HC Deb 02 August 1839 vol 49 cc1193-200
Lord John Russell,

instead of moving that the House resolve itself into Committee on the subject of the Birmingham police, wished to withdraw the bill now before the House, for the purpose of introducing another bill, founded on the principle of forming a police for the town of Birmingham on the principle of the metropolitan police, the commissioners to be appointed by the Government. He should propose that this system should exist for a specified time. The same difficulties, too, existed in Manchester as at Birmingham, arising from the charter, so that no rate could be made. He had understood since he last addressed the House that no efficient and public police could be maintained in either of those towns during the period of time that the charter was under consideration before a court of law. While the existing disputes were going on, there would be an entire want of local police in Birmingham, and it was probable that great inconvenience would arise, if the House did not interfere. This was also the case with Manchester—one of the most important towns in the country, whether we regarded it as a manufacturing emporium, or as the centre of a large and populous district of country, which would also suffer from the absence of a police, unless the House adopted some course. It would therefore be desirable to adopt some plan to which neither party in either of these towns could object. For his own part, he thought that the charter was valid, but the powers under it were now disputed, and therefore it was necessary to provide a police for both towns! He should therefore move that the Birmingham Police Bill be withdrawn.

Mr. Hume

stated that, if the same difficulties were found to exist in both these towns, and the charters of neither gave power to raise a police-rate, the noble Lord should bring in a general enactment to give these powers. It should be made applicable to all new corporations. He had that morning received a letter frail Birmingham on this subject, and the writer stated that he had read the debate in the House of Commons; and, although it was long since he had ceased to expect any liberal measure from the Government, yet he was astonished that the proposition of the Birmingham Tories should be adopted by the noble Lord, taking the management of the police out of the hands of the town-council, and he was sure that the town-council never would submit or put the seal to a rate for there payment of the advance, but that they would resist such an exaction by every means in their power. All the difficulty had arisen from the noble Lord having granted an erroneous charter to the town. He was satisfied that no Friend to municipal government could sanction such a bill as the noble Lord proposed to substitute for the measure before the House.

Lord J. Russell

would be very glad if both Birmingham and Manchester could have the benefits that were intended by granting the charter. He believed that they were both valid charters; but he did not think that it would be so easy as the hon. Member supposed to persuade the opponents of the charter to agree to the first bill, and if it were persisted in, the probability was, that they would get persons either in that or the other House of Parliament successfully to resist the measure which might be fatal to the establishment of a municipal police in both towns. The hon. Gentleman said, that he was informed that the plan proposed emanated from the Birmingham Tories. Now he was told that these were a very violent set of persons, but he did not think, it' this were the case, that this measure was of so violent a party character as might be expected from them. They did not propose that their own party should have any influence over the police, but that powers might be given to the Government to appoint the police. The bill did not give the power of nominating the police to the town-council, to which body he thought it ought to be given, but circumstances prevented this being done at present. For his own part he did not think that the Birmingham Tories would have any power under this bill.

Mr. C. Buller

would oppose the proposition of the noble Lord, having supported the original measure. The noble Lord had not stated any sufficient reason why that should be abandoned, unless it was, as was alleged by his hon. Friend, to oblige the Birmingham Tories, who said, that they would not pay rates for a police force. He thought, that any man who acted upon such a principle, and resisted the payment of a rate for the police, did so from the strongest party feeling. He protested against this measure on every principle of municipal government, as the police should be under the control of the proper local authorities. It would be most objectionable for this country to adopt the French system of police. If this plan was adapted to Birmingham, why not to other places? A different principle however, had been adopted with regard to the rural police, where the appointment of the police was left to the magistrates. It was said, that this was to be only a temporary bill, but he objected to it the more on this account. It generally happened, however, that when the Government got a temporary power of this nature, it was very apt to become permanent. He could hardly account for the noble Lord's conduct in giving the Liberal party at Birmingham such a slap in the face as he would do by the present bill. This was neither wise nor expedient. The noble Lord gave the appointment of the rural police for Warwickshire to the Tory magistrates for the county, and he refused to allow the magistrates of Birmingham the nomination of the police of the town. He had no wish to offer anything like a vexatious opposition to the measure, but he felt it to be his duty to take the sense of the House with respect to the withdrawal of the original bill of the Government.

