§ (1) During the continuance in force of this Section, no person shall be sentenced by a court to death for murder; and every enactment requiring a court to pronounce or record a sentence of death in any case of murder shall be construed as requiring the court to sentence the offender to imprisonment for life.
§ (2) Nothing in this Section shall affect the provisions of Section fifty-three of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933 (which prohibits the passing of sentence of death against a person under the age of 18 years, and requires the court, in lieu thereof, to sentence him to be detained during His Majesty's Pleasure).
(3) This Section shall continue in force for a period of five years beginning with the passing of this Act, and shall then expire, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder:
Provided that if at any time before the expiration of the period aforesaid an Address is presented to His Majesty by each House of Parliament praying that this Session be continued in force without limitation of time or for any extended period specified in the Address, His Majesty may by Order in Council make provision for that purpose; and where any such Order in Council continues this Section for any such extended period, the provisions of this Subsection (including this proviso) shall have effect as if that extended period were substituted for the period of five years mentioned in this Section.
§ (4) In the application of this Section to Scotland the reference to sentencing to imprisonment for life shall be construed as a reference to sentencing to penal servitude for life, and for the reference to the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, and Section fifty-three thereof, there shall be substituted a reference to the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act, 1937, and Section fifty-seven thereof.—[Mr. S. Silverman.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.980
§ 3.35 P.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
The purpose of this new Clause is, in general, to give effect to the Report to this House made by a Select Committee appointed by the House many years ago. It does not propose to interfere with the capital penalty in any case except the case of murder. It does not interfere in the least with charges under the Treachery Act, with charges of piracy and with charges of sabotage in Royal Dockyards. All those are considered to be special matters. What we desire to get decided by the House is the general question of principle whether the capital penalty can be inflicted any longer, by this country at this date, in cases of murder in peacetime.
I would like at once to express the acknowledgments of all of us of the courtesy of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in collaborating in order to secure that the proposed Clause is free from drafting or technical defects, so that, if the House should decide to adopt it, it can be adopted in the form in which it appears, subject to any Amendment which the House might wish to make in it at a later stage. I do not propose to dilate at any length on the merits of this controversy. It would be almost an insult to hon. Members in all parts of the House not to assume that almost all of them are generally familiar with the pros and cons of this long controversy.
I would just summarise, very shortly, the qualities and aspects of this penalty which make it to all of us a revolting and barbaric thing. It is hot only the melodrama and sensationalism with which these proceedings are surrounded; it is not only the sordid squalor, every detail of which spreads into the newspapers in every one of these crimes, and whose effect on juvenile delinquency has never been measured but must be very considerable; it is not only the relentless finality of this penalty, the relentless finality which makes this result that once it has been inflicted there is no room for rectification if there were error or miscarriage of justice. No one who knows the records can doubt that there have been cases of error, that there have been miscarriages of justice, and that 981 innocent men have in fact been executed. It was, I think, Lord Sumner who once said—and I think that this is one of the cardinal factors in this controversy—that until human judgment is infallible, we have no right to inflict an irrevocable doom.
Above all these things, there is the sense which we all have that this penalty, of itself, denies the very principle on which we claim the right to inflict it—namely, the sanctity of human life. In spite of all these things—and they are weighty matters—I think almost everyone would retain the penalty if they were convinced that, with its retention, there would be fewer murders than if it were removed. Ultimately, the justification, and the sole justification if there be one for the retention of this penalty is that it is necessary to protect society and that unless we do inflict it society cannot protect itself from murderers. No one can prove that that is true; no one can prove that it is untrue. It is a speculation either way, but we may compare it and draw inferences from the comparison both with our previous legal history and with the state of affairs in other countries in which this penalty has been abolished.
It has been abolished in many European countries and in a number of American countries, and it has been abolished a very long time. If we compare it, first, with out own legal and judicial history, and remember how many crimes to which this penalty has been attached within a not very long period, it will be seen that the removal of the death penalty from any crime has at no time been followed by an increase in the incidence of that crime. There is no ground whatever for saying, and the facts are all against it, that in any of the other offences to which the death penalty used to attach, the removal of the death penalty has produced any deleterious consequences of any kind.
In those countries which have abolished it, the figures show that its abolition has not caused an increase in crimes of violence and has not caused an increase in the incidence of murder. In the United States of America, there are contiguous States, in some of which the death penalty has been retained, while in neighbouring States the death penalty has been abolished, and there is no appreciable difference between the weight of murder 982 in either case. It is possible that this country is different. No one can prove that it is not, but I should have thought that a reasonable inference was that, this country's civilisation being of no lower standard than the civilisation of all those other countries, a barbaric penalty with which they have been able to dispense without harm to their community or to their society, can be dispensed with in our case with no greater harm than in theirs.
Why should the death penalty be a greater deterrent than any other penalty? I do not want to launch into a discussion of murders and murderers, but they fall into recognisable classes. In the cold, premeditated crime, there is no thought of discovery, and, therefore, no deterrent, no anticipated penalty; in the other class, which is not premeditated or coldly calculated, but which is, in a sense, incidental and sometimes accidental to the very circumstances, all murders prevent the contemplation of a penalty and the existence of a deterrent. It was, I think, Bacon, in his famous "Essay on Death," who dealt finally with this argument, when he said:There is no passion in the mind of man so weak but it mates and masters the fear of death.I do not propose to say anything further about the general merits of this controversy, because I assume that those who have considered it and have decided that the death penalty ought to go, will need no assistance from me, and those who have come to the opposite conclusion will have come to it equally carefully, equally painstakingly, equally conscientiously, and are not likely to be influenced the other way by anything that I can say at this moment.
So far as the Government's position is concerned, we are all in a little difficulty. I assume that their view is that they do not wish to quarrel with the description of the death penalty which I have given, that it remains their policy today, as it has been the policy of this party unanimously for many years, that the death penalty is, in principle, mistaken, and ought to be abolished. I can conceive of no Government policy to the contrary, and, indeed, when the known views of many Members of the Government on this subject are remembered, how there can 983 be a Government policy in any other sense or any Government policy at all, is a matter for metaphysicians rather than politicians, because differences of opinion in the Cabinet, I am perfectly certain, follow the same lines as differences of opinion on this matter everywhere else, in the House and in the country, and I think the proportions are much the same.
If anything is to be said on ostentation in this matter—ostentatious abstention or non-participation—I am bound to say that nothing could be more ostentatious than the absence from the Government Front Bench at this moment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Health and, especially, the Law Officers of the Crown. So far as the Secretary of State for Scotland is concerned, I would like to say to him in all kindness—I am afraid I cannot, as he is not here—that I suppose the Secretary of State for Scotland could only vote against the new Clause which I am now moving on the principle that it is right to hang Englishmen, because, for a period of 17 years, there was no execution in Scotland, and, over a period of more than a century, the number of executions in Scotland was five.
§ Mr. Silverman
Well, there is going to be a well-behaved race without use of the capital penalty. May I, having been born south of the Border, say that I have the greatest possible respect for the morality and law-abiding nature of Scotsmen, but that I have no reason to think that their Saxon colleagues are any less moral or in greater need of the penalty?
The Government did indicate at an earlier stage an attitude on which I think all of us in all parts of the House, no matter what we think about this question, would wish to congratulate them. This is not a matter on which party divisions operate or make any difference at all. Differences of view about this matter cut across party divisions and party comment. I suppose it would be true to say that in the opinion of most of us, there is no possibility of a collective judgment on this matter by any group of men having any more validity than the collective judgment of any other group of 984 men, whether the group concerned be His Majesty's judges—who on this kind of matter for a century and a half have always been mistaken—or the Cabinet, or officials in the Home Office. None of them can do any other than each one of us is bound in conscience to do for himself—namely, to look at the facts and the arguments fairly on both sides and make up our minds, as best we can, which is right, and vote honestly and courageously according to our conscientious judgment when we have considered both sides and made up our minds. That, I understand, was the Government's view.
In his Second Reading speech, the Home Secretary said that the Government had not put this matter into the Bill because they thought public opinion was not ripe for it. I concede that if that were correct, they would be justified in leaving it out, and this House would not be justified in putting it in, because these matters cannot be judged intrinsically in a vacuum. Penalties are not right or wrong only in themselves. They must be seen against the background of the social morality of the time in which they are being discussed, and must not be either too far ahead or too far behind the level of morality or civilisation. How is that public opinion to be ascertained? It cannot be done by going down to a constituency and counting heads or going into a club or a cinema or a theatre, posing the question, counting the answers and saying that is the public opinion of this country.
If we wish to obtain the public opinion of this country on such a matter we must only do it, and can only do it, by getting a cross section of our citizens, by giving them the facts as we know them, by putting forward the arguments of both sides, and by relying on their good sense, good judgment and moral integrity to come to the right conclusion in the light of those facts and those arguments. Where can we find a better cross section of the community than this elected House of Commons? We are not delegates; we are not bound to ascertain exactly what a numerical majority of our constituents would wish and then to act accordingly without using our own judgment. Edmund Burke long ago destroyed any such theory. We are not delegates. We are representatives. Our business is to act according to our consciences, honestly 985 looking at the facts and coming to as right a judgment as we may.
I think the Government could not have done more wisely and could not have done more generously, may I say, than when they said, "We will not decide this matter as a Government; we will not call upon our supporters to vote for us, not according to individual opinion conscientiously reached but according to a policy which we lay before them and call upon them loyally to support." That was not their policy. Whatever their view—and quite rightly and properly they reserve the right to indicate it—they said the right policy for the Government was to see how such an expression of opinion was accepted by the House of Commons, freely, without putting on any Whips and without any pressure being brought to bear, without relying on party loyalties or any other kind of group loyalties, but relying on the conscience and integrity of the Members of the House of Commons to come to a clear decision one way or the other, in what is admittedly an extremely difficult matter.
It appears that, to some extent, the Government have had second thoughts. I could quite understand a Government which said that this is a matter of fundamental principle on which the Government must make up their mind and call upon those who support them in Parliament to follow that policy and enact it. That they have decided not to do, and I take it they were right not to do it. I could quite understand, too, the other view, which I have expressed already and which we all thought was the Government's view. But I cannot understand the half-way house which says, "We will put the facts and the figures and the arguments to the conscientious judgment of back benchers in the House of Commons, but Members of the Government are not entitled to exercise a conscientious judgment about the matter."
It would be a tragic result—I do not know what will happen when the Division takes place—if in the end, this Clause were defeated and we were, for the next generation, to kill 12 or 15 people a year, not because the House of Commons by a majority thought it was right so to do, but because 20 or 30 or 40 Members of the House of Commons were prevented by Government inhibition from voting accord- 986 ing to their conscience. Three times in the last 18 years the House of Commons has decided in favour of abolishing the death penalty. I would hate it to happen that the only Parliament to vote in favour of retaining it should be a Labour House of Commons, and that it should vote in that sense, not because a majority of us so believed, but because a sizable minority of us were prevented from exercising our conscientious view.
I understand the Government's case to be, not that they were in favour of the death penalty in principle but that, in the circumstances that now obtain, this is the wrong moment in which to live up to those principles. I cannot understand that argument. Either the death penalty is a deterrent in the case of crimes of violence or it is not. If one thinks it is a deterrent, one ought to retain it for ever. If one thinks it is not a deterrent, one ought to abolish it. But it is a complete non sequitur to say, "We think the death penalty ought to be abolished because it is not a deterrent, but we will not abolish it now because if we do murders will increase." The second half of that sentence is in complete contradiction of the first. If the removal of the death penalty today would increase the number of murders, that can only be because the dealth penalty is a deterrent. If one concedes that the death penalty is a deterrent, one cannot be against it on principle, and it is impossible to my mind to argue at one moment that the thing ought to be abolished some day because it is not a deterrent, but ought to be retained today because it is a deterrent.
There is one other point. Crimes of violence do not always lead to death. It used to be argued that crimes of violence could be deterred by the death sentence when they resulted in death and by corporal punishment when they did not. If crimes of violence are increasing, and if these forms of penalty are a deterrent, why have the Government chosen this moment to abolish corporal punishment? It is impossible to argue that it is safe to abolish corporal punishment when crimes of violence are on the increase but unsafe to abolish the death penalty. I should not have thought we could choose between the two. I should have thought the argument would be the same in both cases, but that, if there were anything to choose 987 between them, the argument would be the other way—that we should abolish the death penalty first and defer the abolition of corporal punishment, rather than that we should abolish corporal punishment and defer the abolition of the death penalty.
Finally, it was said that crimes of violence are increasing because the sense of the sanctity of human life is lower than it used to be, and that for that reason we should ourselves destroy life. I think that the argument is really all the other way. It is true that in the lifetime of most of us values of this kind have meant progressively less and less in the opinion of most communities. I suppose that after we have had two world wars with infinite loss of human life, after we have had the bombardment of cities and the wiping out of whole populations, after we have had new crimes committed against whole peoples for which we have had to invent new names, after such incidents as those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—I suppose it may seem a very small matter whether half a dozen worthless human beings, who have themselves taken human life, should die or live.
But, surely, it is the duty of all of us who value our civilisation not to depress still further those moral and spiritual values, but to seek to raise them, and to seek to raise them at precisely this moment when they are most in danger. If they are most in danger now, now is the time to restore the sense of the ultimate value of every human being, rather than to seek further to undermine that value. In the end these matters are decided not by the criminologists, nor by the politicians, nor by the philosophers. In the end they must be decided by moral standards. In the end the question we have to ask is this: Will what we are doing advance or repress the re-creation of the values of those standards in human minds? I say that this new Clause ought to be overwhelmingly passed by this House of Commons because it represents, in the last analysis, those moral and spiritual values on which, really, society is founded.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Hollis (Devizes)
I beg to second the Motion.
As is self-evident, this is in no way a party question. I have never before spoken in favour of a Motion moved by 988 the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). I do not know if I shall ever again speak in favour of such a Motion. As the poet said,The rainbow and the cuckoo's songMay never come together again,May never come this side of the tomb.It is not for me to speculate as to which is which. But this is in no sense a party question in the sense that we shall be shepherded into our Lobbies by our Whips. And it is in no sense a partisan question, in that I am sure there is no hon. Member who wishes to approach it otherwise than on the balance of the arguments, or who wishes to approach it in the spirit of the scoring of points. It is in that spirit of wishing to strike the balance of truth that I shall endeavour to approach it.
Let me first make clear certain things which I do not propose to argue. I am not concerned to maintain an absolute metaphysical doctrine that the State in no circumstances has the right to take human life. I think that there is force as well as wit in the saying of the Frenchman:"Que messieurs les assassins commencent."I agree with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, that if I could be persuaded that human life would be more freely taken if capital punishment were abolished, I should be opposed to its abolition. Secondly, I am not concerned to argue whether or not it should be abolished today in other places, or whether or not it should have been abolished at other times; whether it would be safely abolished among the headhunters of Borneo, or the Albanian tribesmen, or the peons of Mexico, or the gangsters of Chicago—those things are as they may be; or whether our ancestors should have abolished it 60 years ago—that is as may be. I am simply concerned with the issue that it should be abolished in Great Britain in this year of 1948.
In the controversy of the last months the controversy has, in two very significant ways, differed from this controversy as it has raged in previous years. Of these two ways, the first is that there has been much less emphasis laid upon a sentimental regard for the criminal. The case has been much more argued on the general welfare of society, and, in particular, from the point of view of the 989 prison officials, because it is increasingly felt that, whereas the whole basis of our criminal law now is a basis of asking people to undertake a high vocation of reformation, there is the almost intolerable contradiction between this one punishment and everything else that will be the basis of our criminal law in the future. I think even hon. Members who cannot support the abolition of capital punishment feel that there is strength in that point. Secondly, of course, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne said, few voices have been raised in the present controversy in favour of capital punishment as such. The whole argument has turned on whether the present moment is the opportune moment for abolition; and that is, I understand, the basis upon which the Home Secretary is arguing. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne on what seems to be the essential illogicality of that position. I propose not to deal with the general point, but to deal with four points which have been most commonly urged in favour of the present moment not being the opportune moment.
Four arguments have been brought forward, of which one seems to me an unworthy argument and three seem to me to be worthy arguments. I shall deal first with what appears to me to be the unworthy argument. It is the argument which has been particularly associated with the name of Mr. Bernard Shaw. Mr. Shaw argues that certain murderers are reformable and should be reformed. But he says that doctors can tell us that other people are beyond reformation, and they should be killed "as one would kill a mad dog." I use Mr. Shaw's own words. In the course of a long and distinguished career Mr. Bernard Shaw has never until now expressed the smallest regard for any opinion expressed by a doctor. It never occurred to him that a doctor was capable of telling him what he should eat, or what he should drink, or whether he should be vaccinated, or whether he should wear braces. Yet now, for some extraordinary reason, at the end of it, he says that the doctors are the best possible people to tell us whether murderers are or are not capable of moral reformation.
Surely, it is quite clear that if Mr. Shaw's argument proves anything at all it proves a great deal too much. If it be true that there are incorrigibly murder- 990 ing types, what is the sense in waiting for the murderer to commit his murder? Would it not be much more sensible, and much more humane, to arrest him in the street for having the wrong shaped head, put him on his trial for the murder that he will undoubtedly commit next year, and execute him before he commits it? The reason why Mr. Shaw's whole suggestion is unworthy of serious consideration is that nobody can honestly imagine that there is one doctor in this land who will take upon himself the responsibility of saying, concerning a man who possibly has before him the prospect of 50 years of natural life, that that man is or is not capable of moral reformation, when the man's life is to depend upon such a verdict.
I turn from that—which seems to me an unworthy argument—to the three thoroughly worthy arguments which hon. Members must weigh with every care before giving their verdict. They are the three things that we are told. We are told, first, that owing to the accident of war there are many more firearms about in the hands of unauthorised people, and that if capital punishment be abolished there is the gravest danger that burglars will arm themselves, to a greater extent than at present, and hope to shoot their way out of arrest. We are told, secondly, that capital punishment must be preserved for the sake of the police, and that it is unfair to ask the police to do their dangerous work without that safeguard. We are told, thirdly, that there is a grave prospect, in the present state of the world, that lawlessness will grow, that things will grow much worse, and that this is no time in any way to weaken the hand of authority for the preservation of order. Those are three very worthy arguments which deserve careful consideration. The first two are, to a large extent, of the same order and I will, if I may, consider them together.
Primarily, it is a matter of the facts. I entirely agree, and could not agree more strongly with any hon. Member who says that we have both an obligation to do all we can to protect the peaceful citizen, and an obligation to do all we can to make the policeman's life as little dangerous as possible. There can be no disputes among any hon. Members on that proposition. The only matter with which we are concerned is whether the retention or abolition of capital punishment is more 991 likely to further this end. As hon. Members know, the question of armed burglars was considered before the war by the Select Committee, on the suggestion of Lord Buckmaster, and evidence was collected from countries where capital punishment had been abolished—from Norway, Belgium, Holland, Sweden and Denmark—to see whether, in point of fact, there had been any increase in the numbers of armed criminals as a result of that abolition. The verdict of the Select Committee on that point was unequivocal:In experience these forebodings have no foundation. We have had no evidence put before us that after the abolition of capital punishment in other countries there has been any increase in the number of burglars arming themselves.That was the situation before the war.
Then we are told—and it is a perfectly fair point—that we have moved forward into a rather different world; that there is a vastly greater habit of using firearms, and that there are many more arms about than at the time the Select Committee sat 18 years ago. Again, we must look at the facts, which are that in this country, which still has capital punishment, since the war there has been a certain regrettable increase in the use of arms by criminals. But when we turn to the abolitionist countries there has been no such parallel increase at all. In the last few weeks I have myself been in both Holland and Denmark, countries which had resistance movements—which we did not have—where it was notorious, for one reason and another, that enormous quantities of arms were not surrendered when the war came to an end. Yet in those countries, so distant from their minds is the very problem of attacks upon the police and of the armed criminal that they are even unaware of it as one of the problems with which they have to deal at all. As I came into the House this afternoon I received a similar letter from a Swiss prison official, who writes:There are certainly not more crimes of violence, except by foreigners, mainly Poles and Russians. There are no attacks on the police.So sans phrase without any qualification at all.
What strikes my mind from examining the facts is the curious point that crimes of violence seem to increase in countries which have capital punishment under 992 these circumstances, but do not increase in countries which do not have capital punishment. Now why is that? Why can that be? I know that to many people it seems almost a paradox to say that capital punishment is not a deterrent. But I would remind hon. Members that the greatest of all living psychologists, Dr. Jung, is of the opinion that, on the whole, capital punishment is a slight encouragement to murder rather than a deterrent. I will explain that argument. People are inclined to say: "I should not like to be hanged, and I do not commit murder. Therefore, it is obvious that hanging is a deterrent." But that is counterfeit logic, and for this reason. In such a country as ours, in some years slightly more and in some years slightly fewer than 100 people a year commit murder, out of a population of 48 million. That is to say, we, the vast majority of us, those who flatter ourselves that we are normal, would not commit murder anyway, whatever be the penalty.
The question, therefore, is, not "What is a deterrent to the normal citizen?"—because that question has no meaning—but "What is a deterrent to the highly abnormal pathological types which form the class of potential murderers?" I am perfectly willing to admit for the sake of argument—though I doubt whether it is really true—that there may be a certain type of perfectly sane, but perfectly wicked, ruthless, premeditating murderer who murders for gain; but if such a man exists, he has comparatively little bearing upon the whole question of deterrents because, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne said, his whole purpose depends on escaping detection because his murder is for gain, and if he is detected at all, whatever the penalty may be, he does not obtain the prize. Therefore, he is not important to this particular argument.
What is important is the pathological type, out of which a large proportion, if not the great majority, of our murderers come. These are unfortunate people who have some perverted tendencies within them for which their nature demands satisfaction, but the satisfaction of which society cannot tolerate. Therefore, their frame of mind is that of feeling themselves at warfare with society; and it is Dr. Jung's argument—which I believe to be a just one—that, if anything, 993 they get an extra thrill out of feeling that that warfare is for the ultimate of all stakes. Or, to take another class which is, to a very large extent, an overlapping class, there are certain people who have a mania for publicity carried to a quite insane degree. I have sometimes heard ungenerous people say that politicians are a vain class, and care a lot more about publicity than they ought to. But as one who has had a certain amount of experience of both classes, I can assure hon. Members that in this respect politicians are as nothing to murderers.
A certain number of people have this mania for publicity, and to satisfy their vanity they must be at the centre of the stage, in however discreditable a rôle; or, to satisfy an even deeper vanity, they wish to have their deed on everybody's lips, and flatter themselves that they alone will know by whom it has been done. Anyone who has studied Dostoevsky's character, Raskolnikov, in "Crime and Punishment," which is perhaps the greatest of all studies of this type of psychopathic, will understand what I mean. For it to be an effective deterrent, it is absolutely essential that the punishment should be as little dramatic and as humdrum as possible. Therefore, on that ground capital punishment is the very worst sort of punishment for this type of character. About no years ago—I think it was in 1848—Dickens wrote:Around capital punishment there lingers a fascination urging the weak and bad people towards it, and imparting an interest to the details connected with it, and with malefactors awaiting it or suffering it, which even good and well-disposed people cannot withstand.I cannot understand how anyone who has studied the history of criminology can doubt that that is true.
I come now to the third entirely worthy point. People tell us that maybe most criminals are at the moment of the pathological type; but we have to face the terrible fact of the disturbance in the world today, and the grave prospect that we are moving into an era of much more widespread and general lawlessness. It is a dismal prospect that we should have to look forward to such a world, and everyone hopes that these things will not come about. But this is not the time for wishful thinking, and anyone would be irresponsible and culpable if, in a mere sentimental mood, he weakened the 994 effective power of authority at such a time as this. It may be that we are moving into such a world, and there are grave signs of that. I entirely associate myself with anyone who maintains that this is a time when it would be wrong to take away from authority any effective means it has for the preservation of order. But the whole question we have to argue is whether this is an effective means, and whether authority will he in stronger or weaker position in maintaining order if capital punishment is or is not retained.
It is my whole contention that, far from strengthening the hand of authority, we are weakening the hand of authority by retaining this form of punishment. There is no more certain lesson of history than that it is no way to obtain order by piling on additional, harsh and savage penalties, without taking effective precautions to capture the criminals and enforce the penalties. We know the error which our ancestors made in the 18th century. When anything went wrong in the State, they simply created a new capital punishment, lengthening out the list, and taking no steps to create an efficient police force. The result was that the more capital penalties which were put on the Statute Book the greater lawlessness reigned in the country. The whole method proved very foolish.
Everyone agrees that the really important thing is to have efficient protection rather than savage punishments. Three weeks ago, the House was debating the very important problems of our police services. This is not the time to go into details on how the problems of the police are to be solved, but everyone will agree that these problems must be solved, and that if they are not solved, we shall have an outbreak of lawlessness, whether we have capital punishment or not. I do not think there will be any dispute about that.
But the reason why it is my contention that the retention of capital punishment will not strengthen but weaken the hand of authority is this: suppose that we were a more callous people. Suppose that we were prepared to say in a rough-and-ready fashion that so long as it was shown that anybody was connected in some kind of way with a murder and was no better than he should be then it was quite all right that he should be hanged, we should have a different problem. But, for better or 995 for worse, we are not a people of that sort. There are very few of us who do not rejoice that we are not a people of that sort. But, whether we like it or not, there it is. We already have a public opinion which demands of every Home Secretary that he grant a reprieve in every case where there is the smallest scintilla of doubt or extenuating circumstances, and no one will pretend that that state of affairs will be changed or ought to be changed. In these circumstances, capital punishment in a society with that mentality seems to me to be as silly and as ineffective a deterrent as anyone can conceivably imagine. By it we offer to the pathological type all the thrills of risking his life, and comparatively little of the dangers of actually losing it. It would be hardly possible to think out a worse system. A hundred years ago, our ancestors came to this conclusion, in the Select Committee's Report of 1836:We are induced to believe that the selection of a few culprits, who alone are to suffer death out of a greater number convicted for the same offence in point of law, does not diminish but on the contrary tends to increase the number of offenders.That is a verdict which I believe to be entirely wise and in accordance with the facts. I believe that we should get rid of this punishment for other reasons, and among those other reasons is this: that if there is a regrettable outbreak of lawlessness, the Government will be in a much stronger position to deal with it if it has a criminal system supported by public opinion, than if it has a criminal system which cannot be enforced with rigour.
I will conclude by laying before the House two general reflections. We have all lived through what is in many ways a sad time. As a little boy, I went to school just before the 1914 war. We read that there had been a time when there were such things as torture and religious persecution, with people being put in prison without a proper trial. We were taught that these things had utterly vanished from the face of Europe. It is a deplorable thing that we who are now in middle age should have lived to see many of these things coming back in Europe on a scale gigantically greater than has ever been known in previous human history. It is, at least, a matter which we in this country can look upon with joy, that we have during that same period on 996 the whole, whatever may be our faults, become more tolerant, more kindly and more decent. There cannot be anyone who does not agree that it would be the gravest of tragedies if we should have to abandon our rôle of mercy and turn to the ways which find favour in some other countries. There cannot be anyone in this country who is not anxious that we should be able to take some dramatic step to show that we are still upon the side of mercy. I entirely agree that it would he very wrong for that reason to do anything extravagant, sentimental and unthought out, but I feel that there never has been a step which has not been more thoroughly debated, and where the dangers are smaller, than this step we are now asking the House to take.
In 1942, at the time of a rising crime rate, at the very height of the war, the great Dominion of New Zealand abolished capital punishment and, as a result, suffered no deleterious effects. After the end of the Napoleonic wars we had a situation which, in some ways, was not dissimilar from the situation prevailing today. There was unrest, growth of crime, and the Home Secretary of that day was Lord Sidmouth. He pursued the old-fashioned and foolish policy of thinking that the remedy for lawlessness was more savage repression, and this country, for seven years, suffered from a regime of oppression, at the end of which, as always happens, lawlessness, so far from being brought to an end, increased. There succeeded to Lord Sidmouth, as Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, a stern man in some ways, harsh in some ways, and in no kind of way a sentimentalist. But Sir Robert Peel saw that the very fact of the danger of lawlessness, so far from being a reason against reform, was a reason for reform. He introduced a new policy to reform the criminal code and, at the same time, instituted an efficient police system.
From his day until this day our criminal system has gone forward step by step until, gradually, it has been transformed from the most barbaric in Western Europe to the most humane. At every step in this progress conscientious and responsible people have prophesied that it was a dangerous step, which would lead to anarchy and a breakdown of the law. Nevertheless, every step has been taken, and the result has not been an increase but a decrease of crime. It has 997 been a great disappointment and surprise to many people that the Home Secretary has not felt able to put himself into that great line of reforming Home Secretaries, and give his name to the final step in this progress, We all hope, however, that even at the last minute the right hon. Gentleman may be able to change his mind, but, with or without him, I hope the House will go forward and carry this great reform.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Sir John Anderson (Scottish Universities)
This controversy on the subject of capital punishment can be distinguished sharply from most, if not all, other matters of public controversy in this respect, that the two sides to the controversy have always been very unequally represented. We have seen over many years, in this country and elsewhere, associations of earnest men and women striving to build up opinion in favour of the abolition of capital punishment. Corresponding organisations, aiming at the maintenance of capital punishment, are almost unknown. I have heard of such an organisation in the United States of America, but not in this country.
The reason for this peculiar feature is the same as that which deters persons who have an instinct, or even an intellectual or conscientious conviction, in favour of the retention of capital punishment from pressing their views, from propagating their views among their fellow men. I, personally, feel the same sense of reluctance. I should have been glad to avoid speaking on this matter today, and I do so, I ask the House to believe, only from a sense of duty. I was for 10 years at the Home Office as the permanent head of that office, and I had during that time to examine all the records and all the available material with regard to every case, without exception, of a capital sentence passed in this country. I also had some experience of the same subject matter elsewhere.
I gave evidence of considerable length for four days before the Select Committee which reported in 1930. I strove to the best of my ability during that evidence to avoid any expression of personal opinion on the matter at issue. I feel bound to express today in this House the opinions to which I have been led after a long and, I think, a very exceptional experience. I gratefully recognise that 998 the Members who have moved and seconded this new Clause have made my task as easy as possible by the moderation and restraint with which they have put their view before the House.
I think there is general agreement, at any rate on certain aspects of this matter. I think there would be general agreement that the justification for the capital sentence, as for other salient features of our penal system, must be sought in the protection of society, and in that alone. I should think, also—though this is more doubtful—that there is probably throughout the country, and in this House, a fair measure of agreement about the deterrent effects of the capital sentence. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said that either it is a deterrent or it is not. That, I submit, is too great a simplification, and before I say why I take that view I would like, by way of parenthesis, to draw a sharp distinction which, I think, ought to be drawn in this respect between capital punishment and corporal punishment.
I believe that there is an overwhelming volume of evidence, to which the records of the Home Office bear witness, against the view that corporal punishment, by itself, is an effective deterrent. I do not take the same view in regard to capital punishment, but I think that ye have here to distinguish—and distinguish clearly—between a number of types of case. I believe it to be true that the professional criminal, the burglar, and so on, in normal times—and the present times are exceptional—goes about his business unarmed largely because he does not wish to expose himself to the risk of using a firearm, committing murder, and incurring a penalty much more severe than would be visited upon him in respect of his normal criminal activities. I think that in regard to what is called "constructive murder," where a person setting out on some felonious enterprise unwittingly causes death, where he ties up a night watchman or chloroforms someone on premises he has entered, and death results in a case of murder for which he is hanged, the death penalty—I want to avoid undue dogmatism—has no deterrent effect at all.
In regard to the various degrees of what the French call crime passionnel, I doubt whether the death penalty has any deterrent effect. Certainly it has not 999 —1 feel justified in saying this—anything like the same deterrent effect as is exercised in such cases by the general conception of the sanctity of human life in which such people have been brought up and have lived. In the case of political murder, which can be sharply distinguished from other types of murder, I think that, so far as the death penalty is operative at all as a deterrent, it is not so much the death penalty itself which operates, as the horror of hanging. Those, at any rate, are my views.
Broadly, I would say that the death penalty does reinforce the protection of society, and, in particular, it does diminish the risk to which the officers of the law are exposed. The death penalty must surely be considered in its setting as one aspect, and one aspect only, of our penal system. I think that in this matter the Select Committee, whose Report I have here with the evidence, were at a disadvantage because they were working under a rather narrow and restricted reference which, I think, they themselves felt debarred them from going fully into all the relevant aspects of our penal system. There is no longer in our regard of the criminal law any recognition of such primitive conceptions as atonement or retribution. We have, over the years, fortunately succeeded to a very large extent, if not entirely, in relegating the purely punitive aspect of our criminal law to the background.
§ Mr. Benson (Chesterfield) indicated dissent.
§ Sir J. Anderson
The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) shakes his head. We stress at any rate, and for many years have stressed, the reformative aspect. We stress it, I think, not so much in relation to the individual criminal, as in its aspect of a duty which society owes to itself as the best method, in the long run, of promoting the security and the well-being of the community. That, at any rate, is the point of view from which I have regarded the reformative aspect of our penal system. We avoid, in that way, undue sentimentality.
I would submit to the House that we must beware of attaching too much importance in our consideration of this problem to experience in other countries. That is a matter which was dealt with at very great length in the evidence 1000 before the Select Committee. But countries with a tradition different from our own, with a population differing from ours, more heterogeneous, predominantly rural countries, without the special problems which large cities with considerable slum areas present; countries with different conceptions of law and justice—they present a problem which is essentially different from that with which we have to deal. We have to decide this matter for ourselves in the light of our own conditions, and with due regard to the moral and social standards which have been built up in this country.
§ Wing-Commander Millington (Chelmsford)
May we take it from what the right hon. Gentleman has just said that he is inferring that the standard of law and justice in this country is inferior to the standard of law and justice in most countries which have abolished the death penalty but which have a better record of murders per head of the population?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I said nothing of the kind, and I would not accept that for one moment. I think that our standard of law and justice is the best in the world. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) on this question of the lessons, if any, to be learned from experience in other countries, seemed at one point to be arguing as though that experience supported the view that capital punishment is actually an encouragement to violent crime. I cannot accept that at all. I think that is trying to prove far too much.
May I make a brief reference to another point made, I think, by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne at the beginning of his speech, before I came into the House? He made reference to what has frequently been stressed in the course of controversy on this subject—the undoubted fact that the capital penalty is irrevocable. I think that in that connection it is fair to say, and there was a wealth of testimony to that effect in the evidence before the Select Committee, that the risk, under the conditions as they exist in this country, of the capital penalty being executed on any one who was not in fact guilty of the crime of which he had been convicted is so small, indeed so infinitesimal, that that consideration can be dismissed.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The right hon. Gentleman has great experience of this. Is he prepared to assure the House that, not going back earlier than this century, there have been no innocent men hanged?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am. To the best of my belief that is a fact. Where there is a scintilla—I use the word of the hon. Member for Devizes—of doubt—that is the only consideration relevant to the point I am making—the Home Secretary has invariably advised commutation.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
Would the right hon. Gentleman include women in that statement? Was there no question about Mrs. Thompson?
§ Sir J. Anderson
Absolutely none. There is no room for doubt at all of the part which she played in that affair. There may be room for doubt as to her degree of guilt as compared with Bywaters, but as to the fact that she was in law guilty of murder, there can be no doubt whatever. There never was a clearer case. That is true also of the only two other women executed in this country in the last 20 years.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
Might I remind the hon. Gentleman of a statement made by the Home Secretary in 1869? I know that I am going back some time, into the last century. The Home Secretary in this House answered questions relative to the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. The answer he gave was that he had had to consider II sentences only in his time; that he had reprieved one because the innocence of the accused was obvious; that he had reprieved another because he was satisfied and the judge was satisfied that the case was one of accident, and the judge was amazed at the conviction; two more on the grounds of insanity and one on the ground of clemency; and that of the six sentences he had enforced, in one—the case of Priscilla Biggadyke—the accused was completely exonerated by the confession of another person.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Confessions by other persons do not necessarily exonerate to the extent they may seem to do. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne asked me a specific question with regard to this century. The year 1869 is a long time ago, and the House must realise that in this, as in other matters, there has been very great 1002 progress in the interval. The Home Secretary will, of course, be speaking later, and if he dissents from anything I have said, I am sure he will say so. I am giving to the House, as it is my duty to do, the best opinion that I have been able to form.
In my view, the problem resolves itself mainly into this question: If capital punishment goes, what is to be substituted for it? That is the crux of the matter. In the evidence before this Select Committee there was an impressive unanimity of official opinion. I leave myself out of this altogether, because I did not deal with that particular aspect. I speak of official opinion to cover the representatives of the Prison Commissioners, police services, magistrates and judges. In that connection I would call attention to the evidence of Sir Alexander Paterson—Mr. Alexander Paterson as he was then—who has been so prominently and so honourably associated with the modernisation and humanisation, if I may use a rather horrid word, of our penal system. The evidence was all to the effect that if the capital sentence were abolished it should not be allowed to make any difference whatsoever to our prison régime. I agree with that. What that means is that we have to contemplate that all persons otherwise subject to capital punishment, all who would be hanged according to present practice, would be released from prison after a comparatively short period of detention.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
Would the right hon. Gentleman say what he means by "a relatively short period"?
§ Sir J. Anderson
May I go on? Sir Alexander Paterson thought that ten years was sufficient. He said he thought that after ten years' physical and mental deterioration set in. I myself would have thought that the present practice of holding for 15 years the worst types of criminal who have not been hanged had a great deal to be said for it, but Sir Alexander Paterson's view was that Io years was sufficient. Anyway, the point I am making is that, according to the evidence of these very experienced people, as a result of the abolition of the capital sentence, if that course were adopted, we ought not to contemplate having to hold criminals in prison for longer periods than are, on the whole, maintained now. That was the effect of 1003 the official evidence, and that I think is what we have to face as a practical problem.
I have said that I agree with the general view that the official witnesses put forward, but I do think that the problem created by the presence in prisons of prisoners who are already suffering the maximum penalty which the law allows has so far been skated over too lightly. There is the case of the "mad dogs" to which my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes referred. Sir Archibald Bodkin, in his evidence before the Select Committee, referred to such people as the "wild beasts of society," and he quoted the case of a poisoner called Chapman who killed three wives one after another by administering tartar emetic and watched them die in agony. Surely we cannot get over the difficulty by saying that prisoners who are really like wild beasts—morose, and subject to gusts of passion—are abnormal and ought to be certified insane.
Lord Atkin was impressed by what he thought were certain defects in our criminal law and tried to get a new principle adopted. He tried to get what are called the Macnaghten Rules extended to cover cases of murders committed by persons suffering by reason of some defect of mind from what was called ungovernable impulse, but his recommendations were not accepted. In this matter I confess that I am influenced in my mind inevitably by experience of visits to Broadmoor where there are detained persons who have been found insane on conviction or certified insane after conviction, and some of whom are what are called refractory.
I shall never get out of my mind one case in particular of a man whom I saw—a man in middle life, a fine specimen physically, pleasing to look at, dressed in blue, a typical merchant seaman. That is what he was—an officer of the Mercantile Marine—who had committed a brutal murder, and whose condition was such that he could never be allowed to be within striking distance of any other human being unaccompanied. He could never be approached by one attendant alone. When I saw him he was marching round a small enclosure surrounded by a high wall, 1004 looking to the ground; he was walking round, and he did that as his only exercise for a certain period every day. There is no hope for such a person. We must never get into a position in which such people have to be detained in prisons.
I would like the Home Secretary to tell us, because I think Parliament ought to know, how such problems will be dealt with if the death penalty is abolished. We cannot be sure that such persons will be certified insane. It is a real problem and it has troubled me very much.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that there is any difficulty in certifying as insane a man who is in such a condition that he has to be kept entirely by himself out of reach of every other human being?
§ Sir J. Anderson
No. What I said was that my mind has been influenced by that particular experience. What I do say is that there are people—the "mad dogs" and "wild beasts" of society—who would not on present standards be certified insane, who, if the capital sentence is abolished, ex hypothesi will be suffering the maximum penalty for violent crime, and who at any moment might break out in ungovernable passion and commit violence perhaps resulting in death of a prison officer. This is the problem and we must face it. We must be realistic in this matter. I do not say that there is no solution, but we must look to the Home Secretary, as I do, to indicate to the House how such a case can be dealt with.
If my presentation to the House so far is justified, what we have to face is that the worst type of murderers who have always hitherto paid the extreme penalty will be subject to the ordinary reformative influences, be made subject to the ordinary regime of our present system and will be set at liberty after a moderate period of detention, say from 10 to 15 years. The question on which we have to be convinced is whether public opinion will stand for that. Only once before have I made any public statement on this matter, and I should like to quote from it because it represents a considered view expressed after going into the matter with great care. I said:There are some murderers whose crimes are so outrageous that public opinion would never tolerate their release.1005 That may have been rather an emphatic statement but that is what I said. I then went on to say:To hold in custody a man who can look forward to freedom at however remote a date is quite different from keeping custody of one who is doomed and knows he is doomed to live and die in prison.I have met that by saying we must accept the fact that people will not be detained indefinitely if the capital sentence is abolished. [Interruption.] That is the consensus of official opinion, and I am asking the Home Secretary whether he agrees with that and what would be the position in future if the capital sentence were abolished. It is a perfectly legitimate question. I went on:Some countries which have abolished capital punishment and are quoted as examples to be followed have in its place a system of solitary confinement which to many minds far transcends in horror the swift and painless penalty of execution. What is to be the attitude of the warders towards a prisoner in that position who may use violence towards them and take their lives if he can with impunity"—
§ Sir J. Anderson
The hon. Gentleman interrupted me in a quotation. I am well aware of that evidence, but if the hon. Gentleman will compare the evidence to which he refers with the evidence of Mr. Alexander Paterson, as he was then, after he had visited the prison in question, which was the prison of Louvain, he will see what actually were the conditions in that prison. I say without hesitation that they would be regarded as intolerable by those who are concerned with the penal system of this country. Let me continue with the quotation:What is to be the attitude of the warders towards a prisoner in that position, who may use violence towards them and take their lives if he can with impunity because he is already undergoing the severest punishment known to the law.I said in conclusion:We are a very conservative people, slow to change old methods for new, and while the controversy about capital punishment will go on and the old arguments for and against will be presented in new aspects, only one thing can be predicted with confidence"—1006 this was said some years ago—and that is that the present system will continue until, and only until, the opinion of the majority of our people has definitely turned in the other direction.I only quote that because I said it some years ago after careful consideration. It represents my view today.
Would public opinion stand letting prisoners convicted of murder of the worst type return into the community after a short period of detention? As Sir Archibald Bodkin pointed out in the evidence he gave:English law is not a pendulum to swing backwards and forwards. It is a stable, stern thing based upon the experiences of the centuries.What we have to consider surely is not opinion at this particular time or at some point of time in the future, but the stable public opinion which has been built up and which can be regarded as representing the view that will not be changed by some spectacular event in the future.
My recollection covers, for example, the case of the murder of Sir Henry Wilson. I well remember the state of feeling in this House on the afternoon after Sir Henry Wilson was murdered. I remember the case of the murder of police constable Gutteridge. Two men, Brown and Kennedy, were convicted of that murder which took place in circumstances of extraordinary brutality. I remember the case of Ronald True, on which there was strong feeling in this House, and I remember many others. I am very doubtful whether public opinion could be reconciled to the idea that, in deference to the most modern conception of the reformative penal system, such people should be let loose on society after a short period of detention. I do not want to dogmatise unduly on this; I merely say I am very doubtful.
I would say, having regard to the view that I have expressed as to the kind of public opinion that we must see before we feel justified in making this change, that this is not quite the time to choose when standards of values the world over have been relaxed, when human life has been cheapened by the recent experiences of the war and by happenings today all over the world. As regards the proposal that the abolition of the capital sentence should be tried for a period of five years, to that I am absolutely opposed. I do not believe that it will provide any useful lesson. I should regard it merely as an 1007 evasion of the real issue, an evasion which would quite subtly shift the onus of proof from where it ought to be.
I say this in conclusion, if the purpose of hon. Members who support this change, and whose conscientious convictions I most sincerely respect, is to reconcile public opinion to the abolition of the death sentence, a much better and safer method would be that indicated at the conclusion of the Report of the Select Committee under the heading "Conditional Recommendations," namely, by an administrative adjustment of the criterion upon which the prerogative of mercy is exercised by the Home Secretary.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich)
I consider myself fortunate in having been able to catch Mr. Speaker's eye immediately after the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) has resumed his seat. I know that the right hon. Gentleman speaks on these matters with very great and intimate knowledge of the working of the Government Department which is responsible for dealing with criminals, and that he has spoken with a very deep and real sincerity, which we all accept. We accept at once his statement that he has made his speech as a matter of duty. I want to say that I speak on this subject also with deep sincerity. On almost all of the points which were raised by the right hon. Gentleman I take a view which is completely contrary to the view that he has expressed. I know he will understand that I, being a perfervid Scot like himself, will not attempt to pull my punches. If I do not pull my punches it will nevertheless, not show any lack of respect on my part for the right hon. Gentleman or for the sincerity of his arguments.
The right hon. Gentleman used a curious argument at the close of his speech. In another advocate, I would have thought it extremely suspect. He devoted a considerable amount of time to asking the question—a very proper question if it were put in proper terms—"Will public opinion stand for the worst murderers being released after short terms in prison?" No one is suggesting or proposing any such thing. There is no such proposal in the Clause under discussion. Nobody on this side of the House who supports the Clause is in the 1008 least likely to make any such proposal. Why, then, was that particular question so emphasised by the right hon. Gentleman at the close of his speech? Please observe its terms, and the juxtaposition of the two references, "worst murderers" and "short terms of imprisonment."
Who proposes it? Certainly, nobody on this side of the House has ever thought of such a thing. The Clause specifically says that, in the five years' experiment, we want the law to be operated exactly as it is now, that the final decision will always rest with the Home Secretary, advised as he is by governors of prisons, medical officers of prisons and by the chief officials of his own Department whether in any particular case it is wise and proper in the public interest and for the public security that such and such an individual should be released. The right hon. Member knows well, and better than I do by far, how great is the measure of caution which is exercised in the Home Office and by the Home Secretary before any such release is arranged. I suggest that the whole of that section of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was founded on a completely wrong statement and a complete misconception of what we are after.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. He himself said that the movers of the Motion contemplate that the procedure of the Home Office should be exactly the same as it is now. He apparently does not realise that for many years past it has been the practice of the Home Office to release the worst type of criminal, those who have for one reason or another escaped the gallows, after serving a comparatively short period. Under present conditions, nobody is detained indefinitely in prison. I think I am right in saying that.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede) indicated assent.
