HL Deb 20 October 1915 vol 19 cc1080-93

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee—(Lord Islington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL or DONOUCTIMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Power to appoint to Indian Civil Service without examination.

1.—(1) The Secretary of State in Council may will the advice and assistance of the Civil Service Commissioners make rules providing for the admission and appointment to the Indian Civil Service by the Secretary of State in Council, during the continuance of the present war, and for a period not exceeding two years thereafter, of British subjects possessing such qualifications with respect to age and otherwise as may be prescribed by the rules, notwithstanding that they have not been certified as being entitled for appointment as the react of examination in accordance with the regulations and rules made under section thirty-two of the Government, of India Act, 1838, and section ninety-seven of the Government of India Act, l915: Provided that—

  1. (a) not less than one-fourth of the persons admitted to the Indian Civil Service during such period as aforesaid shall persons who have been so certified as aforesaid; and
  2. (b) a person shall not be appointed to the Indian Civil Service under the rules made under this section unless the Civil Service Commissioners certify that by such means as may be seribed the rules they Intro satisfied themselves that in their opinion he possesses the necessary educational qualifications.

(2) The provisions as to the laying before Parliament of regulations and rules made under the said sections thirty-two and ninety-seven shall apply to the rules made under this section.


I move to omit paragraph (b) and to insert the new paragraph (3) standing in my name on the Paper. Open competition for the Indian Civil Service has now prevailed for over sixty years and has given universal satisfaction not only in this country but also, I believe, in India; and no departure from that system should, I venture to think, receive approval from your Lordships unless on the most cogent grounds. I myself was satisfied with the statement of those grounds which was made on the Second Reading of this Bill by the noble Lord in charge of it. I think the circumstances of the time amply warrant the departure which is proposed; but if that departure is to be adopted an obligation, in my judgment, lies upon the Government to take precautions that no further variation from the system now in force should be permitted than is absolutely necessary, and that the essential fundamental principle of open competition should be as far as possible rigorously preserved. That principle, as I understand it, is that no favour or partiality shall be shown in allotting appointments, and that allotment shall be determined by the merits of the individual candidates only. That, I believe, is the principle which the noble Lord in charge of the Bill desires to enforce.

It will be in your Lordships' remembrance that in his speech in moving the Second Reading of the Bill the noble Lord foreshadowed the establishment of a repre- sentative Committee who were to assist the Secretary of State in making these appointments. Everything depends upon the character of that representative Committee. My object in bringing this Amendment to your Lordships' notice is to secure that this Committee shall be constituted as far as possible the light of public criticism and public opinion. The proposal in the Bill is that rules should be made under which the Committee is to be established. These rules will be framed by the Secretary of State for India after the Bill has come into operation, and action may be taken under the rules immediately on their being made. The law provides that rules framed in this way shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament within a fortnight of their being made, and the only means available to your Lordships and to the other House of Parliament of criticising those rules is to address the Crown with the object of vetoing them. That is a very cumbrous method, and one which is not altogether satisfactory. In my opinion it would be better that the rules should be, framed and submitted for your Lordships' consideration before they take effect. But if that is not permissible—and I admit it is a departure from the usual procedure—then I suggest that the classes of persons front whom the nominations to the Committee should be made should be indicated in the Bill. I believe it is far better for the Secretary of State to win the confidence of the public in that way before the Bill becomes law than to trust to winning that confidence by the character of the appointments made after the Bill has conic into operation.

