§ 3.32 p.m.
VISCOUNT MERSEY rose to call attention to the recent remarks of the First Civil Service Commissioner at Oxford, reported in The Times of March 22, on the low standard in personality and intelligence shown by applicants for entry in the Civil Service; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this Motion has been on the Order Paper for some considerable time. The delay is not due to me, but to the well-known pressure of Government business. Indeed, the Motion would not have been on the Paper to-day had it not been for the kindness of my noble friend, Lord Teynham, who kindly postponed a Motion of his own. As it is two months old I think I had better shortly detail its history. On March 22 The Times printed a paragraph reporting a speech made at Oxford by Sir Percival Waterfield, the First Civil Service Commissioner. I will read the relevant part of what Sir Percival Waterfield is reported to have said:
Of 3,000 men and women graduates interviewed for the Civil Service…40 per cent. of those who wanted to get into the administrative
service and 50 per cent. of applicants for the foreign service scored marks for personality and intelligence which represented complete failure. From the point of view of the Civil Service they were not in the running. Indeed, about 5 per cent. in the administrative service and 8 per cent. in the foreign service were below even the lowest category. A disquieting feature was that among those who failed 60 per cent. had university or college scholarships and 20 per cent. were those who had State scholarships.
That seemed to me to be so important a statement that it deserved to be brought to your Lordships' notice.
§ Sir Percival Waterfield is not only a distinguished civil servant, but also a distinguished scholar. He was educated at Westminster and Christchurch, and he took double First Honours. He then passed the competitive examination into the Civil Service, and filled a number of important positions in that Service, until nine years ago he was appointed the First Civil Service Commissioner. As your Lordships know, the First Civil Service Commissioner is the gentleman who, in effect, directs all the examinations and tests for entrance into the Civil Service. I understand—though my noble friend will correct me if I am wrong—that he is one of the civil servants who are not in the habit of receiving directives but who are largely independent. I do not imagine that a gentleman with that record, and who has held those positions, is likely to make a statement of this sort without good foundation for it. There are, apparently, three points which arise. First, there is the training or the education to which these applicants have been subjected; secondly, the tests which are applied to them when they wish to enter the Civil Service; and, thirdly, the qualities which are judged necessary for the Civil Service. I shall not weary your Lordships, because I know that several other noble Lords who are much more conversant with the matter than I am, and who are more likely to engage your Lordships' attention, have expressed their desire to speak. I am also conscious that there are two other Motions on the Paper following this.
§ With regard to the first question of training and education, are we doing the right thing? Are we teaching the young people the right sort of things? Are we doing it in the right way? We 1036 hear a lot about State scholarships. A great many people in my neighbourhood in the country have State scholarships, and I hope that they really mean something. Many years ago I, myself, obtained a scholarship, and it was then thought to be quite a good thing. I did know some Latin, I did know some Greek, and I did know some history. I also knew some divinity—lists of the Kings of Israel. I did not know any science, I did not know much French and I certainly knew no geography. But, still, I knew something. Is the training that we are giving at present relatively adequate? And is it followed up in a satisfactory way? The advantage of the scholarship in my day was that we were all brought up together in one building. We all had the same sort of interests. We were not ashamed of our books, and we had a general interest in the humanities and in literary subjects. We all read. I heard a Manchester schoolmaster broadcast the other day, and he said that no young people read at all now. I do not know if that is true, but that is what he said. Personally, I am an unrepentant believer in the humanities. I always remember that Voltaire said that the classics were the amenities of later life. I remember, also, that Sir Robert Walpole, after twenty years as Prime Minister in the House of Commons, when he was old and infirm, said that the thing he most regretted was that he had forgotten his classics. Are the applicants taught any foreign languages? I believe it is rather the fashion at present, in the Army, to decry those who speak foreign languages; they are merely technicians. For myself, I think this is wrong; but there are other speakers who will comment on that.
§ LORD LINDSAY OF BIRKER
May I ask the noble Viscount whether he is talking about what people are taught before they come to the university, or what they are taught at the university?
I am speaking at the moment about what they learn before they go to the university—those who secure the State scholarships. Even what they learn at the universities must be largely influenced by what they have learned before.
The second point is the tests. I am not going to concentrate upon Stoke d'Abernon. Many other speakers who know more than I do will have a good 1037 deal to say about that. Oral tests are probably a good thing. I might divert your Lordships with tales of oral examinations. It is alleged that they give opportunities for smartness; that the applicants are much handicapped by nervousness, and that luck and other considerations enter largely into them. The tale that always comes into my mind (perhaps it is already known to your Lordships) is that of the young undergraduate who was poor at his books, but who was a good oar, and whose services his college very much wanted to retain. His tutor said a word to the examiner—which no doubt did not influence him—and to the astonishment of everybody this young fellow passed Responsions, or whatever it was. Afterwards, his tutor said to the examiner: "How on earth did that poor fool get through his examination?" "Well," said the examiner, "it was only a qualifying examination, and 50 per cent. of the marks gave a pass. I asked only two questions. My first was: 'Do you know who wrote Aeneid?'; and the answer was: ' Yes, Homer.' Well, that was no good. Then I asked him my second question. I said: ' Do you know anything else that Homer wrote? ', and he said, ' No,' which was right. So he passed."
As to smartness, we all know the tale of the young naval cadet who, in his last test, came up before the board of three Admirals; and the presiding genius said to him: "Now, my lad, whom do you consider the most distinguished Admirals in British history?" The boy replied: "Lord Nelson, sir, Lord Howe, sir, and, if I may say so, yourself."He also passed. As regards nervousness, I remember the late Lord Burnham telling me that when he went up for his oral examination in his Honours Schools, he was so nervous that he asked the leave of his examiners for his wife to sit in the room. He had married at the age of twenty-one. His wife was admitted to the examination room and he also passed.
I should like to ask my noble friend whether the results on paper are as bad as the results viva voce; perhaps too much bias is given to the spoken rather than to the written word. It is a matter upon which I should be glad of some information. I have left the tests question alone. My thunder has largely been stolen by 1038 several comprehensive articles which have lately appeared in the daily Press.
As regards the qualities for the Civil Service, I may say that I have never been a civil servant, but I have been associated a good deal not only with the Civil Service in this country, in the Foreign Service, the War Department and the Board of Trade, but also with one or two Civil Services abroad. I was once in the Embassy in Russia and I used to see a good deal of the Civil Service here. Everybody wanted to join the Chin. You got a uniform, a position, and the premise of a pension. Many young fellows used to go up for this examination and fail. They had read a good deal of Marx and Spencer and that class of ideologist—I am not alluding to the stores but to Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer. Those young men came away embittered and disgruntled, and were often a fertile forcing ground for revolutionaries. I am not at all certain that very much the same position did not at one time occur in India.
In France, where I was in Paris commanding a military mission for three years and where I got to know a good deal of the civil servants, they were extremely competent. They had a much wider range of knowledge than one generally expects in a man sitting in an office. But the quality that always impressed me—it is one which I have never been able to acquire myself, but it is common to all civil servants, not only in this country but in others—was the beautiful land they wrote—I know three noble Lords under whom I have had the privilege of serving, Lord Currie, Lord Bertie, and Lord Hardinge, who up to the end of their lives all wrote the most perfect copper plate hand. They wrote it without hesitation and without erasure, like Sir Walter Scott, who used to write page after page of his novels without a single erasure, so that they went straight to the printers. What a cheap bill for corrections he must have had! I know that the Civil Service requires particular qualifications—and no doubt Sir Percival Waterfield is amply qualified to say what they are—but possibly not the ability to make rapid decision such as a soldier, a sailor or an airman has to make I imagine that a civil servant, especially in a high position, needs chiefly the power of reflection and thought, which is not easy to acquire. It is possible that at present we are in a transitional stage. The after- 1039 math of the last war was much the same. There are a number of ex-officers who are anxious to get regular employment, and they possibly have not the knowledge they think they have. That may account for some of the very large number of failures.
I think I have now said sufficient. I am very happy indeed to know that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, will reply. With his range and his versatility he will cover the field without any difficulty, but I do not want to put too bulky or too heavy a burden on his back. I have told him the questions that I propose to ask, and I will reiterate them. Do His Majesty's Government endorse the remarks of Sir Percival Waterfield? Is it true that the written replies in the examinations are of as low a standard as the oral replies? Is a sufficient importance attached to foreign languages? By foreign languages I do not merely mean being able to ask the way, but to read foreign literature and possibly to travel in foreign countries. Do His Majesty's Government suggest any alterations in the present system?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (LORD PAKENHAM)
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount, who is being so very kind and helpful to us, but I am not quite clear about his third question in relation to foreign languages. Is the noble Viscount asking us a question about the use of foreign languages in schools and universities, or is he referring to the tests and asking whether sufficient emphasis is given to foreign languages in the tests?
Both. In the preliminary training, which I imagine is largely influenced by what the Commissioner suggests, and also in the actual tests. I imagine that if there had not been some suggestion to the headmasters of schools that qualification in foreign languages was thought necessary, it would not be applied in the examinations. If the noble Lord, in giving a reply—which I know will be both amusing and illuminating, as his replies always are—decides in addition that he can lay some Paper, not to-day nor to-morrow, but within a reasonable time, I think he would give a great deal of satisfaction to many people who are exercised about this question. I beg to move for Papers.
§ Moved, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the recent remarks of the First Civil Service Commissioner at Oxford, reported in The Times of March 22, on the low standard in personality and intelligence shown by applicants for entry in the Civil Service.—(Viscount Mersey.)
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE
My Lords, I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the noble Viscount for raising this very important question of the part that university graduates can play in the business of the Civil Service. I have long been actively interested in this question, and I think I was the first member of your Lordships' House to visit the country house at Stoke d'Abernon. I spent forty-eight hours there and witnessed the test which is known by the name of "C.S.S.B." I have recently met the Final Selection Board, who actually make the appointment. I have also, in view of this debate, taken the opportunity of reading very carefully the First Commissioner's speech. He speaks with unrivalled authority. He represents the Civil Service, which is the largest employer of university graduates in administrative positions of all concerns in the country. In the last two-and-a-half years, he has himself, I understand, interviewed over 3,000 candidates, mainly ex-Service men, for these positions. I do not think the speaker was aware that the Press were present when he made his speech, or he might have spoken in rather less strong terms. However, perhaps it is a good thing he did speak out, because it is probably the strength of his language which has given us the opportunity to-day of debating this very important subject. Sir Percival discussed all the broader qualifications which are required for the Civil Service, and summed up the main qualifications as "brains, guts and conscience." Perhaps we may put it, shortly and simply, as "brains and personality"—personality being an omnibus word, including the qualities of initiative, drive and power of co-operation required for various administrative tasks.
Your Lordships will remember that about a hundred years ago Lord Macaulay was responsible for introducing examination as a method of entry into the Civil Service. It was a great success. It is commonly said that it produced the best Civil Service in the world. That is probably true. After 1041 the First World War it was found desirable, in view of increasing specialisation, to add some test of personality. After the Second World War there were many ex-Service men who wanted to get into the Civil Service, and it was felt that a purely competitive examination would not be fair. Their five or six years of service would have told against them, rather than for them, and therefore this new system was introduced. In the past, the Civil Service has gone mainly upon the method of examination, whereas industry has gone on the method of personality as manifested by interview. I do not think Sir Percival had any complaint as to the brains or intelligence of candidates. They represented about the top one-third of our university products, and I think the Commissioners are entirely satisfied with the quality of their intelligence. He suggested that the universities might take more trouble in selecting their students. Education in our universities has become more and more specialised, and Sir Percival suggested a broader and more general education. It has been said that the science graduate knows nothing about the humanities and regrets it; while the arts graduate knows no science and is proud of it. Perhaps this is a sweeping statement, but Sir Percival went on to suggest to the universities that no more arts students should go out into the world without some knowledge of science, no scientists without some knowledge of the humaner studies, ancient or modern, and none without the ability of expressing himself in terse and vigorous English. He went on to say that the Commissioners would be glad to modify accordingly their examinations for the universities.
Now I turn to the second question, the question of the country house where the C.S.S.B. have their headquarters. There have been some rather violent attacks in the Press on the C.S.S.B. One paper with a circulation of millions, had a large headline:Careers lost in the week-endand asked:How many promising young men have had their careers destroyed because they have failed to pass a psychological test at a weekend house party?That seems to me a most unjustifiable and unfortunate reflection on C.S.S.B. It is completely misinformed. The answer is that no candidates have had their careers destroyed at the house party, because the 1042 house party have no authority to accept or reject. It is unfortunate perhaps that the Press were not admitted to see this work earlier. Noble Lords will have seen reports in the Press in the last day or two, much more adequate reports, and will no doubt be aware that the essence of this scheme is that candidates are examined in groups of about seven by three experienced interviewers who spend forty-eight hours with the candidates, singly and in groups. Then each of the three interviewers writes out a full report; they give a mark, I think for nine grades, for each candidate. They take no decisions at the country house. They simply grade the candidates. The reports they write are very full and they go to the Final Selection Board, who include civil servants from the Home Office, the Foreign Office, trade unionists, and so forth, and who are able to receive fuller information than would otherwise be possible.
