HC Deb 09 August 1853 vol 129 cc1591-8

Order for Third Reading read.


said, he thought the House and the country were greatly indebted to the noble Lord the Home Secretary and to the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Fitzroy) for the active part they had taken in promoting this measure. He considered, however, that some additional regulations were still necessary. He had frequently seen the lives of persons jeopardised from the practice of taking up or setting down passengers in the centre of the streets. He considered that the proprietors of public vehicles ought to be made responsible for the misconduct of their servants; and he believed if such a regulation were adopted they would not be very likely to hear of violence or insult on the part of the drivers. He thought it was desirable that drivers should be prohibited from sitting in their carriages, for he had frequently seen drivers smoking in their cabs, and the smell was not very pleasant, especially to women who might afterwards engage the vehicles. He would therefore beg to propose four clauses to remedy those defects.


said, he could not consent to the clauses proposed by the hon. and gallant Member, which did not appear to him to come within the legitimate scope and meaning of the Bill. He considered that as the clauses, which were highly penal, would materially affect the interests of a large body of persons, they ought to have been brought forward when the Bill was in Committee. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Member that it was not right that omnibuses should set down passengers in the middle of the streets; but the police had power to prevent such a system, and that power was exercised every day in the metropolis with regard to all carriages, whether public or private. He must say the clauses were drawn in a very informal manner. They provided for the infliction of a penalty of 40s., or one month's imprisonment, but they did not say who was to adjudicate. As the clauses stood, he apprehended that proceedings could not be taken before magistrates, but that the penalties must be sued for by the Attorney General in the Court of Queen's Bench. The second clause would entail great hardship, for if a driver got drunk and were discharged, the proprietor could not send out the carriage next day. The third clause was one of the most objectionable he ever saw. The fourth clause made the police judges upon the spot. In the plenitude of their wisdom, they were either to rectify the matter at the time, or make t report; but what was to be the consequence of making a report was not stated. They were also to act as referees; but whether with or without the consent of parties, did not appear.


said, he had more confidence in the "plenitude of the wisdom of a police officer than in the wisdom of half the Treasury Bench. He would rather submit to his decision and impartiality than to the wise Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench. He was no lawyer, but he had put a plain common-sense proposal before the House. He had done his duty, and the responsibility must rest with the hon. Secretary to the Board of Control and the Government.

Clauses negatived.


said, he wished to move a clause having reference to the new fares proposed by this Bill.


said, he could not agree to the clause, which was liable, in the first place, to the objection that it was legislation of a too minute character, which ought to be left to some subordinate authority. The House had passed a law that the distances published in the book of fares, signed by the Commissioners of Police, should be conclusive, and that with regard to other distances they should be measured. The clause proposed that the magistrate should measure the distance by the Ordnance map. He might do so now. ["No!"] Yes, he might measure the map and give his opinion, and then if that were disputed, the parties must abide by the measurement. The rule of law was, that the best evidence, where it was procurable, should be taken, and it would not to be right to deprive a party of his appeal o actual measurement. The hon. Baronet had correctly anticipated that the magistrate might not know exactly where to begin his measurement; but the mode pro- posed of beginning with the first intersecting street or public building might be extremely unjust to the cabman, and might lead to his being wrongfully imprisoned for overcharge.

Clause negatived.


then moved the insertion of the following clause:— That the proprietor of every hackney carriage or metropolitan stage carriage, licensed to ply for hire within the limits of this Act, who shall withdraw his carriage from hire for two consecutive days, or for any two days in one week, without just cause, of which the magistrate before whom the complaint is heard shall be the judge, shall be liable to a penalty of a sum not exceeding 20s. in respect for every carriage for each day he shall so withdraw the same; and the licence of such proprietor shall be suspended or recalled and taken away at the discretion of the said commissioners of police: provided always, that it shall be lawful for such proprietor, upon giving ten days' notice to the commissioners of police, to withdraw his carriage from hire. It would prevent the very great inconvenience to the public that occurred a short time since, when the strike took place, and would not operate unfairly to the proprietors or owners of cabs or carriages.


