HC Deb 09 June 1864 vol 175 cc1529-33

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed; "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Bass.)


said, he thought the measure required grave consideration before it was sanctioned by the House, interfering as it did with a large class of persons, and those the poorest of the community. Street music might annoy some persons, but it certainly amused many more, and it was to be regretted that the extreme sensibilities of a few individuals should have led them to enter upon a crusade against, it. If a Bill like that had been proposed for the City of Dublin or Glasgow, it would not have been entertained for a moment. It was said that street musicians were supported by a kind of black mail; that, in fact, they were paid by people for the purpose of getting rid of them; but he utterly denied that statement. They were supported on the ordinary principle of supply and demand. Why should they seek to interfere with the amusements of he lower orders? They might as well attempt to put down smoking, which gave enjoyment of those who indulged in it, but annoyed others who did not. They ought to have a clear proof of the evils resulting from the practice against which the Bill was aimed, and also clear proof that that was the proper mode of remedying those evils; and at present the House possessed neither. That was, after all, a paltry kind of legislation, unworthy of the British Parliament, and if they were to legislate against every petty annoyance which some individuals suffered, they would involve themselves in interminable difficulties. Many people complained of the nuisance caused by children practicing at the pianoforte next door to them. He was thankful he had not to endure such an infliction. Was that to be put down by Act of Parliament also? It was a great annoyance to a house in which there was somebody lying sick that their neighbours should give an evening party. Why should that not be checked by legislation as well as organ playing? If that Bill passed it would enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to suppress the band which played in the park in the rear of his house, and which afforded so much amusement to numbers. The bands played in the parks to the great amusement of a large concourse of persons; but that Bill would enable any one of the neighbouring housekeepers to deprive the public to that source of enjoyment. He regretted that the bands of the regiments quartered in London, which were only employed by the rich at their entertainments, did not play much oftener for the gratification of the people generally. He remembered that in one of his Budget speeches, the Chancellor of the Exchequer cited it as a sign of the extraordinary poverty of large districts of the metropolis that there were whole streets in them in which the notes of the organ boy were never heard. The right hon. Gentleman meant by that that the inhabitants were so poor that they were deprived of an innocent gratification. If street music was to be considered a nuisance, and required any kind of effected by means of the police, and not by special Act of Parliament like that now proposed. He would conclude by moving that the Bill should be read a second time that day six months.


begged to second the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Hankey.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, he understood that the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass), who had brought forward the Bill, had a coadjutor out-of-doors who had written a pamphlet on the subject of street music, and who maintained that the whole body of organ-grinders was supported by the licensed victuallers and the proprietors of public-houses. He believed that the habit of frequenting public-houses and the amount of intoxication was much augmented by means of music at the doors. It therefore found support in the licensed victuallers.


said, there was already legislation upon this subject. He begged to suggest that the Amendment should be withdrawn on the understanding that the Bill should be brought on another night at an earlier hour, when it could be property discussed, which it could not be at that time-of-the-night.


said, he agreed with that suggestion He had told the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) that he would not oppose the second, reading, but that it would be necessary to amend the Bill in Committee.


said, he thought it was absurd to suggest that the discussion should be taken in Committee. The Bill Consisted of only one clause, and consequently the whole question was now, at issue. [Cries of "Oh!"] If anything could induce him to advocate the suppression of street music, it would be the cries of "Oh!" from some hon. Gentlemen, for sounds more resembling those of a barrel organ out of tune he had never heard; but he-should be sorry to put a stop even to the discordant exclamations of the opponents of the Bill by so arbitrary and tyrannical a measure as the present.


said, the principle of the Bill was admitted by the present legislation. The question was its adaptation to what might be called the German crusade, and the prevention of twenty or thirty trumpets blowing a blast into the windows of houses in many of the metropolis. He thought they might pass the second reading, and reserve the discussion for the Committee.


said, he must take issue with the last speaker, and contended that while the principle of the existing law was reasonable, the principle of the Bill was most unreasonable. The principle of the existing law was that for reasonable cause any street musician might be stopped and sent away by the police; but the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) wished to substitute for a reasonable cause the purely arbitrary veto of a single individual. He believed that if the Bill passed in its present shape it would authorize him to require a policeman to disperse the band which now played every evening within fifty yards of his windows, and the performances of which were attended by and amused from 2,000 to 3,000 persons. He thought those who attended concerts and the opera were not good judges of what amused the people in that respect. The Bill, in short, was an unwarrantable interference with the amuse- ments of the people, and there was nothing unreasonable in the demand that it should be discussed at an earlier hour.


begged to move the-adjournment of the debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."— (Mr. Butt.)


supposed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer opposed the Bill as a friend of the Italian cause, forgetting that Savoy had recently been annexed to France, and that barrel organs were not-included in the French Treaty. For his own part, he objected to all discordant sounds, even though they might come from the Treasury Bench, and his ear had been offended by hearing the Home Secretary say he was in favour of the second reading, and the Chancellor of the-Exchequer that he was decidedly opposed to it; and the President of the; Board of Trade appeared to be the same. He had no wish to interfere with the amusements of the people, and if there were a class fond of street music, in the name of Heaven let them have it; but he maintained that if the inhabitants of any particular street did not want to be driven crazy by the sounds of a barrel organ, they should be permitted to send the grinder away. All that was intended by the Bill; was to prevent those men from wandering into streets where their discordant sound were not appreciated, but where they levied the greatest amount of black mail. As to the case of the band playing near the Chancellor of the Exchequer's house, that scarcely came within the ordinary definition of street music. At any rate, if all street musicians performed as well, he would never wish to send them away. He hoped the hon. Member for Derby would persevere with his Bill. He was as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the tastes of the people should be consulted, but he denied that the tastes of the people required the music which it was proposed to remove.


said, he would not now enter on the principle of the Bill, as he had already given an assurance that a full opportunity of debating it would be allowed on the Motion to go into Committee. To show the necessity for legislation on this subject, he would mention an incident in which he himself was concerned. At eight o'clock that morning, while at breakfast, he was put out of aumour by a street band; at nine, when reading The Times, another struck up; and at ten, when he was engaged in his correspondence, a band of trumpets and trombones came under his window and blew a blast which shook his very house. His patience broke down under the last infliction, and he told his servant to ask the band to withdraw. The latter, however, declined, and when the policeman was asked to interfere he replied that his instructions were to do nothing unless the servant could say that his master was; dangerously ill or dead. He was so astonished at that statement that he made his man write it down on paper and return with it to the constable for confirmation. He even went to the policeman himself, and ascertained that he had given the answer attributed to him. He had also an interview with Sir Richard Mayne on the subject, who said that the constable had somewhat exaggerated his instructions; but he believed that the man had done so to very slight extent. Sir Richard assured him that it was impossible to put in force the present law in regard to street music. He hoped the House would read the Bill a second time.


said, he hoped that the debate would be adjourned. He should oppose the Bill. It would interfere most tyrannically with the amusements of the people.


said, he trusted that the House would agree to the second reading of the Bill for putting down the abominable nuisance of street organs. He happened to live next door to a religious club, and. regularly every Saturday morning an Italian came and played the 100th Psalm on a hand organ. He sent his servant out on one occasion to request the man to vary the psalm; but he said he had not another in his repertoire. The evil was not felt in poor neighbourhoods so much as in the large streets and squares. Reference had been made to Ireland, but he believed that organ-grinders never went there. Certainly they would never dream of going to Youghal, where they could have no chance of levying black mail.

Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned;"

The House divided:—Ayes 19; Noes 56; Majority 37.

Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Wednesday, 29th June.

House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock.