HC Deb 13 August 1839 vol 50 cc248-60

Lord John Russell moved that the Manchester Police Bill be committed.

Lord G. Somerset

, in consequence of the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, had been induced to give his support to the second reading of this bill, believing, from what was then stated, that unless some such measure were passed, there would in a short time be no police force in Manchester. Since that discussion, he had been at some pains to ascertain how the facts stood, and the result was, he had come to the conclusion that this bill was not called for by the necessities of the case. The noble Lord founded the present measure on the propriety of having a large and efficient police force in the town of Manchester, in consequence of the disturbed state of that district; but he maintained, there had been no such overt acts in Manchester as justified the House in passing such a stringent bill as the present. He was quite aware that yesterday there had been some windows broken, but he was also aware that that violence had been put down by the police force now in existence, without any necessity for employing the military force. There were now 220 persons well organized, and trained to their duty; they had been organized for a number of years; and the system of watch, as he had been informed, could not be improved. The situations of the towns of Manchester and Birmingham were totally different. In Manchester they had a good disciplined police force, fully equal to anything that might be required of them, acting under the directions of legally constituted authorities. No such occurrence as the riots in Birmingham had occurred in Manchester, nor had the interference of the military been required to put down riots in Manchester. In Birmingham, the case was otherwise, because there they had no properly organized police force, and no local authorities to direct them, such as existed in Manchester. In Birmingham, where the Government interfered, and proposed to pay the police by public money, he acknowledged their right to pass such a measure; but in the case of Manchester, the funds were to be furnished exclusively by the local authorities; and, therefore, he could not acknowledge the passing of the Birmingham bill was an argument in favour of the present measure. So far as he understood, whatever might have been done or said by the town council of Birmingham, there had been no demonstration there of public feeling against the bill for establishing a police in that town; but the case was very different in Manchester. A very large meeting had been held since the introduction of the bill was announced, and it was attended by persons professing all shades of politics—every one, Conservative, Whig, and Radical, all unanimously said the present measure was wholly unnecessary. It was only on the Saturday that it was known at Manchester the bill had passed a second stage, and on the Monday following, the petition had received the signatures of 7,000 inhabitants of Manchester, of all shades of political opinion, representing the property and respectability of the town, strongly deprecating the measure; and yet those were the persons for the protection of whose lives and property the noble Lord said the measure was absolutely necessary. Those persons differed with the noble Lord in toto, and said the measure was uncalled for. They were of opinion that the ordinary police were perfectly efficient. What could be the reason of that expression of opinion, except a strong conviction on the part of these petitioners that the measure was not necessary for the preservation of the public peace, and for the protection of life and property? The commissioners had a legislative right to levy a rate for the police, and if that was refused, they had power to apply to the Court of Queen's Bench for a mandamus; and, therefore, there was no chance of Manchester being left without a police force up to July 1840. As far as he could understand the opposition of the inhabitants to the measure had not a tincture of party spirit about it; on the contrary, Radicals, Conservatives, and Whigs, all joined in saying the bill was totally unnecessary. So far from tending to establish peace and tranquillity, and tending to the good government of the town of Manchester during the discussion, as regards the validity of the charter granted to that town, he believed that this bill would be attended with a directly different effect. So far from producing unanimity, he believed it would increase the prevailing difference of opinion. Considering that the passing of a coercion bill was not a likely way to heal discord, or promote the tranquillity of the town, he moved, as an amendment, that the bill be committed that day three months.

