Police & Parliament by Robin Fell Ex P.C. 606 'A'
  HOME | Palace of Westminster | Obituaries | The Terry Brooks Page | Windsor Castle | Where Are They Now | Parliament by Robin Fell | Personal Photo Page 1 | Personal Photo Page 2 | Personal Photo Page 3 | Links | Wellington Arch | Buckingham Palace | SIGNPOST | General 'A' Pictures (1)  

Below, Robin Fell (Ex PC 606 A) has provided a 'potted' history of the links between Parliament and The Police Service through the years.


To most people with an interest in history the year 1885 will mean the death of General Gordon at Khartoum, or maybe even the development of the first motorcycle or rabies vaccine.(Not, of course, that it should be assumed by the connection of the last two items that it is necessary to be mad to ride a motorcycle!)

However to the student of Parliamentary History, 1885 is memorable for the fact that in that year the 'Dynamitards' of the Fenian Brotherhood turned their attentions to the Palace of Westminster. The Brotherhood, which had been established about 1858 for the express purpose of driving the British out of Ireland, had been active throughout the 1880's on both sides of the Irish Sea, but as in more recent campaigns the Capital had received more that its fair share of their attentions. They were based in Paris and America from where they derived most of their funds courtesy of the Irish American population. It would seem from contemporary reports that the leaders of the Brotherhood enjoyed a high standard of life during their self imposed exile occasionally paying someone to plant one of their devices thus ensuring that the funds would keep rolling in.

January 24th 1885 was a Saturday and as such the Palace was open to the public, this practice continuing until a later bombing campaign forced its closure. The final room viewed on the public line of route was the chapel of St Mary Undercroft, better known as 'The Crypt'. Posted to this room for the duration of the public opening was Police Constable 278 'A' William Cole a veteran of twenty five years service, fifteen of which had been spent at Parliament. For a man of P.C. Cole's age and service this was a pleasant way to spend a Saturday's duty. Parliament had risen for the Christmas Recess on 6th December and were not due to return until 19th February (!?!) Tourists were rare animals indeed in those days and the quiet well ordered life of the Parliamentary Recess had much to commend it. However it was to be no ordinary Saturday.

Amongst the few visitors on that afternoon was Mr Green who was showing his wife and her sister from Cork around the building.
As they descended the stone staircase from Westminster Hall to the Crypt they noticed a black bag partially covered by children's

clothing on the third step of the bottom flight. This find they reported to PC Cole who went to investigate. By the time he had reached the bag it had begun to smoke and PC Cole immediately realised that he was confronted by what was quaintly termed in those days, an Infernal Machine. Shouting a warning he picked up the bag and rushed up the stairs to the Hall, preceded by Mr Green Shouting, 'Dynamite' . Alerted by the commotion, PC Cox arrived to render assistance. As the group rushed into the Hall the bag was becoming increasingly hot and eventually PC Cole could hold it no longer. As he threw the bag to the floor it exploded causing a small crater to appear in the stone floor of the Hall and into this the two officers were blown by the force of the explosion.

Police Inspector Ebenezer Denning was in his room at the foot of the Members Staircase and hearing the explosion he, and other officers, rushed to investigate. The scene that greeted them was one of utter confusion. Of the two officers Cole was unconscious whilst Cox was, to quote the journal of the Deputy Sergeant at Arms of the day, 'rolling about, talking incoherently and hitting out with his fists although two constables held him down.' The Window at the south end of the Hall had been completely shattered and the dust of ages blown off the roof timbers, to again quote the Serjeant's journal and its contemporary, but now politically incorrect language, both officers were, 'as black as niggers'.

Whilst all was still confusion a second explosion occurred this time in the Chamber of the House of Commons. A second infernal machine had been left on the seats known as 'Under the Gallery' which were in those days where the Broadcasting box is now. Mercifully all those who had been in the Chamber had left before the explosion to investigate the earlier blast. However considerable damage was caused with the Peers Gallery being totally destroyed and the Government front benches and the Speakers Chair badly affected. Some idea can be had of the scale of this second explosion by the fact that the damage extended to the Members Lobby and the Post Office. Providential indeed was the sequence of the two explosions.