Sir Robert Peel

said, that as the hon. Gentleman had been pleased to state what should be the law as to the constitution of a police force, he ought not to forget the nature of the measures he had formerly supported on this subject. He did not know how the hon. Member could reconcile his opinion with the vote that he had given for placing the police force in Ireland under the control of the authorities in Dublin. The hon. Gentleman said, that the institutions should be similar in the two countries, and yet he allowed the control of the 8,000 police in Ireland to be taken from the local authorities and placed under the government. If this was a barbarous system, and if Irish institutions should be like English institutions, why did not the hon. Gentleman urge this opinion when the subject of the Irish police was before the House? He had perfectly concurred with the view that the noble Lord had taken of that subject, and had voted against many of his Friends who proposed that the magistracy should have the nomination of the police force. Again, in the Irish Municipal Bill it was proposed that the new corporations should not have the control over the police; and under these circumstances—and the clause was not opposed by the hon. Gentleman—the great and magnificent principle of local government would be violated. The hon. Gentleman also complained of placing the police under the Tory magistrates of Warwickshire, while it was withheld from the Liberal magistrates of Birmingham. He was satisfied that if the controul of the police were for two years vested in an independent authority, the corporation, at the expiration of that period, would find them- selves in possession of a better organized force than if at the present moment it were endeavoured to be established upon any other footing. At all events, whilst the power of the corporation to levy a rate remained in doubt he did not know what other course the noble Lord could adopt than to move for the introduction of a bill similar to that which he proposed to introduce, in lieu of that which had previously been under the consideration of the House.

Mr. Gisborne

concurred in all that had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard. He objected, in so thin a House, to setting aside so great a principle as that upon which the English corporations were based. He wished to know from the noble Lord, before he gave any vote upon the subject, if the principle which his proposal embodied was intended to be applied to all the other corporate towns as well as Birmingham, or was it merely a special application which he required for that town?

Lord J. Russell

With respect to such towns as Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Stockport, where the powers of the corporations were not disputed, and had been found efficient for all the purposes for which they were intended, and in which they had a proper police under the corporation—it was not intended to take such steps.

Mr. P. Thompson

said, that at present it could not be decided who had the legal and proper authority in Manchester and Birmingham, and unless they passed an Act of Parliament to settle it, pending the decision on the subject, which would be an unprecedented proceeding, they had no other course but that which was proposed. The course which they proposed to take, would not by any means impugn the principle of their former vote.

Mr. M. Philips

said, that the question in dispute was not the validity of the charter, but merely the right of collecting the rates. He saw nothing tyrannical in the proposition of the noble Lord, and he thought that it was fully justified by existing circumstances.

Viscount Clements

said, that if they established a police of this kind, there would be no longer any occasion for an army, for, to all intents and purposes, the police would be soldiers. He had seen the evils of an armed police in Ireland, and he had no wish to see the same system adopted in this country.

Mr. Scholefield

said, that the town council of Birmingham had evinced every desire to discharge their duty, so far as they had the means of doing so, and he thought they were the proper parties to have the management of the local police; but as this was only to be a temporary measure, he should throw no obstacle in the way of the proposition of the noble Lord.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

said, that if the noble Lord withdrew his bill, the better way would be to abandon all plans on the subject, and to leave the town as it was. He denied that there had been any very great disturbances at Birmingham—and his opinion was, that no disturbance would have taken place if a police force had not been sent down there from London. He entreated the noble Lord either to persevere in his bill, or to leave the town as it was; for the peace would be better preserved by the existing authorities than by the new plan which the noble Lord proposed to adopt.

The House divided on the question, that the bill be withdrawn: Ayes 80; Noes 14:—Majority 66.

