§ Lord Durham
, pursuant to notice, begged leave to present to their Lordships a petition from the parish of St. Mary, Newington, relating to the Metropolitan Police system. The petitioners complained, that under the 10th of his late Majesty, they were subjected to the new police establishment without their consent, and contrary to their wishes; and that, although the expense had been increased one-fourth, the protection to property was less efficient than under their own nightly-watch system, as was shown by an increased number of burglaries since the extension to their parish of the new system; and they prayed, either that the Act under which the metropolitan police was established should be repealed, or that the parish of St. Mary should be exempted from its provisions. The noble Lord said, he had inquired into the allegations of the petition, and found that in the six months preceding the establishment of the new police in this parish, the number of burglaries was 128, while the number in the six months which followed that establishment was 145. Then, as to the expense, he found that the charge of the nightly watch amounted to 3,000l.; while that of the less efficient new police was 4,390l. It was true that the nominal assessment was but 8d. per pound to the parish, which was not more, if so much. than the nightly-watch rate, but every house was assessed, be it inhabited or not The aggregate sum had to be made good 494 by the parish at large, making the actual rate to each householder 1s. in the pound. The petitioners complained that there was no office or place in the parish to which they could apply for aid or redress; that too many of the police were engaged on duty in the day-time, and too few in the night; that on those extraordinary emergencies—such as that on Tuesday last, for example, when a large force was required to protect the King's Ministers—there were no means of protection left for their properties. The petitioners also complained, that under the new Police Act, all control was taken out of their hands, not only over the appointment and conduct of the paid guardians of their properties, but over the expenditure of their own money. With respect to this point, he would suggest the expediency of authorizing the parish to have one of their own resident inhabitants connected with the police—say as an inspector—and exercising a control over its arrangements, founded on his knowledge of the wants, persons, and properties of his fellow-parishioners. To this proposition he did not anticipate any objection. As the public mind had been much directed of late to the subject of the new police, he thought himself bound to declare, that though he never happened to be so placed as to be able personally to judge of the efficiency of that body,—all he had seen of the new police, particularly in the neighbourhood of that House, gave him the highest idea of their vigilance, firmness, and good conduct. In paying this justly deserved tribute to the character of the new police as a body, it was not to be inferred that the principles of the measure under which it acted were unexceptionable. He had, on its being first proposed to their Lordships' attention, expressed his dissent from its arrangements, and had lamented the rapidity (owing to the very advanced period of the Session in which it had been introduced) with which it had been hurried through its several stages, so as to preclude the possibility of its details being properly discussed. Nor was his complaint even on the score of expense groundless; for he found that in the parish of St. George— known to many of their Lordships—the charge of the new police had been raised from 5,000l. per annum (the cost of the preceding nightly-watch) to not less than 17,000l.; to counterbalance which, he had not seen any proofs that the protection 495 afforded to property had increased in efficiency. The next point to which he would invite the attention of their Lordships was, the objection to the sole control of the police being placed in the hands of the Home Secretary of State. He did not mean to enter then into the discussion of the constitutional principle involved in this objection, but to state a circumstance which had been communicated to him, and which, he trusted, would meet with a direct contradiction from the proper quarter. The circumstance to which he alluded was a written order to the inspectors and officers of the new police, "to return the names of those privates and subalterns who possessed votes at Norwich." Now, He could not take it upon him to say whether this order had, or had not, been actually issued; he was anxious to obtain satisfactory information on the subject, and he trusted, in the negative: but he thought the circumstance of the hon. Member who had been returned for Norwich—certainly not by the aid of the Government—having given notice of a motion for a bill to exclude members of the metropolitan police from voting at elections for Norwich, imparted an air at least of probability to the assertion that it had been issued. He was not one of those who disgraced themselves by raising a senseless cry against the new police as a body; on the contrary, he was a willing witness, as far as he had the means of judging, to the excellent demeanour and appearance of its members; all he wanted was, not an overthrow, but an amelioration of the system. He knew not whether the subject was to be inquired into in the other House, but he hoped it would be by a committee.
