§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), it might be convenient if I were to indicate that I shall select the Amendment standing in the names of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) and other hon. Members, and that I will call the hon. and gallant Member in due course should he desire to move it.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Do I take it that the Amendment standing in the name of myself and other hon. Members will not be called?
§ [That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, while removing the deterrent of the 1957 Act to certain types of killer who might reasonably be supposed to be deterred from killing by the prospect of being hanged, makes no provision for a substitute deterrent of comparable gravity.]
It is not selected. Each Amendment results in a decision on the Question whether the word "now" stands part of the Question. If it stands part once, we cannot consider another Amendment.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
My first word must be one of appreciation and gratitude to the Government for having provided the House and those of us who wish to see a final end of the last remnant of a grotesque barbarity with the opportunity of seeing the end of it at last.
If I may say one personal word, I suppose that I may claim a unique, if modest, distinction in that I believe I am the only private Member whose Private Member's Bill has been accorded the distinction of a mention in the Queen's Speech, and I take this as a good omen. This is a Private Member's Bill. The Government are officially neutral 871 about it. The vote will be, as it has always been with the notable exception of that on the Homicide Act, 1957, a free vote of the House, but I hope that on this occasion we may count on the neutrality of the Government being a benevolent neutrality.
The Title of the Bill states that it is a Bill to abolish the death penalty, but I think it useful to say at the outset of the remarks which I hope to make to the House that the Title goes substantially beyond the amendment to the present law proposed by the Bill. I am not proposing to invite the House, on this occasion, to debate all the pros and cons of the preservation or abolition of the death penalty for murder. That battle—a long, grim, sometimes dreary, sometimes exciting battle—was won in 1957 in the Homicide Act.
We are not concerned today with whether we ought to abolish or preserve the death penalty for murder. That we have already decided. The question before the House today—the only question remaining for Parliament to decide—is whether we shall abolish or retain not the abolition of the death penalty for murder, but the exceptions to that abolition which were made in the Homicide Act, 1957, and since there is scarcely anybody who has a good word to say for these exceptions, the answer to the question which is presently before Parliament ought not to be difficult.
I thought it was worth while to say this at the outset because some newspapers and cognoscenti of public opinion are still talking as though the battle was to run again, as though we were at the beginning of this long and difficult road instead of, as the truth is, virtually at the end of it.
Clause 1 of my Bill says:No person shall suffer death for murder, and a person guilty of murder shall, subject to subsection (4) below"—That deals with children—be sentenced to imprisonment for life.This is very like the Homicide Act, 1957, Section 7 of which reads:No person shall be liable to suffer death for murder in any case not falling within section five or six of this Act.Sections 5 and 6 of that Act deal with the exceptions, and I shall be dealing with them later. For the moment I draw the 872 attention of the House to the fact that Section 7 of the Act, with those exceptions, is the same as Clause 1 of the Bill.
Section 9 of that Act provides that those who are not sentenced to death under that Act shall suffer imprisonment for life. It is important to remember this, because this abolition in principle, subject to the exceptions, of the death penalty for murder did, in fact, abolish the death penalty for murder over about five-sixths of the field. It was done by an official act of policy of the Government of the day.
No one said "You have no mandate to do it." No one voted against it on the ground that it ran too far ahead of public opinion. Nobody said that there ought to be a referendum or a Gallup poll or any other method of seeing whether the Government of the day were entitled to call upon their supporters in this House and in another place to vote for the abolition of the death penalty for murder.
In this, in my view, they were right. We do not govern ourselves in this country by a referendum. We do not govern ourselves by a Gallup poll. We do not, in matters of life and death, think that it is right to decide what is just or unjust by a spot, unconsidered reaction taken on the street corner or in a club or in a "pub". Indeed, no part of our criminal law has ever been so determined. A good deal of it has not been enacted by Statute at all. It was the long, slow development of the common law.
Where the law has resulted from Acts of Parliament, from Statute, the Government of the day have taken their responsibility as a Government, knowing that in a Parliamentary democracy it is for Parliament to decide what Parliament thinks right, knowing that in the background there is the public, the electorate, and that we shall all of us have to answer in due course to those who sent us here for what we have done.
For my part, in this business of Parliamentary responsibility in a Parliamentary democracy, in this business of what it is right or wrong for a Member of Parliament to do, especially when he is acting in accordance with his own judgment and his own conscience and not in accordance with directions from a Whip or out of loyalty to a Government, I am content to confine my eloquence to saying "ditto" to Mr. Burke. It was Edmund Burke 873 who stated this position once for and all in his famous letter to the electors of Bristol.
To those who are a little, in my opinion, over-sensitive to what is, I think, quite mistakenly thought to be public opinion—I say this, maybe, a little boldly, but with no intention of giving offence to anybody—I should like hon. Members to imagine what their duty would be if they had the responsibility of deciding, if there were a man whom they knew it would be wrong to kill, if, in respect of that man, there were violent public pressure, nevertheless to kill him. Would it be right for a responsible legislator or member of the Government to kill that man, whom he thought he ought not to kill, because of some popular immediate pressure which might change its mind the next morning? Surely, anyone who did that would be repeating the mistake that Pontius Pilate made 2,000 years ago.
Parliament must take its own responsibility. In exercising that responsibility, we in Parliament must be very conscious that we are responsible to those who send us here and must answer to them for what we do here. This is what we are not merely ready but anxious to do. But that does not mean that we must subordinate our judgment, still less that we must distort our consciences, in order to do something we believe to be wrong because if we do not we might lose a vote or even an election. So I say that the Government of the day were perfectly right to decide, as they did decide, in principle and subject to the exceptions that are left, to abolish the death penalty for murder.
The result, the Homicide Act, 1957, was not easily reached. It had a history which many of us remember. But today, in spite of the fierce and passionate battles on the Death Penalty (Abolition) Bill, 1956, following which the Homicide Act was passed, and although the Act has been law for seven or eight years, there is no one in the House today who is prepared to advise right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to go back to the old law. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I see nothing to that effect on the Order Paper.
Mr. Speaker has said that the Amendment he will call is that in the names of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) and 874 a number of other hon. Members. That Amendment states:On Second Reading of Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill, to move, That the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months.That, of course, is the formula for rejection of the Bill. Supposing that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has his way and the Bill is defeated. What will then be the law? Why, Sir, the law then will continue to be what it is now. It will continue to be the law as set out in the Homicide Act, 1957, and the death penalty will still not apply to five out of six murders. That principle will continue to be the law of the land.
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
By gradual process, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) has eliminated hanging to the present state it has reached. I want to stop this where it is today. I would like to have a Private Member's Bill washing out everything which the hon. Gentleman has done in the past.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not quite understand that. The only exception I would take to what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said is that I really cannot accept his compliment that the law, as his Amendment proposes to leave it, was achieved by me. The law as it stands was not enacted by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. It was enacted by a Government of which the hon. and gallant Member was a loyal supporter. He did not oppose it. He did not vote against it. He accepted it.
As for wishing to introduce a Private Member's Bill to repeal that law, I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will take his opportunity when it comes up, as I took mine when mine came up. I am only wondering why, if he feels so passionately that the Homicide Act, 1957, was wrong, he has been so dilatory in attempting to repeal it. But what we are concerned with today is not what the hon. and gallant Gentleman would like to do on some other occasion, but with what he proposes to do on this occasion—and what he proposes to do now expressly is to leave the law on the death penalty as it was left by the Homicide Act.
§ Sir John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)
I was not even in the House at the time the Act was discussed. I entered the House a day or two before it received the Royal Assent.
§ Mr. Silverman
I apologise to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He was not Attorney-General then. He was only Attorney-General shortly afterwards.
§ Mr. Silverman
Therefore, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has no personal responsibility, since he was not a Member of the House, for the Act. But he has accepted it ever since, just like the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West.
The reason I brought the right hon. and learned Gentleman into this was not so much for the mistake in thinking that he was Attorney-General at the time, but for what he has been doing in recent weeks. He has taken a leading part in the campaign against the Bill in the country. He has written very impressive and weighty letters in the correspondence columns of The Times. I do not accept the figures that he quoted in The Times. I think that they were all wrong. As he has never quoted us what is the authority for at any rate one of the two columns of figures, his argument has not impressed me.
§ Mr. Silverman
I will give way in a moment. Suppose the right hon. and learned Gentleman's figures are right—they may well be for anything I know to the contrary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] All I have said is that I would not support them myself and I would not accept them. This does not in any way mean that the figures are necessarily wrong. They may well be right. I am inviting the House, for the sake of argument, to assume that they are.
§ Sir J. Hobson
We should clear this matter up now. The figures I quoted 876 were the result of Answers from my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), the former Secretary of State for the Home Department, and his successor, the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice). They were published in HANSARD.
§ Mr. Silverman
One of the two columns the right hon. and learned Gentleman embodied in one of his letters consisted of figures for murder. The other was of figures for executions. The one for murder was in the hundreds. There has never been, so far as I know—and I do not claim any infallibility or to know any more about this matter than any other hon. Member—a time in the history of this country when convictions for murder have reached hundreds a year. I had to say that in answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's interruption, but I come back to inviting the House to assume that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has the right figures and has drawn the right inference from them.
Again, that seems to me to be very doubtful. What inference did he draw? He said—and I will willingly give way if I misinterpret him in any way—that non-capital murders, since 1957, have increased and that capital murders have also increased. But, he said, capital murders had increased at a slower rate than non-capital murders. He drew the inference, which could be correct, that, therefore, the removal of the death penalty for non-capital murders had increased the number of non-capital murders. Is that right? Is that what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says?
I hope to have it right, because, if that is so, then I ask why the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not proposing to restore the death penalty for non-capital murders. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is the hon. Member's Bill."] I am not talking about Bills now. I am referring to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's contributions to the public discussion outside the House, when he has said distinctly and repeatedly that he is not proposing to go back to the old law. He would not be in favour of restoring the death penalty for non-capital murders. He would not be in favour of restoring the death penalty for any murder for which, under the present law, it is not inflicted.
877 If the right hon. and learned Gentleman believes that I am misquoting him, he is here and I am ready to give way. He knows that I am not misquoting him. This is the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has been an Attorney-General and who may be again. How does he invite the House of Commons to believe that we have removed an effective deterrent to non-capital murder but not to restore it? He does not.
I therefore return to the point which I have been making, that there is not before the House today, and is not, any serious proposal to go back on what was done in 1957, to restore the death penalty for all those murders for which it is not now inflicted, that being five-sixths of all of them, that it is not now proposed to reverse what we did in 1957, namely, in principle to abolish the death penalty for murder. It therefore seems clear that the only question with which the House is concerned is whether to abolish the exceptions which the 1957 Act made to that principle.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I know that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to be unfair, but would he not agree that the Long Title of his Bill forbids any Amendment which would have the effect of repealing the Homicide Act, 1957, that the Bill is obviously concerned with abolition and that, therefore, even if we wished, we could not put down an Amendment which would have the effect of restoring the death penalty to non-capital murder?
§ Mr. Silverman
I concede at once that it would not be possible in Committee to put down an Amendment which was outside the Long Title of the Bill. It is not for me to express any view as to what would or would not be within the Long Title. That is Mr. Speaker's responsibility or, in Committee, the responsibility of the Chairman. However, there was nothing to prevent anyone inclined to that view from putting down a reasoned Amendment to the Second Reading of the Bill, not merely objecting to the Bill, not merely advising its rejection, but advising its rejection because it would have been better to restore the death penalty abolished in 1957.
May I point out that there is a reasoned Amendment which is not being called and which, like the unreasoned Amendment 878 which has been selected, does not call for any repeal of the 1957 Act? That reasoned Amendment says:That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill"—the next words should be noted—which, while removing the deterrent of the 1957 Act to certain types of killer who might reasonably be supposed to be deterred from killing by the prospect of being hanged …It does not apply to all types of killer. It makes a distinction between those who might be deterred and those who might not and it assumes that the exceptions introduced in the Homicide Act were the exceptions of those who might be deterred, whereas all the others could not reasonably be expected to be deterred.
In other words, it concedes that there is no deterrent, no unique deterrent, no exclusively effective, deterrent, in the death penalty to most murders, but claims that there is a uniquely deterrent effect is respect of some murders.
I concede that that is the argument with which I have to deal and I propose to deal with it as shortly as I can very soon. All I am concerned to establish now, and all I have been concerned to establish so far, is that nobody thinks that substantially there is any other question to be decided.
I now come to the subject of these exceptions and whether to retain them. I am sorry to be a little longer than I had intended, but this is the crux of the matter and I am sure that the House will have a little patience with me while I examine it. This question has a history which goes back a long way. It is 100 years, almost to the day, since a Royal Commission appointed by the House first made an attempt to distinguish between murders which ought to be capital and murders which ought not to be. In 1864, that Royal Commission was appointed. It was in favour of abolishing the death penalty altogether, but it recommended, because it thought that public opinion was not ready for that, precisely the suggestion that murders should be categorised so that some should be capital and some not.
I confess that to all penal reformers this has always been a very attractive idea. If only we could have found a just and rational way of distinguishing between murders which could rightly 879 and justly and rationally be regarded as capital and murders which could not, we would have seen an end to this controversy many years ago. Many attempts have been made over those 100 years and I will not weary the House by detailing or recounting any of them.
However, the exceptions introduced into the Homicide Act, 1957, were not intended to distinguish between the more and the less heinous crimes. If they were intended to do any such thing, they lamentably failed any such objective. No one could think that the exceptions in the 1957 Act were the worst murders. Those who accept the position of the 1957 Act accept that the murderers of children shall not be hanged. Those who accept the 1957 Act accept that cold, calculated, premeditated murders shall not be capital.
Those who accept the 1957 Act accept that foul sexual crimes shall not be capital. Those who accept the 1957 Act accept that if a man waylays his enemy around a dark corner of a back street and stabs him in the back with a knife, that shall not be capital murder, whereas if he waits for him with a revolver and shoots him in the front, that is capital murder.
Anyone who tried to justify the exceptions in the 1957 Act on the ground that it was a successful attempt to distinguish between the gravest kinds of murder and crimes which were not so grave would have an impossible task. Let the House remember that Ruth Ellis would still have committed a capital crime under the Homicide Act because she used a revolver instead of a knife.
We know what the exceptions in the 1957 Act are, but we know something else about them. Every single one of them had been defeated by the House of Commons by a substantial majority on a free vote. There is not one of the exceptions included in the 1957 Act that was not proposed in Committee or on Report during the passage through the House of Commons of the Death Penalty (Abolition) Bill of 1956.
Perhaps I might add a word to the modest distinction which I claimed for myself at the opening of my speech, because on the Death Penalty (Abolition) Bill I suppose that I was the only 880 back bencher who led a coalition of both sides of the House against the Government of the day and won at every stage. It was only when we reached the House of Lords that we were rejected and the right hon. Gentleman who was then Home Secretary or Leader of the House found himself in an inescapable dilemma. He had promised the House of Commons that if it decided to abolish the death penalty on a free vote, the Government would accept its decision. Having done that, he proceeded to give exactly the same pledge to another place, well knowing that the other place was most likely, as indeed it did, to come to the opposite conclusion.
Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman found himself pledged to the House of Commons to abolish the death penalty and pledged to the House of Lords to retain it. As he could not possibly fulfil both pledges, what he did was, reasonably enough—no one can blame him for it—to attempt a compromise, and the exceptions in the Homicide Act, 1957, were never offered to the House, never offered to Parliament on their merits as penal reform or as criminal law. They were offered to the House of Commons as a political compromise to get the Government of the day out of a serious and awkward dilemma.
I remind the House that all those exceptions had been rejected one by one, every one of them, when Members of the House of Commons—and I remind the House that it was a House of Commons with a Tory majority—were left to their individual judgment. When they were asked to obey their personal consciences, they had voted against every one of the exceptions introduced in the Homicide Act. It is true that they humbly and tamely accepted them at a later stage, but they accepted them for quite respectable reasons. I do not complain of any of them.
The Government had put the Whips on and the question then was not whether the exceptions were right or wrong in principle. The question was whether hon. Members would support the Government of which they were supporters, which they wished to support, which they did not wish to embarrass and certainly which they did not wish to defeat. They accepted it on the authority of the Government, 881 the Government taking responsibility for it and they taking only responsibility for not dissenting from the Government view. Their own individual conscientious judgment had already been exercised against it.
An equally, or even more, curious thing happened in another place, because the Homicide Act, 1957, abolishing in principle the death penalty for murder, was accepted by another place. There were no objections to it at all, although it had just defeated the very same proposition without exceptions a month or two before.
That is part of the history. There is another part of it. In 1948, I moved a Clause to the Criminal Justice Bill, a consolidating Measure——
§ Mr. Iremonger
I do not want to disturb the train of the hon. Member's argument, but if he is now leaving the part of his argument which deals with the 1957 Act, may I ask whether he feels it right to do justice to those who supported the 1957 Act in this House by recalling the argument that the Government put forward? It was not that the Government purported to draw a line between those kinds of murder which were most heinous and those which were less heinous. They attempted to differentiate between types of murder as to the degree to which they contributed to the disturbance of public order. If I remember correctly, that was what influenced me and many of my hon. Friends to support my right hon. Friend in his Bill.
§ Mr. Silverman
That is very largely true. It is entirely true with one exception, which I shall take half a minute to deal with presently. I did not want to extend the length of my speech by dealing with all the exceptions separately. The argument about deterability was part of the argument in the Committee stage of the Death Penalty (Abolition) Bill and it had been rejected on their own conscientious judgment by a majority of Members of the House of Commons at that stage.
The exception is the question of second murders, because nobody, surely, has ever thought that if a man was not deterred by the death penalty from committing the first murder, he would be deterred from committing, not having been found out so far, a second one. In the case of second murders, the idea was 882 not deterability, but that this was a much graver crime and should be punished.
As to the other point, the hon. Member is perfectly right. All I am saying is that this was accepted by the House of Commons on the authority of the Government and against hon. Members' own private conscientious judgment.
In 1948, when I moved a Clause to suspend the death penalty for five years, it was rejected in another place because, it was said, it was too far in advance of public opinion. If it were done, it could only be done with exceptions, so the other place threw it out. Acting under that inspiration and incitement, my right hon. Friends in the Government of that day proposed a Clause to meet the objections in another place in order to provide exceptions. The exceptions included one or two others, but they also included all those in the Homicide Act, 1957.
When we sent that back to another place, it was rejected also for the perfectly justifiable ground, which I am inviting the House of Commons today to say is still true, that it was unworkable, that it was irrational, that it was unjust and that public conscience would not stand for it and Parliament had no right to enact it. Therefore, the exceptions were rejected then by both Houses.
§ Sir Alexander Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
The hon. Member says that hanging is not a deterrent. He has said in the past that hanging is not a deterrent and, presumably, he bases his Bill upon that. I should like to know whether he will consider, at a later stage, a new Clause incorporating a trial period. If, indeed, hanging is not a deterrent, that would do his cause no harm but it would give some assurance to those, rightly or wrongly, who still have doubts about whether it is a deterrent.
§ Mr. Silverman
That is the difference. The only point about deterrents, and, I think, the only rational ground on which a death penalty could ever be defended, is that there are fewer murders if we have the death penalty than if we do not have the death penalty. That is the criterion and test. What I have denied, 883 and what I have not denied alone, is that the death penalty is a deterrent to murder in any sense that is more effective than other existing or imaginable deterrents. The Royal Commission has established that proposition beyond further controversy to the satisfaction of all those who wish to know the truth.
The hon. Gentleman asks about a trial period. This is where I began 16 years ago. We have had already seven or eight years' experience of the deterrent effect of the exceptions in the 1957 Act. Another five years will not alter the picture one way or the other. I think that this controversy has gone on long enough. The arguments both ways are clear, and I think that everybody knows what they are. I think that everybody has made up his mind about where the balance between the two arguments lies. I do not believe that any useful purpose would be served by prolonging the debate, or by keeping the matter in issue, for another five years with the prospect of having to do it all over again five years' hence.
If it should turn out that this is all wrong, and if the abolition of this remnant of the death penalty proves to be a mistake, we do not need a five years' Clause in the Bill to put it right. Parliament will remain sovereign. It will be able to repeal whatever we do. There is no need to keep the pot boiling, to keep the argument going, when it has been reduced to such a small, narrow limit and has had so much of a trial period.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
Would the hon. Gentleman help me about the question of deterrence? The Bill abolishes capital punishment for the offence of murder, whether it be heard and determined in an ordinary criminal court or by court-martial under Section 70 of the Army Act. But under the same section of the Army Act and equivalent sections of the Air Force and Naval Discipline Acts the death penalty can be passed for treason; and for mutiny under Section 31 of the Army Act; and for other specified acts under Section 24(1) of the Army Act.
As I understand, the death penalty will remain for treason, mutiny and these other acts if the Bill becomes law. If the hon. Gentleman has left capital 884 punishment for these numerous Service offences as a deterrent, will he say why he does not think it should be left as a deterrent for murder?
§ Mr. Silverman
Like, I think, all abolitionists and, though I am not so certain about this, the overwhelming majority of the House of Commons, I am in favour of abolishing the death penalty for any crime, whether it be treason, cowardice, desertion, sabotage in a dockyard, piracy, or anything else, because I do not believe—and this is the gravamen of the whole argument—That we have any right to pursue and carry out this callous, brutal, coldhearted ritual unless we are satisfied that a useful social purpose is thereby attained. I do not believe that it is attained.
The hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) may well ask why abolition of the death penalty for these offences is not included in the Bill. He must remember that the arguments about treason are very different from the arguments about murder. In peace time, we have not carried out the death penalty on anybody for any crime other than murder for 100 years. Even in war time, or just after war time for offences committed in war, we have executed only three people in the last 100 years. It would have been very bad tactics on our part if we had complicated the simple issue of being for or against the death penalty for murder by introducing a complicated argument for or against the abolition of the death penalty for other crimes when it has not been inflicted for 100 years and is virtually obsolete. We shall take a further opportunity some day of bringing that part of the law into line with the rest of our civilised law, but I do not think that we can do it on this occasion.
§ Mr. Silverman
I hope that the figures which I have quoted are right; but I am not quoting them on my own responsibility. They have been supplied to me by the Home Office for the purpose of meeting such an objection as the hon. Gentleman has made. I therefore hope that he will accept them and will regard them as a sufficient answer to his question.
885 In summing up this question of trying to find a remedy, all I need do is to invite attention to the Royal Commission's Report. I recommend those who have not read it, and those who have forgotten it and still have doubts about this subject, to re-read the Report of the Royal Commission which examined the whole question and where all the arguments are to be found. It is very lucid and authoritative and is a massive argument against the death penalty.
On the question of finding degrees or categories of murder, all that I need do is to read paragraph 534:Our examination of the law and procedure of other countries lends no support to the view that the objections to degrees of murder, which we discussed above, are only theoretical and academic and may be disproved by the practical experience of those countries where such a system is in force. We began our inquiry with the determination to make every effort to see whether we could succeed where so many have failed, and discover some effective method of classifying murders so as to confine the death penalty to the more heinous. Where degrees of murder have been introduced, they have undoubtedly resulted in limiting the application of capital punishment and for this reason they have commended themselves to public opinion, but in our view their advantages are far outweighed by the theoretical and practical objections which we have described. We conclude with regret that the object of our quest is chimerical and that it must be abandoned.It is true that the Royal Commission was talking about classifying murders according to whether they were bad or not so bad. But the same argument must inevitably apply to any other way of distinguishing between them unless the figures lead to any different conclusion.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (Billericay)
The hon. Gentleman has just said that the Royal Commission's Report on Capital Punishment is an argument in favour of abolition. Is he not aware that the Royal Commission was precluded expressly by its terms of reference, given by the Labour Government, from considering the question that the House today is debating?
§ Mr. Silverman
Of course I am aware of that. I assumed that every Member of the House was so aware of it that it did not need me to say it. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows this subject very well. It is a great mistake to offer cheap debating points about it. He knows that they are nothing more, because 886 he knows perfectly well that the Royal Commission said in so many words that it could not find any way of ameliorating or modifying the death penalty, and that if Parliament wanted to do anything about the death penalty it was faced with the stark alternatives of retaining the death penalty as it was, or abolishing it altogether. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that very well and I think that he might have remembered it before prolonging my speech more than I have, unfortunately, had to do.
There is one point with which I feel I ought to deal, and that is the question of the alternative. Of course, this question was equally relevant in 1957. Nobody raised it. There cannot be any question of having a different alternative in the case of the exceptions from the alternative which we enact when the death penalty is abolished over most of the field.
I think that it is necessary to indicate to the House what the present position is. Nobody is ever released from a life sentence. It is true that the Home Secretary, from time to time, at different times and in different cases, lets a man out, but when he does so he lets him out on licence. The licence can be ended; the man can be recalled to prison, and sometimes he is.
It is sometimes said, "But the average is too short". But nobody serves an average. If one man is sentenced to life imprisonment and serves 20 years, and another is sentenced for a mercy killing and is let out in two years, the average of the two is 11 years. But that makes no difference to either of them. One serves his 20 years and the other serves his two. The Royal Commission collected all the figures between 1900 and 1949—the figures for half a century—and it found that the largest group were released after 15 years, that the next largest group were released after 10 years. A number of other periods were listed, some of them one year, one as high as 22 years. Thereafter, hon. Members of the House should not be misled by averages.
I quote again from the Royal Commission's conclusions about what are the criteria to be considered when the question under review is whether the man should be released or not. My quotation is from paragraph 657 of the Report. I hope that hon. Members will 887 look at it, if they have not got it now, between now and Committee stage—if we ever get a Committee stage. These conclusions are on Section 2 of the Report. The Report says:Our conclusions, then, on this part of our terms of reference are that persons not mentally abnormal who would otherwise have been liable to suffer capital punishment could suitably be detained in the conditions now found in long-term prisons in England and Scotland, though we think that these admit of some improvements; that the principles now followed by the Secretaries of State in determining the actual length of detention in each case are in general appropriate for the purposes of punishment, deterrence and the protection of the public, without undue risk of causing moral and physical deterioration in the prisoner; and that if, in exceptional cases an exceptionally long period of detention is called for, the additional risk of such consequences ought not to be held to rule it out.The proposal is being made that that system should be altered and that the length of actual detention, even though a nominal life sentence is inflicted, should be determined by the trial judge at the time of trial and should be part of the sentence.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am trying to deal with the proposal. If, when I have set it out, the hon. Member would still like to ask anything about it, I would be happy to give way. Perhaps I had better state the point first.
