HC Deb 01 April 1856 vol 141 cc314-33

in moving for leave to bring in a Bill for the better regulation of the Corporation of the City of London, said: Sir, I hope it is scarcely necessary for me to assure the House that Her Majesty's Government approach this subject with no unfriendly feelings towards that great body which will be affected by the provisions of the measure which I now ask permission to introduce. On the contrary, we arc sensible that from its great antiquity—from its connection with the metropolis of this country—from its historical associations—and from the services it has at various periods rendered to the cause of civil and religious liberty and of constitutional government, the Corporation of the City of London is entitled to every respect and consideration. The object of the present Bill—an object with which it is to be hoped its effect will correspond— is not in any degree to diminish the importance nor to impair the dignity of the Corporation, but by amending defects in its constitution and in the administration of its affairs, and by bringing it more into harmony with the spirit of recent municipal legislation, to increase its usefulness, to enhance its influence and efficiency, and to render it better adapted to fulfil all the legitimate purposes of its existence.

In dealing with this important question, we have had the advantage of two elaborate Reports—that presented in 1837 by the Commissioners appointed two years previously to inquire into the condition of the municipal corporations in England and Wales, and that more recent one for which we are indebted to the Commissioners to whom, in 1853, was assigned the duty of inquiring into the existing state of the London Corporation, with a view to ascertain whether any measures might be necessary to make better provision for the future government of the City of London, The latter Commissioners were my right hon. Friends the present Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Labouchere) and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir G. C. Lewis), with whom was associated a learned and eminent individual, who, having for many years occupied, with equal credit to himself and advantage to the country, a seat on the judicial bench, felt it his duty, though then in the full enjoyment of his intellectual powers, to retire when unfortunately afflicted with a physical infirmity. I allude to Sir John Patteson. It is due to the Corporation to observe that these Commissioners put on record at the beginning of their Report their testimony to the readiness which had been evinced by all the authorities of the City to give them the fullest information in their power, and to facilitate the inquiry with which they had been entrusted. Information, both oral and documentary, was most liberally tendered. They say We think it right to state that we found the utmost readiness in all quarters to assist us in the execution of your Majesty's Commission by the communication of facts and suggestions. This readiness was manifested, not only by independent witnesses, who were unconnected with the Corporation, but also by the governing members of the Corporation and by its officers, all of whom willingly came forward to describe their several duties, and to state the facts respectively falling under their cognisance. I have much satisfaction in believing that the authorities of the City of London and those who represent them in this House will be ready to entertain this Bill in the same spirit in which the Corporation met the Commissioners of 1853. I do not mean to say that they will readily acquiesce in all the proposals of the Bill, but I cherish the hope that they will give to the measure a full and dispassionate consideration, and that they will meet it fairly, with a view to apply such a remedy to the defects in the constitution of the Corporation as may render the body more efficient for the purposes it was originally designed to fulfil. The Commissioners also state in their Report— That, though they have found much which, in their judgment, calls for amendment, they had discovered nothing which could affect injuriously the honour and integrity of the officers to whom the affairs of this great Corporation had been confided. The Commissioners refer to the Report of 1837 for a description of the constitution and administration of the governing body of the City of London, and call attention to the fact that that Report recommended no legislative measures, but simply pointed out that, as to many of the defects, the remedies could be applied by the Common Council itself. The last Report adverts to the various Acts subsequently passed affecting the Corporation, and to various changes made by the Common Council since the date of the previous Report, in order to carry into effect several improvements; but states that "no substantial or systematic reform of the Corporation had been accomplished" since 1837. With regard to the recommendation they have offered, the Commissioners state that they have taken the leading provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act for a guide, making, of course, due allowance for the peculiar circumstances which distinguish the City of London from other corporations. They state in general terms that the object of the Municipal Act was twofold—contemplating, first, reform of constitution; and, secondly, enlargement, in many cases, of boundaries. As to boundaries the Commissioners give at great length, and with much clearness, their reasons for not recommending that the Corporation should be extended over the whole metropolis, in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Reform Act in respect of other corporations; but it will not be necessary to quota that portion of their Report, inasmuch as Parliament had already expressed its opinion on the subject by passing the Metropolis Local Management Act of last year. With respect to the constitution of the Corporation, it is right to notice an important distinction between the Corporation of London and the other municipal corporations before they were reformed. The Commissioners of 1853 cite the opinion expressed in the Report of 1837, that— The most common and most striking defect in the constitution of the municipal corporations of England and Wales is, that the corporate bodies exist independently of the communities among which they are found. The corporations look upon themselves and are considered by the inhabitants as separate and exclusive bodies; they have powers and privileges within the towns and cities from which they are named, but in most places all identity of interest between the corporation and the inhabitants has disappeared. Such was the description by the Commissioners of 1837 of the general state of the corporations previous to their reformation. The Commissioners of 1853 go on to say— From the defect described in this passage the Corporation of London has for many years been exempt. The manner in which the Common Council is elected has produced to a great extent an identity of interests between the governing municipal body and the existing municipal community, and has secured to the latter a council representing their general opinions and feelings. The Municipal Commissioners particularly advert to the Common Council of London as distinguishing that Corporation from the close corporations which then prevailed throughout the country. I shall now shortly state what is the present constitution of the Corporation of the City of London, taking as my guide the Report of the Commission of 1837, since which date that constitution has undergone no material alteration. The existing governing bodies are—first, the Court of Aldermen; secondly, the Court of Common Council; and thirdly, the Court of Common Hall. The Court of Aldermen is composed of twenty-six members, including the Lord Mayor, twenty-five of whom are elected for life, twenty-four being chosen by the freemen householders of the different wards, rated at the annual value of £10 or upwards. Each of the twenty-four wards elect one Alderman, two other wards of a smaller size being joined together for the purpose of electing another, and the twenty-sixth Alderman is not elected at all, but represents, in a nominal sense only, the borough of Southwark. The Court of Common Council consists of the twenty-six Aldermen, and 206 Common Councilmen, the latter being elected periodically by the ward constituencies. The Court of Common Hall is composed of the freemen, who are also liverymen of the several companies; ten Aldermen also forming part of it. The Lord Mayor presides over each of these three courts. Having stated the composition of these bodies, I must next describe their functions. The Court of Aldermen forms the magistracy of the City of London; but, independently of its magisterial character, it tries the validity of certain elections, including those of the Aldermen and Common Councilmen, has the power of expending money, appoints functionaries and licenses brokers—thus uniting magisterial, judicial, and legislative authority, the last being exercised by them as members of the Court of Common Council. The Common Council, which is the legislative body of the Corporation, dispenses money, manages the lauded property, and elects most of the officers of the Corporation. The Court of Common Hall is chiefly confined to the election of certain officers. The Lord Mayor is elected in the Common Hall from such Aldermen as have served the office of sheriff, the Common Hall returning two names, and the Court of Aldermen selecting one. The sheriffs are elected in the Common Hall. There are twenty-six wards of very unequal sizes in the City. There are sixty-nine municipal companies or guilds, admission to which constitutes a freeman; but the freedom may now be obtained directly without the intervention of the companies. The freemen are divided into liverymen and non-liverymen: freemen enjoy exemption from certain tolls and the exclusive right to exercise certain trades—liverymen enjoy privileges which other freemen do not possess, the former alone being members of the Common Hall.

