HC Deb 05 February 1856 vol 140 cc229-45

I rise, Sir, to move for leave to bring in a Bill to render more efficient the police in counties and boroughs in England and Wales. In the course of the last Session I stated, in answer to a question addressed to me by one of the hon. Members for South Devonshire, that, although it was not the intention of the Government to propose any measure that year for the purpose of establishing a general system of police throughout the country, yet that my attention would be directed to the subject during the recess, with the view to the introduction of some measure during this Session on the subject. At a later period the hon. Member for East Kent (Mr. Deedes) withdrew a Parish Constables Bill which had passed a second reading, after a similar intimation from me. In fulfilment of that pledge I now propose to ask leave from the House to lay upon the table a Bill which is the result of the best consideration and attention I have been able to give to the subject. This Bill is not prepared with a view to establish one uniform system of police throughout the country under one central head, similar to that recommended by the Commission of 1839, which, though it might theoretically be the best system, would not, I am afraid, meet with much support in the country, from its interfering so largely with the different local authorities in counties and boroughs, in whose hands the management of the police is now vested. My object is to provide as efficient a police force, both for counties and boroughs, as is possible under the existing system of local management. I do not propose now to take up the time of the House by entering into statistics to prove the necessity of a police force, or to show the results which have followed in those counties and boroughs where such a force has been established. All those facts have been collected by the Committee who sat in 1853, and may be found in their Report. That Committee agreed to a string of Resolutions, some unanimously, and others by a large majority, which I think are deserving of the attention of the House. They resolved that the failure of the existing Rural Police Act to provide a general constabulary force for the prevention of crime and security of property is owing to the permissive character of those enactments, and they reported their opinion of the advantages, moral, social, and economical, in those districts, which had adopted a rural police; and in another Resolution they stated that, while admitting the usefulness of superintending constables, appointed under the 5 & 6 Vict., they regarded them as quite inadequate to fulfil the duties of a police force. They recommended the consolidation of smaller boroughs for police purposes, and the assimilation of the police in large boroughs to the county police; and in the seventh Resolution they express their opinion that some aid should be afforded by the Government towards defraying the cost of an improved and extended system of police, without essentially interfering with its local management. They concluded their Report by recommending the early introduction of a Bill for providing a more efficient police force throughout Great Britain. I will now shortly state to the House what is the law at the present moment with regard to the police of counties and boroughs. And, first, as to counties. As a result of the Commission of 1839, two Bills were passed—the 2 Vict., c. 93, and the 3 & 4 Vict., c. 88—founded on the evidence collected by that Commission, and partly on its recommendations, though in some respects it fell far short of them, by which it was made optional with the justices of any county to adopt a county constabulary or not. It is left to the justices to determine how many constables are to be appointed, subject, however, to a proviso that the number shall not exceed one in every 1,000 of the inhabitants. The Secretary of State by it has power to make rules for their government pay, clothing, and accoutrements. A chief constable is appointed by the justices, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, and each chief constable has the power of appointing and dismissing ordinary constables. The result has been that a county police force has been established in twenty-four counties and in the Isle of Ely; and under a particular clause, which enables portions of counties to avail themselves of the Act, a similar force has been established in certain districts of seven other counties. There are twenty counties, including two Ridings of Yorkshire, which have not adopted the Act. There is a great variation in the proportion which the police bears to the population in different counties—the highest proportion is, I believe, one in 1,128 in the county of Southampton, the lowest is one in 5,333 in the county of Cumberland. I come now to the state of the law with regard to boroughs, and in the case of these the law makes that imperative which is optional in counties. By the Municipal Act, 5 & 6 Wm. IV., c. 76, the town-councils of corporate boroughs are required to appoint watch committees, and these watch committees are required to appoint a sufficient number of fit constables to keep the peace by day and night within the borough, and to protect the persons and property of the inhabitants. In many of the larger boroughs, such as Liverpool and Birmingham, a most efficient police force has been established and maintained; but in other cases the result, I am sorry to say, has been very different, and that notwithstanding that the attention of the authorities has been repeatedly called to the inadequacy of the force, when, owing to disturbances in the borough or the immediate neighbourhood, they have applied for troops to perform a duty which ought primarily to be discharged by the police. I will mention a few boroughs in which the police force is inadequate to the wants of the place. In Stockport, with a population of 54,000 persons, there were, until a short time ago, only fifteen constables. In consequence of a circular which I addressed to the authorities of various boroughs that number has been increased to twenty-four. In Wigan there are eleven constables to a population of 32,000; in Ashton-under-Line, seventeen constables to a population of about 30,000. It is impossible to say that these are efficient police forces. There is no direct means of enforcing the performance of the duty, imposed upon the councils of boroughs; and, while obeying the letter of the Act, the corporations have, in some instances, altogether disregarded its spirit. There is, besides, a large class of boroughs in which, from the smallness of their population, it is impossible that a really efficient police force can be maintained. There are no less than sixty-four boroughs, each having a population of less than 5,000, which are within the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act, and have a jurisdiction independent of the county in which they are situated. While the powers of borough constables appointed under that Act extend to the county, county constables have no corresponding power within the limits of boroughs. In the 3 & 4 Vict., c. 88, which was the second Constabulary Act, there was a provision that for police purposes boroughs might, by voluntary agreement, be united with the county; and of this provision thirteen boroughs, having a population of about 62,000 persons, have availed themselves. Such being the law, and such having been its results, I will now state to the House the plan which I shall submit to it for the improvement of the police, both in counties and boroughs. It is impossible to deny that, after the experience of the present Constabulary Acts, which have been in force sixteen years, twenty counties still remaining without a constabulary, and after the testimony which has been borne to the beneficial results of their operation wherever they have been adopted, the time has come when the existing option ought to be abolished, and there ought to be imposed upon justices of the peace an obligation to adopt the provisions of these Acts within their respective counties. The first provision of the Bill, therefore, will be to substitute for the present option that compulsory obligation. I do not, however, propose to interfere with any of the provisions of the existing Acts with regard to fixing the number of constables, the appointment of chief constable, or the control which the magistrates exercise over the county constabulary. Acting, however, upon the fifth Resolution of the Committee of 1853, I propose to give power to the Queen in Council—to compel magistrates, in certain cases where it is expedient, to divide counties for police purposes into districts. The Resolution of the Committee was as follows—

