HL Deb 27 July 1885 vol 300 cc4-13

in rising to call attention to the subject of centres of examination for the Public Service (Army, Navy, and Civil), specially with reference to Malta, said, that, in bringing this question under their Lordships' notice, he felt he ought to offer some apology when there were noble Lords who, from the Office which they had held as Secretary of State for the Colonies, must be better informed than he could be with regard to the circumstances and the wants of Malta. At the same time, from his own personal knowledge, he was not without confidence that the subject, being one of such great importance to the interests of the Maltese people, would meet with favourable consideration from their Lordships. On a former occasion, when he called the attention of the House to the subject, he was not in a position to be able to refer to official Papers. Those Papers had since been laid on the Table; and he now hoped to show that the view which he had previously taken was supported by those who were best able to form an opinion. In the Notice which he had given, he had asked their Lordships' attention to the subject of examinations for the Public Service. He thought, however, it might not be necessary to enter now into any details upon the general question; but, assuming that their Lordships were aware of the importance of these examinations, as being now almost the only way of admission for a young man to enter into public life, and, therefore, how important it was that they should be open to, and within the reach of, all Her Majesty's subjects, he would confine himself to the question so far only as it related to Malta. It was in the year 1878 that a Member of the Council of Government in Malta—Mr. Savona—moved an Address to the Governor, which was seconded by the Chief Secretary, to the effect— That Her Majesty's Government might be induced to permit such of Her Majesty's subjects Natives of the Maltese Islands as may wish to compete for the Array, Navy, or the Civil Service in England and India, to be examined in Malta under such regulations as the Civil Service Commissioners may deem it expedient to lay down. It would be well, perhaps, to notice here an objection which was made last year in this House by the noble Earl the late Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby) with regard to making Malta a centre for these examinations. The noble Earl said— Malta could not be treated differently to other Colonies; and if this question were raised, it would have to be raised on a larger scale, for peculiar favour could not be shown to Malta to the exclusion of other Colonies and Dependencies not much more distant, and with equal claims. Now, with reference to this it should be remembered that the circumstances of different Colonies and Dependencies were widely dissimilar; their position, their means of trade and commerce, their native industries, their character and nationality, their climate—in many of these and other respects there was often little or no resemblance. Was it not, therefore, reasonable, before drawing a hard and fast line and treating all alike, to take each case upon its merits? What applied to Malta might not apply to Canada or Australia, or vice versâ. That view was taken by the Civil Service Commissioners in the Correspondence recently laid before the House. They said— Any proposal to hold examinations in remote localities would have to be considered on its own merits. But, besides this, Malta could not be considered as at all similar to other Colonies and Dependencies of the British Empire. Strictly speaking, it would be incorrect to describe it as a Colony, which, in the usual acceptation of the word, was an offshoot of the parent country. Malta was a country which voluntarily placed itself under the dominion of England, and thenceforward the Maltese people became entitled to all the rights and privileges of British subjects. It was said by Lord Cochrane in the House of Commons, in 1816, referring to the relations of Malta to this country, and as a Dependency of the British Crown— The fortresses were reconquered from France by the Maltese, and not by this country. He need hardly remind their Lordships that Malta was one of the most valuable Dependencies of England. Where would British influence in the Mediterranean be without Malta? With France at Toulon, and now also at Tunis, where one of the finest harbours in the world might with little difficulty be made, what in the event of war would be the position of this country without Malta? It was the interest of England to accord to the Maltese people not only the rights and privileges to which as British subjects they were entitled, but also such advantages as might tend to cultivate loyalty and attachment to the British Crown. Was it not a small thing which was asked for? A small thing to grant, but which would be a great boon to the receiver, a boon which would be highly valued, and which would open a door to the rising and talented youth of Malta to become useful subjects in the British Empire wherever British sway extends. It was said, why should not the youth of Malta come to this country to attend the examinations for admission to the Public Service? It must be remembered that Her Majesty's subjects in Malta were not in the same affluent circumstances as those in England, or some other Dependencies' and Colonies, and that the salaries of those holding Government appointments bore no resemblance as regarded amount to those in this country and elsewhere. The salary of a Judge, or Councillor, or Head of a Department did not exceed £500 a-year, and other offices and appointments were in like proportion. Very few young men could provide the means of coming to England to attend the examinations, with the uncertainty also of success, owing to the high pressure of competition which now existed. On that point Sir Charles Straubenzee, when Governor of Malta, said, in one of his despatches to the Colonial Office— The great boon, however, that such concessions would confer upon this community by the opening out of a new field of industry beyond the narrow limits of these islands, and also the very limited means of the parents and families of the young men (who may have distinguished themselves at the local schools and are desirous of embracing professions beyond those