HC Deb 29 November 1906 vol 166 cc271-2
MR. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)

. To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any official information showing that the fact that of 200 applicants for examination for appointments as vice-consul only three candidates with commercial experience presented themselves on the last occasion, is largely explained by the facts that only one vacancy was offered to such candidates and that it would have been necessary for them to attend an examination lasting a week and to pay a fee of £4; whether any steps had been taken, except immediately prior to the examination, to make known the new conditions of entry to the consular service among the class of young business men whom the Committee of 1903 especially desired to attract; whether any action is to be taken to give effect to the opinion of the Committee of 1903, in paragraph 3 of Section 6 of the Report, to the effect that nominations should eventually be confined to candidates possessing some business experience; and whether, in view of the fact that since the adoption of the scheme based on the Committee's proposals only one vacany out of thirteen has been so filled, he will take into consideration the desirability of offering all or most of the vacancies which occur in the future to candidates with commercial experience, and of making the announcement and conditions of examination arranged more widely known in commercial circles than is the case at present.

(Answered by Secretary Sir Edward Grey.) Two out of the five vacancies known before the consular examination were reserved for commercial candidates, but, as only one competitor qualified, the second vacany reverted to the general candidates. With regard to the steps taken to make known that commercial candidates would be welcomed, I must refer the hon. Member to the reply given him on this subject on the 12th instant † The fact that 200 applications from commercial candidates were received would in itself appear to be sufficient proof of the success of these efforts. Paragraph 3 of Section 6 of the Report of the Committee of 1903 does not recommend that nominations should eventually be confined to commercial candidates, neither do I consider that such a course would benefit the public service. The duties of consuls are not restricted to commercial matters, though all who enter the consular service work at the Board of Trade before taking up posts, in order to get some insight into commercial requirements. Though it is hoped that commercial candidates will continue to compete at consular examinations, and that they will be successful in obtaining a proportion of the vacancies, it would be manifestly unfair to admit men already provided with a livelihood into the service on any other terms than those of perfect equality with the ordinary candidate, who spends much time and money in preparing himself for the profession which he has selected. I am under the impression that the announcement and conditions of examination are made widely known, but I am ready to consider any suggestion for doing this which has, not yet been adopted. † See (4) Debates, clxiv, 1019.