ResolvedThat where the population of separate districts within the same county differs in amount and in the character of its employments, and consequently in its requirements for a police force, an equitable adjustment of the police rate to meet those cases should be provided for by enactment, and that such an arrangement would tend to remove the objections now partially entertained against the adoption of the Rural Police Act. I next propose to give to county constables the same authority within boroughs situated in the county for which they act as the constables of boroughs now exercise within the counties in which the boroughs are situated, and likewise to extend their authority, like that of existing borough constables, to a certain portion of the adjoining counties. With regard to boroughs, I do not wish to take the management of the police out of the hands of the watch committees; but I propose to give to the Secretary of State the same power of making rules for the government, pay, and clothing of borough constables, as he now possesses with respect to those of the county. Gentlemen who represent or reside in counties in which the county police is established well know that a series of regulations was, soon after the passing of the Bills to which I have referred, prepared by the Government for the adoption of the justices. Those regulations are, I believe, generally acquiesced in as promoting the efficiency of the county constabulary force, and I think it would be desirable to give to the Secretary of State power to make similar regulations in regard to the police forces of boroughs. County constables are at present disqualified from voting at or taking part in county elections; and that disqualification I propose to extend to borough constables. [An hon. Member: Parliamentary elections?] As the Bill stands, it refers only to Parliamentary elections. I propose to require both county and borough constables to perform all duties required of them by justices in quarter sessions, or watch committees of boroughs, or by regulations made by the Secretary of State. A good deal of evidence was given before the Committee of 1853, and may be found in the Appendix to the Report of that Committee, showing that a considerable saving may be effected by imposing upon the police the performance of certain functions which do not interfere with their primary duties as police-constables, and which may be most efficiently performed by them. Another provision of the Bill will give to the Crown power to appoint inspectors to inquire periodically into the state and efficiency of county and borough police, such inspectors to report to the Secretary of State, and their Reports to be subsequently laid before Parliament. I now come to the seventh Resolution of the Committee, which recommends that some assistance should be given by the Government to the establishment of a system of police throughout the country. That Resolution is in these terms—

