HC Deb 01 March 1911 vol 22 cc367-8

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he had received a memorandum accompanying a request for a public inquiry into the conduct of the Metropolitan Police on 18th, 22nd, and 23rd November last; if such memorandum had had his consideration; and what reply had been given to the request for an inquiry?


I have received the memorandum referred to and considered it. It contains a large number of charges against the police of criminal misconduct, which, if there were any truth in them, should have been made at the time and not after a lapse of three months, and should, if they could be supported by evidence, have been preferred in a police court. My reply to the memorandum was, therefore, to the effect that the proper course would be to prefer the charges in the ordinary way in a police court where the evidence can be taken on oath and tested by cross-examination and where the accused persons would have an opportunity of answering specific accusations. This is the remedy that the law provides, and in my opinion there is no other satisfactory way of ascertaining the truth of any specific charge. I may add, however, for the information of the House, that I have made inquiry of the Commissioner with regard to certain general statements included in the memorandum and find them to be devoid of foundation. There is no truth in the statement that the police had instructions which led them to terrorise and maltreat the women. On the contrary, the superintendent in charge impressed upon them that as they would have to deal with women, they must act with restraint and moderation, using no more force than might be necessary, and maintaining under any provocation they might receive, control of temper. The statement that there were a large number of plain clothes officers in the crowd who were, it is suggested, guilty of indecencies, is equally false. Apart from some detectives, specially summoned when it was found that a large number of pickpockets and thieves were present, not more than a dozen plain clothes officers were employed, and, with the exception of one who assisted in an arrest, none of them handled the women in any way; but the crowd, which had assembled in response to invitations scattered broadcast by the Women's Social and Political Union, contained a large number of undesirable and reckless persons quite capable of indulging in gross conduct. It is perfectly possible that some of these were guilty of the indecencies alleged, and for their presence in Parliament Square the women themselves are responsible. Of the 200 women arrested, not a single one complained of being hurt or made at the time any charge against the police of undue violence or of misconduct. If any charge can be made against any named individual, it can even now be investigated either by the Courts or by the Commissioner of Police; but I am not prepared to order an inquiry into vague and general charges collected in response to advertisements in "Votes for Women," and brought forward by irresponsible persons long after the event.