There is no doubt that the science of interviewing is advancing rapidly. Sir Michael Sadleir reported in 1935 on the subject of interviewing and its importance. It is of interest to note the placing of candidates by a selection board. The results showed the method to be highly unreliable. The candidate which Board A placed first was placed eleventh by Board B, and Board B's first choice was placed thirteenth by Board A. Sir Michael Sadleir's report showed that they had not the same information before them; it all depended whether or not they found the right subject for a particular candidate. The whole point of C.S.S.B. is that they try to give the fullest possible information; to the Final Selection Board. I was greatly impressed by the mass of care-fully sifted and well thought-out information which they produced; there is no doubt that the Final Selection Board have better opportunities than they ever had in the past.
One striking piece of evidence of the value of the C.S.S.B. method is that large industrial firms are beginning to adopt it. I know two firms, both of whom have adopted the C.S.S.B. method, though rather differently. They have a selection board; they have about seven candidates and three or four interviewers, and they all live together for about twelve hours in one day. They have every possible kind of test, both in groups and singly. Then the interviewers meet and come to their 1043 decision. In that case, C.S.S.B. and the Final Selection Board amalgamate into one. What they want is to find the men with the best personality and those who are most likely, given the proper opportunity, to lead to the top administrative jobs. Then there is the question of the cost of interviewing. The cost of interviewing each student is about £20 and, owing to the tremendous flood of applicants, of which five out of every six are rejected, the cost per selected candidate comes to £120. In the case of the Civil Service, of course, that cannot be afforded. As noble Lords know, from the beginning it is responsible work, and, of course, there is security for life. Whereas industrial firms can afford to make mistakes, in the selections for the Civil Service mistakes cannot be afforded.
There is one other point I should like to raise now. A certain amount of prejudice has been imported into this because of the practice of having a professional psychologist as one of the three interviewers. It seems to be suggested that psychologists are a rather undesirable set of people. The psychologist is a person who studies human nature; he has studied psychology seriously at a university. He has worked at it for many years of his life before being chosen for a job of this sort. Psychology is, perhaps, the most difficult of the sciences; it is certainly in its infancy. The whole practice of the Civil Service Selection Board is to try to judge and understand the various mental characteristics of the individuals before them and to estimate how they are likely to develop. Surely that is a job not to be left to amateurs. It is extraordinary to say that it is undesirable to have the most experienced people who specialise in this subject doing this work. In my own firm in the last few weeks we have tried this method for the first time. The only way one can judge is to seek the help of the psychologist. A psychologist came down; he worked out the whole procedure; he spent a whole day with eight candidates and with three or four of my colleagues; and the next morning the interviewing board met. My colleagues told me that the psychological interviewer went through the whole list of his eight candidates, testing all their qualities, and gave what they regarded as a completely convincing and masterly 1044 performance. They all said that none of them had attempted to draw the conclusion which this man did, and he completely convinced them. I think one may go so far as to say that to start a selection board of this kind without a professional psychological adviser would be a complete waste of time. Therefore, those who arrange these things must have regard to that aspect of the matter.
In conclusion, I would just summarise the evidence for the success of this measure. Of the 3,000 candidates, 2,500 have been unsuccessful, not because they were not good candidates, for I think the quality has been high all through. However, in spite of their very high quality, 2,500 candidates have been unsuccessful. Here are 2,500 rejected candidates in the country. There have been two or three inquiries as to what they thought of the method employed and I am told that 90 per cent. of them took the view, in spite of the fact that they had been rejected, that the method employed is good, fair and better than the alternative method of examination. In addition, I think about a hundred distinguished people have been down to Stoke d'Abernon and spent forty-eight hours there. And there again, the great majority are in general favour of the system. I have already said that the leading industrialists are paying the system the compliment of copying it and, if possible, improving upon it.
On the question of what the Home and Foreign Civil Service think about it, I am told that they are favourably impressed; but no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, will give us fuller information when he replies. However, I think it is fair to say that this is the best method yet devised to enable a selection board to secure proper basic information. The system is affording valuable research and is adding to our knowledge in this important field. Of course, it is far from perfect; nobody would suggest that it is perfect. But what is certain is that the system is helping the Final Selection Board to make fewer mistakes and to make a better selection. I hope that noble Lords will agree, when they have heard the debate, that the late Government are to be congratulated on having set up this system, which was based on the War Office Selection Board's system employed during the Second World War. That system produced very satisfactory 1045 results, although in that case candidates were selected for a quite different set of qualities, from those sought by the Civil Service Selection Board. I hope we shall hear that it is intended to maintain and to continue the system, and I hope your Lordships will agree that it is, in fact, going to make a real contribution to strengthen the Civil Service for its ever-increasing responsibilities.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ LORD LINDSAY OF BIRKER
My Lords, this debate appears to have become a debate largely on the C.S.S.B., but Sir Percival Waterfield was not talking about the C.S.S.B.; he was talking about the distressingly low standard of qualities shown by the candidates who came before the board. No doubt that implied that the yardstick of the C.S.S.B. was a true yardstick; nevertheless that was not what he was concerned with. He was concerned with the fact that his experience seemed to show that the quality of the candidates for the Civil Service was distressingly low. He connected with that the fact that many of those who failed, and failed very badly indeed, had won State scholarships. Therefore it did look, as the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, was concerned to say also, as though something was wrong with the State scholarship system.
If your Lordships will allow me, I want to say a little about both those matters. May I begin by saying that I have not, like the noble Lord who preceded me, been to Stoke d'Abernon, but I have had the advantage of many conversations with Sir Percival Waterfield on this subject. He has been extraordinarily helpful and instructive and I owe a great deal to him. I say that very firmly because, nevertheless, I do not agree with him. Sir Percival appears to me, in his criticism of the candidates, to say two quite different things. I am sorry to say that one of them seems to me to betray an elementary fallacy. He appears to have failed to notice that as the result of the employment of the C.S.S.B. and the doing away with the regular examination the ordinary screening of candidates for the Civil Service has for all practical purposes disappeared. Before the Second World War, the standard of the candidates, especially for the home Civil Service, was extraordinarily high, and no college tutor would ever have advised his 1046 pupil to go in for the examination unless that pupil was fairly certain of securing either a First or a very good Second. Now all that is necessary is that the young man shall be deemed to have a reasonable chance of getting a Second—a reasonable chance. Lawyers, of course, are more familiar with the meaning of that mysterious word "reasonable." My experience is that the young man, in contradiction to what we have just been told regarding the C.S.S.B., and not knowing what on earth they will say, thinks it worth while to "have a shot," whereas if he had had to take the big examination, his tutor would have said, "In the circumstances, you have not the faintest chance of making any show."
Therefore, with respect, I think that the remark that Sir Percival made about low intellect is nonsense. I have heard many experienced tutors say that the standard of the university man at the present day is very high indeed. No doubt universities have made more mistakes than usual, by reason of the fact that they have to admit ex-Service men without examination, and no doubt there are among their pupils a certain number of people who, in normal times, would not go to a university. Nevertheless their standard is very high. I think it is perfectly clear that this selection has been made out of a far larger number and of even less average quality than would have been the case had there been a regular written examination. Therefore, with great respect, I pay no attention what-soever to that first remark.
A NOBLE LORD
Would the noble Lord allow me to say that Sir Percival Waterfield was not criticising only their intellect.
§ LORD LINDSAY OF BIRKER
It is only the dons who do that! It is over forty years since I sent my first pupils into the Civil Service. I have watched their careers and have seen them gain distinction, and I do not think that intellect is the only quality that matters. I make that general point: that there was no screening. But Sir Percival said something much more serious, with which I am in broad agreement. He said there were a small number of people who were quite extra ordinarily bad, and especially poor in personal character. I have had something like the same experience. At the 1047 beginning of the war, at Oxford, I did something that heads of Colleges seldom do. I saw the whole of the Service candidates in the university. And I and my colleagues could not help being struck by the fact that there were a small number of boys (I cannot give your Lordships the proportion, but they were mostly State scholars) who were no good at all. Their health was hopeless, they had no physique, and they made one despair. I know how that comes about because at the beginning of the war I had to do a lot of teaching (which I had not done for some time), and I taught these boys. They were very able boys, coming from poor homes and small schools, and they were boys to whom a State scholarship meant absolutely everything.
The headmasters of these small schools were very much dependent upon getting a reputation on these scholarships. I am not criticising the secondary schools as against public schools. These boys had taken no part in the ordinary extra curricula activities of the school, and the severe competition for the State scholarship had ruined their health and usually ruined their minds. They were getting into the Civil Service and, what is worse, they would in some cases become teachers, so producing a fairly vicious circle. I am not sure of the machinery we should adopt, but I do not think we shall get this matter put right until local authorities have a qualifying examination in health, personality and spirit, and until it is made clear to the ambitious and unfortunate master of the small school, and to his purpose, that the boy has not the ghost of a chance unless he takes part in the ordinary activities of the school. We want to attempt in part the practice of the Rhodes Scholarships and in that way to insist on personality. Though I think things are better, now that there are more State scholarships, it is important to remember that the temptation to the poor boy and the temptation to the headmaster of the small school is very great. I remember well that on one occasion one of my colleagues said: "What is wrong with X grammar school? These are boys who have obtained scholarships from there. What is wrong with the boys? "It was a small unknown grammar school, and the headmaster did not know the ropes of Oxford and Cambridge, and 1048 he could secure recognition for himself and his boys only by getting these awards. Something must be done about that.
Now may I say something about C.S.S.B.? I have taken the only test I could take about C.S.S.B. I told Sir Percival that I could not judge the quality of my own pupils against the quality of pupils of other colleges, but I thought I could be fairly certain about the relative merits of my own pupils. I secured the final marks of twenty-seven of my men in the examination; I wish that I could have obtained the marks that they got in C.S.S.B., but that I could not do. However, I got the final marks of those twenty-seven men. In the judgment of my colleagues and myself nine were clearly wrong. The remaining eighteen were about right, but there were one or two very bad mistakes. There was one young man who was put very high indeed for his personality, but who was not passed and who was put on the reserve list. He was in the Treasury, and is now doing extremely well there. He went in again and passed very high. There is something odd there, one way or another. Broadly speaking, I have two criticisms of C.S.S.B. I admit that I am not frightfully excited about psychology. I am afraid that I tend to share the wonderful remark that a freshman once made when he said: "Here philosophy ends and error and ' psychology ' begin." I think it is much more subjective than people suppose.
There is one point, it seems to me, that the psychologist who tries these tests does not notice. There are people who are prepared to play games and face artificial situations with the same zest with which they face life; but there are others, just as good, who say: "I am not going to play this silly game." That applies, I think, to this whole psychological game. It is very ingenious, but there is a lot in it which does not deal with the unforthcoming person who despises it. Yet often, I think, that kind of man is very good. One often has before one a type of young man—and it would seem that almost two-thirds of the young men of this type come from Aberdeen—who firmly say: "I am not going to say a word to you damned idiots." They do not say it, of course, but their faces express it. Those young men are sometimes very good indeed. I entirely agree that so long as you have, 1049 as now, to make your appointments by interview, so long as you cannot supplement the system or add to it the written examination, C.S.S.B. is far better than an interview of half an hour unsupported by C.S.S.B. Therefore, I am not quarrelling with it. But I am appalled to hear that the Foreign Office propose not to restore the written examination, that they propose to go on with just the interviews. I regard that as a very serious matter. I do not understand that that is recommended by the Civil Service Commission. I believe that that is simply the recommendation of the Foreign Office. I am sure that it is wrong. I am sure that when people show themselves capable of passing these big written examinations and getting high marks, there is something in them.