said, he would admit that the greatest inconvenience had been sustained by the public during the late strike, particularly by persons arriving by railway from the country. But he was informed that the loss sustained by the cab proprietors in consequence of the strike was so great, that doubts were entertained whether they would ever try that experiment again. It had been calculated that the loss to the proprietors of cabs from the three days' strike amounted to 2,500l. [Sir J. SHELLEY: 2,000l. a day.] This, he thought, would be a sufficient caution to them how they struck work again.


said, he should oppose the clause, which he thought would have a tyrannical effect. It was, besides, an interference with free trade. Several cab proprietors had a number of cab licences, but it did not always suit their interests to continue the same number; and, if this clause passed, they would be unable to withdraw their cabs without ten days' notice, which would inflict a serious loss upon them. He saw no security that there would be any appeal; and, considering the manner in which magistrates had of late exercised their power, he could not consent to vote for this clause.


said, he entirely differed from his noble Friend. It must be recollected that the House had not only the cab proprietors to protect, but the public out of doors; and he must say that the cab and omnibus proprietors had shown they had more power than it was thought they possessed, and had exercised that power to the great inconvenience of the public, who could not protect themselves. He thought the proposed clause nothing more than a reasonable one, and should cordially support it.


said, he would add, that there was a third class of persons who needed protection, and that was the cab drivers. When the proprietors took their cabs off the stands, they deprived the drivers of their work and wages; and it was within his knowledge that many drivers (who were entirely dependent upon their masters) were very much annoyed as well as injured by the strike which had lately taken place.


thought, recent events had shown that the proprietors of public carriages possessed a great and important power, with which it was not safe to intrust them. A more unwarrantable annoyance to the public than the recent cab strike could hardly be imagined. On the Monday those who represented the cab proprietors had seen his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Fitzroy), and had obtained from him assurances of concession on two points to which they attached much weight, and both of which had been since carried out. Notwithstanding, however, the assurances these persons obtained, they had not chosen to wait and see if they would be carried out, but "struck," and by withdrawing their vehicles produced the greatest possible inconvenience to the public, and much loss to the drivers. All they had got by the strike they had been promised before, and yet after it was all over they met together and congratulated each other upon the triumph they had achieved. He knew also that it had been in the contemplation of the omnibus proprietors, who could not pretend that they had any grievance, and who had the power of regulating their own fares, to strike, he supposed out of mere gaiety of heart, for the purpose of assisting the proprietors of cabs. Now, he did not want to take any measure in a retaliatory spirit; but he thought it was only just that the public should be protected from combinations like these, entered into not so much for the purpose of carrying any point, as of showing the power of the proprietors, and of producing public inconvenience. His hon. Friend the Sec- retary to the Treasury approved of the clause proposed by the hon. Member, and he therefore hoped the House would agree to it.

Clause added.


moved to substitute for Clause 13 the following clause:— Where any hackney carriage shall be discharged beyond the circumference of a circle the radius of which shall be four miles from Temple Bar, it shall be lawful for the driver of such carriage, in addition to the fare now directed to be paid under the Act of the present Session of Parliament, chap. 33, to charge a sum of 6d. per mile for each mile, or part of a mile, in respect of the distance between the place where he is so discharged and the nearest point of such circumference.


seconded the Motion, but said he must complain that the East and West India Docks, and the important districts clustered around, were cut off from the circle of four miles which was proposed, while Hampstead-heath and part of Tooting-common were embraced within it. In his opinion it would be much more advantageous to have an ellipse than a circle.


would suggest that there should be two points of departure—Charing-cross for the cabs going west, and St. Paul's for those going cast.


said, he did not consider it necessary to reopen the question of the two centres, which had already been thoroughly discussed. He was quite willing to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. V. Scully), provided several verbal amendments were made in it.


