§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, he wished to know whether it was intended by the Government to institute an inquiry into the conduct of the police in Hyde Park on Sunday last?
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he was not aware that any special inquiry was called for into the conduct of the police. He had received several communications from gentlemen, from which it appeared that the conduct of the police was open to no great exception, and that they acted with forbearance and moderation. A specific complaint had appeared in a public paper, signed, very properly, by the person complaining, who gave his own address and the number and letter of the policeman. In that case, as in every other in which anything tangible and specific had been stated, an inquiry had been ordered, the result of which he had not ascertained. If that letter had been addressed to him in the first instance, a day or two would have been saved in the inquiry.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
said, he would give the Government an opportunity of answering the question of the hon. and learned Member for Leominster (Mr. J. G. Phillimore), as he was about to present some petitions which prayed for immediate redress; and, by the rules of the House, petitions which required immediate redress were to be taken into consideration at the time. The first petition was from inhabitants of Mount Street and Park Street, Grosvenor Square, who expressed their horror and disgust at the brutal and violent conduct of the police in truncheoning the peaceably disposed persons who were attracted to Hyde Park on Sunday from motives of curiosity, or who assembled there to take their ordinary walk in the park. The petitioners prayed the House to grant an inquiry into the conduct of the police, and to protect the public against a repetition of such frightful violence. He had also to present a petition from Francis Henry Mare, of Southampton Street, Strand, who stated that, being in bad health and afflicted with paralysis, he was in the habit of walking in Hyde Park on; Sunday, and that, being there on Sunday last, and standing by the rails opposite to Albert Gate, he received several violent blows from the staves of the police. He never struck a single policeman, but only held up his stick to ward off their blows, He was nevertheless carried off to Vine Street station, where he was confined all night in a filthy and ill-ventilated hole. Two respectable householders offered to become bail for him on Sunday afternoon, but the police refused to accept bail. The petitioner, therefore, prayed that a searching investigation should be made into the 454 conduct of the police in Hyde Park on Sunday, and that the orders given by the Home Office to the police should be laid before the House. He had another petition to present from another respectable person, who stated that his head and face were most dreadfully cut and bruised by the police on Sunday. The petitioner stated that he went to Hyde Park on Sunday, that some of the crowd hallooed to persons in carriages, "Let your horses rest!" The petitioner, who took no part in these cries, was, with others, brutally driven back from the iron railings by the police, who, having cleared a space of 100 yards in length and ten yards from the railings, nevertheless continued to strike the petitioner and others with their truncheons, with the intention of driving the people still further back, where it was impossible for them to go by reason of the crowd behind them. In this way men, women, and children, were alike struck by the police, who also beat the petitioner in the most brutal and shameful manner. The petitioner also stated that he saw one woman upon the ground with four or five policemen around her, she having been struck down by their truncheons. The petitioner stated that he did not go to Hyde Park to create a disturbance, but that if such conduct were to be repeated, and if the people should go armed, the most dreadful loss of life would follow. The petitioner, therefore, prayed for inquiry.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, he rose to order. He considered it very inconvenient to get into a discussion upon petitions of this nature just presented without notice to the House. The exception which was provided for by the rules of the House for discussing petitions referred to cases only of petitions which required immediate and urgent remedy; they were the only cases which, could be discussed on presentation. He really did not see how the matter of which the petitioners complained showed an urgent necessity for providing an immediate remedy. He thought it would be better to give notice, and bring the matter before the House to-morrow.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
said, he did not believe it would be better to take the course recommended by the right hon. Gentleman, or that there could be anything more requiring redress than the personal grievances of which these parties complained.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member 455 puts a very different interpretation upon the Standing Orders from that which I should put. I have no doubt that these persons complain of grievances, but the question is whether they are grievances of pressing necessity, demanding an urgent and immediate remedy. The courts of justice are open to these parties, and I think that these petitions do not come within the Standing Orders. I will also suggest that the hon. Member should give notice of his Motion.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I beg to suggest to my hon. Friend (Mr. T. Duncombe) that to-morrow there is a Committee of Supply, and that it will be quite competent to him then to bring forward a Motion on the subject.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
