HC Deb 08 April 1935 vol 300 cc855-61

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

5.43 p.m.

Duchess of ATHOLL

On this Clause I wish to refer particularly to paragraph (d) of Sub-section (2), which is a point that is very much stressed by the representatives of the Civil Service Associations in their memorial presented to the Secretary of State. This is one of the reasons why they are so anxious that there should be a due proportion, at least one half, of persons on the Public Service Commissions who understand the difficulties of the services and will give them a fair hearing in case of any claims being made against them. On page 7 of the memorial will be found a very serious statement as to the considerable number of claims already made against officers on account of their actions in dealing with the civil disobedience movement. They say that none of these claims has been substantiated, but they appre- hend a great many more claims of this kind in future, and therefore I am very glad to know that my right hon. Friend will amend the wording of Clause 254.

5.44 p.m.


May I raise a point with reference to an Amendment in my name, which you did not call, Sir Dennis, to add the words: Nothing in this section shall operate so as to prevent all appointments and promotions of and disciplinary matters affecting members of the subordinate ranks of the various police forces in India being finally made or dealt with by the Inspector-General or Commissioner of Police concerned in accordance with the Acts, rules, regulations, or orders relating to the same, respectively. There is grave anxiety among police officers as to whether and to what extent Public Service Commissions will have the right of interfering with civil appointments. It seems to me that in the Clause as drafted it is possible for the Governor to make regulations to take out of the power of the Public Service Commissions the right of—


May I interrupt the hon. Member and call his attention to Clause 232?


It appears that Clause 232 may cover the point, but I should be grateful if the Secretary of State would make some statement as to exactly what the position is.

5.45 p.m.


I would like the Secretary of State to explain the meaning of the words "shall be consulted" in line 22 of the Clause. Clearly there is no obligation upon the authorities to accept the recommendation of a Public Service Commission, but in disciplinary matters will the officer whose conduct is called into question have the right to know the commission's findings? Will the Secretary of State explain the relationship between the appointing authority and the consultative body?

5.46 p.m.


I would like the Secretary of State to tell us how far appointments must be upon the results of the examinations. The experience which I have had of appointments in the Colonial Service has brought me to the conclusion that a literary examination did not form the best test of the suitability of candidates for appointment, and that personal record and character and, in some cases also, the personality of the candidate, could not be wholly excluded as qualifications, in addition to whatever may be the necessary qualifying literary tests. I would like to ask the Secretary of State to consider whether there is any risk of confining the appointments purely on the results of the examinations?

5.47 p.m.


I tabled an Amendment which was not called, not so much that I wanted it to be carried, as to get some clarification of how the Public Service Commissions will work. I tried to look up the statute which governs our own Civil Service Commission and I could riot find it, but I was under the impression that the Civil Service Commission of this country was created to protect ourselves against ourselves, in other words, to protect Members of Parliament from using their position for the purpose of getting their friends into remunerative Government posts. I have never examined the exact statutory position of the Civil Service Commission, but I have found it very useful because, when people have written to me to suggest that they should be appointed to some new post under Government, I have always pointed out that, as far as I am aware, Members of Parliament have no power in the matter and that, as a broad principle, support from Members of Parliament is a disadvantage rather than otherwise. That, of course, does not prevent a Member of Parliament being given as a reference by a person who is applying because he may be the person whom he knows best, and obviously a Member of Parliament should not be deprived of his normal citizen's rights in such a matter.

As I read this Clause, I am not clear how the Public Service Commissions will work. In the first Sub-section it says that they will conduct examinations, but it does not say that before anybody is appointed he must pass an examination. There is that implication, but there is nothing mandatory about it. It seems rather vague. It is true that the commissions have to be consulted on all matters relating to methods of recruitment, but their advice need not be taken. It is a case, apparently, where, whoever consults them, will act subsequently in his individual judgment, to use words which we frequently use in connection with this Bill. My view is that persons should not be appointed unless they have been proved in some way by the Public Service Commissions to be persons in every way suitable for appointments. I am not suggesting that the commissions should make the appointments, but before anybody is given an appointment he ought to have received the approval of one of the Public Service Commissions. I should like the Secretary of State to explain the Clause as he sees it, and to say, if it is not mandatory, whether he is prepared to consider making it so in the direction I have indicated.