ResolvedThat, taking into consideration the aid afforded—hitherto partially and gratuitously—by the rural police for the protection of the revenue, the valuable services it has rendered for the maintenance of order, and in promoting the observance of the laws, in reducing the cost of prosecutions, and the effectual protection it gives to life and property of every description, by which the holders of a large amount of property not contributing to the police rate are greatly benefited, it is the opinion of your Committee that it is a matter worthy the consideration of the House whether some aid should not be afforded by the Government towards defraying the cost of an improved and extended system of police, without essentially interfering with the local management of that force. The Commission of 1839 also recommended that, in the event of their system being adopted, one-fourth of the expense should be defrayed from the Consolidated Fund, while the other three-fourths should be derived from county rates and other local sources. In addition to the arguments urged by the Committee in favour of this suggestion, circumstances have since occurred which give to it additional weight and authority. I allude to the important alteration that was made in the same year by the abolition, in the majority of criminal cases, of the punishment of transportation, and the substitution of a system of penal servitude, by which a large number of offenders formerly sent abroad, and who never returned to this country, are retained here, cither on the expiration of their sentences, or with revocable licences entitling the persons holding them to regain their liberty after they had served an allotted period of their sentence. Under the former system a very large expenditure was incurred by this country in Australia under the heads of police and gaols. Since the abolition of transportation that charge has been in process of diminution, and it is to be hoped will eventually disappear. A portion of it, however, has been transferred to this country, and there is, therefore, the greater reason why a portion of the cost of maintaining the police should be borne by the general revenue of the nation. I do not propose to fix any particular sum to be paid out of the public Revenue on account of the police establishment in every county and borough; but what I propose is in effect this—that upon a certificate of the Secretary of State, founded on the report of the inspectors, attesting the efficiency in numbers and discipline during the preceding year of the police of any county or borough, it shall be competent for the Treasury to pay out of moneys to be provided by Parliament a sum not exceeding one-fourth of the expense incurred for the pay and clothing of such police. The money thus granted will not constitute a fixed charge upon the Consolidated Fund, but will be voted annually, so that it will be every year in the power of Parliament to satisfy itself that the Government has exercised the authority confided to it in a judicious and impartial manner. If this discretionary power be given to the Government it will relieve me from the necessity of doing what at one time I had thought might be necessary—namely, to propose that, with a view to prevent the spirit of the law being evaded, while the letter was complied with, there should be reserved the power of compelling the county and borough authorities by an Order in Council to increase the number of police to an efficient standard. On mature consideration, however, I felt that serious objections might be urged against the adoption of such a course. I have no doubt that those in whose hands is vested the management of the police would be disposed to treat the Order in Council with all becoming respect; but still there might be an inclination to dispute the grounds on which that Order had been issued, and it might be no easy matter to compel a reluctant body of magistrates to do what might be necessary in order to place the police establishment upon a satisfactory footing. On the whole, I therefore thought it better not to ask Parliament to place any such power in the hands of the Government; and another reason which has influenced me is, that if it were granted it would be necessary to establish a maximum of sufficiency universal in its application—a matter of extreme difficulty, since what would be a sufficient maximum for one part of the country might be altogether inadequate to the requirements of another district differently circumstanced, while the maximum fixed in the Act might probably be taken as the general standard, though a very insufficient one. A discretionary power in the Treasury to issue a grant will stimulate magistrates and watch committees to keep up their police in a state of efficiency. The next topic to which I would advert is the recommendation of the Commissioners with respect to the consolidation of small boroughs. It cannot be denied that in the case of many small boroughs the object we have in view would be materially promoted by such a proceeding; but, on the other hand, there are serious practical difficulties in the way of a compulsory consolidation, and we have thought it better, at least for the present, not to insist on such a measure. We do not, therefore, intend to propose the compulsory consolidation of boroughs, but it is to be understood that the sixty-four boroughs to which I have already alluded as not having populations amounting to 5,000, will not be included in the arrangement for defraying a portion of the expense from the Treasury. As it is obvious that in places so circumstanced there can be no efficient police, without consolidation, I propose that there shall be no assistance from the Treasury to any borough whose population did not at the last census exceed 5,000, and which is not so consolidated. Thus there will be no inducement to the small boroughs to keep aloof from the surrounding community, but rather the strongest inducement to become consolidated with the county. With a view, however, to facilitate consolidation and to prevent a borough being excluded from its benefits by the refusal of a county, the Bill provides that upon the representation of the town council of any borough, of whatever population, that they have applied to the magistrates of the county for consolidation, and that either through indisposition on the part of the justices, or because of some dispute as to the terms, their application was not granted, the Queen shall have power to define by an Order in Council the terms on which the consolidation shall be effected, so that no borough shall have to complain that it was excluded from the benefits of the Act against its own will. The question of cost now remains, and, without attempting to estimate accurately the whole expense of the project, I should be disposed to say that £200,000 would more than cover the burden on the public revenue. Owing to the peculiar nature of the laws respecting the police in Scotland, it has not been found practicable to extend the Bill to that part of the United Kingdom, but a special measure is in preparation by my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, and the estimated cost for both countries will, probably, not exceed £220,000 or £230,000. The Bill which I now ask the permission of the House to introduce may not meet the views of those who desire a strictly uniform system of police; but I had no ambition to frame a Bill which, however perfect in theory, had little chance of being adopted by Parliament. My object was rather to prepare a measure which, while it respects the present system of local management and corporate control, will tend to increase in a most material degree the efficiency of the county and borough police throughout the country.