The proposal is that the judge at trial shall be given authority to fix the minimum period of detention appropriate to the particular criminal whom he is sentencing. I invite the House to consider that that would be to disregard one of the two essential criteria. One undoubtedly is the gravity of the offence. I have no doubt that the judges are a better tribunal, though not perfect, than any other conceivable tribunal of what length of detention is appropriate, having regard to the character of the crime which they have been trying.
I do not doubt that for a moment. But although judges may be the best, though not an infallible, tribunal to judge that, they do not claim for themselves any divine omniscience about the future, and in determining in a life sentence when a man may be appropriately and safely released it may be important to know 888 what he was like when he was sentenced; it must be at least equally important to know what he has become. This, I will say, is true, not merely of life sentences, but of all inordinately long sentences.
The argument about averages has been a little distorted by comparison with a number of very long sentences passed for the first time in our history in the last three or four years. This is not the place, nor perhaps am I the person, to express any view about the appropriateness or propriety of 30 years for non-fatal robbery, still less to express a view about whether it was right or wrong to lump three maximum sentences together in order to make a maximum statutory sentence of 14 years into a period of 42 years.
All I am inviting the House of Commons to remember at the moment is that these are exceptional crimes and exceptional sentences. They afford no useful or helpful guide to normal periods of imprisonment or to the normal penalties of our criminal law. If, indeed, the State were to insist at any time, for any purpose, on inflicting the gravest penalty in its power on criminals in respect of crimes which it declares not to be the gravest crime, then it inevitably places inself in a very great difficulty when it comes to determine what is appropriate for the gravest crime.
All I am saying is that in this question of how long a life prisoner should be detained we must consider three elements: one, the gravity of the offence; two, the safety of the public; and, three, the danger of destroying by degrees over long, long years a life which we have refrained from destroying at the beginning. All these factors have to be taken into consideration, and the Home Secretary has the right, has the duty, has the responsibility and has the means, if we keep the life sentence, of taking them all into consideration.
I am not saying that the responsibility need necessarily be left solely with him. I imagine that most Home Secretaries would welcome the advice and the assistance of a parole board. I am sure that if we had a parole board it would have a judicial element as well as a number of other elements. But what we must not sacrifice is the Home Secretary's discretion, the prerogative of mercy to be applied according to his discretion, 889 according to the rights and wrongs of particular cases at particular times. I hope that the House of Commons will accept that view. In any case, it is clearly not an argument which affects the giving or refusing of a Second Reading of the Bill. It is a Committee point, and I expect that many hon. Members will wish to raise it in Committee when it can be considered in much greater detail than it can be considered here.
I have finished but for one closing remark which I should like to make. It may be said, it may be in many people's minds, what does it matter? This question of the death penalty, be it right or wrong, is reduced to a very small compass. In 1964 we executed only two people, and those two were executed for one and the same murder. Last year, I think, it was also two. The year before it was either two or three—I am not quite sure which. It is a very small matter, and I can well understand Members on either side of the House saying, "In the face of all our anxieties and preoccupations, what can it matter whether we execute or do not execute two wretched murderers every year?".
For my part, I think that it matters. Men and women in my generation have lived through two world wars. They may have cost between them about 80 million human lives. When I was a very young man, in my boyhood in the earlier years of the twentieth century we regarded the twentieth century as synonymous with the ultimate achievement of civilisation, and when we wanted to say that a thing was wrong we said that it was not worthy of the twentieth century.
Sir Winston Churchill once described this twentieth century, which we began with so much hope, as "this terrible twentieth century". We have seen in it not merely those two wars, this destruction, this bloodshed. We have seen whole cities of non-combatant men, women and children wiped out without notice at one blow. We have seen a nation collecting from the ends of the earth 6 million human beings not for any military purpose, but for annihilation on grounds of race or creed.
We are living today in a world under the threat of human extinction. We may be beginning to make our way out of it. But who knows? It is impossible 890 to argue that the execution or non-execution of two people in England every year can make a very great contribution to the improvement of a dark and menacing world. But in this darkness and gloom into which the twentieth century civilisation has so far led us, we can at least light this small candle and see how far its tiny beams can penetrate the gloom.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) in the first half-hour of his speech, referred to the Amendment and to what he said were various ingenious technicalities. He will forgive me, I hope, if I deal solely with the Bill, which, I understand, is the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill—a Bill which I oppose.
The hon. Member described capital punishment as a grotesque barbarity. I think that there is no one in the House who would not agree that execution by solemn judicial process is a terrible and awful exercise of the authority of the State and of the people. So, also, terrible and awful is the murder of one person by another. It is the most terrible crime that one person can commit against another. Every rational person, when thinking of this serious problem—every rational person inside the House and throughout the country—will always be moved to consider it with mixed feelings of revulsion, of horror and of compassion. Compassion is not the monopoly of any group of people who hold any particular view in this very serious argument.
This is an argument which crosses the lines of ordinary political controversy and almost of political instinct. It is something which depends on the personal judgment and personal conscience of every Member in the House. It is a matter in which one's personal experience brings a view, a judgment and eventually a decision which has to be made, and no amount of statistics, of studies and reports affect in most people's minds their final decision.
Before the Homicide Act, 1957, in the practise of my profession, I was affected gravely on many occasions by the solemn procedure of the death penalty which I knew in those cases would never be carried out. I believed that it was wholly 891 wrong in a case of that kind and an outrageous penalty prescribed for that act which was then murder under the law, but which in my view was not such thing in reality. So if that had been the price of retention, I think that I would have had grave concern. Therefore, I wholeheartedly welcomed the 1956 proposals and the 1957 Act.
There is much misconception about the 1957 Act and the motives and ideas of the people who supported it. At that time and now some of us believed that it was an Act which represented the right way of dealing with the problem of capital punishment. It abolished certain technical matters, such as "constructive malice", it established a new doctrine, of provocation, and it applied the Scottish law of diminshed responsibility. It so limited and confined what had been the crime of murder.
The 1957 Act defined as the crime of capital murder, for which the supreme penalty should apply, murder in the course of theft applying to the gang or robber, and murder by shooting applying to the gangster with a gun, the man who had gone out and acquired a gun or had stolen one, and had bought or stolen the ammunition, who had put the ammunition into the gun, put the gun into his pocket, loaded it and had taken it with him in committing a crime of robbery and then used it.
The Act retained the death penalty for the killing of a policeman or warder, as well as for the double killing. These things exercised the minds of the most moderate people when we debated this subject in 1956 and 1957. It was the fear—a perfectly honourable fear shared by many people, and shared by the Executive at that time—of the effect of abolition and what the result would be on the practices of the professional criminal if there were total abolition. Would there be an increase of violence or an increase in the use of firearms? It was that which exercised our minds.
We wondered in 1956 and 1957 whether this country's crime and criminal activities would develop as they have done overseas; into the use of gangs and gangsters, armed with guns. Would there be an increased danger to the public and would the police have to be armed? All these questions were in our minds during those debates. It was inevitable 892 that our minds should have been exercised in that way.
Of course it is right for the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne to agree—as he said when replying to an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger)—that the 1957 Act adopted what the Royal Commission had stated about the moral heinousness of crime. The Commission said that it could not apply to moral heinousness. One may be able to use that in the exercise of statutory powers where one has power to release, but moral heinousness depends not on any objective characteristic or on a class of offence but on a particular situation, the circumstances of a particular offence and of a particular offender. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North pointed out, it did not claim to distinguish between different categories of murder on the score of heinousness. That, as I say, no statue can do.
The 1957 Act was produced against the background of the time of a sharp increase in crimes of violence and it set up a frontier, a line, between capital and non-capital murder and it said, in effect, "Cross it at your peril". It said, "Death where you kill in the course of committing a crime", and "Death where it affects law and order".
Where one creates a line and frontier, there are bound to be anomalies. This applies to any other crime. Crime can be varied between the commission of the same act, but in a different way. The difference between common assault and manslaughter may depend on the thickness of a skull. In certain sex crimes it depend on the sixteenth birthday of a girl as to what the punishment will be and in other cases, such as drunken driving, it might depend on the capacity of the person to take drink. Of course the law contains anomalies. It always will and the remedy must be in the discretion which is retained as to punishment.
When we were debating the 1957 Act the phrase "The Queen's peace" was often used. It is an historical almost literary, phrase. It means that the conditions of life for the public should be such—and that the public is entitled to demand that it should be such—that the Executive, acting through Parliament, should provide the Queen's peace so that 893 people may go about their affairs and upon their business in peace. It can never be absolute. No one suggests that it can be. However, the public is entitled to demand of the Executive and Parliament that provision be made to ensure that all is done reasonably to maintain that peace and reasonably to ensure that people can live and work in those conditions.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
Since the right hon. and learned Gentleman is developing his argument in a manner which is too sophisticated for me, will he explain how a rapist or poisoner does not disturb the peace, in the sense he means, as distinct from a robber? That is the point of argument we are considering now.
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
If the hon. Gentleman will have a little patience I will deal with that point. I do not want to take as long as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, although I appreciate that he had the task of moving the Second Reading. I should have thought that the answer would be obvious to the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). He knows it only too well. My argument is that one should use this penalty only where one believes that one can deter. I do not believe that one cannot deter a poisoner or a rapist. There is a duty on the Executive to deter where it can and that is given to the law enforcement officers. It is given to the police. It is a dangerous as well as difficult task.
Much publicity is given to those occasions when the police are criticised. The failure of the police, whenever it occurs, is always heard about. We do not hear so much and so often, both in the House and outside, of the great executions of courage and bravery which the police perform in the carrying out of their duties. It is easy for us, in the safety of Parliament and sitting here, to theorise. We deal in words. They must deal with crime in action.
Upon the Executive rests the real responsibility for law and order. The Executive have made their attitude towards the Bill perfectly clear. As the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne pointed out, the Measure was referred to in the Gracious Speech, and he has that signal disitnction, one of many to fall upon him. The Government have 894 provided Parliamentary time for the Bill and doubtless they have provided draftsmen to draft it. Nevertheless, Parliament and the public are entitled to obtain from the Government certain advice and information.
Is there evidence now of an increase of crime by the professional criminal? Is there, in this sense, an increase—or is there evidence of an increase of crime by highly organised gangs? Can they advise positively or can they forecast whether a Bill such as this will, in their view, and in the view of the enforcement machinery, lead to any greater danger to the public? This is the sort of information which I hope we will receive from the Home Secretary.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I agree that I made an inordinately long speech and that I should not now be interrupting. However, I should like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to tell the House, if he can, whether we should retain the death penalty for such crimes as he is describing on the footing that this would deter people from committing them? Is there, in his opinion, any evidence to show that such crimes for which we have retained the death penalty have reduced in number since 1957?
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
The hon. Member spoke for well over an hour and he now again intervenes when I am trying to reply to his question. I hope that he will not intervene again. I did not intervene when he was speaking. I can only give an impression. My impression is that there has been an increase in organised crime. I also have the impression that great care is and has been taken by professional criminals to avoid the risk of violence leading to death because of the difference between the penalty which is paid where violence ends in death, which is capital punishment.
On 7th December, 1964, I put down to the Secretary of State for the Home Department a Question for Written Answer, because of my belief—it is only a personal impression and it may be wrong—that there is this increasing possibility of gang warfare and the use 895 of firearms. I asked whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman would introduce legislation to provide that any one found in unlawful possession of a firearm should receive a sentence of not less than five years' imprisonment, irrespective of any offence they might have committed. My reason for asking the Question is that the unlawful possession of a firearm is an offence that a person has to go to some trouble to commit. The right hon. and learned Gentleman replied that he was not convinced there were sufficient grounds for taking the exceptional step of fixing a minimum penalty.
I wonder whether he consulted his right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, because I am sure that he will appreciate that my suggestion is certainly not a novel one. It was first suggested by the present Lord Chancellor himself in a letter to The Times on 15th July, 1959. His suggestion was an amnesty for all those who took their firearms to a police station. He also suggested then the introduction of legislation imposing a minimum penalty of five years' imprisonment on those who were found in unlawful possession of firearms.
If the situation was difficult in 1959, for that is what the Lord Chancellor then believed, what is the position today? I may be wrong, and I hope that the Home Secretary may be able to reassure the House, but I get the impression that there is this increase in organised gangs perhaps arising from matters we discussed in this House in the last Parliament, when new laws were enacted about gambling and clubs and prostitution. I expressed fears, and I believe that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) expressed fears, during the debate on the Wolfenden proposals as to prostitution which led to the Street Offences Act.
Has the driving of prostitution underground into the clubs led to the greater organisation of protection rackets? Have the police got evidence—and I have the impression that they may have—of gangs being organised in this particular field? There is the fear, and it is an honest fear that I express to the House, that enactment of this Bill 896 at this time would do much to promote the situation that is growing up within the country at this time.
Public anxiety over crime must be clear to every hon. Member—it is certainly clear to every member of the public. Public opinion has been expressed, and it is public opinion on a matter on which the public have the particular right, have they not, to express a view? We certainly have the duty to pay more attention to it in this respect than, perhaps, in regard to any other single matter.
That public anxiety has been expressed in the most recent sentencing policy of the courts. We have the actual facts of the mail robbery—just to answer the question posed by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. I remember that just after that operation I was in the United States on a visit to the United States Attorney-General, Mr. Robert Kennedy, and I got the impression in that country of a somewhat rueful admiration for that organised gang. They commented on how skilfully the operation had been worked out, and what little violence was used—although, in that regard, people forget what happened to the guard, and the effect it has had upon him, although the operation was meant to be one with little or no violence.
Those robbers might, because they were so careful not to use violence, or to have used as little violence as possible, have expected a sentence of 14 years' imprisonment; had the violence involved a death, they would have expected capital punishment. They got sentences of—what was it?—25 or 30 years. Because of such sentences, the Home Secretary has no power to intervene, except in particular circumstances, where he can release them temporarily because of ill health, for instance. Otherwise, he does not have the statutory power to intervene in that case.
Those men will have to serve their sentences, except for a one-third reduction for good behaviour, so that any of them with a 30-year sentence will have to serve some 20 years. If the price to be paid for using as little violence as was used then is to be greater than that for using violence involving the risk of death, where is the deterrent for such men as these? Suppose courts were 897 permitted by this Bill to impose a minimum, would it ever be more than an effective 20 years? So we come to the situation in which the price of a live witness to a prisoner's identity may be the same as that for a dead one.
These are professional criminals. They weigh up the circumstances and the risks involved. They balance risk against risk, and the booty against the penalty. The prisoner whom one sees in prison is very different from the thug he was before imprisonment. I am sure that most hon. Members will appreciate that there exists a serious assault upon our society. The present situation is that in the next 12 months from now 20,000 people will have suffered some violence of some kind and degree. This is the situation which we now face.
Would the alternative presented by this Bill be really a life sentence? The Home Secretary possesses powers under Section 57 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, to release on licence where a person has been sentenced to life imprisonment. That is a statutory power which is exercised by the Home Secretary. That means that the Home Secretary and his advisers have to carry out a determination as to how much of a life sentence a man shall serve. If this Bill becomes law, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman propose to retain that power? Or does he propose to abandon that statutory power and replace it with some form of parole board, as has been suggested?
This is a matter for the decision of the House. We have to decide whether we can and whether we should abandon this deterrent for something that is nebulous and uncertain, and can never carry the effectiveness of a sentence of capital punishment——
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is expressing a genuine fear, and a fear that is widely felt, but would he not agree that the same fear has been expressed by members—and distinguished members—of our mutual profession ever since 1800, when the abolition of capital punishment for various offences was imposed? And does not experience show that in every case the fear has proved to be unfounded?
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
I share some of the hon. and learned Gentleman's com- 898 mentary to the extent that I would agree that the crime of murder, as I said at the start of my remarks, seems to have been far too wide. It was certainly wrong to have the death penalty for certain killing offences. I do not believe, and I know that I disagree here with some of my hon. Friends, that we can by capital punishment deter the family murder, the crime of passion. I do not believe we can deter the poisoner or the sexually perverted, but I do believe that we can deter the professional criminal who acquires a pistol and goes out to rob, as an occupation, weighing risk against risk.
I hope that the Solicitor-General will forgive me for not giving him notice that I intended to refer to what he said in his speech in his constituency. I shall refer to only three points which he made. He said that he had been influenced on the question of men being wrongly convicted for possession of offensive weapons, by the evidence in the Mars-Jones Report and also in the Evans case. This question is not related to that of the gun and the gangster. My argument is addressed to the case of the robber and the public crime in the course of robbery. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that juries did not, and would not, convict in such cases. I would agree if he were referring to the period prior to 1957. I have seen that myself because then a death penalty could be imposed in the case of a mother or child. It seemed totally improper and completely outrageous to be imposed for such a crime although technically it was then murder.
Since 1957 I think that general experience is different from that. I have recently known juries bring in a verdict of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, because that was what the evidence drove them to, but they would rather have brought in a verdict in those circumstances of murder. He said that the 1957 Act can never be effective, but I say that it is effective because it has retained the deterrent in this particular field. Another of the evils of capital punishment is said to be a morbid interest in murder trials.
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
The hon. Lady says, "Hear, hear," but it is not capital punishment which creates the morbid interest. It is not the punishment which attracts a great deal of attention or a great deal of morbid interest. It is the circumstances of any case if they are such as to arouse public interest because, say, of the sex nature or the personality involved. That is what brings these weird, strange people—I could not agree more—to a trial. All trials are trials for life.
All murder trials, whatever the punishment would be, are concerned with death and with life.
Many other hon. and right hon. Members wish to speak in this debate, so I shall cut short my comments. But I believe that we are witnessing an increase in professional crime and that there is an extension of operations by organised gangs. I fear that the removal of capital punishment from this field of crime would introduce a risk of greater violence, the wider use of guns and greater danger to the public. I am not prepared to brush aside the opinions of those principally engaged in fighting crime on the ipse dixit—I say this with the greatest respect—of humane, sincere and compassionate men as I believe the abolitionists to be. I believe that there is a great distinction between the execution of a murderer and the killing by a man, in murder, for a victim dies unsuspecting and innocent on his lawful ordinary occasions. The murderer dies after he has deliberately with knowledge of the penalty for his deliberate act, committed the crime of murder.
If there is a balance of choice between those lives, I certainly come down on the side of the life of the victim. I am not prepared to take the risk which I believe exists. Hon. Members may seriously disagree and of course I accept the seriousness of their argument, but I cannot take the risk, as I believe it is a risk, with the lives of innocent citizens, nor can I ignore the opinion of police officers. Terrible and ugly as we recognise the punishment to be, I believe there is a right and a duty on the State to say, "For this deliberate act you will lose your life." I believe that such warning can and does deter certain men who should be deterred in this day and age. I for one will vote against this Bill.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)
Now that two-thirds of the first 100 days of this Parliament have ended, there is one thing at any rate which I have learned about this House. That is the tremendous fund of generosity, patience and tolerance which it affords to newcomers.
For myself I have no doubt that I shall draw in this my first speech very heavily upon my credits, for two reasons. The first is because I have no hope of equalling the excellence of the maiden speeches of those who have preceded me. The second is that, because this subject which we are debating today is one on which I have held the strongest views for a long time, it would be beyond my ability to treat it entirely without controversy. This is not the type of subject that one can discuss in that way. Therefore, I hope that this House will forgive me if every now and then I give the impression of speaking my own mind.
What I wish to say first will, I am sure, be completely uncontroversial. It is to use this first opportunity which I have had in this House of expressing on behalf of my constituents to the former hon. Member, my predecessor in Dulwich, Mr. Robert Jenkins, the thanks which I know they owe him for the 12 years' service he gave to this House. In the course of it he made innumerable friends in the constituency and in the course of it he solved many problems for his constituents, and even if he could not solve them he always went on trying to do so.
What is more, and I have a special affection for him for this reason, on certain issues—particularly the protection of the many private tenants and lessees who form the bulk of my constituents—he showed himself to be most humane. Indeed, it was very difficult on occasion to know why he was not on our benches rather than on the benches of hon. Members opposite. Although for these reasons I cannot refer to him as "my hon. Friend", I hope that at least I shall have the honour of referring to him as my friend.
Coming to the subject under discussion today, I do not feel that I can follow my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), who proposed the Second Reading of this Bill, in divorcing discussion entirely from the 901 general principle of capital punishment. It seems to me that one cannot divide this discussion into bits. What we are doing tonight is to decide as a House of Commons whether capital punishment ought to be retained in a civilised community or not.
I hope that the first thing I say about it will be so axiomatic as again to be wholly uncontroversial. It is that in a civilised community the taking of human life can be justified only by the clearest evidence of imperative need. If there were any doubt about that view, it would be illustrated by the fact that it is only for the crime of taking human life and the climes of treason and similar offences of that kind that the State today feels justified in taking human life.
It would be further exemplified by the fact that over the last 100 years even that taking of human like by way of judicial punishment has decreased and decreased and decreased. In many countries it has been abolished. In this country it has been restricted, as we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne, to a matter of two judicial executions a year. That could not be so, unless it were based upon the fundamental principle of the respect for human life which indeed occasions this very penalty.
So when we ask ourselves what are the grounds, what is the imperative need, what is the clear and convincing evidence which justifies the taking of human life, the answers which are normally given come under two headings. First, there is what is called retribution. Secondly, there is what is called deterrence. Retribution, I think, today has no element of vengeance about it. What it means is that the community marks its abhorrence of the crime of taking human life by the gravity of the punishment which it exacts. In that way the community hopes that the gravity of the crime itself will be impregnated into the minds of the community.
So we have the paradox that, to show the community the wickedness of taking human life, the community uses the taking of human life to do that very thing. I believe that, if we are considering the effect on the minds of the community and if we are considering it, not on a short-term basis, but on a long-term basis, the mind of the community, the philosophy of society, will be more affected by the 902 society which says, "We abhor the taking of human life so much that we ourselves renounce our right to do it", than the society which claims that right as a penalty for the crime of taking human life.
On the question of deterrence, I, like my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne, claim a certain distinction, not one of which I am particularly proud, but one which is probably, if not unique, practically unique among hon. Members. I have tried and sentenced to death a number of human beings. I did so shortly after the war in the Far East. They were men who were guilty of the most bestial crimes of torture, of degradation of their fellow human beings, which led to suicide, to disease, to death by starvation, and so on. Nobody could possibly have any sympathy for those who were guilty of those crimes. But if I were asked whether the thought of capital punishment deterred them in any way at any time, the answer would be, "Indubitably not". To them what they did was as much done in the service of their nation, their Emperor and their ideals, as the men who were pilots of Japanese aircraft on suicide missions and who knew they were going to certain death. That is one end of the scale.
At the other end of the scale there are the ordinary decent human beings who do not kill, not because there is a punishment which deters them from killing, but because it is not in their nature to kill. When I for the third night running return home at three o'clock in the morning and awaken my wife, I am sure that she desires to commit murder upon me, but it is not the thought of capital punishment which preveéts her from doing so.
So we have in the middle a small group which the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) defined as the professional criminals. We must ask ourselves whether this penalty is a necessary and imperative penalty in order to deter them, or whether some other penalty will not be equally effective. Indeed, I would submit that one must go further than that. One must ask oneself this question. Even if it be shown that this is a more effective penalty, a more effective deterrent, none the less is the difference so great as to amount to this imperative need in a civilised community to kill other human beings?
903 On that we can only read and mark. We can only look at what those who have studied the question have said about it. The Select Committee of 1930 came down wholeheartedly in favour of abolition. Perhaps far more important was the Royal Commission of 1949–53. I know that that Royal Commission was not set up to consider the question whether the death penalty ought or ought not to be abolished. We all know that. But it is equally clear that the conclusion to which the Commission came was that there is no evidence whatever to show that the death penalty is a deterrent more effective than any other penalty which is likely to be imposed.
I am sure that the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom has consulted what that Royal Commission said in paragraph 61 on the question of the professional criminal:Of more importance was the evidence of the representatives of the police and prison service. From them we received virtually unanimous evidence, in both England and Scotland, to the effect that they were convinced of the uniquely deterrent value of capital punishment in its effect on professional criminals.The Royal Commission was dealing with the very matter which the right hon. and learned Member has canvassed.
In that very same paragraph the Royal Commission went on to deal with other countries where capital punishment had been abolished and reimposed and with neighbouring States in the United States which had different systems, some abolitionist, some retentionist, and compared the statistics and figures, not over a period of two or three years, but over 50 years. The Royal Commission said this:… we received no evidence that the abolition of capital punishment in other countries had in fact led to the consequences apprehended by our witnesses in this country".In its conclusions the Commission said this:The negative conclusion we draw from the figures does not of course imply a conclusion that the deterrent effect of the death penalty cannot be greater than that of any other punishment. It means only that the figures afford no reliable evidence one way or the other.It is significant that in the memorandum which has no doubt been sent to other hon. Members by the Police Federation, a memorandum admittedly 904 supporting the retention of the death penalty for the murder of policemen, a memorandum admittedly putting the best case forward on that behalf, the Federation is today compelled to say this:We have no proof that the special provisions in the Homicide Act are a deterrent against murdering policemen …—a very different attitude from that which was apparently expressed in 1949–53 when it was put forward as a unique deterrent.
I pray in aid also the great authority of the Chairman of that Commission, Sir Ernest Gowers, who, in his little book which repays study, "A Life for a Life", confessed that when he began his task he thought that the abolitionists had larger hearts than heads, and that when he ended it after four years of study of the figures all over the world he came to the conclusion that the sentiment was on the side of the retentionists and the reason on the side of the abolitionists. In the light of that, even if one cannot go so far as to say that the evidence proves beyond a doubt that this deterrent is not the most effective deterrent, is not the unique deterrent, at any rate can one possibly say that the evidence is so strong as to point to an imperative need to retain a penalty which controverts this basic principle that one ought not to take human life without an imperative need?
I want to say a word or two on the question of the alternatives. Of course, there is no doubt that a life sentence for murder will create anomalies. It will create anomalies, indeed, in the sort of case which has been referred to—the mail train robbery type of case—where it can well be that one participant would be convicted of capital murder and another participant convicted of something less than that, such as armed robbery. One might well find a situation in which the former would have to be sentenced to a term of life imprisonment and the latter would be sentenced to a very long term of years. Certainly anomalies will occur. Those anomalies are due largely to the recent sentencing policy of the courts which have created these very large sentences. I am not here to argue one way or the other whether that is right or wrong, but I do say that this is the wrong time to make a fundamental change in the sentencing system.
