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Bill 199 Committee

Volume 203: debated on Thursday 21 July 1870

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Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

made an appeal to the Government not to proceed with the measure at that late hour. He said that there were several Amendments on the Paper, and he had given Notice of several others which he intended to press to a Division; but so little did he anticipate the Bill going through Committee at that hour that he had only a short time previously given to the Clerk his Amendments for the purpose of having them placed on the Votes. He considered that it was most improper to proceed with the Bill at present, and that if they did so it would be a direct violation of the understanding that no opposed Bill would be taken after half-past 12 o'clock. He moved that the Chairman report Progress.

said, it had been introduced in accordance with an assurance given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the expressed wishes of the chief constables of counties. The Amendments, he thought, might be got through in a few minutes.

said, he hoped the hon. Member for Edinburgh would not press his Amendment, for the Bill had become necessary as a corollary to the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

said, the provisions of the Bill were most arbitrary, and he protested against its being proceeded with at that hour in violation of the undertaking given by the Prime Minister. He would not give way, but would move the adjournment of the House rather.

said, the Bill was too important to be discussed at so late an hour.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 1 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 5 (Grant of certificate).

said, that he had an Amendment to move to one of the subsections of this clause. By one of the provisions of the Bill, it was only the chief officer of police who was permitted to grant a certificate to a hawker. Now, according to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was desirable that pedlars should be allowed, without requiring any licence, to carry free trade into every little village in the country in order to enable the people distant from towns to get goods at a cheap rate. It was therefore not devised as a police measure at all; but since its introduction the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary seemed to have undergone a change, and hence this was a mere Police Bill. Under this clause, a magistrate, whether of a burgh or a county, could not grant a certificate to any pedlar or hawker. The certificate must, in all cases, be from the chief officer of the police; so that, in point of fact, the power was entirely handed over to that functionary. He considered that such a power was of the most arbitrary character; and in some places with which he was acquainted, he knew that the chief officer of the police was entirely under the control of a small police committee, composed of men who would not allow a single person to get a pedlar's certificate to trade in the county if they could prevent it. He thought such a power might well be vested in the hands of the magistrates of Scotland, and he reminded the Committee that under the new system there would be a far stricter surveillance over hawkers than there was at the present moment, because licences by the old law were granted by the Excise, and the greatest vagabond in the kingdom could get a hawker's licence if he chose to pay the duty. In future no certificate was to be granted except by the chief officer of police who would thus have every pedlar in his power. The Amendments which he proposed, and which he had given to the Clerk to get printed, was to insert the words "or any magistrate, if the person applying for the licence be known to the magistrate to be of good character." He thought there ought to be strong reasons shown why the magistrates ought not to have this power.

said, that the question had been carefully considered, and the magistrates after all would have to rely upon the information of the police.

said, that he should be quite satisfied if the licence were granted by the magistrates after hearing the statement of the chief officer of police respecting the character of the applicants. If that suggestion was adopted, he would withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, in line 30, to leave out the words "chief officer of police of the police district," in order to insert the words "magistrates in petty sessions assembled."—( Mr. M'Laren.)

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: — Ayes 72; Noes 46: Majority 26.

moved to insert after the words "chief officer of police," the following:—"And in case of his refusal, subject to appeal to the magistrates assembled at petty sessions.

said, that if the hon. Member would withdraw the Amendment, he would take care that those words should be inserted in the Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 6 (Effect of certificate).

said, that he had an Amendment to move. By the clause, as it at present stood, if a pedlar got a certificate from the chief constable of a burgh it would not enable him to hawk his goods in the county in which it was situated; and if he got it in the county he could not hawk within the burgh. Now that was a decided infringement of the liberty of the subject. The pedlar had as much right, as far as he could see, to be protected against such arbitrary restrictions in carrying on his trade as any other person. The law would work in the most injurious manner. In many parts of the country he knew that there was such a strong feeling against keeping up cottages, which the landlords deemed superfluous, that poor people labouring in rural districts were obliged to come into the towns to sleep, and, of course, they bought everything they wanted before they went out into the fields to their labour. But it was for the sake of the poor people residing in the country that the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to take off the licence on pedlars, that they could go from door to door and supply the wants of country people on free trade principles.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.