HL Deb 29 July 1839 vol 49 cc927-8

The House in Committee on the Metropolis Police Bill.

Lord Ellenborough

wished to draw the attention of their Lordships to some facts of this bill, and more particularly to the manner in which several provisions of it were thrown together in one measure. Some of the clauses were, in his opinion, too general for a local bill of this kind, and ought to have been confined to the locality of the metropolis, or to have been embodied in a separate bill. He must complain of the 42nd clause, which prevented persons from being admitted into the houses of licensed victuallers before a certain hour on Sunday, as it might fall peculiarly hard on persons who had just arrived in town. By the clause which provided against any noisy instruments being used in the public streets for calling persons together, a church bell could not be rung, after the Monday following the passing of this act, without a penalty of 40s. being incurred. Punch, too, and that whole class of amusements, must cease the instant this bill was passed. At the same time, it might be very difficult to frame a clause so as to save punch and church bells. There was also a clause which would fall peculiarly hard on those persons who on a Sunday were accustomed to visit their friends, and were generally known by the name of a "bore," for there was a penalty imposed upon "every person pulling any door bell, or knocking at any door, without lawful excuse." Besides, as soon as this bill passed, no noble Lord could take home a friend in his cab or carriage, which on a wet night was so extremely convenient, without being liable to a penalty of 5s., unless indeed he had previously asked the permission of his coachman, for the Aet said, that every person riding upon, or causing himself to be drawn by, any carriage in the metropolitan district, without the consent of the driver thereof, shall be liable to a penalty of not more than 5s." By the 61st clause, too, constables were allowed to destroy any dog that was suspected to be in a rabid state; but that was confined to a circuit of fifteen miles from Charing-cross, so that beyond that distance hydrophobia might rage to any extent. His object, however, was to press on their Lordships, that it was wrong to throw together in one bill provisions which ought to form at least four different measures. Those clauses relating to the police force only might form one; other clauses as to the Thames police, a second; the different offences to be punishable in the metropolitan district, a third; and the other clauses, especially those respecting public houses, and which were of a general character, the fourth. But he would not propose any amendments, although he thought some ought to be made in those particulars, because there had been great difficulty in getting this bill through the House of Commons, as it was, and he might thereby endanger its passing at all.

Viscount Duncannon

said, all the clauses in this bill had been taken from other police bills. He had no objection to introduce a few words to confine the clauses to the metropolitan district. With respect to the ringing of church bells, he did not think this clause would be construed so strictly as the noble Lord had stated, or that any magistrate would convict a person on that account, for the clause was intended only to prevent such noises as were considered a nuisance.

The Earl of Wicklow

considered the bill extremely useful. At the same time, the provision against unlicensed theatres was very hard, particularly the power given to arrest any persons seen to enter them.

The Bishop of London

hoped the noble Earl did not allude to the penny theatres, which were the greatest sinks of vice and iniquity in the vicinity of London, and were amongst the greatest nuisances of the metropolis. These could only be put down by giving the magistrates summary jurisdiction.

Bill passed through the Committee with amendments.