§ [SECOND READING].
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY on STATE FOR INDIA (LORD ISLINGTON)
My Lords, this is an emergency Bill introduced to meet the difficulties created by war conditions in recruitment to the Indian Civil Service. As your Lordships may be aware, under the Government of India Act, 1858, admission to the Civil Service of India is confined to the avenue of an open competitive examination, and this examination is conducted by the Civil Service Commissioners under rules formulated by the Secretary of State for India in Council with the advice and assistance of the Commissioners. Since the outbreak of the war a very large proportion of the young men who were studying for entrance to the Indian Civil Service and who in the ordinary course of events would have presented themselves for examination this year and following years have felt it their duty to join either the naval or military forces of the Crown, and to-day many of that number are gallantly fighting in one or other of the various fields of operation.
In the early days of the war it was thought that to meet this difficulty effectually the extension of the age limit, which is now 24, would suffice. The age limit is already fully high, and it has beer, found with the continuance of the war 1063 that the grant of an age concession is neither suitable to the situation nor adequate to meet it. Other methods were suggested to meet the difficulty. One was the granting of service marks at the open competitive examination, marks to be awarded to the candidates in proportion to the length and nature of their service with the Forces. But after consideration both the Government and the Civil Service Commissioners rejected this method for various reasons. Amongst other reasons, it is doubtful whether legally such a method could be introduced in accordance with the 1858 Act, which lays down that only on grounds of proficiency in branches of knowledge can candidates be admitted through the open competition.
These suggested methods having been rejected, the Government have decided, in the abnormal circumstances in which we find ourselves in regard to recruitment for the Indian Civil Service, to ask Parliament to authorise the suspension in part of the statutory system of open competition for a time. We ask Parliament to do this on two grounds. Both grounds are, I think your Lordships will consider, necessary and reasonable, and I also confidently anticipate that they will be so considered by public opinion in India. In the first place we ask for power to take steps by the surest means to prevent, owing to the depletion of candidates, any deterioration in the class of officer that is to be recruited now and onwards in immediate years for the Indian Civil Service from the high standard which has characterised that Service in the past, a standard which I am sure your Lordships will agree has contributed in great measure to the high efficiency of administration in India. Secondly, we seek power to devise a method by which those who are now gallantly fighting at the Front for the Empire should as far as possible be protected hereafter from losing their careers as Indian Civil Servants owing to their patriotic action in joining the Forces.
This Bill endeavours to secure these ends, and it substitutes for the open competitive examination a qualified form of selection for not more than three-fourths of the total number of vacancies to be filled during the continuance of the war and for two years after the war has terminated. An open competitive examination will be held annually for at least one quarter of the vacancies, so that candidates who for one reason or another have not undertaken 1064 naval or military duties may have the ordinary opportunity of entering the Service. This proportion will enable a not inconsiderable number to compete, and among them Indian students at our Universities who could not, if they so desired, enter the combatant ranks of the Army or Navy. As regards the rest of the vacancies, those to be filled by selection, this selection will be carried out under rules made by the Secretary of State in Council with the advice and, assistance of the Civil Service Commissioners, and I hope this will be a sufficient guarantee to your Lordships that the power be properly and equitably exercised. It is intended— though it is not placed in the Bill, which is properly drafted in a wide sense—that the rules which will be formulated hereafter will provide that only those European candidates will be eligible for entry by selection who have rendered service with Forces of the Crown of certain length and nature. The rules will also provide that a minimum standard of education shall be laid down by the Civil Service Commissioners, and upon their advice the test by which that will be arrived at will be decided hereafter. Lastly, I would point out that in order to carry out this form of selection there will be established a strong and representative Committee.
One word as regards the effect that these proposals will have on the Indians who have hitherto entered by the open competitive examination. We are most anxious in suspending this examination, even temporarily and partially, that no injustice should be done to Indians in entering the Civil Service by this channel. Your Lordships are aware that the Indian community regard as of great importance this privilege, of many years standing, by which upon full equity of treatment Indians are enabled to enter the Indian Civil Service by a competitive examination with their European fellow-subjects, and we are most anxious, in temporarily making this change in the method of recruitment, that by no means, either this year or in the years to come, shall the Indian proportion suffer in its relation to that examination. We therefore contemplate, if with the examination of one-fourth there is not as a result the same proportion of Indians successful as has been the case in former years, that that number will be made up by selection hereafter. This is, of course, not in the Bill. But this course will be taken so 1065 that even treatment as for as possible will be meted out to both European and to Indian. I think these constitute the leading features in the rules which are in contemplation to be formulated to give effect to this Bill. They have not yet been framed, and there is no necessity for that to be done until such time as the Selection Committee has to be set up with a view to recruitment by this channel. The Civil Service Commissioners will, of course, assist the Secretary of State in Council in formulating these rules. You will see that this, of necessity, is but an imperfect and temporary method of recruitment, but I think on the whole it is the best that could be devised to meet the peculiar difficulties of the case.
To those who may be apprehensive that by this form of selection young men may be recruited to the Service who are of imperfect educational attainment, I would say with all confidence that whatever they may lose during this and forthcoming years by absence from the Universities to which in ordinary circumstances they would be attached they will more than make up in the training they will have received of those other higher qualities of character during the tremendous ordeal through which they will have passed in their connection with the Forces—qualities which I venture to believe they will imbibe and mature, and which will fit them to a singular degree for the increasingly difficult work of administration in India. If there are any points which I have not explained in regard to this Bill, which, as I say, is necessarily drawn in a broad sense, I shall he glad to give what explanation I can. I now submit the Bill to your Lordships' approval, and ask you to read it a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Islington.)
§ LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
My Lords, I would like to be permitted to make a few remarks upon this Bill. I recognise at once that the circumstances are quite exceptional. The young men alto have been preparing at various Universities for the competition for the Indian Civil Service have answered their country's call and joined the Forces. I suppose it is reasonable to assume that many of those had spent two or three years in their preparation, and a large number of them would no doubt have succeeded in the com- 1066 petition. I think the Government of India were wise in suspending the examination for a certain time on the ground that the most suitable candidates for the Service are prevented from competing by the fact of their having joined the Forces. The object is to secure for the Indian Service a sufficient supply of competent men. I suppose that at no time within recent experience has India required the services of competent and experienced men more than it does at present, and more than, in all probability, it may do in the immediate future.
As to that aspect of the question I would venture to suggest, though the matter is not raised by this Bill, that those members of the Indian Civil Service who have been allowed to join the Forces and have been relieved of their Indian duties should at the earliest moment be recalled from military service. It may conflict with their feelings to leave the Army and rejoin their civil avocations, but in my opinion their need is far greater in civil life in India than it possibly can be in the Army at the present time. As the object of the noble Lord who has charge of this Bill is to secure a sufficient supply of Indian Civil Servants in the difficult times that are approaching, I would suggest that he should make use of this obvious means of calling to the Indian Service those who are already members of it and will be most efficient in their positions in India.
Regarding the Bill itself, I understand that three-fourths of the vacancies that are to occur during the next few years are to be filled, not by the usual method of competition, but practically by selection. That is about the best arrangement that could be come to, but the selection must be very carefully made. As I understood the noble Lord, the selection is largely to depend upon the recommendations of the Civil Service Commission. The Civil Service Commission came within the careful scrutiny of the English Civil Service Commission of which I had the honour to be Chairman, and by a unanimous vote we found it desirable to recommend to the Government that the Civil Service Commission stood in need of strengthening. It did not seem to us to be a body possessing sufficient authority to be entrusted with the duties which now fall upon it. If, therefore, this most important business is given over to them, I would suggest that 1067 the recommendations of, the Royal Commission upon that point should be taken into consideration by the noble Lord in charge of the Bill, and that he should ensure that the Civil Service Commission should for the purpose in hand be strengthened in the manner which we ventured to point out.
I am afraid that the noble Lord's suggestions as to the appointment of native members of the Service will lead to some dissatisfaction. Only one-fourth of the number in any year are to be chosen by competition. The numbers of natives will be found within that one-fourth, if any of them are successful at all. My remembrance is that in more recent years the number of natives who have succeeded in the Civil Service has been comparatively small, but I venture to think that certainly one-fourth of the original number will not afford sufficient scope for native competitors. If it does not afford sufficient scope for native competitors the noble Lord, as I understood him, suggests that the Committee of Selection will of their own accord appoint or nominate a sufficient number of native members. I venture to think that it will be impossible for any Committee of Selection to do that in England; that must be done in India, and it naturally falls within the functions of the Viceroy, who can command the best information upon that point. I may have misunderstood the noble Lord. But I would suggest that this Committee of Selection, when it deals with natives, should operate in India and not in England; it should operate in the country where everything can be known about the native applicants for appointment and where a large choice is to be found. The necessity for some such measure as this is apparent. I do not think there is anything else I have to say, but I take it that it will be open to any members of your Lordship,' House when the Bill goes into Committee to make such suggestions as may occur to them. In the meantime I beg to say that I shall vote for the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, Clause 1 of this Bill contains the ambiguous phrase which has found its way into various measures and has formed the subject of some discussion in this House—namely, that the Bill is to continue in existence "during the continuance of the war." In this particular Bill there is, I think, 1068 less objection to that phrase than in any other. But when the subject was mooted on another occasion by my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn and by myself, the noble Marquess the Leader of the House said the matter would be considered and he hoped to be able to tell us soon what had been decided. I should have liked to ask the noble Marquess whether anything has been clone on the subject, but as he is not now in his place I will not press for an answer to the question. As to the proportions referred to in the Bill, can the noble Lord tell us on what they have been formed? Three-fourths seems to be a rather large proportion. Perhaps he can tell us why that particular proportion was fixed.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
The proportions of one-fourth and three-fourths will be of the whole of the vacancies that will exist when the recruitment takes place. It is impossible at present to say when that recruitment, by selection will take place. It may be found in the first year that there will not be a sufficient number of young officers back from the Front who at the same time would be eligible to enter the Indian Civil Service. The one-fourth and the three-fourths will be based upon the whole number of vacancies that there will be as a result of the war, or possibly two years after the war. I do not think I can at the moment make the point any clearer to the noble Earl.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
The words are "not less than one-fourth." It would therefore, I take it, be possible to have more than one-fourth appointed by competition. One-fourth presumably is the minimum?
§ LORD ISLINGTON
Yes, I think that one-fourth may be regarded as the minimum. My noble friend Lord Mae Donnell raised one or two points which I should like to answer, otherwise there might be a misapprehension. In regard to his proposal that officers should be called back, I may say that those who have been sunder probation this past year and who have either just passed their examination or are in process of passing their final examination number thirty-nine, and there are only thirteen who have joined the Forces. Some of those have joined the Territorial regiments out in India. I may say here that of the thirty-nine who have gone through their probation at the Universities, 1069 a large proportion, I am given to understand, were very anxious to join the military or naval forces but were restrained by the Government on account of the importance of sending out, as far as possible, the full number to India to enter the Service. The noble Lord indicated in his speech that he understood from me that the selection would be done by the Civil Service Commissioners. If I gave that idea, it was c[...]ncous. The civil Service Commissioners will assist the Secretary of State in Council in establishing the educational qualification but the actual selection will be carried out by a representative Selection Committee appointed for that purpose.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Wednesday next.