HC Deb 29 June 1868 vol 193 cc343-52

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving "That this Bill be now read a second time," said, in the course of the autumn Session the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Viscount Enfield) put some Questions to him respecting the numbers of the police, to which he replied that it was manifest that the police were shorthanded, and that they were overworked, and that it was desirable that they should have that amount of rest without which no force could remain efficient. At that time the men in the police force had only one day's rest in every five or six weeks, or even less, while their duties at the same time were most arduous and difficult. It was under these circumstances that he had determined to add 1,000 men and 120 officers to the force—an addition that did not raise its numbers to the same proportion to the population and the acreage which it bore to them when it was first instituted in 1830. At that time there were only twenty acres to each constable, whereas there were now fifty-seven acres to each constable. The population of the metropolis in 1830 was only 1,496,000, whereas it was at the present time somewhere about 3,506,000. The police force consisted at its first establishment of 3,300 men, officered by two Commissioners; but in 1856 Sir Richard Mayne became the sole Commissioner with two Assistant Commissioners. In 1856 the number of buildings in the metropolis was 368,000; but that number had since I been increased to 472,000. The force for the protection of the Thames and of the dockyards was a separate body, and was not paid out of the police rate. Great difficulties had been experienced at one time in keeping up the numbers of the Metropolitan Police; but these difficulties had now disappeared in consequence of the addition that had been made to their pay at the instance of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) in the course of last year, and since then a good class of men had come into the force. Owing to the favourable regulations that had been made, the numbers of the force were now complete within 200 or 300 men. The pay of the force, however, even now was by no means excessive, and was lower than that of the City Police force, which had, moreover, several privileges not enjoyed by the Metropolitan Police. The lowest pay of the police when they entered the service was 10s. a week; but that was only for a week or two, during which they were being trained. The next pay was 19s. a week for the third class, and £1 3s. for the second class. The pay of the officers according to rank was in proportion. Last autumn his great desire was that the men should be allowed one day of rest in the seven; and he was glad to say that by the augmentation of the force that object had since been attained. An Order had been issued to insure them that rest, and to allow them, as far as possible, to choose the day themselves. It had been stated in the newspapers that too much of the time of the police was occupied in drill; but the fact was that they were only drilled during a portion of the year, and the drill—which was company drill only, not battalion drill—occupied only one hour in the week in the case of full constables. The exaggeration on this subject had been very great. The only objection to the Bill, so far as he was aware, was that it would necessitate a slight increase to the rates of the metropolis. It was, of course, necessary that some additional sum should be raised, and the ¾d. in the pound which he had determined to take was the smallest sum which could supply the needful funds. The police rate was now equal to 8d. in the pound on the rental, but 2d. was paid by the Treasury, so that in fact the metropolis was only rated to the extent of 6d. in the pound. He was anxious to observe the greatest economy possible; and under this Bill it was proposed to add ¾d. in the pound to the police rate, and ¼d to the proportion to be paid by the Treasury. In case no addition were made to the amount raised there would be a deficit of £82,212. The additional cost would be £88,100. The extra 1d. would raise £72,247, and there would be a surplus in hand at the end of this month of about £15,000, after providing for the pay of the men and for pensions. It was necessary, he might remark, to keep a good balance in hand, as the payments amounted to about £10,000 a month. The estimated cost of pay and clothing for 1868–9 was £616,707. It was necessary to provide a large sum to meet the cost of pensions and superannuations, which amounted this year to £58,836, and was likely ultimately to rise to £100,000. There was a necessity for additional buildings and stations, which were especially demanded for the married men. There was also in the Bill a provision for the increase of the salaries of the two Assistant Commissioners from £800 to £1,100 a year, which he thought only just, considering the great increase of their duties, and the augmentation of late years in the rents of houses and the keep of horses. Considering the manner in which those gentlemen performed their duties, he thought the House would not grudge them this additional remuneration, especially when it was considered that Colonel Fraser, who had a much smaller force to command in the City, had a house and £1,000 a year.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Gathorne Hardy.)