I know several people of high attainments in the Civil Service. Time and again these people pass examinations and come out first, second or third. One cannot do that without a lot of ability—unless, of course, one happens to be merely an "examination wallah." I entirely agree that we need the interview to cut out the "examination wallah." The ideal system, I think, is something like that which we had before the war. We had the written examination and an interview for which was given, I think, something like five hundred marks. For my part I do not mind how the interview is weighted, but I think you must restore the solid evidence of achievement in a big written examination, because all other things are so extremely subject to personal judgment. I used to think big written examinations were not enough, and I still think so. I believe the right idea is to supplement the written examination with the interview. While I certainly think that the interview by C.S.S.B. is much better in many ways than the half-hour interview, I sincerely hope that the Foreign Office will change what I understand is their decision not to restore the written examination.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ LORD MORAN
My Lords, apart from creative work in science and the arts, apart from research and the writing of books, I suppose that your Lordships may agree that nothing contributes more to success in life, whether in war or in peace, than the gift of selecting men, of picking the right man for a particular 1050 job. Therefore, we are, naturally much concerned with how this is done. I remember a member of your Lordships' House, Lord Hirst, once saying to me: "I know when a man comes through the door if he is my man." There are, I am sure, men who can detect something wrong with a person remarkably early in their acquaintanceship with him, as others detect a wrong note in music. But these men are far too few to be considered in relation to any particular procedure. Their methods evade definition; they are subjective—they cannot be taught to others. Therefore, inevitably there has to be a search for more objective tests which can be applied by less gifted men. Now have they been found? I think that if you asked that question of the average senior soldier or sailor during the war, he would have replied with a flat "No." When a callow youth who has never heard a shot fired in anger, confidently claims that by his psychological tests he can tell whether an upstanding lad who has done well in the front line should, or should not, have a commission, naturally, and inevitably those soldiers and sailors grow impatient. It was perhaps not so much that psychology was a science in its infancy as that a few of those who practised it were in their dotage.
Though I think that many of us will sympathise with the criticisms which have been so common in the Army and Navy of these tests, still I am sure it will not be wise, in this very difficult matter of the measurement of men, to reject out of hand any aid to precision, even when it domes from quarters that seem rather suspect. I think we ought to guard carefully against the conservative instinct which is in all of us—even in the bosoms of your Lordships opposite—and which is rather affronted by anything new. I had a boy who for a year was head of his house at a great school, who was then awarded an Exhibition at a Cambridge College. Then he made good in the Navy and gained a commission by serving on small ships. I confess I was much perturbed when I learned that whether he was to be admitted to the Foreign Office or not was going to depend on a forty-eight hours' house-party of the kind which has been described, and that his fate would be in the hands of three people of whom one was a female psychologist. But I have to confess that when he 1051 passed, human nature being what it is, I began to wonder whether or not there might be something after all in this procedure.
Coming back to the question we are really discussing, the pronouncement of the First Civil Service Commissioner, two things strike me. One is that he has not been fully reported—at least, what he said is not available to most of us except in the columns of The Times. I gather that two statements have been made, and one is to the effect that he is not complaining of the standard of intelligence. But in The Times it is quite expressly said that of the candidates 50 per cent. and 40 per cent. respectively failed in both intelligence and personality, and he spoke of complete failure. Further, the noble Lord who spoke last was speaking of State scholarships and he distinguished quite clearly the 60 per cent. who have university and college scholarships from the 20 per cent. who had State scholarships—or whatever the percentage of State scholarships was.
I feel that the First Civil Service Commissioner should have given us more data if we are to decide whether there was anything in what he said. He surely could have told us what proportion failed in the intelligence test and what proportion failed in the personality test. If a considerable proportion of the failures—we are told they amounted to 60 per cent.—had actually occurred in the intelligence tests, then, since these were men of proved university merit who had won college or university scholarships, I am quite sure that the great majority of psychologists with any competency in this field would suspect not, as the First Civil Service Commissioner suspected, the method of awarding university scholarships, but these Civil Service tests. I say that because no such discrepancy has been found in the past in this country or abroad when comparisons of that kind have been made. If the failures were chiefly in the personality tests, I think it is necessary to remind your Lordships that those tests for personality have never been validated either in peace or in war. In using the word "validated," I am using the jargon of psychology. There is nothing to prove that our old traditional methods are not as good as these personality tests. We do not know in the least 1052 which is the better. Therefore the confidence of the First Civil Service Commissioner seems to be rather misplaced, for he is talking of tests which are entirely sub judice.
What does all this amount to? In the first place this whole procedure was introduced as an emergency measure. It was felt, and I think rightly felt, that it was not fair to ask a boy who had been at sea for four years during the war to compete with a boy who had never left England and who could put his nose into a book almost every day. Therefore tests were designed not to test knowledge but to see whether a boy could use his wits. But that emergency has passed, and presumably candidates for the Civil Service are now coming through the universities and we shall know how they have done in the Tripos at Cambridge and the Final Schools at Oxford. Surely, if we know the result of those examinations, we do not require intelligence tests any longer. The best psychologist I know, a man whom I think should be consulted in this matter, said to me quite definitely that if we have the results of the University Tripos and Final Schools we do not require intelligence tests.
Secondly, we do not want to test only the intelligence of candidates. Something more may be necessary. We must know the kind of things we are looking for. I think, and, what is more to the point, the vast majority of candidates seem convinced, that the Stoke d'Abernon week-end, if it is regarded as merely an elongated and prolonged interview, is far fairer than the short interview we had in the past. It therefore seems, as has been suggested already, that the results of the university examinations, such as we know them, plus the Stoke d'Abernon scheme for testing personality, would be a satisfactory method of assessing the merit of candidates. I cannot agree more with what the noble Lord said on the folly of giving up the written examination. This new method was a temporary expedient. It tests many qualities very thoroughly, but it is no substitute for the much more searching examinations applied in the universities. We should get a totally different type of man if we were to go back altogether on the past. Thirdly, if we are to use personality tests at all as part of this Stoke d'Abernon week-end, then they ought to be designed in such a form that after a year or two 1053 of experimental trial we shall know whether they are reliable or not. That cannot be said at the present time. The difficulty is, in spite of what has been said about brains and guts, that nobody really knows what are the criteria of success for the various branches of the Civil Service. Until we know that, we should arrange for records of candidates to be followed up to see whether they meet those criteria.
Finally, there is one point which may seem irrelevant but which I am certain is very relevant. When we are approaching the most difficult field of the measurement of men, I think we ought to approach our task in a state of humility. It is certainly not a field in which anybody can be dogmatic. We are only at the very beginning of a method of accurately assessing men, and it seems to me that when we meet, as I think we have met in the statement we are now discussing, a rather too confident assurance that a final and infallible method has been found, we are on the wrong tack. I happened a short time ago to be asked to lecture at the Staff College of the Air Force. I went down there and found there were 140 pilots, the pick of the survivors of the war, and I have never seen gathered together so many decorations of the kind that really mean something—V.C.s, and two bars to the D.S.O. That I, an elderly apothecary who had taken no part in the last war, should lecture those men on courage, made the sense of the ridiculous rise in me. But I was determined not to lose the opportunity that was given to me, and I asked them if they would answer a written questionnaire. They agreed, and I set them questions like this: From your experience, what qualities are necessary for a successful pilot? The answers I received to about a score of questions of that kind were quite remarkable. I believe that such records are badly needed.
A few days later I happened to find that a little book I had written on this subject had been put on the list of compulsory reading at the Staff College at Camberley and that the Commandant at Sandhurst had asked the publishers for permission to use two chapters for some literature he was preparing for the cadets. It occurred to me, as it must have occurred to many of your Lordships, that the lessons of the three Services during this war should be gathered together into a book. I went to 1054 the War Office and suggested such a book to them and said I would be glad to write it for them. But nothing happened. The War Office were quite happy that they had found at that time a final and infallible method of testing men. I can only say, my Lords, that it is not so simple as that.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ LORD ELTON
My Lords, I think I ought to begin by apologising to the House for adding to the number—I do not know the appropriate noun of assemblage—of Oxford dons and ex-dons who are to address your Lordships this afternoon, but I cannot help taking a special interest in the matter under discussion since for five or six years past, with tongue and pen, I have been doing my ineffectual and obscure best to suggest that there must be something fundamentally wrong somewhere with the cursus honorum, from the elementary and preparatory school right up to the Final Schools at Oxford, in that it confines itself to selecting the climbers on the ladder of educational preferment, the potential leaders of the future, by means of a narrow intelligence test, a mere examination in book knowledge. Since it is manifest that character as well as intelligence is indispensable to all high achievement, character as well as intelligence should be the concern also of the scholarship examination. Therefore, I must begin by agreeing to some extent with the strictures of Sir Percival Waterfield—I have committed myself thus far a hundred times over. I believe that the traditional tests are over-narrow in that they confine themselves to selecting persons likely to absorb readily and reproduce lucidly the ideas of other people.
So far as the traditional examination goes, in which I have often taken part myself in the past, the successful candidate need possess neither common sense nor common honesty, neither courage nor adequate physique, nor even an original mind. It is the kind of examination in which Shakespeare and Cromwell, and almost certainly Mr. Winston Churchill, would have ignominiously failed. For in early years the possession of a strong character or original mind only too often serves as a sort of non-conductor for the ideas of other people, so that the potential Cecil Rhodes, the potential George Washington, spends his schooldays consigned to the bottom of his class and leaves school hall-marked as a dunce, 1055 perhaps for lifelong obscurity. Not only does the traditional cursus honorum—and I include the scholarship examinations and the final Honours examinations of the universities in that phrase—jettison quite a number of potential leaders by the way; it also, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, has reminded us, nurtures, and sometimes no doubt fathers eventually on the Civil Service, a certain proportion of what I can only call idealogues.
The word "idealogues" was first extensively employed by Napoleon. I think by "idealogues" he meant the sort of person who possesses acute intellect insufficiently founded on character, and who may therefore be relied upon to embrace unreal abstractions without proper reference to practical possibilities. We have all met the arrogant intellectual who cannot keep his own shoelaces tied up, who cannot find his razor in the morning or live happily with his wife, but who is, nevertheless, completely prepared with a ready-made plan for reorganising British industry or reforming the United Nations Organisation. Anyone who has taught at a university, as at least four of the noble Lords who will have addressed your Lordships this afternoon have done, will agree, I think, that among the most brilliant of his pupils—among the inevitable laureates of any written examination system—there is a small but persistent proportion whom nobody who knew them intimately would trust to run a whelk stall effectively for a week.
What surprises me about the traditional system is that it has not produced a larger proportion of idealogues. I think there are two reasons for that. One is that in order to obtain a high class at one of the ancient universities—and I dare say at a modern university also—it is necessary to resist the various blandishments of life in a university town. That in itself requires a certain amount of character. Secondly, I suppose that until comparatively recently the majority of students, at any rate at Oxford and Cambridge, came from the public schools and, owing to the emphasis which the public schools have so long and so rightly placed upon character training, it was not really possible for a boy to pass through one of them and come out an idealogue. That tended to mask the dangers inherent in the traditional system of picking a prize 1056 boy, or potential leader, solely by a narrow intelligence test.
But, of course, the proportion of public schoolboys in the universities, and I suppose in the Civil Service also, is steadily diminishing. For that reason, as well as on many other counts, we should welcome, at any rate the principle which I take it lies behind the new Civil Service methods—the determination to apply a test considerably more comprehensive than the traditional examination in book knowledge. To that amount of stricture of the traditional past I am committed by what I have myself frequently attempted to say in public. But, while I welcome the determination of His Majesty's Government to found their selection for the Civil Service upon a more comprehensive basis, I must say that I have grave doubts about what I have been able to discover as to the actual methods which they are employing. On the whole, I find myself largely in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay.
May I at this point remind your Lordships of the existence of the Rhodes Scholarships, to which the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, made a passing reference? For more than forty years the Rhodes Scholars have been selected from all over the United States and the British Commonwealth, young men who it is hoped, in the words of the founder,will esteem the rendering of public service their highest aimand will go back to their homelands and become the leaders of their generation. To put it crudely, what Mr. Rhodes laid down in his will was that a Rhodes Scholar should possess either first-class intellect, founded on sound character, or most exceptional character founded on sound intellect. In other words, he was requiring his executors and trustees to do precisely the job which the Civil Service is now trying to invent a new method for doing. The Rhodes Scholarship system has been trying for forty years to pick the man of all-round ability, the man who has brains, the man who has guts or character, or whatever you like to call it. By the prescience of the founder, setting what was then, so far as I know, a wholly unique precedent, the Rhodes Scholar is selected without any form of written examination. The technique of selection has been worked out with great care over forty years. It is infinitely simpler than 1057 the C.S.S.B. arrangements, about which we have been hearing this afternoon, and I think it is worth while pointing out to your Lordships that, so far as one can judge, it has been extremely successful.