Back in Westminster Hall things were becoming a little more organised. Lady Horatia, the wife of the Deputy Sergeant was bathing the wounds to PC Cox's brow and neck whilst Inspector Denning made arrangements for his and PC Cole's removal to hospital. Mr Green and his party had recovered sufficiently for them to return home despite their injuries and the fact that both ladies are recorded as being, 'Bereft of their upper garments' . Pending the arrival of reinforcements The assistance of the Deputy Sergeant's wife was once again obtained . It should be explained that at that time the deputy Sergeants residence was above St Stephens Entrance in what are now the members rooms known as 'St Stephens Tower'. Lady Horatia was asked by Inspector Denning to ensure that, as her front door opened on to the Hall, no one was allowed to pass through 'on any account.' It would seem that in this duty she proved the equal of any officer for she reports that when a man with a foreign accent insisted on entering despite her informing him of her instructions, she stood her ground and eventually , 'Had the footman put him out'. This as it turned out was unfortunate as it later transpired that the gentleman in question was Dr Dupre assistant to Colonel Majendie the government's Chief Inspector of Explosives.

Also on that day another infernal machine was planted and exploded at The Tower of London, this time a man, Cunningham, was seen lighting the fuse and arrested, and in due course along with his accomplice Burton stood trial and both were convicted.

When Inspector Denning finally came to write his report of the incident he was able to record in the margin that Her Majesty had intimated some Honour would be forthcoming. PC Cole who did not regain consciousness until the following day was visited in Hospital on the Monday by Speaker Peel who personally thanked him for his bravery in removing the device from the confines of the Crypt where far more serious damage would have occurred, to the more open area of The Hall. The London Gazette for January 31st states, 'The Queen has been graciously pleased to confer upon William Cole Police Constable in 'A'Division of the Metropolitan Police The Albert Medal 1st Class for conspicuous gallantry displayed at an explosion in Westminster Hall on 24th January 1885'

Shortly afterwards The Commissioner of Police announced that PC's Cole and Cox were. 'Forthwith promoted to Sergeant, without examination, for courageous service.' Although Cox never fully recovered from his injuries and shortly afterwards had to leave the force. On Thursday 2nd March in a Westminster Hall now cleaned and repaired, and standing on the exact site of the explosion, Cole received The Albert Medal from The Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt. Present was a large audience of Peers, MP's and Police Officers and Sir William said in his address, ' As defenders of life and property and protectors of order it (the Metropolitan Police) was a force which has no superior and perhaps no equal in the world.

Repairs to the Chamber are recorded as having cost 6125 pounds and to the Hall 2500 pounds and were completed by the time Parliament resumed after its recess. For some while serious restrictions were placed on the public wishing admittance to Parliament with most areas being totally closed to them, but once the dust had settled both literally and figuratively, A Select Committee on The Admission of Strangers was set up which made recommendations and regulations regarding visitors which have their echo in many of today's rules. It is also from this incident that the existence of The Lobby List of journalists permitted access to the Members Lobby dates .

Police Constable Cole served on as sergeant in the Criminal Investigation Department for some while and seems to have made a full recovery. Some years after his death his family presented his medal to the House and it now forms part of the medal collection on display by the Terrace entrance. Mr Green suffered permanent injury to his sight and David Erskine, the deputy sergeant at Arms (no doubt prompted by the indefatigable Lady Horatia ) tried for some while to secure him a pension from the government , but without success.

Robin Fell


Most people who have worked in the House for any appreciable time know that Charles Bradlaugh was the last Member of Parliament to be incarcerated in the Prison Room in The Clock Tower. However, whilst true, this is just a small part of what is really quite an interesting tale.

