HC Deb 03 May 1864 vol 174 cc2116-9

moved for leave to bring in a Bill for the better regulation of Street Music within the Metropolitan Police Dis- trict. The particular evil against which the Bill was directed was this:—A street musician could be sent away on the ground of illness in a family or any "other reasonable cause." The magistrates of the metropolitan district differed, however, as to what was "reasonable cause," and what he desired was to specify what ought to be so considered. He did not propose, while doing this, to interfere with the reasonable recreation of the people.


said, he was sorry the hon. Member had not been more ample in his explanation. He would like to know what class of music the Bill referred to. Was the hon. Gentleman going to legislate in the interests of correct musical taste or in the spirit of Professor Babbage? He thought it would have been better to introduce a Bill that would cover the whole case, and send it to a Select Committee.


said, that this was properly a matter of police, and the most rational way of dealing with it would be to give the magistrate power to determine what was a nuisance and what was not. The police ought to be armed with the power of protecting society in this matter, and he would put it to the Home Secretary whether that was not the rational mode of meeting the difficulty. A lady or gentleman might be very ill, and a man would come there with a loud organ, knowing that his music would be bought off and intending to come back. If the Legislature would give the police magistrates the power to regulate the street music by means of the police, they would do much for the quiet and comfort of the metropolis.


said, the police might be called upon to remove street musicians not only in the case of illness, but from any other reasonable cause. It was well known that Mr. Babbage alleged, and the magistrates agreed with him, that he was engaged in pursuits which street music was calculated seriously to disturb. The police magistrates, however, sometimes dismissed charges against street musicians if they did not consider the cause of removal reasonable. He was anxious to see the Bill that he might know how the hon. Gentleman defined what was "a reasonable cause;" but until he know what its provisions were, he could not promise his support to it.


said, this was just one of those subjects which the Government ought to take in hand. If it could be clearly shown that street music was a nuisance, the Home Secretary was the person to deal with it.


concurred with the hon. Baronet. It appeared to him the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) wished to abolish street music altogether. [Mr. BASS: No!] Then why ask for further powers than at present existed? If this mode of legislation was adopted because some persons had a private grievance, they would by-and-by have some hon. Member proposing a Bill to put a stop to the noise occasioned by brewers' drays and beer barrels as they passed through the metropolis.


hoped the hon. Gentleman would give an intelligent explanation of the object of the Bill. He wanted to know what the hon. Member understood by a "reasonable cause."


said, the object of his hon. Friend was this—that where street music was not wanted, and the musicians refused to go away, they might be handed over to the police. It had come within his own knowledge that where persons were on their death-beds and the musicians were desired to go away, they refused, and the police when called upon said they had no power to interfere. When people paid for their houses they ought to be allowed to live in them in peace and quietness.


said, he had forborne to go at length into the subject, because on a former occasion he had explained his views to the House, and it was unusual for hon. Gentlemen when introducing a Bill upon well known matters to take up the time of hon. Members. In the Metropolitan Police Act "reasonable cause" was understood in different senses, and he had been informed that the magistrates themselves desired that what was meant by the words should be more strictly defined. He was also given to understand that the Commissioners of Police were in favour of some such measure as he sought to introduce, and the police felt themselves placed in this difficulty—that if a street musician refused to go away when desired, they could not take him into custody — they could only deal with him by summons. What he aimed at was to give the police power to arrest musicians who, upon receiving notice, refused to go away, and he held this to be "reasonable cause" that any person should be engaged in some serious occupation which required to be carried on without interruption.

Motion agreed to.

Bill for the Better Regulation of Street Music within the Metropolitan Police District; ordered to be brought in by Mr. BASS, Captain STACPOOLE, and Mr. CAVENDISH BENTINCK.