List of the AYES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Hoskins, K,
Acland, T. D, Howard, P. H.
Adam, Admiral Inglis, Sir R. H.
Alsager, Captain Irton, S.
Baker, E. Kemble, H.
Barnard, E. G. Labouchere, rt. hn. H.
Berkeley, hon. C. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Blackburne, I. Lockhart, A. M.
Broadley, H. Lowther, J. H.
Broadwood, H. Meynell, Captain
Brocklehurst, J. Morpeth, Viscount
Brownrigg, S. Morris, D.
Clerk, Sir G. Norreys, Lord
Cochrane, Sir T. J. O'Connell, M. J.
Cowper, hon. W. F. O'Ferrall, R. M.
De Horsey, S. H. Paget, F.
Donkin, Sir R. S. Palmer, C. F.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Palmer, R.
Fitzpatrick, J. W. Palmerston, Viscount
Fremantle, Sir T. Parker, J.
Gisborne, T. Parker, R. T.
Gordon, R. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir. J. Perceval, Colonel
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Philips, M.
Hamilton, C. J. B. Pigot, D. R.
Harcourt, G. G. Pryme, G.
Hill, Lord A. M. C. Redington, T. N.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Hobhouse, T. B. Russell, Lord J.
Hodges, T. L. Rutherfurd, rt. hn. A.
Hodgson, R. Seymour, Lord
Holmes, W. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Hope, hon. C. Stanley, hon. E. J.
Stanley, hon. W. O. Wilshere, W.
Steuart, R. Wood, C.
Stock, Dr. Wood, G. W.
Surrey, Earl of Wood, Colonel T.
Thomson, rt. hn. C. P. Worsley, Lord
Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Waddington, H. S. TELLERS.
Wilbraham, G. Baring, F. T.
Wilmot, Sir J. E. Maule, hon. F.
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, H. A. Scholefield, J.
Attwood, T. Seale, Sir J. H.
Brotherton, J. Thornely, T.
Buller, C. Vigors, N. A.
Clements, Viscount Wakley, T.
Duncombe, T.
O'Connell, D. Hume, J.
Oswald, J. Warburton, H.

Lord J. Russell moved for leave to bring in a bill for improving the police in the town of Birmingham (No. 2.)

Mr. Hume

objected to proceeding farther at that late hour.

Lord J. Russell

said, at that late period of the Session, it was absolutely necesssary that this bill should be proceeded with without a moment's delay. It might be fair, perhaps, to raise the question as to whether it would be better to have the police of the town of Birmingham under the control of the town council rather than under the control of a commissioner appointed by the Secretary of State? But, at the same time, hon. Gentlemen who were desirous of raising that question, should not forget, that at present the town council had no power to levy rates. That he admitted would be a fair question, and he would not object to its being raised; but he thought that that subject had already been sufficiently debated, and that in point of fact the sense of the House had been taken upon it by the division which had just occurred. With this impression on his mind, what he meant to put to the House was, whether the House generally would not support him in establishing a police for Birmingham, and that, too, by suspending the orders of the day for facilitating the measure through its different stages.

Mr. Hume

denied that the sense of the House had been taken on the subject, because the only point which had been discussed was, as to whether the other bill should he withdrawn or not. It was now nearly two o'clock, and that was not, he thought, a proper season for the introduction of a bill of this kind. He was con- vinced, from all the communications which he had received from Birmingham, that this bill would be just as obnoxious as the one which the noble Lord had just abandoned, and therefore he felt it to be his duty to move, that the House do now adjourn.

Lord J. Russell

hoped the House would agree to his motion. Until the doubt respecting the Charter was set at rest, the town would remain in its present predicament, and the question was, could they deem the present police of Birmingham sufficient for the preservation of the peace of that town?

Mr. Oswald

said, that in his opinion, the course taken by the noble Lord was necessary, and, for his own part, he could not help thinking that the opposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny had the appearance of a factious opposition.

Amendment withdrawn.

The House divided on the original question: Ayes 77; Noes 3:—Majority 74.

List of the NOES.
Attwood, T. TELLERS.
O'Connell, D. Hume, J.
Wakley, T. Duncombe, T.

Bill brought in, and read a first time.