The late Government in April of this year set up a Royal Commission on penal 905 policy which has in its terms of reference the whole question of sentencing policy in its widest application—not only what sort of sentences should be given but what sort of people should be responsible for the length and the type of sentences, and so on. I submit that it would be entirely wrong on a limited issue of this kind for this House to prejudge the consideration and the report which that Royal Commission will be making in due course.
Finally, let me say a word or two about the question of public opinion. It may well be—I do not know—that public opinion is against what I hope will be done by this House today. One cannot tell on the basis of a few figures in the national Press, but let us suppose it is so. I confess that when I entered this House 66 days ago I did so in the hope and belief that this House will always have the courage to do that which it believes to be right, even if public opinion should be against it. I received, I thought, striking confirmation of that last Friday. Last Friday this House virtually unanimously, in the face of what was probably a hostile public opinion, knowing, as we were told by the Leader of the Opposition, that no time is the right time to do it, none the less decided to improve the dignity of Members of this House.
I hope that what this House was prepared to do for the dignity of this small society of which we are all members, it will not fail to do for the dignity of the greater society of which we are all equally members.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Brooke (Hampstead)
The one thing so far quite certain in this controversial debate is that the whole House will wish to join with me in congratulating the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) on his maiden speech. It will have been observed that he spoke without a note; yet he developed a continuous and logical argument. Above all, he spoke from the heart, which is the key to the heart of this House. I am sure that all hon. Members who heard him will feel that he has it in him to add further distinction to the distinguished Parliamentary name which he bears.
I am reluctant to take time in this debate when I know that there are other maiden speakers waiting and so many hon. Members who wish to speak; yet 906 I think that the House probably would wish me, as the last Home Secretary, to express my views with all possible honesty and to give it the benefit, such as it is, of my experience in that capacity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I should say that 10 years ago I firmly opposed the abolition of capital punishment. I did not like the Homicide Act. I was a junior Minister at the time. I did not take part in the debates, but I have recently come across copies of letters that I wrote to my constituents at that time, and I can see from them that I thought then that it was not a case for half measures. I started at the beginning of those discussions here with the firm belief that the death penalty should be retained for all murders, for much the same reasons as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) has expressed this afternoon.
I went to the Home Office in 1962 and immediately asked for a report on the working of the Homicide Act, because one was aware of criticism; one was aware of anomalies in its working, and I was anxious to know whether it would be possible to improve the Act by any form of amendment that might be generally acceptable. The Act, as has been said, was designed to protect society by a special deterrent against carrying of lethal weapons or compounding theft with murder, and to protect public servants such as police officers and prison officers in carrying out their dangerous duties.
It produces anomalies at the sentencing stage. There can be no doubt of that. However sound the principles of the Act when they are tested against the criterion of motive, nevertheless it results in most heinous murders not being capable of attracting the death sentence whereas the law requires that the death sentence should be passed on others who have committed what is defined as capital murder, even though it would be almost universally felt that they had, in fact, been offences of a less grave kind.
I realised very soon in my study of the matter that any amendment, while it might remove some anomalies, would be virtually certain to create others, and I must advise the House that we can find no escape from our problem this afternoon by that road. It has not been suggested in the debate that the right solution might be to alter the demarcation 907 line between capital and non-capital murder, nevertheless there are some outside who think that that is the right solution. I must say with such authority as I can command that it is useless to study further the possibility of improving the law of murder by retaining the distinction between capital and non-capital murder but drawing a different demarcation line.
I came to that conclusion, yet I found it difficult to believe that the 1957 Act would endure for ever. I could not help thinking that judges who have to pass sentence were bound to be aware of its anomalous results in a number of cases at that stage. I was aware of it from my experience in considering death-sentence cases that came to me. I gave all of them very long thought, yet every now and again it used to come over me that while I was having to determine whether persons sentenced to death for capital murder should be hanged or not, other murderers whose crimes were indeed worse than the one which I had under consideration at that moment were not liable to the death penalty. It did not even come to the Home Secretary in those cases to consider whether or not a reprieve should be recommended.
I had about a dozen cases of capital murder to consider in my time. I feel bound to say to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom, whose speech I listened to with great interest and great respect, that by no means all of those murderers whose cases came to me because death sentences had been passed upon them were from the criminal classes. In six of them, I regret to say I could find no compassionate consideration that appeared to me to justify a recommendation for the Royal Prerogative of mercy. Taking the law as it is, I do not remember any of my decisions on capital murder cases which afterwards came under Parliamentary or public criticism.
An immense amount of care is taken in all these cases. In case I am the only ex-Home Secretary taking part in the debate, I wish to say that an immense amount of care is taken both departmentally in the Home Office and by the Home Secretary himself. My own practice was to read every word of the judge's summing up and the proceedings 908 on appeal, to study carefully a resumée of the whole case prepared for me in the Home Office, dealing also of course with any further information, medical or otherwise, that had become available since the trial, to ask questions on anything about which I was not completely satisfied, and also to consult the trial judge in case there was anything in mitigation to which he might wish to draw my attention.
As the House may know, there is in the Home Secretary's room a frame containing a list of all the current death sentences. On the frame is written the Latin line:Nulla unquam de morte hominis cunctatio longa est."No pause for thought is too long where the death of a man is concerned." My mind went to that when I had an experience which must have been given to few. As the House knows, I made it my business to visit personally as many prisons and borstals as I could, and I managed in my time to visit nearly half of them. I shall never forget when one prison governor pointed out to me a man walking round in the exercise yard and I realised that that man would have suffered death a few days earlier had I not come to the conclusion that on balance there was sufficient justification to recommend a reprieve.
At the end of my time at the Home Office, I had become convinced that the case for retaining the death penalty was no longer strong enough to justify retention and that we were coming to the time when we ought to make trial of abolition. I am bound to say in all fairness to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) that I do not think that I should have been led to that conclusion by his speech this afternoon. I had come to that firm conclusion before I left the Home Office as a result of two years' experience, and I will try to explain to the House how it came about.
I hope that I shall carry the House with me in saying that the taking of life is so grave a matter that the onus of proof must be on those who very sincerely believe that the death penalty should be retained. I do not share the view that the taking of life by the State is contrary to moral principle. I think that if it can be shown that by retaining the death penalty for some or for all types of 909 murder one is materially lessening the likelihood of innocent people suffering death by murder, then there is no ground of moral principle on which one should dismiss the death penalty as utterly out of date in the present age. But I believe that retention of the death penalty can be justified only on the ground that it is a unique deterrent. If it is a unique deterrent, there is justification for it. If it is not, I do not think that the case for it can be upheld.
Reference has been made, particularly by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom, to the different types of murder which can be deterred by the death penalty. I have some difficulty in following this argument. I fully recognise that if causing death by shooting is capital murder, those who are going about a robbery may be less inclined to carry guns, but it seems to me that those who kill or think to kill by strangling or by stabbing or by poisoning may well give some thought to the maximum penalty that they will incur. I find it hard to believe that if the death sentence is not needed in all those forms which have been statutorily defined as non-capital murder, those forms which are defined as capital murder are in a quite distinctive category so far as the deterrent of the risk of death is concerned.
I am greatly influenced, and I was before I left the Home Office, because I called for the figures while I was there, by the figures set out in Table 6 at columns 247–8 of HANSARD of 11th December. In that table, all murders from January, 1952 to March, 1957, are analysed. Those were the years before the Homicide Act. It is ascertained that 14.4 per cent. of all those pre-Homicide Act murders would have been capital murder had the Homicide Act definition then been in effect.
It seems to me that, if the unique deterrent argument were valid, there should have been a substantial fall in that percentage after the Homicide Act. Until then, the deterrent for murders which were to be non-capital and murders which were capital was the same. From March, 1957 onwards, the special deterrent of the risk of death remained only for capital murders and it was removed for non-capital murders. Yet, although one would on grounds of logic, if the unique deterrent argument were sound, 910 expect the percentage to fall materially, one finds, on examining the figures since 1957, that it has fallen hardly perceptibly. Before the Homicide Act, the percentages were 14.4 per cent. capital and 85.6 per cent. non-capital. Since the Homicide Act, the percentages have been 13.5 capital and 86.5 non-capital. I do not see in those figures support, still less proof, of the argument that the death penalty is a uniquely powerful deterrent.
To my mind, this is the best test which we can apply. The number of murders, both capital and non-capital, has increased since 1957, but it has increased in both categories rather less than the general increase in crimes of violence of all kinds.
I make no claim that these figures afford final proof. They do not. But they throw doubt on the proposition that potential murderers are so much more afraid of hanging than of very long terms of imprisonment that, in making their plans, they carefully distinguish between the different statutory types of murder. Because death is awful and final, many people tend to underrate the deterrent power of what one might call the self-destructive prospect of ten years' loss of freedom, ten years' separation from the free world to which we all wake up each morning.
§ Sir Rolf Dudley Williams (Exeter)
I have been listening most carefully to what my right hon. Friend has said about the percentages. Is it not a fact that the number of non-capital murders has substantially increased while the number of capital murders has remained the same?
§ Mr. Brooke
No. With respect, that is not the case. The figures are printed in HANSARD. The numbers of both have increased, but in both categories they have increased rather less than the increase in crimes of violence of all sorts. I pointed out, with reference to the percentage figures which I quoted, that there had been a slight but not very substantial difference in the trend as between capital and non-capital murder.
I know that these figures do not disprove the belief which is strongly held by many people that abolition would lead to more thieves carrying guns. There are many people, many 911 friends of mine in the police service in this country, who hold that view, and I respect it. But I do not myself consider that a contingent uncertainty of this kind is enough justification by itself for retaining the death penalty when the figures which I have quoted undermine the case that it is a unique deterrent. It seems to me that the right course is to make clear beyond all doubt that murder will add materially to the term of imprisonment to be served for other crimes: in other words, that no one who is about the job of committing crime can commit murder in addition with impunity.
This brings us to the second problem which is near the heart of our debate today. What is to be the policy as regards exceptionally long terms of imprisonment and how are exceptionally long terms to be served? I remind the House that that last question is coming on us already, quite apart from the issue in this debate.
There is a common but mistaken idea that successive Home Secretaries have regarded nine years as the right term of imprisonment for a murderer to serve. But it must be borne in mind that no murderer sentenced under the 1957 Act to life imprisonment can yet have served as many as nine years. Those who, up to now, have been released on licence after nine years have been murderers who were originally sentenced to death before 1957 and have been reprieved by a Home Secretary normally because he detected some compassionate element in their case. My own view—I think it is right to add that this was also the view of my advisers while I was at the Home Office—has been that where there was no compassionate consideration in a murder case, and where the murderer was immune from the death penalty because of the provisions of the Homicide Act, a substantially longer sentence than nine years should be served. I hold this view strongly, and I believe that my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), thought the same. I should certainly expect for some non-capital murders a term of imprisonment substantially longer than nine years.
912 Here we come up against the fact that our prison arrangements are generally geared to maximum terms of 9, 10 or 11 years. A 14-year sentence imposed by the court may be reduced, with full one-third remission, to 9⅓ years. It is believed, and I have no reason to doubt it, that few people have enough resolution to endure more than ten years' confinement in normal prison conditions. The longer a man is kept in after that the less fit may he be ever to be released.
Unless we are to contemplate keeping some people in for the rest of their natural lives—we may have to do so, but it is a most terrible thing to contemplate in the case of a young man sentenced, perhaps, in his twenties—we must bear in mind that there comes a time beyond which most people will become less and less fit for return to the free world. Such a man may lose all his self-reliance and all the strength of will which will be needed for supporting himself as a free man in the free world outside.
At present, we seek, rightly I think, to combine deterrence in the sentence of the court with efforts to develop a prison régime which will produce in a man, at the end of his term of imprisonment, fitness to live free. This has been possible hitherto because of the scarcity of very long terms of imprisonment. Last year, when I read that an American had been released from prison after serving 45 years' continuous sentence, I inquired in the Home Office how many prisoners we had in prison who had actually been serving for more than ten years on end. The answer was that, apart from mental cases in Broadmoor, who are in a category by themselves, there were only six, and one or two of those were there because they were on the mental borderline and it seemed that they could hardly safely be let out.
The number will now increase. Since the Homicide Act, between 30 and 40 murderers have been sentenced to life imprisonment each year. None of those will have served nine years before 1966, but many of them will surely be detained beyond ten years, so that, from 1967 onwards, the number of those in prison for more than ten years can be expected rapidly to increase, quite apart from anything we do by this Bill; and in any event, as has been mentioned, we have the cases of Blake. Vassall and the train 913 robbers, all serving exceptionally long sentences.
The number serving these very long sentences will be little altered by whether we pass this Bill or not, but I am sure that, whichever side we take on the Bill, it is intensely important that whether the extra numbers are few or many, we give thought to the question what term and form of imprisonment they are to suffer.
I hope that the Government, if they do not take sides on this Bill, will at least express their views on the kind of matters which I have been mentioning. I hope that the Home Secretary will endorse the view that I have expressed, that should the Bill become law those who are rendered no longer liable to the death penalty will be expected to serve a substantially longer period of imprisonment than nine years, and that that will apply not only to any who may be saved from hanging by the Bill, but also to all others who were saved from it by the Homicide Act and in whose cases there have been no compassionate considerations such as would justify release on licence after nine years.
§ Mr. Joseph Hiley (Pudsey)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that at Leeds Assizes the other day a man was sentenced for a second murder, actually committed in gaol? How would one consider a case like that when considering the term of imprisonment for a convicted murderer?
§ Mr. Brooke
That is exactly the type of problem to which we have to address ourselves. Fortunately, the second murder is so rare that it is almost unknown. Though I would not for a moment dismiss the importance of my hon. Friend's question, it is a strange and perhaps hopeful fact that in the whole of this century, I believe, there have been only two people convicted of murder who have served a long sentence of imprisonment and been released on licence and then have committed another murder. But what my hon. Friend has said reinforces my argument about the importance of hearing from the Home Secretary what is to be done about these people who, if the Bill goes through, will be freed from the risk of the death penalty.
Secondly, I hope the Government will make clear the arrangements that they propose for reviewing cases of men in prison for very long terms, so that there 914 may be no clash or mutual suspicion between the Executive and the Judiciary. I know that this is a matter within the terms of the Royal Commission. I hope that the Home Secretary will be prepared at least to say that the Royal Commission's recommendations, whatever they may be, on this will receive sympathetic consideration from the Government.
I do not believe that it would be right to encourage a judge to fix an unalterable term of imprisonment at the time of conviction for murder, because from my experience of examining these cases I have become so well aware of the contrast between the determined criminal whose prison sentence seems to have had no ameliorative effect upon him at all, so that one is anxious if he is ever to return to the free world, and the man who, quite clearly, has become utterly repentant of the crime he has committed. I have dealt with both of these types, and in the latter case I have felt in certain instances that I could release a man on licence without the slightest fear that he was ever going to commit a serious offence again. I would therefore stress that it is after a period of years in prison that the man's future must be very carefully reconsidered.
Thirdly, I would ask the Government whether they are going to plan new custodial arrangements for the men who must serve exceptionally long terms of imprisonment. Here, too, the Royal Commission may advise. However, when I said that our prison system was geared to a period of perhaps nine or ten years' imprisonment, what I had in mind was that one should give every prisoner some hope by offering him privileges if he behaves himself properly in prison and if he is seeking to fit himself to be a free man again. At the moment one reaches the top stage of privileges, I believe I am right in saying, after serving four years. Four years is a large section of a nine-year term, but it is nothing in a 20-year term. I am convinced from my Home Office experience that we have got to give a great deal of fresh thought to the custodial handling in prison of men who are almost certain to be in prison for 10, 15 or maybe 20 years.
If the Government are prepared to think along the lines which I have indicated, I shall be prepared to vote for 915 the Second Reading of this Bill tonight, but, if so, I shall press strongly in Committee for the Bill to be amended on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman)—that is, that after a period of, say, five years, it should be incumbent on the Government, whatever Government may be in power, to have to bring forward an affirmative Resolution for a further continuance of the operation of the Act.
In my view, this is not something which can be decided in 1964 or 1965 on a priori arguments for all time. If we make this experiment, the working of it must be very carefully watched. I do not think it would be enough simply to argue that anybody can introduce a new Bill in Parliament at any time. I think that this is a case so serious, so difficult and so important that any legislation which Parliament passes now should be of a character that requires, if it is to continue more than, say, five years, an affirmative Resolution to be passed by both Houses of Parliament.
I greatly hope that on the lines I have indicated it may be possible to eliminate some of the controversy from this matter. I believe that bold experiment subject to a time limit is the right course to take.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. William Wilson (Coventry, South)
I have been in the House just over 40 days, and I say with the greatest respect that if always, when I speak, I follow such a courageous speech as that by the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) to which we have just listened I shall be very happy indeed.
I represent Coventry, South, an outstanding constituency, if I may say such a thing about my own constituency. I doubt whether there is another hon. Member in the House who can say that since the war there has been built in his constituency a civic theatre, a new cathedral and a great art gallery. I doubt very much whether there is another hon. Member who can say that in his constituency there has been built a swimming pool of Olympic proportions and a new university. I once heard a great American say that Coventry is a city which has taken its eyes from the ground. 916 I am very proud indeed to be able to say that I represent a Coventry constituency, that I have worked in a Coventry constituency and that I live in a Coventry constituency.
In my constituency, during the last 12 years or so, I have, in the course of my professional duties, represented seven persons charged with murder. Most of us, when we come to vote tonight, as was suggested by the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson), will decide how to vote in the light of our experience. A solicitor defending a man on a murder charge will, if he is doing his job properly, interview not only the defendant but the man's family, employers and friends. He finds out all that he possibly can about the individual he represents. Indeed, it is true to say that the solicitor probably knows more about the man charged with murder than anyone else in the case.
In the light of my experience of interviewing these men I have come to the conclusion that the deterrent is of no value whatsoever. The men I have represented were a true cross-section. Their ages varied from 18 plus to the middle 40s. Their occupations varied from a professional man to a coal miner to someone who was simply unemployed. As to previous criminal records, three were without any previous convictions, one had been convicted of a small minor offence and three had been convicted of offences involving violence. Their victims varied from a parent to a stranger to a man who otherwise might have been a friend.
But there was, I am certain, one common factor throughout those seven men and the crimes they committed. It was simply that not one of them gave a single or second thought to the punishment that might be received as a result of the commission of the crime.
I often feel that those who hold that the death penalty is a deterrent should extend its application a little further, because one has only to consider the offence of serious wounding to realise how near that sometimes comes to murder. If the wound were, for instance, a little higher, or a little lower, or a little deeper, instead of merely being wounding it would be simple murder. I often think that serious cases of wounding are 917 murder but for the grace of God or by sheer fluke.
If those who protest that the deterrent is important were logical, they would wish to extend it to more crimes and not restrict it to murder. I am satisfied, however, in the light of my own experience, that punishment is not a deterrent at all in these matters. Indeed, the way to bring about a reduction in serious crime is by preventing it, not punishing it. That is the way these matters should be attended to.
But even if I thought that the death penalty were somehow a deterrent, there is another matter which, in the light of my experience, I would consider before I would agree to the death penalty being retained for any purpose. Of those I represented, only one finished in the condemned cell and, in accordance with my instructions, it was necessary for me to visit him there.
It is not, as one can easily understand, a pleasant task to interview a condemned man in his cell. If one goes to the deathbed of a man old in years, with life slowly ebbing away from him, one can think, "He has had a good innings and is ebbing away slowly but peacefully". But when one is dealing with a young man, full of life and in full vigour, there is no redeeming feature at all in talking to him. My task was comparatively simple because I had to talk to him about the hope of a reprieve and how we could set about it. The interview lasted half an hour, but I do not mind acknowledging that I was glad when it was over. Yet, when I left the cell, I left behind me two warders whose duty it was, along with others assigned to the task, to be with this man for his waiting, for his hoping, until the day of execution. Their job, in a nutshell, was to see that he did not die before his appointed time.
As I came out of that prison, I wondered what these warders found to talk about, hour in, hour out, with a young man condemned to death. I thought to myself that, if they had any humanity within them at all, it must be purgatory to carry out such a duty. In my professional duties I often go into prisons. I am not one of those who subcribe to the view that warders are inhuman, hard men. I am satisfied that, while some may qualify for this phrase, by and large they are a decent body of men 918 doing a difficult task in difficult circumstances, generally dealing with the end product of a penal system that is as old and out of date as the buildings in which they operate.
As I left the prison, therefore, I asked myself how these human beings managed throughout the three weeks or so between sentence and execution. In the event, however, the man I was representing was reprieved, but we ought to look at the subject in this way: the executioner has a difficult task to carry out, but his task is really that of sudden death. The burden that is placed upon the warders in these cases is not that of sudden death, but of slow, lingering extinction.
So, tonight, I would say this: I am very glad indeed, after the years that have gone by since that experience, to have the chance to see to it that no more shall we place upon our prison officers a burden of that sort. I am grateful to the House for listening to me so patiently.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
It is with feelings of great humility and considerable nervousness that I rise to address the House for the first time—feelings which, I must admit, have certainly not been lessened over the last few weeks as I have listened to numerous other hon. Members making fluent and cogent maiden speeches. They are certainly not lessened by those we have heard already today.
I am very conscious of the fact, in deciding to speak on this issue, that there is a tradition that maiden speakers should be non-controversial. I hope that I interpret that tradition correctly in saying that I consider it to be limited to matters of party political controversy. While I am quite sure that what I say will not necessarily be acceptable to all hon. Members, I believe that this issue cuts right across the normal division of party opinion and that words which, to some hon. Members, will seem extremely controversial, may to others, on both sides, appear, I hope, to be persuasive, reasonable, and wholly non-controversial.
It is normal in one's maiden speech to refer to one's predecessor. I shall do that today not merely because it is usual, 919 but because it is with the greatest pleasure that I pay tribute to my predecessor. Mr. Denis Vosper, as he then was, represented Runcorn from the formation of the division. I believe that he served it with dignity and honour. I know that he was extremely popular and well-respected in the division and I am equally convinced, judging by remarks I have heard from hon. Members on both sides, that he was also respected and well-liked in this House.
Mr. Vosper had a very rapid rise to governmental office which was very tragically cut short by his own illness. I am quite sure that all hon. Members are delighted that, now fully restored to health, he is able to take part in the debates in another place and to apply his qualities of experience, knowledge, interest and kindness to his most important task as Chairman of the National Assistance Board.
There is, of course, another tradition—that one should refer to one's division. That I do not propose to do, because I do not see that the issue before us refers to my division any more than it does to any of the other 629 divisions. I will. therefore, limit myself to saying that I am proud and honoured to represent Runcorn and I hope that at the appropriate time I may be able to draw the attention of the Government and of hon. Members to its various needs in education, housing and road construction.
I wish to speak in support of the Bill. I realise that it is a great responsibility to take part in this debate on an issue on which people outside the House hold very strong views on one side or the other, but I was delighted to hear the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) reject the idea that there should be some form of referendum on this issue. If I understand the constitutional position correctly, we are sent here not as delegates but as representatives, and I believe that, although we must weigh, as I weigh, I hope, the views expressed outside the House, in the end we must make up our own minds and vote according to our own judgment and conscience.
I support the Bill because of my belief in the sanctity of human life. It is because I believe that it is wrong to take human life that I believe that it is equally wrong 920 whether that life is taken by the individual or by the State. Following the premise that the taking of human life is wrong, I believe that the State, acting on behalf of all of us as members of society, can only be justified in inflicting the death penalty upon a fellow member of society if it can be shown that that act is necessary for the safety and security of society.
I do not believe that revenge is a proper motive on which to conduct our penal code. Neither do I believe that the taking of the life of a condemned and convicted murderer in any way does or, indeed, should lessen the grief and anguish which is felt by and for the family of that man's victim. Of course, I appreciate that retribution is a necessary part of punishment. Of course, I appreciate that it is a proper motive of punishment that society should show its abhorrence of the act committed by the criminal.
But I believe that that can be adequately achieved by the arrest, conviction and sentence to life imprisonment of that man. Only if it can be shown that the death penalty is a unique deterrent, and that, more than any other form of punishment, it deters people from murder, would we be justified in retaining it. We must all remember that the justification for the taking of life must be proved to be necessary by those who wish to take it.
It is abundantly clear that capital punishment is not the unique deterrent and cannot be proved to be so. I do not want to get involved in many figures this evening, but it is clear from research that in all the countries which have abolished capital punishment murder has never increased. As was so powerfully said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) that has not happened in this country since 1957. We have not had a greater proportion of murders, still between three and four per million of the population, and nor have we had a greater increase in the proportion of non-capital as against capital murder.
One point was made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) which I should like to take up. In an argument which, frankly, I was not able to follow at that stage, he said that nothing could deter the poisoner. I would have 921 thought that if there was one class of murderer of whom it could be said that he would be deterred by capital punishment, if capital punishment were a unique deterrent, that person would be the poisoner. Yet in 1957 we removed the poisoner from the class of people who could be sentenced to death, and so far as I am aware we have not had an increase of murder by poisoning since that time.
There may have been many reasons, but I do not wish to go into them this evening and bore the House by talking of them at length. I will only say that I am convinced that there is no evidence that the retention of the death penalty is necessary for the safety of society, and as I believe that the taking of life is wrong I feel that the Bill should be passed and capital punishment abolished.
Let me deal very briefly with two arguments which the retentionists often advance, one of which was certainly advanced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom. The first is that the abolition of the death penalty would lead to the carrying of arms by professional criminals. I believe that this fear, which I accept as genuine, is baseless. The hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) referred to the findings of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment. I do not believe that there is a likelihood that the abolition of capital punishment would lead to an increase in the carrying of arms.
The real deterrent for murder, as with any other crime, is the certainty or likelihood of arrest and conviction. The House could well spend some time debating why it is that the rate of apprehension should be about 40 per cent. for all crimes whereas for murder it is more than 90 per cent. In these figures may be found why the great mail train robbers did not kill anybody while carrying out their dastardly crime—not the fear that they would hang, but the knowledge that if they used such violence the likelihood of their arrest and conviction would be far greater.
The other argument is that there is no adequate alternative to the death penalty. This case was fully and brilliantly argued by the right hon. Member for Hampstead. We do not know what is the length of a life sentence imposed since the 1957 Act. The period of nine years is meaningless as 922 an average when it is remember that it is concerned with many cases of people who since 1957, would never have been convicted of murder and, having been convicted of manslaughter, would probably have received far shorter determinate sentence.
I accept that the passing of the Bill will mean longer sentences, much more than nine years, and in some cases what they say—life imprisonment. I hope that the House will consider the whole subject of the treatment of long-term prisoners, realising as we must, that most of them will return to society at some stage and that we must see that they come out not having rotted in prison, not having lost the ability to work and to earn their own livings. We could do much to improve the standards for long-term prisoners to the benefit of society as a whole.