The right hon. Gentleman in the Chair says the courts of justice are open to these parties; but I say they are not open to them, and so they come here. [Cries of "Order!"] I am in order. I will take the sense of the House upon it; but there is no redress in courts of justice for these parties.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I understood that the statement of the hon. Gentleman appeared to show [Mr. T. DUNCOMBE: You have not heard my case yet] that which puts the petitions out of order, because, if I understand him, he proposes to refer the matter to a Select Committee of this House. But is that the immediate remedy which the hon. Member proposes to himself by the presentation of these petitions? Suppose a Committee appointed to-morrow, and suppose it reported this day week, that would not be an immediate remedy—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not at liberty to make a statement upon presenting a petition, unless there is something in the petition to show there is an urgent need for some immediate remedy. There is nothing in the petition to show this, and the hon. Member is, therefore, debarred from speaking upon the petition.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
Then I had better move that the House do now adjourn; and I shall move it if the House will not hear me, for that will be a very good reason for adjourning. I did intend to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the illegal and ferocious conduct of the metropolitan police, and to report their opinion to the House. I am going to support these petitions satisfactorily by evidence, and I 456 am quite sure, if this House do not attend to these petitions, before many days are over they will regret the decision to which they come. A most respectable family, the head of that family, and all that belong to him, are prepared to come forward, and to state that at about eight o'clock on Sunday evening they saw about forty policemen march down Park Street, as far as Reeve's Mews, four or five abreast; they then halted for a moment with their right hands behind them, under their coat-skirt, and, at a given word of command, they withdrew their right hands, having therein their truncheons, and, without any provocation or cause, began be labouring all within their reach; the man got separated from his wife, and sought refuge at the Grosvenor Hotel, within a few doors of his own residence. The persons assembled were, from their appearance and conduct, evidently highly respectable.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I rise to order. I will put it to you, whether it is not in accordance with the rules of the House that, when a Member makes a Motion, he should speak to that Motion? The Motion made is, that the House do now adjourn, and the hon. Gentleman is arguing, not for the adjournment of the House, but for the appointment of a Committee, which would be impossible if the House were to adjourn.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I rather think the noble Lord is mistaken. Anything may suggest the Motion that the House adjourn, and the hon. Member may therefore speak of anything which comes uppermost in his mind.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
I am not surprised at the course pursued by the Government. ["Order!"] I am speaking to the Motion. I say the noble Lord the Prime Minister is entirely out of order in his interruption of the course pursued by the hon. Member for Finsbury. I maintain, Sir, not in opposition to authority, that the grounds he has laid before the House perfectly justify the course which he is pursuing in calling immediate attention to this subject. I, too, have received numerous communications from persons who complain of the most atrocious conduct of the police.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The question before the House is, that the House do now adjourn. If, when the rules of the House preclude an hon. Member from speaking on the presentation of a petition, he is to be allowed to move that the House adjourn 457 for the purpose of making a speech which the rules of the House prevent, it will he a question for hon. Members to consider how far they will thus break down all authority and cause the rules of the House to be disregarded.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
I will not for a moment, Sir, say a single word against your authority, entertaining as the House does, and deservedly so, the highest respect for your opinion; but I believe, only a few nights ago, the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord R. Grosvenor) brought a question before the House, and he was prevented addressing the House precisely in the same manner as the hon. Member for Finsbury. The noble Lord said he would move the adjournment of the House, and was allowed to proceed.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