Mr. M. Philips

said, the noble Lord had been pleased to refer to the statement which he had made upon the previous discussion of this measure. The statement he then made was perfectly candid and correct. He felt himself in a very unpleasant situation in coming forward to support a bill, which he believed was necessary for the tranquillity of the town which he represented, but which he admitted did partake somewhat of an unconstitutional character. It had been represented that a considerable amount had been collected by the police commissioners. But the point which it was important to bear in mind was, whether their power of collecting the rates could be relied on. And he begged to direct attention to the 124th clause of the 11th Geo. 4th, the Act under which the commissioners were empowered, and it would be seen, that by this clause, any parties depositing the amount of a disputed rate with the collector, and giving notice to the commissioners, might appeal against such rate to the Quarter Sessions, within four months. Now, there was a great distinction between paying and depositing, Money deposited, be considered could not be appropriated. The collector dare not apply the money so deposited with him to the usual purposes—till the vexata question was settled: till then, the money was as though paid into court. But there was nothing to prevent parties objecting to the rate, from suffering distress, and putting in a replevin, thus postponing the decision for nine or twelve months. He thought the present measure wisely and judiciously framed, and calculated to prevent those heartburnings which would otherwise prevail. It should be borne in mind that there were, in fact, two bodies of police in the town, one that of the corporation, the other that of the commissioners. And he thought, that instead of co-operating together, which it was scarcely possible to expect, seeing that they were directed by opposite parties, instead of co-operating to preserve the peace, they would themselves be found the disturbers of the peace. The selection of the force, he considered, would be best committed to persons unconnected with the party feeling so prevalent in the town. As to Salford, it had its own local Act, similar in effect to the Manchester Act; and there being no disputes in Salford on the subject of contesting jurisdictions, if the police were inefficient (and he was not aware that they were), they could be increased to any extent under that Act. He had no wish to make any remarks on the manner that signatures had been procured to the petition presented by the noble Lord; but he must say that, according to the accounts he had received, the parties who had been most active in getting up that petition, and who were so conscientious that they would not permit the Zoological-gardens of the town to be visited on Sundays, on the ground that it would be a desecration of the Sabbath, had been zealously employed, nevertheless, in canvassing for signatures to that petition during Sunday.

Mr. Grimsditch

believed the bill to be unnecessary; and he asked, why not introduce a short bill to settle the disputed point? The commissioners and the corporators were many of them the same parties. There was no evidence offered to the House to prove that they ought to pass such a bill as this. He thought there must be some pressure upon the noble Lord, to induce him to bring in such a coercive measure as this. He wished the House to pause before they sanctioned it. He was sure it would be received with dissatisfaction. The manufacturing towns were not in a position to bear the imposition of additional burdens. He hoped the noble Lord would show the necessity which existed for this measure. The situation of Manchester was entirely different from that of Birmingham. As regarded the town of Bolton, too, the burden would be intolerable.

Mr. P. Thomson

It had been stated, that no reason had been brought forward for passing the bill. Why, the fact was, that the reasons adduced were so strong that the noble Lord, who now proposed the amendment, had been induced by them to vote for the second reading of the bill. It had been contended, that the case was not parallel with that of Birmingham; he contended that it was so, as far as the necessity of providing some police force went. The very circumstance, that in the threatened disturbance of yesterday the existing police at Manchester had been able to preserve the peace of the town, formed the strongest reason in favour of this bill. The fact was, that neither the town-council nor the commissioners possessed the means of continuing that police force, and unless this measure was passed, the town would be exposed to repetitions of the scenes of yesterday. He would not enter into details, as they had been already fully argued by his hon. Friend and colleague. He should give the bill his most sincere and cordial support.

Mr. Brotherton

had always been a supporter of every liberal measure, but he never would oppose any bill that he deemed essential for the preservation of the public peace. The hon. Gentleman opposite said there had been no riots, no burnings in Manchester, and therefore they would not support the passing of this bill. Was he, then, to suppose, that these hon. Members thought the House ought to wait till such outrages actually occurred, and only then adopt proper measures to restore tranquillity? Manchester consisted of six townships, and the commissioners of police had no jurisdiction in fire of them. They had no power to extend their jurisdiction beyond the principal township of Manchester, and the other five were thus left without a police. He was sorry to see that persons of great weight and authority had in this case associated themselves with improper parties to gratify a factious feeling, regardless of the real peace and welfare of the town. A public meeting had been got up, in a population of 280,000, which, by great exertions, had been attended by about 2,000 persons. He understood great exertions had also been made to get the books completed, and several of the leading men, large ratepayers, had set an example by paying their rates; but the great bulk of the people would not pay the rates. He did not like the bill; he admitted that, and would not vote for it if he could get anything else that he thought likely to preserve the peace of the town; but he should support it from what he considered to be the necessity of the case.

Mr. Bolling

had supported the second reading of the bill, but, from the communications he had received from his constituents, he was now prepared to oppose all those bills, as he thought the peace of the district would be best preserved by their withdrawal.

