HC Deb 08 July 1903 vol 125 cc120-4

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

asked if the Bill had been read a second time.


said it was read a second time the night before last.


said that the Under-Secretary for the Home Department was talking to him at the time, and he did not hear the question put from the Chair. It was always inconvenient for Members of the Government to talk to hon. Members, more especially when one of their own Bills was being passed.


said it was quite unintentional on his part.


said no doubt it was. The Bill purported to deal with an object which was very laudable in itself, namely, the question of collections in the public streets for charitable and other purposes. It proposed to empower the police, with the consent of the Home Secretary, to make certain regulations with regard to the places at and conditions under which money might be collected for charitable purposes in the streets. The object the Home Secretary had in view was that no person should be allowed to collect money in the streets who had not a right to collect it; but when he looked into the Bill that was not the object it would effect. It did not deal with the question as to whether a person had or had not a right to collect money for charitable purposes; but it went back upon the Metropolitan Streets Act, which dealt entirely with the management of the streets and the control of the traffic. Section 11 of the Metropolitan Streets Act, to which the Bill referred, and which it was proposed to extend as to the making of regulations to be observed by all persons with respect to the places at and conditions under which money was to be collected in the streets, dealt entirely with the management of the streets, and not with the purpose for which a person might be on the streets and referred only to a special district, namely, that within four miles of Charing Cross. The section referred entirely to the control of traffic and to the power of diverting traffic, and had no reference whatever to the case of a person collecting money. The object of the Bill might be particularly good, namely, that no person should be allowed on the streets on a begging excursion without some guarantee that it was bonâ fide, and that the public were not being defrauded. But that could not be provided merely by reference to an Act of Parliament which dealt entirely with the regulation of traffic. The only power which the Bill would confer would be the power to regulate where a man might stand. The Bill had no reference whatever to the object for which a person might be collecting. The Bill assumed that the collection was for a charitable purpose, and therefore the theory that this was a Bill to find out whether a collector was bonâ fide or not was destroyed. The Bill assumed he was a bonâ fide collector; and it proposed, without any justification, to interfere with persons who were admittedly collecting for a charitable purpose. Section 11 of the Metropolitan Streets Act had reference solely to the position which a man might occupy in the streets, and it referred only to a particular district.


The hon. Gentle man is not entitled to repeat the arguments he has already used.


said he was turning the argument in a different way. If a person were collecting for a bonâ fide charitable purpose, on what ground was he to be interfered with? If it was for the convenience of the public, the existing law provided a remedy. Was it to be laid down that a man collecting, for instance, on Hospital Saturday should stand in a particular spot and should not move from it? He did not see why such a laudable object should be interfered with. It was the small sums that were put into the boxes in the streets that mounted up. He thought they had a right to complain that the Second Reading of the Bill was passed without a word of explanation. He did not think that was the way to carry a Bill through the House. They had a right to have had a candid statement as to the object of the Bill, and then they would know where they stood. In the absence of all explanation, he did not think the Committee should agree to the clause, all the more as the Bill would not carry out the object in view. They ought not to impose any restrictions on bonâ fide collectors which would interfere with the benevolence of the public as long as the collectors did not cause an obstruction. He thought the Bill was totally uncalled for, and that it would be invalid.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

said he thought the Committee were indebted to the hon. Member for Mid Lanark for the interest he had taken in the matter. He thought the complaint of the hon. Gentleman was not altogether unreasonable. He should like to ask one or two questions of the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman asked for powers to exercise authority which would not be exercised in any other city. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman should ask for such powers without telling the Committee what new and grave reasons had arisen to justify them. These powers were to be conferred on the right hon. Gentleman and his successors at the Home Office. They might have perfect confidence in the right hon. Gentleman, but what about his successors? He thought there was really some ground for suspicion. The powers under the Metropolitan Streets Act were to be exercised with the consent of the Common Council of the City, which was the only representative body in existence when the Act was passed in 1867. Now they had the London County Council, and the Borough Councils. Were they to be consulted?


said there was no intention whatever of rushing the Bill through the House. He was under the impression that it was an agreed Bill; and it was introduced in answer to a general request made during the discussion of the Police Estimates a few months ago. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs, the hon. Member for Battersea, and other hon. Members urged him to bring in a Bill dealing with this question. All it proposed was to give the Commissioners of the Metropolitan and City Police powers, subject, outside the City, to the sanction of the Home Secretary, who was responsible to this House, to issue regulations dealing with this question. During the discussion on the Estimates it was pointed out that this begging in the streets was very undesirable, and ought to be put down. Hon. Members complained of collecting boxes being held up before pedestrians, and also of the great obstruction which was caused in the streets; and it was felt to be desirable that the police should have power to deal with this matter. It was with this view that the Bill was brought in; and he thought it would be regarded as an agreed measure. The Bill, although it was a small one, was necessary for London, and was desired not only by hon. Members, but by the London County Council.

MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)

said they were all agreed that the object of the Bill was a good one; but they were not agreed that it proposed the best method of achieving that object.

And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.