Everything, as I have said, depends upon the character of this Committee. If you get a Committee which will command public confidence then I foresee that it is very possible that in this way you may secure for the Indian Civil Service a class of officers who will compare favourably, or at all events on Equal terms, with the highest class of officers hitherto appointed. This system has been adopted in manning the Egyptian and the Sudan Civil Service, and I believe it was established—I speak under correction—by Lord Cromer. Seeing the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, in his place, I can appeal to hint for confirmation of my statement that under this system he was able to obtain for the Civil Service of Egypt and the Sudan an excellent class of officers. In connection with the investigation into the Public Service here which was made by the Royal Commission over which I had the honour to preside, we made inquiries into the method of recruitment for the Sudan and the Egyptian Civil Service, and I privately called the attention of the noble Lord in charge of this Bill to the evidence which was given in that regard. I believe that the Committee to be appointed under this Bill will not altogether tread new ground, but will be able to derive considerable light from the experience of the Appointments Committee employed by the Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the recruitment of the Sudan Civil Service. At all events, what I wish above all to insist upon is that as much publicity as possible should be given to the constitution of this Committee. Not only should our educational institutions be called upon to nominate members of the Committee, but there should be included upon it men of experience and of weight in public affairs in the world generally. Where you cannot compare the capacities of men by a written examination it is most desirable that you should be able, by their methods of address, by their appearance, by the manner in which they frame their ideas and put them forward, to form an opinion as to the alertness and width of mind of the candidates who present themselves for these appointments.

I am myself a convinced upholder of the system of open competition, but I think that open competition has certain defects which might possibly he remedied by such interviews as I have now indicated. The proposal now is to enter upon a system which shall consist altogether of interviews, and from which the written examination is altogether to be eliminated. In my opinion you cannot form a true conception of the capacity and suitability of candidates by employing on your. Committee University dons and schoolmasters alone. You want also men of the world who have had experience of affairs and are able to say whether the candidate before them is likely to succeed in the career into which he desires to be admitted. That is all I have to say on the main subject of my Amendment. If your Lordships accept it, there will be no need for any subsequent revision of the recommendations of the Committee by the Civil Service Commission. The form of certification for finance purposes can readily be arranged for if the Civil Service Commission are authorised to accent the report of the Committee as sufficient authority for their action. I do not think that the Civil Service Commission as now constituted is altogether suitable for the purpose of the functions which this Bill proposes to confer upon the Committee. The question of the competency of the Civil Service Commission was fully considered by the Royal Commission on the Civil Service, who in their Fourth Report made certain suggestions with a view of improving the Civil Service Commission which I hope will in due time receive attention. I am quite satisfied in my own mind that it is far better to have a Committee of the kind that I have ventured to suggest, appointed ad hoc for this particular examination, than to trust the matter to the Civil Service Commission whose functions are properly exercised in a different sort of selection. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Clause 1, page 1, line 22, leave out paragraph (b) and insert the following new paragraph: (b) The rules shall provide for the creation of a committee (to consist of not more than nine members) to include the First Civil Service Commissioner, a member of authority in public affairs, a proper representation of the Universities of Great Britain and Ireland, and a representative of the Incorporated Association of Head Masters. Such committee shall follow so far as possible time procedure adopted by the Appointments Committees of the Oxford and Cambridge Universities in connection with appointments to the Egyptian and Sudan Civil Service, and shall report to the Secretary of State in Council their opinion upon the respective merits and educational qualifications of candidates for the Indian Civil Service other than those selected by open competition.—(Lord MacDonnell of Swinford.)


I had not intended to speak on this subject, and I merely rise in answer to the appeal which was made to me by the noble Lord to say something about the principle that was adopted in selecting candidates for the Sudanese and Egyptian Civil Service. What was done was this. Every year a small Committee of two or three high officials belonging to the Egyptian and Sudanese Service sat in London to look over the names of candidates who had applied for employment in Egypt and the Sudan. The first thing they did was to look at the medical certificates. The member of candidates was always much in excess of the number of vacancies, and the first step taken was to throw out all those whose medical certificates were not first-rate. After that, the Committee looked at the reports from the Appointments Committee of the Oxford and Cambridge Universities and the other information received about the candidates who had not been at those Universities. Then they selected the candidates who appeared to be the most likely and saw them. I agree with the noble Lord that if anything is to be done in the way of a Committee of this sort it is enormously important to select the Committee well and to appoint men whose judgment may be trusted. The system in our case certainly worked well, and we got some good men by it. But I think it is only fair to state that it was tried on a very small scale, the number of men appointed to the Egyptian and Sudanese Civil Service every year being two or three, or, at most, five. Whether the system would work equally well in connection with the larger sphere of the Indian Civil Service is more than. I can say.