was a resident in, and a member of, the vestry of the parish of St. George, to which the noble Baron had just alluded, and therefore trusted he might be permitted to say a few words with reference to the subject of the petition before their Lordships. Knowing that the conduct of the new police was to be touched upon by the noble Baron on the present occasion, he had instituted an inquiry into it, so far at least as his own parish was concerned; and the result of his inquiry was, that he differed altogether from the allegations of the petitioners, and from the views of the noble Baron concerning that body. He thought it necessary to state his opinion on this point, the 496 rather that a certain portion of the press had indulged in much misrepresentation concerning the efficiency, the organization, and the expense of the new police; and he, indeed, felt that the public would be indebted to the noble Baron for affording them an opportunity for correcting those representations. The great error of those who usually pronounced an opinion on the present metropolitan police was, that they founded their judgment on some isolated branch or item of that establishment, and not on a consideration of its merits as a whole. To form a correct opinion of the efficiency and cost of the new police, it should be judged of as a whole; and, if thus judged, he was confident the result would be very different from that set forth by many imperfectly informed and interested persons. For example, if they judged of the cost and efficiency of the new police by the parish of St. George alone, it was true at first sight it might not appear an improvement equal to the additional expense; but when they took into consideration that it was not for escorting such of their Lordships as might happen to reside in Grosvenor-square from one side of that square to the other in safety, that they were rated higher than they had hitherto been, but because the poorer and more defenceless inhabitants of the lanes and alleys of the parish were now better watched than heretofore, and the persons and properties of all the inhabitants much better secured,—he was sure that they would admit that justice, not less than expediency, was consulted in making the rich pay a due proportion towards the security of the poor of the parish. Again, St. George's parish should be considered in its relation to the aggregate expense of all the parishes in the metropolitan district, and not by itself, or in comparison with one or two others, If it was rated higher than others, there were the parishes of St. Giles's and Pancras, in which the increased charge was but 1d. in the pound additional; and the parish of Islington, in which it was less than the cost of the old nightly-watch system. With respect to what the noble Baron had said as to the sole control of the new police being placed in the hands of a Minister of the Crown, he was free to admit he was friendly to the general principle that those who paid the money should exercise a superintendance over its management; but when he considered how dependent the efficiency of 497 the police was on its uniformity of action and organization, and how incompatible that uniformity was with the system of separate parish management, e felt himself bound to maintain the present arrangement, as most conducive to uniformity, and thence to efficiency of conduct. As to the charge of interference by Ministers with the freedom of election at Norwich, he certainly had heard it asserted in more than one quarter, but, with the noble Baron, he trusted that the charge was without foundation. The manner in which he had heard the interference was effected was, by a pretext under which old and useless constables at Norwich, who had no votes, were temporarily superseded by such members of the metropolitan police who had votes; but he repeated, he expected to hear an official denial from his Majesty's Ministers of any species of interference whatever.
