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Volume 172: debated on Friday 17 July 1863

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said, be rose to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in favour of open competition for junior appointments in the Civil Service. The public, and even many hon. Members of that House, were under a complete delusion as to the working of the Civil Service Commission. When it was established, it was supposed that young men of ability, industry, and good character would have an opportunity of freely competing for the junior appointments in the civil service, and that patronage would cease to be distributed by Members of Parliament. That was quite a mistake. Those persons who objected to the system of appointments by Members of that House would be surprised to learn that the patronage of the Government bad rather increased than diminished. Last year he pointed out that the number of close competitions was actually growing larger, and this year the same unfortunate result was equally apparent. In 1861 the total number of nominations made by the Government without any competitive examination was 228, while in 1862 the number was 396. In 1861 53 per cent of those who were examined for junior appointments in the Civil Service were nominated under a system of limited competition, but in 1862 the percentage had fallen to 42. When the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn was in office, he distributed all the appointments in his Department by open competition. Other Members of the present and preceding Governments had also done so, and among them Earl Granville, but the system of open competition was at an end. The number of honorary certificates given by the Commissioners was also diminishing. It was 136 in 1861, and only 111 in 1862. In some of the Departments the retrograde movement was very marked. In 1861 only two vacancies out of eleven in the War Office were filled by absolute nomination, while in 1862 as many as 82 vacancies out of 107 were so filled up. Thus the public, and even the House, were entirely deluded as to the adoption of competitive examinations. When the administrative reformers were protesting against the old system, they maintained that patronage ought not to be left to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, but the duties of that gentleman had been trebled instead of lessened. He still held the patronage in his hands, and Members of the House distributed the appointments. Why did the hon. Gentleman give these things to Members? It was, as an hon. Friend near him said, because they supported the Government. He thought that was unconstitutional. It was quite modern, and was certainly not known in the old history of Parliament. There was a time when, if a Member of that House had been, charged with accepting such patronage from the Government, and distributing it among his constituents, he would have been found guilty of a breach of privilege and a misdemeanour. Now it was tolerated, and even those who sat on the Opposition benches received daily applications from their constituents, asking for appointments in public offices. The first question they should ask themselves was whether they would improve the civil service by a change of the present system. He thought they would. One of the highest authorities on the subject Sir John Lefevre, had distinctly stated that in his opinion open competition was the best means that could be devised for filling the junior appointments in the civil service. Mr. Chester, who had been Assistant Secretary to the Privy Council, and Major Graham, an officer of the civil service, concurred with Sir John in that view. All the Resolutions and debates of that House, moreover, pointed to the advisability of open competition.

Amendment proposed,

To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that the junior appointments in the Civil Service may be filled up in future by a system of open competitive examination,"—(Mr. Hennessy,)

—instead thereof.

said, he rose to move an Amendment to the Motion of his hon. Friend the substitution of "an approved test examination" in place of the words "open competitive." He regretted that his hon. Friend had not allowed a longer space of time to elapse before again calling the attention of the House to the subject as it was desirable, in his opinion, that the working of the system of competition so far as it had extended up to that time should be further tested by experience, before the House was asked to come to a decision upon it. He confessed that he differed from his hon. Friend as to the desirability of extending the system. All the information which he had been able to collect from officers in different Departments went to show that the system of competitive examination in force did not operate to the advantage of the public service. He believed that the commanders of the army would state that the officers who entered that branch of the public service were no longer taken from the same class from which it was recruited at a time at which it might truly be said that the army had never been better officered. One important objection to the system of open competition was the injustice which it did to the sons of old officers. In all offices which were not under the control of Government a preference was invariably given to the children of old servants; but if the principle of open competition were adopted, that practice was no longer to pre- vail in the service of the State, and a great public disadvantage would thus, as he believed, arise. The fact stated by his hon. Friend, that the system of open competition was diminishing, proved that the public offices did not find it expedient to go on with it. He believed the truth was, that under the present system the offices could not be worked. The Secretary of State for India complained that he could not get officers enough, in consequence of the number of rejections by the Civil Service Commissioners. All the Commissioners were, no doubt, men of high eminence; but was the House prepared to put the whole patronage of the country, amounting to 105,000 places, in the hands of three irresponsible gentlemen? Such a proceeding was so absurd that he was astonished anybody could have proposed it. When Lord Brougham first heard of it, he held up his hands, and exclaimed that its proposers must have gone mad. There was no check upon the Commissioners, who over and over again had refused to comply with the request of the heads of Departments that they should not adhere too rigidly to their regulations, because by so doing they were acting injuriously to the public service. He could cite numerous cases to illustrate with what hardship and injustice the system weighed upon individuals, but would content himself with one. It was that of a gentleman whom he knew, and who wrote to him as follows:—