again rose, and was met with cries of "Spoke." I should have done before now—I should have finished this statement—if I had not been interrupted. I have only to say, I am here to discharge a public duty. As to breaking down the authorities of the House, I do not wish anything of the sort. I still believe I am within the rules of the House. I am requested, for the sake of my fellow-subjects, for the sake of property, and for the sake of the peace and tranquillity of this town on Sunday next, to make this statement to the House, and it will then be for the Home Office—which denies all these statements—which says that the police behaved most exemplarily, to see that security is given to the peaceful inhabitants of London. If the House is satisfied that all the statements in the petitions are true, I need not read evidence in corroboration of them, but, as they are doubted by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, I must repeat that, should this Committee be appointed, I can bring evidence in support of all these allegations, not by a set of pickpockets, as they are represented, but by many peaceful subjects of Her Majesty, resident in the most respectable part of the west end of the town. There is another case, of a man standing talking to some neighbours, when without the slightest intimation from the police, he received a blow from the clinched fist of a policeman behind the ear, and on his turning round, another policeman gave him a similar blow on the other side, under the ear, and, on his retreating towards his home in Mount Street, he saw a policeman strike a person down with his truncheon, and, while the poor fellow was lying insensible 458 on the ground, another policeman who came up attempted to kick him on the head, but missed his mark, and only kicked off his hat. He heard the policeman say, with an ironical air, "Now go to the hospital and get your wounds dressed, and if you don't go directly I'll give you three times as much as you've already got." Many of the inhabitants of Mount Street saw a poor fellow, apparently very respectable, being carried to the station-house by the police, bleeding from what appeared to be a wound behind the ear, his wife following and crying, and on her making some observation to one of the policemen he gave her a dreadful blow on the breast, causing the poor woman to groan. Surely such proceeding as this is worthy the attention of the House and the Home Office, and I say the House shall not proceed to public business until it is considered. Another gentleman, resident in Mount Street, says he was in the centre of Hyde Park. He saw one poor fellow leaning against the iron hurdles, with his head cut open, and on turning to look at him he saw the police striking with their bludgeons all persons, whether in retreat or passing by. One person he observed, who wore a white hat, running away from the police, and the policeman in pursuit of him struck him across the ancle, with a view, he supposes, of felling him; one poor youth, without any provocation, was most brutally struck with great violence across the loins, and he observed that most of the blows were aimed at those parts of the body most likely to produce permanent injury. Here is the case of a poor man, a wounded soldier, who has just returned from the Crimea. I have his address, and he is ready to come forward. He was wounded in the Crimea, in the breast and leg, and he received very severe blows on Sunday last in Hyde Park, where he was present only as a spectator, which caused the leg wound to break open again, although he repeatedly called out that he was a cripple and could not get away in obedience to the orders of the police. I have another letter in confirmation of all this, which shows the necessity of coming to this House for redress, and calling on the authorities of the Home Office to do something to prevent the peace of this town from being further violated. This is from a gentleman whose veracity I suppose will be little doubted. It is signed by Henry Harcourt Aubrey, Colonel, late of the Royal Horse Guards Blue, dated from 459 76, Stanley Street, Eccleston Square, and addressed to a Committee of working men, who are trying to get up evidence against the police if they can—to punish them if they can—but there's the difficulty, and they cannot do it without investigating the whole matter. This gentleman volunteers his evidence, and he says—I beg to inform you that I was present both Sundays, and never in the whole course of my life witnessed greater brutality displayed by a body of ruffians and cowards than by the police in Hyde Park on Sunday, the 1st of July last, and I shall have great pleasure (if you will afford me the opportunity) to detail some of the scenes I witnessed; and still greater pleasure if, by such information, these savages (for I cannot call them men) may be brought to justice.I am also in possession of information, which it is my duty to lay before this House, and before the head of the Home Office, that there is the greatest exasperation on the part of the working classes. The noble Lord's Bill is gone, but that, in my opinion, is insignificant, unless something is done to meet the case. I pledge my word to the House, I fully believe something must be done. If you grant this Committee—if you institute inquiry which shall really bring to punishment those parties who have thus offended, and treated peaceable inhabitants in the manner described—I shall be satisfied, and the people will be