HL Deb 28 October 1915 vol 20 cc67-75

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Islington.)

On Question, Bill read 3a.

Clause 1:

Power to appoint to Indian Civil Service without examination.

1.—(1) The Secretary of State in Council may with 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 result of examination in accordance with the regulations and rules made under section thirty-two of the Government of India Act, 1858, and section ninety-seven of the Government of India Act, 1915:

Provided that—

  1. (a) not less than one-fourth of the persons admitted to the Indian Civil Service during such period as aforesaid shall be 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 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.

(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.


My Lords, I move to add at the end of subsection (2) of Clause 1 the words, "and no action shall be taken under such regulations and rules until they shall have been so laid before Parliament for the appointed time." it will be in the recollection of your Lordships that when this Bill was in Committee I dwelt upon the attachment in this country and in India to the principle of open competition, and pointed out that if for particular reasons it was desirable on a particular occasion to depart from that principle, it should be done in such a way as to indicate no departure in reality from the underlying principle of the open competitive system. I thought that in the circumstances of this particular case there was sufficient justification for a departure, and I indicated my view that the adoption of the principle of selection by a representative Committee, which the noble Lord in charge of the Bill said it was the intention of the Government to set up, was a good way of avoiding the suspicions which I thought might have been excited by the introduction of this Bill.

As there was no mention of the representative Committee in the Bill as drafted—the Government's intention in that regard being mentioned by the Under-Secretary in the course of his speech—I thought it right that the Bill should, in its clauses, embody the idea of the representative Committee, that it should also indicate the sources from which the Committee should be drawn, and, further, that it should give some indication of the procedure to be followed by the Committee. It was on those grounds that I proposed my Amendment on the Committee stage of the Bill. Your Lordships, however, rejected that Amendment, but accepted an Amendment moved by the noble Lord in charge of the Bill which, in my opinion, makes the exercise of patronage by the Secretary of State for India more unrestricted and unqualified than the Bill as originally drafted provided for.

I believe that the Bill has not met with universal acceptance in India. That may be to a large extent due to the provisions of the Bill, its object and meaning, not being accurately or sufficiently appreciated. Of course, the explanations which will be given either from the India Office or by the Viceroy will go far to remove misapprehensions which may have been entertained. But from my own point of view I think the best means of removing these misapprehensions would be to constitute the Committee in the light of the fullest publicity possible, to enable this House to consider the rules which will be framed under the Bill, and if the personnel of the Committee could be displayed in the rules I believe that public confidence in India in the intentions of His Majesty's Government would be revived—if "revived" is the proper word—at all events, would become established.

I therefore propose that before the rules come into operation they should be laid for a certain period before your Lordships House and the other House of Parliament. I do not think that procedure would involve much delay. The rules will be simple rules; I believe they could be drafted in a fortnight, and there is no reason why they should not become completely operative within two or two and a-half months. My only object in bringing this Amendment forward is that the Bill, with which I thoroughly agree, should be promulgated under the best auspices and be attended with success. Under the rules certain natives of India will be appointed. I think it very desirable that the Indian people should have the assurance which this procedure would give them that the Committee will include gentlemen of Indian experience who will be able to furnish the information which local knowledge alone can give.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 2, line 8, after ("section") insert ("and no action shall be taken under such regulations and rules until they shall have been so laid before Parliament for the appointed time").—(Lord MacDonnell.)


My Lords, I earnestly hope that the Government will accept this Amendment. I find it most difficult to conceive any valid objection to it. Ordinarily when Bills are framed which give power to make rules it is generally assumed that the rules are not contentious nor difficult to frame, and that they are not of sufficient importance to warrant the necessity for subsequent criticism. But the rules to be made under this Bill will be exceedingly difficult to frame, and are certain to be contentious. In fact, the Bill will really turn upon the rules; the Bill is not contentious, but the rules may be exceedingly contentious. As matters now stand, the Secretary of State will be advised only by the Civil Service Commissioners. That is a body with great experience of conducting examinations in this country, but it has no knowledge of what are the real educational requirements for our officers in India and it works on conditions laid down by superior authority. At a former stage my noble friend tried to get inserted in the Bill an Amendment which would have set up a sort of Statutory Committee to advise the Secretary of State in this important matter. The importance of that, as he pointed out, would be that every one would know who the selecting body was. In matters of this kind the Indian mind is, quite naturally, suspicious; it is very important that Indians should know exactly who are the people who will make the selection. You cannot be too frank and open in all your dealings with Indians in such matters as these, and that, to my mind, is a very strong reason for accepting the Amendment now before the House.