In the first place I would mention the academic results. After all, the Rhodes Scholar, like the civil servant of the future, is not elected purely on intellectual grounds. Moreover, the young man coming to Oxford from the British Empire overseas, or from the United States, suffers very real handicaps in comparison with the undergraduate coming up from an English public school. The education which he has hitherto experienced is not calculated to the same extent to lead to success in the final Honours school at Oxford. Nevertheless, statistically, purely in terms of academic results, the Rhodes Scholar shows up only a little less favourably than the open scholar selected from English schools solely on the grounds of intelligence; and the Rhodes Scholar shows up distinctly more favourably than the open exhibitioner, selected from English public schools solely on the grounds of intelligence. The number of distinguished names of former Rhodes Scholars, in every walk of life all over the world, is convincing testimony that the selectors have, on the whole, succeeded in picking men of all-round ability. They have statistics in the United States comparing the past university careers of 100 Rhodes Scholars with 100 persons possessing the highest intelligence quotient (I apologise for the detestable but fashionable phrase), and the comparison is markedly in favour of the Rhodes Scholar.
Finally, it is worth remembering that three great universities in the United States hive already imitated the Rhodes system by establishing scholarships to which elections are made without written examination, and which follow the Rhodes model. Therefore, I think we may claim that the Rhodes Scholarships have behind them an accumulation of evidence that on the whole the process of selection has been successful—an accumulation for which, in the nature of things, the new Civil Service methods cannot hope for many years to come.
In some respects the methods adopted for the selection of Rhodes Scholars differ markedly from those which we are discussing this afternoon. There are local selection committees appointed all over 1058 the British Commonwealth and the United States. There is no real uniformity in their composition, but a general norm is a committee of seven representative men, experienced in academic and professional life and business affairs. A majority of the members of these committees are former Rhodes Scholars. In their selection they rely very greatly upon the school and university record of the applicant. They rely to a considerable extent upon testimonials from those who have known the applicant throughout his formative years, and upon a written statement by the man himself, giving the reasons for which he hopes to proceed to Oxford. Finally, they rely upon a very cartful interview, but an interview without any of the elaborate and scientific character of the new C.S.S.B. methods. There are two respects in which, so far as I can make out, the method of selecting Rhodes Scholars—on the whole so well justified by experience—differs, and differs fairly markedly, from the methods we are discussing this afternoon.
In the first place, it has proved most valuable to place great reliance on the school and academic record of the applicant. I do not think we know what is done by the Civil Service Commissioners in that respect, but I earnestly hope that the reports of C.S.S.B. and this week-end party—certain aspects of which re-mind me of the Mad Hatter's tea party—and the views of the three observers, will not be allowed to override, too readily at any rate, the opinions of men who have been in intimate touch with the candidate throughout his formative years. I am sure that if that happens a serious mistake will be being made. Secondly, we have no psychologists on any of the sixty or seventy Rhodes Scholarships selection committees. During the last twelve months I have been in the United States, Canada, South Africa and Rhodesia, and have met some hundreds of members of these selection committees. I took occasion quite a number of times to ask whether they would like a psychologist sitting with them upon their committees. Almost without exception these distinguished men, in these several different countries, with this very varied experience in various walks of life, greeted the suggestion with horror and apprehension. I retain an open mind, but I do suspect that psychology is a 1059 young science, a tentative science, and one which is making rather exaggerated claims.
I cannot get out of my head certain reports which came to me of the work of psychologists on the boards which selected officers for commissions during the war. One young friend of mine told me that the first question asked him when he appeared before this board was: "Are your parents married?" That is a question, of course, to which a great many possible reactions could be imagined, some of them surprising and indeed painful to the asker of the question. But I cannot believe that the answer, whatever the reaction of my young friend may have been, necessarily threw an unerring flood of light upon his qualifications for a commission. I know of another young man who, after being asked four or five questions, said: "Well if this is the sort of question which I have to answer in order to obtain a commission in the Army, I would rather remain in the ranks," which he did—no doubt to the loss of the Army, for he was a promising candidate.
May I interrupt the noble Lord? He has informed us that certain aspects of C.S.S.B. remind him of a Mad Hatter's tea party. Could he mention the aspects in question?
§ LORD ELTON
It is really a sense of strain—rushing from one place to another, writing reports on imaginary situations in an imaginary island, and then discussing them, aware all the time that a relentless eye is boring in on one and that the person with whom one is supposed to be in consultation is a deadly rival, whose contributions to the discussion may place him higher in the final order.
§ LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE
Has the noble Lord any evidence that this sense of strain existed? I saw no sign of it whatever.
§ LORD ELTON
I have not myself attended a session of this kind. I have heard from one or two young men who have, and I can only say that I was extremely self-conscious at that age, and that I should not in the least expect to do myself full justice under the conditions which one pictures after reading those interesting articles in The Times and elsewhere. I have not had the advantage 1060 of the noble Lord in actually being present. I hope we may hear more of the psychological tests, but for the time being I hope that His Majesty's Government will at least agree that they are sub judice.
Before I sit down, the noble Viscount who introduced the Motion asked me to put one question which he himself forgot to put. He wished to ask the noble Lord, whether there is evidence that the winning of a State scholarship implies a definite standard of merit. For myself, I would merely end by saying that while I am fully in agreement with Sir Percival Waterfield and the other critics, that the traditional system of narrow intelligence tests does need widening, I hope it will also be agreed that the system which is in process of superseding it has yet to prove itself.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ LORD PIERCY
My Lords, I feel sure that when the distinguished and, I would join with the noble Viscount in saying, the brilliant and charming First Civil Service Commissioner had his tilt, at Oxford, against the Common Entrance and scholarship systems which produce the candidates for university education, he had no intention of provoking a widespread discussion on the C.S.S.B. However, I am afraid that that was inevitable, although the subject he raised was, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay of Birker, rightly said, the subject of the educational ladder.
I want myself to talk about the C.S.S.B. and some related matters, but I think it would be reasonable to say a word or two upon Sir Percival Waterfield's speech. I can speak of it only as reported in The Times, which is naturally a summary and, therefore, perhaps rather more picturesque than the speech itself which my noble friend Lord Simon of Wythen-shaw has read in full. I would be inclined to say that, in drawing upon C.S.S.B. results for criticising the machinery producing candidates for the universities, Sir Percival allowed too little weight to one or two facts. The first is that the C.S.S.B. is designed to select for a particular vocation. It is based upon a careful study of the requirements of the highest levels of the Civil Service. Therefore its proceedings are, so to speak, "angled" that way. Of course, conditions in the Civil Service change. My father-in-law had two friends living at Wimbledon who were both members of the golf club; in the morning, if fine, they 1061 would play a round of golf, have their lunch and then go to Whitehall. Sometimes, if the match was closely contested, they would play a second round after lunch and go to their offices at about 4.30. It is not like that now. And the Civil Service is demanding, through its examinations and other procedures, the very pick of the young population. Therefore it was going a little far to suggest, as the First Commissioner seemed to do, that the bulk of the University population should consist of people who would prove to be suitable for top-ranking civil servants.
Secondly—a point that has been made—this reconstruction intake of candidates does not represent a normal intake from the universities. It includes older people, people of lesser intellectual brilliance; in many cases people who have not had a full university education; and so on. Besides these arguments, I find it difficult (and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, would clear up this point) to reconcile the figures given in The Times summary of the First Commissioner's speech with the figures which in the last few days have been handed out by the Civil Service Commissioners. These figures go up to the beginning of 1948 and they relate to 2,725 candidates. The numbers graded "successful" were 608 candidates, or 22.3 per cent.—rather more than would be required to fill the number of actual vacancies. If we add together those graded "successful," "near misses," and "within striking distance," we get a total of 73.3 per cent. That leaves only 26.6 per cent. and these are described as "not in the running by the standards of this competition." I draw your Lordships' attention to that rubric. In that 26.6 per cent. rather more than one-half are classified as "of sound general ability "—" ability "being used in this context in rather a wide sense, to include qualities of personality. Those are the actual figures: 73.3 per cent. "within striking distance" or better; 14.4 per cent. Of "sound general ability." I hardly see where Sir Percival's "40 to 50 per cent. of completely useless people" came in.
I would now like to say something about the C.S.S.B. In the first place, as has been pointed out, this selection procedure of the C.S.S.B. is part of the machinery for conducting the reconstruction competition 1062 and those 2,725 candidates were candidates for the reconstruction competition, which must be distinguished from the normal intake for the Civil Service. To deal with those it was necessary to have some machinery which could deal with candidates of varied ages, experiences and education. The object of the competition was to select future civil servants of the rank of Assistant Secretary to Permanent Secretary and the machinery consists of three parts. First, there is a qualifying examination of simple traditional type; secondly, this grading by what we call group procedures—C.S.S.B.—and, thirdly, a very conscientious boarding by the Final Selection Board. This is, in fact a selection board of a conventional type working on complete material, including the results of C.S.S.B., in a very thorough way. The relations between C.S.S.B. and the Final Selection Board should be mentioned. The derision, and the responsibility for it, rests in every case with the Final Selection Board; C.S.S.B. collect evidence and make it available for the Board. Candidates have taken very divergent views of the two. Most of them have found C.S.S.B. satisfactory and like it much more then the Final Board—which one young person described to me in the intemperate language of youth as "absolute drains." The consistency, however, between C.S.S.B. grading and the Final Selection Board grading appears to be very high. I have here some figures, which are not official figures, according to which the rankings of the Board and of C.S.S.B. have shown in some cases a correlation as high as 95; and it has never fallen below. 8.
Certain advantages are claimed for the country house method. There are four which I should like to state. First, the selection by C.S.S.B. is selection for a particular occupation, based on an extremely careful and detailed analysis of the qualities required in that occupation. It is directed to something quite different from the competitive examination of the old type. Secondly, the procedures of C.S.S.B. are designed to exhibit the candidate's qualities in a group context. He is to be seen in activity among the people with whom in the future he will work, and in the company of the people under whom he will work. He gets a chance to show his qualities in various ways, in 1063 a spacious period of time—forty-eight hours—and in circumstances which eliminate nervousness and shyness and remove the feeling of being tongue-tied. I have been at the arrival of candidates at Stoke d'Abernon; and within a comparatively short time I have seen and heard a babble of young people who appeared to be perfectly at their ease. Thirdly, the system of tests and exercises is designed to bring out native capacity and effective intelligence as distinct from acquired knowledge and practice, the real quality as distinct from the content of the mind which results from experience. Fourthly, the whole test, occupying forty-eight hours, is intended with all its ancillary parts to be completely comprehensive. There are the tests which are as complete as possible; in addition to that, every available piece of information about the candidate, his tutor's observations, his school record, his personal experience and performances, is carefully scrutinised and built into the complete picture; and it is this complete picture, systematically analysed, which goes to the Final Selection Board.
That is the C.S.S.B. system. A great deal has been said about the psychologists. What is the position of the psychologists in this set-up? There are three psychologists at Stoke d'Abernon. Usually there are three Boards working at the same time, and each Board consists of a psychologist and two other persons, generally high-ranking civil servants. So that the selection instrument has a psychologist as an element, and two other persons to provide general experience, to preserve a balance. Nevertheless, the psychologists are fundamental to the whole system. They are there in three capacities. First of all, they are there as members of the Boards in right of their own capacity and experience, because these psychologists have had great experience in group testing, in individual testing and in the theory.
Secondly, they are there as advisers to the administration and to the other members of the Boards on the tests which should be applied and the underlying principles. Finally, they are there as a kind of over-all check to see that the whole system is run upon sound scientific lines. They provide the techniques, and they often devise them. They devise the form 1064 of records and see that proper records are kept. That links up with the point that was impressively put by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, about validation. The validation of these tests must take time because the validation arises out of the subsequent performances of these people in the vocation for which they have been selected. It can be based only upon proper records properly kept. That is an indispensible part of the work of the psychologist in this set-up. It might well be thought that, as a device for dealing with an exceptional situation, nothing much better could have been found than C.S.S.B. but, of course, it never can be claimed that any system is infallible. However good a system of selection may be, it must have its failures. The test really is whether a given form of selection from time to time and on the whole gives better results than any alternative form.
I do not know that the actual validation of the C.S.S.B. procedures can be expected at short notice but, as has already been pointed out, C.S.S.B. was modelled in its underlying principles upon the procedures employed by the Armed Services during the Second World War. It is tackling a different problem, but it is tackling it by fundamentally similar procedures. During the Second World War, as is well-known, the Services—that is to say, the Army, the Navy and, to a more limited extent, the Air Ministry—employed these group methods including the use of the psychologist (and, in the case of the War Office, the psychiatrist also) for a wide range of purposes; in particular for the selection of candidates for O.C.T.U.s in the Army and for officer selection in the Navy. The Boards that selected for O.C.T.U.s during the Second World War were known as W.O.S.B.s. The Civil Service Selection Board is a C.S.S.B. and the War Office Selection Board is a W.O.S.B. The W.O.S.B.s during the period of the Second World War handled very large numbers of men and, although war is not a good time in which to think of scientific problems of verification and the like, still it was possible during the Second World War to apply to the results of the W.O.S.B.s scientific principles of verification—that is to say, to check the results of selection by W.O.S.B.s with the results of selection by traditional methods. Men were selected to go into the O.C.T.U.s by the respective methods. Their ranking 1065 when they passed out of the O.C.T.U.s could be compared. The result was a most impressive demonstration of the superiority for the then purposes of the War Office of the W.O.S.B. methods.