§ Mr. Paton
I definitely appreciate that point. We come down to this question: What is the definition of "comparatively short"? Is it the 15 years, or the 20 years, that such prisoners have sometimes been known to serve? We come down to the basic fact that the Home Secretary will not—I know that our present Home Secretary will in this matter follow in the footsteps of his predecessor—at any time take the risk or accept the responsibility 1009 of releasing any criminal of this type who is likely to be in any sense a danger to the community. That is why I think that all that section of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was completely irrelevant.
The second point to which I want to refer was another upon which the right hon. Gentleman laid very great stress indeed, the possible dangers that might arise to prison officers carrying out in prisons duties imposed upon them by us as a community, when they are controlling prisoners doomed to long sentences of imprisonment without hope of early release, knowing that they cannot be hanged if they kill. One understands at once the seriousness of the point, and it is a point which must be weighed and given grave and serious consideration before a confident answer can be given to it. I want to give an answer to it from a great authority who was before the Select Committee on Capital Punishment. When he was asked the specific question: "Do you consider that, in the holding in our prisons of a certain number of criminals who would now be executed but would be reprieved under the new dispensation, there would be any insuperable problems to face?" that authority said in reply, "No," he thought there would be no insuperable problems. The authority I am quoting is the right hon. Gentleman himself, then the permanent head of the Home Office.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am afraid that I must interrupt again. The answer was on the basis that those people could be released after a short period. On that basis the opinion was expressed that there would be no problems for the prison authorities. The problem arises in another connection.
§ Mr. Paton
I cannot possibly accept the implications of that explanation. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will refresh his memory by reading these pages in the Select Committee's Report which he has on the Table in front of him. He will find that the matter is as I have stated. The last thing on earth I want to do is to misrepresent him in any way whatever. We do not require to misrepresent anybody. We are convinced that on our side we have all the facts and all the arguments, which make misrepresentation completely unnecessary.
1010 Beforé I pass on to the main case which I want to present there is another very important point to which I must refer. It is the possibility of miscarriage of justice in capital cases in this country. The right hon. Gentleman was very careful not to say that miscarriage of justice in capital charges is impossible. He said, however, that the danger, because of the extreme care associated with the trial in our criminal courts of any person upon a capital charge, was extremely remote, so remote as to be negligible. Perhaps those are not his words, but that was undoubtedly his meaning. I have no hesitation at all in subscribing to the statement that the standard of conduct in our courts of law, in particular reference to capital charges, is probably among the highest in the whole world. I subscribe to that, but I do not accept for one moment the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that because those courts are of a very high standard and exercise the greatest amount of care of which human beings are capable, the risk of miscarriage is slight or so slight as to be negligible.
I could quote to the right hon. Gentleman a number of cases in which there was room for very considerable doubt as to the justice of the sentence, a very considerable room for doubt not expressed merely by people like myself but by the most eminent practitioners of the law and those in a position to have special knowledge. However, I want to cite something rather different from that. I want to cite something which I think the right hon. Gentleman will find extremely difficult to answer. It is something which affects a whole group of cases going back over a long period of time and affecting the interpretation of the law which may, so far as any of us can tell, have led to repeated miscarriages of justice in capital charges over the whole of that period.
He may remember the case of Woolmington v. Director of Public Prosecutions. That was a case in which a young man was put on trial for his life for shooting his wife, and his defence was that the shooting was accidental. He was twice tried because the first trial jury disagreed. He was convicted by the second jury after a long deliberation and was sentenced to death. The case went to the Appeal Court and the Appeal Court held that the judge's rulings on law were 1011 correct and proper, and upheld the sentence. There, so far as the great majority of condemned criminals are concerned, the matter would have dropped, but in this case there happened to be a local solicitor of great tenacity as well as considerable knowledge, and he held on and in the end was able to get the fiat of the Attorney-General to carry the case to the House of Lords.
What happened? The House of Lords threw out the conviction. It was stated by Lord Sankey in giving the judgment of the assembled judges:No matter what the charge or where the trial, the principle that the prosecution must prove the guilt of the prisoner is part of the common law of England, and no attempt to whittle it down can be entertained.The reason for that statement was that in cases where accident was the defence of the prisoner charged, the onus of proof was lifted from the prosecution to the defence.
The House and the right hon. Gentleman should know about that. A wrong principle of law had stood in this country from 1762 and was only overturned in 1935. As a writer in the "Law Journal" said:It is interesting, if unprofitable, to speculate as to the number of murderers (to say nothing of innocent persons) lying mouldering in lime and ignominy within the precincts of our prisons, and who would have been respectably alive and well today if our judges had known the law.Can the right hon. Gentleman get round that one? I suspect that he cannot. I am content, so far as miscarriage is concerned, to leave my case there. I was very glad to know that the right hon. Gentleman accepted the idea that primitive ideas of retribution and atonement must now be abandoned by our community. All of us accept the idea that, as he said, today there can be no primitive appeal to revenge. I was very glad to note that, but then I noticed that he went on to make his justification for the retention of capital punishment in what was for me an argument so familiar that I think custom has staled it. It is an argument which I know the right hon. Gentleman has consistently put forward all the time I have known him and have known of his work. He has been consistent in opposition to changes of this knd. He has not budged an inch. His position is that a justification of capital 1012 punishment is its protection of our society. He claimed that there was in this House a fair measure of agreement on the deterrent effect of capital punishment. Put in that way, yes, but is that the way to put it, because when we talk of capital punishment being a reinforcement of our social order, as the right hon. Gentleman did, we are not talking of capital punishment being a deterrent in the sense that all the other penal sanctions which we employ are deterrents?
The point about the use of capital punishment is that it is a deterrent of quite special force which cannot possibly be exercised by any alternative form of punishment that society can impose. It is the quality of special deterrence that marks out the penalty of death from all other punishments, just as murder itself is marked out as a special thing from all other crimes. It is this quality of special deterrence that we on this side absolutely challenge. Of course, it cannot be proved by any considerations existing in this country whether there is any validity in that idea of special deterrence or not, but there is ample proof in the experience of other countries, as I shall try to show in a moment.
However, there is something in this country which we can put up against the assumptions, the opinions, the beliefs on which the right hon. Gentleman bases his case. He cannot say, in the face of the facts, that capital punishment is a special deterrent because it stops murder. He cannot say that capital punishment stops the murder of policemen. Since 1938 up to today, as the Home Secretary will no doubt presently tell us, there has been a marked increase in the volume of crime and an increase in the volume of murder. There has been a marked increase in the volume of wounding which is a crime associated in this connection with the crime of murder.. Capital punishment has been frequently exercised every year throughout that period, but it has not managed to stop that increase in the volume. It may be argued that if we get rid of capital punishment, that volume of crime will be bound to increase again, and perhaps it may be argued that it will get out of all manageable bounds and proportions.
On this it is relevant to remember one very important thing. This belief, this opinion—because that is all it is—is in 1013 the field of hypothesis, as the right hon. Gentleman Said. The truth of this hypothesis cannot be demonstrated except in one way, and that is the way proposed by our Clause—to try it. We must try it in order to find out if the fears of the right hon. Gentleman have any basis in fact. Let me remind him that this appeal to fear—the argument that violent punishment is the essential and right thing to apply in the treatment of violent crimes—was the fear that dominated the whole structure of criminal law in this country 150 years ago when we hanged people for 220 crimes, but for 130 years, since Sir Samuel Romilly first rose in this House in the disordered and troubled times which existed following the Napoleonic Wars, we have smashed and destroyed one after another of the punishments resting on force or violence, and along with that process has come a continual improvement in the standards of conduct of our people.
I will not suggest that the improvements in the standard of conduct are necessary consequences of the removal of the old violent punishments. There is another reason for it, but what I am inviting the House to notice is that we have come today to the final stage in a long process of destroying the illusion, one of the prevalent, almost universal human illusions, that one can beat violent crime and the violent criminal by oneself adopting violent methods—a complete illusion, as the whole history of Britain for 150 years has shown.
The second thing I rest upon is the experience of other countries about which the right hon. Gentleman was rather cavalier in his treatment of this side of our case. He said that we do not require to pay too much attention to these countries because their experience and their circumstances are so different from ours that we can safely discard any teaching they may have for us. But is that a true statement? There are more than 30 states and countries in the world today which have had experience of the abolition of capital punishment, in any of them over a long period. They are extremely varied in their history and traditions, their social and economic circumstances. The whole of the Scandinavian countries, a country like Belgium, with a population for its area more dense than it is in this country, the State of Michigan in the United States 1014 with its great city of Detroit—are we going to say that a cross-section of all the countries of the world, as this undoubtedly is, in its experience has no lesson for us bearing on an important question of this kind?
When a test question was put to them all, the reply was unanimous; when they were asked, "After abolition took place in your country, did the volume of murder increase as compared with before abolition? Did criminals more freely resort to arms after abolition than they did before abolition?" In every one of the abolition countries, the experience was the same, the answer was, No. Why should we attempt to discount experience so wide and varied and, in my view, so conclusive? I suggest to the House that on these two grounds—(1) the record of our historic experience in this country and all that it has meant; (2) the widespread experience of so many different countries throughout the world—we have solid grounds for being sure in our minds that to put this Clause on the statute book is a wise and proper thing to do at this juncture.
I want to conclude on a rather different note. I have tried to make my case and have probably spoken much too long, but as hon. Members know very well, I am no detached, scientifically impartial person on this issue; I am a red-hot partisan, and I make no pretence at all of any soaring to the heights of ideal impartiality. I believe capital punishment is a foul thing. I believe it to be an unmitigated evil in our community, a centre of pollution sending out constantly-spreading ripples throughout our whole community. I believe that every time we hang a criminal guilty of a foul murder, we are striking at the real defences of social order in any community—a high regard for human life and personality that is equally as grave in its effects upon the community as is the crime that it seeks to punish.
I would say also to the House that this death penalty, of which a defence is being made today, is in itself an anachronism. It is a survival from an older age. It has no place in our modern penal system. In fact, if the argument which the Home Secretary is likely to make, that this is an inopportune time, is true, it is an unfortunate time not only for the abolition of capital punishment but for his whole Criminal Justice Bill. It applies with equal force. Why soften our punishments? 1015 Why eliminate the crudities of our previous practice at this abnormal time when we have to use special implements and methods to deter crime? If the argument is valid in the one case, it is equally valid in the other. The death penalty is a survival from an older and, thank God, a past age.
§ Mr. J. Paton
I am sorry, I do not want to give way now because I must finish. The death penalty is the one remaining relic in our penal code of the old system of complete repression which was tried against criminals and so badly failed. I want to suggest to this House, as the representative assembly of a country of free men and women, that instruments of repression have no proper place in the institutions of a free democracy. By their very nature, by their inherent quality, repressive punishments belong to the systems of totalitarian States and not democracies. It was no accident that the chief exponents of violence and severity in the treatment of criminals in modern times were the Nazi and Fascist States. It was no accident that Fascism, when it revived the death penalty in the early '30's, exalted it into a fundamental tenet of the Fascist philosophy. Here is what the Italian Minister of Justice had to say about this—because it is one of the important considerations that we should have in mind as representatives of a democratic people—when introducing the death penalty in Italy:The Fascist conception, according to which the individual is only an infinitesimal and transitory element in the social organisation, so that, therefore, he must subordinate his own interests and his very existence to this organism and to the state which is its juridical organisation … it would be an evident sign of weak juridical sensibility to exhibit aversion to extreme measures of defence against those who display a criminal activity subversive to the essential needs of life and of the political and moral elevation of the State.That is a philosophic expression of the essential nature of the death penalty as a part of the Fascist dictatorial structure—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]—but the reply was given a great deal earlier, again in Italy, by another eminent Italian, because 450 years before the birth of Christ the Roman State abolished the 1016 penalty of death for the Roman citizen. Some 500 years later a strong attempt was made to revive it, and this is the answer made by Cicero:Far from us be the punishment of death, its ministers and its instruments. Remove them, not only from the actual operation on our bodies, but banish them from our eyes, our ears, our thoughts; for not only the execution, but the apprehension, the existence, the very mention of these things is disgraceful to a free man and a Roman citizen.These are words that I commend to this House today in the important decision it is called upon to make.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
I wish that I could find it in my conscience to agree with the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Paton). I confess that the death penalty is probably as repugnant to me as it is to him. Indeed, I remember very clearly joining battle with Mr. Bernard Shaw when he put forward the argument referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis). No one, I think, who has had the smallest experience of the administration of criminal justice would care to speak on this matter without feelings of dislike for what our consciences sometimes make us do, but I am convinced, and I think it is my duty to tell the House why I am convinced, that the new Clause is wrong.
There is one argument which can neither be countered nor proved, and, unfortunately, it is one of the matters which will determine one way or another, and which will quite rightly determine, one way or another, the way in which votes are cast in this Debate. Of course, if it be true that human life is such a sacred thing that it is always in all circumstances wrong to take it, then we ought to abolish the death penalty and we ought to abolish it now, because there can be no time at which, if an act is wrong per se, it ought to be continued, and that was fundamentally the argument, or, at any rate, as I thought, the underlying argument, behind the peroration of the hon. Member for Norwich. But I do not think so. I, too, think that human life is sacred. And if, like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), I thought its sanctity would be reinforced, at this time above all others, by the abolition of this penalty, I should be speaking for its abolition. But, as a matter of fact. I believe, and, as I propose 1017 to prove the great majority of the people in this world, and particularly in this country, also in fact believe, that, although human life is sacred, it has not that indefeasible sanctity which makes it wrong in all circumstances and for all persons to take it. That is the assumption upon which we have been acting for years past, and it seems to me that, although such a proposition, one way or another, is incapable of proof, we must endeavour to give ourselves some kind of consistency of conduct in this matter.
We have just concluded a great world war, in which we took millions of human lives quite deliberately in order to protect things which we thought more valuable. We may have been wrong; indeed, the hon. Member for Norwich thinks we were wrong, because he holds religious views which I sincerely respect but from which I differ as sincerely. We have just been hanging our defeated enemies after the trials at Nuremberg. The Attorney-General, who is not here to-day, prosecuted them, not as an act of war but as an act of what was claimed to be justice.
§ Mr. Hogg
It is legitimate for those who believe it wrong to take life in all circumstances to describe it as vengeance, but I am asking the House to try to give itself some kind of consistency of moral purpose here. If we were going to say, as some hon. Members think we ought to have said, that it was at all times and in all circumstances wrong to take human life, whatever evil doing the malefactor may have committed, then the time to say so was before Nuremberg and not immediately after. Only two days ago, I saw in "The Times" that we were hanging some more members of the S.S.
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) is entitled to say "Shame." His attitude has been consistent throughout. I only say that I do not agree. I only say that, if we are to take the attitude which we should take if we passed this Clause, we might cover ourselves with humiliation, and I really believe that this Clause, passed at this time would clothe us with dishonour and humiliation.
1018 And yet I wonder, if we subtract the moral arguments, which I respect but from which I differ, and if we conceive that there may be circumstances in which it is right for one human being to kill another, how many of the hon. Members who have brought forward, perfectly sincerely, such a mass of arguments would have a shred left with which to clothe their backs? Whenever I have discussed this problem before, and even now, when I have heard it discussed in this most honourable assembly, I have always been convinced that the arguments which are brought against the death penalty, subtle, persuasive, coherent and discursive as they are, are ultimately brittle, and would not have been put forward by anybody after serious consideration if those persons had not, at the same time, entertained, sometimes expressly and sometimes not, a hankering after the moral argument that in all circumstances it is wrong for a human being to take human life.
Take, for instance, the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Norwich, which stated that, when we abolished hanging for sheep stealing, no evil consequences came of it, and that the same arguments against the reform were put forward then as are put forward now. The judges, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne said—I think wrongly—are always wrong. The argument is that they objected at the time to many of the softenings and alleviations of the penal code which must appear to all people now to be commonplace. But where does that argument lead? The truth is that this argument, and, as I shall show, most of the arguments, if they prove anything at all, prove a great deal too much to be cogent in this case, because they are arguments which can be adduced in support of the abolition, not merely of the death penalty for murder, but in support of the abolition of any penalty of any kind. They would be just as cogent—if they are cogent at all—if they were used in support of the abolition of the punishment of imprisonment; we, who argue against such a proposal would get up and say, "Oh, but we think that is dangerous, and you will encourage crime." And our opponents would then retort, just as they do to-day "Oh, but that is just what was said when we abolished hanging for stealing sheep. That is what was said throughout the centuries by the judges—and they were 1019 always wrong." And if those arguments are cogent today, they could be cogent then.
The truth about this matter is surely this. The arguments on both sides have a certain cogency and weight, but it is our duty to weigh them in relation to the particular issue before us and not in relation to other issues at other times, when they may or may not have been wrongly applied. When the hon. Member for Norwich says that he thinks it is fundamentally wrong to meet violence with violence, he does not really mean what he says. He is not in favour of abolishing the police or the criminal courts; he does not propose to take away the punishment of imprisonment for life; on the contrary, he is imposing it, and if violently apprehending a man, trying him against his will and imprisoning him for the course of his natural life is not meeting violence with violence, I do not know what language means.
We are told that the death penalty is no deterrent to murder. This argument which came from my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) implies, of course, that a great many murders are in fact committed. It is obviously true, however, that that argument, if it proves anything at all, also proves too much, since, if it be true to argue, as I frankly confess I am sometimes disposed to think, that because crimes are still committed although we continue to punish criminals, punishment is no deterrent, then we should abolish all punishment. We should abolish imprisonment, which is one of the most horrible punishments ever inflicted by one man upon another.
If, in fact, it is right to impose in certain circumstances these violent infringements of another man's personality and liberty, then we cannot effectively distinguish in principle the death penalty from other punishments. All are final, all take away a part of a man's personality or his life. We could not give back to Oscar Slater the years during which he had been imprisoned just by paying him a few pounds when, at the end of it, he came out a broken man. Once it is conceded that society has these powers and rights and must use them in certain cases, it is not sense to pretend to try to differentiate in principle between 1020 one infringement of human personality and another. The thing becomes a practical problem and has to be dealt with on practical considerations.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
Although there was a grave miscarriage of justice in the case of Oscar Slater, is it not true that he was alive, but that, if the law had been allowed to operate, he would have been dead?
§ Mr. Hogg
If the law had been allowed to operate as in England, he would have gone free at the very beginning. Although I should absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman that the finality of the death penalty is an argument for insisting on every precaution that one can humanly take to make certain that no mistake is made, it is not ultimately an argument, if it be proved beyond the doubt of reasonable men that an offence has been committed, for rejecting the penalty altogether. I think that that is to carry scrupulousness to the point of excess.
I now come to the practical questions which ought to bear upon our judgment today. I confess at once that I am not convinced—and I never have been convinced—by the arguments from statistics on either side. They are at first sight imposing because of their number and because of the amount of research which has gone into their collection. In my mind, at any rate, they are not cogent on this point. They are, in fact, as little cogent as I should feel I was being if I were to point out that the criminal statistics for Scotland are noticeably worse than those of England, and try to draw from that a deduction as to the deterrent effect of the death penalty. The truth is that the circumstances which lead to the commission of crime are very much more complicated than are generally recognised by partisans on either side—sometimes, at any rate.
It is, of course, not true that punishment by itself, either the savagery of it or the fact of it, is a deterrent in many cases. If it were, crime would have been abolished many centuries ago. The certainty of detection is perhaps a more important factor in many cases. The sense of oneness in any particular society is possibly an even more important factor. It is also true that the kind of social consciousness about good behaviour, the kind of gentleness with which men treat 1021 one another in society, is probably the most important and the least tangible of all the factors.
It is also true that over a long period of time, during the 100 years in which there were no major wars, human society did, in fact, become a great deal gentler. Over all that period, in all societies, whether or not they had the death penalty, the statistics for violent crime noticeably diminished. I cannot draw from that, however, any general conclusion about the death penalty, although I have examined the figures which have been put forward from time to time about the contiguous States in America, because I reflect, in that case, that the certainty of detection varies a very great deal from State to State and not always in proportion to whether the death penalty is retained or abolished; and that the general state of lawlessness in America is a Federal rather than a State question. There are a great many more factors, which it would be impossible to enumerate on an occasion like this, which go to affect the result.
Nor would I be likely to be persuaded by any except the most careful and conclusive analysis of any figures which could be produced on either side if this Motion were to be carried tonight. If it were shown, for instance, that murders had doubled during the course of the next five years, some people would say that was proof that the experiment had failed. I should not be very much convinced because the numbers are in any case so small. If, on the other hand, it were shown that five policemen had been shot where ten were shot before, I should not be absolutely certain that that proved that the experiment had succeeded. I think that the statistics, patiently, honourably and scrupulously collected as they have been, ultimately only fuddle us when we are applying our minds to a question of this kind.
§ Mr. Paton
There is a question I would like to put to the hon. Member for Oxford, and I am grateful to him for giving way. Would he agree that the general conclusion to which one is driven inescapably, from any long continued study of statistical records from all countries, is that the absence or existence of the capital penalty has no effect on crime at all?
§ Mr. Hogg
No. I should agree with the hon. Member for Norwich that one is driven to a purely negative conclusion, which I was trying to state, namely, that no useful inference is to be drawn on either side. If I were to apply my mind in my own way to this problem, I should look into my own heart. I may be speaking only for myself, but I do not believe that I am constituted any differently from criminals. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen are or not, but I do not believe that I am.
Mr. Hog g
But for the grace of God. If, however, I were a professional burglar with a long series of sentences of penal servitude behind me, if I were going out tonight to rob and to steal and I had to ask myself whether or not I should take a gun, my mind would work in this way: "The gun may destroy the one witness who will convict; it may represent my sole chance of escape; I know that, if I am found out, I go to penal servitude for a long period anyhow, perhaps even for life. Why, therefore, not carry a gun as a policy of insurance?" I know that is what I should think, and I know that is the way the temptation would present itself to me. What I should do would depend upon whether I yielded to the temptation. I certainly believe that there are people who think in that way, and so long as I am convinced of that I shall be against the total abolition of the death penalty.
It is said, of course, that burglars and other human beings are not wholly logical people, that they do not reason in this pragmatic kind of way. I think that they are not always logical, but that argument again proves too much. They are sometimes logical, and if they were not there would be no purpose in punishing them at all. I, myself, am totally convinced that it is, in the end, not sense to pretend that the provision of a different kind of penalty attached to the taking of human life does not, in fact, tend to protect the officers of the law and the innocent citizens in their beds from armed assault.
I am hound to confess that neither Dr. Jung nor the statistics will, in fact, con- 1023 vince me of the contrary. I am not persuaded by the psychological argument presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes, which is apparently that murderers such as commit the offence are attracted into committing it by the publicity. There may be such, although oddly enough, a man who came to me yesterday told me a most convincing story of how he personally had actually been deterred from committing murder by the death penalty and nothing else. As I say, there may be such, but the fact is that there are a great many more who are deterred from added crimes of violence superimposed on crime by the knowledge that a different kind of penalty will be imposed upon them if they commit them.
I must close by accepting the argument put forward by the Home Secretary when he spoke before on this subject. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne ridiculed the argument that it would be wrong to do it now and possibly right to do it at some other time. I am not sure that I agree. I thought that at any rate the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne provided the answer to his own argument out of his own speech, when he said that penalties must be relative to the general state of social consciousness and conscience at the time. I believe, much as it grieves me to say it, that we are going into a period when human life is not reckoned so sacred as it was, and when the penalties which attach to the taking of it must, to be effective deterrents, be at any rate kept more in consonance with the minds of potential criminals, from amongst whom I do not exclude myself.