Charles Bradlaugh was born in London in 1833, the son of a clerk he spent his childhood in modest circumstances and became in turn an errand boy, a coal merchant in a small way of business and in 1850 joined the army serving as a trooper in Cork.

In 1853 he left the army returning to London where he supported himself as a secularist lecturer and pamphleteer, publishing under the name of 'Iconoclast'. In 1860 he became editor and two years later, proprietor of 'The National Reformer' in which he pursued his views on social reform.

Charles Bradlaugh was elected to Parliament by the voters of Northampton at the general Election of 1880 which brought Mr Gladstone's Liberal party victory over the Conservatives led by Disraeli. As a 'free thinker' Bradlaugh was an atheist and as such on 3rd May he asked the Speaker, Sir Harry Brand, if he might affirm instead of having the oath administered to him by the Clerk. He cited as his authority The Evidence Amendment Acts of 1869-70 which provided for affirmation to be binding in all cases where an oath was legally administered. It was suggested that a Committee be appointed to look into the matter and on May 11th The House voted to appoint such a Committee.

On 20th May The new Parliament was opened by Royal Commission, Queen Victoria being a rare visitor to London since the Death of Prince Albert, and one of its first tasks was to consider the Committee's report which was in favour of Bradlaugh being allowed to affirm. This debate lasted two days and just after Midnight on the second day the House voted to reject the report by 275 votes to 230. The police reports of the day state that, during the debate, six hundred people were present in Westminster Hall (which was open to the public in those days) and that fifty policemen were kept on reserve but not required.

After Prayers on 23rd June, Bradlaugh pleaded his case from the Bar of the House, the main contention of what was quite a lengthy case, was that The House could not deny him by resolution a right given by statute. He then withdrew according to custom whilst his case was discussed and on being recalled was informed by the Speaker that the House had decided against him and that he was authorised by the House to request him to withdraw. This Bradlaugh refused to do and repeated his refusal after the House had formally voted to exclude him. The Speaker ordered him into the custody of The Sergeant at Arms, Captain Gossett, who assisted by Police Inspector Denning took him to The Prison Room. There he remained in the charge of a Doorkeeper and PC 162 A McKay, until he was released at 5.30pm the following day. His imprisonment ended following Sir Stafford Northcote moving successfully for his discharge. This, however, was not prompted by sympathy as Northcote was a firm opponent of Bradlaugh and a prime mover in most of the action the House subsequently took against him. Evidently he considered that Bradlaugh at large to disrupt the House would suit his case better than Bradlaugh confined as a prisoner of conscience.

Immediately on his release Bradlaugh took up a seat made available for him in a part of the House known as ' Under the Gallery' which still remains technically outside the Chamber. At 7pm that evening he left having stated his intention of presenting himself at the Table of The House at 2pm the following day.

Friday 25th June found between three and four thousand people crowded into Westminster Hall and Bradlaugh was loudly cheered as he entered the building. He did not, however, go to the Chamber but instead a supporter of his, Mr Labouchere MP gave notice of a motion to rescind the resolution of the House and called for the matter to be debated on 29th June. The crowds present were easily controlled by a Police contingent of one Inspector, four Sergeants and forty Constables, who reported no disorder.

On the evening of Monday 28th June a demonstration in support of Bradlaugh too place in Trafalgar Square. Following this some three to four thousand supporters marched to Parliament where they demonstrated their support from 8.30pm to 10pm, at which time they dispersed having caused no trouble to the thirty extra policemen on duty. The following day Mr Gladstone informed the House that Mr Labouchere's motion would be moved on Thursday 1st July. Gladstone, who had throughout supported Bradlaugh, was able to carry The House with him and the motion was approved by a majority of 54. The following day Bradlaugh was permitted to make an affirmation, but only subject to, 'Liability by Statute'.

