HC Deb 14 February 1870 vol 199 cc237-9

said, he would beg-to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether, having regard to the prevailing uncertainty as to the exact nature of the new Cab regulations in the Metropolis, he will consider the propriety of forthwith issuing and enforcing regulations whereby, in the case of all disengaged cabs, whether on authorized stands or not, the public may before hiring them have positive means of knowing, both by daytime and after dark, the rates of fare chargeable?


said, he could assure his hon. Friend that he was most disposed to adopt any suggestion that might be offered to him for promoting the convenience and comfort of all those who use cabs, but he could not say that at the present moment there was a necessity for the alteration which his hon. Friend had indicated. He might say, in the first place, that there was no change whatever in respect to charge in the case of distance. All, both four-wheeled cabs and Hansoms, charged precisely the same as they did last year. With respect to the charge for time the case was different. The Hansom cabs had adopted an uniform charge of 2s. 6d. per hour, and all four-wheeled cabs, with the exception of a very few, had adopted a charge of 2s. Now engagements per hour were usually made during the day for purposes of shopping or making calls, but engagements for distance were usually made at night. It seemed to him that there could be no difficulty in ascertaining the charge by reference to the nag or plate which the cab was bound to carry. It had been suggested that it might be possible to paint the charge on the vehicles themselves; but as he was in hopes that in the course of the spring a new order of carriages might arise, upon which it would be inconvenient to paint the charge, he was not inclined at present to press the change. His hon. Friend seemed to suggest that a plate should be borne whether the cabs were on authorized stands or other places, but great inconvenience and no little danger had arisen from cabs plying and loitering, or "crawling," as it was called. [Murmurs.] He knew from those who used cabs that there was a very strong feeling in favour of those crawlers; but the majority of the inhabitants of London did not use cabs, and to have them loitering in the streets was a subject of considerable danger and of constant complaint. The law remained precisely in the condition in which it had been during the last seventeen years; and perhaps it would surprise the House to learn that during the last year there were no fewer than 2,801 summonses taken out against hackney carriages for plying and loitering, and no fewer than 2,429 convictions. That was before the present regulations came into effect. He was perfectly aware that the loitering of cabs could not be altogether prevented, and he was quite willing to admit that it was not desirable that it altogether should be. But the evil was chiefly felt in the narrow and crowded thoroughfares, and particularly at certain hours of the day; and if police arrangements could be made to prevent empty cabs plying in those streets at those hours the objection might possibly be removed. There was less excuse now than formerly for that great abuse—the habit of loitering—inasmuch as the number of cabstands had been increased from 292 last year to 419 at the present moment; and the Chief Commissioner of Police was now engaged in securing still more of them. He was anxious, also, for the benefit of the public, to state that the use of the tickets, although hardly universal, had been very much extended, and would be of very great advantage. In nearly every case in which complaints were made to the police, either about lost property or of misconduct, a card had been shown, by which the police were enabled to trace the offender or to recover the lost property. The consequence had been that the applications to the police with regard to lost property had been increased by 30 per cent, and whereas last year the total value of the lost property recovered in six weeks was only £136, and the value of the largest article recovered was only £6 10s., this year the total value recovered during six weeks was £343, and the value of the largest article recovered £158. His hon. Friend hoped the regulations that had been made would be enforced. It was and always had been their intention to enforce those regulations, but his hon. Friend must be aware that cabmen, with all their excellent qualities, were not very amenable to State discipline, and it took some time and some perseverance before they could be induced to obey new regulations. He could, however, assure his hon. Friend, on the part of the police and also on his own, that no effort should be wanting to enforce the regulations.


said, he wished to know whether it was intended to enforce the law as to lamps?


said, he had always thought that the remission of the duties made last year was to form the fund out of which the improvements in cabs might be made, to which the House and the public had a right. The charges now borne by hackney carriages amounted to £5 3s. annually—namely, £2 2s. which they paid in common with all other carriages, £2 more which they paid for the licence and for supervision, and a further £1 1s. for the two horses which had to be maintained for each cab. He was assured by the cab proprietors that the cost of two lamps for each cab would be no less than £9 8s. a-year. He had had careful inquiries made of the cost, and the lowest estimate of its amount was about £6; but he would not undertake to say that was more correct than the estimate framed by the cab proprietors. He had taken much pains himself to ascertain whether the value of a lamp would be worth that expense, and every hon. Member was as capable of judging on that point as he was. As far as his own observation went, generally speaking, an approaching cab could be detected by a person using ordinary vigilance; and he was bound to say that in his experience lamps were not any great additional security. Their object was by every means in their power to promote the public convenience by securing better cabs and better horses. The fund out of which that was to be done was the remission of taxation, and if that fund were applied in providing lamps, without giving additional security, they could not expect to get as improved a description of cabs and cab-horses as they might otherwise obtain.