HC Deb 13 March 1863 vol 169 cc1396-409

rose to bring under the consideration of the House the question of the expediency of amalgamating the Metropolitan and City Police, and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, whether, after what had occurred in connection with the Procession on Saturday last, some steps ought not to be taken to place the aggregate body under one control, so as to have one police force for the whole Metropolis? In order to prove the necessity for that measure, it would be requisite to show that one of the two corps was comparatively inefficient. He knew that Gentlemen connected with the City authorities maintained that the superiority of the City force was quite decided; and if that were made out, of course no case for extending the organization of the Metropolitan Police to the City could be established. It was generally admitted that the Procession on Saturday last was very much interrupted in the City, and that there was a state of things such as to give cause for alarm to the Prince and Princess in some portion of their route. It was said, indeed, that some persons among the crowd had climbed into the Royal carriages. It would have been a very sad affair if anything of a disastrous nature had happened to the illustrious pair on that occasion. The Corporation, according to their generous habit, had, it appeared from the public press, a déjeûner à la fourchette at the Mansion House on the occasion, and it was alleged that this circumstance had the effect of interfering with the proceedings. He could not say how that might be, but during the time when the Procession was passing through the City great inconvenience was occasioned to the public. There had appeared in the newspapers a controversy between an officer of the City Police and an officer of the City Volunteers, each casting blame on the other; but of course it was far beyond his power to say which was right or which was wrong; he, however, concurred with the noble Lord near him (Lord Elcho) that the Volunteers were not a body well adapted to be employed on such occasions. Then came the deplorable events which happened on the illumination night, when a vast concourse of people was assembled in the streets. In a report from the Metropolitan Police it was stated, that in the area under their supervision not one life had been lost, nor had any accident of a serious character occurred on either occasion to which he had just alluded; while, on the other hand, there was little or no doubt that as many as eight lives had been lost in the City on the night of the illuminations, and that some serious accidents had taken place besides. Under these circumstances, the case looked rather unfavourable for the City Police. His object was to induce the Government to make inquiries as to which of the two bodies of police was the more efficient, and then to effect an amalgamation of the two forces. He had no doubt, and, he believed, the public had no doubt, which was the more efficient body of the two, and therefore he thought that the Metropolitan Police should be extended to the City. No doubt the City had privileges, which were entitled to all due respect; but, if it were contended that the City had, at least, the same right as provincial municipalities to the regulation of their own police, he asked whether any provincial town could be compared with the metropolis, which contained an immense population, and received a vast increase to it every year? He, consequently, put it to the Government to consider the question of the expediency of amalgamating the Metropolitan and City of London Police Establishments.