I have spoken far longer than I intended. I have done my best to keep emotion out of what I believe to be the most emotional of subjects. I thank the House for having done me the courtesy of listening to this my maiden speech. What I have tried to do is to express the reasons why I for one, with great willingness, will go into the Lobby in support of the Bill this evening.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Frank Soskice)
Our debates are sometimes at their best when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are expressing a purely personal point of view. In addition, this debate has been distinguished by three quite admirable maiden speeches. Each was full of sincerity, based on experience, and well informed. It must be an encouragement to us who are older Members to think that we will listen to contributions from those three hon. Members on many occasions in future.
There was one speech which was exactly the opposite of a maiden speech. It was a speech from one of the most experienced Members of the House, who is, incidentally, my own Member of Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke). As a former Home Secretary, he made a speech with which all of us listening to it had great sympathy and which we heard with deep admiration. He spoke from the experience he derived from holding the office which I now hold. I find 923 myself so close in thought to him on this topic that I must say that I would be only repeating much of what he said if I deployed the thoughts with which I approached the debate.
Some of us consider that this is a question involving a moral issue. The hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) so considered it. Others regard the act as in itself repulsive. But we all have this common feature—that whether we support or oppose the Bill we regard the deliberate taking by a machine of another person's life as something so grave that we cannot avoid questioning its necessity. We cannot possibly accept it as something which is just part of the ordinary order of things. It is something which we must keep constantly under review and with regard to which we must ask ourselves whether it can be shown—and I use the word deliberately—conclusively, or nearly conclusively, that it is essential that we should do that thing to protect society and prevent evil from falling upon innocent persons.
At the outset of the debate, we all find ourselves faced by this common consideration. The Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, which reported in 1953, concluded in the clearest and most uncompromising terms that it was quite impossible from a consideration of the statistics available at that date to draw any safe conclusion one way or another. Therefore, one cannot review this question without at the outset saying to oneself that it is uncertain, and that it cannot be proved whether there is any advantage in retaining the death penalty. One just does not know.
We could not have a higher or more persuasive authority than the Report of the Royal Commission which analyses most exhaustively the difficulties, faithfully comparing country with country and trying to pick countries in which circumstances are analogous and taking the experience of each country and asking whether abolition had produced an increase in the outbreak of violent crime and the commission of murder.
That took the position up to the end of 1953 and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hampstead then proceeded to examine the figures contained in Table 6 in the Home Office Report, Murder, brought up to date to 924 the end of 1963. He pointed to the averages of capital and non-capital murders before and after the Homicide Act, 1957, and indicated, as the figures show, that there was very little difference in the percentage rate of one as against the other.
I should like to go a little further along that path, because not only does it appear that the rate of capital, as against non-capital murders, viewed in terms of percentage, varies very little indeed, but if one takes as an example a particular year—the year 1960—one certainly finds that of the total number of murders committed then, three years after the passing of the Homicide Act, 1957, for some reason which nobody can discern there is a sudden sharp rise in the manner of capital murders against the number of non-capital murders.
I should have thought that that was a circumstance which not only adds to the existing doubt, but, so far as it goes, seems to point fairly strongly to the view that the abolition of the death sentence, to the extent that it was abolished by the Homicide Act, 1957, has had no effect whatsoever. Not only does it leave the situation in doubt, but it seems to point to the positive conclusion that the abolition of the death sentence makes no difference.
Therefore, my own approach to the broad issue raised by the Bill is this. I start, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hampstead started, by saying that this is such a grave proceeding that we cannot allow it to go on unless we are absolutely convinced that it is necessary. It is suggested that it is necessary only because it is a unique deterrent. There is nothing in the world to commend it on any other ground. If it cannot be justified on that basis, there is no other basis on which it can conceivably be justified. When one looks at the available evidence, at any rate up to the end of 1963, not only is it doubtful whether it is a unique deterrent, but there is one very significant pointer, in the year 1960, that it makes very little difference at all.
§ Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)
Would it not be fair for the Home Secretary to refer to 1956, before the passing of the 1957 Act, when there was an even sharper sudden increase in this type of crime?
§ Sir F. Soskice
I have all the figures. In 1956, the percentage of capital murders went up to 19.9; in 1960, it was 925 18.7; and in 1955, 11.3. One cannot draw any conclusion. The matter is altogether too uncertain.
I therefore ask the House to look at the problem in this way. It cannot hold that it is shown that the death penalty can be justified on the only ground that it is sought to be justified—that it is a unique deterrent.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
As I understood it, the argument of the police, when I dealt with them before the war, was that it was not so much the case that the death penalty prevented people from being murdered, but that it prevented the professional criminal from carrying a gun. Is there any evidence, one way or the other, that abolition would lead to the criminal carrying a gun more often—not necessarily using it?
§ Sir F. Soskice
All I can say is that the figures to which I have referred and the Royal Commission's finding cover all criminals of all types—professional and non-profesional, both the man who kills in an outburst of temper and the man with vicious propensities.
While I cannot dissect one from the other, the broad conclusion is applicable to all. We ought to say that the time has come when, as society evolves and we proceed to examine practices to which hitherto we have acquiesced, we should say finally and conclusively that we should put an end to that remnant of the death penalty which exists after the passing of the 1957 Act. Very few people—two in a year latterly—are executed. If we can reduce the figures to such small proportions, what possible advantage can be gained by executions in those very limited categories of case in which, even if we do not accept the Bill, it would be carried out?
I therefore very much hope, speaking from the Government Bench, that the House will agree that the time has come when we should put an end altogether to the death penalty for the crime of murder. The Bill does not deal with the crime of treason. It has a very limited objective—the crime of murder.
I have fully in mind the very careful arguments of the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson). We all listened with respect to what he said. Obviously, he had carefully considered the argument which he presented. 926 But, in answer to all the questions which he asked, the available evidence is that the death penalty makes no difference, or at least it cannot be shown that it makes any difference, or has any real utility. That must be the answer to all the questions which he asked.
Speaking for myself, if I were asked what I thought was a really effective deterrent, I would say the certainty of detection and conviction. That is why, when I entered on the office which I now hold, I made it one of my first tasks to consider the question of trying to strengthen the police force in its fight against crime, to equip it better and, in general, to put it on a footing from which it can tackle the growing incidence of all sorts of crime.
§ Mr. Gardner
Would not the Home Secretary agree that the most disquieting feature of the Bill—a feature which disturbs many of us on, I hope, both sides of the House—is the absence of what we consider to be an adequate penalty in substitution for the death penalty which the Bill proposes to remove? Can he give—it would be of great assistance if he could—an assurance that if the Bill is given a Second Reading the Government will consider introducing a penalty to replace the death penalty which will deter the criminal classes from carrying firearms and bring in a power which will enable a trial judge to pass a determinate sentence of imprisonment?
§ Sir F. Soskice
That is a most relevant question to which it is my purpose to address myself, following rather closely along the path traced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hampstead. I would hope that the House would say that it is right that the discretion vested in the Home Secretary under Section 27 of the Prison Act, 1952, should remain. The question is: how will the Home Secretary exercise that discretion? I can only speak for myself, but I apprehend that probably my successors would think that there was something in the course which I propose.
I accept at once that the first necessity is to see that society is properly protected, and I would seek to exercise my discretion with a view to achieving that objective. But in abolishing one penalty which I would describe as barbarous, namely, the death sentence, we should not 927 substitute another which is also barbarous. Therefore, in the exercise of my discretion under Section 27—that is the Section which gives me a general discretion as to when I will release on licence a person who has been sentenced to imprisonment for life—I would, as my predecessor indicated he did when he was in office, take the greatest care to see what sort of person I was dealing with.
One may have to deal with a sex murderer. One may have to deal with a murderer who, obviously, has inherent vicious propensities and of whom one has to say to oneself, albeit reluctantly, "This man will always be a danger and menace to society". A man like that must be kept in confinement for a very long time—maybe even for the whole of his life, though that would be a conclusion which I know any Home Secretary would be most reluctant to reach.
If, unhappily, a man of that sort is concerned, I should regard it as essential—not only in his case, but in the case of others who serve long periods of imprisonment—to do everything I could to give him the kind of human contacts, the variety and interest in life, the comfort, the general possibility of activity and of developing his own personality, and so on, which would make it possible for him to stand up to a long period of imprisonment without deterioration. I would look most anxiously at reports which seemed to indicate that he could no longer stand up to it, but always, in weighing those reports, I would bear in mind that my paramount duty was to see that society was protected.
Happily, that sort of life prisoner, the murderer of that type, is, in my experience, the exception and not the rule. The rule is the man who, in a violent outburst of temper, has strangled, perhaps, a member of his family, or has struck a friend and killed him, or something of the sort, because he has forgotten himself at that moment. It is the terrible crime of murder, but one knows that he is a person who, having committed that offence once in his life, is most unlikely to do it ever again.
He must be punished, obviously, but when I receive reports that he is a person who has accommodated himself well to prison life and that a time has 928 arrived to consider his release, whether it is after nine years of imprisonment, eight and a half, eight or ten years, depending upon the circumstances of the case, I would find it very difficult, in the exercise of my discretion, not to say that he should be released on licence, particularly if I were told—as indeed I am told, because I consider these reports, as the right hon Gentleman the Member for Hampstead has done—that if he is kept longer in confinement the chances of his being reintegrated into society grow progressively less and that a deterioration of personality might set in.
One has to weigh the two considerations one against the other. If I had that sort of report, unless I was convinced that that person would be a danger, or even a potential danger, if let out on licence, I would be most reluctant to keep a person of that sort longer in confinement than I had to. I would always try to weigh the two considerations: can he safely be let out, and has he come to the point of time at which humanity requires that he should be given his release on licence?
Even with the worst type of prisoner, I would always be loath—and I know that any other holder of my office would be utterly loath—wholly to extinguish all hope in the mind of any human being that he would ever be allowed to walk outside the prison walls and converse with free men and women. If I were compelled to do that, I would, of course, do it, but in doing it I would, nevertheless, try to replace the loss of that hope by at least the hope that he would have inside the prison confines such amenities, activities and human contacts as would make his life a civilised one and enable him to endure the penalty which, unfortunately, the interests of the community require that he must undergo. That would be my purpose in dealing with long-term prisoners.
I would say this, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hampstead did. Nine years is conventionally said to be the period of time after which a prisoner can expect release. In practice, that is the period of time in an average case in which persons who have been condemned to death and who have had their sentences commuted are kept in 929 confinement because, in their cases, ex hypothesi, they have had their death sentences commuted because mitigating features were discerned in their case.
It may well be—I do not say that it always would be—that in cases hereafter, if there were no commutation because of mitigating circumstances, the death penalty having gone, it would seem proper, having regard to the nature of the crime and the character of the individual, that the sentence should be longer than nine years. I would be very reluctant to make it much longer—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hampstead used the words much longer "—because, generally speaking, experience shows that nine years, ten years, or thereabouts is the maximum period of confinement that normal human beings can undergo without their personality decaying, their will going and their becoming progressively less able to re-enter society and to look after themselves and become useful citizens. That is the position.
I recognise the public anxiety that there should be adequate protection to innocent people against murderers who are released from prison and I have thought whether I could rethink my proceedings in such a way as in some degree to allay that anxiety. It seems to me that I could do this, and I would, indeed, adopt this as my practice in the future. It may be a practice that will commend itself to my successors.
In dealing with persons undergoing life imprisonment I exercise a statutory discretion, which is very wide, under Section 27 of the Prison Act, 1952. Independently of that, however, as one of my functions I advise the Sovereign when she should exercise her Royal prerogative of mercy. I do that in the case of fixed sentences. It has always been the practice of the Home Department, when advice is tendered to the Sovereign to exercise the Royal Prerogative of mercy to release a person sentenced to a fixed term of imprisonment, to have consultation with the trial judge. It has been the custom, also in the past, to have consultation with the trial judge before a death sentence is commuted. It has, however, not been the custom to have that consultation when the Home Secretary has exercised his discretion under Section 27.
930 I would have thought that it would be right in future that I should always ask for an opportunity of ascertaining the view of the learned trial judge who knew the circumstances of the case and to whose notice any special feature of the prisoner's conduct, any special vicious propensity, or any special characteristic of the crime would have been brought. Years after, it may well be that, unfortunately, the trial judge may no longer be available. If I may say so publicly in this debate, it would be of the greatest help to me, and, I should have thought, to my successors, if we followed the practice of asking the trial judge to be so good as to prepare a memorandum setting out, after he has tried a murderer, any considerations which he thinks should be borne in mind when the time comes years later to reconsider the question of a person's further detention.
I would, however, hope that the House would not think it right to include as part of the provisions of the Bill, in any later stage through which it may go, a power for judges to impose a minimum penalty. I should have thought it much better if the matter were left to the discretion of the Home Secretary, and that he should follow the new practice which I have indicated, which is designed to secure that the view of the trial judge should be taken fully into account before any discretion is exercised.
With the greatest respect to the learned judges who try these cases, the judge has the prisoner before him for one, two, three, four, 14 or 21 days at most whilst he is trying him. It is during that period that the trial judge must gain his knowledge and his acquaintanceship with the criminal. Within that period he must do his best to get a clear view of the personality of the individual whom he is trying.
By contrast with that, the Home Secretary has the means, through constant reports that he receives over a period of, perhaps, seven, eight, nine or ten years, to get to know what sort of person the criminal in question really is. For example, is he a man who is fundamentally vicious? Is he a man who can be safely allowed to re-enter society after a period of time? What are his basic characteristics? What changes psychologically and of character may he have undergone during the period of his confinement?
931 In answer to the question which was put to me a few minutes ago, I would hope, in those circumstances, that the House might take the view that the right situation should be that the Home Secretary should continue to exercise the discretion which he at present has under the Statute, following, nevertheless, the new practice which I have indicated. Those are the conclusions which I form.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hampstead referred to the train robbery cases and the exceptionally long sentences that have in recent cases been imposed, and he asked me what would be my attitude in the case of sentences of that sort. That is a question which does not arise directly from the Bill. Moreover, it might be premature for me to indicate a view—I would certainly not wish to do so without the most profound thought—on the kind of problem that was pointed to by Lord Devlin in his recent article in the Observer.
I simply say, however, that the Home Secretary would find himself in much difficulty if the position emerged that he had to deal. with a person who had a very long sentence imposed upon him—say, 30 years or the like—and if, at the same time, he had after, say, six, seven, eight or nine years reports upon the person who had been so sentenced to the effect that that person was beginning to deteriorate, that there was a chance of his going into society without causing danger if he were let out, but that otherwise that chance would progressively diminish and he would go downhill. I do not seek at the moment to supply an answer to what Lord Devlin said was a possible conflict of attitude. I say that it is a matter which needs further thought. It would be premature to seek to answer it now, and, in any event, it does not arise on the Bill.
I have indicated, in short, how I would view the proper exercise of my discretion, bearing in mind my paramount duty to see to it that society is protected, but, equally, not forgetting that I have a duty to be humane and see that prisoners should not, as the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) said, be allowed to rot in prison. We should try to return them to society, if we can, with safety, as potentially useful citizens, able to lead useful lives.
932 I very much hope that the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill, knowing that that would be the attitude at any rate of myself while I hold this office, and, I would hope, of my successors.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Dr. Wyndham Davies (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
I rise for the first time in this House with a great deal of trepidation, because before me have been many carefully-argued cases and many distinguished speakers, dealing particularly with legal aspects of this problem which is before us. I would particularly like to bring to the attention of the House certain medical aspects of this problem of capital punishment, and it is on these lines that I shall develop my argument.
I do not think it is irrelevant at this time to say something about the constituency which I represent. It is a division of the City of Birmingham, known as Perry Barr. It is a new area. It was created as a Parliamentary division since the Second World War. It is a dormitory area for our great city, an area created largely in the 1930s to meet the needs of rehousing in our city. It is an area which is now showing many of the problems of the inadequate planning of the 1930s. In addition to being a re-housing area, it is an area where many people have bought their own homes and where they live in modest comfort. It is an area of professional people and wage earners. I will say this because I believe it is relevant—in my own constituency there is a deep concern that this Bill should not be passed this afternoon.
There is deep concern. Time and time again we have heard this afternoon from those who propose that there should be a complete abolition of capital punishment that public opinion is unformed in this matter. This is not so. I do not believe this. The opinion polls have been perfectly plain on this—that about 80 per cent. of the population of this country does not want complete abolition of capital punishment. We saw during the last election how accurate these opinion polls can be. I would refer also to the late Member for Darwen, who, in 1957, believed that it was important to get accurate facts on this matter. He sent round 40,000 reply-paid postcards to the members of his constituency and in that third of them which were returned nearly 14,000 said they did not want abolition of 933 the death penalty and only 700 wished to have it.
I said that I would develop my argument along medical lines. Before I do so, I should like to pay further tribute to the radical tradition of the Members from Birmingham. We on our Conservative side of the House have always been Radicals, and I think that we remain so today. We also have a great tradition of producing some great Prime Ministers. I believe that the contemporary judgment of Neville Chamberlain is excessively harsh, and I hope that it will be revised in time.
I return to the medical point. Why, if the general public of this country do not want a complete abolition of the death penalty, do the majority of hon. Members present seem to want this? They did this in 1947, and when this matter was reconsidered some years ago the same opinion came from the majority of the Members of this House. I have no doubt that tonight, despite the fluency of my argument and those of other hon. Members on our side of the House, we shall pass this Measure, because I have a feeling from the speeches made today that this is the general desire.
Why are we different from the general public? I discussed this with a distinguished psychiatrist in the Midlands before I came to make this speech. [Laughter.] Some hon. Members may have opinions about psychiatrists. I do not think they are all good, but I chose this man with care. He said, "You are an abnormal lot, you Members of Parliament. You do something which is completely psychologically abnormal. You get on your feet and expose yourselves to the to and fro of questioning. You get on your feet and make these speeches. This is quite abnormal for a normal human individual, and what is different about you is that you have a marked sense of aggression." Let us look at each of us sitting around this House today, and let us appreciate that we have this aggressive feeling. This aggressive feeling is exactly the same psychological feeling that will lead a man to murder. It is my belief that we have a natural sympathy through our aggressive feelings with the murderer. [Laughter.] I say this in all seriousness.
There is also another very interesting syndrome—if I may use another medical 934 expression—among the abolitionists. One will find them active in the cause of abortion law reform; one will find them active in the cause of euthanasia. In this respect we have people—and we all know that this is true—who are prepared to destroy innocent human life before birth and people who are prepared to destroy our old people and sick people merely because they are feeble and old and sick. Yet these are the people who say that the most important thing for them is the preservation of human life. It is not. It is the preservation of their own aggressive feelings. I think this medical point should be borne in mind.
I should like to quote from another distinguished psychologist, Professor Eysenck from London, who, in his presidential address to the section of psychology at the British Association for the Advancement of Science this year, said, when dealing with the biological basis of criminal behaviour:At the bottom of all our errors lies probably a fundamental psychological fallacy. We think that punishment deters, and we go on to imagine that the more severe the punishment the greater the deterrence. This is not always true. The statistical study of the effects of increasing the severity of punishment, as by corporal punishment, death penalty, etc. is in complete accord with experimental laboratory studies in showing that the effects of the punishments are extremely variable, very difficult to predict and often contrary to expectation. Severe punishment heightens the prisoner's emotionality to a very considerable degree and this 'booster' action may combine with the existing systems of habits to make these more rigid and difficult to eliminate.The abolitionists may think that this is an argument in support of their case, but he continues:At the moment many people are worried about the increase in criminality but do not know what can be done about it. There are two opposing groups who claim to know. Some call for greater severity, more punitive measures, the bringing back of the cat and so forth, all measures the cruelty of which is only exceeded by their inefficiency. Others call for a psychiatric understanding of criminals, their psychoanalytical treatment and quite generally the application of psychotherapeutic measures. These proposals, while humane, are based on unproved theories, and the evidence as far as it goes suggests that these measures would be no more efficacious than those suggested by the first group.We are today at the stage at which we do not know what to do for the severe criminal, and in my contention it would be extremely unwise at this time, without 935 considerable study by the Home Office and their advisers, for us to move in the general progress of criminal justice which has been occurring in this country by passing this Bill.
What are the arguments which are advanced against the death penalty? First, it is suggested that there may be a miscarriage of justice. Although this case was strongly argued by a number of authors some years ago in a variety of books, this is unproven. If we accept that there is any purpose in God's creation of this Universe, there must be a purpose in even taking of life such as this. I know that this is an unsatisfactory argument which can be accepted only if we believe in something beyond and greater than the life which we live here.
The second argument is that hanging is barbaric. This could be accepted, and I draw the attention of all hon. Members who have been reading the Royal Commission's Report to paragraph 749 in which the Commission stated—in 1953—that there were other, more humane methods of dealing with a convicted criminal. Perhaps the advances in anaesthetics, for example, could lead to a much more humane method of disposing of those in society we no longer wish to keep. I believe that the time has approached when it would be possible to dispose of people in a much less barbarous manner, and I feel that advice on these lines could be provided to the Home Office by expert medical opinion.
The third argument which is advanced is that there is a sanctity of human life. I agree entirely. This sanctity of human life has been mentioned as a case for the abolition of the death penalty. I believe that it can also be advanced for keeping the death penalty for certain types of murder, because the sanctity of life for which I care most is that of the innocent men, women and children, who are killed in cold blood; the sanctity of life for which I care most is that of the police who have to look after us and to protect the community; and the sanctity of life for which I care most is that of the warders of these desperate criminals—criminals who have become bestial in some cases. I am sad to see the concern by so many abolitionists for the welfare of the murderer when they ignore the case for the protection of innocent men, women and children.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
It is my duty to comment upon the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Dr. Wyndham Davies). I am sure that the whole House agrees that the point of view which he expressed was expressed with vigour, with a fluency which he rightly claimed that he possessed, with great skill and certainly with aggressiveness, and I am sure that we shall hear him making similarly agressive speeches which will command our interest many times in the future.
When I hear views expressed by those who are retentionists, such as the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson), I am compelled to think back upon events recounted so often in the history books—what used to take place when hangings were public. It is well known that in those days, when large crowds gathered at Tyburn, there also gathered those groups of people about whom we have heard this afternoon—those who belonged to the professional criminal classes. In particular, at the most crowded scenes there inevitably gathered large numbers of pickpockets who saw that great profit could come from these large assemblies. Pick-pocketing at that time was punishable by hanging.
At the very moment that a man was being hanged, just as he was about to be strangled to death, just as the rope was lifted and he was to be suspended, and just as all heads of the gaping crowd were lifted up to the scene—at that very moment, so great was the deterrent of the hanging upon the professional criminal classes of those days that the pickpockets had their great haul as they dipped into the pockets of the assembled crowds.
I know of no greater rubbish than the arguments being advanced in this day and age that in the distorted mind of those who belong to what we call the professional criminal classes there is the perspicacity and percipience which is being endowed upon them by hon. Members such as the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom. He is, indeed, a civilised member of our community, and I well understand that it is difficult for someone as sophisticated as he is to project himself into the minds of those who are criminals, disturbed and abnormal as they are.
937 The fact remains that we cannot and must not assume, unless we are ready to fall into an absurd fallacy, that the canons which act upon us necessarily act upon them. They would not belong to this feckless group, they would not belong to this class of person at all, if they calculated the risks and if they had the same moral sense and moral development as, fortunately, the overwhelming majority of the community possess.
When I hear anyone suggesting—and we have heard such suggestions today—that there is still a residue of deterrent left in the fact of having the death penalty for some purposes, I recall that at this time nearly one-third of all murder victims are murdered by persons who commit suicide before they are charged.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson
The hon. Member talks about the criminal classes. Can he give any rational explanation why it is not customary for the professional criminal classes in this country to carry guns?
§ Mr. Abse
I will try to deal with that point as develop my speech. All of us are as concerned with what will happen if we pass this Bill—not only what will happen to the murderers concerned but also what will happen to the victims. I will lead to the point at which I can come somewhat nearer the apprehension expressed by the hon. Member. I was seeking to point out that nearly one-third of the victims murdered are murdered by persons who then commit suicide.
Is it not demonstrable, therefore, that since they commit suicide as soon as they have murdered there can be nothing more absurd than to suggest that these are people who are in any way likely to be deterred by the existence of the penalty of hanging? Indeed, I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom that we must speak about these things from both our personal experience and our feelings on the subject. I have been professionally involved with a limited amount of clinical material in defending about six murderers. I realise, therefore, that one must be hesitant in trying to draw too general a conclusion. Nevertheless, if one has had this amount of contact with these people, one has some experience on which to draw.
I have found that it is not only a question of the third who commit suicide, 938 but that there is a large number of people who evidently attempt to commit suicide after they have been charged with murder. I have found—not in all cases, but certainly in the majority of those with which I have dealt—that the greatest problem one has is to endeavour to obtain instructions from the murderer to enable one to put forward a case which would enable the court to say that the man was insane, provoked or suffering from diminished responsibility.
I say this in an endeavour to prove that there is clearly a large group of murderers who, like those who themselves commit suicide afterwards, kill to die. They want to die. So abnormal are they that they wish for their lives to end. One of the great difficulties—and I know that this view is shared by many solicitors who have had this type of experience—is that even when one believes that one has a case to put before the court and so to defend the man, people in this group do not want to live.
It must be realised, therefore, that although the statistics clearly show that there is no evidence on which one can conclusively come to the belief that hanging is a deterrent, I have no doubt that for a particular group of criminals punishment is an attraction. Those who are putting forward the view, obviously sincerely, that hanging is a deterrent, should weigh against that the fact that there is a group of people who are criminals by a sense of guilt.
I submit this view as a result of my own experience, but confirmed by psychiatrists, other than the one already referred to. It is well known that there are individuals who carry with them a neurotic sense of guilt from their young years and seek out punishment. Far be it for me not to pay tribute to the police in their activities. However, every policeman knows that large numbers of criminals almost leave their calling cards behind so that they may be traced—criminals who might otherwise not be discovered.
A large number of criminals, as soon as they have committed offences, will even seek out particular policemen for whom they have a special affection and pour out their confessions. Confessions of this kind are not confined to behind the Iron Curtain. A large proportion of criminals confess almost immediately 939 after having committed offences. This is the experience of many lawyers. So it must be faced that because we in this House are, I hope, normal people, we must not assume that deterrents of this type do deter. Indeed, in some respects we may be attracting or provoking crime.