"On the 28th of last month Sir G. C. Lewis nominated me to compete for two vacancies on the establishment. On presenting myself before the Civil Service Commissioners the question arose as to my being over the prescribed age, and I was not permitted, though nominated, to compete. I entered the public service in April 1855, and therefore before the establishment of this system. I was for three years in the Admiralty, and three years at the War Office, Pall Mall, and the Military Store Department, Woolwich. My references are most satisfactory. I have passed before the Civil Service Commissioners as a temporary clerk, and because a new system is introduced at Woolwich I am discharged, without fault of mine and without provision."
There was another portion of the subject to which he would direct the attention of the House. He wished to inquire for a moment whether there had been any improvement in that system of questioning adopted by the Commissioners to which he had referred on some former occasions. It certainly appeared to him that the questions asked of candidates by the Commissioners were still in some instances of a very extraordinary character, and still as inappropri- ate as ever to the class to whom they were addressed. What, for example, could be more absurd than to ask a factory boy in one of the Admiralty dockyards to "write an account of any one or more of the following animals—namely, the horse, the deer, the bee. Describe their appearance, habits, and peculiarities. Show how they are of use to man, and give any anecdotes that you ever heard or read about them?" Another question equally ridiculous, as put to an apprentice, was as follows:—"Write down anything you know about William the Conqueror or the late Prince Consort." He found from the examination papers that candidates for appointments in the Commisariat were expected to answer questions like the following:—"Why are some arts called useful, and others fine arts? Have not the fine arts any utility?" The candidate was asked, "What are the circumstances in which a nation is best prepared for war, and assign the reasons?" When they had the largest amount of force, he supposed. The noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty would probably say, "When it has a great many iron plated vessels." These were hardly the questions to be put to a young man on entering the Commissariat service. Again, the candidate was required to sketch the history of Poland since 1789, and he was also asked, "What is the difference between the territorial limits of the European States in 1863 as compared with 1789?" Following all these questions, come the advertisements of the gentlemen who undertake to cram candidates for these examinations. The candidates for direct commissions in the army are asked, "What changes in the world have resulted, or are likely to result, from the discovery of the various uses of steam?" "Give an isometrical representation of the pyramid;" and they have to describe "the gold-leaf electroscope, and how they would use it to find the kind of electricity with which any given body is charged." Then they were asked, "How could you do this if the electrified body were out of reach, for example, a cloud over head?" The right hon. Gentleman always said he could answer such questions. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER dissented.] Well, if the right hon. Gentleman could not, how could he expect these young men to answer them? Another question was, "In what countries are the remains of the mammoth and tichorhine rhinoceros found, and what is there remarkable in their history?" The candidates for the East India service were asked to give the meaning of the following old words:—
"Maund, teen, foin, finish, fust, childness, shard, ahardborne, quiddit, quillet, frampold, chioppine, chrysom. State what objections there are to any of the following words in respect either of the form of the word or of the sense in which it has come to be used:—Amiable, author, grandson, island, miniature, posthumous, righteous, newt, rampant, sovereign, skylarking, Anthony, Bosphorus, Charter-house, Mackenzie, Poland, shotover."
Another question was, "What are the essential constituents of felspar, fluor, dolomite, and calamine?" Here was a question worthy of the right hon. Gentleman's attention—"Why was it better for England to tax the import of tea, sugar, and wine than of grain, or iron, or cotton manufactures?" Then came the questions, "What were the special liabilities attached by the Roman law to carriers and innkeepers?" and "Describe the nature of the respiratory process in animals, and the difference in the mode of effecting this in fishes, frogs, birds, and insects." These were specimens taken from a list of very inappropriate questions, and it was not at all surprising that the Secretary of State for India should have to complain of the number of rejected candidates. The only other country where such a mode of examination was introduced was China, and he did not know that it was necessary for them to take lessons from the Celestial Empire. The public service had not improved under that system. It was not desirable that young men should enter the civil or the military service without being subjected to a severe test examination; but there were qualifications requisite for some professions which could not be tested by the system of open competition. An officer of the army ought to be able to ride well, to have a quick sight, and be a man of energy. The Duke of Wellington used to prefer discipline to book learning. In the same way, the highest talents for diplomacy could not be tested by any examination. When his hon. Friend sought to extend the competitive system to the smallest offices under the State, it was high time to look more seriously into its operation, so as to guard against its abuse. For that reason he took the liberty of moving his Amendment.

said, that as the Motion of the hon. Member for the King's County was not an original Motion, but an Amendment on the Motion, That he leave the Chair, it was not in the power of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last to move an Amendment upon it.

