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MR. LOWE ON THE CIVIL SERVICE. On Thursday, in last week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was examined before the Select Committee of the House of Commons inquiring into the Civil Service expenditure. Mr. Childers occupied the chair. In reply to questions put by the Chairman, Mr. Lowe said that when the Government proceeded, in 1869, to supply the departments with clerks on the competitive principle, and generally to see how economy could be promoted in the Civil Service, th«y had to drive a hud bargain with the Board of Trade, which wanted an addition of 45fi. st-class clerks, and to raise the salaries of the chiefs; for instance, Mr. Farrer, the permanent secretary of the Board of Trade, wanted RSW a year added to his salary, which the Treasury reduced to JE300, and his opinion was that there was no necessity for even that addition. The Treasury was met fairly by the Colonial ald the Local Government Board De- partments, and on the whole satisfactory arrangements wer* made with the other Departments The number of 45 first-cla-s clerks asked for by the Board of Trade was reduced with great difficulty to 25. It was suggested that the principle of competition should be applied, so as to allow the second class to get into the first class, by doing away with the limit °f age. What is your opinion? Mr, Lowe When a clerk accepts a position in the second class he ought to be content to learn his busi- ness, and not be encourged to take up his time to get higher. I am not a fanatical admirer of competition. It does not give you all you want or secure that a man is fit for the place, but it is better than having no test at all, and you can go back to his examination to find some of his merits. We are tending more to uni- formity in ability. You are not favourable to the abolition of super- annuation ?-I think superannuation is a good institu- tion. We get men young, weteach them their business, and thf-y became very valuable, and by superannua- tion we retain their services. If we had not superan- nuation, we would get persons whs would be carrying their talents elsewhere. Superannuation, therefore, was extremely economical. By Sir Stafford Northcote The object of the Go. veroment in introducing competition was to do away with the mischief of patronage and to improve the public service generally. It gave a great stimulus to the working classes by placing a large number of re- wards within their reach. You did not make an idol of competition ?—I was in the position of a General of a Division, when told to go to a particular place His business was to do it, and not consider whether it was good or not. You might introduce competition between the two classes?—I think it would fail, for the moment you substitute examination for lising you substitute an inferior for a superior test. Personal knowledge is better than anything else. You don't propose competition for rising ?—No it has been proposed. Having been admitted into the office a clerk's future promotion t-hould be according to the judgment of his superiors as to his merits as tested by his work ?—Yes. So far as the internal work of the department is con- cerned, it is not of much cons quence wh ther a clerk has a good classical education or is a good mathe- matician • but as far as knowl< dge of the world is con- cerned you ought to have some whose associations be- long to the clat-8 with whom .hey have to deal. The Treasury would Buffer if they had not men with the best education competent to converse prope ly with gentlemen from all parts of the country in fact, the public s-rvice would suffer without them. In the Board of Trade I would only have one class, and that the lowest. Have you seen the scheme prepared by Mr. Farrer and Mr. Lefevre?—Which do you refer to? The Board of Trade has always made now schemes; I don't know how many but if you refer to a document in 1869 sent to the treasury, when the Goverment pledged themselves to introduce competition, I can only say that was a confidential document handed in to thtm. Have you heard that greater economy would be effected by that scheme than the one proposed by the Government ? —I shall rather pws by that. I think that gentlemea in the position of Mr. Ferrer, who ec- enpies a position of great trut-fand confidence, have a perfect right to form any opinion as to the steps taken v by the Government under which they serve. They have an absolute right, and it is their duty, to com- municate with the heads of Departments so long as the matter is under consideration; but when the act is once done and become the act of the Government, I hold it objectionable to make charges out of materials got in the confidential position wh eh they occupy. For that reason I would rather that the Committee dispensed with my evidence on that. I do not wish to countenance this irreguia. r proceeding. The room was then cleared for the Committee to consider what course to adopt. On Mr. Lowe being recalled into the room, The Chairman said the Committee had excluded the confidential correspondence that passed between Mr. Farrer and Mr. Lefevre, but the paper of 1869 had been made an official document, and the Commit ee thought Mr. Farrer should give them the history of the arrangements and discussions which passed previous to the Bteps taken in 1869. The Committeee had had it before them that the scheme approved by the Govern- ment was less economical than that desired by the Board of Trade, and the Committee were anxious to know if Mr. Lowe would favour them with his views on the matter. Mr. Lowe: The only way to do that would be to lay the whole correspondence before the Committee. I am unable to give an abstract, but I will answer any questions. By Sir Stafford Northcote I understand the main points objected to by the Board of Trade in their scheme were that it involved the creation of a distinc- tion between two classes of established clerks and con- sequent raising of the salaries ?