Having thus explained the existing constitution of the Corporation according to the Report of the Commission of 1837, I now come to the provisions of the Bill which I shall ask leave to lay on the table. Those provisions arc mainly, though not I exclusively, founded on the recommendations of the Commissioners. The general scope of the Bill is, first, to reform the I constitution of the Corporation and of some of the courts and jurisdictions within the City; secondly, to abolish certain customs now in force within the City which are injurious to trade and industry—customs which have been abolished in other corporate cities and towns by the Municipal Corporations Act; thirdly, to divest the corporate body of anomalous powers, of which, in the opinion of the Commissioners, some should cease altogether, while others should be transferred to bodies better qualified to exercise them. The main governing body of the City will still remain as it now is—that is, it will consist of the Lord Mayor, the Aldermen, and the Commons in common council assembled, in other words, the Common Council, the Lord Mayor, and the Aldermen being members of it. But the numbers and constitution of its several parts it is proposed to alter materially. In the first place, we propose, in conformity with the recommendations of the Commissioners, to reduce the wards from twenty-six, their present number, to a maximum of sixteen; and also to render them more nearly equal in area and population. We further propose that one Alderman and five Common Councilmen shall be elected by each of the sixteen wards, making altogether ninety-six members, instead of 232, the existing number. Sixty-four, I believe, is the largest number allowed for any council constituted under the Municipal Corporation Act. The Commissioners appointed in 1837 concur with those appointed in 1853 in the decided opinion that the present Common Council of the City of London is far too large for the purposes for which it exists, and ought to be considerably reduced. An important change is also contemplated in regard to the Aldermen. In lieu of their being elected for life, we propose that they shall be elected for six years, and that one-half of the entire body shall retire at the end of every three years. By the Bill the Common Councilmen will continue, as at present, to be elected annually; and the qualification of Common Councilmen will be the same as in other corporations—that is, possession of real or personal estate worth £1,000, or rating to the annual value of £30. The existing qualification of freedom of the City, as now acquired, will be dispensed with. The constituency of the Common Council will like wise be materially altered and extended. The voter in a ward election must at present not only occupy a tenement in the ward rated at £10, but he must also be a freeman of the City, and on the Parliamentary register of voters for the City, which makes it necessary that he should reside within seven miles; the condition of residence for three years within the borough or within seven miles of it is also required by the Municipal Corporations Act; but, as the Commissioners observe, the condition of residence is unsuited to the special circumstances of London, and it is proposed to dispense with it, as well as with the condition of freedom of the City, which, in the words of the Commissioners, has the effect of "narrowing the constituency without elevating its character." The franchise which we propose for the wards agrees with that contained in a Bill which originated with the Corporation itself, and was presented to Parliament in the year 1852, but was opposed by the livery companies, and thrown out by the Select Committee of the House of Commons. The Commissioners propose that The Common Council, with reduced numbers, and an enlarged and improved constituent body, be entrusted with the election of all the superior paid officers of the Corporation. This, they say, is in accordance with the scheme of the Municipal Corporations Act as applicable to other corporations of the General Municipal Act, and we see no reason for thinking that it is unsuited to the circumstances of the City. In accordance with this general recommendation, the Commissioners recommend, and the Bill proposes, that the Lord Mayor, the sheriffs, the recorder, and other officers, now elected by the Court of Common Hall or Court of Aldermen, shall henceforth be elected by the Common Council. It is further proposed that the choice of Lord Mayor shall not be restricted to Aldermen who have served the office of sheriff, or even to Aldermen at all or to members of the Common Council; but that any person shall be eligible for the office of Lord Mayor who is qualified to be a Common Councilman. An opportunity, as the Commissioners justly observe, will be thus afforded of electing persons of commercial eminence and influence connected with the City, although they have not obtained an alderman's gown. It is also proposed that the qualification of the sheriffs shall be the same as that of the Common Councilmen. The Commissioners recommend that the election of auditors should be amended. The auditors are now four in number, and are elected in common hall by persons qualified to be Common Councilmen, and must be freemen. They hold office for two years, there being an annual election of two, the two who have been longest in office retiring. Under the Bill three auditors will be annually elected from among the persons qualified to be Common Councilmen by the persons entitled to vote at the ward elections, but no Common Councilman can be also auditor; and provision is made for the audit of the cham- berlain's and the bridgemaster's accounts half-yearly, and for the transmission of statements of the same once a year to the Secretary of State, who is to cause an abstract of such statement to be laid before Parliament. These enactments as to election of auditors and as to the accounts correspond with the Municipal Corporations Acts. The provisions of the Municipal Corporations Acts restraining the charging or alienation of the corporate property are by the Bill extended to the City of London. As to the Court of Aldermen, it is proposed by the Commissioners, and the Bill carries that recommendation into effect, that the Court of Aldermen, as distinct from a magisterial court, shall be abolished, and its multifarious powers transferred to the Common Council. With regard to the City courts, the Bill proposes substantially to carry into effect the recommendation of the Commissioners. This is a part of the subject which, I believe, provokes little, if any, difference of opinion. One of these courts is the Court of Hustings, which the Commissioners say is practically obsolete, and can be made available for no good purpose. This tribunal the Bill will entirely abolish. The Commissioners also recommend the consolidation of the Lord Mayor's Court and Sheriffs' Court into one Court. This the Bill in effect does—except as to the jurisdiction which the Sheriffs' Court has under the City Small Debts Act—by abolishing the ancient jurisdiction of the Sheriffs' Court. It also abolishes the appeal to the Court at St. Martin's-le-Grand, in pursuance of the Commissioners' recommendation. This Court, the Commissioners say, "is very seldom called into existence, and is a very cumbrous and inconvenient tribunal." It is a Court called into existence, pro hâc vice, by application to the Court of Chancery, whence a commission issues to certain persons, usually Judges of the Superior Courts of law at Westminster, to review the judgment of the Lord Mayor's Court. For this proceeding a simple appeal to the same Courts—that is, the common law Courts at Westminster—and of the same nature as that given from decisions of County Court Judges, is substituted. The Bill also provides, in accordance with the Commissioners' recommendation, that the Recorder shall be the sole Judge of Lord Mayor's Court, instead of being, as now, merely the assessor of the Lord Mayor. It enables the Common Sergeant, however, to hold the Court in the absence of the Recorder, or when the office of Recorder is vacant. With regard to the Central Criminal Court, it is proposed that the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen shall cease to form an essential part of that tribunal.