I have here some figures which I can quote. The figures of one large sample came out like this. They are figures related to candidates passing out of the O.C.T.U.s and I think they will be familiar to the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell. The results are divided in this way: Above average, average, and below average, of candidates passing out. By the traditional method you get: Above average, 22.1 per cent.; of average quality, 41.3 per cent.; below average, 36.6 per cent. Those were the figures of the traditional method. The group, put through the W.O.S.B.s, came out like this: Above average, 34.5 per cent. as against 22.1 per cent.; average, 40.3 per cent. as against 41.3 per cent.; below average, 25.2 per cent. as against 36.6 per cent. These figures illustrate my two points: first, that none of these systems as at present devised can be 100 per cent. perfect; secondly, in those conditions and for the purposes for which the W.O.S.B.s were employed, they did their work of selection with an impressive margin of superiority over the ordinary methods.
That was the background of the C.S.S.B. system. I would like to take a few moments, if I may, in sketching more widely the whole question. The use of these group procedures by the War Department, by the Admiralty and by other Departments in war-time was the largest and most impressive experiment in those methods that there has been; but the history of these methods goes back for thirty or forty years at least. I know about those because I was associated—and for many years with the noble Lord, Lord Woolton—with the National Institute of Industrial Psychology, which is occupied with these subjects. This is a scientific body founded by a distinguished member of the Royal Society, Dr. Charles Myers, and built up by a number of distinguished psychologists including Sir Cyril Burt. For twenty-five years or more it has specialised in procedures for vocational guidance and vocational selection and, although it did not originally institute these group procedures, it has been a pioneer in this field. The extent of its position in that field, I think, is shown by the fact that when the Admiralty and 1066 the War Office decided to employ psychological methods in their selection procedures, they turned to the Institute for trained staff. We supplied the Admiralty with eight trained psychologists, of whom one is to-day the senior psychologist at the Admiralty; and to the War Office Directorate of Selection of Personnel we supplied five psychologists who were, on that side, the backbone of the organisation which was set up by General Sir Ronald Adam. One of our psychologists was the first chief psychologist to that organisation, and to-day the chief psychologist to the Man-power Planning Department is a former member of our staff, Colonel Ungerson. In addition to that we lent staff to the Air Ministry and are assisting the Home Office. I might add to that that the three psychologists who are doing the work at Stoke d'Abernon are also all former members of the Institute's staff.
The reason we were able to do this was, of course, the fact that for so many years the Institute has been employed on these problems in individual cases and in industrial establishments. That is really the broad front of this whole matter. It is also its backward perspective and its prospect, because these procedures for selection of men are of extreme importance to the industrial future of this county. It has already been pointed out in this debate that a number of big firms, which include Unilever, Imperial Chemical Industries and the Philips Electrical concern, are all selecting their intake of new people by these group procedures. Your Lordships will observe that the problem for these big industrial concerns is a different one from that for, let us say, the Civil Service. The Civil Service, in selecting for the administrative class, is deliberately aiming at getting a selection of the very pick of our young people—the best in brains and in all-round personality. In these large industrial establishments staff has to be taken at all grades, because we cannot all be intellectuals or administrators of the level of Civil Service administrators. Many of us have got to be managers, clerks or sales personnel, or whatever it may be. These procedures to-day are being devised and adapted to the needs of this general intake, the object being the simple one of making the best possible use of available man-power, and bringing it into situations in 1067 business concerns where it can be of the most value in the job. At the same time it performs the great social function of bringing people into the kind of work where they will find the utmost effectiveness and satisfaction.
The application of those methods is not by any means limited to big firms. It is to-day being applied also to small firms, because in a small firm (which is often a tight and peculiar little social group of its own), the selection of a new works manager or managing director is of very great importance, and the procedures to do that successfully have to be carefully thought out. But this type of method is being applied in those circumstances to-day with a measure of success which compares favourably with the ordinary haphazard methods which usually are the only ones which can be employed in business. Finally, in the supervisory grades of industry—particularly foremen—there again methods are being devised which will ultimately he of great importance. I think it was worth sketching in this background because it shows that C.S.S.B. is not an isolated fantastic experiment; it is a major example of the employment of group procedures in a context which has great social importance.
I must not take up more time and I would like to conclude with a word on validation. We have heard a good deal about psychologists. Psychologists have been spoken of in terms which would hardly be applied to physicists or chemists or other scientists. I beg your Lordships to bear in mind that psychologists are just plain ordinary scientific men, like other kinds of scientists, who are working away at these matters—collecting facts, analysing them, collating and trying to draw inferences from them, using observation and experiment and the familiar if humble apparatus of science. In the long run, the psychologist, like the scientist in other fields, will come out with important results; indeed, he has already produced important results. He is dealing with a very difficult subject matter, particularly when he is dealing with the behaviour of human beings in groups; but he is working upon scientific lines with the requisite scientific humility. He is more closely chained to practice than many scientists, and part of his job is devising the applications to practice. These applications in W.O.S.B.s are 1068 supported in some degree by records of success, but there does arise in connection with the whole subject the problem which was emphasised by Lord Moran—namely, the problem of verification or validation.
Validation in these matters takes quite a considerable time. You can check or select a man going into an O.C.T.U., and you can then compare your selection procedures with the man passing out of the O.C.T.U. All that has been analysed. But to get a complete result you would like to follow these men into combat, where they are officers in charge of part of the operations. And that kind of evidence has proved rather difficult to obtain. The same consideration applies to C.S.S.B. It will be some years before you see the results; but if you want to get the results, if you want to secure validation, you must prepare for it from the beginning; and validation and preparation for it, and following it up, are expensive. No doubt the Civil Service Commissioners can do it, but over the whole of industry it may be more difficult to arrange, although it is important that it should be arranged. There I think the bodies which have been interested in this subject, namely the Medical Research Council (which, over a long period have supported research in these subjects), and the new Human Factors Committee set up under the Treasury should devote some part of the funds that are available to them to support research and organisation for the validation of these procedures. It is not the most spectacular work, but in the long run it will be most useful.
Before I sit down, I think I might add this, which is my firm conviction: that for the immediate purpose of the reconstruction competition C.S.S.B. has proved its worth, even although it is certainly not 100 per cent. perfect or foolproof. Possibly with the normal intake of the Civil Service in the future—in conjunction, it may be, with an examination of the old type, and certainly in conjunction with an examination of some type—it will also prove itself to be the best method. At the moment, I understand, the Civil Service Commissioners, have the new intake for the home Civil Service on the footing that 25 per cent. of the candidates are to be examined by the C.S.S.B. method and 75 per cent by the old method. Up to a certain point 1069 that is a controlled experiment, and in a few years it will be interesting to see which of the two methods has proved itself the more effective.
§ 5.29 p.m.
My Lords, what is sought is some method of assessing personality and intelligence in persons between the ages of twenty and twenty-five, with a view to discovering what these qualities are likely to be when the persons in question have settled down to the more important work which they are to perform, in most cases after reaching the age of forty. I should have thought there was no great difficulty in regard to assessing intelligence; in the ordinary sense that could be done by means of examination. Personality, including character, is a different matter. The first serious difficulty that strikes me is that it is impossible to forecast what a person of twenty-five is likely to develop into when he is forty. Men and women who develop slowly, and whose character and personality are unformed at twenty-five, are often those who in the end go furthest, while those who at twenty-five give the impression of firmness and decision are often too rigid to learn by experience, and remain stuck. A further difficulty is that the development of character and personality after a man's life-work has begun depends to a great extent on the treatment which he receives from his seniors—instruction and encouragement on the one hand, or neglect on the other. To hope for equality of treatment between man and man is, of course, absurd. So long as the world endures there will be favourites with undue influence exerted on their behalf.
Beyond the fact that members of the Civil Service have shown by passing the examination that they have a certain power of application, I should not say that there was the least difference between them and their contemporaries. What makes the difference between a successful Civil Servant and a commonplace one depends far more on the chances they receive than on any virtues or defects in the individual. I was a civil servant for ten years—five uneventful and fairly satisfactory years in the Diplomatic Service and five years of miserable and unrequited drudgery in the Foreign Office, to which, nearly forty years later I still look back with incense dislike. In my time there were no tests of personality or 1070 character, except such as might be inferred as a result of the written or oral examinations. My own feeling is that a boy who by means of intensive work could mug up enough knowledge to enable him to pass in the ten or eleven compulsory subjects, gave evidence of possessing character enough for all reasonable requirements. As regards personality—a quality yet more elusive than character—there is the trouble that there exist young people, by no means otherwise admirable, with a type of mind that enables them to pass any examination with ease. But even if a personality test should make it possible to eliminate them—which I doubt—they are, fortunately, not very numerous.
The whole subject is beset with difficulties. If examinations are to be retained, cramming is unavoidable. Nobody believes that cramming is otherwise than harmful. A friend of mine who was a don at Cambridge—quite out of fashion here to-night—told me that the men who came up with scholarships were usually 30 much exhausted by cramming that for their first year they were of very little use. On the other hand, examinations appear to be the only alternative to a system of pure favouritism, which is rampant enough as it is. For these reasons, I do not look on character or personality tests with either confidence or favour, and I believe that in spite of manifest defects, the old system of a grilling entrance examination alone is more likely to produce the desired results. But, as I have indicated, I regard this as only the beginning of the matter. What the new entrant needs is the confidence that would be inspired by making it clear to him from the beginning that he is recognised as an essential part of a living organism; that he is not to be a drudge and not to be treated as one. Such improved treatment might also have the effect of teaching him to stand on his own legs, and of discouraging him from the habit of avoiding every difficulty by passing it on to someone else.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ LORD CHERWELL
My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, for having initiated this debate, for the education and selection of the civil servants who are so largely responsible for the administration and government of the country is, of course, of supreme importance to our whole 1071 future. I should be less than frank with the House if I did not say at the outset that I am in serious disagreement with a great part of the speech of—I was going to say my old friend, but perhaps I had better say my former friend, Sir Percival Waterfield. He deplores the calibre of the men entering for the Civil Service, and he appears to blame the universities for this. But, clearly, there are many differences between present-day entrants and pre-war entrants which vitiate any simple comparison. As the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay of Birker, pointed out, many men are now entering the lists who would have been weeded out when passing through the universities in the ordinary way—if, indeed, they ever reached a university—but who think they may as well try their luck at Sir Percival's fancy tests.
Amongst the men who obtained university scholarships before the war, many have been away fighting for three or four years and are handicapped by this in any intellectual test. Even amongst those who have taken their university degrees in the normal course there are many who might well have entered for an intellectual test but who are repelled by these new weird methods of selection and who prefer to enter professions in which sheer mental ability is valued more than slickness in answering riddles and so-called intelligence tests. It may be that the only way to sort out men who have been out of contact with intellectual studies for a long time is by these elaborate interviews and curious methods. But I repudiate the idea that the average mental level of our students is lower than before, that the universities are selecting the wrong people and are training them wrongly, as Sir Percival suggests, or that the old-fashioned method of entry to the Civil Service by competitive examination should be superseded by the impressions of psychiatrists and professional interviewers. But, before dealing with this matter in detail, I feel that I must say a few words about what I cannot but describe as the lack of judgment and balance—qualities which Sir Percival appraises so highly in others—shown in certain strictures, which he passes on science and the scientists.
It is true that near the end of his speech Sir Percival Waterfield made the admirable suggestion, which I heartily commend, that no arts student should go out 1072 into the world without some knowledge of science, and no science student without some knowledge of the humaner studies. That is an excellent sentiment but it is scarcely supported by passages which preceded it. I am quite ready to accept Sir Percival's definition of education asthe ability to think in general terms, an active attitude of mind towards knowledge of all kinds, curiosity or eagerness to learn new things and an ability to relate the new learning to that already acquired in a gradually enlarged and loftier vision of knowledge as a whole.What I complain of is that, having said this, he goes on to quote with approval the description of a science student as "practically illiterate," as "an uneducated human being," and to suggest thatthey have usually spent their University careers shut up within the narrow confines of their own special subject without ever lifting their mental vision to the wider horizons of the busy intellectual world around them.I yield to no one in my intense dislike for early specialisation. Indeed, I would be glad to see it banished altogether from the schools. What I complain about is the attitude of mind—by no means confined to Sir Percy Waterfield, I am afraid—which, whilst condemning specialisation in science, approves it in the so-called arts. I say, without hesitation, that the average scientist has a far greater knowledge and appreciation of history, literature, languages and the humanities than the average art student has of science. You will scarcely find one scientist who could not name twenty Kings of England and place them in their correct chronological order. How many arts students could name twenty elements, or place them in their correct order in the Periodic Table—if, indeed, they know what the Periodic Table is? Every scientist has heard of the Magna Carta and could tell something about its provisions, and the circumstances in which it was extorted. How many of the Sir Percival-educated arts men could tell us anything about the law of least action which governs all mechanical processes—and apparently a good many political ones too?