As I have said, this is a much more complicated matter than it really appears Many interests will be involved in the making of these rules. There are the Universities, which will naturally claim to have a fair share in the number of nominations. The rules will have to say how the nominations shall be distributed between Oxford and Cambridge and the other Universities, aid that will be a most difficult thing to do. Further than that, the interpretation of this Bill may be that the Secretary of State can vary the proportion in one year in different circumstances. The Bill only requires that there shall be a ratio of one-fourth during the whole prescribed period. That will have to be made clear in the rules or it will give rise to great discontent in India.

I do not think your Lordships have had quite sufficient information as regards the objects of the Bill and the circumstances which have made it necessary. I gathered from what the noble Lord the Under-Secretary said—I think in the Second Reading debate—that only men now actually in the Indian Service had been allowed to join the military forces, and that the thirty-nine successful candidates of last year had been restrained from joining. But I understand that this is not the fact, and that the men to whom the noble Lord referred as having gone to the Front were all probationers. That means that the number now going out to India will not be thirty-nine, as we were told, but only twenty-seven. For these reasons I earnestly appeal to the Government to accept this Amendment. It is upon the personal qualities of the men we send to India, much more, perhaps, than on their educational attainments, that the success of our rule in India depends, and no care and no caution can be too great in making the selections which will have to be made under this Bill.


My Lords, before I address myself to the Amendment moved by Lord MacDonnell I would like to say one word in reply to the remarks of Lord Sydenham as to the young recruits who have joined the Forces. He was under a misapprehension when he said that in the Second Reading debate I alluded merely to the recruits. I stated that it was the probationers some of whom had been taken by the Forces; some had joined Regular units at the Front, and others had joined Territorial units now in India. I cannot state from recollection the exact number, but I am quite sure the number of those still in the Universities who will in due course go out to the Indian Civil Service is larger than the noble Lord mentioned.


I understand that the total number is only twenty-seven.


Who are left?


Yes, who will go out.


I think the figure is considerably more, but I cannot commit myself from memory to the number. I believe I am correct in saying that only eleven have joined the Forces out of the fifty-two or fifty-three probationers; the remainder were restrained, although many of them desired to join; they were restrained at the Universities and will in due course, after passing the final examination, proceed to India in the Service.

My noble friend Lord MacDonnell has again expressed the main object that he has in moving his Amendment. It is an object which we all share—namely, that there should be no misapprehension as to the reasons why this Bill has had to be introduced and the methods by which it is to be given effect to hereafter. I deprecate with him that, owing probably to insufficient information, there has been a misapprehension in parts of India as regards this scheme. As I said on Second Reading and repeated in Committee, the Government are most anxious in every way to remove anything which in making this temporary alteration of the law might appear in the nature of a disability to the Indian community. On the two previous stages of the Bill I endeavoured to make it as clear as possible that the method by which we were going to work would in no way cause disability to Indians. I am given to understand that the Amendment of my noble friend as it stands would not attain the object he desires. If he wanted these regulations effectively brought under the scrutiny of Parliament lie he would have to add words giving power to both Houses of Parliament to present an Address to His Majesty during the period specified. This particular Amendment would not do that, and there might be difficulty, even if it were passed, in his attaining the object of, if he so desired, altering the regulations when presented to Parliament.


Subsection (2) of Clause 1 provides that the provisions as to the laying before Parliament of regulations and rules made under Section 32 of the Government of India Act of 1858 and Section 97 of the Act of 1915 shall apply to the rules made under this Bill. Am I not right in thinking that it is competent to either House of Parliament, when these rules are laid before it, to move an Address with the object of vetoing them, should Parliament so desire?


From the advice given me, I understand that that is not so. The provisions as incorporated in the Bill and taken in conjunction with the Government of India Act, 1915, which is a Consolidation Act, will allow of the rules being presented to both Houses of Parliament, but, as I am advised, do not allow of any alteration being made in either House, unless, as I have already said, the power were obtained from Parliament to move an Address to His Majesty. The laying before Parliament of these rules and regulations is purely for information, but of course any noble Lord could raise a discussion on them, and if they were in any way obviously imperfect I have no doubt the Government would carefully consider any strong opinion which was advanced.

