HC Deb 09 March 1939 vol 344 cc2343-4
62. Rear-Admiral Beamish

asked the Home Secretary what control and investigation are exercised in London of the origin and bona fides of the large number of individual and bodies of persons who appeal for public charity on various pretexts such as unemployment, blindness, loss of limbs, or capacity to provide entertainment; and whether he is aware that the growth of this custom is not in consonance with the public taste and national well-being?

Sir S. Hoare

I presume that my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to persons who are engaged in selling small articles or in singing or performing upon some instrument in the streets. The Commissioner of Police informs me that he has no evidence that there has been any recent increase in the number of such persons. The soliciting of alms in the streets is an offence, and the police do their best to enforce the law, but in many cases the activities of the persons in question are not such as to enable a charge of begging to be brought. When the circumstances warrant it, proceedings are taken for such offences as obstruction, using insulting words or behaviour, or using noisy instruments for the purpose of obtaining money or alms; and in a number of London boroughs, by-laws have recently been made under which it is an offence for a person to sing or play any musical or noisy instrument within 100 yards of any shop, dwelling house or office to the annoyance or disturbance of any inmate or occupants, after being requested to desist. If in any case there is evidence to support a charge of obtaining money by false pretences, appropriate action would, of course, be taken by the police.

Rear-Admiral Beamish

Can my right hon. Friend not do something to eliminate the unworthy and to save the worthy ones from the indignity of what they have to do now?

Sir S. Hoare

That has always been my aim in life.

Viscountess Astor

Will my right hon. Friend allow one of his policemen to go round with me in the streets of London when I could show him many men who are not qualified in any way for regular labour?

Sir S. Hoare

I have no doubt that the police authorities will be very agreeable to considering the Noble Lady's proposal.

Mr. H. G. Williams

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance as to whether he will detail a policewoman for this purpose?