HC Deb 28 July 1853 vol 129 cc967-72

Order for Committee read.

Instruction to the Committee on the Bill, that they have power to make provision therein as to the charge for the hire of Hackney Carriages.

Bill considered in Committee.

Clause— That whenever more than two persons shall be conveyed by any Hackney Carriage drawn by one horse only, a suns of sixpence for each person above the number of two shall be paid for the whole hiring, in addition to the fare now directed to be paid for two persons, under the Act 10 and 17 Vict. c. 33; and two children under ten years old shall be considered as one adult person, for the purposes of this clause.

Brought up, and read the First Time.


said, he wished to know if this clause had not been enacted in consequence of the late strike? Why had not notice been given of it?


said, that the intention of his hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Home Department, whose state of health prevented him being present, had been simply that the Legislature should put itself quite in the right towards the cab interest, while it showed its determination not to depart from what it considered just towards the public.


said, he rose to corroborate the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. He had that afternoon been present at a deputation of cab proprietors who had waited on the Under Secretary of State, and he had heard that deputation state positively that the Resolution just read from the Chair, had been laid before them previous to the occurrence which had lately taken place, and the reason of the delay in bringing it before the House had been a mere question as to the wording of the clause, which had only been settled a short time ago. He certainly hoped that Her Majesty's Government would not give way on this occasion. As one of the Metropolitan Members, he had been very anxious to see any just demands which the cab proprietors might have met in a proper spirit, and settled if possible; but, at the same time, he was bound to say that the circumstances under which they now came before the House were very materially altered by the course which they had pursued, He thought the most dignified course for the House to pursue would be to look upon these men now as entirely out of court; when they had brought their cabs back on the stands, then let them petition Parliament, and any just grievances which they had might be redressed in a fair spirit.


quite agreed with the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer that this question must be treated as a question of justice, and without any reference to what had taken place. He was one of those who believed, with the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford, that they ought not to have fixed the fares, without evidence before them that those fares were just. His conviction was then, and it still continued the same, that it was not just to require them to go for a sixpenny fare at all.


said, that if he understood the clause rightly, it was to allow cabs, which were only licensed to carry two, to break the law by carrying more, and get additional fare for it. He had no objection to the cabs carrying more than two, but he did not like to see it put in the light of an infraction of the law.


said, that to carry two, meant that they were not to be compelled to carry more than two, and not that they were to be limited to carrying two only.


thought that they were knocking under to the great proprietors by amending the Act in this manner. It was notorious that it was not the men who owned one or two cabs who had organised and were carrying on this strike, but the large cab proprietors, and it would be fat better for the House to adjourn the consideration of this question for a few days, and when the cab proprietors came to then senses, no doubt the House would entertain any reasonable proposal for the relief of any real grievance under which they might be suffering.


said, he thought, with the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner), that justice ought to be done in this case independent of the present state of things. When the conduct of the Dublin cabmen was contrasted with that of the London cabmen, it must be remembered that the latter had never had an inquiry referred to them. He thought it would be much more Consistent to leave the responsibility of arranging the matter in the hands of the Government; but he entertained a strong opinion that the scale of fares laid down in the Bill was not remunerative. He certainly thought that at least an inquiry into its justice should have been made before such a reduction was attempted.


said, he agreed with those who thought the House ought to resist anything like a concession to clamour. He lamented very much the state of things out of doors, and chiefly for the sake of the persons who had occasioned that state of things, for there could be no doubt that the persons engaged in the cab trade would be those who would suffer the most inconvenience from the strike. In taking such a course they had been ill-advised; but at the same time he could not help reminding hon. Gentlemen that the present difficulty, and the public annoyance experienced, had been brought upon the House by their own conduct. If the Select Committee asked for had been granted, all the details connected with the matter would have been properly examined, and the mistake would not have been made which had involved them in so much difficulty. Another time, in legislating, the House should remember the good old proverb, "The more haste, the less speed."


said, if the Committee felt inclined to discuss the subject of the sixpenny fare, and whether the legislation of the House, was to be reversed, he would withdraw the clause altogether. That point was not pressed by the cab proprietors themselves. It was most desirable to confine the discussion to the real point, and he trusted the Committee would at once either affirm the clause or postpone it. The general feeling appeared to be in favour of the clause, and he thought it would be better to adopt it than to enter into a disquisition as to who was right and who was wrong.


said, that trifling as the occasion might appear, there was an important constitutional principle involved in the present discussion. If the Committee were now to yield to the dictation of a particular class of persons, who happened to belong to the metropolis, it would open a most dangerous precedent to encourage the future adoption of a similar improper course by other classes who might have any fancied or real grievance to complain of. It would also create very just discontents in provincial districts, from whence decorous remonstrances often remained unattended to by the Legislature. It would suggest to the car owners of the city of Dublin, as well as to other classes there, that their local grievances would have a much better chance of being speedily redressed if they now had their own local Parliament in College Green. A deputation from those Dublin car owners was at present in London, seeking by legitimate means an alteration in the Dublin Carriages Bill, and their conduct afforded a striking contrast to that pursued by the cabmen of London. Members of the House had certainly suffered some personal inconveniences during the last two days; but those might be easily obviated, either by proper official regulations, or, if necessary, by immediate legislation. They could all remember when, in the year 1848, a special Act of Parliament had been passed through all its stages in a single day, in order to suppress summarily what had been called the "cabbage-garden rebellion" in Ireland. The present state of things, however, should at once be put an end to in one way or other; and as it was a sort of little London cab rebellion, he thought it lay entirely with the Executive Government to suppress it in such form as they might think best. He could not think they were now proposing the most effectual course. Were he allowed to offer a suggestion, he would state that they might never again have so good an opportunity to pass a law introducing a perfect free trade in cabs, by permitting the owner of any vehicle in London, or in any other town, to register it at the commencement of each year, to run at any fare he might think fit; and, at the same time, to take effectual measures to repress combination of any sort. By such means they would have some vehicles, suited to the humbler classes, plying at fourpence, or even twopence per mile, while they would also have a very superior class of carriages running at sixpence or eightpence, or perhaps one shilling per mile. Any interference with the principles of free trade, whether by public Act of Parliament, or by private combination among individuals, was always productive of injury to the public and to the individuals themselves. For his own part, having stated these views, he would leave on the Government the responsibility of taking such steps as they might think proper to suppress this little cab rebellion.


said, he had been present at an interview between a deputation of cab proprietors and the Secretary to the Treasury, and could state that his hon. Friend had done his utmost to arrive at an equitable conclusion as regarded all parties. It appeared, however, almost impossible to satisfy the proprietors. He hoped the Committee would proceed to pass these clauses.


would suggest that they really ought not to divide. He felt the cab proprietors were very much in the wrong; but he could not conceal from himself that the House had been a little inadvertent. Let them put themselves right by adopting the two clauses proposed by the Government, and then all would go well.


did not wish to stand in the way of an arrangement, but the clause would not carry out the object in view. He certainly would oppose it in the interest of the public.


said, as one who was present at the interview of the cab proprietors with the hon. Gentleman, he thought it right to state they were satisfied with the Resolutions so far as they went, but that nothing would completely satisfy them except a shilling for the first mile.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the said Clause be now read a Second Time."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 88; Noes 9: Majority 79.

Clause read 2°, and added.

Bill reported: as amended, to be considered on Monday next.

House resumed.

House adjourned at a quarter after Three o'clock.