HC Deb 20 May 1853 vol 127 cc485-8

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1.


said, he must complain that the Bill gave new and extensive powers to the Commissioners of Police. It authorised them to decide whether a man should have a licence or not, and when he had obtained a licence it empowered them to suspend it at pleasure, their decisions to be without appeal. Now he admitted that hackney carriages required to be inspected, because he believed they were not now in a satisfactory condition; but he contended that the inspection proposed under the Bill would not be in proper hands for the purpose. He entertained the highest respect for the eminent gentleman who was now the First Commissioner of Police; but he strongly objected to the custom of granting more and more power to the police, and considered it to be an innovation of the worst and most alarming kind. When the Commissioners of Police were first appointed, it was understood that their duties were to be wholly ministerial, and in no respect judicial; but a different system began to be introduced, when the office of Registrar of metropolitan hackney carriages was abolished, and the duty of issuing licences was transferred to the Commissioners of Police. He objected to that altogether; but if they would give such a power to the Commissioners of Police, he trusted they would not confer it without the right of appeal. In all cases of licences hitherto, it had been the practice to grant the right of appeal from the judgment of those who had to decide in the first instance. It was so in the case of public-houses; and the evidence given before a Select Committee of that House by Mr. John Wood, chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue, clearly showed that the system had been productive of beneficial results. He held it was tyrannical to place such an extensive power in the hands of one man, Commissioner of Police or not, because little confidence could be felt in the decision of a single individual where so much property was at stake. In a recent case one of the Judges of the land sentenced an unfortunate woman to three years' additional punishment for merely having called a policeman a pig; and if such a mistake had been committed by an occupant of the judicial bench, what might they not expect from a Commissioner of the Police? But, after all, the Bill afforded no security that they should have the benefit of the decision of the Commissioners of Police. It was more than probable that the inspection of public vehicles would be left to some subordinate officer; but at all events it was most unjust not to grant the right of appeal. He had intended to propose that an appeal should lie to the quarter-sessions; but he had been met by the ob- jection that that would occasion great delay. He should therefore move, when they came to the next clause, that there should be an appeal to the County Court.


said, he wished to move the insertion after the words "for public use," of the words "either for first or second class carriages, as shall hereafter be provided." He was anxious to provide that the middle classes should be able to hire a carriage with a fair chance of riding in it with comfort. The other day there was a letter in the Times from a person who stated that the rain had come through the roof of a cab he had hired, and had spoiled his wife's dress. Now, they ought to provide for such cases as these, and to render the condition of cabs such that no injury should result to the garments or to the health of those who used them. He wished to see a first and second class of cabs. If a cab proprietor wanted a first-class licence, let him be subject to the by-laws of the Commissioners; but if he wished for a licence for a common class cab, let him be content to receive 6d. a mile.


said, he wished the hon. Member to defer his Motion until the Report was brought up.


said, he would be glad to see some competition in cabs, and saw no reason why cabs should not ply at various prices—say 6d, 8d, 10d, or 1s. a mile. Many persons would like to hire a superior cab at the larger price; and he was afraid, if the uniform rate of 6d. a mile were imposed, that all the cabs would be such as merely to pass muster. He did not expect to see the public supplied with good cabs at that price.


said, he thought the suggestion a good one, and that upon each cab there should be affixed the price per mile. Many people would be willing to pay 9d., instead of 6d., for a good cab.


said, he hoped the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewes (Mr. Fitzroy) would endeavour to pass the Bill as it then stood. He felt persuaded that the best principle to adopt in that matter would be to establish one uniform tariff. He had been informed that there were at the present moment companies without end ready to start cabs of the best description and with the best horses at the proposed fare of 6d. per mile. It was true that that fare had already been tried, and had not been found successful; but the failure of the experiment was owing solely to a combination among the existing cab-owners.

Clause agreed to. On Clause 2,

LORD DUDLEY STUART moved the addition of a proviso, that in case of the suspension of a licence, there should be a power of appeal from the Commissioner of Police to the Judge of the County Court.

Amendment proposed— At the end of the Clause, to add the words, 'Provided however that in case of the refusal or suspension of any such licence as aforesaid, it shall he lawful for the proprietor of any such stage or hackney carriage, or other persons applying for such licence, or subjected to such suspension, to appeal from the decision of the Commissioners of Police to the Judge of the County Court of the district in which the person so applying for a licence, or whose licence shall have been so suspended, shall reside, and it shall be lawful for the said Judge to quash such suspension, or to grant such certificate refused by the said Commissioners of Police, as aforesaid."'


said, he thought the County Court Judge was not a proper functionary. He should have no objection that in every case the Commissioner of Police should report to the Secretary of State the cause of suspension, and if the Secretary of State thought the cause insufficient, he should restore the licence.


said, he objected to both the Motion and Amendment. It was quite as reasonable to give an appeal to the Lord Chancellor as to the County Court Judge; and to report the cause of suspension to a Secretary of State was still more absurd. It was imposing an unnecessary trouble to report the cause of suspension, and it could not be expected that a Secretary of State could attend to such a matter.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 6; Noes 66: Majority 60.

Clause agreed to; as were the remaining Clauses.

The House resumed. Bill reported.

The House adjourned at half after Two o'clock till Monday next.