said, that the subject brought under the notice of the House involved a much larger question than the fusion of these two civil forces—a question which had already been much under the attention of the public. There were a number of noticeable coincidences connected with the matter alluded to by the hon. and gallant General. In the first place, the Commissioner of Police of the City of London unfortunately died a week before this great procession took place, and before the arrangements were completely organized. In the next place, the whole of the pressure of this extraordinary loyal demonstration was thrown on the City Police, and on them only, within the boundaries of the City. Another very extraordinary coincidence was that, during the progress of the procession through the City, another procession of large unwieldy vans containing Metropolitan Police was thrown into the City in an opposite direction. This caused a great obstruction, which some hon. Members now present experienced, having been detained through it for the duration of about an hour. It seemed to him a very odd coincidence that all these events should have happened at this particular conjuncture, and that the culminating point should be that the City of London ought to be deprived of the regulation of its Police. He had some experience of the City Police; and as he had attended at the Central Criminal Court as one of Her Majesty's Commissioners, he also know that the expressed opinion of the Judges with regard to the intelligence, activity, and reliability of the City Police, as compared with the Metropolitan Police, was very much to the advantage of the former. With regard to what occurred on Saturday last, the newspapers had said that the City authorities refused the assistance of the troops and of the Metropolitan Police. That was not true. The noble Lord who had just come into the House (Lord Alfred Paget) convoyed to him an intimation that a number of troops would be placed at the disposal of the City authorities; and they understood, in the first instance, that those troops were to be Life Guards, who were used to deal with large concourses of people, and had temper and discretion, and whose majestic appearance in a crowd had the effect of awing the masses and keeping people in their places; in addition to which the horses of the Life Guards were used to that sort of work, and had acquired, by long practice, habits of forbearance like the riders. Instead of the Life Guards, however, 200 Horse Artillery were sent to the City; their horses were not so well suited for the purpose, and were besides caparisoned in such a manner as induced people in a crowd to lay hold of the trappings. Still, so far from refusing the offer when it was made, he said that he should like not only 200, but 400 if they could be spared. Allusion had been made to the City Volunteers, and he might explain that most emphatic instructions were given that no Volunteer should be employed in any shape as keeping the crowd back. In every case they were to form up against the barriers merely as an object and spectacle. They were to be placed as objects of attraction, but not to interfere in any way with police duties; and the order was that, in all instances, they should give way to the crowd. His own regiment, instead of being at their post at one o'clock, as they should have been, were forming in the very place where a portion of the City procession was being arranged. They were ordered off the ground, but they did not go; and when they ought to have gone to the space allotted to them in front of the Mansion House, by a direct route of less than 450 yards, they took a route of somewhere about 2,825 yards. The consequence was that an immense confusion was created by a body of 700 or 800 men travelling a circuitous route instead of a direct one, and like the vans laden with Metropolitan Police, facing the possession. The Volunteers, not being at their post by the proper time, created a great amount of confusion, and instead of backing up against the barriers, were themselves lost in the crowd. Was it, then, a fair way of treating the City authorities to cast all kinds of imputations upon them? He repeated they did not refuse the assistance of the military, or the aid of the Metropolitan Police, for the latter was not offered to them. There were circumstances, however, in the whole affair which induced the magistrates of the City to think that there should be an inquiry. That inquiry was being vigorously pursued, and he hoped the result of it would be to show that the causes to which he had referred were sufficient to account for the difficulties that had arisen. Allusions had been made to the night of the illuminations. It had been said that the arrangements made by the City Police for the illumination night were not so complete as they should have been, and that many people who went in carriages, had the advantage of staying many hours and going home without having seen the illuminations. Now, so far as the City was concerned, he felt all along that the Mansion House was the point of danger. It was no doubt a point of danger, because the illuminations there would be sure to attract a large concourse of people, and the thoroughfare was rather narrow. But having himself been at the Mansion House, he could say from personal observation that there was a constant movement in the line of carriages during the whole night. There was, of course, a tremendous pressure; but if people would go in such immense masses into places which were not large enough to contain them, it did not require great philosophy to say what the result would be. Two men could not stand in the place of one, and that was the problem to be solved on Tuesday night. It was very deplorable that fatal accidents should have occurred, but no possible precaution could have prevented them. Had barriers been erected, he believed the loss of live would have been greater. Under all the circumstances, he appealed to the House whether it would sanction an attempt to interfere with a local police. Unless the principle of a local force was recognised, there was no reason in the world why Sir Richard Mayne should not be the Commissioner of Police for Liverpool, Manchester, or anywhere else, as well as the City of London; and the English police system assimilated to that of France. He thought, however, that the House would hardly be prepared to sanction such a principle.


Sir, as I had the honour of accompanying the carriage of the Princess Alexandra through the City, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words. First of all, I must bear witness to the perfect good humour and excellent behaviour of the people on the day of the procession. I cannot conceive a more trying situation than being in a vast crowd with a great pressure from behind and on every side, and seeing outriders, equerries, and cavalry advancing to crush one's toes; but I can truly say that I never heard an angry word, but that, on the contrary, the people behaved with the utmost good nature. Of course, on such an occasion, when, on emerging from London Bridge, we beheld an immense mass of human beings in front, it was of no use to lose temper and try violently to force a passage. All we could do was to ask the people to make way for us, as in point of fact we were bound for Windsor. I can only say that when we came upon the people—I will not call them the mob, for that they were not—they opened up on all sides as well as they could, and made way for us. As to the police, I am bound to say that they were so few in number, and so completely overwhelmed, that to use a common phrase, they gave up their duty as "a bad job." Moreover, it seemed to me that the great majority of them were just as anxious to see our beautiful Princess as anybody else. Many hon. Members present, I dare say, witnessed the scene at the Mansion House. It was, undoubtedly, a very tremendous "squash." Some of the crowd actually got on the top of the carriage, and I saw a great many running not only by the side of it, but between the leaders and the wheelers of the carriage. I appealed to several policemen who were standing in a row beyond the Mansion House to keep the people out of that dangerous position; but they would not move. I took the number of one of these fellows—it was 68—and reported him to the head of the police, who was, of course, excessively I annoyed at the circumstance. As to the change from the City to the Strand, I can only describe my feelings as I approached Temple Bar as something like those of Arctic voyagers who having been locked for weeks among icebergs, at length see clear water in the distance. That was very much the sensation I felt when we got beyond Temple Bar. "Thank God," I said, "now we have got over the worst of it." With reference to what passed between me and the Lord Mayor, I have to say that when I learned that I was to have the honour of taking part in the procession, having had experience for nearly a quarter of a century in such affairs, I thought it right to see the Lord Mayor on the subject. My right hon. Friend first of all gave me a most excellent luncheon; and then I said to him, "Are you quite sure you have got a sufficient force to keep the line clear, as there is sure to be an immense concourse of people?" My right hon. Friend replied that he thought they had, but he would consult the head of the police. I then said, "I don't come as Her Majesty's Chief Equerry to you as Lord Mayor. I have no right to interfere in this matter, or give orders about anything. But coming merely as Alfred Paget to Mr. Rose, I may tell you I have reason to believe, that if you want any assistance, you will get it, not only from the Horse Guards, but from the Metropolitan Police." Of course, it would have been beyond my province to have said more. I was not charged to keep the streets clear, and what I said to my right hon. Friend was merely by way of suggestion. I left it to my right hon. Friend to communicate what he wished to the Horse Guards and the Metropolitan Police; though I should have been very happy if my right hon. Friend had authorized me to carry any message to Sir Richard Mayne. I, however, went to my right hon. Friend merely as an old friend, and not as in any way authorized to make an official communication to him.


