The Civil Service in Britain and France

By William A. Robson | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
RECRUITMENT TO THE CIVIL SERVICE

By SIR LAURENCE HELSBY, K.B.E., C.B. (First Civil Service Commissioner)

THE Order in Council which established the Civil Service Commission and appointed the first Commissioners was made on 21st May 1855. A fortnight later the Commissioners met formally for the first time, and within another four weeks they held their first written examination, having gathered the candidates together three days in advance to explain what they were to expect. The Commissioners described their duties1 as 'novel and important', and certainly no time was lost in starting upon them. But from 1855 to 1870 these duties were little more than to test by written examination the basic qualifications of candidates nominated for junior posts by the public departments; the departments continued to do their own initial recruiting to junior posts, and to make all appointments to higher posts, by the various methods of patronage. In the first five years about a quarter of the 10,000 candidates nominated by departments failed to pass these tests, mostly in spelling and arithmetic. Occasionally a competitive element entered, when departmental

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1
'And it is hereby ordered, that all such Young Men as may be proposed to be appointed to any Junior Situation in any department of the Civil Service shall, before they are admitted to probation, be examined by . . . the said Commissioners; and shall receive from them a Certificate of Qualification for such situation.

'And it shall be the duty of the Commissioners, in respect of every such candidate, before granting any such Certificate as aforesaid:

'1st. To ascertain that the candidate is within the limits of age prescribed in the department to which he desires to be admitted;

'2nd. To ascertain that the candidate is free from any physical defect or disease which would be likely to interfere with the proper discharge of his duties;

'3rd. To ascertain that the character of the candidate is such as to qualify him for public employment; and

'4th. To ascertain that the candidate possesses the requisite knowledge and ability for the proper discharge of his official duties.'

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