That being so, I am bound to say, weighing the whole matter up, that having seen, as I have seen, the striking evidence of the increase in crime, particularly of crime of a violent character, since the war, and having heard my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), and having heard the considered opinion of the Home Secretary, which I think must be taken to be the view of those advising him as well as of himself, I do not believe that this new Clause is one which ought to be passed. If it should be passed, and if it should be successful, no one would be happier than I, but I believe that if it is passed, those who have voted for it will have to answer in their conscience for at least as much 1024 as we who vote against it will have to do if it is rejected.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Donovan (Leicester, East)
I wish to do two things. First, I wish to make a short speech, and second, to address myself more particularly to those Members of the House who are not governed by emotion in this matter, but who are quite prepared to approach it in an objective spirit and take an objective decision. Therefore, the deep convictions, founded on conscience and morals, which make some Members on both sides of the House immovable on this issue, will remain unshaken after everythig I have to say, because I want to approach the matter in terms of expediency alone.
Normally, a Minister, with all the resources of fact and figure of his Department behind him, commands an influence in these Debates beyond the reach of a back bencher. For that reason I should have liked the case for the retention of the death penalty to have been deployed at an early stage in this Debate by the Home Secretary. I feel, for that reason, that a slightly unfair advantage will accrue to my right hon. Friend if he is the last speaker upon this Motion, because we know that his opinions upon this matter have changed. They may have changed because of his own conclusions, based upon his experience in his office, but they have certainly changed also because of the impact of other opinions on his own and those other opinions must be those of the officials in the Home Office and the police.
I am one of those who do not think that we should flout expert opinion, but I am also one of those who think that expert opinion is not always infallible. I think that the right approach is to give expert opinion its due weight but to come to the other evidence on the other side with an open mind, and then come to one's own conclusions upon an impartial consideration of the two. Because expert opinion, particularly in this matter of the effect of lessening the severity of punishment, has been noticeably wrong on more than one occasion. This is a field where what in prospect would seem to be a paradox turns out to be the result in actual fact. We have not, however, heard the Home Secretary, but we have heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), who had 1025 a long experience at the Home Office. He has deployed arguments which I think it is not necessary to traverse in detail because the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) with his usual habit of cogency and compression, has put them all into the one instance which he himself gave. He said, "If I were a burglar and I were going out tonight to commit a burglary, and I said 'Shall I take a gun?' my answer would be, 'No, because though I might shoot the only witness who would convict me, if I am convicted I shall hang, whereas otherwise I should simply go to penal servitude.'" That argument is simply that murders will, or may, increase if this proposal is carried.
The answers which occurred to me as the hon. Member was speaking—and I am neither an expert nor a propagandist in this matter—were these: that these crimes of violence which the hon. Member would not commit are a small fraction of the total of murders, and, therefore, one cannot base a true conclusion upon what he might or might not do. The second thing is that according to what the Home Secretary has said on another occasion there are people who do go out to commit murders who do not think as the hon. Member would, because apparently burglars are carrying more arms today.
Suppose, however, that he did take a gun, and suppose that he did shoot the only witness, what would his attitude be towards the police officers who came to arrest him? Might it be the same as that of the murderer of Police Constable Edgar? Might he lie in wait for them, as he did, with a gun under his pillow, ready to shoot anyone who came to try to arrest him, because he knew he himself would be killed if he were arrested? It struck me at the time as a most impressive circumstance that there would have been not one police officer killed, but three, if it had not been for the resource, skill, and a certain amount of good fortune, on the part of the officers who went to arrest the murderer of Police Constable Edgar, and he would have tried to shoot them also because of the existence of the death penalty.
I do not scout the hon. Member's view or the experts' view, but I want to turn to the evidence and opinions the other way and, at the same time, to keep my mind perfectly open. The other evidence is that some 12 other countries have 1026 abolished capital punishment, that six States of the United States of America have done the same, and the universal experience, I read, is that the murder rate has gone down afterwards. The danger of reasoning to conclusions which do not inevitably follow from the premises is not a danger that anyone need impress upon me. Every member of my profession has to learn that lesson, and to learn it fairly soon and sharply, if he is ever to convince anybody whom he wishes to convince.
Therefore, I listened with care and attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities when he dealt with this matter. I listened in order to detect, if I could, that differentiating factor in other countries which would make even the trial of this experiment unsafe in this country. I am bound to say that I did not hear it. I heard a good deal of generalisation about how different those other countries were in climate and outlook, and how there were no large cities with slums which, in fact, is not the case, because there are large cities with slums in Belgium and in Switzerland. Therefore, when the hon. Member for Oxford got up, knowing how he will face with courage every point which may tell against him, I thought that he would develop that point at some length; but he said not a word about it.
It is in these circumstances that, as one of these people who are not swayed by emotions upon this matter, I am called upon to give my vote. I want to do what is best for the country at large: so does everybody else in this House. In this matter sincerity does not reside solely on one side of the House or the other. Everybody wants to do what is best for the people. I imagine that nobody wants capital punishment for its own sake. Nobody wants to retain it except as a grim necessity. If we can get rid of it and of all the morbid associations which cluster round it, so much the better.
The question with which most of us are concerned is whether it is safe to do it. Approaching it in that view, how can I decide, when the universal experience of mankind wherever capital punishment has been abolished or suspended is that murders decrease, that I must vote against a similar experiment being tried in this country? I find it extremely difficult to square that with my conscience. I say to 1027 hon. Members in all parts of the House who perhaps have not made up their minds completely in this matter and who are willing to be swayed not by emotion, but by rational argument, that if the evidence available reasonably supports the view that the killing of fewer murderers will mean the killing of fewer victims, then, surely, it is our duty, before God and man, to give this change a trial.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Maude (Exeter)
I feel in some ways that it is an honour to follow the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester (Mr. Donovan). Obviously he has given great care to the matter. Perhaps he will allow me to say, and I hope that he will smile when I say it, that although we are of the same profession—and we shall not be suspected of being legalistic on this occasion—nevertheless I am inclined to think that possibly a practice in the law of Income Tax does not lead one to quite the same contact with murderers and other horrible people such as I experience in a much lower court.
§ Mr. Donovan
I would like to correct what I think is a popular fallacy. I have experience of the law of Income Tax but I have done a fair amount of criminal work and I sit occasionally as chairman of a criminal court.
§ Mr. Maude
The hon. and learned Member must not take me too seriously. I know of course, that he sits as a chairman of a criminal court. Nevertheless, I was trying to put myself on a rather lower standard. The hon. and learned Gentleman has talked of the Home Secretary having changed his mind—apparently he has—and we know to what he refers. I would like to say that I have changed my mind. Ever since this Bill was introduced I have thought about this matter very carefully with a sense of considerable responsibility. The House will realise that, so far as I and my colleagues are concerned—I do not think that it will affect the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, but it will certainly affect me —the probabilities are that, as the years go by, I shall have to take part in prosecutions for murder. I may be defending and I may be prosecuting. I have had that in mind, and I have thought it out.
I have made up my mind to vote tonight against this new Clause. I do that 1028 fully realising that time and time again in the future I shall remember that I have done that. I shall remember that, if in fact this new Clause does not come into force, when the black cap is put on and the death sentence is passed, I shall be partly responsible for it. It is important that I should understand that in my own mind and that I should not flinch from it. I have made up my mind that what I intend to do is right for several reasons. A change is now proposed. It is essential that those who propose the change should satisfy this House beyond all reasonable doubt that as a result of that change, and following that change, the situation will not deteriorate. It is up to them to satisfy us all conscientiously, with a feeling of at least the same responsibility as that with which I am faced in my profession—no less—that the position is not likely to deteriorate. I do not find that that is so.
Some hon. Members may possibly have been applying their minds, though not in great detail, to some of the literature that has been sent out to us on the subject, such as that which I received yesterday from the National Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty. It is unfortunate if any hon. Member has read, for instance, the passage there about how the Select Committee was appointed in 1929 and 1930 and how it recommended that a Bill should be introduced providing for the abolition of the death penalty for an experimental period of five years, if in fact the hon. Member has not had time—and he may well not have had time—to take the trouble to look at the Report of the Select Committee. He would have found, after a great deal of trouble, if he had looked at that Report, that the Committee divided hopelessly. Very nearly half the Committee, six Tory members, walked out of the Committee and had no part whatever in these recommendations, and the Liberal Party, as usual, divided. It came as a shock to me when I looked it up today. It is really misleading to think that an undivided Select Committee recommended anything of the sort.
In addition to that, I cannot help feeling that any of us who have had time to go through the Minutes of Evidence before the Select Committee on Capital Punishment would find that there is one witness, a man who was a humane and lovable being, Alexander Paterson, took another view. Alexander Paterson was a friend 1029 of the criminals, I believe, in the very best sense, and did as much as anyone I know to make changes which work for the better and for the best. He referred to one thing which was spoken of by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), the horrors of imprisonment. I do not believe that is well understood by the House. There are horrors of imprisonment, and I cannot do better than to quote Alexander Paterson. Before quoting, may I say that what is suggested is that instead of execution something is to take place which is very horrible indeed, Paterson says, in speaking of conditions of prison sentences:… I am inclined to view confinement in the twilight of prison life for 20 years or more as being grounds of humanity something worse than death itself. If the Committee so desire, I can illustrate this point.Indeed, so he did. It is perfectly true that some hon. Members have the idea that the period is to be 15 years, but it is an appalling state of affairs to be kept in prison for 15 years. Paterson also says:If so slight an alternative to the death sentence is considered to be lacking in deterrence, and terms of 20 years are inevitable, then the choice is between a penalty that destroys the physical life and one that will in the vast majority of cases permanently impair something more precious than the life of the physical body.I take those matters into account and I think it important that one should evaluate this thing correctly.
It is not right to go into the Division Lobby tonight with the feeling that murders are being committed by the hundred or thousand all over the country. The change which would be effected by this new Clause would in fact result in an average of 11 persons per year not being hanged. From 1939 to 1945 the figures show that an average of 11 per year were hanged. It is up to those proposing this new Clause to satisfy me that in fact there is no probability at all that as a result of taking away what I believe to be a great deterrent not even one, two or three more people are going to be murdered. That seems to be absolutely essential. I shoulder the responsibility in this matter although I loathe and detest and hate hanging, and I hate all the agitation. It will not help me professionally to say I hate murder cases and loathe them, and recently I have taken part in very few of them. I detest them, but I cannot 1030 help feeling it would be a very wicked thing for me if in fact I voted for something which I did not believe brought safety—
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow) rose—
§ Mr. Maude
I am sorry, I cannot give way—and found in fact that what I had done was to bring such a state of affairs into existence that there was an increase in the number of murders. I know that some hon. Members will never believe that, but I hope that some will be convinced at this late hour. I have not the slightest doubt that what are vulgarly called "the rope" and the "long drop"—all those things it is much better to speak of in these rather melodramatic terms—are feared by criminals, terribly feared by criminals. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said, practically in his opening sentence, that he could not understand why the death penalty should be a greater deterrent than any other. The answer surely is thatthat bourne from which no traveller returnsis very frightening indeed.
It is true that a lot of persons commit murders without having tried to reason the thing out, or to think what an appalling thing being hanged is, but I am certain that others are perfectly able to do so, and moreover do so. When I quote cases in which murders were committed by men, and women too, in spite of the death penalty, it is lunacy not to realise that there are almost certainly other persons of a like standard of mentality who have been deterred by something or other from committing murder. There was Dr. Crippen, Major Armstrong, Smith of the "Brides in the Bath" case, Fox, that awful murderer who evidentially smothered his mother and set the room on fire, Mrs. Bryant, whom I prosecuted with Sir Terence O'Connor and Sir Cyril Asquith—she poisoned her husband with three doses of arsenic—the "cleft chin" murder, Field and Gray who murdered Irene Munroe on The Crumbles.
People are inclined to think only of the persons who are caught, and they stop thinking about the victims. After all, all these persons were absolutely worthless persons. No evil was done to this world so far as I know by any one person being hanged in all the 25 years I have been at the Bar. I cannot think of one individual by whose hanging the community 1031 really genuinely suffered a loss. May I put the matter in this way—think of the thousands who are killed in traffic accidents people who are really worth while, and by whose death we suffer a tremendous loss. Here we are considering the possibility of hanging each year 11 absolutely worthless people who thoroughly deserve what they get. What does a man deserve who puts a British soldier up against a wall and shoots him with his back turned? What does he deserve? Justice surely says, "If in fact you are killed you have nothing to complain of, justice is done." Justice has been done to those people.
The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) mentioned Norway, Belgium, Holland and Denmark, and pointed out that the death penalty has been abolished there, and it has been abolished recently. What happened in those four countries was that the last execution in Holland was in 1860, the last in Belgium in 1863, the last in Norway in 1875, and the last in Denmark in 1892. So what had been happening was that as the years went by the death penalty had been allowed to go into abeyance gradually. That has been the experience of this country. It has gradually been going into abeyance—gradually coming down and down. We feel our way gradually.
Scant justice has been done to the present Home Secretary who was reviled, I think, by the hon. Member for Devizes for not being a great and reforming Home Secretary by not being in favour of this Clause. Having watched the question of reprieve, I am inclined to think that we have a Home Secretary who has nothing to be ashamed of—although he can never blow his own trumpet about it, his lips are sealed—in the way he reprieves after convictions of murder. There has been progress in this matter through medical aid, through the mental specialists and so on, and gradually I believe we shall abolish the penalty, but not now. Alexander Paterson again put the position in a very good way when he said, at the end of the recommendations, that what he would like to see was not the abolition but the power to hang gradually falling into abeyance.
These are the things which chiefly affect me in this matter. I know there are many other points, and one can speak for a 1032 long time, but may I finish with one other point? This Bill contains something which has filled me with considerable alarm. Persistent offenders are now going to be faced with being in prison for the long term of 14 years. I must confess that among those persons whom I interview as clients some were extremely unpleasant and violent people of the worst type. I fear that the moment will come when if, in fact, there is no question of the rope and a man has a long record and he knows he is due for 14 years he will get just the term we think is right now for persons who have been reprieved. I understand they do not stop there for life: they stay for something like 14 years.
People may think it is worth while to kill. I believe if we want to do what is right, we should allow the system to go on as it is now. Let the Home Secretary have his Clause in this Bill: let us try the new method of dealing with persistent offenders and let him have at the present time at the back of him the force that every mother's son knows, not only "Thou shalt not kill" but "If you do you will yourself be killed—and justly so."
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
In his argument the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) used two propositions, if I understand him. The first is the fairly commonplace argument that on the whole it is more kindly to the murderer to retain capital punishment because the alternative of 20 years' imprisonment —or 15 years, as it may be, subject to good conduct—is too high. That, of course, is the very well-known argument; it is the old argument that one hunts the fox really to oblige the fox.
His second argument was that capital punishment was a deterrent, because the average murderer was more in fear of capital punishment than he was in fear of the alternative of long-term imprisonment. It seems to me that those two arguments completely cancel out one another. I have a very great personal regard for the hon. and learned Member for Exeter and I do not wish to say anything discourteous about him, but the only other proposition he established was that he disagreed with his clientele. I must say he has been rather unfortunate in his contacts in the exercise of his professional career.
§ Mr. Hale
I was assuming that the hon. and learned Member was. The hon. and learned Member compared his experiences with those of the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester (Mr. Donovan) and perhaps I may venture in quite a humble and unassuming way to compare my own personal experiences with his. I belong to that branch of the profession which generally happens to come into first personal contact with all classes and who has to deal with them on the basis of their being human beings, has to see them and interview them under prison conditions, and I know something of this problem on its personal basis.
The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) in a speech which was obviously sincere, argued the matter on the basis of the sanctity of human life. He argued it, taking one sentence, and an isolated sentence, from the speech of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), but the case was not argued from that point of view. I want to argue the case on the basis of public morality and public ethics, and the effect that the retention of this barbarous principle has on the people associated with it—the people who read about it, the people now in contact with it, our children and our populace generally. In my experience, from the very moment that a man is arrested on a capital charge he becomes a thing apart. He is separately treated and dealt with, and it is almost impossible to talk over the matter with him at all on ordinary terms. It is almost impossible to deal with him on the basis that he is a human being. One might very well have some idea from the facts of the case about the number of his days, and one can number them with some accuracy because one knows just what is going to happen.
As hon. and learned Members opposite know, he is virtually a hospital patient from the time he is in prison, and from the moment he is sentenced he is watched by two warders who loathe their job—and have loathed it year after year and who have given their evidence before Commissions time after time. They often say that in those days they establish something like friendship with the prisoner, sitting chatting with him through 1034 those long, worrying and dark hours. Those are the-men who have to help to drag him to the scaffold, to tear his shirt open, seeing if his heart is heating—ghoulish things which ought to go with the rack and the thumbscrew into the limbo of things we should forget.
Nuremberg has been mentioned. I do not complain. I want to say frankly that I have much agreement with the views expressed. It may well be that none of us has the right to criticise who did not criticise at the time. In some measure, Nuremberg was a tribute to public indignation and public lust for vengeance, but in connection with this it is right to remember what happened in Belgium. Many years ago they abolished capital punishment, but they have reinstated death—by shooting—in respect only of war crimes for the collaborator and the quisling. That cannot be justified on the ground of any argument about a deterrent effect. There is no question about wanting to deter people from collaborating in any future war in which one's country may be involved. This is a kind of yielding—and one can understand the yielding—to popular sentiment of the moment, to popular lust for vengeance, and the indignation to which the populace is subject.
In my respectful submission, it is no argument in this case. I would accept what the hon. Member for Oxford says about figures, but I do suggest to him that it is unfair, on the one hand, to say we must disregard figures because they do not convey very much and to say, on the other hand, we must yield to the blandishments of the Home Secretary, who is going to base his argument for retention of the penalty on the crime figures in the last year or two. The hon. Member is looking a little dubious about the proposition I have made; I am hoping we shall have an opportunity of hearing the point on the Floor of the House. So far as I understood the matter, that is the only case that has been made by its supporters. I would disagree with the hon. and learned Member for Exeter in one important respect —it is wrong to say that the onus is upon us to justify an alteration in the law in this respect.
What is the proposition before the House? The proposition before the House is that we should carry out the recommendation of the Select Committee. After 1035 all, it was a unanimous recommendation of everybody who voted. It is quite true, and I do not want to deny the fact, that the whole of the Members from one side in the Committee went out after a disagreement with the Chairman and did not record their votes. However, it was a unanimous vote of the majority of that Committee, including independent Members. There would have been a majority in any event. Therefore, the Report was a favourable Report. We are suggesting today that we should carry out the recommendation of that Committee. It can be suspended at any time. It is open to suspension. [Interruption.] There was no minority report. The recommendation, if we carry it out, can be suspended at any time.
§ Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)
I think J am the only Member in the House who was one of those who went out, and, therefore, I should like to say that the reason we went out was that, there having been a suggestion that there should be a minority report, the Chairman gave the casting vote in deciding that there should not be.
§ Mr. Hale
I certainly understand that, and it is exactly as it appears in the Report of the Select Committee. The only point I am making, however, is that the majority of Members of that Committee in fact did unanimously report in favour of this proposal. It is a modest proposal. It does not involve any permanence. It can be altered at any time. It merely suggests that this important social and ethical experiment should be tried. After all, this is no sudden inspiration from the "Keep Left" group, nor is it a new Socialist nostrum. This great social proposal has occupied the attention of our social reformers for upwards of a century. In 1840 there were 90 Members of the House who were prepared to vote in favour of the abolition of capital punishment. That was in the bad old days of public executions, whenThousands of hearts beat horrid hope,Thousands of eyeballs lit with Hell,Turned one vi ay all to see the ropeUnslacken as the platform fell.The hon. Member for Oxford shakes his head. I am glad he does if he feels the horror of that scene as we do. It is right to do so if we loathe this thing, if this inspires us with detestation, 1036 and induces us to turn our heads away from it, and not to look at the hangman and his apparatus, and not to think of the chaplain chanting his psalm as he accompanies the half dead man to the scaffold. If we feel this horror then that is the real reason for abolishing it.
I believe there is an important aspect of the matter which has remained quite untouched yet in this Debate. In the average prison today there are many hundreds of people incarcerated who are not by any means all criminals, or all of the type of persons about whom the hon. and learned Member for Exeter spoke. Many of them are people who have refused to pay affiliation orders, people who have quarrelled with their wives and refused to keep them, people who have refused to comply with orders to pay debts. The unanimous testimony of all the experienced prison officials associated with this matter is that, by some curious telepathy, from the moment the condemned cell is occupied everybody in the prison knows it. As the people in the prison see the condemned man sitting between two warders in the chapel, everybody realises that this may be that man's last Sunday of his life. I have been assured by a lady who had been serving some time in prison—who ought, in my opinion never to have been there—that the most horrible recollection of her life was seeing a condemned man sitting alone, isolated in the chapel. That was in the presence of women in the prison in the last five years.
From that moment the whole prison population knows what is happening. They all suffer in consequence. They hear the scaffold being knocked up. On the very day that the execution takes place there is no chapel and no exercise that morning, and they know precisely why, and what is happening. The unanimous testimony of governors of prisons, including the former Governor of Pentonville himself, is that the effect on the prison population is disastrous in the extreme. The men undergo suffering, acute suffering; they suffer neurosis, and moral horror intensified by their very imprisonment. On the night before an execution the accused man sleeps—some accused men do—but if he does he is usually the only person in the whole of the prison who does.
I have said that this is a matter which has been associated with many names— 1037 with the names of Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, John Bright, Thomas Hardy, Victor Hugo—great names in literature, great names in politics. This has been a great campaign. Many of us who have de voted many years of thought and study to this matter, and many of us who feel more sincerely, perhaps, on this issue than on many issues, and do approach it, perhaps with a certain fanaticism—the fanaticism begotten of holding strong views for many years—have looked forward to this day with very real hope that at long last the efforts of those pioneers, and the efforts of those people who have devoted many hours in many weeks during many years to this campaign, would at last be rewarded. We were hoping that there would be a free vote of the whole House, a vote according to the consciences of Members. I am still hoping to hear that there will be, and I should be glad to hear that now. I should be glad to hear that the Whips on the Conservative side will not be put on, and that on the Conservative side there will be freedom to vote according to conscience.
§ Mr. Hale
I am very grateful for that assurance. Then the position remains as I understand it, subject to the announcement of the Home Secretary that everybody is free to vote according to his conscience, except members of the Government, most of whom have committed themselves in the past to the abolition of capital punishment. I appreciate the difficulties, and no one of us has any wish to say anything embarrassing on this point. However, I would say that it may be that when the idealism of the forties gives way to the empiricism of the sixties, there will be solid ground for thinking the forties were right, there will be solid ground for thinking the sixties wrong; there may even be solid ground for considering that the attitude of Ministers on this question now, in this matter of progressive idealism, is as much a subject for medical explanation—an explanation of their change of mind on this matter—as the mentality of the criminals whom we are so anxious to reform by remedial treatment.