The matter, however, was not allowed to rest there. Bradlaugh's opponents embarked upon a series of court cases which culminated in The House of Lords Appeal Court deciding that Bradlaugh was not qualified to sit by making an affirmation. The rules of the House then, as now, provide that in the event of a member speaking without having taken the oath his seat is declared vacant, 'as if he were dead'. This having happened the voters of Northampton saw fit to re-elect Bradlaugh and following this on 10th May 1881 his old enemy Northcote successfully moved the motion, 'That Bradlaugh be not permitted to enter this House until he has given an undertaking not to disturb its proceedings by presenting himself at The table'. Orders were given to the doorkeepers to keep him out and police were instructed to assist them in this task.
On July 14th Inspector Denning received notice from Bradlaugh that he intended coming to the House on or before 3rd August and that he would resist any, 'Illegal Force' preventing him from entering the House and making an affirmation. August 2nd saw another large demonstration and march outside Parliament by Bradlaugh's supporters but as before all passed peacefully. At 11.45 am on Wednesday 3rd August Bradlaugh came to the House where he was meet by Inspector Denning. The two men shook hands and Bradlaugh informed Denning of his intention of going to the Lobby and there insist upon his right to enter the Chamber. Bradlaugh made his way to the Members Lobby where he remained whilst the Speakers procession passed into the Chamber. Inspector Denning had with him a small number of police in anticipation of their being needed and the Serjeant at Arms, Captain Gossett had his Deputy Mr Erskine and assistant Mr Gossett on hand along with various messengers and doorkeepers.

Shortly after the announcement of 'Speaker in The Chair' Bradlaugh made to enter the chamber, his way was blocked by Erskine who informed him that his orders were not to admit him. Bradlaugh stated his intention to exercise what he claimed was his right and attempted to push past Erskine. He was immediately seized by four doorkeepers who being unable to restrain him were reinforced by four of Inspector Denning's Constables. Bradlaugh was removed struggling and protesting violently to outside The Members Entrance where he was released. During his ejection his coat tails were torn and his clothing generally disarrayed but he made no complaint of his treatment stating that the contest had been a fair one but that he was outnumbered. He did however complain that his exertions had made him feel quite faint so Denning sent one of his constables to fetch a glass of water.

Bradlaugh remained at Members Entrance for an hour and three quarters whilst the matter was debated. On a division the House approved, by 190 votes to 7, of the action taken in it name and this information was relayed to Bradlaugh. On hearing this he attempted to re enter the building. When he was denied access by Denning Bradlaugh said he would use force to enter whereupon Denning placed his hand on Bradlaugh's chest to prevent him. Bradlaugh immediately left stating his intention of applying for a summons against Denning for assault. Accordingly Bradlaugh presented himself at Westminster Magistrates Court where he asked Mr Sheil, the Magistrate, to issue a summons against Denning. In giving his account of the proceedings Bradlaugh was at great pains to emphasise that he did not contend that the blow struck by Denning was anything more that a technical assault. On hearing all the details Mr Sheil expressed himself unwilling to issue a summons there and then as there was some doubt as to whether the assault took place within the precints of the Palace of Westminster and therefore outside the competence of the court. He advised Bradlaugh to seek further advice and apply again, when incidentally another magistrate would be on hand to decide the matter. It would seem, however that the matter was never proceeded with.

Although Bradlaugh was able to demonstrate considerable support for his cause by the numbers attending his meetings and rallies these had always passed off peacefully, however when Parliament was opened on 7th February 1882 even the presence of one hundred extra police could not prevent the crowd from storming the Carriage Gates which were closed against them and breaking into New Palace Yard. Still more police reinforcements had to be telegraphed for before the crowds were removed and order restored. Bradlaugh left that day at 2pm without attempting to enter The Chamber only to return at 3.30pm and again make his way to the table. The House once more voted to exclude him and at 8pm he left by cab but not before he had sought out Inspector Denning to say that he would not be troubling him for a few days. Two men only were arrested that day one who was fined 5 pounds for throwing stones and another who was sentenced to two months for assaulting a sergeant.

