HC Deb 15 July 1839 vol 49 cc331-43

Mr. F. Maule moved the third reading of the London City Police Bill, and brought up some clauses to be added, by way of rider, to the Bill.

On the last clause being brought up,

Sir G. Clerk,

said, that as this was the last of the numerous clauses which had been added by way of rider to this bill, he must protest against this unparalleled mode of legislation. He thought if the journals of the House were searched from the earliest period, no instance could be found of clauses, to the number of thirty or forty, many of them penal, being added to a bill in this its last stage. It was true that these clauses were merely a transcript of clauses which had been introduced into the Metropolitan Police Bill, but still this was a most irregular mode of proceeding, and one which, if not guarded might be drawn into a very inconvenient precedent. The better course would have been to have adopted the mode of proceeding followed with regard to the local small debts courts' bills, which were all withdrawn, and new bills introduced containing all the clauses and provisions approved of by the select committee on the General County Courts Bill. In the same manner in this case, the more regular course would have been that this bill should have been withdrawn, and the corporation of the city of London directed to bring in a new bill, embodying all these clauses, instead of their having now been hurried through all the three stages at once. He repeated, that he did not object to those clauses being brought up, because they were mere transcripts, as he had already said, of the clauses of the Metropolitan Police Bill, but he thought it would be necessary that the Speaker should make an entry on the journals, stating the peculiar grounds on which this course had been adopted, in order that it might not be drawn into ail inconvenient precedent.

Mr. F. Maule

gave the hon. Baronet full credit for a laudable desire to maintain regularity, but he thought the hon. Baronet, if he really was so anxious about the matter, might before this course was taken, have suggested that the bill should be withdrawn, and a new bill introduced. The hon. Baronet would, perhaps, remember that the object of these clauses was to establish uniformity in the police regulations both in the city of London and the east and west ends of the town, and that clauses identically the same as those now proposed had been fully discussed in committee on the Metropolitan Police Bill. He was sorry if the proceeding had been at all inconvenient to the House, but he did not think it would be worth while to make an entry on the journals, as had been suggested.

Mr. Hume

would be glad to know if what had now been done was contrary to the rules of the House, because, if not, these was no necessity for any entry on the journals? He apprehended that it was only on extraordinary occasions that such a course as the present was taken, and then only at the discretion of the House.

Sir G. Clerk

was only afraid this proceeding might be drawn into a precedent, and therefore he had thought it necessary that a note should be appended to the journals, stating the circumstances of these clauses being mere transcripts of the clauses in the Metropolitan Police Bill, and introduced for the sake of establishing uniformity.

Mr. Hume

said, the only course was for the hon. Baronet to move a resolution to that effect. If the House had a discretion in these cases, he did not see there were any grounds to find fault.

Clauses added.

On the question that the Bill do pass,

Mr. Patteson moved an amendment to the effect of giving to the mayor, aldermen, and commons, in common council assembled, power of suspending the chief commissioner if they thought fit, that power being confined by the clause, as it stood, to the Court of Lord Mayor and Aldermen.

Sir J. Graham

admitted, that the subject to which the Hon. Member adverted was an important one, but observed, that it had been fully considered and discussed in the committee up stairs. The committee agreed that popular influence should have its effect in the appointment of a commissioner, and therefore left the power of nomination in the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council; but with respect to dismissal, they thought that that power should either remain in the Crown, or be placed in the hands of the Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen. The committee finally agree, though by a small majority certainly, to confer the power of dismissal on the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, and they arrived at this conclusion because they were aware that the commissioner would have unpopular duties to discharge, and that, therefore, it would be unfair to render the retention of office contingent on the will of a popular body such as the Common Council. He concurred in this view, and had heard nothing to induce him to alter the opinion which he had formed.

Lord J. Russell

said, that, without very strong reasons for it, he could not consent to alter the proposition which the committee had adopted. It was no doubt right that the Common Council should have a voice in the selection of the commissioners, but he at the same time thought they would not be a fit body to discuss the question of removal. He felt it to be his duty, therefore, to abide by the recommendation which the committee had given.