said, he thought that the inhabitants of London had great reason to complain of the conduct of Government with regard to this Bill. From the first moment of its introduction they had sought to obtain from the Secretary of State for the Home Department some statement of the grounds upon which he proposed the imposition of this additional burden upon them; but he had steadily and sedulously refused to give this information, and even the statement he had now made was inadequate in the last degree. The House ought not, on a mere statement from a Minister of the Crown, without any inquiry being made, to pass a Bill of this kind imposing special taxation. What was the history of that measure? He believed that it originated in a mere panic, arising from events which alarmed the Secretary of State and the public. But what were the facts? He found from the Census that the population of London had increased at the rate of about 18 per cent in ten years; and on turning to the police he found that, without taking into account the Dockyard Police, they had during ten years increased rather more than 18 per cent, whilst the increase of expense in their maintenance had amounted to no less than 48 per cent. Why did they propose that increase? No doubt the police were now governed by a man of great experience; but it was certain that a time came when a man's experience became so great as to be hardly compatible with activity. He did not blame the Chief Commissioner for holding on to his office at present; for if there were any truth in what was said as to the pressure put upon him to induce him to resign, and what would happen when he did resign, he believed that he had rendered great service to the metropolis by clinging to his office. He, however, was assisted by two Assistant Commissioners, whoso salaries the Bill proposed to increase. One of the Assistant Commissioners was said to be in ill-health, and the other employed himself in promoting what he called the military organization of the force, and the waste of time in carrying that idea into effect was equal to one-fifth of the power of the force. The Metropolitan Police, moreover, whilst it spread over far too large an area in the surrounding counties to be worked efficiently, had yet to maintain a costly rivalry with another force actually in its own midst. The Metropolitan Police and the City Police were bidding against each other for men, and this rivalry was equivalent to an additional charge on the metropolis of not less than £25,000 a year. Last year a Committee of that House reported that in their opinion there ought to be only one police force in the metropolis. If the Chief Commissioner would surrender his rural charge to the police of the rural districts, he would be much better able to perform his duties in the metropolis. It was not numbers that make a useful police force, but intelligence; and within the past year we had had painful experience of the insufficiency of the Metropolitan Police force in this respect. There had been a panic about the doings of certain Fenians; and what was the real foundation of the panic? It appeared that there were about a dozen drunken tailors who were engaged in emancipating Ireland from the dominion of England. All London was alarmed at the doings of these drunken tailors, and the Home Secretary swore in 25,000 special constables to protect the metropolis against them. The cause of the panic was that there had been no intelligent pursuit of the real criminals, when these men were guilty of certain acts of violence, and rumour was thus allowed to amplify their power. We had at that time 7,000 police, but they had not intelligence enough, when these men were about to commit a great crime, to prevent the commission of that crime, although they had previous information respecting it; and even after it was committed they only succeeded in securing the conviction of one of those engaged in it. No stronger proof could be given of the incapacity of the police of the metropolis. Before asserting that the numbers of the police were insufficient, the Secretary of State ought to have shown that crime had increased, and the cause of that increase. But he had given no such information. It was not easy for a private Member, without the assistance of a Committee, to inform the House on that subject, but he believed that within the last seven years there had been a great increase in the vagrant class, and a disproportionate increase in the number of persons committed for criminal offences to the Sessions; but the number of persons summarily convicted before the magistrates had hardly increased at all. It was quite necessary there should be a searching investigation into the causes of that increase of crime and of vagrancy before any steps were taken to increase the numbers of the police. The House was now asked, however, in a most hurried and inconsiderate manner, to impose a permanent charge on the metropolis, greater than had been found necessary before during thirty years. Latterly the increase in expense of the police had been greater, in proportion to its numbers, than ever it had been before. If the right hon. Gentleman had committed himself in regard to expenditure let him pass a Bill for a year; but the right hon. Gentleman was not entitled to ask the House to pass a Bill creating a permanent increased charge on the metropolis until there was authentic evidence before the House that means had been taken to re-organize the police in accordance with recommendations of Committees of that House. On these grounds he thought it his duty to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.


