HC Deb 12 August 1839 vol 50 cc208-13

On the question that the report of the Birmingham Police Bill, (No. 2.) be received,

Mr. Scholefield

said, it was his imperative duty to oppose the motion. He and his hon. Colleague had been desired to resist the bill in every stage. On the former debate one of the reasons given for withholding the confidence of this House from the town-council of Birmingham was, that they had acted with extreme impropriety in appointing Mr. Edmonds as clerk of the peace, he having at a public meeting advocated physical force. Now, Mr. Edmonds declared that it was a gross misrepresentation to say that he ever advocated physical force. He could not conceive that Sir R. Peel (who had made the accusation) was capable of misrepresenting any person; but most certainly he was—

Mr. Speaker

, Order! order! The hon. Member is at present alluding to what passed on a former debate, which is against the rules of the House.

Mr. Scholefield

wished merely to say, that Mr. Edmonds, so far from advocating physical force, admonished the people against listening to those who counselled that course; and in doing so he had actually lost the confidence of many of those with whom he had acted for the last twenty-five years. The hon. Gentlemen concluded by moving that the report be received this day three months.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

seconded the amendment. Whatever the noble Lord might think of his politics, he was sure that there was not one member of the council whose politics went as far as his would, and very few had belonged to the political union over which he had presided. With regard to Mr. Edmonds in particular, he was the first man in the Birmingham political union who denounced the recourse to arms and physical force. In the autumn of the last year, when two Tories, set on by others, he knew not whom, the rev. J R. Stephens and Mr. Oastler recommended, or were reported to have recommended, the use of arms and the application of physical force, Mr. Edmonds was the first to denounce the illegality and the injustice of such a course. The consequence was that he was attacked by many parties in a most unfair manner; he was accused of being a traitor to the principles he had professed throughout life, because he would not stand by the recommendations which had been held out to a deluded people. It should be considered that Mr. Edmonds was the first man attacked and injured; the minds of his neighbours were poisoned against him, but he had displayed strict Conservatism, much uprightness and integrity, and great truth and loyalty of character. But Mr. Douglas and Mr. Muntz had been also attacked for the same cause. These were the principal Radicals in the Birmingham council, being Whigs. Birmingham, then, was to be insulted, in consequence of a clique of local Tories having misrepresented the character of the people of Birmingham to the noble Lord. He hoped that the noble Lord would not persevere; but if he did, he (Mr. Attwood) must vote against him, and endeavour to prevent the bill becoming law; for he firmly believed, that instead of making peace it would create anarchy. Having the bad example of the introduction of the London police before him, the noble Lord said, "I will give you a police of your own, but I will make it most objectionable." Now, he warned the noble Lord, that Birmingham was the last place in which to try a political experiment; let him go, if he pleased, to a town in the dark, to a town m which the people were not educated, where the people did not think for themselves, and he might have some chance of carrying out his Tory doctrines, and driving in the edge of his wedge; but he did not think that the noble Lord would succeed in driving in the wedge in Birmingham. Sometimes he was spoken of as an incendiary, and if he told the plain truth he was called singular; he was, therefore, obliged to be very guarded in what he said, and must take care that Such food only should be administered as would suit the tender stomachs of those who were to receive it. He believed that the whole bill was based on a wrong principle; that it was to be carried out in a wrong way; and that it would produce very different results from those the noble Lord expected. If the noble Lord would withdraw this bill, and go on with the former bill, it would give great satisfaction. For of what use was this bill? If the noble Lord should dragoon it through that House it would not effect the end aimed at—it would not preserve the public peace. He hoped, therefore, that the noble Lord would admit that he had been deceived by the Birmingham Tories, and give up the bill.

Mr. Finch

believed that there was no objection on the part of the members of the town-council of Birmingham to the establishment of a police force; but they did object to the appointment of the chief commissioner by her Majesty's Government. He wished also to ask the noble Lord, whether the whole of the powers of the 10th of Geo. 4th were to be transferred to Birmingham? When the bill was in committee he understood that the Government would look close into the clauses before another stage was taken on the bill; and he did hope that all the powers of that Act would not be transferred to Birmingham.

Lord John Russell

did not know whether the hon. Gentleman had any particular objection to any power given by 10 Geo. 4th; he had not stated any, and he (Lord J. Russell) was not aware that any change in the bill was necessary. If one point were intended, he would say that he had no objection to depriving the police constables appointed under this bill from voting for the borough of Birmingham.

Mr. Hume

inquired whether the noble Lord had seen the proceedings of the town-council, unanimously objecting to this bill?—and whether he expected by this bill to preserve peace in the town, when all the magistrates were hostile to its provisions? This bill seemed to him the most effectual means of all others to prevent that desirable end, by causing distrust. Indeed, it would be better to take away the charter altogether than to place an individual in office in opposition to the town-council. He appealed to the noble Lord, whose object he was sure was to preserve the peace, whether this was not calculated to do mischief, and if it was so calculated, the noble Lord, he knew, was the last man who would sanction it.

Lord John Russell

said, that the hon. Gentleman was right when he said that his object was to maintain peace. To carry out that object with general consent, he owned, was a very difficult task. He had at first proposed to place the police under the town-council, and that was objected to by many of the inhabitants. Another way of preserving the peace was, as he had done, by undertaking, at the request of the magistrates, to allow the use of the London police. The town-council had come to a resolution condemning that proceeding, and they did not like to have their town under the London police. At the same time he was informed by the mayor, that till there was a police they had to rely entirely on a military force. Now, they could not tranquillize the town if they did not have the London police, if they did not have a police under the town-council, if they did not have a military force, or if they would not have the force proposed by this bill. It was his wish to effect the object proposed in the least objectionable way, and he was not aware that this bill was objectionable. He was sure that if he had gone on with the other bill, not only would it have been objected to, but that it would not have passed the two Houses of Parliament, and he was satisfied that the hon. Gentleman was the last who would say, that the peace of the town should be preserved by a military force.

The House divided on the original motion—Ayes 38; Noes 10:—Majority 28

List of the Ayes.
Baring, F. T. Polhill, F.
Bernal, R. Praed, W. T.
Bridgetnan, H. Price, Sir R.
Broadley, H. Pryme, G.
Bryan, G. Redington, T. N.
Cowper, bon. W. F. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Eliot, Lord Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Ellis, J. Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.
Freshfield, J. W. Russell, Lord J.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Rutberfurd,rt.hon.A.
Hobhouse, T. B. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Hoskins, K. Stanley, hon. E. J.
Howard, P. H. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Hutton, R. Stock, Dr.
Kemble, H. Thomson, rt. hon. C. P.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H; Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Morpeth, Lord Vis. Yates, J. A.
Muskett, G. A.
Palmer, C. F. TELLERS.
Parker, J. Steuart, R.
Pigot, D. R. Wood, C.
List of the NOES.
Duncombe, T. O'Connell, D.
Ewart, W. Vigors, N. A.
Fielden, J. Williams, W.
Finch, F.
Hawes, B. TELLERS.
Hume, J. Attwood.T.
Humphery, J. Scholefield J.

Report received.