Mr. Williams

said; the citizens of Lon- don had been most unjustly treated by the course pursued with respect to this bill, for they had been led to believe, that they were exempted from the harsh and tyrannical provisions of the Metropolitan Police Bill, whereas the city Police was now placed precisely on the footing of the Metropolitan Police. It was most anomalous that one party should be allowed to appoint and another to dismiss an officer of so much importance. He trusted the power of dismissal would be virtually, ere long, placed in the Crown. If the noble Lord would prove, that the Court of Aldermen was not one of the most corrupt Courts that ever existed, then he would agree to the course proposed by the noble Lord. At present he would support the motion of his hon. Friend.

Mr. F. Maule

denied, that the City had been unfairly dealt with by the present Act. He trusted, after all the consideration the subject had undergone, that his hon. Friend would not press his amendment.

Amendment withdrawn.

Original question again put.

Mr. Mackinnon moved as an amendment to the clause, disqualifying the City Police Commissioner from sitting in Parliament, that the following words be inserted in the seventh clause, at the end of the words, "House of Commons," "for the city of London, or for any city or borough within the metropolitan district." He considered that the clause, as it at present stood, must have been inserted in the bill by mistake. It was perfectly anomalous to insert a clause of general disqualification into a private bill—it was copied from the Metropolitan Police Bill, which was a general bill, and therefore was properly introduced there, but could not be with propriety introduced into a private bill. The Police Commissioners, under that Act, were appointed by the Crown, and were removable by the Crown, and therefore they were properly disqualified from sitting in Parliament. But, in this case, the individual was appointed by the City of London, and was removable only by an address of the City of London. He had heard that this clause had been intended against one individual, but, as he generally voted in opposition to that individual, he could not be supposed to have any private feeling on the question, but he objected to the clause as it stood, on principle. His amendment would prevent the individual from sitting for any of the metropolitan districts, including the borough of Southwark, because it might be supposed, from his official situation, such an individual might have undue influence in those districts. It was a complete anomaly, and if the right hon. Gentleman could show him any instance of a general disqualification being introduced into a private bill, he would withdraw his amendment; otherwise, he should press it, and take the sense of the House on the subject, as it might establish an inconvenient and dangerous precedent.

Mr. Williams

seconded the amendment. He did not see why the Commissioner should be prohibited from sitting in Parliament any more than the Recorder, the Common Sergeant, or the Lord Mayor. The citizens of London wished to put the police force under a gentleman with whom they had been connected for many years, and in whom they had great confidence—that Gentleman was the hon. Member for Southwark, and his belief was, that this clause was directed against that hon. Member. He, therefore, opposed the clause.

Mr. F. Maule

could not agree to any alteration in the clause. The hon. Member who had last spoken had placed him in rather a delicate position by the insinuation he had made, but he could positively state that this clause had been introduced without reference to any person. The committee to whom this bill had been referred, had looked to the Act of the 10th George the 4th, which regulated the police of Westminster, and it was found in that bill there was a clause excluding the commissioners from Parliament. It was but right that the citizens of London should have the whole time of the Commissioner, considering the salary they would pay him.

Mr. Hume

would not say, that it did, but he thought it looked very like as if the clause was intended to apply to the hon. Member for Southwark. He doubted very much whether it would be fair to persevere in this motion. If the Commissioner was not to be allowed to sit in that House, he did not see why the Recorder of London should.

Sir J. Graham

could not assent to the proposition that the office in question would be entirely in the gift of the people. The appointment was to be given with the approval, and to be held during the pleasure, of the Crown. The Sovereign was to have the absolute power of removal. His principal reason, however, for supporting the clause, was the immense patronage which would be annexed to the office, and the way in which it might be exercised for electioneering purposes. Another reason why the office should constitute a disqualification for sitting in that House was, that the importance of the situation, and the amount of salary attached to it, gave the public a right to require, on the part of the individual who filled it, an entire devotion of his time and attention. Therefore, on all these grounds, the influence of the Crown, the patronage annexed to the office, and the magnitude of its duties, he thought the clause ought to pass.

