HC Deb 23 February 1872 vol 209 cc1008-17

(Mr. Ayrton, Mr. Baxter.)

COMMITTEE. [Progress 22nd February.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 5 (Park-keeper may apprehend any offender whose name and residence is not known).


begged to move that the clause be for the present postponed. He hoped both sides of the House would consider that was not an unreasonable application. Those who opposed the Bill had the gravest objections to the clause. The powers which it gave were most unusual, if not unprecedented, and the only precedent quoted and relied upon to justify them by the First Commissioner of Works was that of Wimbledon Common; but that was not enough to alter the whole course of criminal legislation in the country. The case of Wimbledon Common had no application in the present instance, for as respected Wimbledon that was a private bargain between Lord Spencer and the people in the neighbourhood of Wimbledon; whereas the Parks of England were the prescriptive property of the people of England. No such powers of arbitrary arrest had ever been sanctioned before, and Parliament ought therefore to proceed in this matter with great caution and deliberation. The powers asked for in this clause were even more extreme in their language than the severest clauses of any Police Act, for they were going to pass these extreme powers without stating to what offences they were to be applicable. If the clause were passed——


said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman must confine himself to the reasons why the clause should be postponed, as that was the proposal he had made.


said, that his argument for postponing the clause was, that the schedule should be applied to it; and, in fact, that it should ultimately become part of the clause itself.


I must again remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that he must confine himself to the postponement of the clause; and also that if it be postponed, it will still be taken before the schedules.


said, he was quite aware of that, and what he was suggesting was, that there should be no schedule at all, but that if this clause was postponed, the schedule should be brought up in the shape of an addition to the clause itself. For that reason, he proposed that the clause should be postponed, in order that the offences applicable to it should be ultimately made part of it. That was the course that was pursued in the Metropolitan Police Act in regard to a similar clause, and the reasons in its favour were very strong. The House would then be considering the offences in relation to the cases of punishment, instead of, as now, irrespective of it.


said, he must again remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that his arguments must be strictly confined to showing why the clause should be postponed.


said, that his reason for moving the postponement of the clause was in order that it might be considered in connection with what was contained in a subsequent part of the Bill. He made the proposition in the hope that it might be met in the spirit of friendly compromise, for that was the spirit in which he offered the suggestion, and he believed that its acceptance would mitigate the opposition to the Bill. The House ought not to pass a clause giving such extreme powers without at the same time taking into consideration the different offences to which the penalties were to attach. Unless they pursued that course, they must either adopt a Draconian code, and apply it to all the offences indiscriminately, or allow some offences to be visited with inadequate punishment. He did not think that his was an unreasonable proposition, and he made it with the sincere desire to see this matter satisfactorily settled. The powers of arrest proposed in this clause were really a very serious thing, though he would not further refer to them after the ruling of the Chairman.


said, that he would merely remind the Committee that on the second reading of the Bill his hon. and learned Friend had objected to its being read at that time, because he desired time in order to propose Amendments. Since then he had been informed that his hon. and learned Friend, in conjunction with the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), had examined the Bill, and had decided upon the Amendments which they thought proper to be introduced. That being so, and the Government acting on the faith of that understanding, his hon. and learned Friend now asked for the postponement of the clause, in order that it might be amended. Was that a frank or loyal course to be pursued by the hon. and learned Gentleman? It was not one that the Government could agree to or sanction. He must ask the Committee to proceed with the consideration of the clause, and in no case was the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend one that he could give his assent to.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works appeared to suppose that there had been some arrangement between himself and his hon. and learned Friend on that subject. He might mention that his hon. and learned Friend had proposed an Amendment last evening, to reduce the penalties from £5 to 40s., on the ground that the offence was of a trifling character; but that Amendment was rejected, and therefore it was not unreasonable that the present proposal of his hon. and learned Friend should be made. He desired, however, to acknowledge with thanks the concession that the Government had made with respect to another Amendment that would come on for discussion hereafter.


remarked that nothing whatever would be gained by the postponement of the clause, into which fresh matter could be incorporated now as easily as at any later stage.

Motion negatived.

MR. DICKINSON moved, in line 26, after the words "park-keeper," to insert the words "in uniform."

Amendment agreed to.

MR. RYLANDS moved, in line 26, to leave out, "and any persons whom he may call to his assistance." The clause must be looked at in two aspects—namely, the person to carry out the powers conferred, and the nature of the powers themselves. The park-keepers were appointed by an irresponsible officer of the Crown, who was not under the control of Parliament; and the difficulty was aggravated by the fact that there were so many offences undefined. By calling in extraneous assistance disturbances might be fomented, which they all wished to avoid.


suggested that the Chief Commissioner of Works should, in answering this objection, state exactly the powers of the police, and in what respect those powers differed from the powers of the park-keepers, and why they differed.


said, that was exactly the point he intended remarking upon. His hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), counselled by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt), had fallen into the error of supposing these park-keepers were to be appointed by irresponsible persons. In a majority of cases the keepers would be appointed by the Chief Commissioner of Works, who would be directly responsible to this House; and, as regarded those mentioned in the schedule, they would be appointed by the Ranger, who held office during the pleasure of the Crown, and was as responsible to the Crown, and equally liable to removal for misconduct as the Chief Commissioner of Works. [Laughter.] That was the law and the fact, neither of which could be altered by derision. The General Police Act conferred the power of arrest, and after the Amendment he proposed to introduce the clause of the Bill would be found the same as that of the Police Act, which had been in operation for over 30 years; and its provisions for the government of the Metropolis had been administered without any substantial injustice or even inconvenience.


said, he should have preferred that the question of law asked by the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross) had been answered by the Law Officer of the Crown, who would probably have given a more accurate description of the point. He had taken some pains to explain the law to the Chief Commissioner of Works already; but he had again to go over the ground, and in the first place he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the clause he had quoted had nothing whatever to do with the matter. The 52nd clause gave power to the police to make regulations for the purpose of preventing any obstructions that might be caused by processions; and the 54th clause provided that every person should be liable to a penalty not exceeding 40s., who within the metropolitan thoroughfares committed any one of a list of offences; but the 9th sub-section of that clause required that the offender should have been first made acquainted with the regulations, and also that he should have wilfully disregarded them before he could be taken into custody by the police without warrant. Both of the limitations contained in that sub-section of the 54th clause of the Metropolitan Police Act were carefully omitted from the present Bill. The 54th clause of the Metropolitan Police Act was the real analogue to this Bill, and the object of the proposed Amendment was to assimilate the present clause with the provisions of that Act.


said, he was not fairly open to the imputation that he was unable to answer the question put to him without the assistance of the Attorney General. The clause quoted by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford actually gave a still larger power to the police than the one he had himself read to the Committee; because it gave a constable general power to arrest without warrant for an offence committed within his view, without any reference whatever to the name and address of the offender. The clause that he now proposed was based on a much more restricted clause of the Metropolitan Police Act, because it limited the power of arrest to the case of a person offending, and whose name and address were unknown to the constable and could not be ascertained by him.


rose to ask a question of the Chief Commissioner of Works on a very material point. Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to say whether the persons whom a park-keeper called to his assistance would be bound to obey his call?


said, that they would not, any more than when they were called upon by a police-constable.


confirmed what had fallen from the Chief Commissioner of Works as to occurrences in the Parks from his practical experience in connection with London Parks not included in the Bill. False addresses had been given; while with reference to cases of assault and resistance, he thought the park-keepers should have the power to call for assistance from the by-standers.


said, he had always been under the impression that a police-constable had a right to call on persons to assist him, and he should like to know from the Home Secretary whether that was so or not.


said, there was the right to call, but what he had stated was that the persons called were not bound to come.


observed, that it had been said that all that was to be done by the Bill was what was applicable to all the Parks in the kingdom. The powers now sought for, however, were such as applied to no Park in the kingdom, and he wanted to know why a rule should be made with respect to the metropolitan Parks which was not known elsewhere.


said, he did not think it would make any difference whether the words "or any person whom he may call to his assistance" were in or out of the clause; for in a subsequent clause they gave to park-keepers all the power and authority of constables, which included the calling in of people to help them.