Sir, the hon. Gentleman has reverted to his usual practice of reading to the House for its amusement, a number of questions which he has selected from the various examination papers of candidates for appointments in the public offices. I do not consider there is any use in discussing the military branch of the subject in connection with a Motion which relates exclusively to the civil service. But, speaking of the questions which he read from the papers for the civil service, I think it is very difficult to argue concerning the sense of the ridiculous. As happens in matters of taste, that which seems ridiculous taken in one connection does not always seem ridiculous in another. Although, no doubt, the hon. Gentleman has selected his questions for the purpose of exciting our ridicule, yet some of them appeared to me very apt and well chosen. Nothing, for example, could be more rational than to ask the candidate what are the benefits resulting from the discovery of steam; and nothing could be fairer, with a view to test his geographical knowledge, than to require him to compare the territorial limits of different European countries in the present day and in 1789, before the great French Revolution. But irrespective of individual opinions on this or that question, the hon. Gentleman appears to me to have almost wilfully shut his eyes to the very principle on which these examinations are constructed. He gave the House to understand that every candidate is expected to answer all these questions. No examination in those places where examination has been pursued with the greatest efficacy and success is constituted on that principle. In regard particularly to the examination for the civil service, that which is held to be indispensable in all cases, and that which tells the most, is the necessary amount of knowledge in matters strictly elementary. But, inasmuch as those matters strictly elementary, reading so far as it can be tested, writing, and arithmetic, are matters in which the candidates might come out almost on a dead level, it is thought to be very judicious to test the general mental culture of the candidates by offering them a great variety of questions, the whole of which they are not expected to answer, but by answering some one or more of which they may be able to give some indication of their mental power over and above the mere mechanical instruction they may have received. The hon. Member attempts to create amusement by the rapid transition from subject to subject of these questions; but that is only a proof of the care with which these papers are framed, because the intention is not to give an exclusive preference to persons who may happen to be familiar with some single class of subjects, but, on the contrary, to give the fairest possible play to all who have any mental energy or culture in them at all. The object, therefore, is to make the questions present as many aspects as possible within the compass to which they are extended. But it is not competent for the hon. Gentleman to move his Amendment at present, and therefore I pass to the proposition of the hon. Member for the King's County. I presume that the hon. Member for the King's County does not now intend to press upon the House the adoption of the Motion he has made. It is obvious that a Motion in favour of open competition for admission to the civil service is a subject so very large that it ought not to be pressed to a division unless after much fuller discussion, and in a much fuller House than we can command at this period of the Session. The Motion comes before us by way of an Amendment upon going into Committee of Supply, and I should certainly vote for the original words of the Question. But I do not complain of the hon. Member for so frequently calling our attention to a subject of such very great importance. In the view of the case, however, which he has put before us, he has not done full justice to the present state of things. The hon. Gentleman assumed that the system of competition was virtually going backwards—that patronage was resuming its sway as contradistinguished from competition; that the Departments were endeavouring to get rid of the salutary restraints on the exercise of patronage; and that, in fact, the general state of things was retrograding, instead of advancing. Now, I do not think that is the case. An examination of the Report of the Civil Service Commission distinctly proves that is not the case. With some variation in different quarters, there is, on the whole, observable progress in the system of competition. I am far from speaking of it as a perfect system. We must be content to make the most of the results of the system as gradually established. The House, however, has a right to expect that a certain rate of progress shall be attained, and it certainly does ap- pear that considerable progress has been made. The hon. Gentleman says that the system of competition is diminishing in the country, but, as tested by the number of offices competed for, and the number of candidates examined, it is advancing, not diminishing. In 1858 the number of offices competed for was 192, in 1862 the number was 262, and in 1861, immediately preceding, the number was 236. Therefore, there is an absolute increase in the number of offices competed for. Then, as to the number of candidates found eligible and examined, in 1858 the number was 647; in 1862 the number was 864. No doubt, in former times there were great abuses, and many unfit persons were appointed. Well, of those 864 competitors examined for 289 places, 376 were found below the standard of attainment requisite for a pass-examination. The hon. Gentleman himself has at last screwed and wound up himself to this, that there should be a severe test examination; but does he not see how much evil there is still to be eradicated, when, out of 864 persons found eligible, not far short of one moiety, or 376, were found unfit to compete, because they could not pass the test examination. It is very well to talk of a severe test examination, but what is well known is this, that you find yourselves in continual conflict with a mass of personal, party, and other selfish interests; these selfish interests rooted and grounded in human nature exercise a continual pressure on your positive test examination, tending always to lower it. It is not because competition is in itself a perfect system that some resort is had to it, but because it is practically found that it affords the best and perhaps the only means of contending against that constant lowering action of a simple test examination. The Committee of 1861 made two principal recommendations; one was, that instead of an occasional competition of a limited character and among three candidates, there should be universally a limited competition among five candidates where there was only one vacancy; and where there were several, in the proportion of at least three candidates to each vacancy. The other recommendation was to confine the competition to those who had passed the previous test examination. I must say that was a most excellent recommendation. With regard to the first recommendation, there are now forty-seven offices to which competition is extended, and only twenty in which com- petition is not resorted to, these last being only quasi public departments, not being under the control of the executive Government. So far, then, as the general principle of competition is concerned, it is in course of extension. We have got competition in action. I am entitled, therefore, to a certain extent to assume that it is recognised as a beneficial system, and I am showing that the executive Government are endeavouring to give increased scope to what they believe the intention of Parliament. With regard to the second recommendation, the Treasury early in 1861, under the direction of my noble Friend, established a preliminary test examination for all officers, and the number of competitors is extended to five for a single vacancy, and in the proportion of three for each vacancy where there are more than one. The Secretary at War has recently set on foot a similar plan, and clerkships in the War Office are now competed for only by those who have passed a test examination, the competitors being fixed in the proportion of four for one vacancy and three to each vacancy where there are several. I am certainly at a loss to explain a very large number of nominations that appear to have taken place without competition in 1861. That must be owing to some casual circumstance; but the indications of progress which I have pointed out depend on no casual or temporary cause—they belong to the gradual extension of the system to our public offices. Believing, as I do, that it is quite impossible for us to admit on the present occasion of a full discussion of this extremely important question, it is enough for me to show that this is a matter in which the executive Government is making progress, and to express a hope that under these circumstances the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with the discussion which has taken place, and will not press his Motion to a division.

