HC Deb 19 July 1866 vol 184 cc1073-5

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, to state by whose authority, and under what law, an order signed by Sir Richard Mayne has been issued forbidding the holding of a public meeting in Hyde Park?


I wish, Sir, the hon. Gentleman had sent me an earlier notice of his Question, in order that I might have been able to give it a more complete answer. However, speaking from recollection, I think I can give him nearly a complete answer. The order signed by Sir Richard Mayne has been issued under my authority and direction, and I am entirely responsible for it. With regard to the legality of such an order, I wish to remind the hon. Member and the House, if they are not acquainted with the fact already, that notices have been placarded over every part of the metropolis, inviting large assemblages of persons to come from different parts of London, to meet at six o'clock in the evening, and to concentrate their processions in Hyde Park at half past six, for the purpose, as avowed in some of those notices, of making what they call a demonstration. I think I need not point out to the House that the consequences arising from such assemblages of men meeting in Hyde Park might lead, and probably would lead, to riotous or disorderly conduct, and certainly would interfere with the recreation of quiet and orderly people, for whom the parks, the property of the Crown, are open, and not for the purposes of such meetings. Let it be remembered that there is nothing in the notice signed by Sir Richard Mayne to imply that orderly conducted processions are forbidden, or that any of these gentlemen may not hold their meetings at the proper time and in the proper place for the purpose of discussing political or any other matters. But I think that any one who holds the office which I have the honour to hold is bound to attend to the public peace of the metropolis; and if he believes that those parks, which are open by Her Majesty's permission for the benefit of all her subjects, are likely to be employed for any purpose that would interfere with the recreation of quiet and orderly people there, and might possibly lead to riotous and disorderly proceedings. I therefore think I should have been moat blameworthy if I had not directed the issue of such an order as that now in question.


I may perhaps be allowed to say that the course taken by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) is exactly in accordance with that which has been pursued on former occasions. Hyde Park is one of the Royal parks; and the prohibition of the holding of meetings there is founded on the reason stated by my right hon. Friend—namely, that the Royal parks are intended for the recreation and enjoy- ment of the people, and has no reference whatever to the abstract right of holding public meetings. Sir Richard Mayne received instructions from me before I left office, when a meeting in Hyde Park had been announced, that it should not be allowed to be held there.


I wish, Sir, to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether we are to understand that the prohibition which he authorized to be issued as to the contemplated public meeting is based only on the circumstance that the meeting was announced to be held in one of the parks? If so—["Order, order!"]


I may perhaps be permitted to say that the notice which has been issued is grounded on the circumstance that the meeting was to have been held in Hyde Park; and I may venture to add, as this Question has been put to me, that I hope the notice which I have caused to be issued will not be interpreted as being intended in the least degree to prevent the holding of ordinary public meetings for political discussion, but simply for the preservation of the public peace.