HL Deb 09 March 1863 vol 169 cc1220-4

My Lords, I desire to call the attention of your Lordships and of Her Majesty's Government to a matter that deserves the earliest and most serious consideration. In the general rejoicing connected with the reception given to the Royal lady who landed on our shores on Saturday it is painful to think that any circumstance should have occurred to create just animadversion; but I cannot help thinking, from what I have read in the journals of this day, that such is the case; and from having held for six years a position of responsibility in the Home Office, I conceive myself not unwarranted in drawing the attention of your Lordships and of the Government to the facts. So far as the earlier part of the procession traversed ground with which the administration of the Metropolitan Police is concerned — that is, from the Bricklayers' Arms to London Bridge—all went smoothly, and, if I may use the expression, "merry as a marriage bell;" but on the arrival of the procession at London Bridge there ensued, as I read in all the public prints, a scene of confusion, and certainly a delay, which ought not to have taken place, and would not have taken place if proper precautions had been observed. I perceive that on the centre of London Bridge the Royal carriages were delayed for no shorter period than a full half-hour; that again a greater delay took place opposite the Mansion House; and that there was such a scene of confusion that the populace were permitted to break through all regulations, and even to approach so near the Royal party as to lay hands upon the carriages in which they were seated. Such is the statement given in the newspapers. I hold this to he an extremely indecorous proceeding, and I attribute it entirely to the want of a proper force there; and I am sorry to say that I must attribute that to a feeling of false pride and self-sufficiency on the part of the authorities of the City of London, who, having had offered to them the aid of the Metropolitan Police, declined it on the ground that they were able to perform this duty by means of their own force. That has been proved to be a very great mistake; and it is right that steps should be taken so that such a mistake shall not occur again. On the occasion of Saturday the whole people were striving who should do most honour to the Royal personages who were then passing through their streets. It was an occasion of the greatest joy, and every one vied with the other to show hospitality and honour to those distinguished persons; and I say it is the duty of the Government to see that the City is permanently provided with a police force adequate, upon occasions of joy as well as of disturbance, to maintain public order and decorum. I remember that some time ago a proposition was made for having but one police force for the whole metropolis; but circumstances arose which prevented so beneficial an arrangement being carried into effect. I trust that the circumstances that occurred on Saturday will so convince my right hon. Friend at the head of the Home Department of the necessity of having but one police force for this great metropolis, that he will lose no time in introducing a measure for that purpose. There can be no more opportune time for so doing, for the City Commissioner of Police has just died, and no new appointment has yet taken place. I ask no question of Her Majesty's Government on the present occasion, but I simply call their attention to the facts that occurred in the streets on Saturday in that part of the metropolis called the City of London; and I have no doubt, when they consider the whole matter, that they will have little hesitation as to what measure should be introduced.


said, that his noble Friend the President of the Council (Earl Granville) had left the House, being no, doubt unaware, as he was, that his noble Friend was going to address their Lordships. He (the Duke of Newcastle) happened to be in this position, that he had not had time to read in the papers one word of the accounts of what took place on Saturday, and therefore he was quite unaware of the circumstances. He certainly had heard that there was some confusion near St. Paul's, but that was al that had reached his ears in reference to disturbance or interruption. He could not, therefore, be expected, in fairness to the parties concerned, now to answer the observations which had been made; but he had no doubt that his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would pay proper attention to a subject of so much importance. The circumstances of Saturday were so singular that they could not be expected to occur again for many years; but his noble Friend was aware that the question of the amalgamation of the two bodies of police was not now brought forward for the first time; and, speaking for himself, he must say he regretted that feeling of independence on the part of the City which hail hitherto prevented it being carried into effect, he did not think that the City police could be so efficient to perform its duty as if it formed part of an amalgamated body; but that was a matter for the Home Secretary, who would certainly look into it.


said, he understood that the noble Earl who had introduced this subject did not intend in the smallest degree to attribute the disturbance to any fault upon the part of the people. Nothing could have been more kindly than their feeling on this occasion. The fact was, that there was a large space opposite the Mansion House which was entirely filled with people, who, being anxious to see, pressed towards the Royal carriages. Everybody knew that the pressure from a column of men set in motion was such that hardly any power could resist it, and it was sure to break down all ordinary resistance. He understood that even one of the cavalry escort was so pressed upon that his horse was lifted up. All this pressure arose from the loyal and affectionate feeling of the people, and from their strong desire to see the Princess, and he doubted whether any amount of police force could Lave kept back the masses at the Mansion House.


observed, that barriers were usually put up to keep a crowd back, and also to protect the people themselves, when any great assembly was expected; but he believed that at the spot in question there were no barriers. If it had not been for the excellent feeling displayed by the people, some dreadful accident would almost certainly have happened.


said, that during the time he was First Commissioner of Public Works it was his duty to recommend a measure for the better management of the metropolis, and to inquire into the state of the existing metropolitan institutions; and one of the matters brought most seriously before him was the inconvenience occasioned by the double jurisdiction of the police. Various Governments had had it in contemplation to adopt some plan for amalgamating the police, and for many reasons this would, in his opinion, he a most desirable object. The City of London was but a mere speck in the map of the metropolis, and contained less than 130,000 inhabitants out of a population, within the metropolitan limits, of nearly 3,000,000. The jurisdiction of the metropolitan police inclosed that of the City police, and it seemed an absurd anomaly to have these two separate authorities. If Sir Richard Mayne had had the whole management of the police on Saturday, he was quite sure that order would have been as well kept within the City as it was from the Bricklayers' Arms to the foot of London Bridge, and from Temple Bar to Hyde Park Corner. Being at the window of Apsley House on Saturday, he saw at Hyde Park Corner a mass of people quite as thick, he was informed, as any collected in the open space opposite the Mansion House. So dense was the crowd that it seemed almost impossible to open a passage through it. By an order issued by Sir Richard Mayne, no carriages were allowed to enter there after three o'clock. At that time all carriages were stopped and turned back; and in about a quarter of an hour a space was cleared for the procession, and not a single person attempted to cross it. The City authorities were not used to deal with such emergencies, nor had they the same amount of force at their disposal; but on this occasion they refused the offer of a portion of the Household Brigade and of the metropolitan police, and said they would manage the City line of the procession with their own people, and in consequence of this determination to reject nil extraneous aid, the greatest confusion had ensued, and most serious inconveniences had occurred. He thought this would be a good opportunity for the Government to consider whether an amalgamation of the police might not now be effected, so that one body might henceforth have jurisdiction over the whole metropolis.

House adjourned at half past Six o'clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.