observed, that besides the two recommendations of the Committee adverted to by the right hon. Gentleman there was a third—to this effect, that the system of open competition, so successfully tried in relation to the India service by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, should be applied to the Civil Service.

I omitted to mention that the apprentices in the dockyards and inferior boys in the Admiralty are admitted by open competition.

maintained that the most important part of the patronage in the appointments to officers in the civil service was still kept in the hands of Government. The Treasury were opposed to any system that was likely to take the patronage out of the hands of the Government, and under the present system the nominations were almost entirely confined to the friends of the Government. Now, that was a most unfair principle for any Government to pursue. Every member of the community ought to have a fair opportunity of proving his qualifications for Government appointments, but as matters stood one-half of the community were denied all opportunity of competing for public service. He did not see why the system of open competition, which worked so well for India, should not work equally well for all the public departments. The recommendation of any respectable person of rank or position should be sufficient, with satisfactory testimonials of moral character, intelligence, and ability, to procure a nomination to compete. He might add that he been applied to frequently to make applications to the Government for nominations, but had never done so except on two occasions during the eleven years he had had a seat in that House, and those applications were made under very peculiar circumstances. He thought that his hon. Friend had done well in bringing the subject again before the House, and if he pressed his Motion he should feel it his duty to support it.

said, that although he could not agree with the hon. Member for the King's County, he did concur with him upon two points. He agreed that disappointment had followed the establishment of the system of examination which had recently been introduced, and that it had neither decreased the patronage of the Government, nor improved the quality of the successful candidates. But what he believed to be the two great evils of the system had not been touched upon. The first was the irresponsible position taken up by the Commissioners, and the determination of the Government, and particularly of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to retain them in that position. So long as that irresponsibility continued, the system would never give satisfaction, because the country would not believe that justice was fairly done. The other evil was one that spoke for itself. The Commissioners not only arrogated to themselves complete irresponsibility and the right to conduct their proceedings in the dark, but they claimed the right of defining precisely the character and details of the examination to which every candidate was subjected. It was impossible that the Commissioners should be so well qualified to form an opinion of the necessary qualifications of candidates for appointments as the heads of the different offices, and the result was, that, in the naval and military services especially, the best men were often excluded. If the system had been in operation a certain number of years ago, Wellington would never have been a soldier, Nelson a sailor, or Watt an engineer. The best men were excluded because they were unable to answer a number of questions the absurdity of which had been well pointed out to the House. He ventured to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer that so long as the Commissioners were allowed to work in the dark there would be a feeling throughout the country that justice was not done to the candidates, and that the whole system was one of patronage and jobbery.

said, that whatever the faults of the Civil Service Commissioners might be, they were not open to the charge of making wrong selections of subjects, because the selections were made by the heads of the offices for which the candidates were to be examined. Without entering upon the question of examinations generally, he would only say a few words in reply to the remarks of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, who seemed to think the state of things as regarded patronage and the influence of Members of Parliament was as bad as ever it was. He did not think that was so. The hon. Member for the King's County seemed to think that the amount of patronage was larger now than it was formerly because of the numerical increase of candidates. Without pretending to know all that took place behind the scenes, and admitting that there was a larger residuum