satisfied also. But they will not be satisfied to have it hushed up, and to be told that the Bill is withdrawn, and therefore they must go home. True it is that the Bill is withdrawn, but who is compromised by that? This House! ["Hear, hear!"] This House is compromised by the manner in which the Bill is withdrawn. They will say you have conceded to tumult that which you before refused. Yet that is insignificant compared to the manner in which the people have been treated. A former House of Commons did not refuse to entertain the question when there was a brutal massacre at Manchester, in 1819. True, no Committee was appointed. The Government was always too strong. The Government may be too strong for me on this occasion. The House may be too strong for me. The noble Lord at the head of the Government may argue that this is not the proper tribunal, but how are we to get at the truth? You must do something if you want to prevent mischief next Sunday. I am told that these parties are determined to go to Hyde Park on that day, and if they are molested they will go there armed, and if 460 they had been armed last Sunday, can any man say there would not have been great loss of life? What can you do? You must find some means of satisfying them, or else you must close the park. I think the best thing to do is to close the park on Sunday next. I have put this House in possession of the case. I have stated a few of the allegations which the petition contains. I am ready to prove those allegations by the evidence of most respectable persons of all ranks and of all parties. Some inquiry must be made, and the people will not be satisfied with a Government inquiry or by the Police Commissioners' own report. I should like to see the report of the Police Commissioners upon the first day's disturbance, which the right hon. Gentleman said he had received. I want to know what the Government are prepared to do? At all events, I have done my duty. The House is in possession of the case, and I believe—indeed, I am confident—I can bring evidence to substantiate everything which I have stated, and I would remind the House that the peace, the safety of life and property in this town depend much on the manner in which it receives these petitions. I shall move for a Committee of inquiry, hut the Motion I have to make is that the House do now adjourn.
§ The Motion for the adjournment of the House having been put,
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Sir, as the adjournment of the House is the only question before us, I need not enter now into a discussion of the conduct of the police on Sunday last, nor upon the sweeping allegations made by the hon. Gentleman as to that conduct. I wish, however, to correct one misrepresentation which my hon. Friend made when he said I denied all those statements. I could not deny them, for the statements which he has now made I have heard for the first time. The hon. Gentleman said he thought it his duty to acquaint me with those statements, and I only wish he had laid those statements before me. I would then have instituted an inquiry, which at present, of course, I have not been able to do. The allegations which have been made are of a sweeping and general character. The House is aware that every policeman has the letter of his division embroidered on his dress, and has also a distinctive number by which he may be identified, the object of those marks being, in the event of misconduct on the part of any individual policeman, that he 461 may be easily recognised, and I think it impossible, if all these statements arc correct, and made by parties who were present, who apparently had ample means of observation, that they could not have identified some of the men to whom misconduct is imputed. I know many statements have been made; but I, on behalf of the police, protest against the sweeping and general charges made this evening without one tittle of evidence to support them. If the hon. Gentleman thinks it right to move for a Committee of inquiry I shall be willing to listen to the grounds upon which he asks for it, and I cannot now say what opinion I shall form, because I do not know the grounds upon which such a Motion can be supported. I will also say, with regard to the threat which the hon. Gentleman has held out, that the people will go armed into the park on Sunday next—I believe he does the greatest possible wrong to the character and temper of the great body of the inhabitants of this metropolis in believing they would act in such a manner as he assumes they will. It is the privilege of the inhabitants of London to visit the parks—the hon. Gentleman says it is their right—and no doubt it is their right, but qualified in this way—they have no right to go there to molest other people who have an equal right with themselves. If they do go with that intention it will be the duty of the Government, and of the police acting under their authority, to protect the peaceable and well-disposed from I any annoyance from those who may go with the intention of creating tumult, and to prevent such persons as I have just mentioned from molesting others in the quiet enjoyment of the parks, which it is the undoubted right and privilege of all to enjoy.