Over the next few years Bradlaugh continued his campaign in the House being debarred and subsequently re-elected by the indefatigable voters of Northampton a total of five times. he also embarked on a series of court cases in which he sued both the Serjeant at Arms and his Deputy, but eventually in Bradlaugh v Gossett in the Queens Bench Division it was ruled that in relation to its own proceedings and within its own walls only the House may interpret statute law. Mr Justice Stephens went on to say in his judgement that even in the event of that interpretation being shown to be false the courts were powerless to interfere. On July 9th 1883 Bradlaugh was denied even his usual seat under the gallery and two constables were posted to the door of the House purely for the purpose of excluding him. Northcote continued his campaign against Bradlaugh and on 21st February 1884 successfully moved that he be excluded from the precints of the House.
Eventually in 1886 when everyone seemed to have tired of the matter Bradlaugh was once again allowed to affirm this time without subsequent challenge, and in 1888 the Oaths Act was passed which provided for an affirmation to be made in lieu of the Parliamentary Oath thus deciding the matter for all time.
Despite being for many years an instrument of the Establishment's persecution of Charles Bradlaugh, Police Inspector Denning and Bradlaugh seemed to have evolved a quite pleasant relationship based on mutual respect. With exception of 7th February 1882 Bradlaugh was able to control his supporters and ensure that little trouble was caused to the police on duty at The House of Commons, although he did once state that if he wished he could come to the House, 'With an Army at my back'. On his part Denning seems to have ensured that Bradlaugh was never treated with more force than was necessary and never once during the whole period did Bradlaugh complain of his treatment at Denning's hands. On 22nd February having been expelled from membership of The House Bradlaugh thanked Denning for the courtesy he had always shown him and looked forward to seeing him on his re-election.Inspector Denning remained in charge of police at the House of Commons until 1885 hen he was promoted to Chief Inspector remaining at The Palace of Westminster as deputy to the Superintendent in overall charge of police in both Houses.
Although Bradlaugh may have seemed to have had enough on his plate with his battles with in Parliament, he did not suspend his Social Reforming efforts. On learning in 1886 that Charles Knowlton had been prosecuted for publishing a pamphlet entitled 'Fruits of Philosophy' in which Birth Control was advocated, he two decided to publish it, which he did so in concert with Annie Besant another aspiring social reformer of the day. They were both successfully prosecuted but the conviction was quashed on appeal.
Although it is given to no one to decide which of their actions will be remembered long after they have departed, it seems to me a pity that despite all his endeavours Charles Bradlaugh should be forever associated with the one night he spent in the Prison Room in the Clock Tower. That room is now used for those Serjeants at Arms who do not have a residence to sleep in on late duty ; bearing in mind how often their predecessors locked horns with him it is to be wondered that Bradlaugh ever permits them a peaceful night!

Robin Fell


Despite Guardsman Willis patrolling 'Palace Yard' in Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe, it is to the civilian authorities that Parliament has traditionally looked for its protection rather than the military. Perhaps because the military were seen as being too closely allied to the Crown with whom Parliament frequently locked horns. It was on the Parish Constables of Westminster that responsibility for this protection fell for many years before the creation of the Metropolitan Police . Once this body was established The City of Westminster petitioned Parliament to be relieved of the burden.

Although there had been some unofficial police presence since 1829, it was in 1838 that an authorised establishment of Metropolitan Police Officers first came into being at The Palace of Westminster. In that year one Inspector and six Constables were posted to The House of Commons. It was not until a year later that The House of Lords came under the Met's watchful and benevolent eye when a similar body of officers were posted to the upper House. From this modest beginning the establishment rose and fell over the years, often mirroring the tide of civil unrest and terrorist threat , until arriving at the present position of 'n' Police, 'n' Civilian Security Officers, 'n' Fire Officers and 'n' Civil Staff.