obtainable in Malta), which almost preclude the possibility of permitting them to do so owing to the expense of the voyage, their maintenance in England, &c, have together induced me to bring this subject under your most favourable consideration. With reference also to the peculiar circumstances of Malta, Lord Glenelg, when Secretary for the Colonies, said— It was peculiarly the duty of Great Britian to take care that the principles of British freedom, and the full benefit of British legislation, should be brought into operation in Malta even above all other Dependencies of the British Crown. He (Earl De La Warr) regretted that in the government of Malta we had not fully acted upon the principles of British freedom and the full benefits of British legislation. It was quite possible to treat Malta as a fortress—a most important fortress—and, at the same time, to remember that there was a Native population, and a considerable one, who were entitled to the rights, the privileges, and the advantages of British subjects. Sir Patrick Keenan, Commissioner of National Education in Ireland, who in a Report made to Parliament in 1880 on the educational system in Malta, said— It would be serving a great Imperial purpose, besides strengthening the service by the introduction of men of the diligence and intelligence of the Maltese, if they could arrange to make Malta a centre for all the examinations which are open to the public at home. Their Lordships were aware that Italian was the language in Malta of the Law Courts, of the Church, and of commerce. There was, therefore, little inducement for men of education to study the English language. If, however, the public examinations were within their reach, it would be widely different. A field would be opened to talent and diligence, and the youth of Malta would, no doubt, soon be found in honourable competition with other British subjects for appointments in the Public Service. In a letter from the late Governor of Malta (Sir Arthur Borton), which he (Earl De La Warr) had permission to make use of, after strongly advocating this concession in despatches which were on the Table of the House, were these words— I feel certain that, if it can be done, no measure will be more likely to strengthen the hands of my successor and increase the loyalty of the Maltese. These words represented very much the views of the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley), who was Secretary of State for the Colonies in the year 1880. In a letter from the Colonial Office to the Civil Service Commission, who at that time expressed an unfavourable opinion, it was stated— Lord Kimberley would, however, strongly urge that this decision should be reconsidered. He attaches considerable importance to this measure, both as a means of facilitating the efforts of the Colonial Government to promote the study of the English language in Malta, and of attaching the Maltese to this country by enabling them to enter Her Majesty's Service. He (Earl De La Warr) would wish to make these words his own, in urging Her Majesty's Government to consider the claims of a people who, as British subjects, had never swerved from their loyalty to the British Crown. It must be remembered that the British Empire was a wide-spreading and far-reaching one, and it must also be borne in mind that there were British subjects in distant lands as much to be cared for, and who were as capable, if the opportunity were offered them, of serving their country, as those who were living in this great Metropolis.


as Chief Civil Service Commissioner, said, he wished to state what the action of the Commission had been in the important question to which the noble Earl opposite (Earl De La Warr) had called attention. In June, 1878, the Secretary of State for the Colonies sent to the Civil Service Commissioners a despatch from the Governor of Malta, as to the possibility of Natives of that place being admitted to compete for appointments in the Army, Navy, or Civil Service of England and India. The then Secretary of State looked favourably on the idea of making Malta a centre of examination, as the expense of a journey to England to attend such examinations almost acted as prohibitory to the young men in the island. But, on the 3rd of August, the Civil Service Commissioners replied that they considered the difficulties so great as to make the suggestion impracticable. The subject was re-opened in 1880, and on the 25th of October his noble Friend (the Earl of Kimberley), then Secretary of State for the Colonies, inclosed to the Civil Service Commissioners the copy of a despatch from Major General Fielding, acting Governor of Malta, requesting that the matter might be further considered, urging as additional reasons that the measure would be— A means of facilitating the efforts of the Colonial Government to promote the study of the English language in Malta, and of attaching the Maltese to this country by enabling them to enter Her Majesty's Service. On the 19th of November the Commissioners wrote to the Director General of Military Education to inquire whether his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief would have any objections to the candidates for the Army undergoing their preliminary examination at Malta, while they postponed the question as to whether the "further examination" could be held there. They were informed that His Royal Highness had no objection. On the 15th of December the Commissioners addressed the Treasury, stating that they were considering whether they could hold at Malta "preliminary examinations," and possibly from time to time a competitive examination for "Clerkships of the Lower Division." On the 28th of January, 1881, his noble Friend forwarded to the Commissioners an inclosure from the Governor of Malta, General Sir Arthur Borton, intimating that such a concession to the feelings and wishes of the inhabitants of Malta would materially facilitate the adoption of certain educational reforms in that island, which were shortly to be submitted to the Council. On February 23, 1881, the Treasury, in reply to the Commissioners, urged the objection that, if this concession were made to Malta, the Commissioners would in time be obliged to hold simultaneous examinations in every Dominion of the Crown, and declined to commit itself to such a principle