12 AUGUST 1905, Page 15


Sis,—Your correspondent "Ex-O. 0.," in the Spectator of July 29th, confuses the issues when he suggests that the junior Civil servant of to-day is as young as the junior of thirty-six years ago. Before 1872 the normal "junior clerk" in the higher branches of the Civil Service had come to an office at the age of seventeen or eighteen, straight from school. Under the present system the age of entry is from twenty-two to twenty-four, and the successful competitors have generally taken high honours at one of the Universities. Now a man of twenty-four in the Army or the Indian Civil Service is given a very large amount of personal responsibility, and it is impossible to employ a Home Civil servant of the same social and educational antecedents as the Indian civilian on the routine work for which, under the present system, the lower division clerks—who come to an office at eighteen or nineteen straight from a school (often a Board-school)—are recruited, and which they do remarkably well. Your correspondent is quite correct in saying that the young 'Varsity man when he enters an office is sometimes very conceited and priggish. But, if the seniors know how to

handle such raw material, they soon get it into shape. Lastly, the system of work sketched by your correspondent is not universal. In some offices, at least, the head of a department or branch signs all minutes, and the views of the junior clerk cannot reach the Under-Secretary unless the head of the branch adopts them and accepts responsibility for them. He does not pass on opinions which he does not approve ; he makes his junior modify them. And thus the Under- Secretary receives only one minute (possibly composed by a junior, but carrying the authority of the head of the branch). This method seems preferable both to the alternative which your correspondent contemns (a sheaf of minutes signed by different individuals of various ranks), and to that which he prefers (restricting a University graduate to the work of a copying-clerk). By the way, your correspondent does not notice the theory, recently enunciated by a Cabinet Minister, that the work even of an Under-Secretary is "to sit on a stool and register papers." No wonder the public is puzzled when a Minister says that Under-Secretaries merely register papers, and retired Civil servants like your correspondent complain that junior clerks minute on questions of Imperial