I have heard, Sir, with very great pleasure, the statement of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary relative to one of the most important subjects connected with his department; and I must also express my satisfaction that Her Majesty's Government have at length determined to meet the general wish entertained by this House and the country that this question should no longer be left in the uncertain state in which it has stood for many years, but should be definitively dealt with by the Legislature. It is gratifying, likewise, to find that the Government have wisely resolved to comply with the recommendation made by the Commission which sat as long ago as the year 1839, and of which you, Sir, were a distinguished Member—namely, that the cost of maintaining an efficient police should be at least partially borne by the general revenues of the country; and my only apprehension is, that the impression produced on the public mind by this measure will be that the terms which it offers can hardly operate as a sufficient inducement to counties and boroughs to introduce in their respective districts the new arrangements. For myself, I could have wished that the Government had shown a disposition to contribute more liberally towards the expenses of the country police, and then the system of inspectorship which the right hon. Gentleman very judiciously proposes, coupled with the power of withdrawing the pecuniary assistance of the State in eases where the reports as to the efficiency of the force were unfavourable, would have been likely to prove more satisfactory. I will not now, however, express too decided an opinion on these points; I merely throw out this suggestion for the right hon. Gentleman's future consideration. The next, and, perhaps, the most important feature of his plan is the provision rendering it compulsory on all counties to establish a rural police, a proposal to which I give my unqualified adhesion, as I believe that anything short of it must necessarily fail to meet the requirements of the case; and I concur with the right hon. Baronet in thinking it very improbable that any county will hereafter have reason to regret the constraint that this Bill will impose upon it. As to the county with which I am connected—Worcester—I can speak with confidence in this matter. In the year 1839 it became my duty, as soon as the Rural Police Act passed, to propose its adoption in that county. The proposal was assented to, and, although some dissatisfaction was felt for a time on account of its expense, yet since then the general feeling of the county has been that of contentment on the subject; and last autumn, indeed, the number of the police in Worcestershire was considerably increased. The right hon. Baronet also touched upon one of the most difficult parts of the question in alluding to the sentiments of the boroughs regarding their non-amalgamation with the counties. It is well known that one of the chief and almost the only obstacle encountered in those counties which have adopted the rural police has sprung from an unwise and unworthy jealousy between boroughs and counties on the question of police. The right hon. Gentleman certainly proposes a remedy for this evil, which is a good one as far as it goes—namely, that as the borough police have now power to act within the counties, so the police of each county shall have power to act within the boroughs. But I wish that he had gone further, and proposed, with regard to the small boroughs—taking, if he pleases, his limit of 5,000 inhabitants—to make it compulsory on them to amalgamate their force with that of the counties. In my own county two small boroughs have availed themselves of the power of effecting this junction, and the result has been most beneficial, the boroughs never having had cause to repent the step which they took. I may have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, but there seems to me to be this defect in his scheme—that, while he renders it compulsory on the counties to introduce the Police Act, he does not, apparently to me, define the extent to which the compulsion is to go. I quite agree with him that it would be unwise to attempt to assimilate the police force in every county to one common standard, so as to produce a uniform amount of force throughout the entire country; but it strikes me that, following out his own principle, it would be prudent to prescribe some minimum, as compared with the population, below which they should not be allowed to descend; otherwise I am afraid he will find, as he has told us to-night is already the case in certain boroughs, that some of the counties adopting his measure will have it in their power, while complying with the letter, to evade the spirit and intention of the law. I will not detain the House with any further comments on this Bill, which will be shortly before us; but I must express my hope that this question, which is wholly removed from the sphere of party politics, will be calmly and impartially considered on all sides. The general outlines of the measure seem to me to be founded on sound and safe principles; and, so far as my humble influence goes, I shall be most ready to lend my assistance to the Government in carrying it through this House.


said, he thought the measure was conceived in a spirit of moderation, which ought to bespeak for it the fair consideration of every county member. The enforcement of a minimum number of police for each county, as suggested by his right hon. Friend who spoke last, would be very undesirable. The large county which he represented (Lincolnshire) was already sufficiently provided, or nearly so, with a constabulary force, without the introduction of any compulsory measure to increase it. He would give the Bill his support, because, although coercive in some of its provisions, it made the State liable for a, portion of the expense that would attend its adoption. A few years ago an inquiry was instituted as to what addition would be necessary to the county rates in order to raise the rural police of Lincolnshire to the standard of two of the adjoining counties; and it was found that they would require to be doubled. Now, he understood the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey) to propose that the amount of the State's contribution towards the expense of the county police should be fixed at the discretion of the Secretary of State.