Lord J. Russell

said, the clause of the bill most opposed by hon. Gentlemen was that one which the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Tamworth, said it was his duty to propose, as conservator of the peace of the country; why it should be good for Birmingham, and should not be applied to Manchester, he did not know. His duty was to take steps for the preservation of the peace in every place wherein it could not be done by the local authorities. According to the opinions he had taken, if the charter of incorporation was good, the whole power of raising rates for the support of the police was vested in the corporation; and, therefore, immediately there was a decision in a court of law that the charter was good, that decision would carry this consequence, that all rates for the purpose of police should be ordered by the council, and that all other rates levied by others would be bad rates. In that case, it was evident that many parties would hesitate to pay at present, because they might have to pay all rates due over again from a certain day. That was not merely a legal view taken by those who had given that opinion, but it was supported by the conduct of the police commissioners themselves; because a protest had been signed by 92 commissioners out of 240, declaring the rate to be illegal, and advising the rate-payers, for their own sake, not to pay it. He did not think the police in Manchester was in a satisfactory state, when, on the one hand, there were parties refusing to pay the rate to the corporation, and, on the other hand, parties denying that the police commissioners had any power to levy the rate. He had very recently received accounts, both from the civil and military authorities of that town, stating that mobs had collected at different places, for the purpose of inducing men to leave their work, and to produce a general strike by means of terror and intimidation. The police were immediately sent to disperse the mob, two of whom had threatened to set fire to the mills. The military were called out in support of the police, and the police were then able to act; they were successful in taking several into custody, and dispersing the remainder. Now, what would have been the case if there had been no local police in the town, and the commissioners had been unable to maintain an efficient police? Why, the military would have been called out, and, instead of standing by, and enabling the police to take those men into custody without injury, they would have charged the rioters, and there might have been loss of life. Would the House be justified in not adopting measures to preserve the public peace? And would they say that the loss of life was a matter of indifference to Parliament? He was, at least, bound to urge this bill on the House; and if those lamentable consequences should arise, owing to the want of an efficient police, in consequence of the rejection of the bill, it would not be because the Government had failed to urge this subject on the House, but because Parliament had refused to interfere. That was the short statement he wished to make in support of the bill. He knew that there were parties at Manchester who opposed the bill, and he was sorry that those parties did not confine themselves to their own means, and to their own respectable parties; but they had sought the aid of a great many of those who were the enemies of the law, who certainly acted most consistently, because, if they prevented any efficient police being established, their lawless objects would be aided, and their means of intimidating the loyal subjects of the Crown would be promoted. He would ask that House, however, whether they would countenance such views, or sup- port a bill which was essential for the maintenance of peace, and the protection of life and properly?

Colonel Salwey

admitted the necessity of a police in all large towns, but then that police ought to be a constitutional force, and he did not think the police sought to be established by this bill would be constitutional. The military would be glad to be relieved from a most painful duty, and which was repugnant to their feelings; but any police force that was established ought to be established under the entire control of the parties who required it,

Mr. C. Buller

had never heard more unfounded imputations than those which had been thrown out against the opponents of this bill. It had been argued by the noble Lord and the other supporters of this bill, that its opponents were adverse to the establishment of an efficient police—that they were the friends of riot and disturbance—and that they wished to see the people killed by the soldiers. Even the hon. Member for Salford had joined in those imputations, and said that the opponents of the bill were actuated by factious motives. Now, he certainly did not generally agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite, but in this case he certainly did, because he agreed with them in their desire to see the public peace preserved by the old constitutional forms. Hon. Gentlemen opposite thought, no doubt, that that object could be accomplished by means of the old police commissioners. He did not acquiesce in that course, because he thought the police of Manchester and Birmingham should be under the control of their respective town-councils, freely chosen by the inhabitants. But then he joined hon. Gentlemen opposite in resisting this bill, which placed the police of those towns in the hands of persons to be appointed by a central government. The noble Lord had said, that the course proposed to be adopted by this bill was suggested by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. All that the right hon. Baronet had said was, that under the particular circumstances of the case, he should wish that principle to be applied to Birmingham, and he had not said when he gave that inch he wished the noble Lord to take an ell, and go on applying this centralized sytem of police to the whole country. If the right hon. Baronet did not think it worth while to be present and support the bill, he would not allow him to be run down in his absence, by an insinuation that he was for supporting arbitrary and unconstitutional power. He had opposed these bills from the very outset. He thought the Government were treading on dangerous ground. That opinion might be erroneous; but nothing could be more unfair than for the supporters of the bill to attribute factious motives to its opponents; and should it happen that by a kind of miraculous interference, and aid from hon. Gentlemen opposite, he should be exceedingly glad if they should by their united efforts succeed in throwing out this measure. He asked the House, and he asked the Government if it were decent, at this period of the Session, when so many Gentlemen of opposite political feeling joined in e[...]precating this bill as hostile to the best interests and liberties of the country, to persist in pressing this measure without a more deliberate appeal to the opinion of Parliament.