said, it could not be expected that the Secretary of State would take upon himself at once to decide the respective merits of the City and Metropolitan Police. The right hon. the Lord Mayor spoke rather disparagingly of the Horse Artillery, but they had been thanked by his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief for the services they rendered on the occasion in question.


did not mean to cast any reflection on the Artillery. The men did all that men could do under the circumstances; but the trappings of their horses were not adapted to the sort of work they had to perform.


said, the Lord Mayor seemed to think that Her Royal Highness went through the City for the purpose of testing the efficiency of the police, and that the hon. and gallant General (Sir De Lacy Evans) had been too eager in seizing an opportunity of attacking that force. But it was really a very old question whether the City Police should exist as a separate body, with a separate jurisdiction from the general metropolitan force. In 1854 the subject was investigated by a Royal Commission, presided over by the right hon. Gentleman who was now Secretary for War, which reported against the continuance of the separate jurisdiction of the City Police. The matter was again brought under the notice of a Committee of the House in the year before last, and attention was directed to the Report of the Commission, which had hitherto been disregarded. This question involved many serious points, which ought to be considered by the Government. It was an extraordinary thing that in the heart of the metropolis there should be a separate jurisdiction, which had the right to co-operate or not, at its pleasure, with the great body of the police, to protect the interests of the inhabitants by whom their jurisdiction was surrounded. As Sir Richard Mayne had often pointed out, if the City rested in security, it was not due to the City Police, because there was no place within the limits of the City where the thieves and ticket-of-leave men dwelt, while the City was occupied by shops and warehouses, against which the thieves exercised their vocation; but all the persons by whom the City might be invaded necessarily resided outside the City, watched by the Metropolitan Police; and it was therefore essential, for the protection of the public, that there should be one force, one jurisdiction, and one administration for the whole metropolis. He believed the peculiarity of the present system was due to the fact that it was introduced by Sir Robert Peel, as a tentative measure, to be at first confined to one or two districts, and extended gradually if it proved successful. As it had worked well, its extension had naturally followed; and the Government ought now to consider whether the time had not arrived when the City ought to be included within its scope. The Commissioners expressed their belief that the amalgamation of the Metropolitan and City Police was a measure recommended by considerations alike of efficiency and of economy, and they proposed that the corporation should be relieved from the contribution it now paid towards the police, the City receiving the same assistance from the Consolidated Fund as the rest of the metropolis. Nobody benefited by the existing arrangement, except those who managed the corporation. The inhabitants of the City actually paid more for police purposes than those of other towns, and the separate jurisdiction was maintained solely in order that certain parties in the City might have the gratification of a little municipal self-importance. Great streams of carriages poured every day into the City from all parts of London, and nobody would deny that any police regulations which might be adopted in the City should have some reference to the various sources from which the immense carriage traffic was derived. Would it be believed that a Bill had been introduced in another place empowering the City corporation to make any rules they might think fit for the regulation of that carriage traffic, coming, as it did, from all parts of the metropolis? That extraordinary power was claimed for no other purpose than to bolster up the present unhappy state of things in the City. He hoped the Government would not imagine that the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster had brought for- ward this subject on the impulse of the moment. It had been brought forward because recent events had proved—what anybody might have known before—that there could not safely be in the centre of London a police jurisdiction separate from that which existed in the rest of the metropolis. He trusted, now that their attention had been called to the subject, that the Government would give it their earliest and most earnest consideration, and that at no distant day they would be prepared to deal with it in a practical manner.


