§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, I rise for the purpose of putting to the noble Earl the First Lord of the Treasury a Question of which I gave notice the day before yesterday. Before, however, I do so, it will be necessary that I should make some statement to your Lordships as to the motives which induce me to put it. In making this statement I do not propose at all to enter into the question as to the right of the public to hold meetings in Hyde Park, or to express any opinion, if there be 1985 no such right by law, whether it is expedient to prevent such meetings, or whether the course taken by the Government in prohibiting them was the most advisable under all the circumstances. I shall only say that upon that subject the feeling of irritation has now been very much abated, and will speedily disappear. But there is a question with respect to the state of the Parks and the security of persons traversing them, which I think of considerable public importance. I see from the newspapers that two days after the 23rd—namely, on the 25th of last month—a deputation waited upon the Home Secretary at the head of which was Mr. Beales, who made certain proposals to the Secretary of State, in which he appears to a great extent to have succeeded. According to the statement of The Times newspaper, which I hold in my hand, but to which it is not necessary more particularly to refer, Mr. Beales appears to have represented that, provided the police and soldiers were withdrawn from the Park, he would be able to control the persons who went there; and it is stated that the Home Secretary consented that if Mr. Beales would undertake to do what he had promised neither police nor military would appear. Now that does appear to me a very extraordinary proceeding on the part of the Home Secretary. There is no doubt that Mr. Beales and Mr. Walpole were both anxious to restore quiet in Hyde Park; but there is this to be said—that, besides the persons who went to the Park for the purpose of attending the public meeting, there was another class of person—"roughs" as they are called—who went there for the purpose of attacking person and property, and that many of them committed outrages. It seems to me from what has taken place that the Home Secretary has overlooked the fact that a great many persons were there who cared nothing about Reform, and as little for the manhood suffrage and vote by ballot of Mr. Beales as for the £8 or £10 franchise of Mr. Walpole. Well, then, giving Mr. Walpole every credit for forbearance and humanity, it appears to me there was a failure of duty on the part of the Home Secretary in not keeping police in the Park against persons who were committing depredations, which, as is now stated, have been very considerable. I have since seen that frequently after dusk persons have been attacked and robberies committed by people who notoriously belong to what used to be called the "swell mob," 1986 and who evidently cared nothing for Reform. In short, there is no security for persons or for any property they may have about them after dusk in Hyde Park just now. But my purpose at present is, as I have stated to the noble Earl, with regard to the future; I will not recur to what has taken place already. Of course, it would be impossible that there should be in the Parks during the whole night such a body of police or any other force as should enable persons to traverse the Parks in all directions. But there are now no police in any part of the Parks during the night. It is quite true that before these occurrences a good deal of disorder prevailed in the Parks at night, after the gates were shut, and that the persons who commenced these disorders were not liable to any regular supervision. Now, it seems to me that in order to exercise some control over the class of persons who are stated to have commenced these outrages, not only ought the police to be introduced, but some force should be employed like that which used to patrol the neighbourhood of London when highway robberies were frequent, and this force ought, at certain hours, when the night has set in, to clear the Parks of disorderly characters. As to the persons who are nothing but thieves and pickpockets, I imagine that it would not be difficult for the Home Secretary and Sir Richard Mayne to frame a plan which would free the Parks of them; and if such a plan were carried into effect, we should hear no more of the outrages and disorders which have lately prevailed in Hyde Park. In the meantime, it is clear that at present, after night-fall, there is a danger to person and to property, which ought not to be permitted in so public a place. I have only one word further to say respecting the police. I have seen in the public newspapers statements made reflecting upon the conduct of the police. For my own part, although very possibly among the 1,600 policemen who were in the Park on the 23rd of July, there may have been some who exceeded their duty, and who did not act with the forbearance which was requisite, I must say that, so far as I have known it, the general character of the metropolitan police force has been one of extreme forbearance, their conduct has been extremely good, and, certainly, I should believe the accounts of those persons who state that the police, when they saw them, acted with great moderation and suffered great injuries without making any 1987 return, rather than the accounts which represent the police as committing undue violence. I will now ask the noble Earl the question of which I have given him private notice, Whether any provision has been made by the Government for the future protection of persons and property in Hyde Park?