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary says he cannot inquire into vague charges. Now, the charge I brought forward was specific in time, name, place, and circumstance. I do not know what more he would have to form a specific charge. I charged an inspector, who has no number on his coat, and therefore does not come within the category described by the right hon. Gentleman. I described the disturbance, the place, the time—Monday last, the hour 10 o'clock, and the name of the man who was struck. I asked the right hon. Gentleman to give this poor man—poor not in pocket, but I call him so because he has been shamefully used—to give him assistance, 462 in order to bring under the hands of justice the man who, under the guise of authority, has done an unauthorised act. I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would give this man any assistance to find the inspector of police. I do not think that is a vague or sweeping charge against the police. I might bring accusations against right hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords who bring Bills into this House which are only the offspring of their own bigotry, and will not in any way contribute to the good government of the country or the happiness of the people.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
The observation I made use of had no reference to the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman, who, I admit, was specific enough, but to the statements of the hon. Member for Finsbury. [Mr. DUNCOMBE: I gave the names.] As to the petition presented by the hon. and learned Gentleman, if he had sent me that statement the matter would by this time have been in course of inquiry. I am not now in possession of all the facts of that case. I heard the statement made by the hon. and learned Gentleman on presenting that petition, and I must request him to send me a statement in writing or a copy of the petition, otherwise it will be impossible for me to act.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
Sir, as the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) has alluded so pointedly to the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord R. Grosvenor) and to myself, I beg to say it was not through bigotry that I supported the Bill in question. I beg to say I was one of, unhappily, a small minority who voted in favour of opening the British Museum and the National Gallery on Sundays to those who believed conscientiously they could go there. I voted for the Sunday Trading Bill, not through bigotry, but at the request of a great number of tradesmen in humble circumstances, in order to secure for as many persons as possible in the metropolis, without entailing undue inconvenience upon any one, the Sunday as a day of rest, to be kept holy by those who recognised that course as a duty—to be kept as a holiday and day of recreation by those who felt inclined to do so. I beg to say, further, that since the Bill has been, withdrawn I have received representations from working men and humble tradesmen thanking us for our endeavours, and complaining of the utter misrepresentations to which the measure has been exposed, and 463 earnestly hoping that some time or other they may be relieved from their present amount of slavery, which inflicts great hardship and suffering on them. I thought I had made it pretty clear in the early stages of the Bill upon what grounds I supported the measure. I said, I supported it on economical and sanitary grounds—on religious and irreligious grounds. I did not see why men should be compelled to give seven days' labour for six days' pay. I disclaimed being identified with that party who believe that men can be made either religious or sober by Act of Parliament. I hope in future that the hon. and learned Gentleman will address his remarks to those—I do not know whether he was one of them—who voted for keeping our national museums closed on Sundays, and not to me who voted for opening them.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
I would suggest to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. Duncombe) that, having presented a petition of gravity, why not move that it be printed? and he can then found upon it such Motion as he pleases.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
Sir, my answer is, this matter requires immediate inquiry, and I think, when the rule of the House was framed, an opening was left expressly for cases of this kind. I maintain our time has not been wasted by the observations I have made, or by the petitions I have presented. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State says my accusations are general and sweeping in their character. They are no more vague than the statement made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck). I have given you a petition with the names and addresses of persons residing in Mount Street and the neighbourhood of Grosvenor Square, and, if an opportunity is given, I have no doubt of, being able to prove the statements they have made.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said, he would beg to remind the House that they had been engaged upon what might fairly be called an English "row." He did not say that they were not entitled to indulge in a "row," and it was not the character of his countrymen to wish to stop it, but he must call their attention to the fact that Englishmen were quite as ready to get up a "row" as his countrymen were. He would only add that he was in the park, and could give some evidence, but would abstain from doing so at present.
§ Motion negatived.