5.50 p.m.


With reference to the question of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), it was the definite view of the Joint Select Committee, and it is the definite view of my advisers both here and in India, that the Public Service Commissions had much better be advisory. Experience goes to show that they are likely to have more influence if they are advisory than if they have mandatory powers. The danger is that if you give them mandatory powers you then set up two governments in a Province and two governments at the Centre, and there is everything to be said against a procedure of that kind. From many points of view it is much better that they should be advisory. The hon. Gentleman asked about the position of the Civil Service Commission here. The powers of that commission are strictly limited. It is nothing more than an examining body. It gives certificates to the candidates who have been successful, and after that it has none of the powers that we suggest—I agree upon a voluntary basis—that the Public Service Commissions in India should have. The analogy, therefore, is by no means exact. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) asked if the appointments are to be restricted to the results of competitive literary examinations. They are not. I have answered the question of the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) whether the commissions are advisory or executive bodies.


In disciplinary cases, where a commission makes certain recommendations, will the officer whose conduct is called into question have the right to know what they are?


Certainly. In connection with disciplinary enquiries dealing with the services we have in other Clauses safeguarded the position of such officers so that they should know the charges against them, and so on.

5.53 p.m.


The Secretary of State says that the functions of these commissions are wholly advisory. Suppose there are 100 students who sit for an examination conducted by a Public Service Commission, of which 50 are deemed to be efficient and proper persons, from the point of view of the examination, to be absorbed into the service. Is it still open to the Governor-General to go outside that 50 and choose a number of people whom he knows?

5.54 p.m.


I will answer the hon. Member's question in a moment. The hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) asked me about the subordinate ranks in the police. It is intended to exclude them. We think that we have clearly excluded them in an earlier Clause, but we will look into the question to see whether the words should be made a little more explicit.


The Secretary of State said that we could not have two governments in India. Assume that 1,000 people sit for an examination. Ultimately 500 pass a certain given standard. Then the Government actually want to pick 250. They are free to decide which of the 250 they will select. The Public Service Commission act as the first sieve. That does not make them an alternative government. What I was trying to get at was the point put by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) which the Secretary of State did not make clear.


In theory the local Government could make a change, but, in practice, we make it difficult for them to make a change by the words in this Clause. The alternative would be to give full powers to the Public Service Commissions to insist upon a particular list of candidates being accepted in all respects. The risk then would be that the Public Service Commissions would be embroiled in questions like the communal question, because a commission might impose a certain percentage of communal appointments which the Government could not accept. I would ask the hon. Member to take it from me that the general opinion in India is definitely in favour of leaving these commissions advisory, giving them as much influence as possible, and leaving the relations to grow up between them and the Government under which their nominees are normally taken.

5.57 p.m.


I am obliged to the right hon. 'Gentleman, but I am still unconvinced of the efficacy of the line that he advocates. Let us again suppose that 1,000 people sit for an examination of whom 500 are deemed to be eminently qualified according to the examination test. If the Government want 250 persons, as I understand the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, there is no obligation on them to accept the first 250, but they may even go outside the first 500 who have qualified according to the examination test. I suggest that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman is in the opposite direction because, if we allow people who have not passed the examination to be appointed, they may be nominated or appointed on some communal grounds. So long as appointments are restricted to the results of the examinations the only qualification is an intellectual qualification, but if we give the Government the chance of putting in people on communal grounds, surely the way to do it is the way which the right hon. Gentleman is adopting.

Duchess of ATHOLL

The right hon. Gentleman has forgotten that Parliament has obliged the Government of India to lay down certain percentages in recruitment to different communities, but those who are appointed will have to pass a certain standard of examination. I was trying to explain to the Committee the other day that that is what has happened in the Punjab for some years in regard to persons appointed as subordinate judges.

6.0 p.m.


I wish to put a simple question on the point put forward by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery). If the House or the Secretary of State deemed it desirable that recruitment to the police service mentioned in Clause 233—a Secretary of State's service—should be conducted on the lines that recruitment to the Sudan Civil Service is conducted today, will the Secretary of State be able to enforce that change?


That question does not come in here at all. This has nothing to do with the Secretary of State's services.

Clause 256 ordered to stand part of the Bill.