§ THE EARL or DERBY
My Lords, when the noble Earl gave me notice of the Question which he intended to ask on this subject, it was in these words—I propose to ask you whether some provision will be made for the security of persons traversing the Park after sunset in future. I shall say as little as possible about the past.Receiving that Notice I was certainly not prepared this evening to hear the noble Earl make what I cannot help thinking an uncalled-for attack upon the course of proceeding adopted by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, of which, by the way, the noble Earl will allow me to say that he has given a very incorrect representation. The noble Earl has said that my right hon. Friend, after an interview with Mr. Beales, undertook that if Mr. Beales would use his influence, according to the proposal which he had himself made, to clear the Park of these persons, the remnant of the great assemblage which had by force entered the Park under the pretext of belonging to the Reform Association, Mr. Walpole, on the other hand, would undertake that there should be no police or military in the Park. [Earl RUSSELL: That is, if there was no riot.] Exactly—that there should be no police or military in the Park. Now, that is just the opposite of what my right hon. Friend really said. What he said was that if Mr. Beales would use his influence to remove these persons, and there was no riot or disturbance, he would take care that there should be no such demonstration, either of police or of military, as should be likely to excite an adverse feeling or irritation; but he expressly said that it would be his duty to have an amply sufficient force in reserve to meet any emergency which might arise. With regard to what has since taken place in Hyde Park, it is no new fact, as the noble Earl must be perfectly aware, that persons cannot traverse the Park after dark without being exposed to some amount of risk. I can carry my recollection back for a considerable period—so can the noble Earl—but I doubt whether he can remember the time when it was entirely safe for persons to traverse any of the Parks after 1988 dark either in summer or winter. It is perfectly well known that persons so traversing the Parks were always liable to interruption. But I have no doubt, also, that a stimulus has been given to those disorderly persons who assemble in the Park by the apparent success of the mob of ruffians who accompanied the Reform demonstration, and who, after forcing their way into the Park in spite of the police, are now complaining of the brutal conduct of the police in resisting this attempt. As to the conduct of the police, the best proof of the way in which they behaved is that, while the injuries inflicted by them upon their assailants are few and insignificant in number, one-sixth of the whole police force engaged in the maintenance of order were injured, and some were permanently disabled, by the mob. No fewer than 265 of the police, including the greater number of the officers and superintendents, are still suffering from the injuries they received on the 23rd of July, and forty or fifty will suffer all their lives from the violence of those who accompanied, though I do not say they belonged to, the Reform procession. I do not doubt that this collision between the police and the mob occasioned some increase of that inconvenience and danger to persons traversing the Parks of which the noble Earl complains. But considering that the noble Earl has, for the last quarter of a century at least, held important offices in the Government, it does somewhat surprise me that up to the present moment he should never have thought of complaining of or remedying the state of things which he now points out. What is the cause of the insecurity of the Parks? How far that insecurity may be prevented I do not say, but the Government are anxious to consider the best means of applying some remedy. The cause, however, is this—in the first place, there is a divided authority. The Parks are under the control of the Crown, which, through the Ranger, appoints the gate-keepers. They are also to a certain extent under the control of the Board of Works, who appoint, for all the Parks, rather more than 100 park-keepers, these being not expressly selected for their ability to provide against disorder and riot. The police have no power to take any part in preserving order within the Parks unless called upon to support the park-keepers and the ordinary park authorities. The consequence is a division of authority, which is always dangerous to the maintenance of 1989 proper order. Again, unless it is well lighted, the police cannot possibly maintain order in a Park which is open to all the world, and in which therefore, owing to the absence of lights, disorderly people collect and scatter themselves over the whole area. For the convenience of the public, Hyde Park—and I am speaking of that only—is kept open until ten at night. At that hour the gates are closed—which appears to be a pretty strong indication of the right to exclude the public at certain periods, and to lay down laws at variance with the absolute right of entrance by the public. No doubt it would facilitate the maintenance of order if the gates were closed at a much earlier hour than ten o'clock; but, on the other hand, that would create so much inconvenience that it has been thought undesirable to deprive the public of the great advantage of passing through the Park in various directions up to that hour. Of late years, also, the means of admission to the Park have been increased by the new road from the Bayswater Gate to Kensington Gate, which is open to the public, though I believe not at all times. The two great securities, then, which can be devised for the maintenance of order in the Park are—first, the establishment of one controlling authority, instead of two or three; and next, the better lighting of the main thoroughfares across the Park. It would be impossible to light the whole of the Park, nor where so large a portion must be kept in darkness, and where so free an admission of the public is necessary and inevitable, would it be possible to prevent some disorderly characters from being constantly in the Park. Though the public are excluded at ten o'clock, I believe there is no power on the part of the police to turn out people whom they find there after that hour. At all events, it is practically impossible to exclude a number of loose and disorderly characters from the Park, and the principal protection we can give is the better lighting of the main thoroughfares and footpaths. That point has been under consideration, and various questions have arisen which have hitherto prevented anything being done. I know that the point was submitted to the late Commissioner of Works, who raised two objections to those measures of precaution which the noble Earl says are so absolutely necessary—first, the expense; and secondly, the disfigurement of the Park by rows of lamps placed along the principal footpaths. I cannot pretend 1990 to say that Her Majesty's present Government have come to any definite conclusion; but I have been in communication with the First Commissioner of Works and the Home Secretary on the subject. The Chief Commissioner (Lord John Manners) has agreed to waive his right to nominate any of the park-keepers, and that the police to be employed in their stead shall be paid out of the revenue of the Woods and Forests. Whether that measure will be adopted or not I am unable to say, but it is now under consideration. A further point which is now being considered is to what extent we may be able to introduce a better system of lighting along the chief thoroughfares and footpaths. That will give a considerable protection to the public; but it is impossible to give any protection to those persons who do not, in passing through the Parks, confine themselves to these main thoroughfares and footpaths. If they will range over the Park to its full extent, the risk is absolutely their own, and for the consequences that may happen to them they can blame no one but themselves. I have stated what are the questions now under the consideration of the present Government with a view to remedying an evil of very long standing, that ought to have been dealt with long ago. If any advantage can be derived from the unfortunate occurrences of the past few days, it will be that public attention has been called to the necessity of making provision for the protection of the public against evils which have now existed for as long as I can remember—now unfortunately a good many years.