-They insisted upon the raising of the salaries, and they put a larize number of clerks in the first division who had no business there. Is it desirable as a general principle that young men in this upper class should begin with j3200 a year ?— Ye*, I think it is. because we are competing with Fellowships at the University, and you get better men; and it is much better to raise their salaries rather slowly. Do you think that the system of paying the writers at so much an hour without any hope of promotion is one calculated to produce good work?—You don't want good work. You want copyists who can do a little arithmetic. If we wanted anything more from them, we should have them in the establishmeuts. Would not there be an improvement in the writing if you told a man to write well and bis pay would be increased from lOd. to 12d. per hour ?—He ought not to have anything at all if be does not write well, and it does not signify if he writes a little better than welL It is merely mechanical work. We can get plenty of writers, and we won't give more than the market price of the labour. Do you consider that reorganizations of this kind are conducted by the Treasury or the Departments, or by the Treasury in correspondence with theDepartments ?— I do not know how it could be done otherwise than by the joint action of the Treasury and the Department. By Mr. White Your opinion is that the greater part of the public servants should be in the second category ?—Yes, Speaking about reorganization you said that you had to negotiate and make terms with the heads of "Depart- ments as you best could 1- Y.I. Has not the Treasury, as holding the purse-strings of the nation, a controlling power over all the Depart- ments of the Government?—No; but the Treasury has control in this way. If they come to me for an in- crease of expenditure, I refuse it. (A laugh.) But, in all other respects, I have no power except with the consent of the Department. No statutory power to compel* reduction in any public department ?—No I can refuse an increase, but 1 nave no power to reduce anything. When a thing has once got upon the Estimates there is no power to take it off. he Chairman We can prevent its coming on the L-*timates in the first instance, but cannot deal with it when once it is there. We cannot force a De- par ment to withdraw anything. By Mr. Wnite: It not that a serious defect in the power of the Treasury 1- We are not a governing power, and we are only one Department side by side with others, and we have very limited power. It is more the effect of moral suasion than any power. But is not it absolutely necessary that there should be in some Department the power to regulate and control the expenditure of the Departments ?—I don't know that so much power should be intrusted to one Department. We are all equal in power; but are often pointed at for not doing that which we have no power to do. Then it is a popular delusion that the Treasury exercises a direct or habitual control over the expendi- ture of the different Departments ?—I don't know that it is popular, but it is a delusion. (Laughter.) By Mr. Hermon: The highest clerks have very large salaries?—They work very hard. Do they ever get any overtime?—No; they fre- quently take the work home. They would never get it done otherwise. Is there no fear of anything being divulged for instance, no commercial firm would allow a clerk to take away the ledger?—Tae whole business of the secretaries is carried on by the circulation of boxes, and there is no fear of anything being divulged. If they did not take the work home to get a little quiet, they would never get through it. By Mr. Vernon Harcourt: The scheme at present adopted would prevent the clerks ever reaching the highest point in the office ?—Yes. His your attention been called to the evidence of ]"r* Farrer, who states that the most efficient people in the Board of Trade entered at 15s. per week ?—Y es. It has been bought very dearly. It is the result of the uniform system of rising by seniority. Though you may have some good men, you have others very inefficient and receiving large salaries. You said that one of your great objects was to get men with a different sort education ?—Yes, the best education in public schools, which gives a sort of freemasonry which cannot well be described. At least, those offices brought into contact with the upper clashes should have such men who could hold their own, and not be overawed by any one. Based on Latin and Greek ?-BaAed on a general education. Not necessarily Latin and Greek. Is not the be t education the experience of office ?— Certainly. Is it not a hardship that a man cannot pass up from tbe second class to the highest simply because he bad not the advantage of being at a public school?—He accepts the situation with the knowledge; but there are all the staff a pointments open to him, some bav. ing ax mach as JE500 a year. He might have all the qualifications for his own division and yet might be found wanting in things to which I attach much value. Perhaps, if he did not pronounce his h's properly, he might occasion the most serious damage. (Laugh- ter.) I understand that the Treasury has now power to reduce a Department unless the Department itself takes the initiative.—That is so. I can remonstrate, and if not attended to I can apoeal to the Cabinet. You can prevent casual expenditure and make their lives uneasy, but nothing more. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he makes a little remonstrance, and gives good reasons for it, very often works out in the end what he wants. There is a moral suasion ex- ercised. You have no power to put a s'op order upon a vacancy ?—No; and there is no difference between the legal and the other Departmenti except that the legal Departments are regulated by statutes. I am not learned enough to draw a distinction between the posi- tion of the Postmaster General and a secretary of a Department. (Stanch) The Committee adjourned.










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