Although this is true of some groups, it is not true of all. When one comes into contact with the psychopathic criminal one realises that his indifference to the threat of penalty, his indifference to hanging, comes because he acts on impulse. He does not have the same moral conscience and he does not respond as either the group about which I have been speaking or as more normal people. Here we have a problem, for people in this group can commit crimes callously and almost with indifference against their victims.
If we are to deal with these people—people who have committed crimes and who are to be put into prison—we must consider what can be done to stop them committing murder at all. A great deal has been said today about the best way to prevent murders. Many hon. Members have said that the answer is to increase the possibilities of detection. In murder—something which is usually done as a flare of passion—that may not be so easy. It may be a very good thing in regard to other crimes, but for murder increasing the possibilities of detection may not necessarily be the answer.
Something which always strikes me as quite extraordinary is the number of men who have been convicted as young men of some act of violence—who may have committed an assault, an unlawful wounding or grievous bodily harm—and who go on, first being charged with assault, then later, after having served perhaps six months in prison, being charged with unlawful wounding, then do another stretch, and out they come again.
Most solicitors with anything like a criminal practice will usually be able to say, "I believe that there is a man in prison who is about to come out or who is temporarily free and who is likely to commit murder." Experienced police officers say exactly the same thing. "So-and-so," they say, "will one of these days 940 commit murder". Why do we wait? Why, when a man is put in prison for assault or unlawful wounding, do we not realise immediately that this is not normal behaviour? Why is he not screened? Why, at the point when it is clear that the man is a danger to himself and the community, is he not psychiatrically examined?
How rudimentary we are in all is. Should screening not apply to anybody who commits a crime of violence? Even a man who has committed murder can be released without effective screening. The transfer report, made by the principal medical officer of Wakefield in 1957 on Simcox, the man who was released and committed another murder, said that Simcox was mentally and physically sound. That report was made by a medical doctor who had had no psychiatric qualifications whatever. The release report on Simcox was signed by the medical officer of Leyton, who said that his mental state was normal, in 1958. That medical officer had had no psychiatric qualifications whatever.
I am not saying this to denigrate the members of the Prison Medical Service. I am making these points because they are important for the prevention of murder; a most important way of protecting victims. The final report about Simcox was made when he was at the Staffordshire Assizes and put on probation. It was made by at least two police medical officers, not one of whom had a diploma in psychiatric medicine or any training in psychological medicine.
Thus, at this time we do not even screen a murderer effectively. I hope that out of this debate will come a way for this to be done and that we will hear from the Home Secretary what is being done to implement the report which was made after many hon. Members and I had asked one Question after another of the former Home Secretary. I refer to the Report on the Organisation of the Prison Medical Service. I believe that if we are looking to the future and if we are to cope with the problem of how to look after the victim, we should now be asking whether the recommendations made in that Report a year ago are being carried out. The whole emphasis of that Report was on the inadequacy of psychiatric training within the Prison Medical Service and the lack of facilities and opportunities 941 to undergo training by those employed in the prison medical services.
It is a dead-end service as it stands. It is a cul-de-sac, and it means that we are not attracting to it the right sort of people who could screen these offenders. The need for a much more sophisticated service becomes far more important if the Bill goes through, because then more people will be inside the prisons who otherwise would have been hanged. It is therefore essential that we have a really well equipped psychiatric service inside the Prison Medical Service.
I should like the Home Secretary to tell us what is being done to implement the 14 recommendations made for the reorganisation of the Prison Medical Service and, in particular, what is being done to make quite certain that there are joint appointments as was recommended—psychiatrists who would be appointed by the Home Secretary and by the regional hospital board for service part-time in a prison service establishment and service part-time in a psychiatric hospital or clinic outside in the forensic field. Only by getting this kind of mobility between the present service and all modern developments in psychiatry are we likely to have a service that would hold esteem and regard, and have the capacity to deal with all those people in prison for offences of violence.
I hope, therefore, that we will not have a negative debate, a debate that will be merely reciting the well-marshalled arguments for and against capital punishment that have been going on for so long, but that out of it will come something from the Home Secretary to tell us that when these men who, erstwhile, would have been hanged, go inside a prison, they will be properly treated, so that the public should be protected, so that no one is let out who should not be let out, so that the conditions in which he lives will be conditions which for his particular psychic structure will enable him to survive as and when he is released——
§ The Minister of State for the Home Department (Miss Alice Bacon)
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) has put many questions during the last few minutes, but I can assure him that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has already taken steps to consider, as a matter of urgency, the 942 Report on the Prison Medical Service, and hopes, before long, to make a statement.
§ Mr. Abse
I welcome that information very much. One of my reasons for particularly emphasising it is that I have not, I confess, the same confidence in the suggestion which the Home Secretary made that what should happen at the end of a certain period is that there should be such long discussions with the judges. What do the judges know about the criminals? Barristers are not trained to know anything about the aetiology of crime, nor are solicitors. We are trained how to defend criminals and we are trained how to prosecute them, but we know nothing about the criminal's aetiology——
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
I wonder whether my hon. Friend has had the experience that I have had on many occasions, of High Court judges taking psychiatric medicine as something of a joke.
§ Mr. Abse
Unfortunately, that sometimes occurs. They do not have the experience—like the lawyers who talk sententiously about divorce, but who, in fact, have had no training at all in marriage reconciliation. That is why I regard it as a certain element of pretentiousness when lawyers who, apart from their pragmatic and empirical experience, give comments about criminals for which they have no especial training and no right to claim or to expect the House to regard them as an authority.
I see little value in going back to the judge when deciding on the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. I see little merit in adopting the Home Secretary's suggestion that they should discuss the matter with the judge who sentenced the man perhaps 10 years previously. Indeed, it had been recognised last year that judges know very little about what goes on in prisons. It was only under pressure, out of the Streatfeild Report that it was decided to publish a book to tell judges what happens to criminals when they go into prison. A booklet has been issued to inform them at long last of that. Are these the people whom we should ask whether these offenders should be released or not?
Nor do I agree with the view of former judges, expressed in the Press, that they 943 should have an influence in the decision of the ultimate tribunal deciding upon releases in these matters. Their view might be taken into account, but, by and large, this must be looked at as a psychiatric and sociological problem. If the Prison Medical Service can adopt some of the suggestions that have been made in the Report we may come a little nearer to feeling that a real contribution is being made in rehabilitation and that the public, too, could become secure.
I hope that these are the lines along which we shall move forward in the future, out of the recommendations of this document, rather than to follow the barren arguments of the past which have really only been expressing very personal and deeply emotional apprehensions.
The hon. Member for Perry Barr, if I may say so, spoke of the aggressiveness that exists among Members of Parliament, but some psychiatrists would say that, while we are certainly very aggressive people, we try to control our aggression, and that precisely because we try to control our aggression they suggest that we get excessively alarmed when we see it in other people. That is a very good reason why the House gets very agitated, as it clearly does, when we discuss the abolition of a death penalty that only affects two people each year.
It has something to do with us as well, and with our particular personalities, and we should not make such heavy weather of it. We should get capital punishment out of the way, and then get down to constructive work whereby we can both safeguard the public a little more and, perhaps, rehabilitate these unfortunate people so that we may be certain that when they come out they will be civilised and integrated members of the community.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson
Before the hon. Member sits down, will he answer the question I put to him, and which he said he would answer, but did not? If hanging does not deter, why is it that in this country it is customary for burglars not to carry guns?
§ Mr. Abse
if the hon. Gentleman would re-read—I am sure that he has read—the Report of the Royal Commission, he will see how this point was dealt with there, where comparisons were made, State by State in the United States of 944 America, to deal with this type of difficulty. I think that out of that comparison comes the fact that there is an unecessary although understandable apprehension, and I hope that misplaced apprehension will not prevent the Bill going through by a large majority.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
I beg to move, to leave out "now and at the end of the Question to add" upon this day six months".
I understand that this is the parliamentary way of saying, "Tear the Bill up and let us hear no more of it". That is what I should like to do.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) will forgive me if I do not follow him throughout his argument, but I gathered from the style of his speech that he inferred that most murderers try to commit suicide. I found the same thing at Luneberg Heath during the war when all the Germans who had committed all sorts of crimes had to have stomach pumps and all the rest put on them in order to keep them alive so that others, many from the other side of the Chamber, could try them and hang them up at a later date. If murderers want to commit suicide, I would not stop them. It would save a lot of bother later on. I thought that to be the only point of interest the hon. Member made.
I believe that this House has no mandate at all to discuss this matter. We have just had a General Election. If any party had wanted to abolish capital punishment it could well have mentioned it, but I did not read a word of it in any party manifesto during the election period, and I had not seen anything of it until it appeared in the Queen's Speech. Then the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) was lucky enough to be able to table this Measure as a Private Member's Bill.
I say at once that this is not in any case suitable matter for a Private Member's Bill, and I am surprised, when the country has an economic crisis that should be worrying the Government, and when we have a defence crisis to worry them, that once more we have to drag up this question of letting the murderer go free. This should certainly be put to the British public, and it should be for them to say what they think about it.
945 I took the trouble to write a letter to my local paper to ask people who had strong views on this subject to let me know what they thought this House ought to do about it. I received over 200 replies by last Saturday saying, "Hang the murderers". Many of them said, "If you can hang the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne as well, we will be delighted".
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I wish to ask the hon. and gallant Member two questions. When he wrote that letter and invited those replies, did he explain to the people he was inviting to give an opinion what the present state of the law was? This is very important. The other question I ask him, in view of his personal and kindly reference to myself, is whether he does not realise that there is a small section of psychopathic opinion in this country which loves the rope more than it hates the murder'?
§ Brigadier Clarke
I am glad to hear further from the hon. Member. I naturally told my constituents what I thought on the subject——
§ Brigadier Clarke
On the subject of a murder Bill which the hon. Member was to produce in this House. I got replies from more than 200 people of whom two were abolitionists and the rest were against the proposals. Of the letters sent to the evening paper a much higher proportion were for retaining the death penalty than for abolition. We must not take a high and arrogant attitude in this House thinking that we know so much better than all the people who put us here. I hope that many of those who put us here will take note of how we vote tonight. I am sure that anyone who had the temerity to put this proposal in his election address at the last election—[Interruption.] I have given way once to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. If he wishes to say something I will give way again.
This is a most important subject, and I am surprised that it has been brought forward as a Private Member's Bill. There has been a public opinion poll which has shown an enormous majority 946 in favour of retaining the death penalty. I am certain that the death penalty is a deterrent. I believe the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne admitted that it was, and certainly the former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), said that it was. I was not quite sure what the new Home Secretary said. He seemed to be almost as weak with the criminal as the two Home Secretaries who preceded him. I do not know what happens to people when they become Home Secretaries. They get so wet that they ought to be hung up.
This is a deterrent. A murderer should most certainly hang. If there is a matter of doubt in anyone's mind, I have no doubt whatever. I do not think anyone up to now has swung who has not committed a murder. That suggestion is merely used by people who write books and gain money by writing books. If every murderer were shown to be guilty in the books there would be no story to tell. So they have to make a story saying that a man was hanged unnecessarily and then everyone will buy the book.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
Is my hon. and gallant Friend saying that in his mind there is no doubt whatever about the cases of Evans, of Christie, Craig and Bentley, Rowlands and Ware? If he is saying that there was no element of doubt in those cases, that is one of the most heroic remarks I have heard.
§ Brigadier Clarke
My right hon. Friend is entitled to his opinion and I shall not say that he is "bonkers". I have listened to an hon. Member opposite all the way from Hebburn to London on that subject and I have read many books, but I am still convinced that a British jury never committed a man to the gallows who should not have gone there.
§ Brigadier Clarke
My hon. Friend can make his speech later. I am perfectly happy if a mistake has been made, or if in the next five or ten years a mistake is made if it means that we save the life of one child, as I believe retaining the death penalty would do. I am certain that this is a deterrent. For every child who loses 947 his life by murder between now and the next few years the blame will be put fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
If the hon. and gallant Member does not give way, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) must not interrupt.
§ Brigadier Clarke
If the hon. Member will wait until I have finished this statement, I will give way. I am perfectly certain that there will be more children murdered and it will be the hon. Member's fault.
§ Mr. Silverman
I apologise for interrupting the hon. and gallant Member for the second time, and I am grateful to him for giving way, but since he chose to put a personal responsibility on me because of this Bill for any murders of children after 1964, will he tell me on whose shoulders he lays the blame for all the murders of children since 1958, because we have not treated the murder of children as capital since 1957 under the Act which the hon. and gallant Member does not propose to repeal?
§ Brigadier Clarke
I know that lawyers and statistics can prove practically anything. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is no good hon. Members saying "No". Lawyers can prove anything and take any case.
§ Brigadier Clarke
I do not put any blame on any individual for what happened before 1957. Nearly all these Acts have emanated from the hon. Member. I now ask him how he hopes to look after prison officers from now onwards. A deputation of prison officers 948 came to see me last week and they brought a wife with them. I asked if she was a prison officer, but she said no, she was a wife. I asked why she was there and she said, "Because my husband will be put to much greater risk in future than up to now. I hope the Government will see, if he is killed, that I get a reasonable pension." [Laughter.] Hon. Members may think that amusing, but I am sure that prison officers' wives do not think so.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has a great smirk of his face, but obviously a lot of people want to murder him and I would not stop them. I should like the Home Secretary to say what sort of safeguards he can produce to help prison officers and what sort of pension he would be able to give their widows. More prison officers will be murdered. If a man is put inside for 10 or 12 years, what discipline is there over him? If he has a life sentence, what is to stop him hitting or stabbing anyone in the back after that?
I also ask the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne how he proposes to look after ordinary policemen. Up to now there has been a certain amount of deterrence of robbers intending to rob banks while armed. They knew that if they committed murder when doing so and were caught they would swing. Now if the Bill passes they will think they might as well shoot their way out of a difficulty, in which case they will either get away scot-free or, if they are caught, they will get a life sentence which may be only eight or nine years. We have not yet heard from the Home Secretary what the length of the sentence is to be. The Home Secretary seems much more worried about the decaying man in prison than about the bank manager who might be shot because the Home Secretary had removed the death penalty. Those who would remove the deterrent take a grave responsibility, because we have heard that it is a deterrent. I myself would not like to remove it.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to a bank manager and the danger in which he was placed. He may recollect a bank manager who was shot in these circumstances very close to his constituency about two years ago. He was shot by a young man on the very day two of his friend's 949 were hanged for a murder on the heath near there. He was a man who wished to share their fame.
§ Brigadier Clarke
You get all sorts of bank robbers. [Laughter.] I do not know why hon. Gentlemen think this is funny. I am desperately serious. I am trying very hard to protect the police. I wonder if the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne would like, if he were a policeman, to be told to apprehend some men who had just broken into a bank and shot the manager. Would he order his men to do such a thing? I personally would not. I would not order a soldier to do anything that I was not prepared to do myself. I do not think that any senior police officer would be justified in sending his men out unarmed.
Before long the Home Secretary will have calls upon him to see that our police are armed so that they can look after themselves against criminals. It will be a very bad day when we have to arm our police. That, again, will be entirely the fault of hon. Members opposite, because we would never have produced a Bill of this description. If we had, half the Conservative Party would have voted against it, anyhow. Unfortunately, we have a few young people on this side of the House who came in in about 1956 and who are of a rather different calibre. They are about as wet as the last three Home Secretaries, and the one I see laughing at the moment is the worst of the lot. I am ashamed of some hon. Members on this side of the House who are going to abolish the deterrent and allow my constituents and their own constituents to be robbed, shot, murdered and all the other things which will arise as a result of the Bill if we pass it. I hope that we shall not pass it. That is why I move my Amendment.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)
I have listened attentively since the debate began. The strongest argument in favour of the Bill may be the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke). We have heard a profusion of members of the legal profession, which is fitting for this subject. I should like to speak as representing two minority groups in the House.
First, I am a woman Member. Women are in the minority in the House, as they are among murderers. This may be be- 950 cause we are less aggressive, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Dr. Wynham Davies) said. On 8th December of this year only 10 women were serving sentences for murder in prisons in England and Wales. In spite of that, I hope that the House will hear my view. Secondly, doctors are also in a minority in the House, there being only nine out of the total number of Members.
To me, this is essentially a moral issue. Here I would disagree with the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), who happens to be my own M.P., although I did not vote for him. I agreed with practically everything he said, except for the fact that he said he did not believe that this was a moral issue. I believe that unnecessary killing is morally wrong and that death authorised by law is morally wrong. A doctor is trained to save and prolong life, and nobody, however bad he may be, is exempt from this treatment. This applies to mental and physical illness. I believe that nobody—not a doctor, nor a judge, nor even a Home Secretary—should take it upon himself to be God and decide upon the life of a particular human being. One American judge excused himself when he said, "I never sentence a man to death. God does that. I only arrange the date".
Who can say that any murderer is beyond hope of cure? Psychiatrists are very often treated by judges and the public at large as a joke. Many of them are normal. My father was one. In fact, most of them are normal. They are doing, or trying to do against adverse public opinion, a great deal in finding the causes of crime. As my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) so rightly said, we must concentrate far more on investigating the causes of crime and curing psychopathic murderers than we are doing. Only one penal institution has been set up to find a cure for this insane type of psychopath. We need far more of these. This is how we should tackle the problem.
Because psychiatry is a young and expanding subject, I hope that this is where we will place our efforts in the future. We should concentrate on treating these people and curing them. We should not dismiss anybody as incurable for the whole of his life. Hanging is 951 often boosted as simple, humane, painless and quick; but modern psychiatric treatment does not include using a rope to dislocate the spine and crush the spinal cord. Hanging is bad medicine.
Psychopathic murderers should be detained in prison hospitals with maximum security provisions. Their safety and not their punishment is what we should have in mind. The other kind of murderers, who are one-tenth of the total, should similarly be placed in maximum security prisons.
The question is bound to arise as to how long "life" is. This, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) said, is really a matter for the Committee stage. It would be quite wrong to fix a definite time as meaning life imprisonment. Each case should be treated on its merits. Every crime is different. Every person is curable in a different length of time. The people who should consider this are primarily psychiatrists and sociologists, with the help and judgment of the Home Secretary and of parole boards. If necessary, the sentence should be effective and total life imprisonment. Self-preservation is our strongest instinct and I am certain that if any of us were given the choice between being hanged and imprisoned for nearly life we would choose the latter, and that similarly we would make that choice for our relatives. I support the Bill primarily because it has no compromises, no exceptions, no anomalies. It says quite clearly and difinitely that we should do away with hanging, that nobody, whatever murder has been committed, shall hang.
It is often said that public opinion is not being considered by the House. We are not tonight, fortunately, speaking for party or constituency in a doctrinaire manner and I find it an exhilarating feeling to be out of range of a Whip for one evening. We are voting as conscience dictates. I feel that in this House we adequately represent the conscience of this country and that our vote tonight will be welcomed by public opinion in general.
My constituency is a highly marginal one. There are in it Conservatives, Liberals and Labour supporters who are in favour of the abolition of capital 952 punishment. I, unlike the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West, have received no letters at all on this subject since the General Election. At the election I said at a public meeting that I opposed capital punishment. This was reported in the local newspaper, which goes to 90 per cent. of the homes in the constituency.
I suspect that most hon. Members, at some stage during the election campaign, were asked for their views on capital punishment and gave them clearly and sincerely. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister appeared on television and said quite clearly that he was confident that if a Labour Government were returned capital punishment would be abolished. For these reasons, I think the public know how we feel and that we support the Bill. They have been told at the election what a Labour Government would do.
I am very proud that in the first few weeks of this Labour Government we have found time, amid the great amount of legislation that we would like to place upon the Statute Book, to bring in this humane Bill. We also have the support of the Lord Chancellor and a majority——
§ Brigadier Clarke
Would the hon. Lady agree that many old-age pensioners will now probably get hit over the head before they get their pensions?
§ Dr. Summerskill
No. I believe that public opinion will welcome the result of the Division tonight. The public have been educated over the years and feel that hanging is as outmoded as cutting off the hand for theft. I am sure that there are many hon. Members who, in the past, may have voted for hanging, but who have now educated themselves and tonight will vote against hanging. I believe that a comparison of the Division lists over the years will prove very interesting reading. I think that the Bill will be passed without clamour or excitement because it is what public opinion wants.
One question which I hope hon. Members who oppose the Bill will ask themselves is: how much is the emotion of revenge involved in their feelings—the eye for an eye philosophy? Death is not a punishment to the man whom one kills. 953 Death is, in fact, nothing. Revenge has been described by Francis Bacon asa kind of wild justice, which the more man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.Legalised murder does nothing to weed this out. It encourages a spirit of retribution, and I believe that it is morally unhealthy for the country and the people in it to continue State hanging in a spirit of retribution and revenge, as I believe it is to many people.
The Bill will also stop the sensationalism of murder and murderers by the Press, whose motto is very often "Vice is news and virtue is not." Adults and children will no longer be corrupted by the knowledge that a State hanging is taking place. It brutalises and degrades the people in the prisons who are involved in it—the prisoners and the prison officers—and the public. Would the opposers of the Bill be prepared to witness a hanging? Do they support hanging? Or do they support the belief that justice should not only be done, but should be seen to be done?
The subject of hanging can be considered unemotionally and rationally, and I think that in this debate we have succeeded in considering it in both these lights. I do not believe that hanging is a deterrent. It is in the occasional case, but by and large it is not. I am told that a man who is arrested will often say to the police, "Is this a 'topping' job?" But he says that after and not before he commits the crime. It is often an afterthought rather than a thought preceding the crime.
I do not believe that sufficient has been said in this debate about the fact that there is always one case in 100 or more where the innocent man is hanged. That is probably the greatest argument against hanging. I hope that tonight we shall end once and for all the argument on this subject. It is a barbaric and primitive conception of justice to hang a man. We shall be a more dignified and cleaner country without it.
I hope that the Bill will pave the way to a new conception, a new system of punishing capital crimes. The argument has gone on for too long and public discussion about it should come to an end. After that, I hope that we can give more thought, time and the same 954 enthusiasm to the fate of the victims and their dependants.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
I find myself able to agree with the earlier part of what the hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) said, but I am bound to say that I found some difficulty in following her through to her conclusion; in particular, I find it difficult to accept the reference, which she made towards the end of her speech, to her concern about the possibility of an innocent man hanging. We are all concerned with this point, but a great many of us are equally concerned with the innocent victims, as all to often the victims are.
Whatever views we may hold, I think hon. Members are very sincere in their conviction and that any conclusion which they have come to has been reached after long and careful thought. I find myself in considerable difficulty, because fundamentally I have been an abolitionist for a long time, but I do not propose to support this Bill tonight. I find myself unable to do so for the following reasons. I believe that there is an element of deterrence in the law as at present. I do not find myself able to believe that any alternative will replace it. I shall not be able to support this Bill, because I believe that psychiatric considerations have a strong bearing on this matter. We have only fringe knowledge of this subject in a field which is developing swiftly.
I cannot support the Bill, also, because I believe that equal with our responsibility towards those criminals whose lives we are considering is our responsibility towards the victims, towards the next-of-kin of victims, towards many of those who live alone and in isolated places, including the elderly. And last but by no means least, there is our consideration for the police and our remembrance of the fact that we are immensely proud that they are unarmed.
In order to equate these responsibilities, it would seem to me necessary to be assured that the Bill makes provision for all these different interests. I think I am correct is saying that Scots Law long admitting the plea of diminished responsibility has been long in force and 955 is now being followed in English law, but one result of the difference in the law has been that there have been many fewer hangings in Scotland than in England for a long number of years.
Another result has been that in the minds of those who have given this matter frequent consideration is the type of murderer who under our law has been hanged. My difficulty about this Bill arises in part because I consider it so difficult to find for these persons an adequate alternative sentence or to envisage what that could be. Perhaps the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) will have some sympathy with the point which I am trying to make that we in Scotland have become accustomed to categorising the type of murderer who is hanged, and a picture of his character is rather clearly set out in our minds.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
Is the hon. Lady aware that since the Homicide Act, 1958, nobody has been executed in Scotland? Is she recommending that the penalty should be retained only for the English?
§ Miss Harvie Anderson
I am coming to the point which has led me to my conclusion about the deterrent and the hon. Gentleman has made my next point, which is that in recent years this has been the case in Scotland. This does not alter the fact that in capital murder there is a psychopathic point to which I have referred and which I should like to go into in a little detail.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Lady has said that it is part of her argument that there has been no execution in Scotland for this type of murder. Does she also know that in England for the past three years the executions have been two a year? When the hon. Lady compares the population of England with that of Scotland does she think that there is as much difference as she is claiming for it between none in Scotland and two in England?
§ Miss Harvie Anderson
The hon. Member keeps going back to the question of capital murder. Most of us, looking at this problem, have been less concerned with that particular aspect and have been looking over a wider range of activity.
§ Mr. Silverman
I hope that the hon. Lady will allow me a final point in interrupting her. It is that the only question before the House today is about capital murder. We abolished the death penalty for the rest eight years ago.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson
I see no reason why the surrounding circumstances should not influence one's judgment on the point before us. To go back to my original point, I should like to quote one source and only one. Hon. Members may have seen a letter in The Times from Dr. Lyndesay Neustatter who has given considerable study and thought to this matter. He points out that the majority of murderers are not in the criminal class. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne might allow me to correct one slight error he has made in the debate. Manuel was hanged in 1960.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)
May I give the hon. Lady the right statistics? There was one in 1958, one in 1960, and one in 1963.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson
I think the right hon. Gentleman will accept that the point which I shall go on to make will not be wholly irrelevant to my argument. It is that the majority of murderers are not in the accepted criminal class. This is a very important point. If we accept that the majority of murderers are not in the criminal class, and here I speak of murderers who at present fall within the category to whom capital punishment applies, I believe that it is true to say, as much evidence now shows, that there are very few murderers in this class who have no psychiatric disorder. This presents a very real aspect of the problem which we are considering.
There are psychiatrists, and Dr. Neustatter is one of them, who believe that in planned crime killing is rare. Hon. Members have referred to this during the debate. My argument is that, if that is so, it is even more difficult to determine the extent to which the death penalty deters. The point is that the death penalty may effectively deter those who otherwise would be in the category of persons who have committed a capital murder and it may make a difference between that murder being one for which there is no capital punishment and one for which there is capital punishment. It may also be, as some hon. Members who 957 have supported the Bill claim, that the deterrent aspect have no effect on the psychopath.
It is probably true to say that the law as it affects psychopaths is in any case in need of revision. I should be out of order if I went further into that argument, but I think that there is universal agreement that we require to look at our treatment of psychopaths and psychiatric cases generally in a new light. If this is true in general, how much more true is it of the criminal who is in the category which we are discussing tonight?