Mr. D'Israeli

said, the argument of the right hon. Baronet would go to disfranchise policemen as voters, and might be used as an argument against every officer of the State sitting in that House. The Secretary of State had multifarious duties to perform, was well paid, and the country was entitled to the whole of his time. This question would involve the discussion of a principle which had never yet been settled, the propriety of official functionaries having seats in the House. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Kilkenny, that the acceptance of office ought not to disqualify from a seat in Parliament.

Mr. Villiers

agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. There was no general principle on this subject laid down at all, and the argument of the right hon. Baronet would apply to a great many cases. To Lords-lieutenant and county magistrates for instance. No body of men possessed more important patronage than Lords-lieutenant, and yet they had seats in that House; two-thirds of the Members were county magistrates, who possessed the important power of granting or withholding licences; and he felt convinced that more votes were obtained from the fear of having licences withheld, or from the hope of having them granted, than from any other cause. If the argument was of any force, it applied to county magistrates. As far as he understood the reason for these disqualifications, it was from dread of the influence of the Crown; that did not apply in the present instance. The Corporation would take care not to appoint an unfit person, and the electors would see that the Member attended to their interests. He should therefore vote against the clause.

Mr. Hawes

supported the clause, and was anxious, that all questions relating to the police should be discussed without party or political feeling. He objected for several reasons to the Commissioner having a seat in that House: the Secretary of State was the head of the department, and responsible for the conduct of the police. It might happen, that a discussion might take place, and a difference of opinion be manifested between the Secretary of State and the commissioner, and the police would not then be able to look up to one head alone for orders. He would have the appointment of the men, and his patronage would consequently be just as great whatever borough he represented. The police were intended to act as arbiters between different parties, and therefore it was important they should not exhibit party feelings. He utterly disclaimed any individual feeling on the subject, having always supported this clause.

