HL Deb 23 February 1886 vol 302 cc1012-7

in rising to ask, Whether in the year 1879 a departmental committee was appointed by the then Secretary of State for the Home Department to inquire and report as to the constitution and condition of the Metropolitan Police Force; and, if such a report were made, whether there will be any objection to present the same to Parliament? said, that he believed the inquiry to which he referred was conducted by Sir Matthew White Ridley and Mr. Maule, an eminent Queen's counsel, and that their Report was presented to the Home Office. Whether they alluded to the efficiency or non-efficiency of the force he did not know; but, considering the events of the past fortnight, and the excitement existing in the public mind on the subject, it would be satisfactory and acceptable to Parliament and the public generally, when they had reason to believe that there was an exhaustive and very able Report of an inquiry by two gentlemen fully acquainted with the subject in tho archives of the Home Office, that it should be presented to Parliament, and he hoped that the Government would see their way to lay it on the Table.


said, he wished to ask whether any and what communication had passed between the chief officers of police and the Home Office in former years, upon the subject of the danger of permitting such demonstrations as took place on Monday, the 8th of February, and on Sunday last, and of the difficulty of controlling them? It would be a great satisfaction if his noble Friend who represented the Home Office found himself in a position to lay any such Paper upon the Table without injury to the Public Service.


