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CORRESPONDENCE.

HOME CIVIL SERVICE.

The Secretary, Treasury, to the Civil Service Commissioners.
MY LORD AND GENTLEMEN,

25th August 1876. How single or The Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury have had few vacancies

before them Mr. Headlam's letter of the 12th instant, stating, that in in Class I. should be filled. consequence of the death on the 1st instant of Mr. J. A. Nugent, one

of the clerks of the superior grade in your Department, a vacancy has been created which should be filled up as soon as possible, and that the only other vacancy of this grade of which you have yet had notice is one in the Secretary's branch of the General Post Office.

You submit for the decision of this Board the question whether a fresh open competition under Regulations I. should be held, or whether it would not be more expedient to resort to the list obtained from the examination very recently held, the result of which was announced in the Gazette of the 18th ultimo.

A copy of a letter which their Lordships have received from the Postmaster-General, dated 18th instant, with respect to filling up a fourth clerkship of the higher grade, is enclosed herewith for your information.

I am to observe that there never can be many vacancies at the same time to which the higher examination will be applicable, and any difficulty about holding examinations of this character as they become necessary raises some very serious questions.

My Lords desire to receive further information as to your views upon this subject.

My Lords are not aware of any obligation which is imposed on the heads of other Departments by the Order in Council of 4th June 1870, or otherwise, to receive candidates from a list made up before the vacancies in those Departments had been announced ; although of course, as in the case of the Postmaster-General in this instance, they may consent to do so.

The presumption is that, if a greater number of vacancies had been announced, a greater number of candidates would have presented themselves, and that those who succeeded under such circumstances would huve been superior to the remainder of those attending the examination actually held.

I am, &c.

ENCLOSURE.
SIR,

General Post Office, London, 18th August 1876. By the Treasury letter of the 23rd March last the Postmaster-General was authorised to apply to the Civil Service Commissioners, with a view to filling up three vacancies for clerks of a higher grade in the Secretary's department of the Post Office. A fourth vacancy having occurred, the Commissioners were asked to fill it by selecting a candidate from among those who passed in the recent competition ; but from the reply dated the 10th instant, of which a copy is enclosed, there seems to be an obstacle in their doing this. A private letter has, however, since been received from the Commission, suggesting that the Treasury should be asked whether under the circumstances of the case that board would concur with the Postmaster-General in presenting the next man in order of merit at the recent examination, under the provisions of Clause VII. of the Order in Council of the 4th of June 1870. It would be greatly to the convenience of the Post Office if this could be done.

I have, &c.
The Secretary, Treasury.

(Signed) J. TILLEY.

The Secretary, Civil Service Commission, to the Secretary, Treasury.
SIR,

5th September 1876. The Civil Service Commissioners have had under their considera- How single or tion

your letter of the 25th August, by which the Lords of the Treasury few vacancies request to be informed further as to the views of the Commissioners in Class I. respecting the course to be taken for filling up two clerkships of the should be filled. superior grade which have become vacant since the announcement of the result of the last open competition.

In reply, the Commissioners direct me in the first place to observe that they did not intend in their letter of the 12th ultimo to submit any proposal of a general character, but only to suggest a temporary expedient with the object of meeting a present difficulty. On the wide question of the best method of providing against the recurrence of such difficulties, they would not have ventured to initiate a discussion pending the decision of the Government on the recommendations of the Playfair Commission respecting this division of the Service. But they will gladly, in compliance with their Lordships' invitation, state the results of such consideration as they have been able to give to the subject.

It has always appeared to the Commissioners that no system of general competition could be regarded as complete which did not provide for the selection of candidates in anticipation of vacancies. At the same time they are fully sensible of the difficulty which there must be in doing this satisfactorily, so long as on the one hand the appointments competed for at the same examination differ in value, and on the other hand the successful competitors are held to have a right of choice in the order of their places in the list. If the recommendations of the Playfair Commission were adopted, this difficulty would disappear, for not only would the value of the appointments be in great measure equalised, but the right of choice would be transferred from the candidates to the heads of the departments concerned. It appears to the Commissioners that, even under the present system, the desired result might to a great extent be obtained, if candidates were periodically invited to compete for appointments belonging to Class I. upon terms that such vacancies as might occur during the next six months should be offered to the qualified competitors in the order of their places in the list, each candidate being at liberty to decline an offer without losing his right to have similar offers made to him of

any vacancies occurring within the stated period.

It may perhaps be said that under this plan it might happen that a candidate high on the list might see one greatly his inferior placed in a better clerkship than himself; but as this could only happen owing to his making an injudicious use of his priority of choice, he would have no ground of complaint.

It may further be objected (1) that in the present uncertainty as to the number of appointments likely to be made under Class I., the proposed competitions would not attract many candidates, and (2) that the necessity of offering vacancies in succession to different candidates might cause delay in filling them up. But it may safely be answered (1) that the competitions would at least be more attractive than those which now take place, and (2) that the delay would never bear more than a small proportion to that which occurs under the present arrangements.