I now approach a most important branch of the subject, where, again, the Bill follows pretty closely the recommendations of the Commissioners. I allude to the exclusive rights of trading possessed by freemen of the City. In treating of this question the Commissioners advert to the principle established by the Municipal Reform Act, namely— That not with standing any custom or bylaw of a Corporation, 'every person in any borough may keep any shop for the sale of all lawful wares or merchandises, by wholesale or retail, and use every lawful trade, occupation, mystery, and handicraft, for hire, gain, sale, or otherwise, within every borough.' The Commissioners proceed to say— We propose to extend this enactment, both in its letter and its spirit, to the Corporation of London. It appears to us that if the Legislature has thought fit to abolish the trade privileges and monopolies which were possessed by the country corporations, the same measure is applicable, on still stronger grounds, to the same class of privileges and monopolies in the City of London; inasmuch as the latter is the great centre of English commerce, and it is therefore peculiarly important that all the operations of trade should be freed from needless and vexatious restrictions within its limits. And they recommend that all laws and acts of the Common Council prohibiting persons, not being freemen of the City, from carrying on any trade, retail or otherwise, or from using any art, occupation, or handicraft within the City, be repealed and abolished. In this recommendation, it would appear from the resolution they have lately passed with regard to reform in the City, the Common Council have expressed their concurrence; and, in accordance with that recommendation, the Bill proposes to abolish all exclusive rights of trading, or, in other words, all rights prohibiting persons, not freemen, from trading within the City. It is also proposed to abolish other rights which, though they do not come within the letter of the Municipal Reform Act, are yet within its spirit, the abolition of which is likewise recommended by the Commissioners. The first of these is the right of metage of all grain, fruit, wares, and merchandise brought into the port of London. This right is exercised by usage confirmed by a charter of James I., and it is not confined to goods landed within the limits of the City, but extends to all goods landed on either side of the river from Staines, in Middlesex, to Yantlet Creek, in Kent. The claim of the City to this right has been disputed, but the suit has never been brought to an actual decision. Something in the nature of a compromise, I believe, took place, by which the exercise of the right was made less onerous to the parties interested. The Bill also proposes to abolish the monopoly of the porterage of grain and other measurable articles within the port of London, at present exercised by the fellowship of porters. It is also proposed to abolish all tolls on carts not belonging to freemen passing through the City; and here, again, I may say that the Common Council has been beforehand with Parliament in concurring in this recommendation; and even before the issue of the last Commission, I believe, it was stated to be the wish of the Corporation that this toll should be abolished. It is proposed, further, to repeal all enactments requiring brokers to be admitted by the Court of Aldermen, and payment by them of £5 annually to the Corporation; and also to repeal the restriction on the grant by the Crown of any market within seven miles of the City. These are all rights which it is proposed to abolish which interfere with trade; and looking to the spirit of our recent legislation—to the course which has been taken with regard to other municipal bodies, and to the great advantage which must be derived by all persons trading in the City of London from the abolition of these rights—and looking, moreover, at the spirit evinced by the Corporation of the City not to insist upon these rights, but to abandon such, of them as are felt to be onerous, I think we may fairly anticipate that these provisions of the Bill will meet with the approbation of the House.

