HL Deb 19 March 1863 vol 169 cc1595-605

asked, pursuant to notice, Whether the Government intend to take any Steps with respect to the Consolidation of the Metropolitan and City Police? He thought sufficient time had now elapsed since he drew their Lordship's attention to the confusion which took place in the City on the 7th instant, to have enabled the Government to make up their minds as to the steps necessary to be taken to prevent the recurrence of such unfortunate circumstances. He had no intention of withholding from the authorities of the City of London the full credit due to them for the magnificent preparations which they made for the reception of the Princess Alexandra on the 7th of March; but that only made it the more to be regretted that any occurrence should have taken place to mar the success of the occasion. It was still more painful to think, that with the shout of rejoicing that went forth from the assembled multitude at London Bridge and the Mansion House, there should have been mingled shrieks of terror and pain, arising entirely from the want of proper police arrangements to facilitate the passage of the cavalcade through the City. Attempts had been made to account for the failure of the police on that occasion, and the City Commissioner of Police had endeavoured to cast the blame upon the Volunteers of the City of London. He thought that there had never been a charge more groundless against that gallant body. He had received a statement from the officer commanding the London Rifle Brigade, informing him that he had followed implicitly the arrangements laid down for him by the police, but that he found it utterly impossible to take the route pointed out by a sergeant sent expressly as his guide, or to take up the position assigned to the corps by the Commissioner in his programme. But it turned out that there was a difference of opinion between the Commissioner of Police and the Lord Mayor; for while the Commissioner expected the Volunteers to do something towards preserving public order, the Lord Mayor said they were merely there as objects of show—to be looked at, by whom he did not say—and to be altogether subservient in every way to the arrangements of the police. The effects of the mal-arrangement did not occur only at the places he had mentioned; it occurred throughout the whole route of the procession through the City, and the City authorities themselves must have been much disappointed at the want of success in maintaining the thoroughfare clear, from the manner in which their own procession was broken up by the mob. If, however, the disorder had been limited to that part of the procession, it would not have been so much a matter for regret; but it extended to the very safety of the royal visitors themselves; and no one could read what had been stated by the Clerk Marshal in another place without being struck almost with horror at the position in which the royal carriage was placed on that day. In fact, the progress through the City was due almost entirely to the good humour of Lord Alfred Paget, and the anxiety of the people themselves to make way for it. This was not the result of any unexpected pressure. The City authorities had been warned of the pressure which would occur, and were offered assistance in the form both of police and cavalry. This, however, they refused—they placed an unfortunate reliance upon their own power, which utterly failed, and showed how totally unfit they and their police were to cope with an occasion of this kind. Now, it was necessary some steps should be taken to prevent the recurrence of such a state of things as that to which he had adverted; and the only step which could have the effect, was, he believed, the immediate amalgamation of the City with the great body of the Metropolitan Police—a course which ought long since to have been adopted, and the absurd anomaly of having an area of 700 acres kept in order by one set of men, while an area of 78,000 acres in the same metropolis was governed by another, thus done away with. He had, he might add, heard the late Sir Robert Peel say over and over again in the House of Commons, that it was his conviction that one body of police should govern the whole of London. In 1854 a Royal Commission, which mustered among its Members the late Justice Pattison and the present Secretary of State for the War Department (Sir George Lewis), most clearly and distinctly recommended the amalgamation which he was advocating. In giving his evidence, moreover, before that Commission, the late Mr. Daniel Whittle Harvey, the Chief Commissioner of City Police, stated that it was utterly impossible that the detective duties of the police in the metropolis could be carried on by two separate bodies; and it was said, that had he not been afraid of pulling down his house about his ears, he would have given similar evidence with respect to their protective duties. But, be that as it might, the time had clearly come for the settlement of the question, and he felt assured, that if Her Majesty's Government would only take it up boldly, they would be supported in disposing of it, not only by the voices of Members of both Houses of Parliament, but by those of the inhabitants of the metropolis generally, with the exception, perhaps, of some persons who thought that the City of London constituted a body which ought in no respect to be interfered with, however great the benefit to the public at large which such interference might bring about. For his own part, he had no desire to interfere with the general privileges of the City of London, or with those great bodies who dispensed so splendid an hospitality within its limits; but he felt bound at the same time to ask the Government to take into their serious consideration the necessity which existed for securing on all extraordinary public occasions that security for life and property which recent events proved it was in the power of the Metropolitan Police to secure, and which was everywhere secured throughout the metropolis, with the exception of that particular; portion of it over which they happened to have no control. He trusted something would be done by the Government to prevent the recurrence of such scenes as had been witnessed on Saturday the 7th of March, and on the subsequent Tuesday, when the want of an efficient police force in the City had been attended with such lamentable results.