I am not surprised that the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De Lacy Evans) should have brought this subject under the notice of the House, for it is one which well deserves attention. There can be no doubt that on Saturday last there was a serious obstruction to the passage of the Royal carriages through the City, and I have felt it my duty to write to the Lord Mayor on the subject, calling his attention to the reports I have received, and reminding him that the route was fixed, and obtained the sanction of Her Majesty, on the distinct understanding that every effectual means would be taken to prevent confusion and delay. It is well known that from the Bricklayers' Arms to London Bridge, and from Temple Bar to Paddington, although the whole route was crowded by vast multitudes, there was not the slightest obstruction or delay; but that no sooner had the procession entered the City than its progress was obstructed by dense masses of people, a stoppage of nearly twenty minutes taking place on London Bridge. At the Mansion House also a considerable delay occurred; and I have been informed by gentlemen who were in attendance on the Prince and Princess that there appeared to be an absence of any authority, and a want of those efficient arrangements which should have been made on such an occasion. In the letter which I have addressed to the Lord Mayor, I have requested him to state the number of police who were on duty in the streets on Saturday, the orders under which they acted, and the arrangements which were made beforehand for maintaining order and preventing confusion. I deeply regret what took place, because it was the only circumstance of the day which could in the slightest degree lessen the effect or diminish the splendour of the cordial and enthusiastic reception which was given to the Princess on her passage through the metropolis. The Lord Mayor has stated that no assistance was offered by the Metropolitan Police, and that the assistance offered by the military authorities was promptly accepted. I am surprised at that statement, because I have been informed, by the highest authority, that the Quartermaster General was sent into the City to offer every assistance; that all assistance was in the first instance refused; but that on further consideration the City authorities consented to admit into the City the mounted artillerymen, who were very useful in aiding the progress of the Royal procession. With respect to the Metropolitan Police, I may remind the House that the Act which constitutes the City force gives the City authorities absolute power on all extraordinary occasions to remove all obstructions from the streets and to regulate the traffic in whatever manner they please. It also authorizes the Metropolitan Police to be employed in the City on such occasions, but only at the request of the Lord Mayor. Now, Sir Richard Mayne has assured me that on the 28th of February he attended a meeting of the Reception Committee in the City, and offered to take charge of that part of Fleet Street which adjoins Temple Bar, reminding them of the section which authorizes the Metropolitan Police to be employed in the City at the request of the Lord Mayor, and stating his readiness, on such request being made, to comply with it by sending a body of his men into the City. He also reminded them, that on the occasion of the Emperor of the French paying a visit to the City, the Metropolitan Police took charge of the streets from Temple Bar to St. Paul's. I am afraid that the confusion arose from the over-confidence of the City authorities in the efficiency of their police, which, although efficient for the performance of its ordinary duties, is insufficient, in point of numbers, to meet the extraordinary circumstances of such an occasion as Saturday. At the same time, I think we cannot say at once, without further consideration, notwithstanding what has occurred, that there should be an amalgamation of the Metropolitan and City Police—although I certainly agree with the opinions which have been expressed as to the expediency of such amalgamation. It is no doubt a great anomaly that a comparatively small dis- trict in the centre of the metropolis should have a separate police jurisdiction of its own; and I think some alteration of the law is necessary to give to the Government—acting in concert with the City authorities, but not wholly dependent upon them—the power on special occasions to take precautions against the recurrence of such scenes as those which happened in the City on Saturday. The Lord Mayor has referred to certain vans of Metropolitan Police which helped to obstruct the streets in the City. I believe that a certain number of the Metropolitan Police, ordinarily stationed in the eastern districts, but required to do duty in the west on Saturday, passed through the City on that day; but I do not see how they could have caused the obstruction and delay on London Bridge. I am afraid that the arrangements of the City authorities were not such as to insure success; and I have no doubt that what has taken place will lead to the introduction of some change which will prevent a repetition of what occurred on Saturday. Except from the reports in the newspapers, I have no information on the subject of the fatal accidents which occurred on Tuesday night, and I am not prepared to say that any one is to blame on account of those calamities. So vast were the crowds which flocked into the City to see the illuminations, and so great was the pressure at nearly all points, that I doubt whether it would have been practicable to make any police arrangements which would have insured absolute safety to every person in the streets; although it is doubtless important that every practicable precaution should be taken on such occasions to prevent loss of life. It is right that I should say that Her Majesty has commanded me—and I have addressed a communication on the subject to the Lord Mayor—to express the regret and concern with which she has read the accounts of this loss of life, and her deep sympathy with the families of the sufferers. Her Majesty has also intimated her desire that an inquiry should be made into the circumstances of those families, in order that the information may be communicated to her.