I have never yet met any scientist who has not read at any rate some of Shakespeare's plays. How many arts men have read any of Darwin's works? There are very few scientists who would not be able to tell you something about the Diet of Worms. I am referring, of course, to the historical assembly at which Luther 1073 was condemned, and not to some new brainwave of Mr. Strachey or Dr. Summerskill to increase the interest and variety of our food. How many arts men know anything about the economic importance of the ordinary earthworm? There is scarcely a scientist who does not know something about the works of Dante Molière, and Goëthe. There are very few arts men who know anything about the works of Mendel or Coulomb or Helmholtz. Indeed, if it comes to that, I observe that when some monoglot foreigner appears on the scene, it is usually the poor, illiterate, uneducated scientist who has to speak to him in his own language, while the arts man looks on with a superior smile, trying to indicate that he could easily join in the conversation if only he thought it worth while to unbend. Every scientist knows about the big broad historical milestones that mark the emergence of Europe as we know it. How many arts men could tell you anything comparable about the world in which they live, about the nebulae and the galaxy, about the origin of the sun's heat, about atomic structure, interference phenomena, why a body is solid or liquid or gaseous, about the laws of electrostatics, or electrodynamics, or a host of similar elementary matters?
I think we are entitled to ask Sir Percival Waterfield why we should be expected to know about Paradise Lost, while the arts man parades his ignorance of the Principia. Why should I be expected to know about the Byzantine Empire, while the arts man boasts his ignorance of the Binomial Theorem? Why is it more cultured to know about the mistresses of Louis XIV than about the chromosomes he so industriously disseminated? Why is it regarded as a scandal for an educated man not to know about philosophical induction, whereas it is quite all right for him to know nothing about electrical or magnetic induction on which all our electrical appliances depend? Where is "the curiosity and eagerness to learn new things" in the repudiation of the most rapidly advancing branches of knowledge, or "the loftier vision of knowledge as a whole" when all those forms of learning whose applications have transformed our whole culture in the last 150 years are thrown aside as of no account? I am absolutely amazed by the arrogance, the hubris—if I may use the word—of the arts men who 1074 are totally ignorant themselves of the material world around them, who hardly know what a unit of electricity is (although they have to pay for it every quarter, and will probably have to pay more now that it has all been nationalised) who often do not even know the difference between mass and weight, and yet who dare to describe scientists as "uneducated human beings." I am sure if the ordinary scientist knew as little about history and literature as the ordinary arts man knows about science, he would be certified and locked up within a fortnight.
I make no apology for inflicting these views on your Lordships. They are relevant at only one remove to the immediate point we are discussing. This attack on the scientists formed a part of the speech which we are considering, in which Sir Percival Waterfield complained about the deplorable standard of present-day entrants for the Civil Service. And in my view the conclusions he draws, from which I dissent, are largely due to his unscientific approach, which is not surprising, perhaps, although it is distressing in an arts man who is criticising other people for their alleged lack of judgment and balance. As I see it, the position is broadly this. Some hundreds of years ago it was widely behaved—probably rightly—that nepotism and jobbery were rife in Civil Service appointments. To prevent this, it was held that the best thing would be to institute selection by competitive examination, rather than by nomination. This system was in operation for about eighty years and gave us what is agreed by common consent to be the finest Civil Service in the world. During the war a series of so-called intelligence tests and psychiatric tests were introduced for weeding out unsuitable applicants for commissions in the Services. And these gave, so it was claimed—though many dissented—satisfactory results. When it became clear that this investigating apparatus would no longer be required for the armed Services, it occurred to somebody that it might as well be used for the Civil Service.
It seems to be the results of such tests, and his own impressions at interviews, which have given Sir Percival Waterfield the jaundiced views he has expressed, not only about the hordes of abnormal candidates, who would formerly not have entered at all, but also about normal candidates and the universities which 1075 selected and trained them. Anyone with a scientific habit of mind would have reasoned as follows. Comparison of candidates whose training and background has been different owing to the war with normal candidates is meaningless. But why is it that men who have won university scholarships and who would, under the old dispensation, undoubtedly have won positions in the Civil Service, make such a bad showing under the new dispensation, as Sir Percival believes they do? Clearly it must be because the new-sets of tests select a different sort of man.
The old tests, admittedly, selected first-class civil servants. If the new tests select a different set of men, there is every reason to doubt whether they will be such good civil servants. This does not seem to be the way Sir Percival Waterfield reasons. He assumes the new tests to be infallible and concludes that the men and the universities who pick them and train them, on exactly the same lines as have been successfully used before, must suddenly have all gone hay-wire. It is as though a man who had suddenly decided to use a sun-dial instead of a watch, and found he always missed his train, concluded that since nationalisation trains always started before their scheduled time. To a scientist this seems a most extraordinary form of reasoning. The first thing we do if, on introducing a fresh instrument, we find a discontinuity, is to examine the instrument and see whether the fault does not lie with the instrument. Even at the risk of seeming inhumane, I may perhaps be permitted to examine Sir Percival Waterfield's instrument and see whether there is really any reason to take it for granted that it is infallible.
As has been mentioned, and as has appeared in the Press, the new system consists of three tests: first, a very simple written examination designed to weed out people who are, to all intents and purposes, illiterate; secondly, a visit to a house party at which all sort of tests, politely called intelligence tests, are made; and, thirdly, an interview at which the usual rather banal questions are fired at the candidate by a set of Civil Service Examiners. No one can object to some process for eliminating people who are not even up to the low standard of education nowadays, apparently, deemed sufficient 1076 to qualify for the Civil Service, so long as it is clearly understood that it does not pretend to select the best men from a large entry. But the idea that anyone who could pass it would have got at least a second-class honours degree at a reputable university is farcical. As they have been described to me, the intellectual tests would not even secure a man a scholarship. As to the general paper, which consists of finding rhyming synonyms, and sorting long lists of words into categories against a time limit, perhaps the least said the better.
The house party seems a more dubious affair. The entrants are, we have been told, sub-divided into groups of seven or eight and given various tasks to perform in the presence of an official observer. For instance, each man has to preside in turn over the rest and make a verbal report on action recommended on some problem propounded; or they have to discuss some topic while the observer sits in a corner assessing their personality. It must be a wonderful performance. Should the un-fortunate candidate try to shout the others down to try to show his personality, or should he behave with civility and restraint to prove his team spirit? It must be as bad as one of the Labour Party's Wednesday morning meetings, with all the small fry trying to show their personality and catch the Prime Minister's eye without deviating from the Party line. So much depends upon the observer. Behaviour which might appeal to Mr. Attlee might not appeal to Mr. Shinwell. But, at any rate, the back bencher does know something about his variegated leaders. The unhappy aspirant for a post in the Civil Service has no idea about the whims and crochets of the official examiner, on whose impressions his whole future career might depend. After all this, it seems that each candidate has to give marks to his competitors, which are counted and given some weight in assessing the men's qualities. This must lead to some difficult questions for the examinees. Should they give the man they think good a high mark, or the man they think the examiner will think good? Should they perhaps give him a low mark, in the hope of reducing his chances in the examination? Everything depends upon the system of assessment their particular examiner happens to favour.
1077 The only tests which allow a quantitive comparison of candidates' performance seem to have little to do with their potentialities as civil servants. One man was given a paper with a lot of little dots on it and told to see whether he could join them up so as to form some predetermined figure. This sounds like an introduction to doodling, in which I believe the Prime Minister finds considerable relief during some of his colleagues' speeches. But should civil servants be encouraged to practise the art? No doubt they will pick it up quickly enough at committees if they have any bent that way. Then this candidate was shown a drawing of a heap of bricks and told to say how many had one or two or no sides exposed. We can all see why a civil servant might be interested in exposed bricks in the symbolic sense. But is this realty a measure of his aptitude in detecting and concealing the variety which Ministers drop?—admittedly one of their main functions. He was then asked to forecast how a clock, which lost two minutes an hour and had been set at twenty minutes to ten one evening, would look at five-thirty the next afternoon seen upside clown in a looking-glass. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Piercy, would say that this was to bring out his latent intelligence, or perhaps whether it was to enable him to read the time in committee without appearing to look at the clock. Another test consisted of free association—the sort of experiment beloved by psychoanalysts, known, I believe, in the profession as the "Gold Rush." As the noble Lord, Lord Piercy, told us, psychologists are fundamental. Sometimes a picture is thrown on a screen, usually of two people of opposite sex, and the candidate has to write a story about it in two-and-a-half minutes. Sometimes a word is shot at him, and he is told to say instantly what comes into his mind. One man I was told was faced by a highly coloured young woman, who cast a languishing glance at him and said, "Mother." He somewhat tactlessly replied, "Anyone but you." But I do not think he passed.
What are these sort of tests supposed to show? A civil servant does not say the first thing that comes into his mind; that is the privilege of the Secretary of State for War. An educated man, surely, should think before he speaks. As 1078 the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, told us, we have all heard of absurd conclusions which emerge from such psychiatric examinations. I myself have heard of at least two men who had done and were doing very well at the Foreign Office, who were failed by the Commissioners. Fortunately they are now successfully filling very responsible posts. Then there was the case of the major with the D.S.O., M.C., and all the rest of it, who dressed as a sergeant and was marked "unsuitable for a commission." Sometimes, of course, the tests do hit the nail on the head, as, for instance, in the case of the distinguished psychiatrist who rashly submitted himself incognito to such a test and was marked: "Definitely subnormal; should consult a psychiatrist." But such a triumph as this should not blind us to the many failures.
Lastly, we come to the interview proper. Anyone with experience of this sort of thing knows how hopeless it is to form really accurate judgment from the behaviour and answers of a man on such an occasion. It selects the "smart Alecks," the sort of men who could sell a dud motor car to an Aberdonian. Perhaps that is the type of man the Socialists are looking for to sell their policies to the public. In my view, it would be heading for disaster if we staffed the whole Civil Service with people of this type. There is a much more serious aspect. Entry into the Civil Service by competitive examination was instituted, as I have said, in order to get rid of any suspicion of jobbery or nepotism. If this is replaced by a system which allows entry into the Civil Service to depend merely upon the impressions of examiners about a man's personality, instead of upon the quantitative assessment of marks, all the old ugly rumours and suspicions will be resuscitated. Anyone who knows Sir Percival Waterfield recognises how absurd any suggestion of that sort is. But not every body does know him, and there is no disguising the fact that unpleasant stories are already going the rounds. In this matter, as in others, it is important that justice should seem to be done. If it were frankly confessed that this new system of selecting civil servants was just a makeshift, many of my objections would vanish. Obviously, men who have been in the Forces for five years or more cannot be expected to shine in a competitive 1079 examination. If some sort of method can be devised to sort out those capable of becoming useful administrative or executive civil servants, so much the better. Clearly, in view of the vast numbers, only fairly rough and ready tests can be considered, and it may be that the elaborate pseudo-scientific procedure which has been adopted at any rate makes those who fail believe that they have been given a run for their money and that they have not been turned down out of hand.
What I complain about is that this makeshift affair is now being erected into a permanent piece of machinery. All the foreign service, as we have been told, and a considerable part of the home service, is to be recruited by this means indefinitely. This, in my view, will be the road to ruin, paved—not to say greased, as it may be—with Sir Percival's good intentions. As the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, said, although the noble Lord, Lord Piercy, did not agree with him, a man who has passed a difficult examination in several subjects with high marks has shown that he is capable of hard work, that he can apply his mind to various topics, that he can understand what he has read and collate it with other pieces of information when required, and that he can reproduce considered views and ideas in clear straightforward English.
