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District Constables

Volume 50: debated on Thursday 8 August 1839

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The House in Committee on the County and District Constables' Bill.

On clause 5 being proposed, which vests the appointment and disposition of the petty constables in the chief constable of each district, "subject to such orders as he may receive from the justices in quarter or special session assembled, and to the rules established for the government of the force,"

proposed the omission of the words "subject to such orders as he may receive from the justices in quarter or special session assembled," in order to substitute the following—"subject to the approval of two justices."

thought it advisable, as far as possible, to restrict the responsibility for the conduct of the force to the chief constable; it would, therefore, be advisable to omit all reference to the justices.

The committee divided on the questition that the words proposed to be left out, stand:—Ayes 56; Noes 23:—Majority 33.

The remaining clauses of the bill agreed to.

Mr. Ewart moved the addition of a clause to limit the operation of the bill to 1st of August, 1841. He was opposed to the principle of the bill, for he wished the police to be under the control of a responsible body. The bill ought not to be permanent, because neither the House nor the country had had proper opportunity to consider the provisions of it.

Clause brought up and read a first time.

On the motion that it be read a second time,

said, the county rates would be doubled by this measure, and it ought not, therefore, to pass without Parliament reserving the right to revise and re-consider it, with a view to give the counties at large the right of electing boards for the appointment and superintendence of this force. If it were once passed permanently, it would be difficult at any future time to alter the measure, and make the taxing body responsible.

had stated the other evening, the reasons which led him to think that it would not be satisfactory to make the bill temporary. One reason was, that under a temporary measure, it would not be possible to get the best persons to apply for situations, if they were told that the occupation might cease at the end of two years. He did not deny the proposition that taxation and representation ought to go together; but if they had said of the metropolitan police, when it was first established, that taxation and representation must go together, and that it should only last two years, the force would have been extinguished before the end of the time by its own unpopularity. He did not expect, at first, any great degree of popularity for this measure, but ultimately it would be felt, he was convinced, that it was quite consistent with the liberty of the subject that pickpockets and rioters should be taken up. If the bill were made temporary, every candidate, at every fresh election, would say that he would take every opportunity, if returned, to put an end to the gens d'armerie, to the Bourbon police, or whatever else they might be called.

said, this bill went to establish a tyranny, and did it in a weak way. If the noble Lord had said plainly, it is intended to establish an infernal French system of gens d'armerie, he could have understood him. He denied that there was any call for any of these extraordinary usurpations. There had been no petitions. He was convinced that the object of the bill was not, to preserve the peace, but to establish a tyranny, and the noble Lord knew it. He should support the motion of the hon. Member for Wigan.

should support the limitation of the bill to the year 1841. It was an incontestable fact, that for the last twenty years there had been a gradual diminution of crime in this country. Yet it was attempted to revolutionize the police under these circumstances. The decrease of enormous crimes had been particularly great within the last fourteen years. This was in favour of the old system of constabulary. In fact, there was as little crime in the rural districts of England as in any country in the world. In the rural districts, the two great classes of offences were poaching and wood cutting; but it was very seldom that a phea- sant disappeared, or a tree was cut, that the offender was not brought to justice. There was no evidence that the rural districts wanted a police. Almost all the facts which they had in evidence on the subject related to the manufacturing districts, but the state of those districts, and the proper means of securing order there, and repressing crime in its origin, ought to be considered separately. This measure would not be available in the manufacturing districts, in the rural it was not wanted. The noble Lord had called it a purely permissive measure. He did not know where the noble Lord got that soft epithet; it was not English. He supposed it emanated from the same source as was used by a leading Government print, when they spoke of the emeule at Birmingham, and when they got their normal schools, the Gallomaniac jargon would be complete.

said, there was great increase of crime in his county (Lincolnshire); but the very great disinclination to prosecute made the amount of crime not known. During the last three or four years highway robberies had been committed in his county. If the bill were only to be permitted to operate for two years, there would be a general disinclination on the part of the majority of the magistrates to bring it into force.

The House divided—Ayes 21; Noes 77:—Majority 56.

List of the Ayes.

Aglionby, H. A.Pechell, Captain
Attwood, T.Pryme, G.
Brotherton, J.Redington, T. N.
Duncombe, T.Scholefield J.
Finch, F.Thornely, T.
Hawes, B.Vigors, N. A.
Hector, C. J.Villiers, hon. C. P.
Hobhouse, T. B.Warburton, H.
Hodges, T. L.Williams, W.
Howard, P. H.TELLERS.
Hume, J.Ewart, W.
Oswald, J.D'Israeli, B.

List of the NOES.

Acland, Sir T. D.Cavendish, hon. C.
Adam, AdmiralChichester, J. P. B.
Barry, G. S.Clay, W.
Blackburne, I.Craig, W. G.
Bramston, T. W.Dalmeny, Lord
Broadley, H.Darby, G.
Broadwood, H.Divett, E.
Bruges, W. H. L,Ellis, J.
Burroughes, H. N.Ellis, W.
Campbell, Sir J.Filmer, Sir E.
Cave, R. O.Fitzpatrick, J. W.

Gordon, R.Philips, M.
Gordon, hon. Capt.Pigot, D. R.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir C.Praed, W. T.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Hamilton, C. J. B.Rich, H.
Harcourt, G. G.Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Hill, Lord A. M. C.Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.
Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.Rushbrooke, Colonel
Hodgson, R.Russell, Lord J.
Hope, hon. C.Rutherford, rt. hon. A.
Howick, Lord Vis.Smith, R. V.
Hutt, W.Stanley, hon. E. J.
Hutton, R.Stanley, hon. W. O.
Inglis, Sir R. H.Steuart, R.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H.Stock, Dr.
Lascelles, hon. W. S.Surrey, Earl of
Lushington, rt. hon. S.Thomson, rt. hon. C. P.
Macaulay, T. B.Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Mackinnon, W. A.Verney, Sir H.
Maule, hon. F.Wilbraham, G.
Mildmay, P. St. JohnWood, C.
Morpeth, Lord Vis.Wood, G. W.
Muskett, G. A.Wood, Colonel T.
Norreys, Sir D. J.Worsley, Lord
Paget, F.Wrightson, W. B.
Palmerston, Lord Vis.Yates, J. A.
Parker, R. T.Baring, F. T.
Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.Seymour, Lord

House resumed; report to be received.