The right hon. Gentleman makes a mistake. Practically, the contribution of the State will not exceed one-fourth of the entire expense; but whenever the inspector reports that the police of any county are deficient in number or in discipline, and the Secretary of State thinks he would not be justified in granting the certificate upon the presentation of which alone the amount can be issued by the Treasury, no portion whatever of the cost of maintaining the police of that particular county shall be defrayed from the general revenue of the country.


said, he understood, then, that the county the police of which was reported to be efficient would receive one-fourth of the expense and no more. [SIR G. GREY assented.] In that case he could only say that he was entirely in favour of the inspection proposed to be instituted by the Bill; but he had hoped that the proportion of the cost to be paid from the Consolidated Fund would be more liberal. The inhabitants of the county he represented were desirous that an efficient police force should be established, and he, therefore, would be ready to give the Bill his most careful consideration.


said that, in the first place he felt bound to thank the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary for having thus redeemed the pledge he had given. He (Mr. Deedes) had, on former occasions, submitted to the House measures on this subject, and in doing so he had been actuated simply by a desire to improve the existing police system. He felt bound, therefore, to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the Bill he had proposed, the general provisions of which seemed to him to have been well considered. He thought, however, in common with other Gentlemen who had spoken on the subject, that the right hon. Baronet had made a mistake in limiting the terms upon which public money might be applied to the purposes contemplated by this measure, and he believed that if the sum granted by the Treasury were to depend upon the reports of the inspectors there would be constant disagreements between the officers who discharged such duties and those who had the immediate direction of the police in counties and boroughs. He did not quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that in those counties in which the present Rural Police Act had been adopted there had been a proportionate diminution of crime; but if occurrences which had recently happened rendered it necessary that a more efficient police force should be established, and if that was the general feeling of the country, he (Mr. Deedes) would readily afford any assistance in his power towards framing as good a measure as could be devised for carrying out such an object; but at the same time he must say he did not think that a necessity existed for the application of the same principle to every part of the country.


said, he had listened with great satisfaction to the statement of the right hon. Baronet, and he had also been much gratified to find that the principle of the Bill—which he hoped would receive the sanction of the House—seemed to be generally approved. He understood that the certificate for a grant was only to be given in cases in which the inspectors and the Government were satisfied that an efficient police had been established; he believed, however, that condition would be complied with by every county in England.


said, he hoped that full opportunity would be afforded for maturely considering the various provisions of the Bill.


said, he believed that a measure of this kind was imperatively called for by the state of the country, but he thought some of the provisions of the Bill would require very close and careful consideration. It had been shown before a Committee of which he was a member, that in some boroughs the watching and lighting committees, who had the control of the police force, had not acted with justice and impartiality, and, as he understood the Bill, it did not propose to interfere with the powers of such committees. It had been stated that in one town in England there were 600 beerhouses; that a majority of the persons who were members of the lighting and watching committee were holders of such property; and that in consequence of their influence over the police it was impossible to rely on the proper discharge of the duties of the force. As he understood this Bill, it would not impose any check upon such proceedings. He thought, therefore, that that state of things should not be permitted to continue. He saw with great satisfaction the determination of the Government to deal with the general question, and he begged to express a hope that the present measure would receive the careful consideration of the House.


