asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that a gradually increasing number of street musicians and other mendicants are making their appearance in London; and whether, in view of the continuing shortage of labour and the more generous treatment now available from the appropriate social services, he will take steps to check this growth.
I am not aware of any recent marked increase in the number of street musicians or mendicants, but I am in sympathy with the object which my hon. Friend has in mind, and I have been in consultation with the Commissioner of Police on the subject. The Metropolitan Police are well aware of the desirability of doing everything they can to deal with those who exploit the mistaken generosity of many members of the public, and I am satisfied that there will be no failure on the part of the police to make the fullest use of their powers to mitigate this nuisance.
Would my right hon. Friend arrange for the powers of the Metropolitan Police to be somewhat strengthened in this respect, particularly in view of the fact that the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Pensions have made appropriate arrangements now for training and rehabilitation schemes, which could be applied to the people described in the Question?
I will consider the point. I am afraid that it will involve legislation, to which it might be difficult to give time, but, as I say, I will look into the point.
Will my right hon. Friend make an Order in Council to deal with it?
No, Sir. That would be a grave abuse of the powers of delegated legislation under the Emergency Powers Act—an offence which I should be shocked to commit.
Is it not a fact that most of these people are old and decrepit?
They are a mixed lot, but I would not attempt to make any general description of them.
Will my right hon. Friend pay special attention to the barrel organ grinders?