I agree with what Inv noble friend Lord MacDonnell said in moving his Amendment, except in one particular. I am more doubtful than he is of the validity of the competitive examination as the final test for appointments of this great importance. I think an educational qualification tempered by wise selection probably gives the best results. The one point on which I do not agree with my noble friend's Amendment is think there should be on the Committee one person at least who has lived long in India, who knows the conditions of the work which those men would have to perform, and who also understands the kind of stress they would have to endure in that country. If such an addition were made to the Amendment I think it would moot the circumstances and the requirements of this important Bill.


I desire to associate myself with the remarks made by my noble friend who moved the Amendment in regard to the seriousness of this departure in suspending open competitive examination for entry into the Indian Civil Service. I will not delay the House this afternoon by repeating what I said on that subject in the debate on the Second Reading the other night, but I am sure it must be in the minds of all noble Lords that the circumstances of the war make it inevitable, if we are to ensure anything like the same standard of recruit for the Service in the future that, has been admitted to it in the past, that some means other than that of competitive examination must for the time being be devised. And for this reason, that a very large proportion of the candidates from the various Universities, instead of, as in the ordinary course, preparing for the examinations, are now occupied with either the Naval or the Military Forces of the Crown, and many of them are gallantly fighting for their country at the Front.

It is necessary, first of all, owing to this depletion, to adopt means by which we can ensure as soon as possible a high standard of candidates. It is also equally important that we should devise means by which those who have gallantly joined the Forces should in no way be disqualified or diverted from the career that they had hoped to enter upon in joining the Indian Civil Service. Therefore selection for a time, for the period of the war and for two years after, and in part—for three-quarters of the vacancies—is the main proposal of the Bill. The principle embodied in my noble friend's Amendment s is in entire accord with the scheme in contemplation by the Government. As I said on the Second Reading, the Government propose to set up a strong and representative Committee to undertake the work of selection. As far, therefore, as the final object is concerned there is no difference of opinion between my noble friend and the Government; and if I find myself unable to accept the Amendment which he has moved, at any rate precisely in its present form, I hope I may be able to persuade my noble friend that that fact will in no way prejudice the method of selection.

The Government consider that the constitution and powers of the Committee can best be established by regulation. My noble friend thinks that such establishment can best be introduced into the Bill. He went so far as to say that he would prefer to see the establishment of the Committee and its powers precede the Bill which is to set up the Committee. There are advantages in postponing the establishment of the Committee to regulations rather than embodying it in the Bill. In the first place, the selection of candidates, whenever it may take place—and it. is impossible at this juncture to say when it will take place—must be made on what I may call broad and generous grounds. Many of the hitherto standards will have to be looked at with a more lenient eve in the peculiar circumstances in which we shall stand when these candidates present themselves for entry into the Indian Civil Service. It may be that in the course of the next year some of those now fighting at the Front may be disabled to the extent of being unable to continue with the armed Forces of the Crown whilst at the same time their injuries may not be of sufficiently severe a character to disable them from passing the Medical Board for entry into and becoming useful members of the Indian Civil Service. But, of course, that is all hypothetical. We cannot say how many there will be who will be available in those circumstances; and it may be that the Selection Committee's work may have to be postponed until a later date, possibly until the termination of the war. As to the constitution of the Committee, my noble friend is anxious that there should be embodied in the four-corners of the Bill the actual personnel of the Committee. There are certain objections to that.


I asked that you should embody the classes from which the personael, the actual people, ought to be taken. I foresaw that you would not be able in the Bill to name the actual members, but you ought, I thought, to name the sources from which the actual members should be taken.


That would remove a certain objection. But there, again, it will tend to the better efficiency of the Selection Committee if time can be allowed for the Government to see from where the candidates are coming, whether they are coming in large numbers from one University or another, and the various conditions which there may be connected with the candidates if they come at the end of a prolonged war. I can see advantages in postponement being allowed in order that the constitution of the Committee may be framed in such a way as to meet whatever difficulties may present themselves at the time. Representation of the Universities—a broad generic term—would be difficult to define in selecting gentlemen to represent adequately and harmoniously all the various Universities. That will have, of course, to be carefully considered when the time comes.