Mr. Harvey

said, that he should not permit the accidental reference which had been made to him by his hon. Friend, the Member for Coventry, to induce him to withhold the expression of his opinion upon the clause of the bill then under discussion. In the course of the remarks which had been made by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department in opposition to the motion of the hon. Member for London (Mr. Patteson) to the effect that the dismissal of the commissioners should be vested in the Common Council assembled, the Under Secretary laid great stress upon the circumstance, that the clause had received the sanction of a committee, and though it was intimated, that the clause itself was only carried by a majority of one, an hon. Member on the other side of the House attached as much importance to that vote as had her Majesty's Ministers to the vote which they had recently obtained on a majority of two. A motion like that which was carried in the committee had been made in the Common Council, in consequence of a report current at the time, that the commissioner would not be qualified to sit in that House, and out of the whole number but four persons were found to support it, while the other clause to which he had alluded had been carried by a majority of one. So much for the high respect which the Under Secretary of State was disposed to pay to the majority of the Common Council. It appeared to him, that that House was singularly unacquainted with the law affecting their own privileges. He doubted if hon. Members were aware of what constituted disqualification, and what ineligibility merely. He had observed, that great stress had been laid by the right hon. Baronet opposite upon this being an appointment under the Crown, because it was an office from which the party might be dismissed at the pleasure of the Crown. But it was not so; the law had made a difference in that respect. Under the statute of Anne, where there was a new office of profit under the Crown, the party must also be dismissible at the pleasure of the Crown, in order to bring it within the statute; but the party was not disqualified from sitting in that House if appointed under the same tenure as proposed in this clause, that was to say, being dismissible on account of misconduct or other reasonable cause. That was precisely the same cause for which a judge might he dismissed or a minister impeached. But it did not disqualify a person appointed to a new office of profit under the Crown, from a seat in that House, if he held it as long as he conducted himself well. Besides, this was not an office under the Crown; it was an office to which the Common Council alone should appoint. It was true, as stated by the right hon. Baronet, that the Crown could exercise a veto upon that appointment, but it had nothing to do with the appointment, nor, when made, could the Crown dismiss the party appointed, except upon some obvious cause of evident misconduct. The House was, therefore, going to establish a precedent of interfering with appointments vested in the people. If that was to be a principle which they were to carry out by legislative means, why, let it be a general principle. Although he repudiated the narrow impression that this law had a personal origin, yet it was unfortunate that it was open to this suspicion. Was there the same zealous anxiety for the integrity of that House and its Members running through all their legislation? Look at the bill which was standing for the fiat of that House, giving to the judge of an ecclesiastical court a salary of 4,0001.,—a bill which had been brought in by the Government, and which would have already passed that House, but for the vigilance of his hon. Friend near him. Why was not the same anxiety evinced for the integrity of the House in other bills, and in that in particular, as was so directly recorded against the city of London in this. It was very well to disclaim all personal intention in this instance, but the course which was adopted certainly exposed the parties to an inference of that description. The House should not, it was said, qualify the holder of the office in question for a seat in that House, because he would have constant and numerous duties to perform. Might not the same be said of the judge of the Court of Admiralty, who was to receive a salary of 4,0001. and sit in that House to represent the people and support her Majesty's Government? Under the Municipal Corporations Bill, all corporations had the power of establishing a commissioner or superintendent of police of some kind. Had they put this disqualification clause into that bill? He did not know if the hon. Member for Liverpool were present, but if he were he should wish to ask him, if the police force of the town of Liverpool was not greater than that of the city of London, and whether the commissioner at the head of that force was disqualified from sitting in the House of Commons? He would tell the slumbering legislators of that House, that there was no clause in the Municipal Corporation Bill disqualifying even those who were police constables; whereas, by this clause, if any police constable should be found to vote at an election for the city of London, he would be subjected to a penalty of 1001. Why this vigilance to disqualify the citizens of London? Was it that Gentlemen fancied that the constituent bodies of the county were indifferent to the parties upon whom their choice should fall? If persons were to be excluded from that House, on the ground of having other occupations to attend to, he would just ask the House to look at many of its own Members to whom the same objection would apply—lawyers, for instance, who were occupied in the courts all day, and all the evening in their chambers. He objected to the amendment of the hon. Member, because it conceded too much, and because he thought it would be better to have no disqualification at all. The hon. Member for Lambeth thought it undesirable that the com- missioner of police under this bill should sit in that House, inasmuch as he would have to arbitrate between conflicting interests. Now, he (Mr. Harvey) conceived it would have been very desirable if the commissioner of police had been in that House the other evening, when an imputation had been cast upon him by the hon. Member for Oldham; or on another recent occasion, when the House might have had his opinion as to the propriety of transferring the police from London to the scene of struggle in Birmingham. Another objection he had to this disqualification was, that they destroyed one of the few recompenses left in the hands of the people for consistent services. He was one of those who thought that there should be no disqualification, save that which the public mind imposed. Let the constituent bodies judge of the individual's pretensions. If his time were so occupied, as obviously to prevent the performance of his duties as representative of the people, that would be a sound reason why the constituency should not elect him. The discretion must be vested somewhere, and, in his opinion, it ought to be vested in the people.