Mr. Briscoe

said, that the bill was not of a permanent nature. The noble Lord had distinctly stated that it was to continue only till the disputes relative to the validity of the charter was settled by the Court of Queen's Bench. He had no intention of attributing motives to hon. Members, but certainly their conduct wore the appearance of faction, and seemed to proceed from a desire to embarrass the Government. But he believed that the good sense of the people of England would induce them to view the matter differently, and that the result would tend much to strengthen the position of the Government. He trusted that the bill would be carried by a considerable majority. The Government were entitled to the gratitude and confidence of the country, for having introduced it solely from a desire to promote the peace and prosperity of Manchester.

Mr. Kemble

felt considerable difficulty in making up his mind as to the course he should adopt in regard to this bill. He should object to a bill of this nature, if he did not conceive it was required by the necessity of the case. But he could not agree in thinking that, because there had been no such riots and outrages committed in Manchester as had taken place in Birmingham, they should, therefore, wait till they had actually happened, instead of taking means to prevent their oc- currence. It appeared to him that if the House did not pass this bill, it would incur an immense hazard, and he should vote for it.

Mr. Hume

, before the House divided, wished to state very shortly the grounds on which he should give his vote. He had opposed the Birmingham Police Bill, because it was against the wishes of the town-council of Birmingham. He should now state the reasons why, on this occasion, he should take a different course. The magistrates and corporation of Manchester were a popular body. The bill is supported by the whole of that corporation. While the whole town-council of Birmingham were against the Police Bill for that town, the whole town-council of Manchester were to a man in favour of this bill. As regarded the petition which had been presented by the noble Lord opposite, the fact was, that out of a population of 280,000, that petition had been got up almost entirely by Conservatives; and as the mayor and every one of his colleagues, freely chosen by a large majority of the inhabitants, were in favour of this bill, he could not refuse to give them his vote and sanction. He certainly wished to see the police in every town in the hands of its corporation; but when he found every one of the Manchester town-council saying they wished for this bill, as a temporary means of preserving the peace of the community—and particularly when he referred to what had so lately taken place, with a view of inducing the people to leave their work at the factories — he thought the House was called upon to support the measure, because, by supporting the bill, they were, in fact, supporting the corporation.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, the House was placed in a situation of difficulty between the speeches of the hon. Members for Westbury and Kilkenny. But he looked to the petition as emanating from men of all parties, signed by 7,200 rate-payers, composed of men of all shades of politics, Tories, and Radicals, and Whigs, if such things could be found in Manchester. The noble Lord laboured under a most extravagant delusion in supposing that the opponents of this bill were indifferent to the loss of human life. He never heard any one in that House say that the loss of life was unimportant. He declared freely that it was the duty of the Ministry and of the House, to preserve the peace and protect properly, but that might be done without violating the dearly-cherished rights of the people. These bills violated the sacred principle of local and self-government, and he asked hon. Members to reject it on principle, without any reference to party politics. The people ought to have the control of their money, whether it was expended for the relief of the poor, or for the preservation of the peace. If a contrary principle should once be adopted, it would not stop either at Birmingham or Manchester, but would be extended throughout the country, whenever the miserable fears of the ministry of the day should induce them to make such a proposition.

Sir R. Price

was surprised at the speech of the hon. Member for Liskeard. A few days since he exclaimed against the Government for having the support of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and now he very readily votes with them himself. He thought the House would assume a fearful resposibility in rejecting the measure, which he believed to be both necessary and constitutional, and which he earnestly entreated the House not to be so foolish as to throw out.

Sir C. Grey

According to the old constitutional law of the country, the police were held to be appointed by the Crown. Everybody knew that the old constabulary force was appointed by the magistrates, and the magistrates held their commissions from the Crown. That was the general principle; but there were exceptions, as in the case of town councils having charters with a ne intromittant clause. Those gentlemen who argued that this bill was unconstitutional, were bound to show that the town of Manchester came under that class of exception. The validity of the charter was disputed, and it seemed doubtful if there were any elective body in those towns to choose or manage a police. What course, then, could the Government adopt more in accordance with the ancient theory and practice of the constitution, than that of appointing a police force, pending those disputes, under the direct authority of the Crown? He should cordially vote for the bill.

