HL Deb 19 June 1837 vol 38 cc1540-2
Viscount Melbourne

presented a petition from the city of Bristol, to which he begged leave to call the attention of their Lordships. The petition was agreed to at a public meeting held in that city, and had 7,386 names attached to it. The object of the petition was to call on their Lordships to pass the Irish Municipal Corporation Bill. The petitioners took that opportunity of denying the accuracy of the statements contained in a petition presented on a former evening by a noble and learned Lord opposite, which went to impugn the correctness of certain observations made by him (Viscount Melbourne) as to the working of the Municipal Reform Bill in Bristol. The observations which he had made were not founded on any feeling that might be supposed to exist in the city of Bristol generally, nor were they connected with any expression of feeling that might have emanated from a public meeting, but were based on evidence which had been carefully obtained with respect to the working of the Municipal Corporations Bill. His object was to give his opinion as to the actual work- ing of that Bill, so far as he had been able to collect evidence with respect to its operation. The petition which had been presented from other parties in Bristol, contained statements opposed to the facts which he had laid before their Lordships, the correctness of which he could refute by a reference to documents. He, however, would not trouble their Lordships by noticing them all, but would merely press on their attention one of the points actually in dispute. That point had relation to the efficiency of the police system in checking and preventing crime under the new Municipal Bill. He was now prepared to show, that what he had formerly said, was perfectly correct; and in doing so, he should rely on an authority which he was certain would have great weight with their Lordships. The present Recorder of Bristol (Sir C. Wetherell), was the authority to whom he referred. He had the concurrence of that learned personage in support of the fact, that the Municipal Corporation Bill had operated most beneficially in introducing an efficient police into Bristol. As the opinion of that learned Gentleman on this subject was very important, he could not refrain from alluding to it. At the quarter sessions held in July, 1836, the learned Recorder stated, that though the population of the city had increased, in consequence of the extension of its ancient limits, yet crime had diminished. At the quarter sessions held on the 8th of October, the same learned person stated, that it was true misdemeanor had increased, but that, considering the great increase of population occasioned by the Municipal Reform Act, crime had decreased. In January, 1837, the learned Gentleman stated similar sentiments; and at the same quarter sessions the grand jury said, that they felt it to be their duty to express their approbation of the improved state of the police. Finally, in April, 1837, the learned Recorder expressed great satisfaction at the efficiency of the police, observing, that taking all circumstances into consideration, the town had benefitted by the new system of police. Such evidence as he had adduced would, he thought, answer every objection that had been raised on the subject of police; and as for the other points, he would not trouble the House by referring to them.

Lord Wynford

had every reason to believe, that the statements contained in the petition presented by him, were perfectly correct. He hoped that the noble Viscount would move for a Committee to inquire into the subject. If the noble Viscount took that course, he pledged himself to prove that the statements contained in the petition were accurate.

Petition laid on the table.

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