said, he could to a certain extent confirm, from personal experience, what had been stated by his noble Friend as to very different arrangements which had been made by the Metropolitan Police and those within the City on the occasion to which he had adverted. His noble Friend the Postmaster General, as well as himself, had contrived to see a very large portion of the route, both within and without the City, on the 7th, and there could be no doubt that in the City the confusion was not only very great, but in certain parts almost alarming. Indeed, when he arrived at the Mansion House it appeared to him, as well as his noble Friend, that it would be quite impossible to clear the way for the Royal procession at that point. He had, at the same time, never been struck so much by anything as by the great good humour which the people assembled—he would not call them the mob—in the City and elsewhere had exhibited, whether restrained by the police outside the City or left very much to their own guidance within it. He felt also bound to say that at Temple Bar a large body of City Police were stationed, who were most zealous, and also very civil, in the discharge of their duties. But in some parts of the route, where all progress seemed impossible, he went for a distance of three quarters of a mile without seeing a single policeman, or any attempt to clear the way. But he could scarcely look upon that circumstance as a reflection on the City Police, when it was borne in mind that they had at their disposal a comparatively small number of men to control a vast multitude composed of hundreds of thousands of people. With respect to the particular question put to him by his noble Friend, as to what the Government proposed to do with respect to the amalgamation of the City and Metropolitan Police, he could only say that it was one which the Home Department had lost no time in taking into its consideration. The Home Secretary had written at once to the Lord Mayor, calling his attention to the facts which had been stated with regard to the confusion which had prevailed within the City on the occasion of the Royal procession, and asking him for an explanation both as regarded the numbers of the police on duty on the occasion, the mode of their disposition, and the other different arrangements made by the City authorities to insure due order being maintained during the progress of the interesting ceremonial. The letter had been immediately acknowledged by the Lord Mayor, who stated that an investigation into the matter would at once be set on foot, and that the result would, without delay, be communicated to the Home Office. Up to the present moment, however, no further information on the subject had been received from the Lord Mayor. The Secretary for the Home Department mean time had taken other means to inform himself on the subject generally; but it would be clearly wrong for the Government to come to any definite discussion in reference to it until the necessary facts had been duly laid before them. He was therefore unable to announce that the Government had as yet come to any positive determination in the matter. He had simply to say, in conclusion, that it was the more to be regretted that any confusion should have occurred in the City on the occasion of the Royal procession, because of the great good taste—especially as evinced at London Bridge—of the preparations which had been made by the City authorities to receive the Princess.