The sentence of life imprisonment which would result if we were to pass this Bill would not meet the case at all. It will be generally accepted among those who hold varying views on capital punishment that the detention of the psychopath for the safety of the realm may well have to be a good deal longer than the average period of detention of which we have had illustrations today.
A word now about the police. It is unfortunate that the sensational aspects of certain difficulties which arise from time to time are given such publicity, because we all know that the service rendered to the community by our unarmed police force is too often taken for granted and underestimated. This is an opportunity for us to pay tribute to the courage and integrity of the police. If even without other consideration I believed that there was the slightest hope of their being protected by the continuance under the present law of something which would not be provided for by the Bill, I should be unable to support the Bill.
The most powerful argument of all is the argument based on the sanctity of life. This is something which we all respect enormously, and, all other things being equal, there can be no hon. Member who would not wish to accept the principle. It is our duty to honour life, but it is our duty to honour equally the life of both aggressor and victim, and it is our prime duty also to protect society. I cannot vote for the Bill because do not believe that it adds to the protection of society or that it effectively ensures security for the potential victim as for the aggressor. Therefore, it meets only one requirement, and I shall vote against it.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
Whatever extremists might say of the Bill one way or another, it remains the fact that murder, the killing of another person, is a ghastly crime. Whether it be done by an individual, or by the State, it is murder just the same.
We have heard a lot about deterrence. I suggest that capital punishment is not a deterrent. The poisoner or the person who carefully plans his crime expects to get away with it. He does not think for a moment that he will be caught. The threat of capital punishment, or any other punishment, is no deterrent to him or to her. On the other hand, the person who shoots at another in a fit of rage does not have time to think about whether there is capital punishment in the wake or not. He or she does it in a fit of rage and it is over immediately. I cannot accept that the argument about deterrence has any value at all.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
Might there not be a deterrent effect on the man who shoots in a fit of rage if he thought about whether he should take a firearm with him on the expedition? Admittedly, he may shoot in a moment of rage, but, before taking a gun, might he not ponder on the result if he did shoot?
§ Mr. Tuck
The person who takes a firearm with him on the expedition does not use it in a fit of rage. He plans the expedition. He is one of the planners. I have divided them into two classes. He is one who takes a firearm with him for use if necessary, and he does not think that he will be caught.
I was surprised to hear the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) use the expression "the gangster with the gun" when talking about murder by shooting. All murders by shooting are not committed by gangsters with guns. I have in mind the tragic case of Ruth Ellis, who shot her lover. She was not a gangster with a gun. The right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that one cannot deter the poisoner or the rapist. Can one deter the person like the unfortunate Ruth Ellis? Would she have been deterred by the threat of capital punishment?
959 I am at a loss to understand the rationale of a system such as ours now which allows the poisoner or the person who stabs another in the back to get away with non-capital murder while laying down that the person who shoots is guilty of capital murder. The only rationale I can see is the moral, "If you intend to commit a murder, for goodness' sake do not make a noise about it".
I support the Bill wholeheartedly, but I issue a solemn warning to those among us, the starry-eyed idealists, perhaps, who have no regard for the practical consequences. The House and the nation are concerned with the safety of the people and the children of the nation. If we are to allow murderers to come out of detention after seven, eight, nine, or fourteen years, whatever it may be, this may—indeed, it probably will—decrease the security of society I have security very much in mind. I should like to see murderers taken to a little island off the north-west of Scotland and kept there unless or until they can properly be released.
As far as release is concerned, I should like to see the following, and I ask the House to give it serious consideration. "Life" should mean life, or at least an indefinite term of imprisonment unless and until a committee—I am not detracting from the competence or conscientiousness of any Home Secretary—consisting perhaps of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice, the Home Secretary, two psychiatrists, a prison officer and any other one might think of—the composition could be left till later—decided after a certain number of years that the person concerned was a changed individual.
Here I have in mind the tragic case of Caryl Chessman, who committed murder and rape 13 years before he was gassed in the gas chamber; and by that time he was a changed man and it was stated that he was a potentially useful member of society. If that were found by the committee, then, and then only, should the murderer be released. Otherwise, our security is gravely imperilled.
I ask the House to consider this deeply, because I am concerned with the safety of our people and their children.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
This is a Bill which, according to the 960 Long Title, seeks to do two things—to abolish capital punishment and "to make other provision for the punishment of persons" convicted of murder. My objection to the Bill—and I do object to it and propose to vote against it—is that it does the first but then in fact makes no special provision for the punishment of persons convicted of murder or for anything else connected with that purpose. If I were to choose the phraseology, the word "punishment" would not appeal to me as being particularly relevant, anyhow.
Therefore, when we have regard to the question of what further provision there is, we are driven back to the provision in the Bill for life imprisonment. The question which I ask myself and which I think all hon. Members ought to ask themselves in considering the Bill as drafted on its merits is this: Does the provision for life imprisonment constitute a sufficient and adequate deterrent in view of the fact that it is bound to be an uncertain conception in the mind of the potential killer as, indeed, it is an uncertain conception, with the best will in the world, in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary who opened his thoughts to us this afternoon?
I am one of those who look at the penal system in this way. To my mind, the prime and over-riding object of the penal system is the protection of society. I think that in all these matters of penology and criminology there comes the great divide between those who, when they consider these problems of enormous human significance, importance and difficulty, fundamentally identify themselves with the criminal and the murderer—goodness knows, they are entitled to our compassion and consideration, and it would be totally wrong to withhold that from them—and those who look at it from the, if one cares so to regard it, biased point of view of the potential victim and of those who are nearest and dearest to him.
It is according to whether one is victim-orientated or criminal-orientated—I do not at all want to impute into that any note of condemnation or censoriousness—according to which of the two scales weigh most heavily with one, that one has to form one's opinion of the varying degrees of priority that one ought to give to the elements of rehabilitation, 961 segregation, deterrence—individual deterrence and deterrence generally as regards other people—and retribution, if one feels that that ought to enter into it.
In considering this matter, and in considering all penal matters—it may be a fault in me—I regard my first responsibility and commitment as being towards those whom we are trying to protect by evolving a right penal system. That may be a wrong point of view, but it happens to be my point of view, and I hope that those who take a different point of view—they are people whom I admire and whose sincerity I respect—will allow that it is possible to look at this matter from my point of view——
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I do not want to debate that matter with the hon. Gentleman—I have already made a long speech—but will he make an effort to try to realise that those who want to abolish the death penalty are just as much concerned for the protection of society as those who want to retain it? The argument is not about that. It is about whether the death penalty is a necessary or useful protection to society.
I would like to ask him another question, while I am on my feet, for it would save interrupting again. I gather from his speech so far—as I gathered from the Amendment in his name on the Order Paper—that his principal objection to the Bill is that it does not provide a sufficiently strong alternative. Supposing that is so.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
This intervention is becoming suspiciously like a second speech. I hope that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) will keep it brief.
§ Mr. Silverman
I understand that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am only putting a question. Supposing the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) is right in his view that the Bill does not provide a sufficiently strong alternative. Surely, if the House were to agree with him, that could be corrected in Committee. Is it really a valid reason for voting against Second Reading?
§ Mr. Iremonger
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I will answer his second question first. That aspect is the heart of what I have to say, and I will come 962 to it in my own good time, if he will allow me to do so.
As to his first question, of course, I recognise and accept that the hon. Gentleman and those who agree with him are just as aware of their responsibilities and are just as concerned for the protection of society as are those who differ from them. All I say is that I give a higher priority to my responsibilities to the public at large than I give to the agony of the decision to object to a Bill when that objection will cause to be continued processes which I fully concede are fundamentally repellent and disgusting. From that point of view I am more impressed by the arguments of those who have argued in favour of capital punishment as a deterrent.
This is not a matter subject to proof one way or the other. Members of this House can only take up their own positions on it. I claim that, in my judgment, the Homicide Act, however imperfectly the line may have been drawn, and however impossible it may be to draw any other line and claim that it is manifestly better, none the less has provided a general deterrent to a certain class of potential killers who one might reasonably imagine might be deterred by the ultimate sanction of death. Therefore, on that argument, the 1957 Act is effective, and is sufficiently more effective than any alternative than I can see at this stage for this House to retain it. The alternatives we have heard outlined so far today are too vague and too doubtful.
If hon. Members want to query the validity of the deterrent argument, they are entitled to do so. But those of us who take the opposite view have been abjured to give serious consideration to the possibility that just sometimes, over the course of the years, if there is a death penalty, one may hang an innocent man. The hon. Lady the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) said that this was the principal argument against capital punishment. But if the possibility that sometimes justice might go awry and an innocent man might be hanged is to be a conclusive argument, one is entitled to call in aid the other side of the argument—the possibility that the deterrent of capital punishment might save one innocent life. That proposition is sufficient, in this context, to validate the deterrent argument.
963 When I merely have to choose between, on the one hand, accepting the deterrent argument, with the possibility that it might save a life and, on the other hand, saying that one cannot prove it, so therefore one should throw it out altogether, I give the benefit of the doubt in favour of retaining the deterrent and the protection. If they are to get rid of the deterrent, hon. Members should consider, far more seriously and precisely and in detail than they have done this evening, or are likely to do in Committee, exactly what alternative they are to put in its place. No talk about judicial or administrative procedures to do with life imprisonment will be sufficiently strong or precise to act as a deterrent in the way I think necessary.
When it comes to deciding how one is to vote on the Bill, I am haunted by this nightmare, which is what decides me: if one envisages the Bill becoming law and a professional criminal planning a crime and weighing up the pros and cons—the likelihood of being caught and all that—and the advantages of carrying a gun or not, and the advantages of using it in the last resort or not using it, of killing or not killing, and saying to himself that on balance it is worth it, on balance it is worth carrying a gun and, if he is in a corner, worth shooting his way out, because at the worst all he will get is "life imprisonment"—and what is that?—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may assess this differently. That is my personal nightmare.
§ Sir E. Boyle
My hon. Friend has raised this rather striking nightmare, but can he point to one case where abolition has taken place and that nightmare has materialised? Surely all the evidence presented to the Royal Commission in paragraph 61 and the following paragraphs, this very striking evidence from the Massachusetts inquiry into the situation in the adjoining States of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, suggests exactly the opposite.
§ Mr. Iremonger
We know how highly the hon. and learned Gentleman's advocacy is valued by his right hon. 964 Friends on the Government Front Bench, so perhaps he can intervene if he wants to. Otherwise, perhaps he will allow me to go on.
My nightmare is that the criminal will have taken his gun and will have used it and that the widow of his victim will come to me and say, "If you had not abolished that ultimate sanction and deterrent, my husband would be alive today". I would not have the face to reply to her, as my right hon. Friend might suggest, "Paragraph this and paragraph that." I should not be able to say to her that I really could no feel that there was any justice in her accusation if she said that I had the blood of her man on my hands.
§ Mr. Hooson
Is the hon. Gentleman arguing that the basis of the justification for retaining capital punishment is retribution?
§ Mr. Iremonger
With great respect, I should have thought that it was the very opposite. I am not fundamentally interested in retribution; perhaps I should be. I am interested in protecting those who have the right to come to me and say, "This was my husband and you have a share of the responsibility for his death". If that is anything to do with retribution, I do not think that words can have very much meaning. Unless I am satisfied that the Bill will allow me to satisfy my constituent, or any member of the public, that I have done my duty in playing a part in the maintaining the protection which is owed to that constituent, or member of the public, I cannot support the Bill.
One has to ask oneself, and the sponsors of the Bill are perfectly entitled to ask, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) asked me, "Why do you not suggest an alternative?" He might have said, which I notice he did not say, "I will suggest an alternative." Perhaps we may look for an Amendment from the Government in Committee. We have already had a sincere speech from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary and we have also had the comments and observations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke). Perhaps I shall be told that it is incumbent upon me to think up some alternative and to suggest it in Committee.
965 I do not accept any of those courses. I should welcome getting rid of the whole business of hanging. But I would riot think that in these circumstances, in hurried debate, we were best placed to produce the kind of alternative which would be most acceptable and most worthy of our responsibilities.
A Royal Commission on the penal system is sitting at the moment. I am a member of it. I need hardly say that I do not hold myself out for one moment as speaking for any one of my colleagues, still less for the Commission as a whole. Indeed, I have made a point of not discussing this matter with any of them, because I thought that to do so would be improper and unfair. However, it seems to me that one of the most difficult of all penological questions—the question as to what punishment, if one likes to regard it as punishment, what treatment, if one likes to regard it as treatment, or what safeguards, if it seems that safeguards are the important thing, one is to apply in respect of murder—that question is exactly the kind of question which this House should debate with the full benefit of the advice of the Royal Commission which has been set up and which will he obliged to consider and take evidence on this matter.
If the Home Secretary is in doubt, as he may be, about whether the terms of reference of the Royal Commission require or allow it to take this question into its survey, I hope that he will consider amending its terms of reference. I should have thought that it was much more right for the House, when considering abolishing the protection of the 1957 Act, to consider at the same time an alternative in the context of recommendations made by a Royal Commission set up for precisely such a purpose.
I hope that the Bill will not secure a Second Reading, that it will be rejected and that its principles will not be put into effect until some alternative effective deterrent can be produced by the House which will enable us to discharge our responsibilities to our constituents.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael McGuire (Ince)
I hope to follow the example of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Tuck), who made an admirable and very brief speech. I hope that the House will give the Bill 966 a Second Reading and that we will see the abolition of this degrading penalty.
I remember being taught that the three functions of punishment are medicinal, deterrent and retributive. Punishment was to benefit the offender by reforming him through purgation. It was to deter others from following his bad example, and society's horror at the breach of its rules was assuaged to some extent by the retributive nature of the punishment. Killing in cold blood has always excited the horror of civilised man, and to hang a man is to kill him in cold blood. Hanging does not reform a man. It extinguishes all hope of reforming him. When you have hanged a man, you have said that he is irreformable. No doubt it is true that many a man, before the hangman has broken his neck, has reflected and repented has, as the saying is, made his peace with God.
But we do not hang in order to give a man a passport to Heaven. We hang, so we say—although I for one do not believe it—to exact retribution; and that, in this particular case, means that we hang to exact vengeance. Hanging does not deter. For the most part, murders are not planned. They are the result of overwhelming individual passion. A man in that sort of passion does not reflect soberly on the possible consequence to himself of the act that he is committing. It is notorious that hanging does not deter the murderer who kills in cold blood, for he does not believe that his crime will ever be brought home to him.
Society, so far from needing hanging, needs to rid itself of it and to become less dirty than it is. If I may give a quotation from Birbeck-Hill's edition of Boswell's life, it states, on page 167:Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfullyI have no doubt that it does, but it should have concentrated our minds wonderfully in the fortnights before the poor misfits were made to give up their miserable lives. The realisation of the horror, the misery, the futility and the indignity of the whole horrible, dirty thing has brought us at last to that concentration of mind where we say, "Let there be an end of it".
This Parliament will, I hope, be remembered for many noble acts. For me, 967 one of its noblest will be to rid ourselves of this degrading penalty. It will shed a touch of nobility upon us all.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I always remember reading, as a first-year law student, a case called the King v. John Davis. Lawyers who are present in the House will know that that case explains a technical point as to what constitutes entering in the offence of breaking and entering. I always remember, as a 17-year-old, catching sight of a footnote saying that John Davis was a boy of eight years. The case was tried in 1823. John Davis was sentenced to death, having been found guilty of breaking and entering and was hanged.
That persuaded me to investigate that aspect of the law a little more closely, and I found that in 1810 there were between 220 and 230 offences in this country for which the penalty of capital punishment could be exacted. We know that in the early part of the nineteenth century a little girl of 7 was hanged publicly at Lynn and two boys of 9 were hanged on separate occasions at Chelmsford.
This background was what persuaded Sir Robert Peel, in the fourth decade of the nineteenth century, to say in this House that in his view this country had the most savage penal system of any civilised country he knew. Now, just over 150 years later, the penalty of capital punishment is exacted for only a very small number of murders. Only 15 per cent. of the murders which are committed are now liable to the death penalty.
That represents a great century and a half of progress in penal reform, but it has been gained at the expense of a bitter battle, because in this country there has existed—it exists today—a strong body of opinion which believes wholeheartedly in the divine efficacy of harshness as a deterrent and particularly in the unique quality of capital punishment as a deterrent. We have had echoes of that in this House today.
I accept that it is genuine and that it reflects a good deal of public opinion, but at its roots is fear. We heard it in the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) this afternoon. His speech 968 contained the nub of the case for the retentionists, and I thought, as I heard it, that it contained echoes of speeches which I have read many times before.
It is of interest that in 1810 the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Ellenborough, said when it was proposed that the death penalty be abolished for shoplifting to the value of 5s. and over:I trust your Lordships will pause before you assent to an experiment pregnant with danger to the security of property, and before you repeal a Statute which has so long been held necessary for public security. I am convinced, with the rest of the judges, that public expediency requires there should he no remission of the terror denounced against this description of offences. Such will be the consequence of the repeal of this Statute, that I am certain that depredations to an unlimited extent would immediately be committed.Later, he said in another place:My Lords, if we suffer this Bill to pass, we shall not know where to stand; we shall not know whether we are upon our heads or our feet …Repeal this law and see the contrast—no man can trust himself for an hour out of doors without the most alarming apprehensions, that, on his return, every vestige of his property will be swept off by the hardened robber.This was the nub of the objection which was successful in 1810 in preventing the removal of the death penalty for shoplifting for offences of the value of 5s. and over. We have heard or read this view, or variations of it, repeated over and over again whenever there has been an attempt to remove the death penalty for other offences. It was about 30 years later that the death penalty was removed for this offence of shoplifting. We know of cases where judges made speeches and gave vent no doubt to genuine opinions that removing the death penalty, even on children, would be a dangerous experiment; that the deterrent effect on children was very important.
We heard a repetition of the theme in more civilised terms from the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom this afternoon. Professionally, I admired the manner of his speech almost as much as I disagreed entirely with its content. Here again was this argument in favour of retaining the death penalty because of fear—fear of the consequences. Let us make no mistake about it, many people in this country have this fear and 969 they derive some sense of satisfaction in knowing that there is a death penalty.
All I can say is that, in my view, looking at what has been said over the years, what has been said in this House and in another place since 1800, all the fears expressed—in the main, I am sorry to say, by the lawyers—have proved to be entirely unfounded. Nobody should have the same fear today. One of the most remarkable speeches—I think all Members in the House will agree—delivered here today was by the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), the ex-Home Secretary. If I may say so, I have seen him many times in this House under fire and I have sometimes agreed with that fire. It was a great pleasure to me to see him, freed from responsibility of office, today revealing himself as the humane man which he undoubtedly is. He said that the onus of establishing that the death penalty was necessary in these days was upon the retentionists.
The hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), in a remarkable maiden speech, said that he regarded this as a moral issue. So do I. I think that the taking of a human life, either by the State or by an individual, is of such grave import that those who seek to take that life have the heaviest possible onus upon them to establish that it is necessary, in order to establish its justification.
We should start, therefore, on the basis that in this age the retentionists have the onus upon them to establish that the maintenance of the death penalty is necessary in the interests of the country. In the last nine years I have been involved in many murder cases; I suppose between 20 and 30 altogether. The first person I defended was the last person to be executed at Walton Prison, in Liverpool, before the suspension of the death penalty in 1956. I am giving only my opinion—that is the only thing that I can do; but in any of the cases in which I have been so intimately connected with the prisoner, I do not think that any penalty would have deterred that person from his act, whether it was the death penalty, imprisonment, or anything else.
I accept that all punishments are in a way deterrents. They vary in degree. But if the retentionists are trying to establish that there is a unique quality to the death penalty as a deterrent, all I 970 can say is that I profoundly disagree with them. We agree on both sides of the House that this is basically a barbarous process which we follow—the whole judicial process leading eventually to the death cell and the gallows. There can be no justification for its retention unless it is proved to be necessary in the interests of the community.
The death penalty, in my view, is a deterrent to a normal man. It would deter me if I ever thought of committing a murder. But in my experience a man commits murder either because he is in an abnormal state of mind, or because he finds himself in abnormal circumstances; and in that state of mind or in those circumstances, no punishment on earth would deter him. The more I come into contact with criminal cases and murder—and when I was a junior I had the benefit at times of being led by the Attorney-General in this kind of case—the more it does seem to me that the existence of the death penalty is irrelevant to the issue one way or the other.
The strongest argument in favour of the retention of the death penalty is one contained in the circular which has been sent to all hon. Members by the Police Federation. I do not think that it is basically a strong argument, but it is a human and perfectly understandable argument. Paragraph 11 of the circular reads:Although we have no proof that the special provisions in the Homicide Act are a deterrent against murdering policemen, it is a positive fact that in this country remarkably few are murdered and also that very few criminals carry firearms as distinct from coshes, pick helves or other similar weapons which are carried or used to repel and not to kill. It is also a fact that policemen and policewomen consciously feel that the special provisions serve as an effective protection. So do their wives and families.To me, this appears to be the kernel of the argument for the retention of the death penalty—namely, that policemen, warders and others feel reassured by its existence. Even when I say that it is the strongest argument in favour of the death penalty, I still believe that when it is compared with the argument against its retention it fades into the background. It cannot be justified in logic or by experience. As far as statistics help at all, they in no way justify this fear of the police. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that it is a human and understandable 971 fear, and undoubtedly it is true that some police officers and others have been reassured by the existence of the death penalty in the performance of their duties.
I should like the House to consider this point in relation to a warder. It is said that if the death penalty were to be abolished for attacks on warders or police officers, there would be a greater encouragement for prisoners to attack them. In my experience the greatest danger to a warder is not in prison, but in an institution like Broad-moor, where homicidal maniacs are liable to attack the warders at any time. If a warder needs protection it is in that sort of institution.
Is there any retentionist who would advocate that a man who is insane should be put to death to help protect the warders? This is the logical extension of the argument that it is necessary to retain the death penalty to protect warders or police officers. I believe that the abolition of the death penalty will not result in an increase in the number of murders committed. I do not believe that any punishment is relevant when a man is in a state of mind or in a situation where he commits murder.
I concede that there may be a few instances where it may have a possible deterrent effect on a criminal carrying a gun. On the other hand, a man who both carries a gun and has loaded it has taken a calculated risk, whatever the punishment. It is not only the carrying of the gun. It is the fact that he has also loaded it in preparation for the situation in which he envisages or anticipates he might find himself.
§ Mr. Buck
Will the hon. and learned Member turn his mind to the situation which must have existed when certain robberies—consider, for example, the great train robbery—were being planned? If the train robbery—were being planned in the circumstances of the law as it will stand if the Bill is passed, would it not positively pay those planning it to carry "tommy" guns instead of pickaxe handles?
§ Mr. Hooson
I can answer that only from my experience and, as I say, I am convinced that people who take cal- 972 culated risks calculate the risk of being apprehended and do not calculate the punishment. The deterrent is really the thought that they might be caught. Those who are taking calculated risks in this way are generally not affected one way or the other by the existence of the punishment but by the thought of being caught.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
May I remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that if any act done in the course of the train robbery had resulted in death, that could have been capital murder, whatever the weapon used?
§ Mr. Hooson
I thank the hon. Member for reminding me of that. It recalls to mind the case of Riley. I think it right to say that Riley was convicted of capital murder because of one sentence which a witness was satisfied he heard, namely "Where is the handbag"? Riley was executed. It was established by the prosecution to the satisfaction of the jury on that slight evidence that it was a murder done in pursuance of robbery. In many ways it was, entirely accidental as to whether or not that testimony was given.
That case serves to illustrate a point which I had not intended to make. It represented an anomaly under the 1957 Act. I regard this Act as the sorriest, shabbiest compromise in the history of Parliament. Neither abolitionists nor retentionists can be in favour of it. Either one is in favour of capital punishment because one is satisfied that it is a sufficient deterrent, a necessary one in the interests of the public, or one is in favour of the total abolition of capital punishment.
I have been concerned in my career with cases of both capital and non-capital murder. It is amazing the difference there is in the atmosphere of a court in the case of a capital murder or murder before the 1957 Act and a non-capital murder. Where capital punishment is the punishment if the man was found guilty there is undoubtedly a tremendous atmosphere in the court, an atmosphere which is completely absent in a non-capital murder case.
This affects the jury. The jury are more relaxed and more likely to come to a proper verdict when the death penalty does not exist. That may be a 973 minor point in favour of abolition, but I am convinced of its correctness. And I have to remind the House that in the early part of the nineteenth century juries frequently—in fact, almost consistently—returned verdicts of acquittal when they should have returned verdicts of conviction, because of the punishment not because of the evidence.
I accept that there are people who genuinely believe in the abolition of the death penalty and, equally, that there are those who genuinely believe that its retention is necessary as a protection for the public. I can only say that, looking back over the history of the last 150 years and reading what has been said, one can see that penal reform progress has been achieved in the face of the most impossible prejudice, very often blind belief in the efficacy of certain harsh punishments and, in fact, very often prejudices in the highest quarters, where people ought to have known better.
I am sorry to say that the judiciary have very often been the great reactionaries in this respect, although there have been notable exceptions. When we look at the fears expressed over the ages at the liberalisation of our penal system, and when we realise that none of those fears has ever been realised, perhaps hon. Members who today have spoken in favour of retention will read their speeches in 10 years' time and be happy to think that their fears, too, were unfounded.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I very seldom find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger), and this occasion is no exception. My disagreement is with his conclusion and not with his preoccupations, and his obvious concern with what might be the results of the abolition of the death penalty. I was glad to hear him saying "I might be wrong," and I should like to say the same, because anyone who is genuinely concerned about this as a public issue must be asking himself "Can I be wrong?" There is no final proof one way or the other as to how this will work——
§ Mr. Iremonger
It may well be that any hon. Member is wrong, but I think that what I said I might be wrong about was in not being primarily interested in retribution.
§ Mr. Hynd
I was giving the hon. Gentleman the credit for admitting the possibility of his being wrong over a much wider area, but he may have noticed the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke). It might have occurred to him, as it must have occurred to many hon. and right Members, that it is rather remarkable that those who, like the right hon. Member for Hampstead, have served for many years as Home Secretary have come to the conclusion that this death penalty is not the effective and efficacious deterrent they probably thought it was before they had had that long experience.
I can understand why those in the position of Home Secretary over a long period, and others in a similar kind of position, have come to that conclusion, I have been in the unhappy position, at a certain stage in my Parliamentary career, where I had to authorise the death sentence or exercise the Prerogative. I have never felt more uncomfortable or more doubtful as to whether I was doing the right thing as I did during that period.