without much further consideration. On March 11, in reply to the Treasury, the Commissioners said that they did not think the precedent would prove embarrassing, as they had declined to hold such examinations in India and in Australia; the distinction, in their view, lay in the remoteness of the country, and each case should be decided on its merits. The Commissioners also expressed their willingness to hold the following examinations in Malta:—(a) Preliminary examinations for Army; (b) Preliminary examinations for Class 1; (c) Examinations for registration as copyists; (d) Competitions for men clerks, Lower Division. On the 28th of March the Treasury, in their reply, offered no objection to the preliminary examinations being held in Malta, but again declined to sanction the examinations for temporary copyists and the Lower Division. This decision of the Treasury was communicated to the Colonial Office by the Civil Service Commissioners. On the 24th of May the Colonial Office sent to the Civil Service Commissioners a copy of a despatch from the Governor of Malta, urging a reconsideration of their decision, in which it was pointed out that the boon of holding preliminary examinations only in Malta would be but a very slight advantage, as the Maltese could hardly meet the great expenses of coming to this country for the open competition. Correspondence on the subject had since remained in abeyance. The Civil Service Commissioners in the meantime agreed to hold examinations for engineer students at Malta; but the arrangement had not been carried out. But during the last few years, examinations had been held on the island for entrance into the Fencible Artillery, and for certain appointments in the dockyards and military prisons. He could not help hoping, however, that in the course of time the difficulties might be smoothed away; and, so far as the Civil Service Commissioners were concerned, they would be glad to lend a helping hand to the Colonial Office in carrying out the laudable object of the noble Earl opposite. He entirely agreed that the subject was one of great interest; and if a concession could be made it would be of the very greatest importance.


said, that with the remarks of the noble Earl who had brought this matter forward (Earl De La Warr) he almost entirely agreed. The noble Earl had laid great stress upon the importance to us of Malta; but it was not necessary, or indeed possible, for him to say anything on that point, because he was sure that Her Majesty's Government, in considering the possibility of granting any privilege to any of the Colonies or Dependencies of this country, would judge of the matter solely on its merits, and not with any reference whatever to the relative importance of the Colonies to this country. He thought that the question was more difficult and more complicated than the noble Earl supposed. The noble Earl had very wisely confined his observations to the case of Malta; but it was impossible not to consider the question with reference to the case of other Colonies and Dependencies also; and, as regarded the more distant Colonies, difficulties existed which, he must say, appeared to him to be insuperable. He did not see how vivâ vocs examinations could be carried on in different centres of examination without danger of gross injustice. In the case of examinations conducted on paper, it was, of course, different; but, in that respect also, difficulties arose which seemed to him to be almost insuperable with regard to their more distant Colonies, because it was obvious that a delay of many days, and even weeks, in receiving the examination papers at home would be attended with great inconvenience, hardship to candidates, and possible injustice. But these objections did not apply to the same extent to the Dependency with which the noble Earl had chiefly dealt—namely, Malta. As far as the vivâ voce examination went, the objection, of course, applied equally to both cases: but as regarded the examination conducted entirely on paper, the objection did not apply to the same extent in the case of Malta, which lay at a distance of four or five days from London. For himself, he might say that he believed that very sound arguments could be adduced in favour of making a difference between Malta and other Colonies. He did not think, however, that he need go into that question now. There was a difference between great self-governing Colonies and a small Dependency such as Malta. There was no outlet at all in Malta for the energies of the people. They were very poor as a rule, and could not afford the expense of coming to this country. There was a very large population, and a very small area upon which they could be supported. It was quite obvious, and it was most important, therefore, that they should have a fair opportunity of obtaining employment in the Civil Service, as well as in the Army and Navy. He saw a great deal of weight in the arguments which the noble Earl had brought forward, and, personally, he hoped that the difficulties which stood in the way might be got over. The question was one which had been before the Colonial Office on a great many occasions. It had always been pressed forward by that Department, and he could certainly undertake to say that the Office which he had the honour to represent in their Lordships' House would continue to press the matter on the attention of other Departments that had to deal with it, in the hope that many of the difficulties which stood in the way might possibly be overcome. More than that he was unable, at the present moment, to state. The matter was, no doubt, one of very considerable importance; but he was sure that the noble Earl and their Lordships generally would see that it was impossible that the Government could yet have had time to attend to it. He was very much obliged to the noble Earl for having brought the matter forward, and to the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Enfield) for having stated authoritatively the views of the Civil Service Commissioners. He (the Earl of Dunraven) could only say that the Colonial Office would not lose sight of the matter, in the hope that at some future time Her Majesty's Government might be able to come to some conclusion on the subject.


said, he hoped the matter would be pressed forward with as little delay as possible.