose. They could not be promoted until there were vacancies; it was necessary to wait until the large number of First Division clerks had been reduced. At the same time, a considerable amount of promotion had taken place during the short time that had elapsed since the Commission had reported. As many as 28 clerks had been transferred from different offices to other offices since the Report was issued, and the promotions of Second Division clerks had been much more numerous than hon. Members fancied. His noble Friend (Earl Compton) had asked why Second Division clerks should not be allowed to compete for the higher appointments like people outside. He (Sir J. T. Hibbert) did not see any objection to their being allowed to compete for the higher appointments. He thought they ought to have just the same opportunity of doing so as young men from the Universities, and they had, in fact, the same opportunity.


I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon. I first of all suggested that there should he no competitive examination at all. If there must be an examination, of course they ought to be allowed to compete.


said, he would deal with the question of open competitive examination presently. The number of appointments of Second Division clerks to the Upper Divisions and to higher posts since the Re-port of the Commission had been as follows—namely, Admiralty 17, Board of Trade 3, Bankruptcy Department 6, Patent Office 1, Chief Secretary's Office (Ireland) 4, Customs 2, Fishery Board for Scotland 1, Inland Revenue 50, Irish Land Commission 2, Local Government Board (England) 5, Local Government Board (Ireland) 1, Public Works Office (Ireland) 7, Science and Art Department 1, Secretary for Scotland's Office 1, Valuation Office (Dublin) 6, War Office 1, Woods and Forests Office 1, or a total of 109. During the same period the number of appointments which had been made from outside by the scheme of examination, known as Class I., was only 18. He did not think the comparison between the two sots of figures was at all unfavourable as far as the Second Division clerks were concerned. As to what had just been said by his noble Friend (Earl Compton), he should like to draw attention to the view expressed by the Ridley Commission in their Report. The Commissioners said— It is desirable to secure young men of more liberal education for those posts in the Service which are not simply clerical, but demand a wider and more cultivated view of public affairs than can, as a rule, be expected from youths entering by the lower examination. The Commissioners agree with the Playfair Commission that the best preparation for the Upper Division is not to be found in the purely clerical routine of the ordinary clerkships, though there may be exceptions. In face of that Report, he did not think the Treasury were to blame for allowing the limited competition which had been permitted during the last four and a-half years. The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) had said the Treasury was not in touch with other Departments, and that it weakened itself by sending away its men. He did not think this was at all a true account of the way in which the Treasury acted. He did not think the Treasury were disposed in any way to place themselves in a superior position to other Departments, or to press forward their own members against the interests of other Departments. In conclusion, he had only to say that if time were allowed for carrying out the recommendations of the Ridley Commission, they would be carried out not only with justice, but with advantage to all parties concerned, but at the same time with due regard for considerations of economy. The question would be dealt with in full sympathy with those who would be influenced by the changes recommended by the Commission. His own sympathies were entirely with those who wished to raise themselves to higher positions, and all he desired to insist upon was that they should be capable of carrying out the duties they undertook faithfully and well. The Civil Service of our country was an efficient body, and one which he believed would bear favourable comparison with the Civil Service of any other country in the world. He thought the country was most fortunate in having such a body of men at its disposal, and he trusted that, whatever changes were made, the result would be to strengthen and not to weaken the Service in any one of its Departments.

Mr. FREEMAN-MITFORD (Warwick, Stratford)