seconded the Amendment. He cordially concurred in that portion of the speech of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in which he had expressed regret at the proposed increase of the taxation of the metropolis. The proposal to increase the police force because the numbers were insufficient to protect the metropolis, and to give the necessary rest to the men, was a very different question from that involved in the Bill, which sought to impose a permanent tax on the metropolis. If the Secretary of State had so far committed himself as to make such a Bill necessary, it ought to be limited in its operation to one year. There was no kind of necessity for increasing the taxation of the metropolis by means of that Bill because the rapid increase in the number of houses supplied an increase of rates that ought to be amply sufficient. There was no rate imposed upon the metropolis which the ratepayers so much objected to as the police rate, because they had no control over it, and did not know how it was applied. All they had to do with it was to pay it. Crime was continually committed at their very doors, but unless they offered a handsome reward, the police gave no assistance in discovering the perpetrators. They objected also to the absurdity of drilling the police as a military force, and believed that but for such drilling a smaller body of men would be required. The inefficiency of the police had been shown during the recent Fenian alarm. The present time, therefore, seemed most inopportune for increasing the emoluments of the Assistant Commissioners. Efforts had been made, but in vain, to obtain Returns of the police expenditure, such as were made by the Government offices of their disbursements. The rateable value of the Metropolitan Police area had largely increased, and it seemed incredable that the increased cost of the police should have absorbed the rates collected upon the augmented valuation. He held in his hands Returns of the increase in the rateable value of the metropolitan area between 1856 and 1868, which showed that that value had increased from £9,188,070 in the former year to £14,355,068 in the latter. At 8d. in the pound that increase would give to the police an addition of £134,556 between 1856 and 1868. In any case, the taxation sought to be imposed by this Bill was not yet necessary; for the county assessment as between 1847 and 1864 showed an increase in the police rates of £159,033, and if, therefore, the Government only waited until the county of Middlesex was re-assessed, as the county of Surrey had been re-assessed, they would obtain a great deal more money for the police than they wanted. But how would the ratepayers then get back the tax it was proposed to levy on them by this Bill?

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Ayrton).


said, he believed that the failure in the prevention of the Clerkenwell explosion was due rather to mismanagement than to any inadequacy in the numbers of the police. What was wanted was organization, not increase in the force, and even if increase were required, it should not be made without full inquiry for the satisfaction of the ratepayers?


said, he regretted the tone in which the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) had spoken of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He (Viscount Enfield) thought the greatest good faith had been displayed by the Secretary of State in dealing with the question under discussion, and he thanked him for the courtesy he invariably exhibited in connection with matters of metropolitan interest. Nothing was easier than to sneer, after the danger was past, at the alarm which had been excited by the Fenian outrages of last winter; but he did not think the hon. Gentleman's constituents would approve of his remarks. The Secretary for the Home Department had, he believed, only done his duty in making an addition to the police force. He would point out that while in 1830 there were 3,274 men in the Metropolitan Police their duties extended only to ten miles round Charing Cross, and that the population which they had to protect amounted only to 1,500,000. In 1839 the area was extended to fifteen miles from Charing Cross, and at the present day a force of something under 8,000 men of all ranks had to protect a population of 3,400,000. But it should not be forgotten that out of those 8,000 men a considerable number were incapacitated for duty by illness and wounds, and that 1,200 were draughted off for special duty in connection with the palaces, museums, and other public buildings. In the City Police there was one man to two-and-a.-half acres of district, and 284 in population. In the Metropolitan Police the proportion was one man to seventy or eighty acres of district, and 600 of popu- lation. He contended that the increase in the police force was necessary, but he felt some difficulty with regard to the expense, because the Metropolitan Police force were frequently sent to the country on duty, and the metropolitan ratepayers had to pay for them. He thought that the Imperial Treasury might fairly contribute one-half towards their expenses. When we employed men in the discharge of important duties, they were, he thought, fairly entitled to be paid, and if the right hon. Gentleman opposite would promise to institute a full inquiry next year into the entire organization of the police, he believed the public would be perfectly satisfied. Meantime he would give him his cordial support.


