§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATH, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said that, in respect to the nuisance of street music, a reconsideration of the Police Act was not only desirable but absolutely necessary. The persons who annoyed the inhabitants of London were, as their Lordships were aware, chiefly foreigners, and were brought over hero by persons who made a profit of their earnings, allowing them only a bare subsistence, He admitted that hospitality was due to foreigners, but he denied that the peace and tranquillity of the metropolis were to be sacrificed to their convenience and profit. Now, the defective condition of the Police Act with regard to this class of persons was admitted on all sides, and the annoyance they occasioned, particularly in cases of sickness, was perfectly intolerable. Only the other day a case came to his knowledge, in which a respectable person in Belgravia was under the necessity, during his wife's illness, of paying men to act as patrols on all sides in order to prevent the approach of those nuisances. Several persons had objected to his Bill on the ground that it would deny the public the gratification of listening to the German bauds. That was a mistake. A man 1926 could not keep on blowing a wind instrument for ever; but a barrel organ never tired; it was a nuisance which never ceased, and was an object of universal detestation; and it was the object of his Bill to suppress it. But for his own part, he looked upon the streets as the place for traffic and not for tunes; still he would have no objection to expunge any portion of his Bill which seemed objectionable. He felt perfectly confident that if a Committee of their Lordships' House were appointed on the subject the police would fully bear out all that he had said upon this and a former occasion as to the inadequacy of the Police Act to deal with these nuisances; and as he would not strictly adhere to the precise terms of his Bill, but willingly adopt such Amendments as their Lordships thought necessary, he trusted they would consent to the second reading of the Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a
THE EARL OF WILTON
was understood to say that the nuisances the noble Marquess complained of were not, he thought, greater than the exhibition of Punch. He, for his own part, thought that the noise of a barrel organ was somewhat a relief to the usual monotonous sounds heard in our streets. He would oppose the second reading.
§ LORD LYNDHURST
said, that when he came down to the House his noble Friend asked him if he would support the second reading of this Bill, and he consented to do so, on condition that it should be entirely new modelled and altered in Committee. His noble Friend in everything he undertook was over zealous; on almost every occasion he exhibited too much warmth. In endeavouring to get rid of this nuisance, would not this Bill, if carried, produce another of a much graver character? His noble Friend possibly was not aware that as his Bill was to be coextensive with the Police Act, and the Police Act operated in a radius of fifteen miles from Charing Cross, it would affect a district thirty miles in diameter. So that if any person played a single tune or a single note upon a flute in a public road at a distance of ten or fiften miles from London, he would be an idle and disorderly person, and was to be immediately dragged before a magistrate, and committed to prison for a month with hard labour. That was the main provision of his noble Friend's Bill. Was it possible that such a measure could pass their Lordships' House? They might read it a second time, 1927 but they must entirely alter it and newmodel it in Committee. He had a very musical friend who lived in one of those holes called chambers in Old Square, Lincoln's Inn. This gentleman worked hard night and morning at the study of his profession, and he could conceive his looking out of the window early some May morning, seeing the sun shining upon the chimney pots — for it never shone upon anything else there—and being tempted to take a walk into the country. He might put his flute in his pocket, and walk off perhaps to Hampstead Heath, perhaps to Hornsey Lane, or perhaps to Richmond Hill. He might sit down and begin to blow upon his flute—which he did most beautifully. People would be attracted round him in considerable numbers; but after he had played for a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes a man in a blue coat, having a letter A and a number marked on the collar, would come up, and, presenting a piece of parchment or paper, say, "Read this!" "What does it mean?" "Oh! the magistrate is sitting at the King's Arms, and requires your attendance." "My attendance! For what?" "Why, Sir, you are an idle and disorderly person; you are idle yourself and make other people idle by attracting them by your beautiful playing on the flute?" "What does this mean?" "It's under the Westmeath Bill." "The Westmeath Bill: why, that must be an Irish Act." "No! Lord Westmeath's Bill. You must come before the magistrate. He is sitting to hear the case, and will commit you as an idle and disorderly person, and sentence you to one month's imprisonment with hard labour." This was a curious Bill. He did not know whether his noble Friend, who was one of the most straightforward persons he knew, objected to the performance of bands in the Parks on Sundays. [The Marquess of WESTMEATH made an observation.] His noble Friend said he did not interfere with that; Her Majesty's bands wore excepted from the Bill. That was true; but, while the Queen's hands played in Kensington