I dare say there may be many ways in which the old Civil Service examinations might be improved. But I would far rather select a man who has done well in any good examination in a variety of topics than a man who is good at answering trick questions at the double, joining up points to make patterns, or fooling psychiatrists. The technique of doing this can easily be taught once the coaches know what the psychiatrists are up to. The crammers are already advertising that they can coach for this type of interview. These so-called intelligence tests may be all very well for weeding a few bad people out of a large number of fairly good people. I do not believe that they are any good for picking out the best people from a large group of fairly good people. Even if they do select people with good powers of reasoning, they give no indication of or weight to a man's industry, concentration, power of collating facts and presenting them. Indeed, one of their principal protagonists, Professor Godfrey Thomson, has specifically stated 1080 that he makes no plea for using them to choose children for university training. The prominence given to them seems to me to be only one more symptom of the general trend, which I regard as one of the most lamentable signs of the times, that there is no need to learn anything, that education is no use and that anything that requires hard work cannot be right. Nor do I believe in the infallibility of the interview which selects men who are good at getting jobs but not men who are good at doing jobs.
If the validity of the new method of selection is denied, obviously Sir Percival Waterfield's strictures on the candidates fall to the ground. Scholarships are awarded much as they used to be, training in the universities has not altered in character, and if a man were selected on the same principles as formerly, I have no doubt we should continue to get first-class civil servants as we did before. But if the Civil Service Commissioners insist on picking men by trick questions and psychiatric methods, and ask the universities to select their scholars and train them so as to conform to their novel ideas, I hope the universities will refuse. It is not our business to turn out plausible "Smart Alecks," nor do I think that really intelligent people who had any alternative open to them would enter a profession in which these qualities were the primary consideration. It is because I fear that Sir Percival Waterfield's speech may have given the impression, even though it be erroneous, that the Civil Service is looking for men of this type that I regret that it was couched in the form it was.
§ 6.6 p.m.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (LORD PAKENHAM)
My Lords, I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, in the congratulation and thanks he extended to the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, for raising this subject to-day. I agree with little else that fell from the noble Lord in one of the most entertaining, one of the most brilliantly phrased and one of the most misleading speeches that I have ever listened to in this House. I do not think that any of your Lordships, although every one of us enjoyed himself to the full—we might say we rocked with laughter—will take it seriously. I hope not. If that went out to the world as a 1081 statement coming from a noble Lord of such pre-eminent talents as the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, speaking from the Opposition Front Bench about a system which was originated by the late Government, I am bound to say that very strange views would be taken of Mr. Churchill's administration, and I cannot help thinking that the noble Lord might get into trouble with his old chief.
§ LORD CHERWELL
It was only introduced for the transitional period while we had no proper intellectual tests.
If this system was based on the tomfoolery the noble Lord would have us believe it was, it would not have lasted over a period of three years. The noble Lord cannot have it all ways at once. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, who has felt compelled to leave us, was not apparently altogether clear about the distinction between psychologists and psychiatrists. That is a point which is essentially a matter of science and, I should have thought, a most elementary point of science. I should have thought it was a subject upon which we should have had a certain amount of guidance from the noble Lord. Not a bit. Either he does not know the difference—which is unthinkable in a man of such universal culture, denied to us poor humanists—or he is deliberately concealing the truth from the House, and that I do not think would for a moment occur to him. He might be completely misinformed about the whole C.S.S.B. business, which is a possibility which seems to me far the most likely in the circumstances. He has refused to go there.
Then the noble Lord misunderstood the invitation which was extended, or it failed to penetrate his very acute intelligence. But the invitation was extended. Many others who are almost as busy as the noble Lord have found the time and energy to go there before speaking in a debate of this kind.
§ LORD CHERWELL
Then the Postmaster-General was at fault, because I certainly never received an invitation. On the other hand, I did have the advantage of speaking to a great many people who 1082 have been there as candidates and not as examiners.
Then I have all the advantages referred to, including attendance. If the noble Lord was going to put out this peculiar view of an institution started by his own Government, the Government of which he was a member, I am surprised that he did not even go down and have a lock at the place. I say hat deliberately. I think that is the least we could have expected, and I am sure that before we debate these matters again he will come down with me and we will study the thing together. It is rather a peculiar thing that those who have been to C.S.S.B. seem to take a very different view from those who have not. The difference has appeared even in this debate. We have had noble Lords who have been there, as, for instance, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, Lord Piercy and I myself. Then there is the second category of noble Lords, who have not been there but who, in the circumstances, prefer to suspend judgment; and finally there are the others, who have not been there but have pronounced judgment in advance against C.S.S.B.
On this subject of scientists, I will no detain your Lordships. There is no doubt that there is a widespread view that scientists are dull dogs. That view may or may not be correct; they may keep their scintillations to their own circle. But I am bound to say that on many occasions in the past when I have said, "I am bringing a distinguished scientist to dinner," the answer has been "For heavens' sake, don't." When I have mentioned that it was the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, I have been told, "He is the exception who proves the rule."
§ LORD CHERWELL
Lest any errors in the humanities should creep into the record, may I say I hope the noble Lord will remember that the word "proves" is a mistranslation of the Latin word probat, which means "tests"?
I do know what probat means. Be that as it may, Sir Percival Waterfield has expressed the opinion that scientists in some cases might take a wider view of life. My experience coincides with his; I think we might all take a wider view of things. There is one point in respect of which Sir Percival has 1083 been completely misunderstood, both by the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, and the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, and it may be by persons outside your Lordships' House. As is known, I think, Sir Percival was not aware that he was being reported. He delivered a long and carefully-balanced speech on his personal authority in what he understood was a private meeting; but some of his statements were wrenched from their context. It is generally thought, for example by Lord Cherwell and Lord Lindsay, that Sir Percival announced that the standard of candidates was lower than before the war. It is absurd that Sir Percival could not have realised that conditions were very different and comparison very difficult. Sir Percival knows the differences better than most of us, and I only regret that noble Lords have not had the opportunity of studying the speech in full.
It is getting late, but the debate has hitherto been one of great distinction, and I know your Lordships will expect a fairly full reply. Three particular questions seem to me to have merited attention, besides a number of incidental points and questions to which I may perhaps be allowed to reply by correspondence or in discussion. First of all, it seems to me that the House is anxious to ascertain whether we are getting enough recruits of adequate quality for the Government service; secondly, what light is thrown on the educational system of the country, and especially on existing methods of awarding university scholarships; and thirdly, whether the present methods of selection for the home Civil Service and the Foreign Service which we have employed since the war have been the best that could be devised, and what view should be taken of them in relation to the future.
Of these, the third question is the one which has engrossed most of your Lordships' attention this afternoon and I shall deal with it at the greatest length; but I must say a few words about the others. Are we getting enough recruits of adequate quality for the Government Service? It will be realised at once that we have been dealing since the war with an exceptional, because a transitional, period. I am sure that that is in the minds of all noble Lords: but I was surprised that anyone should have 1084 I thought that it was not in the mind of Sir Percival Waterfield. It will be realised also that the recruits who have come in through the special reconstructional examination are of a different type inevitably, mainly through differences of age and also because their education has been interrupted. It will be realised further that normal peace-time examinations are starting again only this year: they are, in fact, in progress at this moment, and I have had the pleasure of seeing some of their stages. The normal peace-time competitions or examinations, therefore, give us no clue. We are left only with the information which is available to us from these reconstruction examinations, these special transitional arrangements, with a very special type of candidate.
These reconstruction examinations or competitions have been required to bridge the gap created by the war and to cover the whole period 1939–48, the candidates being anywhere between twenty-one and thirty-one years of age. In the view of the Government, therefore, whatever the test that has been applied to these reconstruction candidates, it would be highly imprudent and unscientific to try to make any real comparison between their quality and the quality of the candidates before the war. It is therefore with a good many warnings that I offer your Lordships the following figures.
During the five years, 1935–39, the average intake into the Home Civil Service was fifty-three and into the Foreign Service twenty-one. That was the last five-year period before the war. These figures were a good deal higher than previously and it was proving harder than it had been to maintain the standard, but the standard was, in fact, being maintained. During the war, vacancies accumulated to such an extent that during the nine years 1940–48 the total number of reconstruction vacancies to be filled has been 520 for the Home Service and 220 for the Foreign Service: that is to say, 56 for the Home Service and 24 for the Foreign Service for the year of the reconstruction examinations, against 53 and 21 respectively before the war. Here I would like to impress on your Lordships the considered view of those who have had the greatest responsibility for investigating the matter. There is every evidence that the entrants who have been 1085 accepted since the war have fully maintained, to say the least, the pre-war standard and tradition. The Departments are emphatic that they are getting very good material. Of the first 114 recruits to the Home Civil Service on whom detailed follow-up reports have been received, 74 have been rated "Outstanding" or "Very good." Only one was rated "Poor." As regards the Foreign Service, the Foreign Secretary, as I will explain more carefully later, has given a most practical demonstration of his good opinion of the post-war entry by insisting that the present system of selection be retained for the Foreign Service for the next few years. Candidates actually selected give every ground for a confident, optimistic reply to the question about the quality of the recruits.
There is, however, one qualification that should be entered at this stage. If anything, the standard for the Home Service and, to a lesser extent, for the Foreign Service, appears to have been pitched too high, and at the present rate we shall not reach the full targets that I have referred to in either branch of the Service. It has therefore been decided to lower slightly the pass mark in the case of the Home Service—retrospectively, of course, so that people who have just failed would be brought inside the line—so as to take in the top layer of candidates who were not accepted but who were referred to as "deserving consideration." It is worth observing that this group includes a number of candidates who have worked in Government Departments, who have previously just failed but who should now be accepted, including a number who have worked in Government Departments as temporary assistant principals and who have been recommended by their employers unreservedly as qualified for establishment in the administrative class. The Foreign Service, who have a far smaller gap to fill, have not yet decided how to remedy the position. May I sum up this part of the discussion, therefore, by saying that it was bound to require a big effort to cover the nine years' gap without lowering the standards, in view of the losses sustained during the war and the great interruption in their studies, but while an element of conjecture still remains, the grounds at this stage for giving an optimistic answer are quite as good as those for giving a pessimistic answer.
1086 With the permission of the House, I will not spend long over the second question, although I know it is close to the heart of the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey. I refer to the question of the light thrown on the educational system of this country. I will not spend long on this, partly because little light is thrown upon that question by those records. I fully agree with him that on another occasion the question of the scholarship system at all stages is one that we might profitably explore, and explore more than once. It seems to me that the essential fact—indeed, the only fact—that gives us much indication as to the national trend is the one that I have already given—the fact that in spite of war losses and interruptions we can still find as many top-quality candidates as before the war. That seems to me significant. Even that has to be accepted with various warnings and caveats. The ratio of passes to failures does not seen to me to point to any particular conclusion, because in this post-war period there is no doubt at all that, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay of Birker, has said, many people have put in for an examination of this kind who would not have entered before the Second World War. Therefore, I do not think the ratio would give us any clear indication, although if the House requires it I can provide the information.
In view of the references that have been made to the figures that Sir Percival Waterfield gave in his speech, I would just make, at his request, one correction of the figures that he then gave. A later and larger sample than that referred to in his speech has now been taken of the candidates. Sir Percival gave figures of 41.3 per cent. and 53.1 per cent. for candidates for the Home and Foreign Services respectively who passed the original qualifying test but who were finally graded as out of the running. Those figures of 41.3 per cent. and 53.1 per cent. of total failures should be brought down in the light of the larger sample to 26.6 per cent. and 30.7 per cent. respectively. That, of course, is a more encouraging view. I do not believe that this question of the ratio throws much light on the national education system to-day because there are so many candidates who have put in mere readily than before the Second World War.
1087 I will pause to say one or two words about the national State scholarship system. I have a great deal of information which I can give the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, if he requires it. I think the whole House agrees that we want to make it possible for the poorest boy in this country, if he has the talent, to get to a university. I am sure that we are all agreed upon that. Therefore, I suppose we are all working and concerned simply to make sure that merit is always the test in selecting those who make their way to the universities. On that subject, I have no special information to offer the House to-day. I would simply say that of course a high standard is expected for the universities, but whether it is entirely the right standard, and whether the use made of the Higher Certificate is necessarily the most effective way of doing the job, are questions which, with others, are now being considered. I would say now only that the Minister of Education has set up a working party to consider, in consultation with local education authorities and others, the various problems concerned with university awards. No doubt the House will be keenly interested in the outcome of those consultations.
