HC Deb 26 November 1888 vol 331 cc159-60

In reply to Mr. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton),


The hon. Member put the Question he has just asked in my hands about five minutes ago; but this morning I received from him private Notice of another and a different Question, the answer to which I have brought with me. The hon. Member asks me whether I am aware that on Friday evening an orderly public meeting held in support of Earl Compton's candidature for the Holborn Division, at the corner of White Lion Street, was dispersed by the police; whether the ground for this dispersal was that the meeting was said to cause an obstruction; whether any complaint of obstruction has been made to the police, and, if so, by whom; whether I am aware that meetings have been previously held at the same place without interference; whether I am aware that Holborn is very badly provided with public Halls; whether I have considered the difficulties likely to arise if at the time of a contested election bonâ fide political meetings are interfered with by the police, acting under the direct control of the Executive Government; and whether I will instruct the police not to interfere with such meetings at such at a time, even although they do cause some obstruction of the traffic. In reply to the hon. Gentleman, I have to say that I have made inquiry, and am informed by the police that a meeting did take place in Seven Dials on the evening of the 23rd. The Inspector of Police, seeing that the whole thoroughfare was blocked and the traffic was impeded, acting on his own discretion, requested the people to leave. He was not aware that the meeting was in support of Earl Compton's candidature, and saw none of his agents there at the time. I am informed that meetings have not taken place at this particular spot, at which the crowd stood across a route of omnibus traffic; but at a point further down White Lion Street, where no appreciable obstruction has been caused, and where the meeting in question would not have been interfered with. I am informed that Holborn is badly provided with public halls; and I am aware of the difficulties that are likely to arise under these circumstances during an election. The standing instructions given to the police are not to interfere with meetings unless in cases of disorder, obstruction, or danger to the public peace; and if those who desire to hold meetings would endeavour to co-operate with the police in the performance of their difficult duties, and to select convenient places, I feel sure they will have no reason to complain of the intervention of the police.