One speaker—and only one—has said that those of us in favour of reform forget the victims of murderers and the injustice 1038 done to the injured feelings of bereaved relatives deprived of breadwinners, husbands or fathers. That is not my experience. It is my experience that the decency of human nature rises above these considerations. One of the most horrible and most senseless of political crimes ever committed was the Phoenix Park murders, when Burke and Lord Frederick Cavendish were murdered in Dublin. Burke's sister, who was a nun, actually ministered to the condemned men in prison, while the principal accused went to the scaffold holding an ivory crucifix presented to him by Lady Frederick Cavendish. We ask today that, in that sense of nobility, hon. Members should approach this problem, and give this great proposal a trial, in the interests of human decency, morality and progress. If we try it and it fails, we need not blame ourselves for having made a great experiment.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
It is not easy to follow the moving speech of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale), but this is a subject which has many aspects, and must be spoken on in many different tones. I am not, like the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. J. Paton), a hot partisan in this matter. On the contrary, I have always been deeply impressed with the complexity of the question. Though I think that, in the main, my convictions have remained steady, there have been times when some event has a little shaken me, when I began to wonder whether men generally wiser than myself were not wiser than myself in this respect. But tonight I am a convinced supporter of this Motion. I listened with profound interest to the very impressive speech made by the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), and I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber at this moment, because there are one or two points which he made on which I desire to comment.
First, let me say something about a suggestion made by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude). He has said that it devolves on the supporters of the Motion to convince the House that if it be adopted the position will not deteriorate. Anyone who asks that is asking the impossible. When an experiment is tried the result can never be predicted 1039 with irrefragable certainty. We can only point to experience of other countries; and I think that the hon. and learned Member went a little far, as has already been said, in discounting the experience of so many countries where the death penalty has been abolished. I agree at once that that experience is not conclusive; but, on the other hand, it is by no means negligible. It at the very least creates a presumption —and in my mind a very strong presumption—that we could abolish the death penalty without any evil consequences following.
The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities made one or two remarks which seemed to me extremely dubious. He quoted—as I gathered with full approval—a remark by Sir Archibald Bodkin to the effect that the law of this country could not swing to and fro; that it was built up by a steady and stable body of opinion. I am no lawyer, but I have always supposed that the law of this country had been built up by a continuous and progressive series of amendments and reforms. If that doctrine of Sir Archibald Bodkin's were to be accepted, we, as Members of Parliament, might as well spend three months in this House and nine months on vacation, because it is to legislative measures—the making and changing of laws—that our time is largely devoted.
I was much more concerned with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the difficulty of finding any substitute for capital punishment. In that connection I was not clear whether he was implying anything regarding the views of Sir Alexander Paterson—whom I had known for so long—on the subject of capital punishment. I should be very sorry to think that the House assumed, without a definite statement to that effect, that Sir Alexander was in favour of the retention of capital punishment. That, however, is by the way. The right hon. Gentleman said: "You send a man to prison for 15 years instead of hanging him, and at the end of 15 years this dangerous murderer will be launched upon the community again." He referred to 15 years as a short period. I suppose he was speaking relatively, because it seems to be a very considerable period. I would point out that it is so long a period that no one can predict what will be the state of a 1040 man's mind 15 years, or even 10 years hence; and all the reformative value of prison will stand for nothing if he comes out the same man that he went in.
But there is much more to it than that. What distinction is to be drawn on the ground of either morality—if such a word can be used in such a connection—or public danger between a man who successfully attempts murder and a man who unsuccessfully attempts it. The logic of the situation appears to me perfectly clear: either we should hang the man who unsuccessfully attempts murder, or we should refrain from hanging the man who successfully attempts murder. The motive is the same; the endeavour is the same; and the danger to the community is the same when the man is released from prison at the end of 15 years. Indeed, I would say that the danger from the actual murderer was less, because he would have had something preying on his mind, and he would be more likely to change in those 10 or 15 years than the man who atempted the murder but had not the guilt of a corpse upon his conscience.
During this Debate we have agreed that everything comes down to the question whether capital punishment is indispensable as a deterrent. Apart from that, the ground can be quickly cleared. To take human life by violence is, as we are all agreed, a horrible and hideous crime. To take human life by due process of the law is still horrible and still hideous, and can be justified only if no other possible alternative offers. I am bound to say that in a measure so reformative as this, and with a Home Secretary so imbued with the spirit of reform, it is a grave matter that capital punishment should be retained. We stand here on the threshold of the unknown. We cannot know what possibilities of repentance and reform exist beyond the grave. There is an awful finality in death. We must confine ourselves within the limits of what we do know and ask ourselves whether we should so treat a man that this possibility of repentance and reform should be taken from him by hanging him, or whether we should send him to prison so that at any rate the possibility remains.
We have been told that we who support the Motion are thinking only of the murderer and not of the victim. Well, the victim, unhappily, is dead: there is nothing to be done for the victim. The 1041 murderer remains, and the problem of his treatment remains with us. As the hon. Member for Oldham has so impressively reminded us, the whole atmosphere and appurtenances of the execution are horrible and demoralising to all concerned. And not the least that awful time of waiting and watching by warders, day and night, of every movement, almost every thought, until the moment of execution comes. It is not going too far, I think, to describe that as judicial barbarism.
Once again the question presents itself: is it essential to do that in order that the community may be protected? Before we answer that question finally it is desirable to consider the scale of murder in this country. The last thing one could desire is to make light of murder, or of the gravity of the crimes committed in our midst. But I ask hon. Members to consider certain figures. In 1937, 87 people died by murder, and in the same year 6,633 were killed on the roads of this land—and the extinction was just as final and irrevocable in the one case as in the other. In the one case, no doubt there is dramatisation: a child of eight is murdered, and may get a full column on the front page of the newspapers. In the other, three lines are sufficient to record that a child of eight was knocked down by a lorry on the Great West Road, and died of injuries shortly afterwards. In 1946, 150 people died by murder, and 5,062 people were killed on the roads.
But for a moment let us look at the question from another angle: We have been reminded how few the executions are. In 1947, in England and Wales there were 27 executions; in 1946, there were 30. In other words, if capital punishment had not existed in 1946 and 1947, 57 men would be in prison today, alive, who are now dead. Can it be argued that the fact that those 57 men have been hanged makes all the difference to the security of this community in the future? I find it very hard to believe that. Capital punishment may be claimed as a deterrent, and this can be argued to and fro and up and down, according to every point of view, without reaching a conclusion. The satisfaction required by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter cannot be given. There is only one way of putting this matter to the proof, and that is by experiment. 1042 That, surely, is justification for the Motion?
In this Motion there seem to me to be great possibilities and no considerable dangers. Were the Motion accepted, I cannot imagine that when this Bill is on the Statute Book the number of murders would suddenly leap up. If that happened, if, for example, the number were doubled, the remedy lies in Parliament's own hands. What Parliament has done Parliament can undo. There is no need for the experiment to run for the full five years if that becomes obviously to the public danger. No Home Secretary could come to the House and tell us that the number of murders had been doubled, and not be able to get the House to agree to the revocation of this Motion. The record of this House in this matter has been consistent and honourable. The vast number of capital offences which existed in the 18th and 19th centuries has been gradually reduced, and tonight there is a chance to crown all that has been done by our predecessors here. I trust most earnestly that hon. Members, in the exercise of their free vote, will make that consummation possible.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
The compelling reason which induces me to trespass tonight on the patience of the House is that, while I am a supporter of this Clause which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and other hon. Members, I feel that my position and motives are perhaps rather different from those of some of the hon. Members with whom I am associated in supporting it. I cannot claim any of the fanaticism in regard to this matter which has been confessed or proclaimed by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale), and which has shone forth in the very eloquent speeches made by himself, by the hon. Members for Norwich (Mr. J. Paton), Nelson and Colne, and others. I do not take the view that it is necessarily wrong, on religious or other grounds, to forfeit life for taking life. I would not support any Clause which proposed the total, irrevocable abolition of the death sentence, and if this Clause is carried and becomes incorporated in the law of the country, I shall approach the question in five years' time with a completely open mind as to whether the ex- 1043 perimental period should be continued, or whether it should be revoked and we should return to the present situation.
I would not necessarily have advocated in ordinary circumstances the suspension even of the death penalty before the introduction of the Criminal Justice Bill, but I feel most strongly—and this is my prime and cardinal reason for supporting this Clause—that it would be extremely illogical in the present situation not to suspend the death sentence. After all, the House is committed not merely to the suspension of corporal punishment, but to its abolition. I cannot see that this House should, in these circumstances, logically deny even the suspension of capital punishment.
In my view, capital punishment has a higher claim than corporal punishment to the attention of the House, for two main reasons. First, the range of offences to which the penalty of capital punishment applies, and the number of instances in which it is inflicted, are both appreciably less than in the case of corporal punishment. I see from the Command Paper on criminal statistics for England and Wales that 172 sentences to corporal punishment were imposed in the seven years from 1939 to 1945 by the assize courts, and a far greater number of sentences to whipping by the magistrates' courts, whereas, in the comparable period, only 82 executions were carried out in respect of sentences imposing the death penalty. I submit it is clear from that that the danger to the community of a wrong decision is much less in the case of suspension of the death penalty than it would be in the case of corporal punishment. That being so, it seems that the House is bound in logic to make this experiment with regard to the death penalty.
The other reason which brought me to my present conclusion is the unique nature of capital punishment. Briefly, the object of punishment—I believe it is commonly agreed—is partly deterrent and partly reformative, and the degree to which these two aspects of punishment apply varies according to the state of civilisation. In a very primitive society the deterrent element must be predominant, and in a near-Utopian society the reformative aspect, in the few cases which would arise, would be the predominating 1044 factor. We are in an intermediate state, and we must have regard both to the deterrent and to the reformative aspects.
It is quite clear that capital punishment is in a class of its own, since we cannot take cognisance of the reformative factor, because capital punishment is obviously a form of punishment which totally denies to the person punished any opportunity for subsequent reformation. Therefore, it has always been recognised as sui generis, or, in ordinary parlance, a unique form of punishment. It seems that the suspension of capital punishment should, in logic, precede and not follow the abolition of corporal punishment. If the question were open, then different considerations might apply, but as it is not, and as the House is committed on the question of corporal punishment, I consider that the Home Secretary has no logical answer to the suggestion that capital punishment should be suspended for an experimental period. Therefore, I shall go into the Lobby in support of this Clause.
§ 7.7 P.m.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
The first important point to note is that this issue has never been pursued on party lines. Every time this matter has been before the House over a period of more than 100 years, the House has always hesitated to come to a decision in regard to the abolition of capital punishment. That is very important, because here is an issue in which political matters are not concerned, but where the individual brings his judgment to bear on the subject and has an opportunity to decide for himself and act accordingly. In 1938, when the former Criminal Justice Bill was before this House, a provision to abolish capital punishment was not included. The matter had been very carefully considered previously by a Select Committee. In 1938, times were much more favourable for the experiment than now. Notwithstanding that, the House came to a decision that it was unwise, because the case had not been made out sufficiently strong, to remove the death penalty.
As I understand the case being put forward in favour of the Clause, it is that it is seeking to do something based upon the recommendations of the Select Committee of 193o. As has been pointed out, that is not at all correct. There was a very sharp 1045 division, as anyone who has studied the evidence knows, among the Members composing that Select Committee. The recommendation is not one which for that and other considerations has much validity at all for the purpose of arriving at a decision in this Debate. It is true that the Select Committee had evidence before it as to what had happened in other countries, where the death penalty had been abrogated. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Donovan) said he was rather sorry that the Home Secretary had not already taken part in the Debate, so that he could have shown us why the position here should be any different from what the evidence showed it was in other countries.
That leaves out a very important present element. The prevailing crime situation in the country makes it absolutely imperative that this House should not only act with the greatest care, but should see that nothing it does in any way in present circumstances weakens the sanction of criminal punishment. The first duty of this House is to protect the public. Sentiment is all very well in this matter; I do not think there is anyone here who does not feel repugnance at the taking of life, but I am equally certain that there is no one who does not feel repugnance at the acts of murderers who take innocent lives. But that is not the immediate issue. What we have to decide is how the public can be protected to the maximum degree, and whether any step we may take might weaken that protection.
Let us see what happens every day in the courts. It is no use trying to discount what the judges say. If this House puts upon the judges the obligation of punishing crime and protecting the public, then it is in duty bound to listen to the advice and experience of those judges. Every day of the week judges are declaring from the bench that crimes of violence are increasing, that the carrying of firearms is becoming increasingly a menace to life, and that they will have to inflict very severe penalties on criminals who commit that sort of crime.
In those circumstances, and having regard to the unsettled state of the country, which, everyone admits, is leading to serious crime—and this is largely due to the effect of the war; everyone realises that respect for life and property has become very much less since the war— 1046 we must take all this into account when we are being asked to lessen and weaken the sanctions of criminal punishment. The Home Office, at this moment, are opposing the abolition of capital punishment because of these very reasons. The Home Secretary has been chided because his support has undergone a change. Previously he was a supporter of abolition; now he is not. It has been said by my Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) that the only argument that remains in favour of abolition is that it is inopportune. He rather criticised my right hon. Friend for his change of front on that account, but I believe that that is one of the strongest arguments put before this House for opposing abolition of capital punishment. In the light of the increase in crime in the country, to say that that grave factor is not a decisive matter to be taken into consideration is surely a statement bordering on irresponsibility.
When the evidence was given before the Select Committee which is relied upon so much now, there were no fewer than 19 official witnesses out of 23 who then defended the retention of capital punishment. That must be taken into account, along with the other reasons, in addition, that have not so far been mentioned. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that capital punishment goes. What will follow? We shall substitute for it what is called life imprisonment. What does that mean, in practice? It has been said in the Debate that it means something like 15 years in prison. As a matter of fact, I think it will be found that the average at present is more like 12 years. I think, too, that it will be found that there are many cases where detention has been for an even less period. Let us see in that case where we get. Everyone agrees that imprisonment for longer than 12 years destroys physical life. I say to the House that if we are to get rid of capital punishment we have no right to substitute for it a slower and more refined form of the death penalty. If punishment in prison is made to extend beyond 12 years it destroys physical life, and if we did that we should be doing something which, I submit, this House ought not to countenance.
Let us see what happens. A man who commits a murder will get, say, 12 years' penal servitude. Let us then look at some 1047 Other crimes, because in inflicting punishment we must have a sense of proportion. We cannot say that for murder, which is the worst of all crimes, a man must be given 12 years' imprisonment, and that for a lesser crime a man must be given the same term of imprisonment. For crimes like burglary, housebreaking, forgery, larceny, robbery, or even breaking into premises not dwelling houses, imprisonment may be up to a term of 14 years. Surely, there is no sense of proportion between an act of murder and any crime in any one of these other categories. To say that for the crime of murder a man should receive no more punishment than another would receive for a serious case of burglary, housebreaking, forgery, or a crime of that sort cannot be right. At this time, when there is an increase in crime, what we would be bound to do in those circumstances would be to revise the whole scales of criminal punishment, because the public would not put up with a murderer getting only 12 years' imprisonment and another man receiving the same penalty for a lesser crime.
Take one or two other examples. There are certain crimes in respect of which the punishment allocated is expressly penal servitude for life, for instance, manslaughter. Surely, the House is not going to be asked to put manslaughter in the same category as murder. If a man in an impulse of temper, or in a brawl of some kind, slays another man, surely that is an entirely different type of crime' from stark murder. Therefore, we cannot put manslaughter in the same category, yet the punishment for manslaughter is penal servitude for life.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth) rose—
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
Let me continue. There is no point in the hon. Member jumping up and down like a jack-in-the-box on the slightest point.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
That is the maximum punishment for manslaughter, and 12 years is now proposed to be in practice, the maximum punishment for murder, or it may even be less. The hon. Member, like myself is a member of a very honourable profession, and I am sure that he is not going to argue that these maximum punishments mean nothing—that they are 1048 merely put there, not intended to be used. They are there as a deterrent, to be used in a proper case.
The penalty in the cases I have referred to is 14 years and that cannot be denied. It is no use trying to make the point that 14 years mean nothing, because the answer to that is, "why is it there then." The hon. Member's suggestion only brings the law into disrepute. Even in the case of attempted murder, the penalty is penal servitude for life, and if an officer of the Bank of England commits a grave act of embezzlement, the punishment of penal servitude for life may be inflicted. It may be that, to some extent, these are sentences which, in the ordinary way, are not often carried out. But, at the same time, we would have to revise them, if we ask the House to get rid of the supreme sanction which the death penalty imposes and put in its place a sentence of penal servitude for life. That to my mind is a very important consideration. We would have to revise the whole scale of punishments.
I wonder whether this House is really prepared, and whether the country would desire the House at a time when crimes of violence are increasing, and firearms are more and more being carried by criminals, to revise the whole scale of criminal punishment? I do not think that would be endured for a moment. But that is what the House is facing. If we remove the penalty of capital punishment, and we put murder on the same punishment basis as other categories of much lesser crime, that is what the House is facing, and we cannot get away from it. It is really no use trying to argue on the matter because it is far too plain for any possible argument. That is a consideration that has not been put before the House yet, and I certainly put it forward with all the force I can.
I would like to say a word on the argument that capital punishment is said to be no deterrent. In my submission, that begs the whole question. It has been said that we cannot say whether it is a deterrent or not, because unless one tries it, one cannot demonstrate it. That may be, but there is also another point to be enforced. We know the number of people who have committed murder in spite of the penalty of capital punishment, but we do not know the number of people who have not dared 1049 to commit murder because of it. Are we being asked, in the face of that, to run the risk of removing the penalty of capital punishment, just to find out how this works? To my mind, that seems to be an utterly irresponsible thing to ask this House to do. At a time like this, when crime is rampant and the judges every day of the week are pointing this out to the country, and warning criminals, to come to the House now and ask us to do this seems to me to be completely and totally wrong. It has been said, and I humbly agree, that the onus is upon those who want, at a time like this, to remove that sanction, to satisfy the House beyond any reasonable doubt that that can be done with safety. There is no doubt about it, that unless the House is so satisfied it could not safely do it. I sincerely ask the House to consider whether any practical convincing argument has been put forward today by any of the advocates for the removal of capital punishment that is strong enough to satisfy us, in the discharge of our grave duty to the country, to vote tonight for the abolishment of capital punishment. I have not heard any such argument.
It has been mentioned that, in any case, not many people are hanged. That is true. It is not a question of the number of people who are hanged, but of the effect which this has on the rest of the community not to commit murder and not to be hanged. Every possible provision is made in practice to meet cases where there are proper circumstances in which hanging ought not to take place. For instance, anyone under 18 years of age is not hanged. The Home Secretary, in the present Bill, is seeking to reform the law, so that when a person under i8 commits a murder, it does not affect the matter if he is over that age at the time of the jury's verdict. The position at present, I think, is that if he is over that age at the time of the verdict he can be hanged. To that extent the Home Secretary is seeking to reform the law, so that no one under i8 years shall be hanged. Anyone of low mental condition is not hanged. Anyone who has any defect of reason at all is either considered by the Home Office and reprieved, or, when he or she has been before the court, the verdict is brought in of "guilty but insane." I do not think that there has been a single case of a person who is entitled to exemption on the ground of 1050 some defect of mind having been hanged in modern times.
We also have cases of manslaughter and cases of drunkards so drunk that they do not know what they are doing at the time of the crime, and they come into the same position as mentally irresponsible people; they are not hanged We also have the juries recommendations for mercy. There are many cases of recommendation for mercy which are taken into consideration by the Home Office. We also have other cases in which there are special circumstances and the Home Office, or the Home Secretary, looks at all the facts, and, if there are any good reasons why the supreme penalty should not be carried out, there is a reprieve. Having regard to those circumstances, and to the propaganda of the National Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty in whose literature they admit an increase in crime and how dangerous it is now because criminals are on the increase, and having regard to the point about revising the whole code of criminal punishments, I shall go into the lobby tonight to vote against the new Clause,
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Kendall (Grantham)
The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) said that no case has been made out for the new Clause. I think it will be agreed that the speech of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) was an ably delivered and considered speech. I cannot improve upon the arguments which have been put forward by the hon. Members for Nelson and Colne, Oldham (Mr. Hale) and Norwich (Mr. Paton). They were extremely good arguments. However, I wish to address myself to those hon. Members who oppose the new Clause, and in particular to the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), who said that he had a tremendous horror of capital punishment. He did not say what was responsible for that feeling of horror. I do not know whether the reason is that he does not like this form of extreme penalty, or whether it is because hanging is a brutal thing.
If all the facts of this form of the extreme penalty were known to the hon. Gentleman and others who are opposed to the Clause, I wonder whether they themselves would not wish to abolish capital 1051 punishment and get something more humane. If the death penalty is a deterrent, I would ask the hon. Member for Oxford and those who oppose the Clause whether they would be in favour of having public hangings in public squares where people could witness them. If the hon. Member were to say that he would be agreeable to such a course, he would have a case for saying that there is some element of deterrence in capital punishment, but I cannot imagine that he or others who oppose the Clause would agree that hangings should be public so that men, women and children could watch them. If hanging is so brutal and barbarous, surely those hon. Members should support this Clause to abolish the extreme penalty for a trial period of five years. I do not know whether any hon. Member has personally ever been present or participated at a hanging. I have not, and I am sure that I would not wish to do so in any circumstances.
I am sorry that we shall not have an expression of opinion from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this Debate. It is wrong that he should not take part in the Debate and express his profound convictions and beliefs. It is equally wrong that the Prime Minister, who, I am given to understand, in 1934 or thereabout, presented a petition asking for the reprieve of a murderer, should not take part in this Debate. There are others, too, including the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, who should be here to express their opinions. Instead, we have had a former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), expressing the official position of those at the Home Office. We shall have the present Home Secretary expressing his opinion; presumably, it will be the official position—
§ Mr. Kendall
I certainly accept that correction without any question, but, if I understood him correctly, the Home Secretary did say a short time ago that he himself was in favour of the abolition of capital punishment but that now was not the opportune time. I believe I am 1052 correct in understanding that to be his sentiment.
§ Mr. Ede indicated assent.
§ Mr. Kendall
Surely, we are no worse, as a race of people, than those on the Continent. Surely, we have a responsibility as great as that of the Belgians, the Danes, the Soviet Union and other Continental countries who have abolished capital punishment. If it is right to abolish it, we should take this opportunity to do so. The Clause should not have been in the name of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne and his hon. Friends, supported by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) and others. It should have been tabled by the Home Secretary and many of his colleagues, in view of the sentiments which they have expressed. It should not have been left to back benchers to bring forward this tremendous reform which is so badly needed, and it should not be opposed, as it will be opposed, by the Home Secretary and members of the Government who are not to be allowed a free vote. I think that is a shameful act on the part of this Government, and one that should be severely criticised.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Georǵe Porter (Leeds, Central)
In entering into this discussion for a few moments, I feel like the man who, at an Evangelical meeting, has been given an opportunity of speaking from the body of the hall; because, while I am not for one moment desirous of giving the same expression of opinion as that coming from the platform, I am still very proud at being allowed to make my contribution. I, like the man at that Evangelical meeting, speak not as a convert, but as one who has supported the cause all his life.
I have been a supporter at the abolition of the death penalty ever since I began to reason. My great uncle was governor of Kirkdale gaol in Liverpool. My mother became a wardress in that particular gaol. She went there, I suppose, with the intention of making that her job until she would meet some individual whom she would marry as, indeed, she did eventually meet my father. She carried on her job and her duties until the time came for her to take her turn attending as a wardress at a hanging. That finished my mother's career as a responsible officer in that gaol It was 1053 not because she had seen a hanging or that she knew anything pertaining to the actual hanging, but she had seen the results on other officers of attendance at previous hangings.