Gradually the numbers rose peaking at the time of the Fenian Bomb outrages of the 1880's when Irish Republicans played politics with the lives and limbs of innocent citizens. The first fall of any significance in the numbers of Police in Parliament was occasioned by the civillianisation of certain posts between 1920 & 1930. First to go were the Night Watch Police. This was a body of permanent Night Duty Police Officers under the command of their own Inspector. They were set up with the conflagration of 1834 fresh in the minds of the authorities and were responsible for patrolling during the silent hours paying particular attention to fire risks. They also regularly checked and tested the fire hoses. In 1932 a force of Custodians was raised with the purpose of relieving Police of a considerable amount of patrolling duties when Parliament was not sitting. These Custodians were under the control of The Lord Great Chamberlain, whose writ ran wide throughout the entire Palace. Before the present arrangements for regulating affairs within the Palace of Westminster came into being in the 1960's , the Speaker and through him the Serjeant at Arms only held sway over certain parts of the House of Commons and only whilst that House was sitting. It was intended that this force of Custodians would gradually take on more of the duties usually performed by Police Officers but resistance from both Houses prevented this take-over from proceeding. This force of Custodians was the nearest Parliament has ever come to its own private Police Force. Such a body was considered in the 1970's but was decided against.

In 1975 Irish Republican sympathisers were able to smuggle two CS gas grenades into the Public Gallery of the House Of Commons. These they threw onto the Floor of the House causing confusion and distress to those present. Their stated aim was that MP's should experience what their policies were inflicting on the people of Northern Ireland. The fact that the grenades which they used in the confinement of the Chamber were those used by the Security Forces in the open air did not seem to them to be relevant. In the wake of this event The Commissioner was asked to look at Security at The Palace of Westminster, and he appointed James Starritt the deputy Commissioner to conduct the review. This review led to the creation of the 'Palace of Westminster Division' thus breaking the long established link with Cannon Row police station, and indeed its predecessor, King Street. It may be interesting to note that of all the enquiries and reviews conducted into the policing of Parliament over the years, those concerned with security have led to greater police numbers whilst those concerned with economy, to a reduction.

During the period that The Metropolitan Police has been responsible for security there have been four 'successful' bombing incidents, two of which occurred on one day. On Saturday 24th January 1885 two improvised explosive devices, or 'infernal machines', to give them their contemporary name, were planted by Irish terrorists known as Fenian Dynamitards. These formed part of a bombing campaign throughout the capital. The first exploded in the Commons Chamber, having been placed in the 'Under Gallery' area which at that time was situated on the Government Side of the Chamber. Considerable damage was caused, but no injury despite the Line of Route being open to the public at the time. The second of that days devices was discovered, before it exploded, on the steps leading from Westminster Hall to The Crypt Chapel. PC William Cole was called to the device, recognised it for what it was and noticing that it was smoking, with total disregard for his own safety, picked it up and ran up the steps and into Westminster Hall in a apparent attempt to throw it in the river. However the device became too hot for him to hold and he dropped it on the floor of the Hall where it exploded causing serious injuries to himself and his colleague, PC Cox, who had come to assist. Today, with the benefit of modern knowledge, and training any officer who acted as PC Cole did would probably be criticised; but he acted instinctively and within the culture of the day. His action in removing the device from the confined space of The Crypt where considerable damage would have been caused by the explosion, to the much more open area of Westminster Hall where the force of the explosion was more easily dissipated, considerably lessened the impact of the incident and for his bravery PC Cole received The Albert Medal for saving life on land ( the forerunner of The George Cross). This medal now forms part of the Medal Collection at The Terrace Entrance.

In 1972, during the construction of the Underground Carpark beneath New Palace Yard, The IRA was able to exploit the large number of casual workers employed on the project and place a bomb in a ladies toilet adjacent to Westminster Hall. This exploded at 8am one morning igniting a gas main and causing considerable damage, some injury but fortunately no loss of life. There were worries that the flames might get between the roof boarding and the slates and seriously damage the roof. To prevent this firemen remained on the roof for some hours playing water on to and beneath the slates. A considerable part of that section of The Hall area had to be rebuild incorporating a new cafeteria. The charred but structurally sound timbers which continue to support the roof of The Grand Committee Room may be seen from the projection room loft.

