HC Deb 18 June 1888 vol 327 cc437-9

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, If he will bring in a Bill to repeal the by-law of the Metropolitan Board of Works, which gives power to prohibit public meetings amongst the poorer classes of the Metropolis by taking from them the power of collecting money to pay their printing and other expenses?

MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

also asked, Whether the right hon. Gentleman will make inquiry into the grounds alleged by the one ratepayer on which the Metropolitan Board of Works made the additional by-law forbidding collections on open spaces approved by him on the 24th of February last; whether he will inquire if similar collections have taken place without objection in the Metropolis on behalf of Sunday bands for more than 33 years, and on behalf of various political and charitable objects for more than 40 years, and whether any breach of the peace or other public evil or annoyance has arisen in consequence of such collections; and, whether, pending such inquiry, he will direct the police not to initiate further prosecutions for alleged breach of such additional by-law?


I have been in further communication with the Board of Works, who inform me that the by-law complained of does not apply to collections of money on behalf of bands and musical performances which have been expressly allowed by the Board. These collections are made in the form of selling programmes and letting of chairs, and are not of the same character as collections made after public meetings, when persons frequenting the Parks, whether they join the assemblages or not, are solicited for money. I have asked the police to report to me whether the practice, in their opinion, tends to a breach of the peace, or creates any public evil or annoyance. I have also written to the Board of Works asking them to consider whether, inasmuch as no by-law such as this is in force in the Royal Parks, and inasmuch as its enforcement has apparently occasioned more vexation and annoyance than it prevents, any sufficient reason exists for maintaining it. The power of varying and altering by-laws is vested in the Board of Works. The prosecutions are instituted by them, and not by the police. I hope legislation may not be necessary on this subject now that attention has been drawn to it.


asked, whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware that on the previous day several policemen in uniform, and some in plain clothes, were employed in taking down the names and addresses of persons collecting, and that special action was being taken by the Police Authorities in connection with those collections?


said, he was not aware that such proceedings had been in progress. The prosecutions were initiated by the Board upon information which the Board had themselves gained.


further asked the right hon. Gentleman, did he know that the by-law, as it stood, gave Park-keepers under the Metropolitan Board of Works authority to enforce the by-law; and that the action taken by the police in uniform gave the impression that they were acting under the instructions of the Government?


said, he would take care that no such impression as that could be justified.