It is further proposed, as recommended by the Commissioners, to regulate certain rights at present existing between the City of London and the borough of Southwark.

There is one matter of difficulty and importance connected with the tolls levied by the City of London to which I must now call the attention of the House—it is the coal duties. In page 19 of the Report of the Commissioners, will be found a very elaborate and clear statement of the nature of these duties, of the terms for which they are levied, and of the charges to which they are subject. It is too long to read now, but I will briefly state its substance. These duties are three. There is, first of all, the 4d. duty, which now consists of a duty of 4d. per ton, but which, in 1862, will become a duty of 4d. per chaldron, in which form it would be a permanent duty, having been conferred on the Corporation in exchange for a right of metage of coal now abandoned by them. It amounted in 1852 to a net sum of £54,141. I should state that that duty is very heavily charged; for while the Corporation has collected these duties it has devoted them to metropolitan improvements—not metropolitan merely as applied to the narrow limits of the City, but spread over the whole area of the metropolis; it does not appear in any way that the Corporation has shown a disposition to make a bad use of these coal duties. This 4d. duty is now charged with a principal sum of £580,000 for the Cannon Street improvement, together with a compensation allowance to sea-coal meters of some £7,000 or £8,000 a year. The second of these duties is the 8d. duty, the net produce of which, in 1852, was above £113,000. This sum, together with an annual payment of £11,500 from the City's estate, a small duty on wine, and some other petty sources of income, constitutes a fund denominated the "London Bridge Approaches Fund." This fund is subject to an annual charge amounting to about £12,200. The 8d. duty is not a permanent duty. It will expire in 1862; but it is calculated that before that period the charges to which it is liable will have been discharged from its proceeds. There remains the 1d. duty, making a total of 13d. per ton levied by the Corporation on coals. This 1d. duty amounted, in 1852, to £14,397, and the whole of this sum, subject to a small charge for collection, is payable to the Commissioners of Works for Metropolitan Improvements. This duty also expires in 1862. In considering these duties, one material fact must be borne in mind; they are not levied upon coals brought strictly into the City of London, but on an area very far beyond it—upon all coals brought either by land or by water into a district extending twenty miles in all directions from the General Post Office— The coal duty district," say the Commissioners,"exceeds in size the metropolis of the Registrar General, the district of the Commissioners of Metropolitan Police, of the Metropolitan Commissioners of Sewers, and the metropolitan district of the Postmaster General, and its extent would be great even if the limits of the London Corporation were conterminous with those of the existing metropolis. They then go on to say— The collection of all the three classes of duties is conducted by the Corporation; but, inasmuch as the Corporation directly represents only a small portion of the metropolis, Parliament has made it a mere trustee with regard to 9–13ths of the amount, and this portion is applied by it to specified purposes of general metropolitan utility. They state that, for reasons similar to those which induced them to recommend the abolition of the metage dues, they think that the present arrangement, by which the Corporation levies a duty on coals over a district extending twenty miles from the General Post Office, ought not to be continued. In a subsequent part of the Report will be found other recommendations with respect to these duties; but in this instance the Bill will not correspond with the recommendations of the Commissioners. The Commissioners recommend that these duties should be taken away from the City altogether, and placed in the hands of the Metropolitan Board of Works, to be applied by that Board to the same general purposes to which they have been applied in the hands of the Corporation, subject, of course, to the charges which already exist, and which have been created with respect to these metropolitan improvements. In dealing with this subject the Government have come to the conclusion that simply to transfer these taxes from the Corporation of the City to any other body within the precincts of the metropolis would leave untouched the great grievance of the imposition of this tax upon persons who derive no benefit whatever from the manner in which it is appropriated. It should also be remembered that, in sanctioning the appointment of the Metropolitan Board of Works, Parliament has given to that Board the power of raising money to defray the expense of any improvements it may undertake in the usual way in which other Boards of that nature raise money—by means of rates imposed on the persons who are to benefit by these improvements. The decision to which the Government has come, then, with respect to these coal duties is, not to propose any renewal of the 8d. and 1d. duties, which will expire in 1862, it being calculated that the charges to which they are liable will be liquidated by that time, and to keep up the 4d. duty only so long as may be necessary to liquidate the charge of £580,000, and the other charges upon it, and then to allow it to expire.