said, that, as he was a member of the Royal Commission, he should like to say a few words on the subject. The Commission were entirely of opinion that it would be to the advantage of the Service that every recruit who joined the Civil Service should feel that he carried the marshal's baton in his knapsack, but, at the same time, they felt it to be most important that all promotions from the Lower to the Upper Division should be fully justified by the qualifications. Whilst they thought that in the larger number of cases such promotion was most desirable, they took the view that there would always be a large number of posts for which liberal education and very high training would perhaps afford a better qualification than could be gained by mere clerical work in a Public Office. The hon. Member for Preston had spoken as to the desirability of having uniform rules in the Service. That sounded very well, but the suggestion would prove very difficult to carry into effect, because the work of the various Departments differed very materially; and though the rules framed might recommend themselves for favourable consideration on the ground of uniformity, they would be more frequently honoured in the breach than in the observance, and would lead to inconvenience and frequent appeals to a higher authority. And so, again, a uniform seven hours rule had a very catching sound. He, however, preferred the old system, so far, certainly, as the Upper Division clerks were concerned, for under that system they had a loyal body of men who attended their offices prepared to work, if necessary, any number of hours, and staying with the utmost cheerfulness so long as there was anything to be done. He was afraid that, by fixing a limit of hours, they would do away with that esprit de corps which in former times had carried Civil servants through hard work and great difficulties. The hon. Member for Preston had dilated upon what be termed the extravagant charge for technical pensioners. He complained that these men were brought into the Service late in life, and became entitled to a pension after a very short period. But he omitted to mention that they obtained their special knowledge and training at very great cost to themselves, and that what they earned in the Public Service they could more than command outside. Consequently, it was hardly just to them to suggest that they were too heavy a charge on the State in respect of pensions, seeing that they sacrificed much while they were in the Public Service. A good deal had been said about eliminating unfit men from the Service, but it was the House itself that was to a large extent responsible for the retention of such men. The permanent head of a Department might advise the Minister to get rid of certain public servants, and the Minister might be convinced of the wisdom of the recommendation, but political pressure was brought to bear on him, and it became extremely difficult for him to act on the only advice to which in such matters he ought to pay any attention. He hoped hon. Members would take heed of this, for great injury to individuals and to the Public Service was often done, through their interference, out of kindness of heart, on behalf of men for whom they were pressed to use their influence.

*SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, N.)

said, he had been a little disappointed with some of the observations of the last speaker (Mr. Freeman-Mitford), who had qualified considerably some of the recommendations of the Commission to which he himself was a party, especially by his references to the claims of higher education and to appointments from outside the Service. One of the recommendations of the Ridley Commission was as follows:— We think the door of promotion to all the upper posts should be open to any clerk who has shown that he possesses the necessary qualifications for discharging them efficiently. He thought, in these days of general education, that these advantages, combined with official training, constituted quite as good a qualification as mere general instruction, and he was sure the majority of those who had been appointed to the higher posts had justified the training of which they had bad the advantage in their various Departments. He was afraid that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury—as to whose good intentions he entertained no doubt—bad not completely proved his case on a most important subject—namely, the business organisation of the State Departments. He had declared that the Government had faithfully carried out the recommendations of the Commission "to a very large extent." In dealing with the Employers' Liability Bill, frequent observations had been made about the duty of the State to become an example of the best employer; but what, he ventured to ask, would be said of a private employer who, in dealing with his employés, was able, after a considerable term, only to say that be had performed his obligations "faithfully to a very large extent?" What were the figures the right hon. Gentleman had mentioned? He had told them that 109 appointments had been made from within the office and 18 from outside. He failed entirely to see why those 18 appointments should have been made, at any rate, without the competition of existing Civil servants. The Government had carried out their obligations, but only to a partial extent, and the Civil Service was still asked to "wait." How long? He had some time since the advantage of presiding over a meeting of Civil servants, which was likewise attended by many hon. Members of Parliament of all shades of political opinion, and what they heard there convinced them that the Civil servants were labouring under a very considerable amount of injustice; and although the sense of the meeting was very temperately expressed, the importance of its influence was not to be ignored. Hope deferred made the heart grow sick, and the absence of hope of promotion in the Service was productive of a feeling of despair which could only have most unfortunate results. The absence of prospects of promotion among the Second Division clerks was such as to prevent them hopefully and helpfully rendering to the State a full measure of service, such as would be given when the State recognised its reciprocal liability. He based the claim of the clerks of the Second Division on the ground of justice. A very large amount of stagnation in the way of promotion had been proved, and without the hope of promotion no really good work could be done. He further based the claims of the Second Division very strongly upon the advantage of the State itself. It was a distinct disadvantage when a large portion of the Service felt that the door to promotion was to a very large extent barred; and he was certain that if in private establishments a policy obtained which prevailed in the Civil Service, the work would not be so efficiently done as now in those establishments. He desired, further, to complain of the political disabilities and restrictions which were placed upon Post Office and some other Civil Service clerks and employés in regard to the right of public meeting and conference. The franchise had been conferred, and its usual incidents ought to accompany it, including all ordinary civic rights. For, he ventured to assert it was a distinct danger to the State when effective criticism through such means was denied to those to whom the franchise had been given. Otherwise even the franchise itself might become a danger to the State, owing to the refusal of a right, the exercise of which would secure criticism and sound views. He trusted that these limitations would be removed, especially in the Post Office, where complaint was the loudest, upon which he appealed to the Postmaster General, who was present, and that some of the just causes of complaint which had been proved would be redressed more rapidly than had been indicated by the Treasury.

