HC Deb 16 February 1853 vol 124 cc159-62

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Second Time."


, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, and in explaining the object and the provisions of the measure, said, that in the year 1839 an Act was passed called the Rural Police Act, which was afterwards amended in 1840. It was a permissive Act, enabling counties having an insufficiency of police to place the whole or part of their territory under its provisions; and the number of counties in England and Wales which were now under the operation of this Act was twenty-three. There were exactly another twenty-three counties which had not yet adopted its provisions, and six counties in which they had been only partially introduced. These figures showed a sufficiently large interest concerned to justify him in attempting by the present Bill to supply the deficiencies which existed. He had been told that his measure was perhaps hostile to the intentions of the Rural Police Act; but he had no desire to give it that effect. His Bill was not designed to affect any of the counties which had adopted the provisions of the Rural Police Act; and it provided that any county which should hereafter partially or wholly adopt the provisions of that Act, should be exempted from the operation of his present measure. In 1842, two years after the Rural Police Act had been passed, there was introduced into this House, by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham), a measure, which might be said to have passed sub silentio. At that time, and when introducing that Bill, the right hon. Baronet declared he had no intention whatever of interfering with the Rural Police Act; and he (Mr. Deedes) could say the same on the present occasion. It had also been objected that this Bill would prevent other counties from hereafter coming under the Rural Police Act; but he thought it would have a contrary effect, because some counties, either on the ground of expense, or on account of the conditions of the population in their petty sessional divisions, had not chosen to place themselves under the Rural Police Act; but if they adopted this Bill of his, it would be a stepping-stone to the introduction of the provisions of the Rural Police Act into such counties. For under this Bill, general superintendents would be appointed over the constables as paid servants of the county, who would act in a manner analogous to the senior officers of the rural police; and thus if counties could not obtain the whole of the benefits of the Rural Police Act, they would get a part. The county of Chester, which was under a local Act, and the county of Middlesex, which was within the metropolitan police district, would both be exempted from the operation of this Bill. He wished to consolidate and amend the three existing Acts on this subject—one of which was passed in 1842, the second a year or two later, and the third in 1850; but the points of novelty to which he wished to call the attention of the House were the following: By the existing law each of the superintending constables for every petty sessional division could be appointed at the option of the county magistrates in general or quarter sessions, if it were thought necessary to have such an officer, and if they did elect one the petty constables were to be under his control, and thus a species of organisation was established, similar, in some degree, to the organisation created under the Rural Police Act. Now, by this Bill he sought to make the appointment of these superintending constables imperative, being convinced that the parish constable system without such superintendents was of no use whatever. He also intended to give the justices power, in certain cases where the extent of the population or the average of the petty divisions demanded it, to appoint a second superintendent. The next point of novelty was the provision for the appointment of a chief superintending constable, and that appointment he made only permissive, and not compulsory. This clause he had introduced into his measure at the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir G. Grey). The next point of novelty in the Bill related to lock-up houses. He proposed to extend the power under which lock-up houses might be built, so as to give justices facility of contract with separate jurisdictions, or with adjacent counties, for the purpose of placing prisoners under temporary confinement, without such justices going to the expense of building lock-up houses for themselves. He also proposed to charge the county rates with the expenditure for staves and handcuffs for the parish constables. He likewise proposed to permit the justices to give superanuation allowances to chief-superintending constables in cases of sickness or infirmity, under certain limitations. He also had in view to increase the facilities with which the lists of constables were annually made up, in order to cure an anomaly in the existing law. The next material change was in the liability of persons to serve as parish constables. At present the age of liability was between twenty-five and fifty-five, with an additional qualification as to rental. He proposed that the age should be from twenty-one to fifty-five, provided the party had the other requisite qualifications. Another clause would also give power to the vestry to name one man, who was to be the head constable of the parish, and with whom the chief superintendent was to be in constant communication. The Bill also contained a list of exemptions, which might be extended, in one or two instances, to Judges of the County Courts, for example, and of the Courts of Bankruptcy. He also proposed to exempt from the operation of the Bill all counties or parts of counties which were now under the Rural Police Act, or might hereafter adopt the provisions of that Act. Under the present licensing Act, for alehouses the precepts were directed to the high constables, and the Bill bad it in view to do away with the necessity of so employing high constables, and to enable the superintending constable, or parish constable, to be charged with the service of the requisite notices. He proposed also to give increased facilities for the summoning of juries, the preparation of jury lists, and the more equitable imposition of the costs of prosecuting vagrants. He had now gone through all the points on which he thought it necessary to trouble the House. He had wished to put before the House as plainly as he could the object he had had in view in bringing forward this Bill, and he would simply say, in conclusion, his aim from beginning to end had been to submit the measure to the greatest possible publicity. With that object he had sent it to parties interested in the subject in almost every direction, for the purpose of inviting observations upon it, and those observations he had acted upon wherever he could do so conscientiously; and with the further desire of having the Bill thoroughly examined in all its details, he proposed to refer it to a Select Committee upstairs.

Bill read 2°, and committed to a Select Committee.