HC Deb 25 April 1864 vol 174 cc1549-50

said, he wished to put a question, of which he had given notice, to the Secretary of State for the Home Department with reference to a meeting held on Primrose Hill on Saturday last, which had been dispersed in a very summary manner. He wished to know, Whether the right hon. Baronet had given any and what instructions to the Police to disperse the meeting over which Mr. Edmund Beales presided; and, if he had not given such instructions, whether he has inquired into the circumstances, and will state the result of his inquiries to the House?


said, he had to state, in answer to the Question of his hon. Friend, that neither he nor any Member of the Government, nor the Commissioner of Police, had given any special instructions to the Police to interfere with the meeting held on Primrose Hill on Saturday, Indeed, he never heard of such a meeting being held there till yesterday morning. but the facts he had ascertained to be these:—The First Commissioner of Works had given his sanction to the holding of a meeting in connection with the Shakspeare Commemoration, for planting a tree on Primrose Hill, and at his suggestion the Commissioner of Police had made arrangements for the attendance of a certain number of Police to prevent obstructions and; preserve order. After planting the tree, a person was moved into the chair, and another got upon a bench to address the meeting on a different subject; on which an Inspector of Police went up to him and requested to be allowed to speak to him. The person came down, when the Inspector told him he could not be allowed to hold the meeting there. A short conference took place. There was no violence whatever; the people quietly dispersed, and the meeting was adjourned till another time and place. He ought to state that, owing to the scenes which some time since had taken place owing to meetings held in Hyde Park, a notice was issued forbidding all assemblages of persons in any of the Parks for the purpose of delivering speeches or discussing exciting topics leading to disorder, such meetings being wholly incon- sistent with the object for which the Parks were thrown open to the public. The Inspector of Police, therefore, acted on no special instructions, but may have thought he was acting in the spirit of that notice when he requested the meeting to disperse. There was not the slightest appearance of tumult or disorder; and although, under the circumstances, it might have been as well to have allowed the meeting to have continued, yet the Inspector may have supposed he acted under general instructions in not allowing the meeting to be held without special authority.