The next point to which I come is the conservancy of the river Thames, which is at present vested in the hands of the Corporation. The duties of conservancy extend from Staines to the waters of Yantlet, at the junction of the Thames with the Medway. They are divided into two branches—those above and those below bridge—and both branches are exercised by a Committee of the Common Council, called the Thames Navigation Committee, and are regulated by various Acts of Parliament. It is proposed in the Bill to place the conservancy of the river in the hands of a Board, consisting of the Lord Mayor, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the President of the Board of Trade, one of the Commissioners of Woods, and the Deputy Master of the Trinity House, who would have power to employ persons having the requisite professional knowledge for performing the duties of the conservancy under their general direction. I should say that no net revenue is derived by the Corporation from the conservancy of the Thames. There is now a question at issue between the Corporation of the City and the Crown with regard to certain rights along the banks and shores of the river; but the Corporation themselves state—and I believe with perfect truth—that the proceedings now pending in Chancery are not at all connected with the exercise of rights of conservancy. Those proceedings refer to rights claimed by prescription, independently of any rights of conservancy; and the claim is disputed by the Crown. I believe the questions which are the subject of litigation will be determined by the courts of law at a very early period, and it is not proposed by this Bill to touch those questions. If the City succeeds in the suit, it will be left in the possession of its rights and property. If the Crown succeeds, it will obtain possession of those rights and property as if this Bill had not been passed. All that the Bill proposes shall be transferred in respect of the conservancy of the river are, those tolls and dues which are now collected by the City, not as a source of revenue to themselves, but to meet the expenses of the conservancy, and these will be handed over to the body in whom the conservancy of the river will in future be vested. The Bill further proposes to abolish the exclusive rights of the Company of Watermen to navigate the Thames between Yantlet Creek and Windsor, but prohibits persons not now authorised to carry passengers from doing so without a licence from the Board of Conservators established under the Bill.

The next subject to which I shall advert is that of the police; and here, again, the Government have determined not to act upon the recommendations of the Commissioners, not from any doubt as to the general expediency of those recommendations, or the correctness of the theory upon which they are founded, but from considerations which I will briefly explain. The Commissioners recommend that the City police should be incorporated with the metropolitan police; and they found that recommendation on considerations of efficiency and economy. If there were no police force now existing in the City of London, I think there can be no doubt that it would be right for Parliament to adopt the recommendation of the Commissioners, and not to except a small portion of a large metropolitan district from the general superintendence to which the police force of that district is subjected. There is no doubt an anomaly, as the Commissioners point out, in leaving the police of the small area within the limits of the City under a separate management and control from that of the metropolitan police force, which is spread over a very large area, completely embracing the City; but the anomaly applies to the existence of a municipal corporation within that limited area, rather than to that which may be considered as the almost necessary consequence of the existence of such a Corporation—the possession of those powers with regard to a police force which it is proposed to leave in the hands of the Corporation of London. If this were a new claim made by the City of London, I think there would be no reason for entertaining it; but we find that, under the powers of an Act of Parliament passed some years ago—in 1839—a most efficient body of police was established, which has since been in operation under the control of a very able and efficient Commissioner; and, although I will not say that no inconvenience has arisen in practice from the existence of the City police as altogether distinct from the metropolitan police, I will say, from the considerable experience I have had, that no inconvenience of a serious character has been felt. Harmony and co-operation have existed between the metropolitan and the City police, and between the Government and the authorities of the City of London. The utmost readiness has always been displayed by the authorities of the City to listen to any suggestions which have been made by the Government with regard to the employment of the police, and, whenever it has been thought necessary to strengthen the police force within the City by reinforcements from the metropolitan police, the arrangement has been readily acquiesced in by the authorities of the City, and perfect harmony has existed between the two bodies. While I admit, then, that in theory it would be far better to place the whole police force of the metropolitan districts under one general system of management and control, still, as there exists within the narrow limits of the City a Corporation of great dignity and importance, and possessing great influence and power, I think a strong case of practical inconvenience should be established—stronger than any which I am prepared to say has yet arisen—to induce Parliament to leave that Corporation in a position in which no municipal corporation in the country is placed—namely, without any police force under its own management. We do not, therefore, propose to make any alteration with regard to the City police, which will be left as it now stands. I must say, however, that this is no precedent for an appeal which, as I learn from the newspapers, is to be made to me at an early period by public bodies created under the Metropolitan Management Act of last Session, who desire to have the control of the police within the limits of their respective jurisdictions. I think the greatest inconvenience would arise from breaking up the metropolitan police into small sections, and placing them under the control of these local bodies. In conceding to the City of London the retention of a power which it has hitherto exercised, and which of late years it has exercised well and efficiently, we are constituting no precedent whatever for a claim which I think the Government could not for a moment entertain, and which I do not believe that Parliament would be disposed to concede.