said, he had heard with considerable satisfaction the statement of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill. He had been opposed to the adoption of the Rural Police Act in the county he represented, chiefly on account of the expense inevitably attending such an arrangement, and which he did not think would be compensated by equivalent advantages. That feeling was shared by the great body of the ratepayers, for at the last Midsummer sessions it was determined to adopt the Rural Police Act, and at a subsequent period a memorial was presented to the Court of Quarter Sessions, signed, he believed, by one-half the number of ratepayers in the county, representing nearly one-half of its rateable property, begging the magistrates to reconsider the question, and not to throw upon the ratepayers a burden which they conceived to be unnecessary. It was, however, determined, by a very considerable majority, after much discussion, that the provisions of the Act should be adopted. He was glad to find that this Bill proposed to throw some portion of the expense of the police force upon the Consolidated Fund, though he thought that proportion was scarcely large enough. Possibly before the Bill went into Committee, the right hon. Gentleman might come to the conclusion that a larger proportion of the expenditure might fairly be borne by the Consolidated Fund. He (Mr. Palmer) had always been of opinion that if it was proper to establish a police force in a county, the establishment of such a force ought to be a Government measure, and the country ought to be responsible for its support. It was quite as much the duty of the Government to prevent crime as to punish it. The Government had, as he thought with great propriety, transferred to the Consolidated Fund the charge of prosecutions, and a portion of the cost of the maintenance of prisoners. One great argument for the establishment of a rural police force was, that it would tend to prevent crime. If that were the result, it was to be hoped that a considerable amount now paid for the punishment of crime would be saved, and the country at large would not be a loser if the charge for the police was thrown upon the Consolidated Fund. If he understood the right hon. Gentleman, it was intended that counties should be compulsorily divided into districts. [Sir G. GREY: Not in all cases.] He might state that in the county which he represented (Berkshire), one great objection to the establishment of a police force was, that it would be hard to charge the western part of the county, which was much less populous and further from the metropolis, and had therefore less crime than other portions of it, with the support of police, which would be chiefly required not by themselves but by others, He would not now enter into the details of the measure before them, but would simply express his general satisfaction at the statement which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman.


said, he believed that the state of the country demanded such a Bill as the present, and that in a short time it would be much more acceptable than it now was. From our late experience the natural presumption was, that on the return of our troops from the East they would be subjected to a system of centralisation. In such circumstances the troops would not be available as they formerly were as a police force, and we ought, therefore, to have all the advantages of a uniform and general police. He trusted the expenses would not be given by the Government with a niggardly hand. If the police force could be removed wherever it might be required, it was perfectly just that the public, which received the benefit, should contribute to the expense; and he hoped, therefore, that certainly not less than the amount referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, namely, one-fourth, would be given.


said, he was also very much obliged to the right hon. Baronet for his Bill. Such a measure had long been wanted, and would, he thought, deservedly claim the calm consideration of every one connected with county matters. There was, however, one portion of it which he did not quite understand. The right hon. Baronet had spoken of municipal towns or boroughs, and alluded to town councils making requisitions. Now, there were many towns with large growing populations that were subject neither to town councils nor municipal regulations, but which in many instances were under the general guidance of the Board of Health. He wished to know, therefore, whether such towns, having, say, populations exceeding 5,000, would be placed upon the same footing as the boroughs and towns alluded to by the right hon. Baronet? He also wished to observe, that it might be as well that, before making the enactment of the Bill compulsory upon any district, the opinion of the ratepayers should be first ascertained.


said, he begged to offer his approval of the general principle of the measure, though he should have greatly preferred, instead of it, if such an arrangement had been possible, the extension of the parish constable system.


said, he begged to thank the House for the very favourable reception which had been given to the Bill, and at the same time would assure the Gentlemen who had spoken, that he would be most happy to give the fullest consideration to the various suggestions that had been made. With reference to that part of the Bill which related to the formation of police districts, it was not intended that a county should be divided into such districts as a matter of course. But simply that where the circumstances of a county required it, and the magistrates would not exercise the power given to them, the Secretary of State should have the power to compel them. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) had suggested that it would be better at once to pay the one-fourth of the expenses of the police of any borough or county, making the continuance of the payment contingent upon the certificate of the inspector. But that would be objectionable, as giving no adequate security for the proper expenditure of the public money.


said, the grant might be withdrawn if the report of the inspector was unfavourable.


said, that still even in that case it might have been paid for a year to a borough or county, the police of which was thoroughly inefficient. The question as to fixing a minimum of proportion which the police should bear to the population was a question for discussion in Committee, but he was rather opposed to it, because he thought that if they did, the minimum fixed would be taken as the standard of an efficient force. In answer to another question asked by the hon. Member for South Devonshire (Mr. Palk), he might state that it was unnecessary to mention specially in the Act towns under the Government of Boards of Health. Not being corporations, they were now parts of counties, and as such would come under its operation. He proposed with the assent of the House to fix the second reading of the Bill for Monday next, and then to give any reasonable time before going into Committee, when he apprehended the real discussion would take place.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir GEORGE GREY, Viscount PALMERSTON, and Mr. MASSEY.

Bill read 1°.