The only reason I want to intervene in this Debate is because I feel that the actual carrying out of the penalty of hanging is a crime against humanity and a crime against the social conscience of the whole nation. Not only that, but the nation as a nation realises it is a crime against the social conscience, because, when it has been decided that a man or woman has to hang, provision is made whereby that individual shall be given every opportunity to fit himself or herself for what these people in their hypocritical religious ideas believe is the hereafter. They send a minister to prepare the individual for the hereafter. If the person about to be hanged belongs to the Orthodox Church, the minister follows him to the scaffold repeating portions of the burial service from the Prayer Book, including the phrase, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," but in using that phrase the minister knows that at that very moment he is lying. The people who are taking away the life of that individual are the community of which he happens to be a member.
As one who does not pretend to be a criminologist, as one who does not pretend to have any special qualifications to take part in this Debate, but who has very sincere beliefs in regard to the matter under discussion, I approach the subject from the point of view of the social conscience of the people, and I say that those who claim to have religious, humanitarian or other convictions on this matter can do no other than support the new Clause, for which I shall vote tonight.
§ 7.44 P.m.
§ Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)
We have heard several allusions during this Debate to the Select Committee on Capital Punishment which sat in 1930, but I am the first member of that Committee to address the House on this new Clause, which I do entirely as a matter of duty. When I was a member of the Select Committee, I was a new boy in the House—it is some time ago—and I did not want particularly to go on to 1054 that Select Committee. There were many others like myself who did not have any particular interest in the question, but they were asked to be members, and they could not see that they had any good reason for refusing.
The interesting thing about the Debate tonight, and about the whole question, is the crusading fervour of those sincere people who wish to abolish capital punishment. There were on the Committee quite a number of those, including the chairman, the Reverend Mr. Barr. If he did not obtain the agreement of the members of the Committee, he obtained their affection. There were quite a number who asked to be put on to the Committee because of their interest in the subject of capital punishment, and anyone interested in capital punishment has an interest in its abolition. Those who speak, as I am speaking now, in the other sense, are doing so out of a sense of duty to those who, in their opinion, would be put in jeopardy of their lives, if this particular form of punishment were abolished. I do not enjoy making this speech. I speak in order to give such assistance as I can.
This is what happened in the Select Committee. A report was finally prepared by Mr. Barr recommending what one might shortly call the terms of this new Clause. Those members of the Select Committee who did not agree and did not think it was safe to suspend the operation of capital punishment at that period moved that an alternative report should be prepared for consideration. It was understood that the alternative report would not recommend a suspension of capital punishment. I may add that the Committee sat in the days of the 1929 Labour Government. The proposal in regard to the alternative report was put to a vote and the voices were equally divided. The chairman gave his casting vote in favour of the Motion that there should be no alternative to his report. Therefore, those of us who disagreed with that left the Committee, and took no further part in it.
§ Mr. J. Paton
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it was open to the dissenting members, for a period of over five months, to submit an alternative report, which, in fact, they were invited to produce?
§ Sir R. Ross
I can remember very clearly that there was a vote in the Committee forbidding us to have an alternative report, and that was carried by the casting vote of the chairman. I was there and the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. J. Paton) was not.
§ Sir R. Ross
That was why we went out. What subsequently happened? No alternative report was prepared, and that was the reason. Sir Gervais Rentoul moved that the alternative report be prepared, and I have given the reasons why it was not done. The reason I am opposing this new Clause is that I believe that in doing so I am doing more to save lives than I would be if I voted for the new Clause. No one here wishes to see an increased application of the death penalty. At the present time there are two safeguards. If the judge recommends a reprieve, it is invariably granted, and on numerous occasions when that recommendation is not made and when the Home Secretary thinks that there may be some doubt, he gives a reprieve. I must admit that I make a distinction between the lives of those who are convicted of murders and of the victims of their crimes. The first duty we have is to protect the potential victims of murders from being murdered.
The main consideration throughout this Debate is whether the death penalty is the greatest possible deterrent and the most suitable one. We heard from the opposite benches a quotation from John Stuart Mill, who said that we knew the people to whom capital punishment had not been a deterrent from the crime of murder but we did not know to how many it had been a deterrent. It is interesting to observe that those who have been convicted of the capital crime have almost always been people of the best character. They include those who have committed passionate crimes, of the type often called le crime passionel, and who are by no means people of criminal life or habit. The vast majority of people murdered, not counting infants, are women, and the number of their murderers who have a bad criminal record is extremely few.
When I was a member of that Select Committee, I heard a great amount of evidence. I had not thought very much 1056 about the matter before. I believed that capital punishment was probably good, but my opinion was no stronger than that. Capital punishment has been described as a grim necessity. I would go further than that and would describe the carrying out of the death penalty as. a revolting system. If I thought we could get on as well without it, I should be most happy that we should do so. The overwhelming volume of evidence of those who are in touch with people of serious criminal habits is against it. It is the evidence of prison governors, officers, doctors and chaplains, and of the Prison Commissioners, who can be supposed to know the opinions and the feelings of the dangerous criminals who set their hands against society. Those authorities have all said they were in favour of keeping capital punishment. There were many eloquent people who gave evidence and about half their number were against abolition. The eloquent people included the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt). The people like lawyers, judges, and those who were in contact with professional criminals were nearly unanimous in saying that we dare not abolish this form of punishment.
Experts from countries where the death penalty had been suspended or was not in operation, defended the position of their various countries. We had one most interesting and cogent witness from the United States, Judge Kavanagh, with 34 years' experience on the criminal bench of Chicago. He was strongly impressed with the necessity of keeping capital punishment.
§ Sir R. Ross
The judge was present in person and subjected himself to cross-examination by many members of the Committee who were much opposed to his views. The Warden of Sing Sing did not come over, but sent a long-range memorandum. There was no opportunity of discussing with him his evidence. I have every reason to suppose that a person who had had the practical experience of the judge was capable of presenting a reasonable view. Certainly, his evidence was most impressive. Everyone who speaks 1057 in favour of the abolition of capital punishment has behind him the resources and funds of organisations, which are supported by many sincere people who send money to be used for propaganda in favour of that in which they believe. Those who do not support the abolition of capital punishment have not the benefit of such resources.
I think we might hear a little more about the States in America which, having abolished capital punishment, found they had to reinstate it. There were half a dozen of them. I do not think that Arizona can be considered less of a parallel to this country than is Denmark. During the time that State abolished capital punishment, the number of murders was double what it was before. I think that is a correct statement. I believe there was also a similar increase in the State of Vermont. I think they abolished capital punishment in 1917 and had to reinstate it about two years afterwards.
§ Sir R. Ross
The hon. and learned Gentleman should look up the case of Arizona as reported by the Attorney-General of Arizona in the evidence to the Select Committee. He will find that the murders increased after the penalty was abolished.
§ Sir R. Ross
I am not going to have a general discussion upon this and that with the hon. and learned Gentleman. He must contain himself and wait for his turn to speak, when I am sure he will be all the better for having exercised restraint.
There are cases which seem extraordinarily difficult to deal with. There are cases of murderers, in places where there has been no capital punishment, committing a substantial number of crimes, knowing that they could not be punished arty more. I remember the cases recited of prisoners who had killed prison guards in States where there was no capital punishment, had then killed policemen, and had then come back to the gaol and had not been very much worse off. It is difficult to see how one could put up with that kind of thing. The hon. Member for Norwich, who is 1058 not in his place at the moment, alluded to Detroit, which always had a very high rate of murders among the cities of the United States, infinitely higher than in Canada across the way. Canada had capital punishment, but Detroit had not.
Finally, I would refer to a man who as many of us will agree was probably in a better position to form an; opinion on this subject than any other single individual, and he was Sir Alexander Paterson. He certainly had an opinion. He said:… we who are in daily contact with professional criminals can safely say that with them the dread of the gallows is a strong deterrent. They have tasted prison, then lost the fear of it. They may have misused their lives but are loth to lose them.I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) is not in the House at the moment. He said he could hardly imagine that Sir Alexander Paterson would be in favour of capital punishment. I quote from the Select Committee on page 486, where he said:I would prefer the death sentence on grounds of humanity to any alternative that any country has tried.He looked at the long-term sentence as being definitely more inhumane than the death penalty. I should have thought that it is better to kill the body than to kill the soul, and as no one has suggested any adequate alternative to the death penalty except long-term imprisonment, I shall certainly vote against this Clause.
§ Mrs. Ayrton Gould (Hendon, North)
I was much interested in what the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) said about two points. One was that the death sentence was the greatest deterrent and the other was that it was kinder than the long sentence. I have been very puzzled by the number of those who are against the new Clause who have thought that the greatest possible deterrent is the death sentence. I should have thought that if there was one thing that we have all learnt during the recent war—not only hon. and gallant Members who were fighting but those of us who were living, for instance, in London—it was how very soon we became quite reckless about our own lives. I should imagine that would certainly be true of criminals. I cannot conceive of a criminal who would say, 1059 "I am going to commit a murder and I may be caught. I shall not do it if the death sentence is carried out 'but I shall do it if I get a long term of imprisonment." Other hon. Members have said, on the other hand, what completely contradicts that—that the death sentence is in fact much more merciful than a long term of imprisonment—
§ Mrs. Ayrton Gould
—but what nobody has said today is that the long term of imprisonment under the new Bill will be something quite different from what it has been before. The reason I feel so very strongly about the new Clause is this. Many of us, including the Home Secretary and other Members of the present Government, have for many years campaigned against the old penal system and have endeavoured to bring in a new system of punishment wherein punishment should always be of a remedial kind, the angle of punishment being to try to cure the prisoner and to turn him into a good citizen rather than merely to have a terrifying deterrent effect, as was the case under the old system. I do not mean to say that in the last few years we have had a system that was not merely a terrifying deterrent—
§ Mr. Marlowe (Brighton)
Does not the hon. Lady realise the inconsistency of saying that there will be a life imprisonment different from the kind now existing, where people are released, and at the same time saying that we are trying to bring in a reformative system? If we put a man inside a prison for life, there is no hope of reformative treatment.
§ Mrs. Ayrton Gould
I cannot altogether agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. The point is that a life sentence, as has been pointed out over and over again today, is not a definitely determined sentence. It depends on the recommendation of the governor and the doctor and the prerogative of the Home Secretary. One of the reasons which my right hon. Friend put forward for his being in favour of retaining capital punishment was that the life sentence was not in fact a life sentence, but that after a certain number of years the prisoner would be released. This is the point: are we to 1060 take the attitude that punishment shall be remedial and shall at any rate attempt to cure the prisoner? Surely, we are all agreed that a person who commits murder is in some sense a pathological case? Are we going to attempt to cure such persons or are we going simply to wash them out?
I am not nearly so interested in the 11 or 12 prisoners annually who may or may not be hanged as I am in carrying out the policy of this new Bill in the best possible way. I maintain that if we retain the death sentence it is absolutely impossible to carry out the new principles of the Bill, the remedial angle of it. If we are to make the new Measure a real success and to cure everybody who can by any means be cured—the people who have committed much lesser crimes, for I am not talking particularly about murderers but of all the people who can be cured—we must attract prison officers of a new type, officers who are anxious to help and educate prisoners, and officers who will necessarily have to be of a more sensitive type than many of the officers now in the prisons in order to carry out this work.
We shall not get the type of men and women we want to join the prison service if at any time they may be called upon to take part in an execution. Nobody has suggested that an execution is not a horrible thing. Many people have either read about or remember what happened when Mrs. Thompson, the last woman to be hanged, was executed. That execution was so horrible that after it the hangman committed suicide, one of the wardresses who was present went mad, and the chaplain had a very, bad nervous breakdown; and every single person who was present at that execution left the service within a very short time. I put it to the Government and to the opponents of the new Clause that we cannot get the right type of prison officers into the service if they may have to be present at a ghastly and barbaric thing like the hanging of Mrs. Thompson.
Other hon. Members have suggested that the way to get rid of capital punishment is to have more and more reprieves and to let the whole thing slide, as it were. I am not a lawyer but I have always been brought up to understand that one thing which is bad for the government of a country is to have laws which 1061 are not carried out. Yet, one hon. and learned Member suggested that the law which exists should less and less be put into operation and that in that way we should get rid of capital punishment. I suggest that this is one of the great dangers; that we shall have a law that is not carried out because public opinion will not allow it to be carried out. Just as in the old days, when anybody could be hanged for stealing a sheep or anything else to the value of 5s., even if the person who did it happened to be a hungry child, juries refused to convict, so the same kind of thing is beginning to happen now. I know that the Home Secretary is worried about the fact that during the last year there has been more than one case of a jury refusing to convict a person of murder when all the evidence showed quite definitely he had committed the murder.
Surely, everybody will agree that, if that is extended, it is a serious thing indeed—because what happens? The gamble is increased and, far from it being a deterrent to murder, it is an attraction to murder if people know that if caught they may be acquitted. The gamble is increased if these people know that if they get off it will be scot-free, without any punishment at all for committing a most ghastly crime. I suggest that the reason 100 or 150 years ago the law about capital punishment was altered was not so much because of the reformers, but because the public was frightened of what was happening, for criminals, some of whom had committed brutal crimes, were getting off altogether, since juries refused to convict.
I have spoken about the officers who will be recruited, but there is another side to it, and that is the question of the High Court judges. An hon. and learned Member said to me the other day that it was known that most lawyers were in favour of the abolition of capital punishment and that most judges were against it, especially High Court judges. I thought that one over. Of course, High Court judges are in favour of capital punishment because they could not condemn unless they were.
§ Squadron-Leader Fleming (Manchester, Withington)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that any High Court judge today lets his personal feelings come into this question?
§ Mrs. Ayrton Gould
I did not suggest that at all. What I suggested was that any barrister who felt strongly about the matter would not feel able—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but she is making comments on High Court judges, and that is not permissible in this House.
§ Mrs. Ayrton Gould
I am sorry, Sir, I was not really commenting on them, but on the learned gentlemen who would feel unable to accept the position of High Court judges. I want to submit that the vital and important thing is that this great new reformative Measure, which is the coping stone of a building of the progressive treatment of prisoners, shall be able to be put into operation successfully in every way. As has been pointed out, it is completely inconsistent that we should abolish corporal punishment and at the same time retain the death penalty. Those two things are illogical and, if we do that, if this new Clause is not carried tonight, we shall have this splendid new Measure built on a fine foundation but it will be utterly impossible to implement it effectively.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Gage (Belfast, South)
Everyone who has spoken on this question tonight has made it plain that this is one of the most difficult decisions which this House has had to make and, for myself, it is a question that has given me greater anxiety and worry than any other which I have had to decide. There is one thing, however, about which I have no difficulty. I dislike intensely the five years' suspensory character of this Clause. Either capital punishment is wrong and should be abolished once and for all, or, if we feel it must be retained, we should leave it to a future Parliament, perhaps to a future generation, to make up their minds upon it as the circumstances then may dictate.
Coming to the real issue, I desire to say only this. Quite clearly nobody in this House would desire to retain hanging for the sake of hanging. All of us dislike hanging just as we dislike the horrible crime of murder for which it is imposed, and if I could honestly bring myself to believe that the crime of murder would not increase if hanging were abolished, I 1063 would vote, if not for the suspension Clause, at any rate for the abolition of the death penalty. It is because I cannot truthfully feel it will decrease, that tonight I shall vote against the Clause.
I am not impressed by the argument as to the statistics in other nations. It is an attractive argument and, at first blush, one would like to accept it, but the psychology of criminals differs with nations as with people, and while I am not for one moment saying that we are more prone to murders in this country than anywhere else—I am perfectly certain we are not—I feel that it is not a fair and exact parallel upon which I could decide. What impresses me now is that crimes of violence have been increasing. I am not one of those people who think that if the death sentence is abolished, a number of criminals who do not go about armed will suddenly take to carrying arms, because from my experience of criminal cases, as a rule one finds that arms are not easy for the criminals to get. But I have never prosecuted or defended in what one might call an ordinary criminal case—which is burglary or breaking and entering—in which the criminal has not been armed with what is generally and somewhat pompously called a "burglarious instrument," which usually takes the form of a heavy piece of piping with lead in it. That is a weapon which every criminal of that type carries, and it is just as deadly as a pistol. I have no doubt that there will be a great temptation on the part of criminals to use that weapon to silence perhaps the only witness who might be able to give evidence against them.
It goes further than that because it has been well and truly said that the real deterrent to crime is not so much the penalty as the certainty of detection. That is borne out by the fact that when crime was more difficult to detect the penalties were very much heavier than they are now, and they were what we would think quite ruthless. Can anyone say that at present the certainty of detection is increasing? I shall be interested to hear from the right hon. Gentleman some statistics about undetected crime, because I believe it has increased. Because the police force, through no fault of their own, are undermanned and perhaps not properly equipped they have been unable to discover the criminals. 1064 Given that premise, I think it is a very bad time to try this experiment—it is an experiment—and it is a bad time to take away the penalty which, every one must agree, acts in some measure as a deterrent. As to the police who behave constantly with the greatest bravery and gallantry in pursuing criminals and catching them, they at any rate believe the death penalty is a deterrent. They may be quite wrong and hon. Members may be quite right. But, after all, hon. Members do not have to pursue and catch criminals, and it may have a bad effect on the police force if they honestly feel they are not being protected in this matter.
I have come to the conclusion that at this time at any rate I cannot honestly say that the incidence of murder will not increase if the death penalty is abolished. So with great hesitation, and a good deal of reluctance, I feel I must oppose this new Clause. I hope that the time may come when crime detection will be so much better that it will be possible for another Parliament to take a different view. If sincerely I could take a different view, there is nothing I would like more than to support this Clause. But we have to consider the ordinary, respectable, and decent people of this country, who have the first claim on our consideration and, if necessary, to our protection.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (Plaistow)
I agree with the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Gage) when he says that the issues the House has to decide tonight are difficult. I think the principal reason for our difficulties is that to some extent all of us are moving in the realm of conjecture and probability. Those who wish to maintain the death penalty cannot satisfy their opponents by any statistical or certain evidence that the existence of the death penalty prevents the commission of murder. On the other hand, I say quite frankly; as one who will support the abolition of the death penalty tonight, I cannot provide statistical or certain evidence whether abolition will or will not cause an increase of murders or a reduction in murders, or merely the maintenance of the murder rate. But what we do know are the probabilities. The probabilities can be ascertained from what has happened in countries of similar 1065 standards of civilisation to our own which have abolished the death penalty. I submit that that is a very real factor which this House is entitled to consider. Almost every civilised country in the world has now abolished the death penalty and I draw particular attention to the experience of New Zealand in this matter. Ten years ago an enlightened Labour Government in New Zealand abolished the death penalty and although in the meantime there has been the experience of war with all its corrosive effects on moral and ethical standards there has been no increase in crimes of violence in New Zealand and no increase in the incidence of murder in the last 10 years compared with the 10 years before. I cannot believe there is something so debased in the British character that British people need the gallows to deter them from the commission of murder.
We cannot tackle this problem of murder by savagery of punishment. I think what is needed first and foremost is to raise the chances of detection and apprehension and in this matter I agree with the hon. Member for South Belfast to some extent. Murder figures for. last year deserve the attention of the House. I understand that from January to the end of August, 1947, 136 murders were known to the police, 50 accused were sent for trial, 11 were not tried because they were insane on arraignment or for some other reason, so that 75 murders out of 136 were not solved. More than half of last year's murderers got away with murder. The answer to this situation is not, in view of the difficulty of detection, to rely on savagery of punishment, but to increase the establishment of the police force and to enable the police more adequately to cope with this problem. I feel we would be neglecting our duties if we avoided the problem by saying, as has so often been said before, "rely on savagery of punishment instead." In a recent inquiry in which I participated I was astonished to find that in one county police force there was not a single detective on the establishment. It is not surprising that in that county the incidence of indictable offences has practically doubled since 1938.
Apart from the necessity of increasing detective services and of the forces which have to deal with serious crime, I believe that certainty of conviction and of 1066 punishment are far more effective than savagery of punishment in preventing the crime of murder. I believe that the existence of the death penalty has the effect of reducing the conviction rate. In my experience in civil courts and in courts martial I find that juries and courts dislike the death penalty and where the facts would justify a verdict of murder will sometimes bring in verdicts of manslaughter or even acquittal in order to avoid the consequences of bringing in the finding of guilty of murder. I contend that this is a process which not only brings the law into disrepute, but is an encouragement to the potential murderer.
From the other side of the House we have been asked to pay more attention to the victims of murder and spare less sympathy for the murderer. I entirely agree. One of my reasons for objecting to the maintenance of the death penalty is that it introduces into murder trials an element of melodrama and of the man fighting for his life which shifts sympathy from the victim to the murderer, and which results—
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
With customary courtesy my hon. Friend draws my attention to a particular duty which was imposed upon me and which I had the honour to accept. In that trial, first of all, we were not dealing with the commission of murder in time of peace but with the commission of 12 million cold-blooded murders over a period of three and a half years. If ever there was a justification for the carrying out of the death penalty, that was the occasion. As I have said, I appeared in that trial as one of the prosecutors doing a duty and enforcing the law that was applicable. I am now speaking as a humble legislator, thinking that the law applicable to this country now should be altered. I see nothing inconsistent, if I may say so, in my two separate activities.
When I was interrupted, I was saying that the effect of this element of the man fighting for his life tends to turn murder trials into a glorification of the murderer. Indeed, I think there is some evidence that the publicity which murder trials give to the murderer leads to imitative crime. The hon. Gentleman, 1067 who in more philosophical terms, has already referred to this matter, did not give any actual illustrations of it, but Roy Calvert, in his brilliant classic on "Capital Punishment in the Twentieth Century" refers to an actual case of Ernest Rhodes, who murdered a girl in 1925 by cutting her throat. The evidence in that case showed that he had followed the newspaper reports of the previous murder trials of Mahon and Thorne; that he had carefully preserved the newspaper cuttings about those trials; and that he had referred to Thorne as a hero.
I cannot believe that the morbid publicity and interest that attaches to these murder trials—and anyone who takes part in them is very conscious of it—can be of any advantage to the people of this country; nor, in particular, can it be of any benefit to our children to read the squalid and sordid details in the newspapers. The circumstances that attend hangings are frequently horrible. Lord Buckmaster has stated that at one execution there were people leaning with their ears against the walls of the prison so that they could hear the thud of the falling body. I cannot believe that experiences and practices of that kind can do anything but debase the character and standards of our people.
I would close by repeating what others have said before me—that the crying need for this age and generation is to restore the respect for human life. If I may revert to the Nuremberg trials for a moment I am sure that the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) will remember as vividly as I do the occasion when there went into the witness box at Nuremberg a man called Hoess who, without passion or emotion, described how in two years at Auschwitz concentration camp he had been responsible for 2,500,000 murders. He described how he had improved the technique of death in other concentration camps by reducing the time of killing to 10 seconds in the case of men and 15 seconds in the case of women, the difference in time being accounted for by the fact that it took five seconds to cut the hair off the women before they were murdered. It is not insignificant that one of the first acts of the Nazi Government was to restore the death penalty. They relied on terror. 1068 Our democracy is a democracy that does not need the terror of the death penalty.
Giving evidence in 1930 to the Select Committee, the Belgian Minister of Justice said, after dealing with the effects of the abolition of capital punishment in his country:It seems inconceivable that a Minister of Justice should ever again think it possible to re-establish a penalty the uselessness of which, to put it no higher, has been amply demonstrated… The lesson has been learnt that the best way of inculcating respect for human life is to refrain from taking life in the name of the law.In our present circumstances I believe this to be true, and I believe it is time that our country made an end to this unnecessary barbarity.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
If my speech is not only brief, but very brief, I hope that I shall be acquitted of disrespect to what has been a great and historic Debate. We have seen the House of Commons at its best. There have been speeches of deep sincerity, speeches by hon. Members who have studied this subject all their lives, and speeches by hon. Members who have informed themselves very closely upon all connected with it. For that very reason I want to put forward a consideration that has not hitherto been put forward.