There is another objection to the Amendment which I would like to bring before my noble friend. The object of paragraph (b) as it stands in the clause is for another and preliminary purpose to that of the actual work which will be discharged by the Selection Committee. The idea is that with the assistance of the Civil Service Commissioners the Secretary of State in Council may be enabled to assess a broad minimum of educational attainment no candidate below which will be entitled to go before the Selection Committee. That will be necessary because, as your Lordships know, the open competitive examination for the Indian Civil Service is a very severe one and a very high test of intellectual attainment. Whilst owing to the war and the removal of these young men from the various Universities they will not have the advantage of training to the high standard that has hitherto characterised candidates for the Indian Civil Service, at the same time I am sure your Lordships will agree that some minimum standard of education must be fixed below which it would not be advisable, or necessary even, for candidates to present themselves before the Selection Committee; and the Civil Service Commissioners are obviously the proper body to advise the Secretary of State in regard to matters of this kind. They are accustomed to set papers for and to control examinations, and they understand from long experience the broad equating of the various standards from different Universities.

There may be one or other ways by which this test of a minimum standard may be arrived at, and that, will be for the Secretary of State in Council, advised by the Civil Service Commissioners, to decide and to embody in the regulations. It may be laid down that candidates must have passed some examination towards a degree in one or other of the Universities from which they have been drawn. It may be, on the other hand, that the simplest and fairest manner of arriving at, the test will be a broad qualifying examination. That is a matter which will have to be very carefully considered, and in due course will be embodied in the regulations. Your Lordships will see that there are two definite and distinct processes—first, the test of a minimum educational standard; and then, when that standard has been passed, presenting the candidate before a representative Selection Committee. The analogy of the Egyptian and Sudanese examination, as the noble Earl on the Cross Benches remarked, has a certain weakness, because in the one case the average number of entries is five or six a year, whereas in the case of the Indian Civil Service the average number is over fifty; and if selection has to be postponed and you get an accumulation of years, it will be, of course, a very much larger number than that. Therefore some form of sifting the candidates before they come to the Selection Committee seems to be necessary.

It may be that my noble friend considers that paragraph (b) now in the clause gives rather too much power to the Civil Service Commissioners. If the suggested new paragraph (b) which I will read to the House would more nearly meet Lord MacDonnell's views than the paragraph as it stands I should be very glad to propose it in due course. The words which I suggest are— A person shall not be appointed to the Indian Civil Service under the rules made under this section unless the Secretary of State in Council has, with the advice and assistance of the Civil Service Commissioners, satisfied himself, in such manner as may be prescribed by the rules, that such person possesses the necessary educational qualifications. That makes more clear and definite the complete authority of the Secretary of State in Council, who will merely take the advice of the Civil Service Commissioners rather than, as now embodied in the clause, be dependent upon a certificate issued by the Civil Service Commissioners. I do not think there were any other points raised to which it is necessary for me to allude. I would, however, assure Lord MacDonnell that when the Selection Committee is constituted very careful consideration will be given to all the points that he brought forward.

We fully realise that in substituting selection for open competition, even for a time and even though it be partial, we are making a great departure and one which will be regarded by many in India with a certain amount of suspicion, though I hope that all reasonable people will see the absolute necessity of this step in the circumstances. But as far as selection can be freed from anything in the nature of patronage or of preference, that matter will be very carefully considered in constituting the Committee, and great care will also be taken as regards getting gentlemen on to the Committee who are able to speak from the various points of view—not merely the educational point of view, but the point of view of India and the point of view of knowledge of the military conditions under which these young men will have been working during the previous years.

One word with regard to the Indians. My noble friend suggested the other day that another Committee should be set up in India with a view to selecting Indians if the proportion to be admitted by open competition had not been made up. We have considered that, and have come to the conclusion that the fairest and simplest means is to allow those Indians on the list who were unsuccessful in the open competition to have admission to the Service provided they fulfil the necessary qualifications and pass the Medical Board. I do not say this absolutely definitely, because these matters, of course, have to be decided and dealt with in consultation with the Government of India; but we are strongly of opinion, and we have it in contemplation, that this would be the best and fairest course to adopt where the proportion of Indians falls short of previous years. I am sorry I cannot accept my noble friend's Amendment, but I hope my explanation will allay his fears that due consideration is not going to be given to the constitution of the Selection Committee.