of the old system than he wished to see, he could only say that it was a common occurrence for nominations to be given to any respectable gentleman who asked for them. ["Oh!"] If the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Brand) could tell him he was wrong, he would accept his correction, but otherwise he maintained his statements. He could name instances in which nominations had been given to persons without any knowledge of or inquiry into their political opinions. Nominations were often granted to gentlemen of literary reputation, to clergymen and magistrates. He had for thirty years been an advocate for a change in the system of patronage; but although he went as far as his hon. Friend, he did not go as fast. If the Motion were pressed, he should be disposed to vote for it, but at the same time would recommend the hon. Gentleman not to press it to a division. The change was important, and might lead to valuable results; but public opinion had not yet got beyond considering the question as lying between a severe test and a public competition, and had not yet been brought to regard the question as between open competition and limited competition. It might be that the new system was not approved in some offices. In the Committee the question was asked whether the officers selected under the present system were superior to those appointed under the old system; but, as was not surprising, the evidence on the point was not distinct, as it would have been invidious to say that the superiors in an office were inferior to the juniors. In a few years the advantages of the system would become obvious, and then would be the time to take further steps in the same direction.

said, he should be very glad if some arrangement could be made, such as that suggested by the hon. Member for Dungarvan, and that hon. Gentlemen opposite could share with Members on the Ministerial benches the advantages of nominating candidates. If ever a contrivance could be suggested to give annoyance to Members of Parliament, the present system of nomination was one. They were continually pestered for nominations, which were rarely successful; and then the nominating Member was considered by the candidate and his family as having caused them expense and discomfort. He got no gratitude, and was exposed to much obloquy. He must, however, be permitted to ask the House not to consider that the system had been so successful as had been stated in the course of the debate. He could say from personal knowledge of many persons in the public Departments that they did not consider that the efficiency of the Civil Service had been increased or improved by the new arrangement. They say that the new men are decidedly cleverer at first, but that they afterwards fall off, and in ten or even five years they will not know more than the men nominated under the old system. There was, no doubt, a small residuum of unfit persons who were got rid of by the present system, but that was the only advantage that was gained, and against it must be set many serious disadvantages. Instead of seeing their offices filled by men acquainted with the public service, with a strong esprit de corps, and acquiring confidence and respect from all who were acquainted with them, they would see a body of persons extremely discontented and unhappy in the position in which they were placed. The existing kind of competition was not the means by which the meritorious poor man could get a place under the Government. It was entirely a matter of money from beginning to end. It was entirely a system of cramming, not in the ordinary sense of acquiring knowledge, for that would be extremely useful to every one, even though he failed in his immediate object. That was not the case; but there were a set of men throughout the country—professional crammers—who, by taking note of the sort of questions that were put, would guarantee persons getting into the public offices; and unless a young man had the means to put himself under one of those crammers, he would have no chance of success, however superior he might be in the main to those with whom he was competing. That was a totally different thing from what the House was led to expect. The poor man was shut out altogether. It was said to be a question of education, but it was a question of education which could be got only by money, and a great deal of it. That was not a satisfactory thing, nor was the examination such as to produce an efficient body of civil servants. A system which had been most injurious to the character of the German people had now been established in this country; and if carried to the extent to which his hon. Friend desired, he believed it would be injurious to the national character and dangerous to the independence of the country.

