HL Deb 23 August 1839 vol 50 cc493-6

Viscount Duncannon moved, that the report of the Bolton Police Bill be received. He could not comply with the wish of the noble and learned Lord (Lyndhurst), and give up this bill. In consequence of the observations which had been made respecting him, the mayor of Bolton had come to town and stated to him (Lord Duncannon), that the noble and learned Lord had been misinformed in several particulars. The mayor stated in a petition which he had committed to his charge, that the only available constables at present were seven, elected under the Court Leet; that, with respect to the body of forty constables, no such force was known; and that there was no mode of paying the police, but out of the poor-rate: that some constables had, for several years, been paid out of the poor-rate, but that, last year, the accounts were disallowed on presentment, and those who served for the last six months were without any pay. The only police force that remained, was the seven manorial constables, who were not competent to preserve the peace of the town.

Lord Lyndhurst

What is to prevent a police force from being supported by voluntary contribution, as it has been hitherto?

Viscount Duncannon

Why this; that the inhabitants were willing to pay a police force voluntarily while the question concerning their charter was pending; but as it appeared, that a decision could not be expected for a considerable time, it was not fair that they should be visited with such a charge. The noble and learned Lord had stated, that 2,400l. was applicable to the purposes of police under a local act; but this petition alleged, that it had never been applied to such a purpose, and had been lodged to the Bolton-moor Trust account. It was farther stated, that a rate of 8d. in, the pound would produce 4,600l. a-year, for the maintenance of this body, and that, with the exception of the seven manorial constables already mentioned, the whole police force consisted of 800 men, appointed as special constables by the council, and supported entirely by voluntary contribution. The mayor then stated, that he bad observed, with great concern and surprise, a published report of a statement, uttered with respect to him, and which, charged him with swearing in Chartists as special constables, with petitioning the boroughreeve and constables of Bolton, to hold a Chartist meeting, and with not applying to the military commander in proper time for a sufficient force to quell disturbance. In answer to these allegations, this gentleman stated, that he had always entertained and avowed principles favourable to an extension of the suffrage; but that since his election as mayor, he had never directly nor indirectly mixed in politics. He had not knowingly sworn in any Chartist as a special constable, with the exception of one person, who gave as a reason for not serving, that he was a Chartist. This person was in the employment of Mr. Boiling, the Conservative Member of the town. That, in order to avoid any partiality as to the persons sworn in as special constables, he took the 10l. franchise as his guide for the selection of those to be so employed. He had not (he said further) signed any petition to the boroughreeve of Bolton, to call a meeting for the purpose of considering the propriety of the inhabitants forming a procession to Kersal-moor. On the contrary, he positively refused to do so, and the other requisitionists placarded the fact of his refusal. That he had used the utmost vigour and promptitude in suppressing the recent riot in the town of Bolton; that he gave the military commander the earliest notice possible of the outbreak; that the statement was wholly unfounded that the town was in the possession of the rioters for three days, and that the petitioner was most anxious that a thorough investigation should take place. Under these circumstances, he (Lord Duncannon) meant to go on with the bill, and to introduce an amendment as to Little Bolton.

Lord Lyndhurst

It was very possible that he might have mis-stated the precise meeting which this gentleman wished to have convened, but he was confident, from the correctness of his informant, that he signed a requisition, requiring the boroughreeve to assemble a meeting for some purpose analogous to what he had stated. This gentleman did not say, that he did not attend such a meeting of Chartists, that he was not present when the resolution was proposed, and that he did not second the resolution. The whole of these statements he passed over, and he had no disposition whatever to continue this discussion, particularly as an enquiry was about to be instituted into the conduct of this gentleman, when each side could be heard. He now came to ask what was to become of the present special constables? They could not be continued under this Act, which levied a rate amounting, he still maintained, to only 2,200l., which would give a force of about thirty men—a body wholly incompetent to maintain the peace of the town, when deprived of the power of calling in the aid of the military. As to including Little Bolton, that was done by a taxing clause inserted by that House, and, therefore, a violation of the privileges of the House of Commons. Besides, Little Bolton paid a tax as part of the county for this purpose, and it was most unjust to compel it also to contribute to the support of the force belonging to the town.

The Duke of Wellington

did not think it very proper in that House to sanction such a clause, so directly trenching upon the privileges of the Commons.

Lord Brougham

reminded his noble and learned Friend, and the noble Duke, that the question of privilege was not one for them to consider. "Non est hujusce loci." They maintained that the House of Commons had no such exclusive privilege of taxation. And from his experience of that House, he could say, that, like the qualities of some persons in private life, they could pocket their privileges as easily as possible when it suited a purpose.

Viscount Duncannon

If the clause was of the nature described, he should consider it a fatal objection; but he did not believe that it would raise the question of privilege.

Report was received.

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