The noble Lord in charge of the Bill has suggested the insertion of words to the effect that the Secretary of State in Council should be Satisfied "that such person possesses the necessary educational qualifications." I suggest that after the word "educational" the noble Lord should insert "and medical," because the medical test for these appointments in hot climate, is quite as important as the educational test.


All the candidates will be bound to go before the Medical Board and pass the medical test. That comes under a rather different category from the work which the Civil Service Commissioners would have to discharge. I think the point raised by Lord Cromer is fully met by the fact that the Medical Board will test all these candidates.


Very well.


The essential matter which I wished to bring under your Lordships' notice was that, having regard to the great change from competition to this system of nomination, the utmost publicity possible should be given to the constitution of the Committee at the time of its being constituted, in order that if any objections were taken by any section of the public they might be discussed in your Lordships' House and thoroughly ventilated. That point, I am afraid, was missed by my noble friend Lord Islington. It may have been my fault. I may not have put my views with sufficient perspicacity. But my contention was that if the personnel of the Committee could not be mentioned in the Bill—which I thought would be the better plan—the operation of the Act should be postponed until the rules had been framed and subjected to your Lordships' consideration. As matters now stand, the rules will be framed by the Secretary of State—I have not the least doubt with the intention of carrying out all the objects which the noble Lord has mentioned—but they will not see the light of day until they are placed before your Lordships' House and possibly not until appointments have been made under them. There will then be no possibility of considering or criticising the rules except in circumstances which limit your Lordships to either approval or carrying a Motion vetoing the rules. I think that in this very important matter the House and the country generally are placed at a great disadvantage in trusting altogether to the wisdom and the forethought of the Secretary of State. Animated by the most excellent intentions he may misunderstand altogether and misinterpret the feelings of certain classes of the people. The noble Lord has referred to the necessity of associating the Civil Service Commissioners with the Secretary of State in the subsequent part of the proceedings, especially in regard to the educational test which has to be demanded. There is nothing more simple than to put in the rules a statement that no candidate will be entitled to apply unless he has passed either, if you want a very low qualification, the Secondary Educational Final Examination, or, if you want a higher examination, a degree of a University. That would be acceptable as proof positive that the candidate had acquired a certain educational qualification. To ask the Civil Service Commissioners by talking to a candidate to say that he has acquired a certain educational knowledge is to ask from the Commissioners information which it is very difficult for them to supply. I am most anxious not to inconvenience the Government and not to stand in the way of the passage of this Bill, but this is a most important matter, important not only as regards this country but as regards India, and I think there will be misapprehensions and suspicions of favouritism, and so for h, unless advantage is taken of this opportunity of having the rules made in as public a manner as possible.


I think every one of us sympathises with Lord MacDonnell's desire that there should be the most careful selection of these candidates; but after what has been said by the noble Lord the Under-Secretary, it is perfectly clear that the India Office propose to proceed practically on the principle laid down by Lord MacDonnell. Therefore I think we might put confidence in the Secretary of State in the case of a temporary provision of this character. Certainly if the noble Lord presses his Amendment, which I hope he will not do, I shall vote with the Government.

LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD I should like, before my Amendment is put, to amend the words "a member of authority in public affairs." I desire this to read "members of authority in public affairs, English and Indian."


The first Question I have to put is whether paragraph (b) should remain in the clause.

On Question, paragraph (b) deleted.


I will now put the new paragraph (b) moved by Lord MacDonnell.

On Question, Amendment negatived.


I move to insert the new paragraph (b) which I have read to the House.

Amendment moved—

Clause 1, page 1, line 22, insert the following new paragraph: (b) A person shall not be appointed to the Indian Civil Service under the rules made under this section unless the Secretary of State in Council has, with the advice and assistance of the Civil Service Commissioners, satisfied himself, in such manner as may be prescribed by the rules, that such person possesses the necessary educational qualifications."—(Lord Islington.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

The Report of Amendment to be received on Tuesday next, and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 164.)