I wonder if this really is one of the occasions when we should make the question a matter of personal conscience and personal judgment? I feel that the House is priding itself at this moment on the fact that party affiliations are ignored, that people are speaking from the depths of their hearts and from the depths of their convictions. I repeat: I wonder if that is truly the way we should approach this subject? We have heard very little about the people whom we are sent here lo represent. We are not sent here to represent our personal consciences and our personal predilections. We should bear in mind that our duty here is to voice the opinion of the public who elected us and sent us here. I have heard very little so far about public opinion. It is a nebulous and possibly a hypothetical thing, which it is easy to interpret according to one's own prejudices, but all the same, I offer the House my own interpretation of public opinion on this matter.
1069 I believe that the man in the street is prepared for great mercy to murderers. I think that the average man—if he exists—would be surprised at the way in which we are generalising about murderers. I do not think it is possible to generalise about murderers or about the punishment that should be meted out to them. I believe that public opinion is ready for great mercy to be shown to the ordinary weak-willed victim of circumstances who, in a fit of temper or as a result of severe nervous strain, has murdered somebody. I have never attended a murder trial or been in a condemned cell, but from all I can learn I picture the ordinary murderer as rather a pathetic, weak character who has found the strain of life too much for him and who has done something desperate. I repeat my belief that public opinion is prepared for great mercy to be shown to him.
But I do not think public opinion would support this House, however, if we suggested the release from the death penalty of the gangster, the gunman and the man who lives a life of violence. For that reason, I shall vote against this Clause tonight. I do not believe we have public opinion with us if we do away with the death penalty. I believe that the whole of public opinion resents most bitterly the murder of policemen by gangsters and armed burglars. We have not got public opinion with us and I beg the House to remember, as I said earlier, that this is not just a matter of exercising our private consciences, the riding of our private hobby horses, however noble and sincerely held our views may be.
We are dealing with a subject that affects, or may affect, every man, woman and child in this country, and we are not at liberty just to regard it as a matter of personal conscience. I beg hon. Members, before voting for this Clause, to pay attention in their minds to the state of public opinion on this subject.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) is quite right. I do not think that public opinion is with the sponsors of this new Clause. I am drawn to that opinion by experiences over the past few days. I must make it clear at the outset that I oppose this Clause, and I do so on three grounds which appear to me to 1070 be valid. The first is that if we are to do away with killing in this country, then let the murderers show the example. The second is that I do not believe that public opinion is behind the move for this change, and, therefore, I say that those sponsoring this Clause have no mandate. The third is that I believe it would be against the public interest to make such a fundamental change at this moment.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in a very eloquent speech, said "How can we ascertain the views of the country in this matter? You cannot do it by going down to your constituency and counting heads." I did not go down to my constituency to count heads, but I certainly went there to ascertain the views of quite ordinary people as opposed to the view—I say this with profound respect—of the lawyers. In the course of my inquiries, I had a word with quarry workers, lorry drivers, hotel receptionists, one accountant, the mother of a young family, a pitman and a grandmother, and I think that might be called a fairly representative cross-cut of the nation. I am bound to say that in this matter unanimity prevailed. Indeed, far from wanting to see capital punishment abolished the people to whom I spoke were concerned about the freedom with which reprieves are being granted at this moment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. J. Paton) said he spoke with "fire in his belly" when he was discussing this question of capital punishment. I dare say that is true. I know him to be a very sincere person. But how truer it must be of the parents of that poor unfortunate child who was murdered in Lancashire last weekend. [An HON. MEMBER: "Capital punishment did not save him."] We must see these things in correct perspective. Is it seriously suggested that someone who rapes a little girl and then kills her to destroy the evidence should be kept alive for any reason whatever? I do not think so.
However shocking it may be to sentimentalists, British public opinion is as sound as a bell of brass on this matter. There is no substantial body of public opinion in this country in favour of the abolition of capital punishment. Public opinion in this country is healthy and vigorous and free from neurosis. It 1071 accepts the Biblical injunction, and I share that sentiment—"eye for eye, tooth for tooth."—[Interruption.] This is the place where persons are able to get up and state their point of view, and that is what I am doing. I have gone to some trouble to ascertain public opinion. I have yet to hear anybody get up in this Debate and say that he has gone to the length that I have done to ascertain public opinion.
We British are a law-abiding race, not least because the law in this country is carried out fairly and fearlessly, and for that reason people are not tempted to pursue private vengeance even when they are most heavily aggrieved and bereaved. I believe that if we remove this sentence there may well be a danger of persons being tempted to take the law into their own hands, as indeed they do in parts of the United States of America. On this question whether capital punishment is a deterrent or not, I draw for guidance on my experience in the 1914–18 war. Many were the arguments that went on in the trenches, and when we were at rest, as to whether or not the certainty that a man would be shot for desertion in the face of the enemy acted as a factor in preventing him from deserting. The universal opinion was that without that sanction, without the conviction that if he ran away in the face of the enemy and was caught he would be shot, there would have been considerably more desertions than there was.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
We are all interested in my hon. Friend's reminiscences of the 1914–18 war, but is he not aware that the penalty of death for desertion has been abolished since that time and was never applied during the recent war?
§ Mr. Evans
I should be surprised to know that desertion in the face of the enemy was not punishable by death even now.
When the time is ripe for the abolition of capital punishment, public opinion will manifest itself. When hanging for sheep stealing was abolished, it was because juries would no longer return verdicts of guilty because of the knowledge that such a verdict meant that a man would be hung. I see no signs in this country at this moment of any reluctance on the part of juries, despite the knowledge that is within their minds, to return verdicts 1072 of murder in murder cases. I say that public opinion will manifest itself in that way first of all.
I would like to ask this question: What are we to do with people like Heath if we do not hang them? Are we to keep them locked up for evermore, for the rest of their days, or are we to turn them loose after a given period of years? I want to know who is to accept the responsibility for turning such people loose? If we do not turn them loose, what a problem presents itself to those responsible for their incarceration, because even with a 15 years' sentence to serve a man has at any rate a ray of hope, and he acts accordingly. A prisoner with the certainty that he was inside for the rest of his days might well kill a warder in the course of attempting to escape, because he would know that there was no greater penalty than he was enduring which could be inflicted upon him. Therefore, I say that that is an aspect of the matter that has to be taken into consideration.
Of course, one could quote, as has been quoted, I believe by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) case after case of murderers in respect of whom the best thing for society was to kill them off. Such a man was Smith of the "Brides in the Bath" case, a man who made a trade of murder. It is all very well for Members of Parliament to take an academic view on this matter, but those charged with the task of detecting and bringing to justice habitual criminals are entitled to have their point of view taken into account. I happen to know a number of persons in this City, in Scotland Yard, who take a very poor view of the abolition of capital punishment because, in their view, it is quite certain that there would be a marked increase in crimes of violence and the carrying of firearms.
I have listened to this Debate with close attention. As has been rightly said, it has been a goon Debate. I have, however, heard nothing to change my opinion that it would be a bad thing for society to make this radical change at this moment. There is no confusion in my mind at all over this matter; I have no mental reservations of any kind, and I propose to oppose the Clause.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) propounded an impossible 1073 attitude for the rest of us to follow if, when a great moral issue like this is presented to us, we must run to our constituents and take a sort of Gallup Survey, being bound by the majority one way or the other when we ourselves disagree with it. If that were to be the case, it would lower the position of the Member of Parliament to something really contemptible.
I know there is a feeling that in this Debate today, which is free from party conflict, all the sentiment and emotion are on the side of those who support the Clause and all the hard common sense is on the other side. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There is that feeling. I think it is a fair statement to say there is the feeling that those who support the Clause are being emotional and illogical and those who support hanging are being logical and unemotional. What I have to say is this: if anything, the very reverse is true. I think it is stubborn lack of heart which actuates those who support retention of the death penalty, and I believe the stark logic is with those of us who go into the Lobby to support the Clause tonight.
For many years, as editor of a newspaper, I watched these murder cases, and I certainly played my part in exploiting the great public interest in them. I did not create the interest; it was there. But what does a murder trial do? What does the death sentence do? It creates an aristocracy among criminals; the murderer becomes the aristocrat. An hon. Member on this side says "No." I went to prison last Saturday morning [Interruption]—I went to see a misguided constituent of mine who was spending the winter there—and the deputy-governor asked me if I would like to attend in the orderly room. I sat with him when one convict after another came to see him and I was given the papers to show what each man had done. They were receivers, they were different kinds of thieves, various kinds of criminals with lots of convictions against them—but supposing a man had come in who had been convicted of murder? At once I would have been profoundly interested. The whole atmosphere would have changed. I would have been in the presence of one of the aristocrats of the criminal world [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is no use denying that, because it is true.
These men who commit murder and are hanged become grisly immortals of their 1074 kind. Hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite have talked about the exploitation of this thing, but learned counsel—men who write memoirs and whose books are published—tell about the murder trials in which they have taken part until today if we mention "Armstrong," or other names like that, we do not even need to identify them. Murder has created this false glamour; it has created it in the public mind. The fellow pays the penalty with his life and our hatred goes with that—that is the feeling.
An hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, who is not now in his place, has described the scenes at Nuremberg. He took part in the prosecution at Nuremberg. I went there for the last few days for the summing up and the sentences. It is a grim thing to see 12 or 13 men sentenced on one morning. What was the feeling? There were these men, who had committed these terrible crimes against peace and humanity; they were sentenced to death, and not long afterwards they were choked to death by our orders, and in our hearts a good many of us felt, "They have paid." How much better would it have been to sentence them, in the name of the law, to lack of citizenship, to set them to work restoring the damaged cities, to let them live their lives with a sense of shame. But do not let us bring down the guillotine or pull the trap for hanging, thus wiping out our hatred and our disapproval of these men.
I say that this glamour—I have seen it in the United States—plays a big part. What would happen if this Clause were carried, as I hope so much it will be, and we did away with the death sentence for murder? There is in the criminal world a curious code which they maintain, and the man who commits murder when he does not face death for it, will become the most detested of them all. Among criminals, he who commits murder when he does not run the risk of death will no longer be the aristocrat in the criminal world. He will be looked down upon by his own class. I think I am right in saying this. I say that the death sentence defeats its own object. It creates a vested interest in murder in the criminal class. Why should we not take the risk of abolishing the death sentence?
There are many aspects I would have liked to mention in this problem. This, however, is what I feel: we have lived 1075 in an era of unexampled physical brutality. Hitler built up his empire by attacking the spirit of his people and by attacking their bodies. I say the time has come for some civilised nation as great as ours to express a confidence in the honour and the civilisation of the people of this country. We should condemn this mutilation of the body because if we are Christians, or whatever other religion we belong to, we must believe the body is the temple of the spirit. Europe is cursed with sheer physical brutality and hanging is a cruel crime against the body, which is the temple of the spirit.
The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) said that Edith Thompson was guilty. I think that she was hanged for adultery, not murder. I agree that the man was killed, but we are not discussing that now. After her execution—the hon. Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) referred to this—two of the warders who had taken part in that execution came to my office, and their faces were not human. I can assure you, Sir, they were like people out of another world. Edith Thompson had disintegrated as a human creature on her way to the gallows, and yet somehow they had to get her there. Hon. Members will recall what happened—the suicide that followed and the resignations. Those two warders who took part in that execution said to me, "Use your influence; never again must a woman be hanged."
We believe that hanging does nothing but brutalise those who take part in it. I urge this House tonight to send out a message. Let us say as a legislature, as people with responsibility—invoking the Bible—"We shall not kill." Is it not possible that murderers in prison will find their own souls? Then when the time comes for their death by natural process, we shall not have sent them to face their Judge before they had time to expiate their crimes. I hope that we shall carry this new Clause, and that this will be a great day in the history of this Parliament.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
I hope I am rightly interpreting the mood of the House when I say that I feel I ought to express my view on what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. 1076 Baxter) in his eloquent plea for the contention that human life is sacred and that the State has no more right to kill than any individual. I have tried to consider that problem from the moral and ethical standpoint, as I am sure every hon. Member in every part of the House has done in preparation for his vote tonight. I would finally disagree with the point of view of my hon. Friend. I believe that the right to take life judicially in appropriate cases is the self-defence of the community, and is as justifiable, logically and morally, as that right of self-defence by which members of the community are ordered to kill foreign enemies, or to defend the community against aggression. I also believe that, with all the imperfections of our humanity, it is our duty in this life to try to seek justice as we can find it with the best of our will and to the best of our knowledge, and I believe that in the very limited number of cases of high treason against the State, murder of individuals, and threats to the safety of the seven seas—in that very limited number of cases—justice does demand the penalty which we are discussing tonight.
I should like to deal very shortly with what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Plaistow (Mr. Elwyn Jones) and my hon. Friend said about murder trials. Let us assume that the death penalty is taken away. There is still the fact that human nature, at this present stage, will show an interest in the investigation of violent death. I hope, as we all hope, that that interest will decline with the advance of education and other ameliorating factors; but it will be there. The removal of the penalty will not remove that. The other point which I think we have to face —and I believe that the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) did a service to us all in reminding us of it—is that in the protective activities of the State there is, and is bound to be, a repressive element for dealing with the wrongdoer. We should take that into consideration, and remember the difficulties of which he reminded us. We should not permit the remembering of these difficulties to prevent us doing our duty, which is to see to the adequate protection of our fellow subjects.
It has been suggested by several hon. Members that at the present time there is a danger of convictions being wrong, and, as death is a final penalty, of the 1077 results being similarly wrong. I ask hon. Members who put forward that view—and especially the hon. Member for Oldham, who referred to a statement made in 1869 by the Home Secretary at that time—to remember that since 1869 there has been not only the infinitely improved police investigation, and the whole procedure of the preliminary investigation by the magistrate—since improved under the Indictable Offences Act and the Criminal Justice Act—but the trial; and, since 1907—a good long time after the period about which the hon. Member spoke—there has been the Court of Criminal Appeal and the special appeal to the House of Lords; and there is, finally, the Home Secretary, who can interfere in any case where, as has been pointed out, there is a scintilla of doubt.
As a realist I do not believe that the chances of error in a murder case, with these various instruments of the State present, constitute a factor which we must consider, any more than we must consider the danger of death in crossing a street. That is the position on that one argument.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaff and Barry)
Surely the right hon. and learned Member will agree that the important consideration is whether there is any possibility of its occurring so that an innocent man is put to death? Will the right hon. and learned Member say that there is no possibility at all of that? Surely, that is relevant to this argument?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
There is no practical possibility. The hon. and learned Member asks me to say that there is no possibility. Of course, a jury might go wrong, the Court of Criminal Appeal might go wrong, as might the House of Lords and the Home Secretary: they might all be stricken mad and go wrong. But that is not a possibility which anyone can consider likely. The hon. and learned Member is moving in a realm of fantasy when he makes that suggestion. I support what my right hon. Friend said: it is impossible for anyone who views and examines fairly the facts of any murder case of which he has knowledge to say that such a miscarriage of justice has taken place.
§ Mr. J. Paton
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman considered the im- 1078 plications of the famous case of Woolmington v. The Director of Public Prosecutions, in which it transpired that a wrong interpretation of the law, affecting many scores of criminals charged with murder, had persisted for over 150 years?
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
Before he answers that; might I ask the right hon. and learned Member another question?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I think it is convenient to answer one at a time. The error the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. J. Paton) mentioned in his speech earlier refers to a very limited number of cases where this question arose. Every one of the cases where that error might have arisen receives the attention of a judge on its special facts. I am quite sure that, in spite of the change in emphasis which that case so rightly introduced, in 75 per cent. of the cases which might have been affected the matter would have been cured by the ordinary address which the jury receives as to examining the facts, and the essential nature of the prosecution proving their case.
§ Mr. Schofield Allen
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will recall the case in 1931 where a jury found a man guilty, and it was due only to the brilliant advocacy of Mr. Roland Oliver, now Mr. Justice Oliver, against the whole view of the legal profession, that the Court of Criminal Appeal came to the conclusion that there was no evidence whatever on which the jury could have come to that conclusion.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The hon. and learned Member has made my point, and I am very grateful to him for his support. The hon. and learned Member has emphasised, by quoting that well-known case, the point I was making a few moments ago, that since 1907 we have had the Court of Criminal Appeal, and the chances of that happening have been greatly diminished as a result. Apart from that, we have the additional safeguards of the House of Lords and the Home Secretary.
It is interesting that almost in the same breath the other argument has been advanced from the same quarter, that there is difficulty in getting convictions because juries do not want to convict of 1079 murder. Apart from one's own experience, the Home Office have made a study of the point. They took some 200 cases in order to examine that particular aspect of the matter, and in 71 per cent. of those cases there was no recommendation to mercy. As the House knows, if there are the slightest qualms on the part of the jury such a recommendation is introduced. From my experience of some 40 or 50 cases in which I have been engaged, I have never seen either the first of the matters of criticism or the reluctance which was mentioned a little time ago.
I should like to deal with one or two of the points which were raised in a very interesting speech by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Donovan). He pointed out his difficulties which he wanted answered before he decided how to vote. I should like to try to deal with some of the difficulties, and give the answers I have found from my examination of the problem. The hon. and learned Member for East Leicester raised the question of the experience of other countries. That was partly answered by one of my hon. and learned Friends on this side, but as I see it, the importance of the point is this: When the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), 20 years ago, proposed the Motion which resulted in the setting up of the Committee which considered this matter, he put this forward as being the important aspect, "We want to see the comparison between the period when the death penalty was in operation in other countries, and when it was not in operation."
There is a difficulty in taking Scandinavia and the Low Countries as examples. In Norway there have been no executions since 1875, and there are no statistics for that country before 1864. In the case of Denmark there are no statistics before 1866; in Holland there have been no executions since 1860, and, in Belgium, none since 1863, so we have no comparative period or any comparative statistics. That is the difficulty of saying flatly, "These countries have abolished the death penalty, and it does not seem to have done any harm." We have no comparative material. The Home Secretary may remember a Debate we had 10 years ago, when I was not 1080 prepared to support my own case by relying on the French statistics, although they were in my favour. There are so many different factors which operate in the various countries that one is almost driven to the error, which the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester desired to repudiate, of saying post hoc, propter hoc in regard to the matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) pointed out that there are various States in the United States which have found it necessary to reimpose the death penalty. We must remember that before the war, when this matter was studied, the certainty of conviction and the celerity of proceedings were both very great in this country. The attractive debating point has been made, "Look at the mistakes of our ancestors 150 years ago. There were over 200 offences for which the death penalty could be imposed. Look what little good, and how much harm was done." Again, I say that that strengthens my argument. I agree that where there was a vast number of cases which were subject to the death penalty its effect was bound to be lessened, but when we get rid of that mistake and we have the death penalty in use for these three major and important matters, then we have not only an additional respect for, but an additional abhorrence of, the crimes for which that penalty is imposed.
One comes down to considering the question whether or not it is a deterrent. With regard to that, I feel that one has to try to apply one's own knowledge of human nature to the human nature that is affected by this matter. Again, the only reason I give the House my own experience is that I was brought up professionally in Liverpool police court and North Country assizes. For the first five or ten working years of my life, I came into contact at short intervals with the criminal population of Lancashire. I got a chance—I may be wrong, and I admit at once the possibility of error—of trying to form my view of these people, and especially—because they were the vast majority of the cases—of house breakers, pavilion breakers, and burglars, who came into the dock, and whom I saw.
I believe, as strongly as I can hold a belief, that with the ordinary run of these fellows, the thing that keeps them from giving an old lady a crack over the head, 1081 or prevents them from using violence when it is difficult to get away, is the fear that if they go too far then "the 8 o'clock walk" may well await them. If that were only my view, I should state it with even greater diffidence than I do; but when one goes over the evidence that was given before the Select Committee, and finds that view was given not only by Sir Alexander Paterson, who is known to so many of us in this House for his admirable and humane work, but by all those who had the best opportunity of seeing and judging the criminal mentality, then I find it very difficult to resist that view.
But it may be said—and I think that it has been an argument in the minds of many hon. Members in this House—that that is only one type of potential murderer. What about the other types? I would remind the House of the classic example which is always being quoted, and still must be considered by anyone who views this question fairly. I take only 1927, because that is the year to which attention has been directed in considering this aspect of the case. In that year, five men killed their wives or their mistresses. People have talked a good deal of the crime passionnel. I think that anyone with experience of murder cases will know that in most of those cases, the motive for the crime is boredom or satiety with the woman who is murdered. There were five cases of murder of wives or mistresses, and, in the same year, no fewer than 14,000 wives had to seek the protection of the courts because of acts of cruelty towards them. There were some 293 cased of aggravated assault. I am sorry to give the House merely the reaction of my own common sense, which may be defective, but to me it seems beyond peradventure true that there would have been more than 14,000, and certainly more than 293 would have gone furthers than assault and death would have resulted had not that deterrent been present.
The final point which I put to the House—and the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for overrunning my time a little, but there were one or two interruptions—is this. A question that has not been answered is. "What would we do if we took the penalty away?" I waited tensely and expectantly for the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. J. Paton) 1082 to deal with that point. He said that he rejected the suggestion of my right hon. Friend as to a period of imprisonment or penal servitude of 10 to 15 years—what my right hon. Friend had called a relatively short period, and he rejected it with some heat. What is the alternative?
§ Mr. J. Paton
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is referring to me, I made it plain to the House that the alternative was contained in the Clause on the Order Paper.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The Clause on the Order Paper has nothing to do with it. The hon. Gentleman is again avoiding the dilemma which all the people who object to this Clause must face. The dilemma is this. On one side, we have got what the hon. Gentleman objected to when my right hon. Friend mentioned it—that is the period of 10 to 15 years. On the other side—and this seemed to be the alternative which the hon. Gentleman was favouring when he made his speech—we have the conception, the hopeless conception, of 20, 25 or 30 years, a conception which would ruin the whole of our reformative ideas. We may save a man's body at the expense of killing his mind and, with his mind, his soul. That is a dilemma which has not been faced. If it is not faced, it leaves the question very clear.
As hon. Members have pointed out, everyone has recognised that we are dealing with a time and a situation of great difficulty. All the arguments which I have put forward are reinforced by the difficulties of the post-war period and its greater tendency towards the use of force, which we have seen. Like everyone else, I have tried to approach the question on its merits and with the idea of giving the best service to the solution. I have listened with the greatest care and sympathy to what hon. Gentlemen have said in advancing a different point of view. From the standpoint of conscience and experience, and for the protection or my fellow countrymen, I find that I can take one course only, and that is to vote against the proposed new Clause.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I am quite sure that all those hon. Members, who like myself, have spent the greater part of today in the House, will agree in this at least, that we have had a Debate that is 1083 worthy of the importance and the solemnity of the subject. Views held on both sides with earnest conviction and with great passion have been put forward eloquently and sincerely, and have been listened to with tolerance by those who have a different point of view. No matter what the outcome of the Debate may be, the Debate itself has been a credit to this great deliberative assembly. The Government find after the most careful review of this subject that they cannot recommend the House to support the Clause which has been put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). We believe, as he rightly suggested, that the time is not ripe for undertaking this particular reform. I do not myself believe that public opinion in the country is in favour of this Clause at this time.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) I have endeavoured to ascertain the views of the ordinary, sensible people whom I meet as I go about the country. I have found during recent weeks an increasing volume of uneasiness on this particular subject for which I find I am to some extent held personally responsible, because there has been during the present year a somewhat unusual run of successive reprieves. I have seen it said in the Press that this was due to my preparation for tonight's Debate. I repudiate that absolutely. I have applied to the cases that have come in front of me during the early months of this year exactly the same rules as I have applied during the whole of my period of office. As I am quite certain the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) will agree, these runs happen on occasion. Sometimes the run is a very substantial run of reprieves; sometimes it is a substantial run of cases in which there is no reprieve.