§ LORD LYVEDEN
I think the noble Earl opposite has no cause for complaint as to the manner in which the question was brought forward. My noble Friend on this side (Earl Russell) made a calm and temperate statement. In putting a question respecting the future, it is quite customary to speak of the past. My noble Friend did not enter into the question whether Mr. Beales was right or wrong in not acceding to the desire of the Home Secretary that the proposed meeting in Hyde Park should be abandoned, nor did he enter into the question whether the Home Secretary acted wisely in subsequently closing the gates; but he objected to leaving the Park quite undefended. Those were fair subjects of Parliamentary discussion, but the noble Earl did not go into them. The really curious part of the history is the manner in which the Parks 1991 were left on Tuesday and Wednesday totally without protection; but notwithstanding this, to their infinite credit no mischief was done by the shoals of common persons who were walking through and kept to the paths and roads. It was done to the flower-beds and trees by boys and girls, who might have been easily deterred from their misconduct by a few of the ordinary gardeners and park. keepers. I spoke to some of these, but they declined to interfere; and a few children were left to carry on a destruction which might easily have been prevented. As regards the future, might there not be notices put up in Hyde Park, as is done in the Green Park, stating that after certain hours the gates will be closed? I can remember when the Parks were considered unsafe for walking in after certain hours; but numbers of houses have now risen up all around them, and I cannot help thinking that it would be an excellent arrangement to place the Parks in the charge of the police. I believe the conduct of the police to have been perfectly admirable. They have behaved themselves with the utmost coolness and courage on all occasions, and upon a recent occasion, as on former ones, they showed that they were a body eminently fit to be trusted with the preservation of the peace. There is no ground for complaining that the question has been brought forward; it is of immense importance, and if it had been brought forward in a wider sense the subject would still have been one fairly open to Parliamentary discussion.
§ EARL RUSSELL
I do not think I misrepresented what Mr. Walpole is reported to have said. [The noble Earl was about to refer to a newspaper.]
§ EARL RUSSELL
It is the report in The Times of the interview which the deputation had with the Home Secretary. It is the only information I have; I was not with the deputation. The words of Mr. Walpole were—Mr. Beales says, 'Withdraw the police and the military force, and I will undertake—at least as far as I can—that no disturbance or disorder takes place.' Well, if you will assure your friends that the Government will give you every opportunity of trying the legal right, and facilitating the determination of that right, and that they ask of you in the interim not to insist on that right until it is determined one way or the other; that in the meantime you will convey to your friends that the Government wish to meet them in the fairest and 1992 frankest manner as to the opportunities they may have of discussing public questions, in places which are recognized as places where the police would not be ordered to interfere;—if you will only do that, I think I see the solution of the present difficulty. In that case I will undertake to say that, unless any mischief arise to-night, unless any disturbance be created, unless property be attacked—which it is my duty to defend—there will be no demonstrations"—
§ EARL RUSSELL
"But I will make no demonstration of either one or the other." I thought I had correctly represented the effect of that which I have now read; Mr. Walpole said there should be no demonstration on the part of the police, and since then a man passing through the Park might be hustled and have his watch or his purse taken from him, and there would be no police at hand to render him any assistance.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY (who had taken the newspaper into his hand)
The undertaking given by Mr. Walpole was not that if there were no disturbance there should be no military or police in the Park. The words he used were—In that case I will undertake to say that, unless any mischief arise to-night, unless any disturbance be created, unless property be attacked—which it is my duty to defend—there will be no demonstration of either military or police. Of course, I will keep a reserve, but I will make no demonstration.
§ I say that is decidedly and directly the reverse of the statement made by the noble Earl, which was, that there should be no police at all.
§ EARL RUSSELL
I am afraid we shall not agree as to the past. I am satisfied with the answer the noble Earl has given me respecting the future.