I cannot say I agree in the fundamental principle on which the hon. Member for the King's County has founded his Motion, that employment in the Queen's service ought to be a thing which anybody might claim provided he could only show he was fit for it. I conceive that according to the Constitution of this country those who are honoured with the confidence of the Crown are responsible for the filling-up of all offices, and are bound to take care that no person not duly qualified is appointed. Now, it seems to me the present arrangement fulfils those conditions. There is, in the first place, a test examination, to see that the person applying for office is possessed of sufficient attainments to entitle him to be a competitor with others; and then a competitive examination, for the purpose of ascertaining which of a certain number is fittest for the appointment. Now, some gentlemen wish that the number of competitors should greatly exceed the number of places to be filled up. I see no advantage in that, but, on the contrary, a great hardship. It reminds me of the old story of what the foreigner said about the race, "What, so many to start, and only one to win!" Only one can be appointed to each vacancy, and the more candidates you examine the greater the range over which disappointment must be spread. Now, that disappointment is not a very light matter, because a young man who has applied through his friends for an appointment has shaped his course and fashioned his expectations to a particular career, and has ceased to endeavour to find employment in any other quarter; and then, if after a preparation of a year or a year and a half he is rejected, he finds that he has neglected other pursuits to which he might with better success have devoted himself, and that is a great hardship to him and to his friends. I think three nominations to each vacancy is quite sufficient to enable the examiners to pick out a person fit for the appointment; and that examination, with the previous test, ensures what is the real object of this arrangement—that the persons appointed shall be fit for the offices which they are to fill. Objection is taken to the principle of cramming. It is said that competitive examination only leads to a system of cramming, and the knowledge which enters the mind in that way does not remain there, but is soon lost. But the principle of cramming, or in other words of preliminary preparation, is an essential element of all competition. When a boat race is to come off, the men who are to pull are crammed—they practise with others for a fortnight or a month beforehand preparing for the race. If you have a horserace, the horses are crammed—they are crammed with corn, and they are practised in the exercise of their muscles. If there is to be a pugilistic combat, the men are crammed—that is, they are trained in order to be ready for the contest on the day fixed. And therefore, if you are to have competition at all, you cannot object to the candidates preparing themselves for the contest. Just as in the other cases the most muscular and active will win on the day of trial, so on the day of the intellectual contest the man whose mind most readily grasps and most firmly retains knowledge will succeed. In all the examinations of the Universities the same cramming takes place; and although a great deal of the knowledge thus acquired does not remain, yet every man who has gone through an examination at the University knows that the habit of mental exertion which that cramming gives you lasts afterwards, and is attended with useful results. Therefore, no reasonable objection can be taken to the system of competitive examination on the ground that it requires extensive preparation. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has lucidly explained why some of those abstruse questions are put. I have been often told by the Commissioners that the real tests are certain elementary acquirements; but with regard to these the competitors may be so nearly equal that it would be difficult to say who was best, and therefore they throw into the examination a number of other questions, which test the general knowledge of the candidates and their powers of mind, and in that way the Commissioners are able to say which young man appears the cleverest of the whole. Objection has been taken by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) to the circumstance that these nominations for competition are not open to every Member, and himself among others. Well, Sir, we live in a country which has a Parliamentary Constitution; Government must maintain itself in Parliament by the support of its friends, and it is natural they should feel more disposed to comply with requests made by a friend, than by a gentleman who is going to move to turn them out. I do not think there is anything at all inconsistent with human nature or constitutional principle in such an arrangement, and I do not see what the country would gain by changing it, and giving the opponents of the Government a right to demand favours of the Government. It has, however, been rightly said that those nominations are given to respectable persons, and often without regard to political considerations. I myself last year gave a nomination for competition for a clerkship in the Treasury to the son of a person opposed to the Government, and who was laid under no obligation by my granting what he asked, and who did not consider himself in any way fettered by my having done so. I only mention that as a proof that when persons who are opposed to the Government condescend to express a wish, when that wish can well be granted, their being opposed to the Government is not an absolute reason for refusing them And I can assure the hon. Member for Dungarvan, that if he would condescend at any time to express a wish in favour of any of his constituents, that wish would receive every consideration. But then it is only right, according to the working of the British Constitution, that the requests of those who are the friends of the Government should be complied with in preference to the requests of those who are not. I see nothing in that requiring to be altered in reference to the proper working of the Parliamentary constitution of this country. Well, I think that to open an office to which every man may come and say, "I write down my name, and I desire to be examined at the next opportunity for a clerkship in the Treasury or War Department," would be no improvement in the working of the constitution, or in the filling-up of offices. I think that those who are in the service of the Crown ought, to have the responsibility of filling up the appointments at their disposal properly; and I see no more reason why these appointments should be at the command of every man who walks the streets than that any other appointments or honours of the Crown should be at the command of those who might think it desirable to have them. I am quite sure that these Commissioners do their duty according to the best of their judgment, and I believe that the persons appointed under this system of competition have been well qualified for the public service, and better, no doubt, than many who were appointed before. When I was at the Foreign Office, I was most anxious to establish some system of examination; but at that time there were no Commissioners, and there was such difficulty in deciding who should be the examiners, that I was never able to establish the system. Now, however, the system is generally established, and the Government are prepared to act upon it. Notwithstanding all the jokes of the hon. Gentleman opposite on the questions pro posed for examination, the system is one which works well, and which will insure good and proper persons to be employed in the different appointments in the public service.