brought up a clause to establish an appeal in certain cases. Though he condemned the recent strike of the cabmen, he thought that some palliation was to be found fur their conduct in the manner in which the previous Bill on this subject had been discussed. The consequence of that hasty and inconsiderate measure had been to give satisfaction to no one. It would have been much better if that Bill had been referred, as was proposed, to a Committee upstairs. He now proposed, that, in cases of refusal of licences, there should be an appeal from the decision of the Police Commissioner to the Quarter Sessions; but, to prevent any inconvenience, he thought that the refusal of the licence should be valid until the final decision of the appeal. He proposed further to give an appeal from the decision of the police magistrates. The want of this appeal was considered a peculiar grievance by the trade and by the drivers, and that feeling had been increased in consequence of a late decision, by which a cabman had been sent to prison because he could not pay down a certain sum to have a disputed distance measured. He knew that the case to which he alluded had been denied in that House, but he believed the fact was as he had stated it. The objection to the appeal was, that it would sometimes frustrate the ends of justice, because the cabmen would immediately appeal in every case from the adverse decisions of the magistrates; but the clause he proposed so fenced round the power of appeal that it would seldom be exercised. The cabman would have to give notice of his intention to appeal within twenty-four hours; he must also enter into recognisances for the payment of double the amount of the penalty and costs awarded against him; and he must be bound over to pay the reasonable expenses of all the witnesses in the case, together with any other costs. Although the power of appeal would be very seldom exercised under these circumstances, it would place a salutary check upon the decisions of magistrates. The omnibus proprietors, who also desired a power of appeal, had waited on him to ask his advice when the cab strike had taken place. He advised them to relinquish all intentions of striking, and to endeavour to induce the cabmen, if possible, to resume work. He also advised them to petition Parliament, and to lay their case before the Home Secretary. Now that the strike was at an end, he had consented to bring forward their case, as he considered that their demand fur a power of appeal was but reasonable. In the cases of licences to public-houses there was en appeal to the Quarter Sessions. Why, then, should there be no appeal in the cases of cab licences? He had copied these clauses, with regard to the appeals, out of an Act which had passed through the House for regulating hackney carriages in Dublin. Why was an appeal just in Ireland, and unjust in England? They were often asked for justice to Ireland. He now; asked for justice to London. He felt a great respect for Sir Richard Mayne, who, he was sure, would not feel hurt at there being an appeal given from his decision. A police magistrate had written to him on the subject of this Bill, and had argued that there ought not to be any appeal from a police magistrate to the Chief Commissioner of Police; but he had no intention to give such an appeal, and there was no ob- jection expressed to an appeal from a magistrate to any competent tribunal.


said, he had strong objections to this clause. His first objection was, that this matter had been brought forward by the noble Lord in the Committee on the Hackney Carriage Bill, and then fully argued and negatived. And now, on the third reading of another Bill, at the end of the Session, the noble Lord came forward and asked the House to repeal that decision. But the case did not rest here. Let the House only think what the effect of this power of appeal would be. These gentlemen had already shown what they could do in the way of combination, and if the appeal were granted it would be the virtual repeal of everything done by Parliament for the regulation of the public conveyances. Everybody knew that there was great difficulty in inducing people to come forward and make complaints in the case of cabs and omnibuses, and that numerous delinquents in consequence escaped; but, if to this they added the appeal, the difficulty would be greatly increased of reaching a class of men not very observant of the law, and not very decorous in their conduct. It would be found that the appeal would be universal; for the proprietors of hackney carriages would form a fund, and, by appealing against every decision, secure themselves from punishment, for attempts to bring them up before the magistrates would soon cease to be made. He might state, that the general opinion of those who administered the law was against the appeal, and he thought their objections were well founded. The noble Lord objected to the decision being left with the police magistrates; but they were, nevertheless, as intelligent and learned a body of men as could be found; and he would not retort upon the noble Lord the argumentum ad hominem that the very gentleman who presided over the Court to which the appeal was to be made was the gentleman whose salary the noble Lord lately refused to raise some 300l. a year.


thought a strong case should be made out before they refused the right of appeal. He proposed that the magistrate should reduce the evidence to writing when an appeal was taken, and remit such evidence to the Court before which the appeal was to be heard.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the said Clause be brought up."

The House divided:—Ayes 27; Noes 41: Majority 14.

Bill passed.

The House adjourned at One o'clock.