Sir Robert Peel

—Sir, I should be quite ashamed if I felt it necessary to disclaim any influence of a personal nature. I am sure that the proposition is made solely in reference to the general consideration of public benefit, and it is therefore scarcely necessary for me to disclaim any feeling of personal hostility in the course which I may think proper to pursue. I do not know what are the hon. Gentleman's chances of succeeding to this office, and I can only hope that the authorities who shall have the nomination of those officers may be afforded a fair opportunity of selecting those who have the best pretensions to discharge the duties efficiently. If I understood the hon. Gentleman, he said, those persons only were excluded from seats in Parliament, who held offices during pleasure. Why, the judges were not allowed to sit in Parliament, and they hold their offices independent of the Crown. In the reign of George 2nd, the Scotch judges were deprived of their eligibility to sit in Parliament—not upon the ground of their tenure of office, but upon the same ground that our criminal judges were rendered ineligible—because it was thought that it would be better if those who filled the judicial seat as civil or criminal judges, should not appear upon the hustings, to appeal to the political feelings of the people as political partisans. It was held, therefore, that the public interest would be benefited by preventing those who held such offices from sitting in Parliament. In my opinion, it would not conduce to the public benefit, or to the more efficient discharge of the duties which belong to the office of the commissioner, to have such commissioner known as a political partisan. It may be very well to have political partisans in this House, but when such an important duty is to be intrusted to a person, when he is to have the command of 500 men, and when we are aware how far the efficient discharge of his duty may depend upon the impression which the public may form as to his impartiality, I say that, under these circumstances, it is better such an individual should not have a seat in Parliament. It was, therefore, because we were of opinion that the duties which attached to that office would be discharged with more satisfaction to the public by a person who was not a political partisan, that I advocate such a provision, and not with any personal view. But the exception proposed with respect to the city of London, goes against the hon. Member's argument, for the citizens of London ought to be best qualified to judge of the efficiency or capability of the individual who held that office, to be a Member of this House; and if there may be allowed a power to exclude them from representing the city of London, why not a power to exclude them from other places as well? The hon. Gentleman had said, that the superintendent of the Liverpool police is subject to no such provision? Why not? Because the duties of the superintendent of police in Liverpool are totally incompatible with his holding a seat in Parliament; and if the superintendent of the Liverpool police held a seat in this House, and attended to the discharge of his political duties in this House, I have no doubt the people of Liverpool would soon say to him, "You are a political partisan—you devote so much of your attention to politics, that it is impossible you can remain longer at the head of our police force." But in London the case is different from that of Liverpool: there is no physical impossibility here, and it is on that account that, in order to provide for the more satisfactory fulfilment of the duties, such a provision has been thought necessary. I put it to the hon. Gentleman whether he can be of opinion that the public would be satisfied if the commissioner of police were to appear in the character of a candidate for a seat in Parliament, addressing himself to the passions and feelings of the people, flattering one party, and abusing the other, which would be fair enough in a political candidate, and still having the command of 500 men? Would, I ask, those who were abused by that individual, place the same confidence in his impartial discharge of his duties as those in whose favour he declared himself? Is it not contrary to the dictates of common sense that they could have the same confidence in him? But now look to the position of such an individual with respect to the other two commissioners. I venture to say, his relation to the others would be perfectly changed, that they would be subordinate officers to the commissioner who might have a seat in Parliament, who would undertake to answer questions connected with the police force, and who would, from that position become totally paramount. Suppose the commissioner who held a seat in Parliament should be a clever debater, who took every opportunity of attacking the Secretary of State. Suppose that whenever he spoke upon the police, he turned into ridicule the views of the Secretary of State with respect to that body, and called them narrow and confined. Supposing that the Secretary of State was unable to engage with that gentleman in debate, and found himself unsuccessful, what would be the consequence? Would the commissioner feel his authority lowered? The Secretary of State would say, this man is constantly attacking me, but I cannot remove him, as people would say it was on account of his popularity; and thus in what relation would he stand to the others? Persons will always place most reliance upon such a person in consequence of his not being a political partisan, and, therefore, I had great pleasure in bringing over a gentleman from the sister country. I placed him purposely in the office, and, as I expected, he was fully successful in gaining the public confidence. If the person at the head of the police be a political partisan, it is quite impossible he should have as much of the public confidence as if he were not such a partisan. Such an exclusion would also prevent unseemly con- filets between the Secretary of State and the commissioner who might have a seat in this House on the grounds of discipline and subordination. I am opposed to it, and whilst I say that, I do not mean that such a commissioner should abandon his political opinions, but that he should not put them ostensibly forward as a partisan. The right hon. Baronet concluded by again disclaiming any personal feeling in the vote which he was about to give.

