HL Deb 09 June 1853 vol 127 cc1295-7

, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, said, he would state very briefly the nature of the provisions which it contained. There had been no subject of more general complaint than the condition of hackney carriages in this metropolis, where he believed they were far inferior not only to the hackney coaches in the principal cities of Europe, but even to those which were used in the chief provincial towns in this country. Great complaints had also been made of the extortion of the drivers, and of the difficulty which existed in ascertaining the proper amount of fares. With the view of obtaining some security for the character of drivers and the condition of their carriages, this Bill proposed that all persons applying for licences should go before the Commissioners of Police, who should inspect the vehicles; and if they considered them fit for public use should grant certificates, upon which licences would be issued by the Board of Inland Revenue. The persons to whom licences were granted were to be under the supervision of the Commissioners of Police; and if their carriages or horses were found to become unfit for use the licences might be suspended, and penalties might be imposed. The present fare of 8d. a mile was to be reduced to 6d., and back fares were to be altogether abolished. It was, however, proposed, on the other hand, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make very material reductions in the duty upon licences to cabmen, namely, from 10s. to 7s. a week, and from 5l. to 1l. for the year; and the cab proprietors and drivers would also be relieved from the expense to which they were now subjected for watermen at the various stands. It was intended that the duties of watermen should be in future performed by officers of police, who would see that order was preserved at the different stands, and who would give any information that might be required to persons hiring cabs. There were other alterations which were advantageous to the cabmen. For instance, their present fare for time was ls. 4d. an hour, while under the Bill it would be 2s. an hour. There was one other provision which required that all hackney carriages should carry two persons and a reasonable quantity of luggage; and that when there were more than two persons and more luggage than could be carried inside the carriage, a charge of 6d. additional for the whole hiring, and of 2d. for every packet carried outside should be exigible from the hirer. [Lord LYNDHURST: How do you define a "reasonable amount of luggage?"] He admitted that it might be difficult to say what constituted "a reasonable amount of luggage," but in case of disputes it must be left to the decision of a magistrate. With a view to the better security of the public against imposition, it was provided that at every stand for hackney carriages a large board should be erected, upon which there should be inscribed the amount of fares between such stand and the principal places in the metropolis. It was likewise provided that every driver should have in his possession a book of fares, which it would be his duty to produce when required for the information of the hirer; and that, besides, there should be a table of fares, according to distance and time, distinctly painted both on the inside and outside of each carriage. There was also a provision which required that the driver should carry all property which he should find in his carriage to the police office; that the Commissioners of Police should advertise the same; and that if an owner was not found within one year, it should then be sold and due compensation made to the driver, but that the driver should not be entitled to receive the whole amount. These were the principal provisions of the Bill. There were, however, one or two additional clauses to which he should ask the concurrence of their Lordships, and which he apprehended they would not refuse. One was a clause requiring that omnibuses should carry a light after dusk; and another had for its object to put down the monster grievance of advertising vans, which at present encumbered the streets, and offered the greatest obstruction to the passage of the wayfarer. He trusted that the measure, as a whole, would improve the accommodation afforded to the public, di- minish the expense, and provide greater security and certainty than was at present enjoyed. The sum which was at present expended by the public upon hackney carriage fares amounted to 360,000L. a year; and, as the fares were to be reduced from 8d. to 6d., there would be an annual saving to the public of no less than 90,000L, while at the same time the hackney carriage proprietors would not be injured, because he calculated that a very large increase in the use of these vehicles would take place when the prices were reduced, and persons were no longer deterred from availing themselves of them by the uncertainty of the charges and the apprehension of incivility and ill-treatment if they did not comply with the demands of the driver.

Bill read 2a.

House adjourned till To-morrow.