said, that as he had been alluded to in another place, he might perhaps be allowed to say a few words with respect to the military arrangements which had been made on the occasion of the Royal procession. He was anxious that a certain amount of military assistance should be given in the City; but he was bound to say that the offer of such assistance was, in the first instance, refused. On the Tuesday previous to the procession he had held a meeting of officers who were to be on duty, with the Chief Commissioner of Metropolitan Police. He felt very strongly that aid should be rendered to the City authorities; but he was aware that that aid could not be afforded without an actual request coming from those authorities themselves. He therefore requested Sir Richard Mayne to put himself into communication with the City authorities on the subject, and to suggest to them the expediency of making similar arrangements to those which were being made for the West End. On Thursday morning he received a communication from the Superintendent of Police of the City of London—he was not, however, quite sure by whom it was signed—stating that no military aid was required. This seemed so perfectly monstrous, that being personally acquainted with the Lord Mayor, he took the liberty of sending to him Sir Richard Airey, the Quartermaster General, with a request that he would oblige him (the Duke of Cambridge) by allowing a certain number of troops to go into the City, fearing that otherwise something very serious might occur. In the first instance, he believed, the Lord Mayor, though extremely amiable and courteous in his reply, did not consider it necessary to have such assistance; but on Sir Richard Airey proceeding to point out the expediency of further considering the subject, and one or two others of the City authorities having been called in to take part in the deliberation, it was arranged, after some little discussion, that some troops should be sent. The Lord Mayor had stated, that if they had sent Life Guards instead of Artillery, there would have been no confusion. He did not understand upon what ground that argument was based, for he could not see why one body of troops should be better than another for the purpose. He was quite aware that the Household Cavalry had had great experience in dealing with large bodies of people in the streets, and it was very well known that they invariably acted with great forbearance, and did their work really well. He felt the responsibility of sending other troops into the City, but he had only Artillery at his disposal, and he particularly instructed the officers commanding the Artillery to warn the men to exercise the greatest forbearance, and to allow the people to see as much as possible. He had since spoken to various persons who were in the crowd at the time, and they informed him that they had never seen anything like the good humour and forbearance shown by the Artillery; and he had been further told that but for the ten or dozen men in front of the Mansion House the procession never would have got on at all. It had been said that the trappings of the Artillery rendered them unsuitable for this kind of duty; but he could only say that the trappings of the Artillery were the same as those of the rest of the army. He was also bound to speak for the Lieutenant Colonel of the Volunteer Bides of the City of London. He had the honour to be Colonel of the regiment. He had had no communication upon this subject with any one, but he had read with care and attention the letter from Lieutenant Colonel Ward in The Times, which had never been contradicted, and it seemed to him that that officer had literally obeyed the orders which he received. If the orders were incorrect, they should have been changed. They were published long before the day of the procession, and he believed they were most strictly obeyed. Perhaps it would have been better if the Volunteers had not mustered in Guildhall Yard; but why was the commanding officer not told so? He believed that the City authorities, on the contrary made no communication on the subject. With respect to the question whether or not the City of London should retain its own exclusive police, it was not for him to express an opinion. But one observation he wished to make. He believed that the force was composed of very good men, but on Saturday week they undertook a task which was entirely beyond their strength. To take charge of the whole line from London Bridge to Temple Bar with such an amount of force was impossible. He thought it highly objectionable that on great occasions like that of Saturday week two or three authorities should divide amongst them the responsibility of preserving order; and whether the two forces were amalgamated or not, he hoped that some arrangement would be made to produce uniformity of action in future. There was a great difficulty about the military authorities. They were desired to assist the civil power, but the City of London was hermetically sealed to them. Although he had the command of the army, and communicated with the greatest cordiality and good feeling with the Metropolitan Police, he had positively no right to ask the City of London authorities any question upon the subject. They were extremely courteous in making arrangements, and he should be sorry if it were thought that he had said anything discourteous to them. He had no such feeling; but he felt that on great occasions, when order and regularity were essential, it was necessary that Her Majesty's Government should take means to place the conduct of the arrangements in the hands of some one authority, and he was convinced, that if that were not done, some frightful calamity would occur on some future great occasion. The City of London had come forward most nobly in the reception which they had given to the Royal Princess, and their arrangements on the whole had been excellent; but he certainly did not think that their police arrangements were so. It was very wise, in his opinion, to give orders that the Volunteers should not take any part in keeping back the crowd. However well-conducted they might be, they were unaccustomed to the duly, and could not be expected to perform it in the same way as soldiers. The armed force which was allowed to interfere with crowds should be under the strictest discipline and accustomed to military obedience—two conditions which they could not expect to find fulfilled in the case of the Volunteers. He hoped, that whatever the decision might be with regard to the amalgamation of the two police forces, Her Majesty's Government would take some steps to constitute a central authority by whom, on another similar occasion, order and regularity might be more easily maintained and more thoroughly preserved. He could not sit down without expressing the great satisfaction with which he had observed in all the streets the great order and regularity of the Metropolitan Police and the courteous manner in which they behaved to the crowd, while at the same time efficiently performing their duty; and he was glad of the opportunity of thus bringing their conduct prominently to the notice of the House.