said, it was quite true that a Departmental Inquiry was made in 1879, and he remembered also that another Departmental Inquiry was made in 1868 by his Predecessor (Viscount Cranbrook) into the constitution of the police. Two of the Members of that Committee were Sir Henry Thring and Sir James Fergusson. They made an important Report, and he (Lord Abordare), having succeeded to the Office of Home Secretary, had great pleasure in adopting some of their recommendations. One of the principal recommendations was that London should be divided into four districts, with a Superintendent for each, one of whom was Colonel Pearson. Shortly after that Report Sir Richard Mayne resigned the office of Chief Commissioner, and it became his (Lord Aberdare's) duty to select a successor, and he selected Sir Edmund Henderson. That being the case, their Lordships might like to hear a few words from him with respect to the manner in which Sir Edmund Henderson had performed his duties. The career of Colonel Henderson had already been a distinguished one, and the circumstances which led to his introduction into the Public Service were rather remarkable. He had been employed as a young officer of Engineers in settling the boundaries between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Having performed that duty with considerable personal risk and severe suffering, he was subsequently employed by the Government in laying out the line between St. John's and Canada. The impression produced by his capacity shown in these tasks upon Earl Grey, the then Colonial Minister, was such that he appointed him to superintend the last of our penal Colonies in Western Australia; and he was there for 13 years, when he returned home. In 1863 a Royal Commission, consisting of some of the ablest men in the country, was appointed to inquire into secondary punishment. It was presided over by Earl Grey. While the Commission was sitting, Sir Joshua Jebb, who was at the head of the Convict Department, died suddenly; and then a step was taken which was, perhaps, unique in our administrative history. The Members of the Royal Commission sent to Sir George Grey, who was then Home Secretary, a sort of round-robin, in which they mentioned to him the very great impression which Sir Edmund Henderson had produced upon them by the knowledge of the subject, and by the ability, sagacity, and energy he had shown, and by the success he had achieved in the difficult department he had so long managed, and they recommended the serious consideration of his claim to be appointed successor to Sir Joshua Jebb. The recommendation was recognized, and for six years afterwards Sir Edmund Henderson was at the head of the Convict Department. In 1869 he (Lord Abordare) had to choose a successor to Sir Richard Mayne, and he selected Sir Edmund Henderson, who for 17 years since had been at the head of the police. During that time he (Lord Aberdare) was in Office for upwards of four years as Home Secretary, and in that time very important changes were made, which he should have no difficulty in showing conduced to a speedy diminution of crime in London. These changes were made quietly and without any flourish of trumpets by Sir Edmund Henderson, and with the approval of the Home Office. He would mention one of the changes for the improvement of the efficiency of the police. At the time he had named the number of the detective police employed in the Metropolis was 17; but Colonel Henderson recommended a change, which had led to very important results and to great advantage to the public. To each of the departmental divisions of the police a force of detectives, to about the number of 20, was added. They were selected from the main body of the police, and if they proved efficient they were retained, but if inefficient they were returned to the ordinary police, and so a supply of efficient men was maintained. Now, he (Lord Aberdare) had heard with deep regret of the resignation of Sir Edmund Henderson; and while the Press, on the whole, had been very fair as to the conduct of that gentleman, he observed it had been said that the police had fallen off very much since the days of Sir Richard Mayne in 1868, and that the force was not now, as then, an object of pride and congratulation. Whether that was so or not he thought would be decided by a very few figures, which he would give. The population of the Metropolitan district in the year Colonel Henderson entered upon his office was over 3,563,000. In 1884 the population was 5,147,000, showing an increase of 1,584,000, which by itself exceeded the population of any three other cities of the Empire. What had been the state of serious crime in those years? In 1869 the number of felonies committed and reported in the Metropolitan police district was 21,529. After the lapse of 15 years, and notwithstanding the increase of the population by 1,500,000, the number of serious crimes committed in London was fewer by 218, the number being 21,311. To attribute that result wholly to the increased vigilance of the police would be ridiculous, for they knew that a good many causes had contributed to bring it about. He would put the question of the efficiency of the police to another test—namely, the number of apprehensions of criminals. The number of apprehensions in 1869 with reference to these 21,500 felonies was 10,088. In 1884 the number of apprehensions on the smaller number of felonies was 12,995, being an increase of 2,967. The proportion of felonies to the population in 1869 was 6 042. In 1884 it was 4.140, or a decrease of about 30 per cent. Not only was this the case, but Sir Edmund Henderson had had the management of a larger population and a larger force. The annual addition from one year to another to the population of this larger Metropolis was about 70,000. The streets added every year were 50 miles in length, and the Police Force had increased from about 9,000 to very nearly 13,000. Judged by any test they pleased, the position of the force at this moment was better and sounder than it had been at any previous time. Whether with regard to the number or the quality of those who offered themselves for employment, the number of punishments for misconduct, or the number of those who retired from causes of dissatisfaction, in every one of these respects there had been a very considerable improvement in the status and condition of the police. In 1884 the number of voluntary resignations was only 167, being the smallest number ever known. During the last 17 years, moreover, there had been circumstances of great anxiety. In 1870 there was a great increase of wages all over the country, and the police naturally looked for a share of the increase. But there was some delay in the matter; for a Public Department could not increase the salaries of its employés on the occasion of every increase of wages in the country, for the simple reason that it was impossible to decrease them when wages fell. The consequence of the delay was misconduct, recklessly supported by persons of some position unconnected with the force. The mutiny was, however, suppressed, and a fresh arrangement of salaries was made. A careful inquiry was made at the time, and in consequence of the action then taken there had been no dissatisfaction since. There had also been in these 17 years many great public manifestations under circumstances of considerable anxiety; and, with the one recent exception, none of those great displays of material forces, which were intended, in many cases, to alarm the population, and especially what they termed the aristocratic population, had led to any serious disturbance. In all this time there had been no disturbance of the peace, except in cases so insignificant as not to be worthy of notice. He could fully enter into the feelings of those who objected to have the order of the streets disturbed by such immense crowds; but it was to be remembered that up to the other day no evil consequence had happened. He was not going to ask why, after so signal a success of 17 years, there had been so signal a failure in dealing with the late riotous outbreak. He quite admitted that if it could be shown that the personal safety of individuals or of property had been endangered by any want of vigilance on the part of the police some signal example ought to be made; but what he did ask their Lordships, and through them the public, was to remember that this officer, who was now retiring in circumstances most painful to himself, had, since the year 1850, filled public employments with remarkable success; that under his administration the conduct of the police had been such as to assist other causes in producing an extraordinary reduction of crime; and that, at the same time, increased vigilance and efficiency had been shown by a larger number of apprehensions and of punishments, which were a means of preventing crime. He awaited with confidence the result of the inquiry, which was being conducted by men of high integrity and intelligence. Whatever that result might be, they must accept it as the final statement as to this most lamentable affair. Whatever it might be, whether it reflected severely or not upon the individual action of Sir Edmund Henderson on that occasion, he did not think it ought to make them insensible to a career of long public utility, which, up to this time, had secured the respect of his fellow-citizens and of the various emiment men who had presided over the Department.


replying for the Home Department, said: My Lords, I have to say, in reply to the Question of the noble Viscount (Viscount Enfield), that he is perfectly accurate in saying that in the year 1879 a Departmental Committee was appointed by the then Home Secretary (Sir R Assheton Cross) to inquire into and report as to the situation and condition of the Metropolitan Police Force. That Committee was, however, a purely Departmental Committee; and its Report, as is usual in such cases, partakes very largely of the nature of a confidential document. Under these circumstances, I am instructed to say that it would not be possible for the Home Office to lay the whole of that Report upon the Table of your Lordships' House. I am further instructed to say that, in the opinion of the Home Secretary, pending the extensive inquiry about to be made in the matter, the exact scope of which he will explain very shortly to Parliament, it would not be expedient or in the interests of the Public Service to lay this Report, at the present moment at all events, on your Lordships' Table. With regard to the remarks made by the noble Lord who has just sat down, and who was himself Home Secretary for some time, I trust he will not consider me wanting in respect if I am not able to follow, at the present moment, the current of his observations. But I will confine myself to assuring him that I feel perfectly confident that his observations will receive the very careful consideration of the Home Secretary.

House adjourned at a quarter past Five o'clock, till To-morrow half past Ten o'clock.