There is one other point with regard to which the recommendation of the Commissioners is not strictly adopted in this Bill. I have alluded to the Court of Aldermen as a court of magistrates, the duties which they perform under the title of the "Court of Aldermen" being not, strictly speaking, magisterial. There is no doubt that the magisterial duties of the Aldermen of London have hitherto, generally speaking, been extremely well performed. The Commissioners themselves refer to the manner in which the Aldermen have discharged the duties connected with the inspection of prisons. While Aldermen were elected for life, there could be no objection to their acting as magistrates during the whole period of their tenure of office; but, if it is deemed necessary, in accordance with the general principles applied to other municipal corporations, to reduce the term during which Aldermen of the City hold office from life tenure to a short period of years, and if Aldermen arc eligible for reelection at the expiration of the six years for which they are originally appointed, I think it would be most objectionable to allow them to act as magistrates—using the term in its fullest sense—during their tenure of office as Aldermen. The Commissioners of 1837, alluding to this subject, observed, that the continual re-election of magistrates by a popular constituency was a violation of a principle hitherto almost universally recognised in this country. I am not aware of any case in which such election of magistrates now occurs, except in the case of the mayor of a borough, who is a magistrate during his year of mayoralty, and during the year following his retirement from office; but none of the aldermen of municipal corporations are necessarily magistrates. The Commissioners of 1837 did not contemplate the permanent retention by the Aldermen of the City, under a new constitution, of their ordinary criminal jurisdiction, but they proposed that the City of London should be empowered to apply to the Crown, as is done by other corporations, to appoint a stipendiary magistrate, who should exercise police jurisdiction within the limits of the City. The Commissioners anticipated that if one or more police magistrates should be appointed, the Aldermen would retire from the discharge of police duties, and would confine themselves to those duties which may be termed civil duties, similar to those which are performed by the aldermen of other corporations. I do not wish, however, to leave the matter in this position. The City of London might not think it right to apply for the appointment of police magistrates, or, if police magistrates were appointed, the Aldermen, retaining their magisterial character to its full extent, might not be inclined to retire from the exercise of their functions, and might insist on exercising a police jurisdiction co-ordinately with the stipendiary magistrates. After fully considering the subject, we propose in this Bill that the Aldermen of the City shall be magistrates only for the discharge of that civil business to which I have adverted; that the City shall be thrown into the metropolitan police district for the purposes of the Police Courts Act, though not for purposes of police; and that either a new police district shall be created consisting of the City, or that the City shall be thrown into the general metropolitan district, so that criminal police jurisdiction may be exercised by stipendiary magistrates, as throughout the metropolitan district. The Aldermen of the City will be placed by this arrangement precisely on the same footing as the magistrates of the county of Middlesex, who are excluded from criminal police jurisdiction, but who perform with great advantage to their fellow-citizens and to the public civil duties—such as the care and inspection of prisons, asylums, &c., similar to those which have hitherto been so well discharged by the Aldermen of London.

There is one other subject with regard to which the recommendations of the Commissioners are not carried into effect by this Bill—I allude to their recommendations with reference to the Irish Society. Those recommendations are rather general and indefinite. The subject is one to which a good deal of attention has been paid, but which requires much more consideration than it has yet received before we can propose to Parliament arrangements respecting the Society. It does not necessarily form part of the present Bill, and I think the affairs of the Irish Society may more usefully be dealt with in a separate Bill, and we therefore propose to reserve the subject for future consideration.