The Earl of Rosslyn
felt himself relieved from the necessity of making a lengthened speech by the judicious observations of the noble Lord who had just addressed the House. With respect to the point last touched upon by him— namely, the interference with such of the new police as had votes at Norwich, by the inspectors, — e could not then take it upon him to give it officially a flat contradiction. All that he could do was, to express, as an individual having no specific knowledge of the circumstances one way or the other, his strong belief that such was not the fact— that was wholly unfounded. Indeed, his belief of this had the strength of a conviction; for though not able to say positively that no order at all like to that quoted by the noble Baron (Durham) opposite had been issued, he understood, from the very best authority on the subject, that such of the new police as had votes were permitted to give them as they pleased, — and did vote for whom they pleased, without any interference on the part of their office. With respect to the allegation, that crime had increased in the parish of St. Mary, Newington, he begged leave to remind the noble Baron, that the matter had been inquired into in the proper quarter, and that it appeared that the efficiency of the new police had been, ' in the first instance, counteracted by circumstances which had since been remedied; and that some of the police, who had been charged with neglect of duty in that district, had been removed from the 498 service. Then, with respect to the increase of the cost of the police in St. George's parish from that of the nightly-watch system, which increase he admitted was from 5,000l. to 17,000l. per annum, it should be recollected, in addition to what had been just observed by the noble Lord (Suffield) opposite, that under the present arrangement many districts in the neighbourhood of Grosvenor-place, which formerly were under the watch management of other parishes, were now included within the parish of St. George new police district, and that both these new districts and the parish of St. George were now much better protected than they had ever been, or were likely to have been, under the old nightly-watch system. Besides, St. George's parish was singular in many respects, and should not be taken as a sample of the parish expense of the metropolitan district at large. In St. John's parish, for instance, the increase had also been considerable, for the same reason as in St. George's; but still it was not much above the half more than the old watch charge. In all these instances of increased cost to particular parishes, they were bound to take into consideration the aggregate charge of the whole metropolitan police, as compared with the aggregate charge and efficiency of the old watch system; and that comparison would show that the expense— he meant the aggregate expense— of the police, very little exceeded that of the aggregate nightly-watch, while the efficiency admitted of no comparison. But this was not all; there were now ten or twelve districts in the immediate neighbourhood of the metropolis in which persons and property were secured, which actually had no watch or police whatever till the appointment of the new metropolitan police. Therefore, if the charge of the old watch was nearly equal to that of the new police, even without these ten or twelve districts to which he had just alluded, he was warranted in saying that it would have been much more had those districts been included; while it could not be pretended that the protection of lives and property would be at all equal. It might, he admitted, be a matter of fair discussion whether the present mode of imposing the police-rates was the most unexceptionable; but that discussion must keep in view the necessity of one uniform system of management, so essential to efficiency and order. Nor, if the matter were closely 499 inquired into, would it, he thought, be seen that the present mode of rating was so highly objectionable as some persons had asserted. The new police charge was levied on the fixed principle of the county-rates; while the parochial poor-rates were levied on a variable system. The former was a charge of 8d. per pound on—not, as in the case of many parochial rates, on the rack-rent, but—on three-fourths of the nominal rent paid; so that the real charge was actually but 6d. in the pound: in other words, the parties assessed paid but three-fourths of their just proportion, on the principle of the parochial rates. This had been either forgotten or artfully over-looked by those persons who, in some parishes, had raised a clamorous outcry against the new police—an outcry, in most instances, the consequence of jealousy or disappointment that a large amount of patronage and control had been taken out of the hands of individuals (as might be inferred from the fact, that in St. Pancras alone there were not less than eighteen different watch-trusts, before the new system of uniformity had been established), for the purpose of securing police efficiency.
had forgotten to touch upon two points which bore closely upon the question before their Lordships. One was, that in one of the parishes most clamourous against the cost of the new police establishment, he had been informed that the parish, for a couple of years, had been loaded with a debt, the onus and odium of which those who had contracted it thought the present a favourable opportunity of transferring to the new police from themselves. OIL a future day he would enter into the particulars of the transaction. The other point had been alluded to by the noble Earl who had just addressed the house— namely, the fact that the aggregate cost of the whole metropolitan police did not much exceed that of the nightly-watch, though it included ten or twelve districts to which that worshipful body's superintendence never in any way extended. The whole expense of the metropolitan police was 208,000l. per annum, while that of the nightly-watch (exclusive of private watchmen) was 160,000l.
§ Lord Tenterden
was enabled, from his own experience in the King's Bench, to declare that there were cases in which property had been recovered since the establishment of 500 the new police, which he was confident would never have been so recovered but for the intelligence, vigilance, and general good conduct of that body.
§ Lord Durham
wished to know from his Majesty's Ministers, whether they intended to move for a repeal of the Metropolitan, Police Act with a view to its amendment.
The Earl of Rosslyn
replied, that Ministers had then no intention to submit any proposition to Parliament with a view to either repealing or amending the Act alluded to by that noble Baron.
§ The Petition laid on the Table.