Gardens, what happened in Victoria and Regent's Park?" By a side wind his noble Friend would put an end to what he considered a most excellent and laudable establishment — the performance of bands in the parks on Sundays. Further, there were many companies in the City of London which had private bands and made processions with them; but this Bill would 1928 put an end to all such proceedings. On the 9th of November a great ceremony was performed, all the city companies went in procession with the Lord Mayor, accompanied by bands of music. Under this Bill all persons who played in those bands would be liable to be imprisoned for a month, with hard labour. What sense was there in that? At present there were in London many German bands of great merit which played in the streets surrounded by crowds of people, who were attracted by the beauty of their music. Did his noble Friend mean to say that all the persons who were attracted by their music were idle and disorderly persons or that if all the inhabitants of a street wished that one of these bands should play in it they should not have the music which they desired? Was he not right in saying that his noble Friend, in trying to abolish one nuisance, was creating a much more abominable one of another kind? A noble Friend of his (the Earl of Wilton) had alluded to Punch. He recollected that when some time ago this subject of street nuisances was discussed in the other House of Parliament Punch was by universal acclamation excepted; but his Pan-pipes would bring him within his noble Friend's Bill, and he would be at once sentenced to a month's imprisonment, with hard labour. There were some mews behind his house, and he had noticed that about the dinner hour of the inhabitants the street music was regularly detained in the neighbourhood of the small tenements therein. He had no doubt that the players were paid, and if they were it could only be because their performances were agreeable to the humble proprietors of homes in that district, and he had as little doubt that it exercised a softening influence on their manners. He recollected very many years ago, when he was studying in chambers, having a neighbour who was learning to scrape on the violin. He was at first disposed to complain of his neighbour's innocent pastime as an annoyance; but on a little reflection he said to himself, "Is it wise in me to object?" Let me see whether I cannot stand it without distraction. If I can, what an admirable discipline it will be to me in pursuing my mathematical studios. After a time he ceased to hear this "nuisance" as it was called—it made no impression on him. Again, he knew a story of a woman who took a house near to a blacksmith's forgo. On the day of taking possession she heard the black- 1929 smith's hammer for the first time, and thought it a nuisance. She went to the landlord and sought to got rid of her engagement. "Oh, no, Ma'am," said the man, "I can't let you off; try it for a week." A week elapsed, and by that time she ceased to hear the noise — it made no impression on her; and for ten years afterwards she lived in the same house, without suffering any inconvenience from the clang of the blacksmith's hammer or the sound of his bellows. He repeated, that it was impossible for their Lordships to pass this Bill in its present shape, but he would support it if his noble Friend would consent to remodel it completely.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
entirely agreed with every word that had fallen from the noble and learned Lord. Only a very small proportion of the community were gifted with such exquisite ears that they could endure none but the most refined and costly music; and he could not see why, for the sake, perhaps, of some rich and highly-sensitive connoisseur, a whole neighbourhood of poor people should be debarred of the innocent pleasure of listening to a barrel-organ. The allusion to foreigners in the preamble of the Bill seemed to pander to an unworthy prejudice; and for his own part he infinitely preferred the performances of a German band to the favoured musicians alone exempted from the operation of the measure — namely, the sham base and falsetto singers, who trusted to the strength of their own lungs for their success, instead of having recourse to a much milder and more harmless instrument. If any serious annoyance were created by itinerant musicians the existing police law provided a sufficient remedy for it. Moreover, these poor persons would not be found to play if people did not support them. And was it to be said that if the daughter of any noble Lord, or any nurserymaid, gave a penny to a poor boy to play upon a Jew's-harp for them, the child should be treated as a common vagabond? He hoped their Lordships would not assent even to the second reading of the Bill.
§ Amendment moved to leave out ("now,") and insert ("this Day Six Months.")
supported the Amendment. He gave every credit to the noble Marquess for his good intentions, but his measure was a very harsh and mistaken 1930 one. Many persons liked to hear street bands, and he could not see why they should not be gratified.
§ THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATH, in reply said, he did not pretend to be very expert at drawing Bills, and was quite willing that the measure should undergo modification in Committee. His sole object was to amend the existing Police Act, the wording of which, he maintained, was not sufficient to give the public the protection intended by its framers.
§ On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? Resolved in the Negative; and Bill to be read 2a on this Day Six Months.