I have now stated the principal provisions of the Bill which I shall ask leave to introduce. I am sure the measure will receive the calm and dispassionate consideration of Parliament; and I anticipate, from the communications I have had with gentlemen connected with the City of London, that they will give fair consideration to the different proposals which it involves. I shall afford ample time for considering the details of the Bill, for I felt it my duty to refuse a request that the Corporation of the City might be allowed to see the measure before it was submitted to Parliament, because I thought it right to follow the ordinary course, and in the first instance to explain the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Government to this House. With the disposition which the City have hitherto evinced, and which I hope they will continue to evince—with the disposition which I doubt not will be entertained by Parliament to give a fair consideration to the whole of its provisions, and with that attention which is due to the importance of the subject—I trust its result will be to give greater efficiency to the Corporation of the City of London, to strengthen its influence, and to increase its usefulness. I may, in conclusion, express a hope that the anticipations of the Commissioners, in the concluding paragraph of their Report, will be fully realised:— That the changes in the constitution of the Corporation which they have indicated, and which are founded upon the recognised policy of the country with respect to municipal boroughs, will place it on a more solid and enlarged basis, and that the Corporation will continue, under an amended system, to possess abundant means, not only for purposes of public usefulness, but also for the exercise of a decent hospitality and splendour. I move for leave to bring in a Bill for the better regulation of the Corporation of the City of London.


fancied that any one who heard the speech of the right hon. Baronet might have supposed that he was proposing to confer a great extent of privileges on the Corporation of London. He did not, however, rise at present to make any objection to what the right hon. Baronet had stated, but he wished to know when it was likely that the Bill, relating to a matter of so much importance, and involving the rights of the Corporation and the rights of property, would come on for a second reading? One part of the right hon. Baronet's statement—that relating to the coal duties—he thought was not characterised by the right hon. Baronet's usual frankness, for he ought to have told the House that the Corporation acted in the capacity of mere trustees for the public, in reference to the 8d. and the 1d. duties. The Corporation collected the money, and handed it over to the Government. [Sir G. GREY intimated that he had said so.] He (Sir J. Duke) did not hear the right hon. Gentleman say so. With regard to the appointment of magistrates, the right hon. Gentleman did not say whether it was to be in the hands of the Crown or the Corporation. [Sir G. GREY: The Crown.] He (Sir J. Duke) would only further say, that the Corporation would give the most anxious consideration to the measure, but they ought to have fair time to consider its provisions.


said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down seemed to have, expected that the Bill would confer some benefit upon the Corporation of London. The right hon. Baronet had stated that it would be of the greatest benefit to the citizens of London, and that, ought to be considered a benefit to the Corporation. It was a measure which would make the Corporation what it was in days of yore—the most important body in the kingdom next to the Houses of Parliament—and would enable it to execute its functions in the most efficient manner, so as to form an example, if necessary, to all the corporations in the country. He thought the greatest praise was due to the Commissioners for their examination into the affairs of the Corporation, which at one time thought itself too strong for Parliament to deal with, and had boasted that, if the House of Lords agreed to any measure of City Corporation Reform, that hereditary branch of the Legislature would place itself in imminent danger. He did not, however, think there was much danger to the House of Lords even if the Bill should be carried. As an old citizen, he thanked the Secretary for the Home Department for having attended to the excellent suggestions of the Commissioners.


said, he did not rise to make any objection to the introduction of the Bill, which, he had no doubt, would be considered by the Corporation of the City of London in a fair spirit. All that he would add was his hope that ample time would be given for due deliberation on the provisions of the measure, and he should therefore like to know for what day the second reading would be fixed?


said that, with the permission of the House, he would bring in the Bill that evening. He had no wish to press the Bill forward with undue haste, but at the same time he should not like to propose any delay which might be attended with risk to the passing of the measure. He should fix the second reading for the 21st instant, or three weeks from the present day. With respect to what had fallen from the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, in reference to the coal duties, he wished to state that he thought he read a passage from the Report of the Commissioners, in which they stated that the City acted as trustees for the public.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir GEORGE GREY, VISCOUNT PALMERSTON, and Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL.

Bill read 1°.

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