It is true indeed that under the “ General Regulations ” now iu force respecting open competitions, the heads of departments are not only, as is stated in your letter, under no obligation to receive candidates from a list made up before their vacancies were announced, but are debarred from doing so in any way except under the exceptional provisions of

a

66

How single or Clause VII, of the Order in Council of 4th June 1870. But the Comfew vacancies missioners apprehend that the matter is one proper to be arranged in Class I.

under Clause V. of the same Order, “ as the Civil Service Commisshould be filled. “ sioners, after consultation with the chief authorities of the various

“ departments, and with the approval of the Commissioners of Her

Majesty's Treasury, may deem expedient.”

If their Lordships should be disposed to think favourably of the plan above sketched, the Commissioners will readily put themselves in communication with the heads of the various departments on the subject, as prescribed in the passage just quoted.

It is clear, however, that much time must necessarily be consumed in the required consultation, and they would be very glad if the application made in their letter of 12th August, respecting the clerkship now vacant in this office, could be dealt with at once without waiting for a settlement of the general question.

I have, &c.

The Secretary, Treasury, to the Civil Service Commissioners.
MY LORD AND GENTLEMEN,

20th September 1876.
In reply to your letter of the 5th inst. upon the subject of exami-
nations for the Higher Division of the Civil Service, I am directed by
the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury to inform you that
no decision of the Government is pending on this part of the recom-
mendations of the Playfair Commission.

The Order in Council of 12th February last is confined to a new Lower Division of the Civil Service, and all that relates to the Higher Division of the same Service, except its relative numbers, remains exactly as it did before that Order was passed. In other words, the scheme of examination known as Regulation No. 1 remains in force wherever the system of open competition for the Higher Division has been adopted, and the power of your Commission and of this Board, under Clause V. of the Order in Council of 4th June 1870, to modify or supersede that scheme also remains precisely what it was.

My Lords have no immediate intention of advising the issue of any new Order in Council regulating any Higher Division of the Service to the same extent as the Order of 12th February last regulates the Lower Division ; for the present their object is confined to an extensive though gradual substitution of clerks of the new Lower Division for the existing more expensive scales of service under whatever titles.

My Lords have judged that it would facilitate the discussion of any particular question, such as the present one, between your Board and the Treasury, to make you thus far acquainted with their general intention, from which it follows that no very large demands are likely to occur soon for the examination of candidates of the Higher Division.

My Lords will communicate further with the Postmaster-General on the subject of the vacancy in the Secretary's branch of his office, and in the meantime they offer no objection to the adoption of the plan you propose for filling up the vacancy in your own office, if you have satisfied yourselves that by a new distribution of the duties, such as might relieve your senior and junior clerks of some of their more routine work, a clerk of the new Lower Division might not be made to suffice for filling the vacancy.

My Lords have some difficulty in understanding why there should be such excessive delay in holding these examinations for the Higher Division as the occasion for them occurs. The numbers are not great,

and except the time for advertisement the process would not seem to How single or involve much more labour than the holding of an ordinary test exami- few vacancies nation or a limited competition.

in Class I. I am, &c.

should be filled.

The Secretary, Civil Service Commission, to the Secretary, Treasury.
SIR,

19th February 1876. As many inquiries are daily addressed to the Civil Service Com- Conversion of missioners respecting the operation of clause 12 of the recent Order in writers into Council, by which writers are made eligible, under certain conditions, clerks under for admission to the new “ Lower Division” of clerkships in the Civil Order in

Council of Service, I am directed to bring the subject under your notice in order

February 1876. that the Commissioners may be informed of their Lordships' views with regard to the part which the Commissioners will have to take in carrying out the provisions of the clause referred to.

As their Lordships are aware, two classes of writers are made eligible for appointments to the “Lower Division,” viz. (1) writers employed before the 4th June 1870, who have been registered specially without any examination, and (2) writers placed upon the general register after haring passed an examiuation of an elementary kind.

The former are eligible for the new appointments, if “thoroughly qualified,” the latter if (having served for three years, having been under 30 when registered, and having been recommended by the departments in which they are serving) they prove their fitness by a supplementary examination.

The Order of the 12th inst., it will be observed, does not specify the nature of the qualifications which are to be shown by the former class, nor that of the examination which is to be passed by the latter class, nor does it indicate the authority by which these points are to be determined.

Falling back, therefore, upon the Order in Council of 4th June 1870, the Civil Service Commissioners assume that the appointments in question are to be made under clause 7 of that Order, and that after their Lordships and the heads of particular Departments have concurred in presenting ceriain candidates of either class to them in this exceptional course, it will be for the Commissioners to consider how far, if at all, they may be able to dispense with any part of the examination now prescribed for men clerks of the “ Lower Division,” viz., that which is specified in the existing “Regulations II.”

The Civil Service Commissioners will be glad to be informed whether their Lordships agree with them in this view.

I am to add, for their Lordships' information, that according to the best calculation which the Commissioners are able to make, the number of writers eligible, so far as age and service are concerned, for appointments under clause 12 of the recent Order is as follows:(1.) Writers serving before 4th June 1870

441 (2.) Writers subsequently registered

445

886 The total number of writers now upon the General Register (i.e. of writers registered since 4th June 1870) is 1,742, of whom 1,229 are actually serving.

I am, &c.

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