The last,(and may it so remain,) incident took place shortly before the 1979 General Election. A bomb was attached to the car of Airey Neave whilst it was outside the precints. The device was armed via a timer and subsequently detonated by a mercury tilt switch when the car was driven up the exit ramp from the car park. Airey Neave was a close personal friend of Margaret Thatcher and had played a large part in her election as Conservative Party Leader. He was widely expected to be appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland should the election go the way of the conservatives. Airey Neave had served with distinction during the war and was one of the few to escape from Colditz Castle. He had been outspoken in his views on terrorism and had predicted that if the IRA ever 'came for him' it would not be face to face. His injuries were serious and he died shortly after the explosion.

It is, of course, impossible to say how many attempts or plans to plant further bombs have been frustrated by the present security measures and the vigilance of those applying them.

At the beginning of each new Session of Parliament, immediately after the State Opening, certain Sessional Orders are passed by both Houses. One of these concerns access to the Palace and instructs the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to take steps to ensure that during a session of Parliament the streets and passages leading to each House be kept open and free of obstruction. Accordingly the Commissioner makes directions under The Metropolitan Police Act to give effect to these instruction. Until comparatively recently the traffic light around Parliament Square were considered to be an 'obstruction' to the free access of Members and Peers and were switched off during session. Police Officers were employed to direct traffic, giving precedence to Members' vehicles and stopping traffic to permit those on foot to cross the road. Eventually Parliament agreed to accept the traffic lights and police were relieved of this duty. However, police are still required to ensure that Members are not unduly obstructed, especially during divisions when MPs have only eight minutes to react the Division Lobbies.

Disorderly conduct within the precints of either House is a Contempt of Parliament, and as such renders those committing the acts liable to be punished according to the ancient rights of Parliament. In practice those acting in a disorderly manner are dealt with by police, who act in these matters as agents of The Serjeant at Arms or Black Rod in their roles as executive officers of either House. The main incidence of disorder tends to be minor demonstrations within the Public Galleries, with the Strangers Gallery of The House of Commons being the focal point of most. Such persons are removed from the gallery to the Police Room, and the facts reported to the Serjeant at Arms, who will obtain authority from The Speaker for the person(s) concerned to be detained until the House rises.

Occasionally acts of a more serious nature are committed causing damage or injury, and in those cases it is customary for The House to release offenders into formal police custody in order that they may be dealt with according to the criminal law. However it remains open for the House to proceed against offenders under its own powers, which include imprisonment, should it so wish although this has not happened in modern times and would probably be considered inappropriate should it be attempted.

Other instances of disorder occur from time to time, for instance the attempt by the 'Greenham Common Women' to storm the Chamber and the occasional 'Sit Down' protest in the Central Lobby or a Committee Room. These are also usually dealt with by detention until the House has risen. Minor cases of unacceptable behaviour or refusal to conform to House Regulations tend to be dealt with by immediate ejection from the building by police.

It is not only 'Strangers' who offend against the Parliamentary Rules. There have been occasions when Members have found themselves the object of police action. One of the most well known case is that of Charles Bradlaugh who fought a long battle with The House to be allowed to affirm instead of taking the Oath. One day in 1880 the Speaker ordered Bradlaugh to be confined in the Prison Room in The Clock Tower. Probably much to his suprise PC 162 'A' McKay became the last policeman to act as goaler to a Member of Parliament. ( at least until the next time!)

In 1901 a group of Irish Nationalist Members of Parliament refused to leave the Chamber when a vote was called. ( this requirement no longer exists) After repeatedly defying the Speakers orders to leave, and proving too large and violent a group for the messengers on duty, Police were called and Inspector Scantlebury led his men in to remove the demonstrating MPs.
This is the last, and only, time that Police have been required to enter The Chamber of The House of Commons during a session.

Robin Fell

Alpha Delta Plus.....Police & Parliament by Robin Fell
email: alphadeltaplus@gmail.com 29751