§ Mr. Ede
I can assure the House that this Debate has not influenced me in any way, and, in fact, I should be exceedingly blameworthy if I allowed anticipation of something else to influence me in carrying out this very responsible duty. This run of reprieves shows that the duty of considering these cases is discharged with every care by successive Home Secre- 1084 taries, and I know enough of the attitude of my predecessors in this matter from my inquiries in my present office to appreciate that the rules that I apply have during recent years been regarded as the appropriate ones to apply in these cases.
It may be of interest to the House if I give, as evidence of the way in which this works out, the figures relating to certain living Home Secretaries; I am not endeavouring to draw any invidious comparison, because it will be found, in fact, that the figures work out remarkably evenly. For the greater part of the year 1911, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was Home Secretary. In that year, 16 murderers were executed and 14 reprieved. In the year 1936 the present Lord Simon was Home Secretary, and nine were executed and 17 reprieved. In 1939 the present Lord Templewood and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) were responsible for different periods of that year, and that year nine were executed and 15 were reprieved. In 1947, which was a year for which I was entirely responsible, II were executed and 18 were reprieved. The House will see that the rules are fairly evenly applied by successive Home Secretaries.
I am bound to say that in my conversations with people during the time since I spoke on the Second Reading of this Bill on 27th November, I have found among ordinary workingclass people—in which I include salary earners as well as wage earners—an increasing feeling that the time has not come for this reform to be made. I have been surprised, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury was, at the unanimity with which this feeling is expressed. I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) that there is anything derogatory if a Member of Parliament on a matter of this kind listens to views made calmly and in the course of ordinary conversation by people whose respect for the law has to be maintained if this country is to continue to be a law-abiding community.
§ Mr. Baxter
May I ask the Home Secretary what he would say in this case? Suppose a Member of Parliament finds himself at variance with the majority opinion in his constituency, should he then speak and vote against his own conscience?
§ Mr. Ede
No, he should not. I share the view of Burke that we are not delegates, but, on the other hand, one of our duties is to ensure in matters like this that we keep respect for the law alive in the hearts of people who have to submit to its administration. I hope that we shall in these and other matters connected with this Bill, have regard to the fact that it is a very great thing for this country that the ordinary citizen believes that the law and those who administer it are sufficiently strong to prevent evil-doing and to punish evil-doing appropriately when it has occurred. I do not think that public opinion in this country shares the view, expressed with great eloquence this afternoon, that there is something intrinsically wrong in taking the life of a person who has deliberately and of malice aforethought taken the life of another person. There may come a time when that will be the general feeling in the country, but I am certain that it is not the feeling in the country at the moment.
I ask the House, in considering this case, to bear in mind that in the postwar years we have seen the emergence in this country of a class of gangster and armed criminal which hardly existed at all before the war. We have in this country also—and it is a great pride for this country—an unarmed civilian police force. I meet these police constables on duty and off duty as I go about the country in the various places where they serve their local police authorities. They are a body of men of whom this country can quite rightly be proud, for they undertake the risk, without arms, of preserving law and order in spite of their very small numbers in proportion to the rest of the country. Even when they are up to establishment they are far less in numbers in proportion to the population of the country than the police of any other country with which I have been able to compare the statistics. Now these men are faced at the moment with the emergence of this armed gangster and armed criminal type. They have the right to expect that all the while they are unarmed we shall make it quite clear that the criminal who uses arms or violence in his attempt to evade the police shall be dealt with with the utmost severity, and I regard the importance of that as very great indeed. Let us take the case of Constable Edgar. He was 1086 on plain clothes duty, he went along a path towards the door—
§ Mr. S. Silverman
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I understand that the case to which my right hon. Friend is now referring is awaiting trial by the courts. Is it right to refer to it?
§ Mr. Speaker
It depends on what the Home Secretary is going to say. He can use it as an illustration, I think.
§ Mr. Silverman
On that point of Order, I do not want to be malicious, but nobody yet knows whether murder has been done in that case.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Home Secretary is saying what happened to Constable Edgar; he need not necessarily make any reference to anybody who is accused of murdering him.
§ Mr. Ede
I do not want to take any unfair advantage in this particular case, it is within the knowledge of the House. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to other cases in which the police have been in difficulties. It is now almost impossible to get through a week without finding in the Metropolis some case in which the police have been subjected to great personal violence by criminals who are attempting to evade arrest, and it is only a matter of luck in a good many of these cases whether death occurred or not.
§ Mr. Frank Byers (Dorset, Northern)
This is an interesting argument. Would the Home Secretary say why, then, he abolished flogging?
§ Mr. Ede
The answer to that is perfectly clear. There was a Departmental Committee on flogging which made a report that was unanimous, and genuinely unanimous. By that I mean that every member of the Committee signed the document when the report was completed in which they advanced the view that flogging was no deterrent to the commission of crimes of violence.
§ Mrs. Nichol (Bradford, North) rose—1087
§ Mr. Ede
No, I cannot give way. I suggest to the House that the present position in regard to crimes of violence is such that flogging could not have been inflicted on anyone for an assault on the police in an effort to evade arrest. I hope the House will allow me to submit a series of figures, which I suggest ought to be given very grave consideration before anyone makes up his mind on this subject. In 1938, 97 murders of persons over one year of age were committed in this country. In 1946 the figure was 138 and in 1947 it was 134. I know my hon. Friends who support the Motion say that that is in spite of the death penalty, but neither side can prove anything in regard to its deterrent effect. I am perfectly entitled to say that in my view but for the death penalty the figure would have been much higher—
§ Mr. Silverman rose—
§ Mr. Silverman
I think the House is entitled to know from my right hon. Friend not merely whether he is entitled to say that but for the death penalty the figure would have been higher, but whether in fact he does say it.
§ Mr. Ede
In this matter my opinion is no better than that of anyone else, but if my hon. Friend wants my opinion, my opinion is that but for the existence of the death penalty the figure would have been higher. I cannot put it any higher than a personal opinion.
In regard to felonious and malicious wounding which is very often the commencement of something which might lead to murder and where sometimes a person may in the coarse of the assault recollect that if he goes too far he may commit murder the figures of conviction in 1938 were 244, in 1946, 370 and in 1947, 402. I say that those are very serious figures for this House to consider. I commend them to the House in the spirit in which this Debate has been conducted today for their thoughtful consideration before the votes are cast.
1088 The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) made a speech in which he asked what was the opinion of Sir Alexander Paterson, a man whose name was held in great veneration on both sides of the House, by people who have given any thought to the question of the administration of criminal justice in the country. As I think the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) proved from the passage he read from the Report of the Select Committee, Sir Alexander Paterson was opposed to the abolition of the death penalty because he could find no answer to the question that was put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities as to what is the alternative for the worst class of murderer who now suffers the supreme penalty of the law. He was a man who had given, both in this country and in other countries, great attention to the problem of prison sentences, and the view expressed in his evidence was that if we were to have a prison sentence that public opinion would tolerate as the alternative to the death penalty—if the death penalty were ever abolished—it would have to be so long that it would make it impossible to conduct the prison service of this country on the lines that he desired it to be conducted, and on the lines of reform for which he was so very largely responsible.
There has been no answer to that problem in the course of the Debate today. The Clause provides that there shall be imprisonment for life as the alternative to the death penalty. I say to the House that they can rest assured of this: that any person who suffers the supreme penalty of the law is a person for whose crime it is impossible to find any legitimate excuse. My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, who was almost my immediate predecessor in office, and the two right hon. Gentlemen who are now sitting opposite, who have both been Home Secretary, will, I am quite sure, bear me out in that.
The administration of the law of this country has become increasingly generous in this respect. There was a time when the only thing that the Home Secretary took into account was whether the person was technically insane, and was removed from his jurisdiction by a finding of insanity by qualified medical men who 1089 visited the prisoner. During my period of office, as during the period at least of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities—I am not sure whether it goes back as far as the period of office of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford—in addition to those, these medical officers on occasion report that while the person is not certified as insane there is such a mental abnormality as to make it, in borderline cases, doubtful whether, at the time of the commission of the crime, he was sufficiently responsible to be subjected to this extreme penalty.
Then there are the cases where extreme provocation has been shown, or where the right defence has not been advanced on occasions at the trial; learned counsel for the defence, on occasions, in consultation with the Judge and the Home Secretary of the day, say, "Well, we advanced the plea that our client did not do it because we thought we could establish that," and they have failed. They then bring to the notice of the Home Secretary circumstances connected with the crime which their line of defence has precluded them from advancing at the trial. The very fullest consideration is given to any submission that is made in that respect. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was challenged whether it was not possible that mistakes might not be made. May I say that, of course, no one can give an absolute answer to that. With all the precautions in the world there may be an occasion when human fallibility lets people down, but I am quite certain that if anyone listens to the summing up of the judge when he always warns the jury, in any kind of case, that any reasonable doubt must be resolved in favour of the prisoner, that applies even more to the consideration which is given at the final stage in these cases.
§ Mr. Ede
My hon. Friend says "No." He has never been Home Secretary yet. I can assure him, and I am in the presence of predecessors in office, who have held office in very differing periods, that there is no responsibility which falls on any Minister of State which gives greater personal concern to the man who has to discharge it alone than successive Home 1090 Secretaries feel in the discharge of these duties.
The House has had a long and I think significant Debate on this issue. I want to thank them for the way in which the Debate has been conducted, but I am bound to say, in conclusion, that the Government, having very carefully considered this matter over a period of months, recommend the House not to pass this new Clause tonight. They ask the House to reject the new Clause. But we recognise that this is a matter on which persons feel an individual personal conscientious responsibility. Therefore, the Government Whips will not be put on, but none the less we do urge the House to reject this new Clause. We believe that the figures I have given with regard to the number of executions is sufficient to indicate that the very greatest possible personal responsibility is undertaken in the discharge of the Home Secretary's heavy duty, and we ask the House to accept that as the reasonable way of dealing at the present time with this very difficult issue.
§ 9.59 P.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
In the course of this long Debate, almost every argument that could be of value has been presented. I propose to say very little indeed, and to say it very briefly. The main point made by the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) and by the Home Secretary himself was to ask us, "What is your alternative? What would you do to these men"— who were referred to as wild beasts—"if you do not hang them?" Upon that question, the authority of Sir Alexander Paterson was referred to again and again. It was said, "Here you have this great humanitarian, Sir Alexander Paterson who said that the death penalty in these circumstances is the more merciful." The House may be interested to hear that before Sir Alexander Paterson's death, he joined the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment and became a subscriber to that society, precisely because he saw that the alternative was now available.
Of course, there are men like Heath whom it would never be safe to loose on society again—nobody dreams that it would—and in the old sort of prison it may be that long, indefinite incarceration would be more cruel than death and 1091 would not give the spirit of a man the chance to reform; but in the new prison system—the prison system which comes with the Bill, which was so much the result of Sir Alexander Paterson's life—he saw there was an alternative, and that was why he changed his mind. In 1931, he thought it inappropriate, but at the time of his death he thought it appropriate and, therefore, all that evidence is turned right round.
I want to make only one other very small point. It is on the question of certainty, on which so much has been said. We are told, "You know there is not any real risk on this question of certainty. Mistakes are not really made." I would just say this in regard to that statement. I have a record here, a list of the names of some dozen innocent people hanged in this country, most of them, of course, a long, long time ago. I have also a list of some 60 names of people who were wrongly convicted, according to forms of British common law, after trial by judge and jury in America; each of these is the name of a person whose innocence was clearly established, but was established afterwards. That does not very often happen. We do not often find the proof afterwards, but the alarming thing is that, in the cases where proof does turn up afterwards, they are so often the cases which at the time appeared to be the most clearly proved.
Take the case of Bradford, the innkeeper. The facts were these. One of his guests had said in the hearing of Bradford that he had got some money with him. Groans were heard from that guest's room, two other guests broke in and there, standing over the bloody body of that guest with a bloody knife in one hand and a lantern in the other hand, was Bradford. He was apparently caught red-handed; one could not have a clearer case. No court of appeal would have interfered with that decision and no jury could have decided otherwise. But later it was proved wrong by a confession. The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities said confessions are not always final, but this confession was sealed by the production of the jewels belonging to the dead guest by the man who confessed he had taken them away. Bradford had been hanged, however.
1092 Let us take the case of Hebron. Hebron was proved by the clearest evidence to have been guilty. There was his boot—a hand-made boot with a most distinctive nail pattern—beside the murdered policeman, a policeman whom he had threatened to shoot. No jury could have found otherwise, and the Court of Appeal could not have interfered. Fortunately for him, Hebron was only just 18, and the sentence was respited. Then there was Charles Peace, who sat an interested spectator in court throughout the hearing, and confessed to the crime, and produced the most detailed evidence that he had committed it. The bullet taken from the murdered constable's body was proved to have been fired from Charles Peace's revolver. That could happen today. Of course, it could. There is nothing to prevent it.
I will take one other case which shows the real fallacy of this argument. There were two citizens, one of Brooklyn and one of Massachusetts, charged in their respective States with the same murder. They were both convicted. It was common ground that that murder had been committed by only one man. The Brooklyn jury found beyond reasonable doubt that that man was the Brooklyn citizen, and the Massachusetts jury was convinced it was the Massachusetts citizen—on the same evidence.
We ascertain these matters only by trials. Trial is an uncertain instrument. If it were not an uncertain instrument, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) and I would be earning our incomes by false pretences. The moment we require absolute certainty, we abolish the death penalty. In Mohammedan law adultery is a capital offence, but since the requirement of proof is the evidence of seven eye witnesses, the death penalty is not inflicted. Mosaic law worked on the same basis. Yet the Sanhedrim, which in 3o years convicted one single man of a capital offence, was known to history as the "Bloody Sanhedrim." The moment we require real certainty we abolish capital punishment, because real certainty is not afforded to man. Only God and the accused know the real truth. The circumstances may look very clear, we may think we are right; but we cannot be certain.
1093 There is one other point I would make. There is one set of events which, since 1938, has changed two men's minds. One of those men is the Home Secretary, and the other is a predecessor of his, Lord Templewood. Upon this issue I believe Lord Templewood is profoundly right. What he has said is, that the experience which he gained during the war, from seeing the Fascist regime, is that human personality is a sacred thing, that this is a principle that admits of no compromise, and that the consequences of subjugating the individual to the interests of the State have been seen in Germany. That was the reaction on Lord Templewood.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. J. Paton) quoted what the Italian Fascist Minister of Justice said, when the death penalty was restored, not because of any increase in the homicide rate, but because the death penalty was fundamentally in tune with Fascism—… the Fascist conception, according to which the individual was only an infinitesimal and transitory element in the social organisation and must, therefore, subordinate his own interests and his very existence to the organisation of the State.There, in splendid candour, is the real case for capital punishment. For my part, I am willing that the dictators shall have their gallows, their guillotines, their firing squads and gas chambers: that is a form of protection which they may need. But we are the citizens of a proud democracy, and we dare to live without these things.
Fundamentally, tying up a man, and then coldly and deliberately taking his life is an evil thing. Anybody present at an execution would know with certainty in his own heart and soul that he had been present at an evil thing. No witness who has appeared before any of these inquiries has said otherwise than that when he had come from an execution he felt unclean
§ —and he was right so to feel. There is only one test for the difference between good and evil, and that is what something indefinable within us tells us is good, and what that indefinable thing tells us is evil. Nobody who had been at an execution could think otherwise than that he had been in contact with an evil thing. There is only one real and safe guide for humanity: good does not come out of evil, and good does not result from doing things known to be evil. To me, that is enough answer to this whole question. The death penalty is an evil thing, and no good can be got by it.
§ It has been said that in this matter we are asking for an innovation and a change. We are doing no such thing. In 10 murders out of 11 we are asking for no change. In the eleventh case it is not we who are asking for change, but those who oppose this new Clause. Our opponents are asking for the most vital of all changes: the change between life and death. Human life and human personality are things which cannot be created by us, and which cannot be recalled by us. Surely, the burden of proof is upon those who wish to take life. It is for them to prove, and to prove beyond reasonable doubt, that it is necessary to take the life which they wish to take. When hon. Members cast their votes tonight they will be deciding whether many men condemned and to be condemned shall live or die. That is a formidable responsibility, and before they plump for death in that Lobby they should be even more certain of the necessity of what they would do than the jury which has to decide the destiny of but one man.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes. 245; Noes, 2221097
|Division No. 124.||AYES||[10.15 p.m.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Barstow, P. G||Braddock, T. (Mitcham)|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Bartlett, V||Bramall, E. A.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Barton, C.||Brook, D. (Halifax)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Battley, J. R.||Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Baxter, A. B||Brown, T. J. (Ince)|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Benson, G.||Bruce, Maj. D. W. T|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Beswick, F.||Bullock, Capt, M|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Bing, G. H. C.||Burden, T. W.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Blyton, W, R.||Burke, W. A.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Boardman, H.||Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Bowden, Fig. Offr. H. W.||Byers, Frank|
|Baird, J||Bowles, F.G (Nuneaton)||Carmichael, James|
|Balfour, A.||Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Castle, Mrs. B. A.|
|Chamberlain, R. A||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Chetwynd, C. R||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H|
|Cluse, W. S.||Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)||Randall, H. E|
|Cobb, F. A.||Janner, B||Ranger, A.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Rankin, J.|
|Coldrick, W||Jeger, Dr. S. W (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Reeves, J.|
|Collick, P.||John, W.||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Collins, V. J.||Jones, Elwyn (Ptaistow)||Renton, D.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Richards, R.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Kendall, W. D.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.|
|Corbel, Mrs. F. K, (Camb'well, N W.)||Kenyon, C.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kinley, J.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Crawley, A.||Lang, G.||Rogers, G. H. R.|
|Crossman, R. H. S||Langford-Holt, J.||Royle, C.|
|Cunningham, P.||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Daines, P.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Sargood, R.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lever, N. H.||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Levy, B. W.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Deer, G.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Diamond, J.||Lipson, D. L.||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Dobbie, W.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Smith, H. N, (Nottingham, S.)|
|Dodds, N. N||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)|
|Donovan, T.||Lyne, A. W||Sollery, L. J.|
|Driberg, T. E. N||McGhee, H. G||Sorensen, R. W|
|Dumpleton, C. W||McGovern, J||Stokes, R. R.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Mack, J. D.||Strong, Dr. B|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Stubbs, A. E|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Swingler, S.|
|Evans, John (Ogmore)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Sylvester, G. O|
|Ewart, R.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Symonds, A. L.|
|Fairhurst, F.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Farthing, W. J||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Teeling, William|
|Field, Capt. W. J.||Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E L||Medlicott, Brigadier F.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Follick, M.||Mellish, R. J||Tiffany, S.|
|Foot, M. M.||Messer, F||Timmons, J.|
|Forman, J. C.||Middleton, Mrs. L||Titterington, M. F|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Mikardo, Ian||Ungoed-Thomas, L|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Miltington, Wing-Comdr. E R||Usborne, Henry|
|Gallacher, W.||Mitchison, G. R||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Monslow, W||Viant, S. P.|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Moody, A. S.||Wadsworth, G|
|Gibson, C. W.||Morley, R.||Walker, G. H.|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Walker-Smith, D|
|Granville, E. (Eye)||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Wallace, H. W (Walthamstow, E)|
|Greenwood, A. W. J (Heywood)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Watkins, T. E|
|Grenfell, D. R||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Weitzman, D.|
|Grey, C. F.||Murray, J. D||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Nally, W.||West, D. G.|
|Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N)||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Noel-Baker, Capt. F E. (Brentford)||While, H. (Derbyshire, N.E)|
|Gurrter, R. J.||Oliver, G. H||Wigg, George|
|Hale, Leslie||Orbach, M.||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Paget, R. T.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Harris, H. Wilson (Cambridge Univ)||Paling, Will T (Dewsbury)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Palmer, A. M. F||Williams, R. W. (Wigan)|
|Herbison, Miss M||Pargiter, G A||Williams, W. R (Heston)|
|Hicks, G.||Parker, J.||Wilts, Mrs. E. A.|
|Hollis, M. C.||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Wise, Major F. J|
|Holman, P.||Peart, T. F.||Woods, G. S.|
|Horabin, T. L||Perrins W||Wyatt, W.|
|House, G.||Piratin, P.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Hoy, J.||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.|
|Hubbard, T.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hudson. J H. (Ealing. W.)||Porter, G (Leeds)||Mrs. Florence Paton and|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Prescott, Stanley||Mr. Heathcoat Amory.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Bennett, Sir P||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Scot Univ)||Berry, H.||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Bevin, Rt. Hon. E (Wandsworth, C.)||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'td'n)|
|Astor, Hon. M||Binns, J.||Carson, E.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Blackburn, A. R.||Channon, H.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Boothby, R.||Clarke, Col. R. S.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Bower, N.||Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H||Boyd-Carpentar, J. A||Collindridge, F.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Conant, Maj. R. J E|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr J. G||Cooper-Key, E. M|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W||Robens, A.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||Keeling, E. H.||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)|
|Crowder, Capt. John E.||Keenan, W.||Roberts, P. G. (Ecclesall)|
|Daggar, G.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Key, C. W.||Robinson, Roland|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Drewe, C.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Leslie, J. R.||Scollan, T.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lindgren, G. S.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Dye, S.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Linstead, H. N.||Sharp, Granville|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Low, A. R. W.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||McAdam, W.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Mac Andrew, Col. Sir C.||Snadden, W. M.|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||McCorquodate, Rt. Hon. M. S||Snow, J. W.|
|Fox, Sir G.||McEntee, V. La T.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||Macketon, Brig. H. R.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Spence, H. R.|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M||McKinlay, A. S.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D||Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Gammans, L. D.||McLeavy, F.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Gates, Maj. E. E||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Gibbins, J.||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Gilzean, A.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Maitland, Comdr, J. W.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mann, Mrs. J.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Grant, Lady||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Marples, A. E.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Marsden, Capt. A.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Guy, W. H.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil||Maude, J. C.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Mellor, Sir J.||Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.|
|Hardy, E. A.||Molson, A. H. E.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Morris-Jones, Sir H.||Tolley, L.|
|Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Harrison, J.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Touche, G. C.|
|Harvey, Air-Cmdre. A. V.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Haughton, S. G.||Mort, D. L.||Turton, R. H.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)||Naylor, T. E.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Walkden, E.|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Nicholson, G.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Herbert, Sir A. P.||Nield, B. (Chester)||Watson, W. M.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Odey, G. W.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Hogg, Hon. Q.||Oldfield, W. H.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Hope, Lord J.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Whileley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Howard, Hon. A.||Peaks, Rt. Hon. O.||Wilkes, L.|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Pickthorn, K.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Hurd, A.||Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Price, M. Philips||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Price-White, Lt-.Col. D.||Woodburn, A|
|Jarvis, Sir J.||Pryde, D. J.||York, C.|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Raikes, H. V.||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Jennings, R.||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Mr. S. N. Evans and Mr. Gage.|
Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Amendments on the Order Paper to the new Clause must be taken now, and if the Amendments are 1098 passed the new Clause must be amended accordingly. This is the time for the hon. Member to move his first Amendment if he so wishes.