Mr. Fielden

considered the bill entirely a party measure, brought forward for the purpose of giving strength to the charter. The passing of it would only kindle dissatisfaction into a flame. If the House would only let the people alone, there would be no fear of the peace of the town. If he had property in Manchester, he should have much more apprehension for its safety after the passing of this bill, than without it. He should, therefore, oppose it.

The House divided on the original question;—Ayes 63; Noes 17; Majority 46.

List of the Ayes.
Adam, Admiral Morpeth, Viscount
Aglionby, H. A. Muskett, G. A.
Baring, F. T. O'Connell, M. J.
Barry, G. S. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Bernal, R. Oswald, J.
Bridgeman, H. Parnell, rt, hn. sir H.
Briscoe, J. I. Pechell, Captain
Broadley, H. Philips, M.
Brotherton, J. Pigot, D. R.
Chetwynd, Major Price, Sir R.
Chichester, J. P, B. Pryme,G.
Dalmeny, Lord Redington, T. N.
Divett,E. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Donkin, Sir R. S. Rich, H.
Ellis, W. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Ewart, W. Russell, Lord J.
Freshfield, J. W. Rutherfurd. rt. hn. A.
Gaskell, J. M. Smith, R. V.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir C. Steuart, R.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Stock, Dr.
Hinde. J.H. Surrey, Earl of
Hindley, C. Talfourd, Serjeant
Hobhouse, rt. hn. sir J. Thomson, rt. hn. C.P.
Hobhouse, T. B. Thornely, T.
Hodges, T. L. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Hoskins, K. Vere, Sir C. B.
Howick, Viscount Vigors, N. A.
Hume, J. Warburton, H.
Hutton, R. Wood, G. W.
Kemble, H. Yates, J. A.
Labouchere,rt. hn. H. TELLERS.
Macauley, T. B. Stanley, hon. E. J.
Mildmay, P. St. John Parker, J.
List of the NOES.
Attwood, T. Hector, C. J.
Blackburne, I. Holmes, W.
Bolling, W. Lincoln, Earl of
Buller, C. Lowther, J. H.
Cochrane, Sir T. J. Polhill, F.
Darby, G. Salwey, Colonel
Duncombe, T. Williams, W.
Ellis. J. TELLERS.
Fielden, J. Somerset, Lord G
Finch, F. Gtimsditch,T.

House in Committee.

On clause 1,

Mr. Hindley moved that the words "her Majesty" be omitted, and the words "town-council" inserted in their place.

The Committee divided on the clause as it stood:—Ayes 65; Noes 10: Majority 55.

List of the Ayes.
Adam, Admiral Lincoln, Earl of
Blackburne, I. Lowther, J. H.
Boldero, H. G. Macaulay.T. B.
Bolling, W. Morpeth, Lord
Bridgeman, H. Muskett, G. A.
Briscoe, J. I. O'Connell, M. J.
Broadley, H. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Chetwynd, Major Oswald, J.
Chichester, J. P. B. Philips, M.
Cochrane, Sir T. J. Pigot, D. R.
Crawford, W. Polhill, F.
Dalmeny, Lord Price, Sir R.
Darby, G. Pryme, G.
Divett, E. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Donkin, Sir R. S. Rich, H.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Ellis, J. Russell, Lord J.
Ellis, W. Rutherfurd, rt. hon. A.
Freshfield, J. W. Smith, R.V.
Gaskell, J. M. Somerset, Lord G.
Gordon, R. Stanley, hon. E. J.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir C. Steuart, R.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Stock, Dr.
Grimsditch, T. Surrey, Earl of
Hinde, J. H. Talfourd, Serjeant
Hobhouse, rt hn. sir J. Thomson, rt. hon. C P.
Hobhouse, T. B. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Hodges, T. L. Vere, Sir C. B.
Hoskins, K. Warburton, H.
Hume, J. Wood, G. W.
Hutton, R. Yates, J. A.
Inglis, Sir R. H. TELLERS.
Kemble, H. Baring, F.T.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Parker, J.
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, A. H. Thornely, T.
Attwood, T. Vigors, N. A.
Brotherton, J, Williams, W.
Ewart, W.
Fielden, J. TELLERS.
Hector, C. J. Hindley, C.
Salwey, Colonel Duncombe, T.

Clause agreed to.

Bill went through the Committee.

House resumed.

THE BOLTON POLICE BILL went through Committee.