The desire of the two noble Lords who have spoken is that these regulations should have complete publicity, that there should therefore be no misapprehension either in this country or in India as to the objects of the Bill, and that the regulations, being of a complicated character, should undergo discussion with a view to amendment if considered necessary. Let me very shortly re-state exactly the position. There is to be for one-fourth of the vacancies an open competitive examination, which will take place regularly every year at the usual time from now onwards during the war and for two years afterwards. As I explained the other day, in order that Indians under this restricted competitive examination should suffer no disability an undertaking has been made—it will be repeated in another place by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State—that if during the competitive examination for this one-fourth less Indians are admitted than the average figure of a certain number of previous years, that average number will be made up by taking the first, second, or whatever the number may be, of Indian gentlemen who are on the unsuccessful list, provided, of course, they have passed the medical examination and reached the prescribed educational standard. Therefore as regards Indians the machinery of the Selection Committee will not be brought into operation. If the average number are successful in the competitive examination nothing more would be required. If that number is not attained, then automatically the next unsuccessful on the list, and so on, will be taken. Therefore, as I say, as regards Indians the Selection Committee is not required.

Now let me say a word as regards Europeans. Three main conditions will govern the selection of Europeans. First, any candidate to be eligible must have served either with the naval or military forces of the Crown during the war. In the regulations will appear the details as to the period and the nature of his services. Secondly, he must have reached a minimum educational standard; and that, as I said the other day, is to be determined by the Secretary of State in Council with the assistance of the Civil Service Commissioners, which, after all, is the body that has dealt with these examinations in the past and is the best qualified to decide in this connection what should be the minimum standard. Thirdly, having satisfied the two conditions which I have mentioned, the candidates will come before a representative Committee to be examined, and when selected will be recommended for nomination to the Secretary of State.

This Committee is in due course to be appointed by the Secretary of State in Council. As I have already said, very great care will be taken that education in its broadest sense will be represented upon that Committee. Great care will be taken also that full and up-to-date experience of Indian conditions in its relation to the Indian Civil Service will also be represented, and in all probability there will be upon the Committee a prominent representative of the Civil Service Commission and others conversant and connected with Indian Government. It is impossible at this juncture to say when the services of this Committee will be required. It may be found that next year there will be a sufficient number of candidates available, and selection may have to be postponed until the termination of the war. It therefore does seem to me that it would be most premature to attempt to lay down any regulations now or until such time as the Committee will be called upon to do its work, because during the interval circumstances may change which might necessitate a different framing of the regulations.

The noble Lord considers that these regulations are going to be extremely difficult and complicated. I cannot help feeling, taking into consideration what I have already said, that there need be no very great difficulty in framing the regulations. They should be short and simple, and I should hope comparatively few in number. I venture to say that on the whole the India Office, with all the expert assistance in these matters that it has at its disposal, is well qualified to frame these regulations, and that your Lordships can repose perfect confidence in the care and the equity with which they will be framed. Every precaution will be taken to safeguard the position both for the Indian and for the European. Great care will be taken in the constitution of the Committee and in the rules that will have to be framed; and I would commend to your Lordships' approval that you will probably ensure getting a preferable list of regulations if they are framed in the deliberate way in which that can be done in an Office than might be evolved as the result of a discussion either in this or in the other House; and that at any rate the India Office can be fully trusted to carry this out on lines that will be satisfactory to the Service and to India.


My Lords, I believe I am entitled to a word in reply, having proposed the Amendment. The only remark I have to make is that in my opinion the noble Lord is entirely mistaken in thinking that the Civil Service Commissioners will be a better body to advise the Secretary of State in Council regarding the educational and other qualifications of candidates than the Committee which I had the honour of proposing. As a matter of fact the Civil Service Commissioners deal only with the results of examinations; they never in any case themselves examine. They employ examiners who test and return the results, and then the Civil Service Commissioners perform the ministerial duty of publishing those results. My proposal was that the Committee should inquire into the educational and other qualifications of candidates and advise the Secretary of State as to the comparative suitability of each. That advantage you will not be able to get from employing the Civil Service Commissioners in the way proposed.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.