HL Deb 03 July 1883 vol 281 cc169-73

House in Committee (according to Order).

Clauses 1 and 2 severally agreed to.

Clause 3 (Assistance in the recovery of stolen goods to be given by pawnbrokers).

EARL FORTESCUE moved, in page 1, line 21, an Amendment to dispense with the attendance of a police constable in cases of search when notice had been given of stolen articles to the pawnbroker, and to provide for the attendance of the owner, or some friend, or servant, or relative of the owner, who could identify the article, which a policeman generally would be unable to do.

Amendment moved, in page 1, line 21, after ("behalf") insert ("other than a police constable.")—(The Earl Fortescue.)


said, that considerable concessions had been made to pawnbrokers in that Bill, as compared with the Bill of last year. It was not as if the owner or policeman had power generally to overhaul the goods in the pawnbroker's shop; search would be carried on by the pawnbroker himself. If the Amendment were limited so that any person appointed by the owner, even though that person should be a police constable, could conduct the search, he would accept the Amendment.


said, he would accept the suggestion of the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack.

Amendment (The Earl Fortescue) (by leave of the Committee) withdrawn.

Amendment, in page 1, line 21, leave out ("acting"), and insert ("appointed by him to act,")—(The Lord Chancellor.)—agreed to.

On the Motion of The Lord HENNIKER, the following Amendment made:—In page 1, line 22, after ("possession") insert ("received after the date of the robbery and.")

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 (Duty of pawnbrokers to answer police inquiries respecting stolen articles).

THE EARL OF PEMBROKE moved an Amendment providing that only con- stables specially chosen for the purpose should be empowered to conduct searches in pawnbrokers' shops. It was not right to intrust such powers to any inexperienced constable. A pawnbroker's business was of a confidential character, and he might reasonably object to the disclosure of his customers' secrets. A young and inexperienced constable might go into a shop where there were 20,000 articles, and insist on the proprietor turning over every one. It would be better that men with special knowledge in the matter should be appointed, and that the wishes of the pawnbrokers should, as far as possible, be acceded to. It should be borne in mind that the evidence given before the Committee of their Lordships' House showed that, as a class, pawnbrokers bore a very high character.

Amendment moved, in page 2, line 3, after ("by any") insert ("specially authorized.")—(The Earl of Pembroke.)


said, that if a constable came to search, he could understand the necessity of his coming with proper authority; but here the constable only came to inquire, and the pawnbroker was to search for himself.


wanted to know who was to authorize the constable, and what was to be understood by special authority?


said, he would point out that the clause only related to inquiries, and gave no power to the constable to search.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 5 (Pawnbrokers to enter in pledge book distinctive marks on pledges).


said, he would propose, with the view of meeting an Amendment placed on the Paper by the noble Earl (the Earl of Pembroke), and by way of relieving the pawnbroker to some extent from liability, to substitute for the words "any articles pawned," the words "all watches or articles of plate or jewellery pawned with him, and all other goods pawned for the sum of 20s. and upwards." With that alteration he thought the clause would meet every reasonable objection. The entry of distinctive marks on articles of the description to which he had referred would enable a pawnbroker in a police court to say whether a particular article produced tad been in his possession or not. He hoped their Lordships would adhere to the clause as amended, for it was, perhaps, the most valuable clause in the whole Bill; and as to watches and jewellery, the practice of 90 out of 100 of the respectable pawn-brokers in London was already to have columns in their books for an entry of the distinctive marks.

Amendment moved, in page 2, line 27, leave out ("any articles pawned") and insert ("all watches or articles of plate or jewellery pawned with him, and all other goods pawned with him, for the sum of twenty shillings or upwards.")—(The Lord Chancellor.)


said, he would admit that the alteration got rid of much of the objection he entertained to the clause; but, even with the proposed limitation, it would, in his opinion, prove extremely onerous to pawnbrokers, and would add so materially to their expenses that it ought to be struck out of the Bill.


said, that the Act of 1872 only required nine columns in the pledge book. This clause proposed to add another column, to make the entries in which would require the employment of a skilled person, and add to the pawnbroker's expenses. He thought the clause a very oppressive one.


said, he thought that the concession made by the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack was a very considerable one; and he hoped, therefore, his noble Friend (the Earl of Pembroke) would not divide the Committee. Some further revision might, however, be made in the clause as to the registration of marks on articles pawned. He held in his hand a spoon on which a crown and anchor could be clearly seen; but an ordinary inspection would not suffice to show that a broad arrow was mixed up with the other illegible marks. With the best intentions there would be a difficulty in carrying out the clause.


said, that he, too, had been examining his own watch, and was unable, even with the assistance of a magnifying glass, to make out the number. It consisted of five figures, and there was also a quantity of other marks, all equally illegible. Yet, by the Bill, the unfortunate pawnbroker was bound to have all these marks registered; and how he was to do that he (the Marquess of Salisbury) would like to know. He thought that some words should be introduced to show that the pawnbroker was only bound to record such marks and inscriptions as were practicable.

Amendment agreed to.


said, that, with a view to obviate the criticisms upon the clause, he would propose to amend it, so that the pawnbroker would be only bound to register "such clear and distinctive" inscriptions and marks as appeared on articles.

Amendment, in page 1, line 25, after ("such") insert ("clear and,")—(The Lord Chancellor,)—agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 (Detention of persons offering stolen articles).


said, he objected to the provisions in the clause by which pawnbrokers were required to seize and detain persons who offered to pledge or sell any article or articles which the pawnbroker suspected or had reasonable cause to suspect had been stolen. It might be physically impossible for the pawnbroker to comply with the requirements of the law. In thews and sinews the pawnbroker might often be very inferior to the powerful Bill Sikes, whom this clause compelled him to attempt to seize and detain.


said, it was necessary that the clause should throw the express duty of detaining persons offering stolen goods upon the pawnbroker wherever practicable.

On the Motion of The Earl of LIMERICK, the following Amendment made:—In page 2, line 34, omit ("suspects or.")

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to, with Amendments.

Schedule agreed to.


, in moving the insertion of a new clause, to follow Clause 21, said, it often happened that a man pawned an article for 10s. or 20s. and immediately sold the ticket, went to the pawnbroker, made a declaration that he had lost it, and next day, presenting the declaration, redeemed the article with the money which he had received from the vendee. Shortly afterwards the vendee honestly appeared, showed the ticket, and demanded the article pledged, and the pawnbroker was obliged to pay him the value. The only remedy he had was a prosecution at the Assizes entirely at his own expense, for the expenses of a prosecution were not allowed in such a case, and he had to pay from £10 to £20 in addition to the loss he had sustained by the fraud of the pawner. Giving a power in Petty Sessions to deal summarily with such a case by fine or imprisonment would remedy such injustice and check the frauds so prevalent. That was really the chief change needed in the pawnbrokers' law. Pawnbrokers were mainly a well-conducted class, not to be confounded with the marine store dealers; they helped to detect robberies, and were themselves constantly plundered with impunity.

Moved, In page 8, after Clause 21, to insert as a new Clause— So much of the twenty-ninth section of the thirty-fifth and thirty-sixth Victoria, chapter ninety-three, as enacts that any person making the declaration provided in the fifth sub-section of the third schedule of that Act, of a pawnticket being lost, knowing the same to be false, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to the punishment attached to perjury, is repealed; and in lieu thereof be it enacted, that such person shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, or to be imprisoned for not exceeding six months."—(The Lord Norton.)

Motion agreed to; Clause inserted accordingly.

The Report of the Amendments to be received on Tuesday next; and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 136.)