HC Deb 24 July 1891 vol 356 cc315-7
MR. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)

On behalf of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Eastbourne Division (Admiral Field), I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the serious disturbances in Eastbourne on Sunday last caused by the Salvationists there acting in defiance of the local Act, which prohibits processions with bands on Sundays; whether he is aware that a considerable number of persons are reported to have been sent from London for the express purpose of assisting them in their determined and wilful violation of the law aforesaid; whether he is aware that nine Salvationists have since Sunday been committed for trial on a charge of "unlawful assembly and conspiracy to infringe the local Act;" whether he has been informed that further serious disturbances are expected on Sunday next, owing to the indignation of the inhabitants of all classes at the serious injury caused to the town, and its interests as a seaside resort, by this unseemly disregard of law; and whether he will so far assist the Local Authorities in maintaining the peace of the town of Eastbourne, comprising over 34,000 inhabitants, as to allow a certain number of detectives from the Metropolitan Police Force to be sent there, with a view to identifying certain prominent parties expected from London—prizefighters and others—in order the more readily to indict them on a charge of "conspiracy to break the law;" and, finally, will he advise generally as to the best course to be pursued by the Mayor and the Magistrates generally in maintaining law and order, whether by the swearing in of special constables or otherwise?


I have been informed that, although there seemed at one time a probability of considerable disturbance at Eastbourne last Sunday, the timely action of the authorities was successful in preventing any serious breach of the peace. I am also informed that excursionists have arrived by train to join in the processions at Eastbourne. Eight of the nine persons committed since last Sunday appear to have come from London. The Watch Committee apprehend further disturbance on Sunday next. The Local Authorities have so far been able, although with some difficulty, to prevent serious disorders at Eastbourne; and I do not think any such emergency has arisen as to call for the intervention of the Metropolitan Police. That Force is not too large for the needs of the Metropolis. It is not intended to supply the deficiencies of county or borough forces, and should not be used for that purpose unless where very special circumstances have arisen. The Mayor and the Magistrates are entitled to swear in special constables, and should not hesitate to do so, if riot or tumult is apprehended, or if their local force, assisted by the police of the county and neighbouring boroughs, is insufficient to maintain order.


Has the right hon. Gentleman any objection to say whether he has received an official representation from the Mayor on the subject of the dangers apprehended next Sunday, and, if so, what reply has been sent?


I have received such a representation, and an application for the loan of Metropolitan Police, and in the answer I have just given I have stated generally the purport of my reply.