Lord J. Russell

said, that after what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet opposite, it would not be necessary for him to trouble the House by entering into a discussion of the question then before them. Thus much, however, he might say, that if the appointment of commissioner rested with the Secretary of State, he should not by any means recommend the appointment of a Member of that House. He was sorry that it should become necessary to exclude them by an Act of Parliament. He regretted that it should in any case become necessary to narrow the choice of the people, for he would much rather leave motions of this sort to the special circumstances of each individual case. Being of opinion, however, that, in such a case as the present, there ought to be such a provision, he should support the clause.

The House divided on the question that the words proposed by Mr. Mackinnon be inserted:—Ayes 32; Noes 108—Majority 76.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Pechell, Captain
Bowes, J. Polhill, F.
Bridgeman, H. Power, J.
Brotherton, J. Pryme, G.
Bryan, G. Redington, T. N.
D'Israeli, B. Salwey, Colonel
Duke, Sir J. Sheil, R. L.
Fielden, J. Turner, E.
Harvey, D. W. Vigors, N. A.
Heathcoat, J. Villiers, hon. C. P.
Hector, C. J. Wakley, T.
Hindley, C. Walker, R.
Humphery, J. Williams, W.
Kemble, H. Wood, Sir M.
Morris, D.
O'Brien, W. S. TELLERS.
Parker, R. T. Hume, J.
Pattison, J. Mackinnon, J.
List of the NOES.
Ainsworth, P. Baines, E.
Alsager, Captain Baring, F. T.
Archdall, M. Barnard, E. G.
Bagge, W. Blackstone, W. S.
Blair, J. Hutt, W.
Blake, W. J. Hutton, R.
Brownrigg, S. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Buck, L. W. Irving, J.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Jones, Captain
Burroughes, H. N. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Byng, G. Lincoln, Earl of
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Marshall, W.
Clerk, Sir G. Mildmay, P. St. J.
Cole, Viscount Morpeth Viscount
Colquhoun, J. C. Muskett, G. A.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Nagle, Sir R.
Darby, G. Packe, C. W.
Donkin, Sir R. S. Palmer, G.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Palmerston, Viscount
Duff, J. Parker, J.
Eaton, R. J. Parker, M.
Egerton, W. T. Parnell, rt. hn. Sir H.
Egerton, Sir P. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Elliot, hn. J. E. Perceval, hon. G. J.
Ellis, J. Philips, M.
Estcourt, T. Pigot, D. R.
Evans, W. Plumptre, J. P.
Fector, J. M. Rice, E. R.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Richards, R.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Fleetwood, Sir P. H. Russell, Lord J.
Forester, hon. G. Russell, Lord
Freshfield, J. W. Rutherford, rt. hn. A.
Gordon, hon. Captain Sheppard, T.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Smith, J. A.
Grant, F. W. Smith, A.
Greenaway, C. Smith, R. V.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir C. Somerset, Lord G.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Grimsditch, T. Spry, Sir M. T.
Hale, R. B. Stanley, hon. E. J.
Halford, H. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Hall, Sir B. Steuart, R.
Harcourt, G. G. Stewart, J.
Hawes, B. Strutt, E.
Hawkins, J. H. Surrey, Earl of
Hill, Lord A. M. C. Thomson, rt. hn. C.P.
Hobhouse, T. B. Thornely, T.
Hodges, T. L. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Hodgson, R. Williams, W. A.
Hogg, J. W. Worsley, Lord
Hope, hon. C. Wrightson, W. B.
Hope, H. T.
Hoskins, K. TELLERS.
Howard, F. Maule, F.
Hurt, F. Wood, C.

Bill passed.

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