If this is the way in which the official or the politician at the head of the machine feels, if this is the kind of hesitation he may have when he has only to sign a piece of paper and has no direct contact with the result of that signature, think also of the people further down the line. Think of the hangman who has to hang the criminal, about the prison officers who have to shackle him and take him out, the doctors who have to examine the body after it has dropped. I think of many others who have to have direct contact and cannot sign it away, many who unlike the Home Secretary or whoever may be at the top signing or not signing the paper, have no choice. They are told that they have to hang a human being without question and without the opportunity of examining their own consciences, because someone else says so.
I ask hon. Members to consider the position of those officials. I have heard it said over and over again in this debate that hanging is a merciful way if the death penalty is to be imposed. Is it always so? I know of cases which are on the record where men have been hanged officially and where, in one case, a mistake was made in assessing the length of 975 the rope with the result that not only the man's neck was broken but the flesh was broken and the head nearly torn off, and, in another case, where the body swung the face was cut on the edge of the trap door and nearly the whole front of the face was torn off. These cases are on record and can be proved. This is not a clean thing; it is a dirty, nasty and brutal thing. Therefore, it is something which society ought to try to avoid if it is possible to avoid it.
I have felt rather impatient when those who have spoken against the Bill have seemed to assume, and have in fact said specifically, that those in favour of abolition seem to have more concern for the criminal, the murderer, than for the victim. The hon. Member for Ilford, North put it in a rather more refined way and said that it was a question of the balance of sympathy, or something of that kind. I assure the House that I have no sympathy whatever for a man or woman who commits a deliberate murder in whatever circumstances—none whatever. If they went to their deaths through the torture chamber I would not turn a hair, but these things just do not happen in a vacuum. The person has to be judged; he has to be condemned. Some official has to authorise the hanging, and often ordinary working people have to carry out the sentence and take away that man's life. This is something which society ought to try to spare itself if society is to maintain even the fiction of the sanctity of human life, on which the whole of civilised society is based.
Some reference has been made to the possibility of error in judgments. Those who have referred to the possibility of error seemed to suggest that this is something which might happen, it was not likely to happen, but if it did happen would be very rare. I recall a story told by one of our most eminent judges, a story of a judge who was retiring and started his speech by saying, "I have served for many happy years on the bench. I have tried to administer justice to the best of my ability. But I am human and vulnerable and no doubt many a criminal has escaped his just desserts through my judgments. On the other hand, many an innocent man has gone to the scaffold. By and large, justice has been done". It is what one might call sick humour. It is obviously 976 not a description of his own experiences, but the fact that a judge can tell such a story amongst his own colleagues indicates that it is in the minds of judges that this kind of thing can happen.
I sum up my position on the Bill in these terms. It has not been proved, and it cannot be proved on the evidence at present before us in this country, that the abolition of the death penalty will either increase or decrease the number of murders. What has been proved adequately is that the death penalty itself does not prevent murders. From comparative experience with other countries one finds that it is very difficult to decide whether, with or without the death penalty, the number of murders increases.
The second thing we know is that the death penalty has not served to prevent murders in this country and it has not served to reduce the number of murders very markedly in those countries where the penalty has been abolished and restored. Therefore, we have not any concrete evidence to suggest that it is right to continue this barbaric method of punishment, which I think by general agreement reduces the conceptions of the sanctity of human life and society and therefore to some extent undermines the basis of our civilisation. We should therefore be very careful indeed when we are considering whether it is in consonance with our attempts to improve our civilisation that this penalty should be continued.
The other aspect with which I am very much concerned and which has not been mentioned a great deal during the course of the debate is the direct impact of the very existence of this form of punishment upon society itself, and particularly upon the younger members of society. We know the kind of scenes which occur outside prisons when an execution has been announced. We know the excitement which is created and how the Press prints photographs and headlines. We know that this has a tremendous impact upon people's thinking. One of my colleagues told me this afternoon of a prison in London where executions are not uncommon and where there is a large school for young children round about. Whenever there is an execution in the air for week after week these children talk about nothing else.
977 These are very serious results. Therefore, before we reject a Bill of this kind and decide to maintain this kind of institution, we should be very careful indeed in weighing up the other effects upon our method of civilisation. Simply because there has been no experiment in this country in its abolition, whereas other countries have had the courage to make the experiment and apparently have net suffered from it, I very much hope that we will give ourselves the opportunity at least of passing the Bill, of abolishing the death penalty, and of seeing how it works out. If there is any evidence whatever within the next few years which can suggest that the death, penalty is a deterrent, I, for one, will be only too ready to restore the death penalty, because I am not concerned with the fate of a man or a woman who commits a deliberate murder. I am concerned with protecting those who might be the victims of such murders. It is on that and on that alone that I will happily give my support to the Bill tonight.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
I am sure that in this very difficult controversy everyone on both sides of the House speaks with complete sincerity and recognises the sincerity of those with whom they cannot agree. I personally am not in favour of giving a Second Reading to the Bill. I limit my observations to the Bill itself, but not to the general subject of capital punishment to which some speakers have referred, because the Bill does not abolish capital punishment.
As I put it to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman)—I am sorry he is not in his place—the Bill still leaves capital punishment for a number of offences for which capital punishment has been imposed in the last 25 years.
This Bill is limited to murder. I asked why it was so selective and hon. Members will have heard the answer that I got. I found the answer not entirely convincing. Taking the matter shortly, because I do not wish to waste time covering points already made, I believe that the 1957 Act, which became law before I entered the House, was brought in with the express intention of checking what are now known as capital murders 978 which, as I see them, are of the style and type of murder likely to be committed by a deliberate professional criminal. These are the lines on which the exceptions were drawn and this was the intention of the Measure.
Although no one would say that the Act was operated entirely satisfactorily, I think that it has had the effect of stopping the spread of capital murders by what I would call violent professional criminals. From the figures we have seen that the number of capital murders has shown no real increase at all in the years since the Act became law, whereas serious crimes of violence against the person have rather more than doubled. Hon. Members may have seen the answer to a Question of mine the other day. Before 1957 indictable offences for violence against the person averaged 8,000 a year. During the last three years they have averaged over 17,000—rather more than double—but capital murder has not appreciably increased.
We were all impressed by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), who, I am sorry to say, is not now in his place. He said that from his great experience of defending murderers, which many of us, including myself, have done a little, he accepted that some were affected by the continuation of capital punishment. He said that it acted as a deterrent on the criminal who carried a gun. This is exactly the sort of criminal whom it was mean to deter.
Reference has been made to America where, in a number of States, there is no capital punishment. Since America has been mentioned, I think that it is relevant to remember that an organisation which was known to the American police and Press as "Murder Incorporated" successfully carried out rather more than a murder a week for about eight years before the members of this organisation were finally detected.
They achieved this by systematically killing every witness to every murder which they were paid to carry out. No witness was ever allowed to remain alive. That is why they could not be brought to justice for some years. This was done even in States where there was then no capital punishment. The story goes a little further, because at their trial evidence was given that one of these 979 characters spent a little time in Britain. He told the court that he left his gun behind because it was unhealthy to carry a gun in Britain. I for one wish it to remain so.
Taking it very shortly, the Bill gives no effective alternative to the present capital punishment for capital murders, which I sincerely believe deters an appreciably worthwhile number of violent criminals. We have heard a good deal about life sentence and what it means. It may later become to mean something different, but the sponsors of the Bill have made no change in the present law. Life sentence, it has been said repeatedly, means eight or nine years. It does not always mean as long as that.
We heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), the former Home Secretary, say that when he inquired he found that only six people had been in prison for as long as 10 years. Figures published in HANSARD in answer to a Written Question last week showed that since 1948 out of about 150 people sentenced to a life sentence no fewer than 13 had come out within three years, and we have now heard that only six remained in prison for as long as 10 years. Therefore, if we study the figures, "life" is not really nine or ten years, but seven or eight years.
I cannot think that this is a deterrent to a professional, to a violent criminal who sees an opportunity of saving himself from being brought into court by taking the life of a policeman. This is why I believe that the statement which we have all received from the Police Federation should be seriously considered by hon. Members, as I believe it will, before they vote tonight. We have a duty to all the groups of people involved in this horrible question of murder.
We have a duty to the person convicted of capital murder. We have a duty to the warders who take care of him. We have a duty to the officials concerned in the execution. We also have a duty to the public and to the police whose task it is at present to go out unarmed to apprehend a dangerous man who may resort to the use of a weapon to resist arrest. The only thing that prevents such a dangerous man from carrying a weapon and using it on a constable, whose duty it is to arrest him single-handed, and from taking that 980 officer's life or trying to take it is the fact that it is a capital offence.
We have a real duty to these public servants whom we send forth to do a dangerous job which they do so well. I think that they are right to be apprehensive of the effect on them if a violent criminal has nothing to lose in resisting arrest to the extent of taking the life of a policeman. At present, as the House has heard, one, two or three convicted murderers suffer every year. I regret that this is necessarily so. I wish that there were no capital murders. Unfortunately there are and we have to live with this fact.
At present, we execute two or three people a year who are convicted of this worst possible form of murder and whose cases have been most thoroughly investigated by a Home Secretary who has been unable to find any redeeming feature in them. These suffer under the present arrangements which it is wished to change. I ask myself whether it would be right to save the lives of these two or three convicted murderers at the expense of putting into jeopardy a much greater number of lives of public servants, the police and warders, and of innumerable members of the public.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Dr. David Kerr (Wandsworth, Central)
It is inevitable that in a debate of this sort there should be an unhealthy preponderance of medicine and the law. I am aware that I am the third doctor to contribute today to this very important and humane debate. It is a matter of some regret to me that I have been prevented from hearing all the contributions to the debate by virtue of two overwhelmingly important distractions.
The first was to hear the views of prison officers from my constituency representing to me views which have already been discussed in this debate. The second and perhaps more personal matter was to examine the efficiency of the identikit system as a way of recognising my assailant of Saturday night.
As to the first, my constituents this evening made a number of points to me which, for the sake of my own conscience, I feel that I must put before the House. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) made a pertinent point when he suggested that the prison 981 officers—with respect, he used the word "warders", which, I hope, will be dropped—in Broadmoor have more to fear from violence than the prison officers in charge of so-called normal mentally healthy prisoners.
This is simply not so. In Wandsworth Gaol and in any other similar local prison of high security having a large number of recidivists, inevitably a large proportion of the prisoners are similarly mentally unstable or ill and, therefore, more irrationally violent than the normal ones among them. The significant feature is that, despite the fact that no question of capital deterrent could ever play any part in determining the actions of these basically irrational men, there is on record no case of any prison officer suffering at their hands.
If there is any threat to the welfare and safety of prison officers, it comes precisely not from those groups of mentally ill prisoners, those characterised by detention in Broadmoor, but it comes rather from the very desperate prisoners who, by other measurements, are quite sane, prisoners such as, for instance, Biggs, the train robber, who is at present in prison on a 30-year sentence and not thought of in any way as a killer, but who, in course of time and subject to the pressures of prolonged imprisonment, could well find himself in a desperate situation in which, having nothing to lose, he might opt to commit a murder.
This, I submit, is not an argument for retaining the death sentence. It is a stimulus to a group of responsible representatives as here constituted to find a way out of anomalies, to find a way out of a situation in which the anomalies of the present working of the Homicide Act are a far greater stain on our civilised behaviour, to find a solution to the new anomalies which will undoubtedly arise when we remove the last traces of our own State-registered homicide system.
To turn briefly, and rather subjectively, to my other experience, I have gathered from the fascinating clinical interest displayed by a number of my colleagues in the House that my experience of Saturday night has not gone unmarked. It certainly has not for me. If someone had asked me on Saturday night or on Sunday morning whether I was still in favour of the total abolition of hanging, the answer would have been that I was still so in 982 favour. It has always, perhaps, been a purely intellectual response. Yes, I am still very much in favour of the abolition of hanging, and despite the unfortunate events of Saturday night I am equally not in favour of the reintroduction of horse-whipping.
What worries me about the assault upon my humble person on Saturday night is not that I now wear my black eye like a medallion won in honourable service, but the fact that I have rediscovered a basic urge which, I think, we are all aware of, but which few of us are prepared to admit, the basic urge and satisfaction of punching the other fellow on the nose. Indeed, since Saturday night I have had pleasant daydreams of encountering the same young man again in circumstances less advantageous to him and more advantageous to me.
This, it seems to me, is the mark of the whole of our thinking or, rather, the mark of the thinking of those who want to retain hanging. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is the mark of the emotional urge which is not supported by intellectual reasoning. I make no apology for reasserting my belief that, despite the stimulus of a black eye, and despite the interjections of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) and all my experience in this House, I am still not yet roused to murder or to corporal violence.
I think that we have to re-examine the mainsprings of what drives some of us on to this sort of action. I hope that when we remember the sort of ultima thule which has driven us to spend all today discussing the sacrifice of one life, we shall appreciate when we are thinking that we want to retain hanging in terms of our own emotional response to a rather dramatic situation. This is not what we as a House of Commons are sent here for.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ That the Proceedings on the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, during a period of one hour after Ten o'clock, though opposed.—[Mr. Lawson.]
§ Question again proposed, That "now" stand part of the Question.983
§ Dr. Kerr
It seems almost inevitable that with a number of doctors and lawyers, and, more particularly, a satisfactory number of ex-Home Secretaries in the House, the passage of the Bill should be relatively easy.
I feel, however, that one should not allow arguments to go entirely unanswered, arguments such as those put by the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn), who has, I feel, cited a number of cases which are not by any means relevant. His reassumption of the case for the Police Federation invites a repudiation which I must insist is not one which is emotional, but is, in essence, an answering challenge. We can be in little doubt that the Homicide Act, 1957, has anomalies and weaknesses which cannot be allowed to continue, and we must not be put off by the fear that in removing those anomalies we may introduce others.
We must be prepared—I say this in the full sense of responsibility that I carry for those many hundreds of men in my constituency—to accept a responsibility for ensuring their continued safety and the continued safety of the police. These are matters outside, I think, the quest of this debate. This debate concerns itself with the immediate problem with which we have faced ourselves today, and that problem, to my mind, finds only one answer, and that is the total abolition of hanging for murder.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I am not fully aware of what happened to the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) on Saturday night, and so some of the topical illusions in his speech were rather lost on me.
Although I am not in any sense winding up officially from this side of the House, I should like to begin, with the approval of all hon. Members, I am sure, by congratulating the four maiden speakers who have taken part today. We had, I thought, particularly thoughtful speeches earlier from the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) and my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn Mr. Carlisle), and we also heard very interesting contributions from the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. William Wilson) and my hon. Friend the Member 984 for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Dr. Wydnham Davies). It would be invidious to single out any of those speeches, though I would say, having listened with special interest to the very thoughtful contribution of the hon. Member for Dulwich, and remembering his predecessor well, as I am sure we all do, I thought that it can seldom have happened that a constituency has been represented by two consecutive Members with such different speaking styles.
I agreed at any rate with the last remarks of the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central. I speak as someone who has not contributed earlier to any of the debates on this subject. I am what might be termed a "straight abolitionist", mainly on two grounds.
In the first place, I agree very much with the view expressed recently by Mr. Christopher Hollis, a former Member of this House, who has said that to kill a man, by whatever method, who is in the full vigour of life, is an inexpressibly horrible thing to do. That, I confess, is my own view. Secondly, quite apart from the moral aspect of this matter, I believe that capital punishment for murder is a bad penalty. That is to say, I have little doubt that in the past juries have, from time to time, been influenced by the knowledge that a verdict of guilty in a murder charge would result in hanging and that they have sometimes therefore been induced to acquit when they would otherwise have found a conviction.
There is powerful evidence in the statistics that the Home Office has recently given us. If hon. Members study the Answer given to me by the Home Secretary on 11th December, they will see the really quite striking effect of Section 2 of the 1957 Act. That Section provided for a verdict of diminished responsibility leading to manslaughter and the effect has been that the total number of those convicted of a capital offence—either convicted and sentenced for murder or convicted of manslaughter under Section 2—has gone up from about 32 per cent. to 54 per cent.
I shall have more to say about the 1957 Act, but bringing in Section 2 has resulted in a higher proportion of convictions, which suggests very strongly indeed that capital punishment is a bad sentence for murder because in the past it has, on many occasions, made juries 985 less willing to convict even on occasions when they might otherwise have done so.
I emphasise this because those of us who have for many years supported abolition have done so in many cases not just on emotional grounds but on rational grounds also. I am not ashamed of expressing views held on emotional grounds. I do not think that there is anything wrong with idealism nor with the feeling that capital punishment, that institutionalised and legalised killing, is indeed a somewhat sickening and barbarous ritual and that our society would be better without it.
But I have no doubt also that abolition can be fully argued on rational grounds as a sensible contribution to penological reform and when—as I hope we do—we succeed in abolishing capital punishment for murder, and this Bill has gone through its course, I believe we shall be in a much better position to handle the problems of long sentence prisoners and generally to improve what my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) today called the "custodial handling" of these cases.
That brings me to the contribution to the debate made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead. I think that his speech greatly impressed all who heard it. I cannot help feeling that it will go down in our Parliamentary annals perhaps as one of those speeches which did indeed influence some hon. Members on the occasion of a free vote. It certainly deserves to do so. No one can doubt that he approached this subject from a rational point of view and also that at no stage did he overstate his case. He spoke as someone who had held the position of Home Secretary and who had had to operate the 1957 Act, who started with no strong and unalterable prejudice against that Act, but who discovered the disadvantages and became fully convinced that that Act was no longer needed.
Of course, my right hon. Friend was absolutely right to lay such stress on Table 6, that is to say, the figures which the Home Office has given, now completed up to the end of 1963, showing the details of all murders known to the police, together with offences reduced to manslaughter, and listed under two headings capital and non-capital offences. As my right hon. Friend 986 pointed out, the tables of murders from 1952 to 1957 and from 1957 to 1963 show that the proportion of non-capital to capital murders is not significantly different in each case. I am sure that any professional adviser on statistics consulted by any hon. Member would reach that conclusion.
While it is quite true that if the year 1960 is taken out of the 1957–63 period, one gets a rather different picture, the same is true if the year 1956 is taken out of the preceding period. Nobody is entitled to manipulate these figures in order to reach the conclusion that there is a significant difference between the proportion of capital and non-capital murders in the years before 1957 and those immediately following.
The document, "Murder", produced by the Home Office Research Unit, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary has now brought up to date, is of great value and deserves more attention than it has received among the public and even in this debate. For example, it suggests a number of respects in which social research is needed in order to make more study of the background of many murders—family murders, for example. There are many ideas which are of importance for future study.
Table 34 of this document throws light on one matter which has concerned many hon. Members, namely, the question of the shooting murderer, if I may call him that, who might be expected to be deterred by the death penalty. Listening to several hon. Members in the debate, I have felt that they started with the presumption that there was a distinction between the sex maniac, who could not be expected to be deterred by a capital sentence, and a capital murderer who might be deterred by the death penalty. All I can say is that that distinction is not borne out by the tables produced by the Home Secretary and is not borne out by such evidence as we have available.
It is important to notice the large proportion of capital murderers listed in Table 34 who are seriously mentally disturbed and therefore undeterable whatever the penalty might be. Table 34 shows that between the passing of the 1957 Act and 1960, of 44 male murderers by shooting, 22 committed suicide, six 987 were insane, seven suffered from diminished responsibility, leaving only nine of what one might call normal offenders who were sentenced. It is important to point out that it was not only the sex maniac, but the great majority of these who were clearly not to be deterred by any penalty, how ever severe.
Hon. Members may wish to suggest in reply, particularly if they heard the impressive speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson), that this small figure of nine can be explained by the deterrent effect of capital punishment on the professional criminal. Personally, I do not believe that the figures published by the Home Office, or the evidence which we have available from other countries, bears that out. It is also a fact that 27 per cent. of all capital murders were committed by those with no previous convictions—a most important figure which my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead rightly pointed out in his speech. We have also the evidence of the Royal Commission, and some important evidence from the United States to which I alluded just now in an interjection.
I think that possibly after this lapse of time the House may wish to be reminded of the clear view of the Royal Commission which is set out in paragraph 61 of its Report. It said:Of more importance was the evidence of the representatives of the police and prison service.…These witnesses had no doubt that the existence of the death penalty was the main reason why lethal violence was not more often used and why criminals in this country do not usually carry firearms or other weapons.But it went on to say:… we received no evidence that the abolition of capital punishment in other countries had in fact led to the consequences apprehended by our witnesses in this country.There is a particularly interesting piece of evidence from two States of the United States, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Massachusetts did away with capital punishment only recently—nominally in 1951, although I think no one was sentenced to death after 1947. Capital punishment had been abolished in Rhode Island some time before. It is interesting that, although the police officials in Massachusetts warned a Commission of the danger of removing the death penalty, 988 and said that it would be needed as a reserve weapon, none the less the President of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs' Association—where capital punishment has been abolished for more than a century—when consulted, said that that body, after long experience of being without abolition, was strongly opposed to capital punishment. [Interruption.] There had been no capital punishment in Rhode Island for a long while. This body expressed the strong desire not to go back to it. This considerably impressed the Massachusetts Commission which was looking into the matter.
I believe that, on the evidence of the Home Office figures, there is not that sharp distinction between sex murderers and capital murderers that some people have sought to draw. The figures show very clearly that the majority of capital murderers cannot be deterred. A high proportion of capital murderers have no previous convictions. The experience of other countries suggests that if we once did away with capital punishment for murder, as I am convinced we should, we should not wish to go back to it.
If, as I believe, on the basis of these figures, we can truly doubt whether this "ultimate deterrent" argument should exercise so much force, and if we once doubt the need to keep capital punishment as a reserve weapon, then I have no doubt that we should take the further step of going beyond the 1957 Act and doing away with capital punishment for murder altogether.
I want to make one comment on the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom. I thought that he showed very clearly that there was a rationale behind the 1957 Act and that, even though its terms may seem curious in retrospect, none the less there was a plan behind it—to keep capital punishment in order to preserve public order. But what we now have to decide—and it is a decision which we must take—is not the purpose behind that Act but whether we should still keep it.
Having shown that, in my view, it would be safe for us to abandon capital punishment for murder, I want to adduce two more reasons why I think that we should now wish to go right beyond the 1957 Act. First, I believe that it is impossible indefinitely to maintain the 989 position that we no longer believe that capital punishment is right morally but that, nevertheless, we must keep it for the sake of expediency. I believe that most people in this country feel either that capital punishment for murder is right or that it is not. I believe personally that this halfway house is not one which we can maintain indefinitely.
This is relevant to what has been said in the debate about Gallup polls. Let us remember that those who are opposed to abolition, and who are opposed to this Bill, really want to go back to 1956. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), I thought, made slightly heavy weather of this point, but he was fair in pointing out that people who are opposed to the Bill want to go back to 1956. They have not been asked whether they like the 1957 Act, and are content to remain just where we are.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead rightly pointed out that the 1957 Act produces anomalies at the sentencing stage. That is true. While I am not a lawyer and tread this ground with trepidation, none the less I should like to give one or two examples. First, we can all see from the Home Office figures the large part played by mental instability in murder. At the margin, however, it can depend, under the present Act, on the attitude of the trial judge whether a convicted person is sentenced to imprisonment or is sent to hospital. This point was shown clearly in the book "A Calendar of Murder" which came out some months ago. That was a book with a number of inaccuracies here and there, but it made this point clearly.
Another example of the anomalies are two cases which must have caused many hon. Members considerable concern. There was, first, the case of Fantle, in 1958, which came nearer than any other case in our national history to admitting the concept of the crime passionnel into English law. Mr. Fantle got three years' imprisonment. In the following year there was the case of Walden, who clearly was emotionally very unstable. He was executed for shooting his ex girl-friend and her new boy-friend in a fit of jealous temper. This shows clearly the difficulty at the margin in deciding between these cases wider existing law. Therefore, having earlier in my speech explained why I believe that we can afford to 990 take this new step of abolishing capital punishment for murder, I believe that the time has come when we should.
The next question is, clearly, what is to be the alternative. I am glad that in this debate there has not been much support for the idea of a fixed minimum sentence for murder. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead pointed out clearly that the idea that nine years is regarded in the Home Office as the right sentence for murder has no foundation in fact, just as I am glad that both my right hon. Friend and the Home Secretary laid emphasis on the need for offering hope and, as my right hon. Friend put it, some privileges to the long term prisoner who justifies it.
I am, however, sure that it would be wrong and, indeed, utterly the worst possible moment to try to make a rational judgment as to how long a murderer should stay in prison at the moment when the man is convicted. I say that for two reasons. There is, first, what might be called the emotional reason. Any of us who have ever attended a murder trial—I did once—will know that it is a beastly thing. Emotions are bound to run high. It cannot be emotionally the right moment to try to decide how soon a murderer could safely be released. But there is also another point. As the Home Secretary fairly said, at the moment of conviction we simply do not know enough about the murderer and about what induced him to commit the crime, and much more can he learnt over a period of time. Therefore, I am sure that the length of a murderer's stay in prison should not be decided by a fixed minimum sentence at the time a person is found guilty.
I am also very glad, because some of us felt nervous about this, that the shadow of the mail robbery case has not been cast too much over this debate. Of course, this is a serious and difficult matter and we are all grateful for the powerful and impressive article which Lord Devlin has written on this subject. The train robbery sentences have to some extent disturbed the whole hierarchy of sentences. We must recognise that. This is something with which we shall have to deal in due course. But it would be quite wrong for those sentences in any way to decide tonight whether we vote for the continuation of capital punishment or not. Indeed, I believe that it would also be quite wrong 991 for us to let the length of those sentences influence us too much on the question of how long a sentence for a murder ought to be. I am only stating my own view. I believe that there is much to be said for the view that murder alone in the hierarchy should be picked out for a life sentence, that is to say, an indeterminate sentence under the responsibility of the Home Secretary.
That leads me to say just one word about the Home Secretary's position in this and the question of the review of sentences. I think that it is common ground in this House that the Home Secretary has, under our present arrangements, a responsibility which he cannot discharge unaided. I entirely agree with those who have said that the Home Secretary himself, when considering the use of the prerogative of mercy, should take into account judicial opinion. I think that this is right for two reasons. The first is that it is the judges who are responsible for the protection which the law offers to society, and, secondly, that, as Lord Devlin has rightly said in his article:In a free society every question which affects the liberty of the individual, whether it be for a decade, a year or a day, is a question for a judicial body.Therefore, I am sure that we welcome what the Home Secretary had to say about consulting the trial judge. Indeed, perhaps he should go even a little further than this.