Amendment negatived.


observed, that the Government had kept the House sitting until very late hours last Session, and as he did not wish them to continue the practice, it being then a quarter past 12 o'clock, he should move that Progress be reported.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Goldsmid.)


hoped that hon. Members opposing the Bill would accept the decision of the Committee as final with regard to the principle of the clause, and would agree to it before Progress was reported.


desired that Progress should be reported, and suggested that the Government should reconsider the Bill, and reintroduce it in a shape more likely to meet with general approbation. It had been stated that the measure had received the sanction of the metropolitan Members; but on looking at the Division List he found that while 10 of the metropolitan Members had voted with the minority, only 3, including the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Commissioner of Works himself, and another member of the Government, had voted with the majority. In fact, the only metropolitan Member not connected with the Government who supported the Bill was the respected ex-Governor of the Bank of England.


thought that the request of the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works, that the decision of the Committee upon the Amendment just rejected should be regarded as final upon the main principle of the clause, was a reasonable one, and ought to be agreed to. If the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) thought he had any chance of rejecting the clause, he should have challenged the decision of the Chairman; but it was hard upon hon. Members who had waited all night for this Bill to come on, that Amendment after Amendment should be moved only to be withdrawn, and that Progress should be reported at that early hour, and at such a stage of the measure.


said, the wishes of the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) respecting divisions could be met in future; but he wished to point out that it was twenty minutes past 12 o'clock, and to ask whether, after that time, hon. Members opposite would allow a Bill which they opposed to proceed? Would they allow the question of giving burial to a Christian Dissenter to be discussed after 12 o'clock without moving to report Progress? But the treatment of alive "rough" seemed to stand on a different footing from the treatment of a dead Dissenter, for the former could be debated apparently until any hour of the night.


said, that the Committee had sat upstairs day after day upon the Bill without the feelings of excitement arising that appeared to have been evidently raised in the minds of some hon. Members in reference to it within the last few days. He merely desired that the business of the Committee should be conducted in the usual way, and that when the subject had been fully discussed, the Committee should not report Progress before availing itself of the fruit of the discussion by passing a practical Resolution. They did wish to make a distinction between the living and the dead, and to proceed after the manner of the living on the present occasion.


said, he must remind hon. Members that it had been proposed that no new opposed business should be taken after half-past 12 o'clock; but thought that as that hour had not yet been reached, the question with reference to this clause might well be decided before Progress was reported.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 24; Noes 140: Majority 116.


then moved, in page 2, line 1, to leave out "acts in contravention of," and insert "wilfully disregards or refuse to conform to." The object of the Amendment was to prevent a park-keeper from summarily arresting a person for the infringement of a regulation of the very existence of which he might be unaware.


said, the clause, which gave summary powers of arrest for undefined offences to the park-keepers, had no precedent in the English statute book except it was the most severe enactment known to the English law—namely, sub-Section 9 of Section 54 of the Metropolitan Police Act. ["Divide!"] Surely hon. Gentlemen would give five minutes to the discussion in the British House of Commons of a clause giving summary powers of arrest to the park-keepers. If the clause were passed as it stood, most of the persons arrested under it would probably be taken into custody on Saturday afternoon after the police courts were closed, and the result would be that they would be locked up until Monday morning. This was a most serious grievance in this country. He earnestly appealed to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to accept the Amendment.


said, that under the Metropolitan Police Act persons might be arrested for committing certain offences without it being necessary to bring home to the offenders a knowledge of the regulations; but in regard to regulations made for special occasions, it was necessary to show that persons had knowingly infringed them. In order to attain that end, the rules and regulations necessary would be posted up in the Parks in all conspicuous places.

Amendment negatived.


said, he must protest against this clause, because it gave extravagant, and he would say brutal powers to the park-keepers—because it made a preserve for the rich of the Royal Parks, and created a new criminal code for the country. ["Divide!"] The Bill would not be made more popular by its being known that those who protested against it were clamoured down.


said, he wished to know what was to be done with a person who was taken into custody under the provisions of the Act? Unless there were a constable in readiness to receive him at the Park gates, how was it possible that he should be detained?


said, the point was provided for by a subsequent part of the Act, which gave to those making the arrest all the powers conferred for such purposes under the Metropolitan Police Act.


pointed out that there was force in the objection of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), and that there should be some understanding as to the time during which persons should be kept in custody for the different offences in the schedules, which should be divided into two, one of which should be offences justifying arrest.


said, by Clause 7 the park-keepers would be endowed with the same powers as police constables.


said, he adopted the same view as the hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Straight) of the propriety of dividing the schedule into two—one defining the offences for which the offender could be arrested, and the other the offence which would entail expulsion from the Parks.


feared that if the Bill passed, the enjoyment of the Parks by the respectable working men would be interfered with.


said, that that was entirely a mistake. The Bill would really affect, not the working classes, but those bettermost classes who ought to be gentlemen, but were snobs. They would suffer from the operation of the Bill; the working classes would only be benefited by it.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.