The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. H. H. Fowler,) Wolverhampton, E.

As a member of the Royal Commission whose recommendations have been so ably explained to the House by the hon. Member for Preston, I wish at once to say I cannot admit that those recommendations form a contract with anybody whatever. The hon. Member had suggested that they form the basis of a contract between the Treasury and the Civil Service. That seems to me to be an absolute misapprehension of the real facts. The Crown empowered a certain number of gentlemen to inquire into the whole domain of the Civil Service, but it was perfectly understood that the Government had an absolute right to reject or to accept their recommendations. So far as the general scope of the recommendations is concerned, the Government have acted perhaps as liberally as most Governments do; but I must repeat my protest against the suggestion that those recommendations are to be taken as forming the basis of a contract. I concur in the recommendation about the promotion, of the Second Division clerks, but I must at the same time point out that the Commission also said they had no doubt it would always be necessary to introduce a very limited number of men by means of a higher examination to fill directly some of the more important posts of the Public Service; and if importance is to be attached to one recommendation, weight must also be given to the other. The fact that only 18 appointments have been made from outside, as against 109 from inside, shows that the authorities are acting on the recommendation. As to the position of Civil servants generally, I say that taking them man for man, post for post, pay for pay, there is no Department in the Kingdom—bank, Railway Company or manufacturing establishment—that pays anything like the Government of this country to its permanent Civil servants, so far as the Second Division clerks are concerned; and when the hon. Member speaks of hope being dead, and suggests that the absence of hope prevents the proper discharge of duty, I think he totally misconceives the position of the Civil servants, the salaries they receive, and the admirable manner in which they perform their public duties. No class of men discharge their duties with greater industry and greater ability, or contribute more to the smooth working of the machinery of departmental government. After the pledge which my right hon. Friend has given on behalf of the Treasury, that the recommendations of the Commission will be still further considered, I hope the hon. Member will rest satisfied with the result obtained from the Debate, and not prolong it.


said, he had been immensely impressed by the strong feeling among the Second Division clerks. Representing as he did a constituency in which many of them resided, he had come to the conclusion that that feeling was perilously close to despair. He had no desire to press the matter too closely, but he did say that the Ridley Commission held out hopes that a bridge would be built across the abyss which stopped promotion. The Government, no doubt, when they put up the bridge had a perfect right to place upon it a gate which could be locked, but his contention was that they were not justified in locking it and placing the key in the tomb of "all the Capulets" at Whitehall. He was, however, very glad to have heard what had been said that evening from the Treasury Bench, for it would encourage the clerks to take a more hopeful view of their position. They would feel they had at the helm a man, in the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who sympathised with them in their difficulties, and, that being so, the Debate would not have been in vain.