said, he rose for the purpose of pointing out that this Bill was not a just and proper one, for it departed from the principle of the 4 & 5 Will. IV., in which Act it was laid down that the ratepayers of the metropolis were only to be required to pay 6d. in the pound police rate, and that whatever additional sum might be wanted was to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund. Why should an alteration be made, and a further sum be levied on the metropolis for police purposes? Fenianism was a national evil, and why should the ratepayers of London be called upon to pay a larger sum for putting down Fenianism than the inhabitants of any other portion of the kingdom? It was said in justification of this Bill that more police were required as the area was increased, but the increased area would return an increase of rates.


said, he saw no objection to the police having a holiday once in every seven days, but he thought the money required should not come out of the pockets of his constituents, but from the Consolidated Fund. The Act referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) fixed the police rate in the metropolis at 6d. in the pound, but the right hon. Gentleman asked the House to give more money. It was generally supposed that Sir Richard Mayne, of whom he wished to speak with the greatest respect, was only remaining in office for another year to entitle himself to a pension, and he thought it would be better to wait until they could make some permanent arrangement than to increase the salaries of the sub-Commissioners. He should vote against the second reading unless the right hon. Gentleman told them it would be referred to a Select Committee. He protested against the Bill going on without further inquiry.


said, a statement had been made to the effect that the population of the City of London was only 112,000; but he wished to point out that there were daily in the City some 600,000 or 700,000 persons, who had to be protected or looked after by the police. He also remarked that nothing was contributed to the support of the City Police Fund out of the Consolidated Fund.


said, he thought it would require a good deal more than had been stated by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) to induce the House to reject the Bill. The measure was only to provide for the additional charge rendered necessary by an increase in the number of police which everybody admitted to be necessary. It was no fault of the Government that the Bill was brought on at so late a period of the Session; and as to having a Select Committee to inquire into the police system, no necessity for it had been proved. The hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets had not stated any facts to warrant the rejection of the Bill, nor was there in his (Sir James Fergusson's) opinion any ground for the attack which had been made upon Sir Richard Mayne. The police force called forth the admiration of the whole country, and much credit was duo to the Commissioners for their efficiency. As to drill, the men were only drilled one hour a week, and that only during the summer months; and, as to the increase of the vagrant class, surely if there were such an increase the number of the police should also be increased.


said, he hoped the House would not take upon itself the responsibility of rejecting this Bill. An increase of the police force had become necessary, not on account of Fenian outrages, but on account of the enormous increase of the metropolis, and for the protection of life and property, and the question rather was out of what fund they should be paid. The new regulation under which a holiday of one day in the week would be given to the force had met with general approval. It would doubtless conduce to the efficiency of the force, and would induce better men to enter it; but its operation was to require a certain increase of the number of police. The Treasury only paid the same proportion of the expenses of the Metropolitan Police as of the County Police. It was said the Government ought to pay more because of the special services rendered to Government property, but these services were paid every year by a special Vote for the police in the Estimates, which amounted to between £50,000 and £60,000. Something had been said about their military organization, but their training was not carried to any excess. If large bodies were to act together it was necessary they should have some organization, and it was impossible to have this unless they received some training and drilling. If a Committee sat in reference to the police system, he believed it would be the means of removing much apprehension, and of showing how efficient the force was.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 192; Noes 22: Majority 170.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.