But while I think that we all recognise the part which the Judiciary must play here, there is also the part which the Executive must play. I am thinking, in particular, of the penalogical opinion which is available—and which, indeed, we hope will be available in increasing quantities to any Home Secretary. I agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) said in another context some time ago, that whatever criticisms can justly be made of Government Departments, they can survey the whole field—they can pull together a whole range of information more effectively than any other agency.
Therefore, I think that the right hon. Gentleman should certainly consult judicial opinion, as he is proposing to do, and perhaps he should go even a little further in this direction than he has pro- 992 posed. Nonetheless I should be sorry for any scheme which would devalue the advice he obtained from his own executive machinery. I would say, too, and I am expresing a purely personal opinion on this, that in the last analysis the responsibility for the decision must rest with the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his successors.
The very last comment I would make is this—the whole of our history shows, surely, that it is very easy to add to the criminal law, and it is very easy to add to the range of criminal offences. It is very much harder to remove offences from the criminal law and, likewise, to end a particular penalty. I think we ought to bear that in mind when we vote this evening. For many of us this is not easy. So far as public opinion is concerned, I believe that we in this House must do what we think right. I am bound to say that I think this is partly a matter for personal explanation. In my own constituency my point of view on this is well-known and I have not received any letters on this subject. I think it is in part a matter for making our point of view understood.
I was greatly impressed with the remark which I once read in a book by an American scientist when he talked about the danger of what, in his scientist's language, he called "the surrender of intelligence in the pursuit of emotional security". I cannot help feeling that many people do feel more emotionally secure with the feeling that capital punishment is there in the background, but that this is not fundamentally based, in many cases, on rational grounds that have been thought through. I am sure that tonight we shall be right as a House of Commons both to give this Bill a Second Reading and to explain wherever possible the reason for our vote. Therefore while I think there may well be strength in the case that the House of Commons should be able to look back and review this decision in due time, none the less I hope that this House tonight will, by a large majority, give a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I feel that this has been a most distinguished debate. We have had four maiden speeches—all very good indeed. 993 If I may refer to one which gave me a particular pleasure it was that of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin), who, I am proud to say, was my pupil at the Bar and who helped me in the defence of Field Marshal Manstein, many years ago, when we worked for months together in Hamburg.
I found it most moving to hear that speech. He is probably the only man in the House who has had the awful responsibility of passing a judgment of death and passing it on men who, as he told us today, were certainly not deterred by what he had done since they had acted in what they conceived to be their duty to their emperor.
It reminded me a little of a case with which the House was concerned about 18 years ago—of the sons of Sui Afori Ata, a paramount chief on the Gold Coast who died and had laid down in his will that the customary sacrifices be made. His sons, in their conception of their duty and of the customs of their tribe, made those sacrifices, which were human sacrifices. We hanged those sons. I have often wondered which of those two human sacrifices, by the white man or by the black man, was the more civilised.
We have also had one of the most distinguished and most important speeches which I have ever heard in the many years I have been in the House—a speech which probably was more effective in moving opinion and affecting votes than any speech we have heard. It was the speech, wise, humane and liberal, of the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), and it certainly convinced me that no human being is past redemption! I have said some very hard things about the right hon. Gentleman in my time. I hope that he will feel that they were addressed to the Minister rather than to the man, for I certainly feel that this evening.
We also had a very highly distinguished speech from my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. In our time we have had Home Secretaries who were abolitionists before they were Home Secretaries, or who were abolitionists after they were Home Secretaries; and we have had those who were abolitionists both before and after they were Home Secretaries; but at last we have a speech 994 from a Home Secretary who is an abolitionist while he is Home Secretary.
Finally, we had what seemed to me a most distinguished speech and one to which I shall devote almost the whole of my reply—the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson), who put the serious case against the Bill. I shall divide what I have to say into three questions. The first question which he posed is this. Is hanging a specially effective deterrent to the particular class of murderers for whom the death penalty is retained? In other words, is the death penalty a particularly effective deterrent, not generally but just for this class of murderers?
That question raises an argument which, to some degree, is discredited by its repetitiveness. For more than 150 years we have heard that argument as one crime after another was taken from the list of those which were capital. Each time we heard the same argument. One need only refer back to past volumes of the OFFICIAL REPORT to read them. "I agree that I could not go back," one can almost hear past speakers saying. "It was right to take capital punishment away from the other crimes, but when we get to this one, forgery, oh no. The whole credit of the nation, the whole credit of our currency will go if we remove this protection."
On another occasion an hon. Member said, "Sheep stealing is such an easy crime. Take it from that and no farmer will be secure with his flocks". Again, "House breaking? We accept what happened before. It is perfectly true that there was no increase when we removed the death penalty in those instances, but not this time. This is the point at which the whole safety and property of the community will be endangered". Each time, one after another, the death penalty was removed. Each time the speaker said, "We accept what happened before and there has been no increase, but not this".
I was reminded of those past sentiments when the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom said, in effect, "I welcomed the 1957 Act, but to go further, that is the danger". That is the precise argument we have heard too often; and too often it has been refuted.
This brings me to the second point on that argument. The right hon. and learned Member assumed that it was 995 necessary for its retained categories of murder because those were the activities of professional criminals. As the right hon. Member for Hampstead pointed out, that is just not true. Only a proportion of the people who have committed capital murders have been professional criminals. Indeed, among those for whom the death penalty has been retained are those who have committed a second murder. For that crime, one would have thought, hanging was, perhaps, the least effective of all deterrents; since that was the case of the man who had gained confidence by getting away with the first one.
But even in so far as it contains professional criminals—and, of course, it does—what evidence have we to show that the penalty of hanging is a particularly effective deterrent for professional criminals? This point was looked into carefully by the Royal Commission and, in paragraph 61 of its Report, it was expressly rejected. Indeed, the instance which always impresses me most here—and it is one to which I will be returning later in my speech—is the industrial area of Flanders, stretching from Belgium to Northern France.
In Belgium, there has been no death penalty for about 100 years. In France there is the death penalty. There we have the same kind of people, the same race of people and the same kind of industrial problems. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There are the French-speaking Belgians and the people of Lille. I should have thought that they were very much the same kind of people with the same kind of industrial problems—and speaking the same language. Yet we have the curious fact that in the area where there is the death penalty, criminals are often armed. In the area where they do not, the evidence is that the criminal was practically always unarmed. So we have, according to the Royal Commission, the world experience that this is no especially effective deterrent to professional criminals.
Again, we have had our own experience over these last five years. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the former Attorney-General strayed, in Lord Keynes' words, somewhat rashly into the statistical jungle into which it is unwise for the neophyte to stray, and he was, I think, answered with tremendous effect 996 by Mr. Hugh Clare, by Dr. Durrant, of National Opinion Polls, by Mr. Buxton, and by the right hon. Member for Hampstead.
There is no statistical evidence at all that the crimes for which we have retained the death penalty have not increased as much as those for which we have abolished it, and I would venture to say that the figures are rather better, from my point of view, than appear from the tables, because the tables assume that since 1957 what we call the "Clause 2 murders"—those that are found to be manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility—would, before the Act, have been found to have been murder. I do not think that anybody who has had experience of the courts believes that to be so.
Before there was the opportunity for juries to find diminished responsibility, when they did not want to convict they found manslaughter or insanity, or some other thing. It is quite untrue to say that in anything like the whole of the cases in which juries have found diminished responsibility they would, before the Act, have found murder, whilst, on the other hand, it is not easy to tell in the pre-Act cases which murders were involved with theft and which were not, when the question of involvement with theft was irrelevant. That, of course, applies particularly to those murders in which there was a plea of guilty, which occurs not too rarely—it is fairly rare, but not too rare.
Therefore, on the one hand, one got the numbers of always-capital murders a little high and the non-capital murders a little low. I should have said that if the figures showed anything they would show that the capital murders had increased rather more than the non-capital murders, but I shall not make any particular point of that because I think that we are probably agreed that there is no evidence of statistical significance there. The real answer seems to be that world experience now shows that there is no evidence that the death penalty is a particularly or especially effective deterrent for professional criminals.
We come to the question: would more criminals carry guns? Here I think that the Belgian experience is particularly striking. We have this odd act: in the area where they do not have the death 997 penalty, criminals do not go armed and in the area where there is the death penalty they do go armed. This may or may not show anything. I am inclined to think that it shows something. If the police are armed it is much more likely that criminals will arm themselves. If we put arms into the ring, arms will be picked up. In the same way, if we put death into the ring, death will be picked up. I believe that there is significance in the fact that over the Belgian frontier they are not armed and do not kill and over the French frontier they are armed and do kill.
It is true that murder is a crime apart. It does not move with other crimes. It remains astonishingly stable, just over three per million. It goes up when the population goes up. It went up to nearly four per million in the war and immediately after, but then dropped back to three per million, as it had been for nearly a century. In that figure of extraordinary stability about a third commit suicide, about a third are found insane and about a quarter are convicted. The others are unconvicted and undiscovered.
That basic pattern remains. The other crimes more differently; murder remains about the same. The reason, I believe, is that basically the deterrent to murder is something which is built into us. It is that we are pack animals and there is a profound inhibition against killing within the pack. Very few of us bring ourselves to commit murder. We might find all sorts of reasons, such as fear of the death penalty, to explain this built-in inhibition in our nature against killing within the pack, but that is the instinct which makes life sacred within any group of animals which live as a pack. Our security is based upon developing and bringing out that instinct. We do the very opposite when we proceed to kill ourselves.
On the whole, murderers are odd people; they are not ordinary persons. They do not respond to ordinary deterrents. Most of us, if we got into that sort of trouble, would find that among the greatest of penalties would be the publicity—the awful thing of seeing our crime and shame placarded in the Press. Yet we hardly find a murderer who is not passionately vain and anxious about the amount of publicity that he is given. 998 Again, in that nature we find the sadistic instinct to kill and the masochistic instinct to suffer.
Of course, we cannot know whether the death penalty has ever prevented any particular murder, but we know that it has caused several. We know of quite a number of murders in which strangers have been murdered for no other reason than that the murderer wanted the fame of a murder and wanted execution. I have not time to give the names. They are all in the books; the cases are set out. The most recent one concerns the bank manager who was murdered on the very day that the murderer's two friends were hanged for the gang murder on Blackheath. They were famous, and he wanted to be famous, and on that very day he achieved fame. In this respect, I would say that the evidence that this is a deterrent is quite nonexistent.
The next point with which I want to deal is the matter of public opinion which seemed to be the principal point in the speech of the mover of the Amendment. I would say here that some confusion of mind may arise in some degree from the Gettysburg address when it was referred to—"government of the people, for the people, by the people." We certainly have government of the people. We hope we have government for the people. We most emphatically do not have government by the people. Athens attempted government by the people. That was a city State where all the rulers could hear the argument, but even in Athens there was condemnation of the inhabitants of Miletus, there were the ostracisms, there were warnings of the oppression of mob rule.
When we have had government by the people elsewhere that has been tyrrany and the demagogue. It has been the dictators' plebiscites; it has been people's courts; it has been condemnation by acclamation; it has been the vilest of all governments and the worst of all tyrannies. What we have is representative democracy, and that is a specially English invention. I say "English" deliberately—not "British". The Scots, until they had the advantage of acquiring our institutions, had discovered for themselves some pretty vile methods of government.
This English invention, representative democracy, has been the model for the 999 world, a model even taken by the Communists in lip service, in pretence. They still pretend to it, this great achievement of ours. This, the world's model, depends on the integrity of the representative. It depends upon his integrity to follow his judgment, to do what is unpopular when he thinks it right. Of course, I am not saying that there may not be occasions on which it is right to consider public opinion, in cases such as those involving the speed limit and things of that sort—relatively small things in which the law will only be effective if it has public sympathy.
On great questions, on the security of the Realm, on the taking the life of human beings, there we betray the whole system which we represent and which we created if we seek for popularity rather than follow our own judgment as to what we believe to be right.
I now want to turn to the question of the alternative, and here I was particularly impressed by what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). It has been said, "But how do you deter people like the train robbers who, because they committed a crime against property, have been given a greater punishment than they could receive had they killed?" That is something the judges should have thought of before they did this. The laws of England are in part statutory and in part customary, built by the custom of the Realm, and the custom of the Realm, which is established certainly for over half a century, is this: that the maximum punishment that can be given by a judge is 15 years. But the greater punishment was for life and that greater punishment handed the man over to the discretion of the Home Secretary.
Two or three years ago, in the case of an offence as to which Parliament had laid down the maximum penalty of 14 years, the judges usurped the privilege of the legislature and proceeded to change the laws of the country. This is something which we should recognise and deal with. They created a situation which caused some of the difficulties which are apparent today, the difficulties referred to by my right hon. and 1000 learned Friend the Home Secretary when he asked, "How can I keep a man in prison who is not a danger to the community and whose personality has become changed?"
§ Mr. Paget
No, I cannot give way. I have only two or three minutes left. The Home Secretary has to treat the sentences as having put people in his care as head of the prison authority in exactly the same way as if they were put there for life. That must be the answer.
We lawyers, barristers, solicitors and judges, as has been said, have a pragmatic and empirical experience of crime without training in penology and without understanding of the effect of prison on what happens afterwards. The Streatfeild Commission has recently recommended a handbook for judges which will explain to them what happens as a result of their sentences. I say to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, as far as this is concerned, that whilst he can by all means consult judges as to the opinions they formed ten years previously, whatever that opinion was can have very little weight against the people of eight or ten years' additional experience brought up-to-date and infinitely more relevant to the question which my right hon. and learned Friend has to consider. Judges are men highly experienced and of great integrity within their own profession. Some of them in the war had a little general experience but apart from that theirs is a pretty sheltered life. I would say that a Committee of this House would have far more general experience and probably far more knowledge of penalogy.
I conclude by saying that, like the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), I am against capital punishment because I know in my heart that it is wrong. I know that I would not hang a man, because I would know that it would be an evil thing to do, and nearly all of us feel that, and I would not do by another that which I would not do by myself.
§ Question put, That "now" stand part of the Question:—1002
§ The House divided: Ayes 355, Noes 170.1005
|Division No. 44.]||AYES||[11:0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Duffy, Dr. A. E. P||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Albu, Austen||Dunnett, Jack||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Edelman, Maurice||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Alldritt, W. H.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Jackson, Colin|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Emery, Peter||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||English, Michael||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Ennals, David||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Astor, John||Ensor, David||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Evans, I. L. (Birmingham, Yardley)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Fitch Alan (wigan)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Barnett, Joel||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Bell, Ronald||Floud, Bernard||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Bence, Cyril||Foley, Maurice||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Jones,Rt.Hn.SirElwyn(W.Ham,S.)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Ford, Ben||Jones T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Foster, Sir John||Jopling, Michael|
|Bessell, Peter||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'ford & Stone)||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Biffen, John||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Kelley, Richard|
|Binns, John||Freeson, Reginald||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Bishop, E. S.||Galpern, Sir Myer||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Blackburn, F.||Garrett, W. E.||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Garrow, A.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge)|
|Boardman, H.||George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Boston, T. G.||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Kitson, Timothy|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S.W.)||Ginsburg, David||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Gourlay, Harry||Lawson, George|
|Boyden, James||Grant, Anthony||Ledger, Ron|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Gregory, Arnold||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Bradley, Tom||Gresham-Cooke, R.||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Grey, Charles||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Griffiths, will (M'chester Exchange)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Longbottom, Charles|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R.J.||Loughlin, Charles|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Hale, Leslie||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lubbock, Eric|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)||McBride, Neil|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hannan, William||McCann, J.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Harper, Joseph||MacColl, James|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||MacDermot, Niall|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hart, Mrs. Judith||McGuire, Michael|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hattersley, Roy||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hayman, F. H.||MacKenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hazell, Bert||Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)|
|Chapman, Donald||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)|
|Coleman, Donald||Heffer, Eric S.||McLaren, Martin|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain|
|Corfield, F. V.||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Higgins, Terence L.||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Crawley, Aidan||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Mahon, Simon (Bootie)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Holman, Percy||Maitland, Sir John|
|Cronin, John||Hooson, H. E.||Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)|
|Crosland, Anthony||Hordern, Peter||Manuel, Archie|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Hornby, Richard||Mapp, Charles|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Horner, John||Marsh, Richard|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mathew, Robert|
|Dalyell, Tam||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Maude, Angus|
|Darling, George||Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)||Maxwell, Robert|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington)||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Mellish, Robert|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Howie, W.||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hoy, James||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Delargy, Hugh||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Dell, Edmund||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Millan, Bruce|
|Diamond, John||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Doig, Peter||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Driberg, Tom||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Molloy, William|
|Monslow, Walter||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Reynolds, G. W.||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Richard, Ivor||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. K.(St. Pancras,N.)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Murray, Albert||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Newens, Stan||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Tinn, James|
|Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.)||Rose, Paul R.||Tuck, Raphael|
|Norwood, Christopher||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Urwin, T. W.|
|Ogden, Eric||Rowland, Christopher||Varley, Eric G.|
|O'Malley, Brian||Royle, Anthony||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham. S.)||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Orme, Stanley||Sheldon, Robert||Walder, David (High Peak)|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Shepherd, William||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Oswald, Thomas||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Owen, Will||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Padley, Walter||Short,Rt.Hn.E.(N'c'tle-on-Tyne,C.)||Wallace, George|
|Page, R. Graham (Crosby)||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton,N.E.)||Walters, Dennis|
|Paget, R. T.||Silkin, John (Deptford)||Warbey, William|
|Palmer, Arthur||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)||Watkins, Tudor|
|Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Weitzman, David|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S.E.)||Skeffington, Arthur||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Parkin, B. T.||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Whitlock, William|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Peart, Rt. Hon. Fred||Small, William||Wikins, W. A.|
|Pentland, Norman||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Perry, Ernest G.||Snow, Julian||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Peyton, John||Solomons, Henry||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Popplewell, Ernest||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Stainton, Keith||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Prentice, R. E.||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stonehouse, John||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Stones, William||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Probert, Arthur||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||stross,SirBarnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Randall, Harry||Summerskill, Dr. Shirley||Zilllacus, K.|
|Rankin, John||Swingler, Stephen|
|Redhead, Edward||Taverne, Dick||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Rees, Merlyn||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Sir Geoffrey de Freitas and Mr. Chataway.|
|Agnew, Commander Sir Peter||Dean, Paul||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Doughty, Charles||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Drayson, G. B.||Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)|
|Batsford, Brian||Eden, Sir John||Hunt, John (Bromley)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Elliott, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Elliott,R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Errington, Sir Eric||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Bingham, R. M.||Fell, Anthony||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)||Kilfedder, James A.|
|Blaker, Peter||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Kimball, Marcus|
|Bossom, Hn. Clive||Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.||Lagden, Godfrey|
|Box, Donald||Gammans, Lady||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Gardner, Edward||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Braine, Bernard||Gibson-Watt, David||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Glyn, Sir Richard||Longden, Gilbert|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Goodhart, Philip||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Goodhew, Victor||MacArthur, Ian|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Gower, Raymond||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Cole, Norman||Grieve, Percy||McMaster, Stanley|
|Cooke, Robert||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||McNair-Wilson, Patrick|
|Cooper, A. E.||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Marlowe, Anthony|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Cordle, John||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||Marten, Neil|
|Costain, A. P.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mawby, Ray|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Crowder, F. P.||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Hastings, Stephen||Mitchell, David|
|Curran, Charles||Hawkins, Paul||Monro, Hector|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||More, Jasper|
|Dance, James||Hendry, Forbes||Morgan, W. G.|
|Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)||Hiley, Joseph||Murton, Oscar|
|Neave, Airey||Roots, William||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Russell, Sir Ronald||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter|
|Onslow, Cranley||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Tomney, Frank|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Scott-Hopkins, James||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Sharples, Richard||Wall, Patrick|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Sinclair, Sir George||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John||Webster, David|
|Peel, John||Soames, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Percival, Ian||Speir, Sir Rupert||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth||Stanley, Hn. Richard||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Pitt, Dame Edith||Stodart, J. A.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Pounder, Rafton||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Wise, A. R.|
|Pym, Francis||Studholme, Sir Henry||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Summers, Sir Spencer||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Temple, John M.||Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison and Mr. Buck.|
|Robson Brown, Sir William||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
§ Bill read second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, That the Bill be committed to a Committee
|Division No. 45.]||AYES||[11.14 p.m.|
|Agnew, Commander Sir Peter||Currie, G. B. H.||Hunt, John (Bromley)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Dance, James||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Davies, Dr, Wyndham (Perry Barr)||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Dean, Paul||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Astor, John||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Doughty, Charles||Jopling, Michael|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Eden, Sir John||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Balniel, Lord||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Barlow, Sir John||Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Batsford, Brian||Emery, Peter||Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Errington, Sir Eric||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Bell, Ronald||Fell, Anthony||Kilfedder, James A.|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)||Kimball, Marcus|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald Gos & Fhm)||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)||Kitson, Timothy|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Lagden, Godfrey|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Biffen, John||Gammans, Lady||Langford-Holt Sir John|
|Bingham, R. M.||Gardner, Edward||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Gibson-Watt, David||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Blaker, Peter||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Bossom, Hn. Clive||Glyn, Sir Richard||Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Box, Donald||Godber, Rt. Hon. J. B.||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Goodhart, Philip||Longbottom, Charles|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Goodhew, Victor||Longden, Gilbert|
|Braine, Bernard||Grant, Anthony||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Grant-Ferris, R.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Gresham-Cooke, R.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Grieve, Percy||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||MacArthur, Ian|
|Bryan, Paul||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross & Crom'ty)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hall, John (Wycombe)||McLaren, Martin|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hall-Davis, A. G. f,||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||McMaster, Stanley|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harris, Frederic (Croyden, N.W.)||McNair-Wilson, Patrick|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maitland, Sir John|
|Chataway, Christopher||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Marlowe, Anthony|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd)||Marten, Nell|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Mathew, Robert|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Maude, Angus|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hastings, Stephen||Mawby, Ray|
|Cole, Norman||Hawkins, Paul||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Cooke, Robert||Hendry, Forbes||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Cooper, A. E.||Higgins, Terence L.||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Hiley, Joseph||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Cordle, John||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Mitchell, David|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||More, Jasper|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Morgan, W. G.|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hordern, Peter||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Crawley, Aidan||Hornby, Richard||Murton, Oscar|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P.||Neave, Airey|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Curran, Charles||Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
§ of the whole House.—[Sir P. Rawlinson.]:—
§ The House divide: Ayes 229, Noes247.1009
|Onslow, Cranley||Roots, William||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Royle, Anthony||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Russell, Sir Ronald||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Scott-Hopkins, James||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Sharples, Richard||walder, David (High Peak)|
|Page, R. Graham (Crosby)||Sinclair, Sir George||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Smith, Dudley (B'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Wall, Patrick|
|Peel, John||Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John||Walters, Dennis|
|Percival, Ian||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Pitt, Dame Edith||Speir, Sir Rupert||Webster, David|
|Pounder, Rafton||Stainton, Keith||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Stanley, Hn. Richard||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stodart, J. A.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Pym, Francis||Studholme, Sir Henry||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Summers, Sir Spencer||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)||Woodnutt Mark|
|Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Temple, John M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Colonel sir Harwood Harrison and Mr. Buck.|
|Robson Brown, Sir William||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)|
|Abse, Leo||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)|
|Albu, Austen||English, Michael||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Ennals, David||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Alldritt, W. H.||Ensor, David||Jackson, Colin|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Evans, loan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Atkinson, Norman||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Fletcher, Raymond (IlKeston)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Barnett, Joel||Floud, Bernard||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Boy (Stechford)|
|Bence, Cyril||Foley Maurice||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Benne, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Bennet, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Bessell, Peter||Fort, Ben||Jones,Rt.Hn.SirElwyn(W.Ham,S.)|
|Binns, John||Foster, Sir John||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Blackburn, I||Freeson, Reginald||Kelley, Richard|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Garrett W. E.||Kenyon Clifford|
|Bowden Rt. Hn. H.W. (Leics S.W.)||Garrow, A.||Kerr. Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Bowden, Roderic (Cardigan)||George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Boyden, James||Ginsburg, David||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Bradley, Tom||Gregory, Arnold||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N)|
|Bray Dr. Jeremy||Grey Charles||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Griffiths, Will (M'chester Exchange)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Lubbock, Eric|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Gunter, Rt. Hn R. J.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hale, Leslie||McBride, Neil|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||MacColl, James|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)||MacDermot, Niall|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hannan, William||McGuire, Michael|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Harper Joseph||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Chapman, Donald||Hart, Mrs. Judith||MacKenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hattersley, Roy||Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hayman, F. H.||Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hazell, Bert||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Healey, Rt Hn. Denis||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Crosland, Anthony||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Manuel, Archie|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Holman, Percy||Mapp, Charles|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hooson, H. E.||Marsh, Richard|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Horner, John||Maxwell, Robert|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mendelson, J. J.|
|de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Delargy, Hugh||Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Dell, Edmund||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Millan, Bruce|
|Doig, Peter||Howie, W.||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Hoy, James||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Driberg, Tom||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Molloy, William|
|Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Monslow, Walter|
|Dunnett, Jack||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St.Pancras,N.)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Murray, Albert||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Newens, Stan||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Noel-Baker,Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Rose, Paul B.||Tinn, James|
|Norwood, Christopher||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Tuck, Raphael|
|Ogden, Eric||Rowland, Christopher||Urwin, T. W.|
|O'Malley, Brain||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Varley, Eric G.|
|Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham S.)||Sheldon, Robert||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Orme, Stanley||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Oswald, Thomas||Short,Rt.Hn.E.(N'c'tle-on-Tyne,C.)||Wallace, George|
|Padley, Walter||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton,N.E.)||Watkins, Tudor|
|Paget, R. T.||Silkin, John (Deptford)||Weitzman, David|
|Palmer, Arthur||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S.E.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Parkin, B. T.||Skeffington, Arthur||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Snow, Julian||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Perry, Ernest G.||Solomons, Henry||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Popplewell, Ernest||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Prentice, R. E.||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Probert, Arthur||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R (Vauxhall)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Summerskill, Dr. Shirley||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Redhead, Edward||Swingler, Stephen||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Rees, Merlyn||Taverne, Dick||Zilliacus, K.|
|Reynolds, G. W.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Richard, Ivor||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Whitlock and Mr. Gourlay.|
|Bill committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to standing Order No.40 (Committal of Bills).|