I am uncertain as I approach the third question of the actual methods employed, how long your Lordships would wish to bear with me, or how much should be placed on the record. We have had various interesting, though partial, accounts and so I am bound to set the question in an official form. The complete reconstruction competition as we have seen it after the Second World War, can be said to have four stages. First, a candidate for the administrative class must have had at least a year's university training and must have been certified as being up to Second-class Honours standard. The latter qualification, but not the former, is also required in the case of a candidate for the Foreign Service. I am dealing with what is obviously reconstruction since the Second World War and not what will be the practice in future. Secondly, there is a qualifying examination, consisting of an essay, a précis and explication of difficult passages in English, a general paper (three half-hour questions on current topics), an arithmetic paper and an intelligence test. In practice, this examination 1088 eliminates about 40 per cent. of the candidates. Thirdly, there are the series of tests, exercises and interviews, lasting forty-eight hours, at C.S.S.B., whose function is advisory only, without power of rejection. I feel that there is still a certain amount of uncertainty on that point. Certain noble Lords have talked of people being rejected or accepted at C.S.S.B. That cannot be so. C.S.S.B. are simply advisory. They put in a report which contributes to the total amount of knowledge possessed by the Final Selection Board at Burlington Gardens. Fourthly, there is the interview of half an hour or one hour by the Final Selection Board at Burlington Gardens. The Final Selection Board take into account not only their own impressions of the candidate but also his record and references and, in particular, the evidence provided by the C.S.S.B. reports.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, whose speech, through his work I in selecting Rhodes Scholars, carried a great deal of authority, attaches particular importance to studying the previous records of the candidates. That is done by C.S.S.B. and also at the final interviews. This third stage at C.S.S.B. is one that aroused so much interest. Details have appeared in the Press, and I must run over them very briefly. The whole of the course at C.S.S.B. is in-tended to draw up a report for the benefit of the Selection Board. The twenty-four candidates are dealt with on a course in three groups of seven or eight candidates. Each group is in charge of three members of the directing staff, of whom one is a trained psychologist. I repeat: he is a psychologist, not a psychiatrist. On the War Office Selection Boards during the war there was a psychiatrist who was required for a completely different purpose. I think probably the noble Lord, Lord Elton, had a good deal to do with that when he was at the War Office. The psychiatrists had been thought to have done a good job, but one of a different nature. These men at C.S.S.B. are psychologists, experts in normal psychology, and not specialists in handling the morbid or neurotic. I myself sat through this mysterious private interview between one of the psychologists and a candidate, and I suggest that if any of your Lordships can manage to get away you should go down and do likewise. I hope that 1089 invitation will not be accepted by all members of the House at once, but I can assure you that I am specially charged to say that all members of this House, and also those in another place, will be very welcome at a C.S.S.B. party. At this point I would like to add that if the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, feels after this discussion that a White Paper is still desirable, I will gladly see what can be done. I am authorised to say that we expect to be able to meet him if he still feels that it would be in the public interest and generally helpful.
I should certainly hope so. There might be a difficulty about indicating to people exactly the kind of questions that are likely to be asked, because they might cram for them. I am not hesitating to supply the noble Viscount or anybody in this House with copies of the questions that are asked, and I hope that such an indication would be given in a White Paper.
I should not like to answer that without notice, but I believe that all the written tests would be available. It is another thing to promise that every oral question that has ever been asked of anybody has been recorded. Every question that has been the subject of a written test would, I think, be available; and I imagine there would be no difficulty in supplying the noble Viscount with a very full dossier.
You have, then, this group of seven or eight candidates, and first of all, as a group, they go through a series of exercises. There is an unprepared discussion on some subject of current importance—say the Marshall Plan or national sovereignty, or whatever may be thought fit. They are given a file, as a group, containing the essential facts and figures on the political and economic situation in an imaginary island or territory. That seems to me an idea that can be most valuable, and it is based in fact on the kind of file that one might find at the Colonial Office. This is an attempt to 1090 study the person's ability and direct reaction to the kind of work he might be told to do in the Civil Service. The group are asked to work on this file and have to form themselves into a little committee, with each member taking the chair in turn. Apart from the group exercise, they are subjected to individual tests. There is a short paper on a specific question—in other words, a short essay question on a practical subject drawn from the material provided for the group test. Secondly, each candidate has to give a ten-minute talk, after twenty minutes' preparation. Then all the candidates go through various intelligence tests. Finally, each candidate is interviewed alone by the three members of the directing stuff attached to his group. I am afraid I am saying this rather swiftly, but when noble Lords study it in Hansard I think they will see that that is a really thorough form of testing. When this test has been completed, and the record of the candidate has been taken into consideration, the directors meet and send in their recommendations to the Final Selection Board, which meets at Burlington Gardens.
I cannot conclude this part of my account without expressing my strong personal admiration for the way in which the technique of selection, whatever its merits or demerits in principle, has been applied and developed by the C.S.S.B. team under the wise, the Rhadamanthine, presidency of Colonel Pinsent, whose work as chairman of one of the War Office selection boards during the war has given him special qualifications for the task. I myself found a fairness, a zeal, a humility and also a lack of fanaticism and dogma about their methods which I am sure will make a deep impression on any member of the House who is able to visit them.
But what of the system itself? That is, I think, what the House is most of all concerned with to-day. Perhaps I may concentrate mainly on the C.S.S.B., although that is only one part of the totality of the reconstruction arrangements. The opinion of outside observers has undoubtedly been favourable, quite apart from the noble Lords who have spoken to-day. Out of 77 distinguished educationalists and others who have given their opinion, 75 have pronounced in its favour as a transitional expedient, and 69 have recommended its retention for permanent use. The vast majority of the 1091 candidates have declared in favour, but I am not quite sure how much weight to attach to their evidence. Certainly the evidence given during the course might be regarded as rather biased. At the same time those journalists who visited the C.S.S.B. in large numbers last week made rather careful inquiries from candidates, and found that they were well satisfied. The general Press were suspicious—I think it is fair to say, unfriendly—until they went there, but since they have been there it seems to me they have not only been very fair but also enthusiastic.
The House is entitled to ask for the verdict of the Government. On its record to date the verdict of the Government (and this applies to the whole reconstruction competition as well as to the C.S.S.B. part of it) is perfectly clear and emphatic. First, the war interruption in the education of the candidates, and the difficulty of making comparisons between men and women of all ages from twenty-one to thirty-three, has rendered an examination on peace-time lines quite out of the question. Secondly, any arrangements this time have worked much better, so far as we can judge, than those employed after the last war. Thirdly, C.S.S.B. has served and is serving admirably the purpose for which it was intended. In the circumstances prevailing, it has not only been a necessary expedient but a genuine success. That is not to say, however, that the Government have yet made up their mind or intend to make up their mind quickly about the desirability or otherwise of retaining the method of the reconstruction examination, including C.S.S.B., as the normal method of peace-time entry into the Civil Service. We were told, I think, by at least one noble Lord that it had already become perpetuated. It may become perpetuated, but it would be wrong to say that it has become perpetuated. At the present time the Foreign Secretary is personally so satisfied with the recruits he has been obtaining that the Foreign Office intend to rely on this method during the next few years for their recruits.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
As I am rather interested in this Office, would the noble Lord explain to me something that is not clear? As the matter stands at present, does the scheme include examinations in any language?
At the present I time there is a test of a candidate's capacity to learn languages. That means he is given a language test, but he is I not expected to achieve a high standard in the language, so long as he proves that he is capable of reaching a good standard later. That, of course, was inevitable, in view of the special post-war circumstances, where you could not expect a man to prepare himself in the old-fashioned way by going abroad and learning a language or two. In the trial period of the next few years this method will still be relied on. I understand that the standard of language required is being somewhat raised, but it is, and will remain during this trial period, a test of a man's capacity to learn a language. We are not asking him to present himself as a complete linguist already.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
Could the noble Lord explain exactly what is to be the test of a man's capacity to learn a language if he does not know any foreign languages?
The noble Viscount, I am sure, will not really think I am suggesting that we shall be testing men who do not know any language at all. The men of whom I am speaking will, in fact, be given an easy linguistic test, and this test will be rather stiffened in the future. But the men will not be expected to reach the standard which would be expected from someone passing a stiff language examination. I should not think that it would be very difficult, and our experience in the last few years has not found the system defective in any way. I know that there are now working in the Foreign Office a number of these young men, and they seem to be able to pick up German very quickly in cases in which they did not know it before. Upon this matter I am not arguing one way or another. I am simply informing the noble Viscount that the existing method is being retained—that is, the test of a man's capacity to learn a language which involves a fairly easy linguistic test—and that that test is being somewhat stiffened in the immediate future.
So far as the home Civil Service is concerned, as explained in the White Paper—Cmd. 6567—the Government have decided that, for an experimental period, two systems of recruitment should run concurrently. The first is a mainly 1093 written competition, corresponding partly with the pre-war written examination; and the second is the reconstruction method which we have been discussing this afternoon—with, of course, in each case the final interview along familiar lines before the Selection Board at Burlington Gardens. For 1948 three-quarters of the vacancies in the home Civil Service will be filled by what might be broadly called the pre-war method, and a quarter by the new reconstruction method. Before a decision is taken on the proportion of vacancies to be filled by the two methods after this year, a comparison will be made of recruits obtained by the two methods.
Yes. As I say, three-quarters will be obtained by what might be called the old method and one-quarter by the reconstruction method. After this year we shall see what the proportion will be. The two methods are being tried out to see which produces the best results, and I think Lord Cherwell and others would describe that as a fairly scientific method of approach. The Government are still of an open mind about the future of these various methods, and your Lordships will not expect me to say very much more upon it to-day. I would just like, however, to offer one or two final reflections. The real issue—because so many of the elements will be common, whichever method is adopted—is whether to rely on a thorough paper examination plus a final interview, or a week-end scrutiny of ability and personality plus reports and interviews with, of course, a qualifying academic standard, such as second class Honours, in the background in each case. The difference betwen the two systems is, in the one case, competitive examination, in the other case, week-end scrutiny.
Competitive examination, it seems to me, if I may sum up without attempting to speak with any kind of final authority—for every one is likely to take a slightly different view of the tests—tests knowledge and brain power, and throws some light on certain aspects of character such as diligence and perseverance, and also on stamina. The week-end scrutiny tests mental ability with rather more emphasis on speed and practicality than in the written examination. Unlike the written 1094 examination it does not test knowledge or, very closely, the power of acquiring large blocks of knowledge. The week-end, however, does make an attempt to measure what the written examination does not—that elusive thing, personality. Though one can define that in various ways, if we are to think of it apart from brain power, moral qualities and physical qualities, it really comes down on the one hand to personal initiative and on he other to the power to co-operate with other people. That is the sort of thing which it is sought to try our more thoroughly than ever before. The week-end method also throws some light on certain aspects of moral character—though I believe that its possibilities in this connection have not yet been sufficiently explored and that more work could be done upon that line. It also throws some light on stamina.
There is the comparison as I see it. Some will pronounce in advance in favour of one system and some in favour of the other. To me it seems that both have strong merits on paper, and I would submit to the House that the Government are taking the wisest course It is not a Party matter: this reconstruction competition was started before the present Government came into power. I submit that the Government are taking the wisest course in trying out both systems and seeking to judge which system appears to give civil servants who will maintain and enhance the great traditions of the public service of this country. I am most grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, for raising this debate.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
The noble Lord has said, as I understand him, that it is intended in future to try out the two systems. Is it the intention that the candidates should be able to say: "I prefer to be examined in the things I know" or, on the contrary, "I should prefer to have the week-end test"?
He has his choice. In the present year three-quarters of the vacancies will be allotted on what was approximately the pre-war system.
§ LORD ALTRINCHAM
May I ask another question about the language test, in which we in this House are very greatly interested? Is any attention paid to pronunciation? We all know people who can read and write a foreign language with 1095 efficiency but are quite unable to make themselves intelligible if they try to speak it. This question of pronunciation is one which from the point of view of the foreign branches of the Civil Service is very important.
I cannot profess to possess on that point knowledge which I do not possess. I would suggest to the noble Lord that he should put down a question on that matter which could be answered in this House. I hope that it will be possible by an answer to such a question to clear up any point which is not clear at the present time.
I cannot end without thanking the noble Viscount for giving us the chance of holding this debate and expressing also—since some attacks have been made upon him—my own complete confidence and the confidence of the Government in the justly famous Sir Percival Waterfield.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his speech. I am always grateful for his speeches, even when they are not concerned with my questions. I accept gladly his offer of some sort of a Paper. I am certain that what he puts into it will be "meat." His speeches are seldom without that, so I am sure the Paper will contain it. I should also like to thank other noble Lords who have spoken, and particularly Lord Lindsay of Birker, who raised several questions which were in my mind a great deal better and more clearly than I could have done. I hope that what he said about the written examination will be especially noted. I trust that that written examination is not going to be too rapidly eliminated, because it certainly provides a test of industry and knowledge.
Finally, I wish to make it clear—though I think it is already clear—that this Motion is not in any way intended as an attack on the Government. I know very well that this system is not the device of this Government but was inherited by them. I am not at all prepared to disagree with what the noble Lord has said as regards its usefulness in this transitional period.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.