said, he was Chairman of the Commission which sat eleven, years ago to investigate this question of the City Police, and so distinctly was he impressed with the importance of having one police force for the whole metropolis, that he should regret if this opportunity were lost of making a reform which the circumstances of the case imperatively required. On so great an occasion as the procession through the City, no matter what were the arrangements, but for the good conduct of the people it would be impossible to avoid some accidents. It was plain that very defective arrangements were made in the City, but his opinion was not based upon what had recently taken place. Of late years it must have been a source of pride and congratulation that the immense congregation of human beings in the metropolis had been attended with scarcely any disturbances; but, however much they might rejoice, whatever confidence they might entertain, it would be the extreme of imprudence not to insist on the establishment of an efficient police in it, and as long as the anomaly of the City Police existed, they could not have an efficient police. What were the circumstances under which that force had a separate existence and organization? An area of one square mile, which was taken charge of by the City Police, was surrounded by an area of 570 square miles in the hands of the Metropolitan Police, and even the ground between high and low-water mark within the City boundaries was not within the jurisdiction of the City Police. Nothing could be more inconvenient than such a state of things, and any one who would read the evidence of the late Mr. Daniel Whittle Harvey the late Commissioner of the City Police, and a most able officer, could not fail to come to the conclusion that an end ought to be put to that anomaly. It was stated to the Commission that the rate of pay of the City Police was raised in comparison with that of the Metropolitan Police, and the excuse was that the men were required to be fine, tall men to gratify the City authorities, although the duty was not more laborious in the City than elsewhere. Of all the institutions in the country the most difficult to reform or interfere with was the City of London. They might reform the House of Commons; they might reform the law; but any Administration which loved its ease was very careful how it placed a finger on any abuse connected with the City. He was no enemy to the City of London. With its ancient associations, and a fame dear and venerable to Englishmen, he wished to see it kept up in decent state, with the power of exercising hospitality and indulging in harmless pieces of show; but it ought not to be allowed to do what was actually mischievous to the rest of the metropolis. He prayed their Lordships not to be put off by the answer that this could wait for a general reform. If they waited for a, general reform of the City of London, they would have to wait until the; Greek Kalends. He despaired of a general reform, and he hoped Her Majesty's Government would not let slip this opportunity of making a much-needed improvement. Although he had an immense opinion of the obstructive power of the City of London in the other House of Parliament, the case was so clear, and public attention had been so directed to it, that he had no doubt the Government could, if they pleased, succeed now in destroying an anomaly, and establishing one general and efficient body of police for this great metropolis. They would not be meddling with any ancient institution, for the present system was not above twenty-five years old. Formerly each ward in the City had its own police, and it was only when the Metropolitan Police was established that the whole force was put under one head.


said, he much regretted that any such occasion should have arisen for this discussion, but was surprised that an anomaly so absurd and so inconvenient should have existed so long. Reasoning about it was out of the question altogether; it was a case for denunciation, and not for argument. The City Police extended over a district of a mile and a half square, and a population of 170,000 persons; and was placed in the middle of the great metropolitan district, embracing a population of 3,000,000. The simplest application of common sense must show at once that such a system must produce great inconveniences. If in the centre of a great army sent into the field for important operations were placed a small division entirely separate and distinct from the rest, differently organized and differently trained, and with independent commanders, it was evident that the whole efficiency of the general military force would be destroyed. It was hard to understand how this anomaly had been suffered so long. It had been said that we were a practical people, and never made any alteration until a grievance had been clearly shown; in fact, that we required "a bishop to be burnt," as was wittily said by the late Mr. Sidney Smith; but surely the Government could require no stronger practical proof of the inefficiency of the present system, and no stronger incitement to do their best to amend it, than the extreme inconvenience and reasonable apprehension to which it had subjected the Princess in her passage through the City. The answer of the President of the Council was certainly not what they might reasonably expect, and he was convinced, that if they would take the question up with a strong hand, they would meet with most efficient support from both Houses of Parliament, and from public feeling out of doors. He could not for one moment suppose that the Government would be deterred from a course which the public interest imperatively demanded by the paraphernalia of the Corporation, their fine dresses, their state coaches, or their magnificent entertainments. If they would show a little firmness and determination, all the opposition would speedily vanish, and they would be enabled to put an end to an anomaly which at present paralysed the whole police system of the metropolis.