said, that he agreed in the main with what had fallen from the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but there was one material point on which he differed from them. The noble Lord had endeavoured to set up an analogy between the training of horses, of pugilists, of rowers, the severe studies which men went through at the University, and which certainly greatly exercised the mind, leaving behind a power nothing could afterwards destroy, and the asking of a vast number of chance questions of those who came up for examination as candidates for civil service appointments. Those questions were superadded to the elementary examination, and the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord pretended that they afforded a test of general mental acquirement. Now, in his belief, the system adopted by the Civil Service Commissioners was not a test of mental acquirement at all, and that the ability to answer those questions could only he attained by a vicious system of cramming. Any one who looked at the kind of questions asked would see at once that it was impossible to answer them without a complete study of the subject. They were not in their nature elementary; whereas in the University everybody was examined in the same kind and quality of subjects, and did really undergo fair competition. How could the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that the system of examination was an elementary one, when if he went into any bookseller's shop and asked for the books necessary for cramming for examination for such and such an appointment, he would find that it was a complete system? Such questions as he referred to offered, in fact, anything but a fair test of mental acquirement, and it very often happened that persons were passed because they fortunately happened to have got up one or two of the subjects on which the examiners asked general questions. He heard the other day of a young man who was being examined for a direct commission for the army being asked, among other things, to write a history of the Reformation. He put it to the House whether that was not a very odd requirement to demand of a person who was applying for a commission. The system was a bad system, if carried to an excess; but he quite agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there had not been sufficient experience to enable the House to come to a sound opinion on the matter. What was wanted was to get the best permanent servants to do the public work; and as opinions differed with respect to the result of the system which bad been adopted, he thought, that until further experience was obtained, it would be worse to push it to too great an extent. The subject was very important, but it would not be fair to compare the young men of the present day with the young men of thirty or forty years ago, for education had enormously advanced, and the state of general intelligence was very different now. They must compare the men they now got relatively with the young men who obtained other positions of the same standing, and thereby determine whether the system did really secure for the country better servants.

said, he was a little surprised to hear the noble Lord stand up in that House and avow, albeit in a jocose and pleasant vein of humour, that nominations ought to be given away by the Government, and not thrown open; because, as he (Mr. Darby Griffith) humbly imagined, such a system was incompatible with the principles on which competitive examination was founded. The noble Lord thought that it was perfectly natural to carry on the public service by patronage; but he thought it was generally understood that the appointment of Civil Service Commissioners and Examiners was intended to do away with patronage to a great extent. It was to be remembered that party heats and animosities had greatly subsided within the last half century; and if it came to this, that the noble Lord objected to give nominations to those who wished to turn him out of office, or who voted against him, he thought it would be found on inquiry that the noble Lord was vastly more indebted to many Gentlemen on the opposition side of the House than he was to the Gentlemen who sat near and behind him. The explanation which the noble Lord had afforded them that night, although intelligible enough, could hardly be reconciled with the principles on which the Commission was founded, nor was it applicable to the practice pursued by many hon. Gentlemen who sat on the Ministerial side.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 118; Noes 37: Majority 81.

Main Question put, and agreed to.