said, that advantage had been taken of recent circumstances to inveigh against the management of the City police. He would, however, remind the House that the City was by no means an insignificant portion of the metropolis, either as regarded wealth or population, for though only about 120,000 persons slept within, its walls more than 800,000 persons resorted to it daily in their avocations of trade and commerce. He thought he might challenge any hon. Member to show whether any complaints had ever been made by the merchants or other business men of the City as to the management of the City police; and it would be too much to insist upon a change because a calamity had occurred which none deplored more than the citizens themselves. He was of opinion that Her Majesty's Government had interfered most injudiciously with the arrangement of the civic authorities for the Royal procession. If those authorities had been marshalled at the Bricklayers' Arms, and allowed to go through to Paddington, the area for sightseers would have been greatly extended, the sightseers would have dispersed themselves over the whole route, and there would have been no undue crowding in the City of London. He admitted freely, as an eye-witness, that the City police arrangements opposite the Mansion House broke down. But they had all heard the popular story that on account of the nail the horse was lost, and its owner was overtaken and fell into the hands of the enemy. So it was on this occasion. The gallant Colonel, who, he was sure, would, in the face of an enemy, show that he was made of the right material, was animated by a slight desire for popularity, and instead of taking up his position opposite the Mansion House with the troops under his command by a route measuring 420 yards, he marched westward from the Guildhall, and took a route measuring 2,820 yards, and arrived at the position too late to be of service. From this cause, and this cause alone, the police arrangements broke down; and it would be manifestly unjust for the House of Commons or the Government to take advantage of a small circumstance like this to say that the City of London was incompetent to manage its own police. He was strongly in favour of municipal government, and he believed that the municipality of London were equally capable of selecting good administrators with the Government, that they did so without favour to individuals, and that on all occasions they endeavoured to select the most efficient men for the discharge of public duties; and he was at a loss to know if the Government or any other body could do more. He considered it was a great defect that so much of the police force of the metropolis was already concentrated and placed under one head; and it would be better if the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), instead of complaining of the municipal regulations of the City of London, would insist that his constituents should have a like municipality. If the Tower Hamlets, Westminster, Marylebone, and the Borough had their own municipalities, we should hear little indeed of a concentrated police force for the whole metropolis. It was an important fact, which must not be lost sight of, that there was not a man in the crowd on Saturday but who was willing and anxious to render every service; and was not this a testimony to the popularity of the authorities of the City of London? The circumstance mentioned by the noble, Lord (Lord Alfred Paget) was a proof, beyond anything that could be adduced of the popularity of the municipal rule in London. Hundreds of thousands were congregated in a small space, and still there was not a single manifestation of ill-humour; but if there had been any cause for ill-humour, or if there had been any unpopularity, they would have been manifested. He, therefore, asked the House not to look at one single occasion to the prejudice of the City of London, but to look at its general rule, and then adduce if they could any portion of the metropolis that was more contented with its rulers or more happy in the demonstration of its loyalty. He deplored the breaking-down of the police arrangements on Saturday, but it was attributable to a circumstance which Parliament would act unwisely to make too much of.


said, that having a Question of his own on the paper, he had not intended to take any part in the discussion of the merits or demerits of the City authorities. But the Lord Mayor and the hon. Alderman (Mr. Alderman Sidney) having animadverted on the conduct of a brother officer of his who had charge of the City of London Rifle Brigade, he wished to read a passage from the letter which that gallant officer had recently sent to the newspapers. Colonel Warde wrote thus— Sir,—I see in your paper of this day's date that the acting Commissioner of Police, Captain Hodgson, attributes the failure of the City police in maintaining order on Saturday last to what he calls a breach of orders by the City of London Volunteer Corps, which I have the honour to command, by, in the first place, not having taken up the position appointed for it in front of the Mansion House at twelve o'clock; and, in the second place, by the parade of the corps at the Guildhall Yard, and so by its presence interfering with the formation of the civic procession. My answer to these accusations will be brief. If Captain Hodgson will refer to the orders published by the War Office, he will find that the hour for the City Corps to be at their posts was one o'clock, and not twelve, as he makes it appear…. The total absence of police arrangements necessitated a circuitous route by broader streets, and to gain the Mansion House by the main line of the procession, in which it might have been expected that some effort would have been made to maintain order.

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