Which Amendment was: In page 1, line 7, to leave out "sentenced to imprisonment for" and insert:
liable at the discretion of the Court to imprisonment for life".
§ Question again proposed, That "sentenced to imprisonment for" stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
I remind the House that with this Amendment we are taking Amendment No. 7, Clause 1, in page 1, line 7, at the end to insert:such term as a full Court of Criminal Appeal (including the judge who tried the case) shall in its discretion determine".
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
We move now from a consideration of nuclear deterrence and the peace of the world to another matter which involves the conscience of most hon. and right hon. Members. The difference between the debate which we have just concluded and this one is that the previous Motion was tabled by one of my hon. Friends and was taken in Private Members' time. The Bill now before the House is here by virtue of time provided by the Government, and it is all too clear that what began as a Private Member's Bill is now entirely a Government Bill.
This point is of importance in relation to the Amendment. It is crucial to make clear that, having been before a Standing Committee during the months of February and March and having been before a Committee of the whole House on many Wednesday mornings in time specially provided by the Government so that the House could meet for that purpose, the Bill is now given further time this evening, when time is precious for the Government in order to get their regular business through.
359 It may well be that the Government wish to secure the abolition of the death penalty, as does the promoter of the Bill, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), but what is perfectly plain is that they have no mandate whatever to abolish at the same time the power of Her Majesty's judges to determine what sentence shall be imposed. Throughout all the years during which lawyers have worked in this country, since time immemorial, it has been part of the power of Her Majesty's judges to determine the punishment, to determine the sentence to be imposed for serious crime. I emphasise at the outset that the House can give a mandate for the abolition of the death penalty, but it is quite wrong for the Government, by a back door in this way, to invite the House on this Bill to pass something which many people do not fully appreciate, that is, to abolish the judicial power to give a determinate sentence.
There has been only one sentence for a person convicted of murder, that is, to hang until he died. What was the purpose of this Bill other than to abolish hanging? It is purely by a back door that it is now suggested that another sentence should be substituted, the so-called life sentence, which in itself is an anomaly and entirely meaningless. In an earlier debate, I showed that those who had been convicted of murder and who had had their sentence commuted to one of life imprisonment had been released in one case after a year, in other cases after two or three years, and on average after about nine years.
Whether one is an abolitionist or a retentionist, there is no mandate whatever to deprive the public of the protection which they enjoy today, the protection of a deterrent sentence passed by one of Her Majesty's judges. It is the task of the judges to punish either by a severe punishment or, if they think right and having considered all the circumstances, by a compassionate sentence. I am not prepared to take the view that one should remove from Her Majesty's judges the right to determine what the sentence shall be. This Bill, ill-considered and ill-conceived as it is, gives no evidence of proper thought having been given to the appropriate alternative sentence or of anyone having applied his mind to the 360 need for a sentence which gives adequate and proper protection to society.
There can be no argument but that, at the time the sentence is given, the circumstances of different classes of murder are carefully considered. Of course, the circumstances vary enormously in almost every class of crime, but in the case of murder, because of the circumstance of provocation, because of the circumstance of responsibility, diminished or otherwise, there is an infinite variety, with psychiatric reasons on one side, evidence of violence on the other, and so on. Therefore, the public in this country, whether they wish to see the end of the death penalty or wish to see it preserved, want to be sure that a proper sentence is passed by a judge at the time determining the punishment upon the accused and having in mind all the circumstances, properly considering whether it should be a strong and deterrent sentence involving a heavy punitive element or whether, on the other hand, it should be a sentence of compassion.
There is no mandate to deprive an accused person and his family of the right to know how long his sentence will be. I can imagine nothing worse than to receive a sentence under which one will not have the faintest idea how long one will be required to serve. I ask the House to imagine the case of an individual who knows that the circumstances show a large element of mitigation but a case in which, nevertheless, the judge must go through the farce of imposing a sentence of life imprisonment although everyone knows that the man will not have to serve it. Imagine the position of his wife and family in such circumstances. Although he is given a life sentence, it is generally supposed that he will not, in all probability, have to serve more than two or three years, or perhaps even less.
Is it right that a person should receive a sentence about which he can have no real knowledge at all? Is it right to incarcerate a man in the same way as was done during the war under the 18B detention rule, a sentence just putting a person away without his knowing what the circumstances would really be? Can that be a right sentence? It is degrading to the public who do not know, and will be unable to know, the circumstances 361 and considerations to be applied thereafter, entirely on secret criteria, by the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary may be admirable. He may have admirable advisers. But the public are quite unable to know whether the advice tendered subsequently is the right and proper advice, and there is no public means by which they can secure that knowledge. So neither the man who is accused nor his family, nor his lawyer, nor his doctor, nor anyone on his behalf is able to know what the position will be. Representations may be made to the Home Office, but no answer will be received about the considerations to which the Minister and his advisers apply their minds in considering these factors.
Therefore, I would say that all those, whether or not they view abolition favourably, should join together and persuade the Government that now they are in full charge of the Bill in Government time, in the middle of the week in the evening, even at this late stage they should come forward and tell us what it is they propose to do.
At the moment, apparently, the House has already got the position of a hiatus. We have the position before the House in which no sentence of any kind now exists. We have to determine what shall be put there. So far, all we have been told by the hon. Gentleman who promotes the Bill is that he wishes to put back, in due course, life imprisonment. We have already sought to point out that life imprisonment is meaningless. We have spent all February, March, April and May, and we are now in the month of July. During this period, no doubt discussion has been going on in the Home Office as to what the sentencing policy shall be in the future, what rôle the judges shall play in sentencing, and what rôle the Executive shall play in sentencing. Have there been no thouhgts at all by the Home Secretary on this matter in the past six months, when it has been the subject of consistent and weekly debate? Has he not arrived at any conclusion as to whether it would not be practical to allow Her Majesty's judges to continue to determine the sentence at the time the man is convicted?
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Frank Soskice)
So far as 362 I am concerned, I am simply exercising the powers given to me under Section 27 of the Prison Act, 1952, passed during the Administration of a Conservative Government. I think the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) became a Member of the House in 1953. From 1953 onwards, has he ever questioned that Section or made the least endeavour to change it or annul it?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
The 1952 Act was a mere repetition of the Act of 1893. The whole question of the consideration of sentence did not arise at all as long as one retained the death penalty. The position there was that, with an existing death penalty, it did not become necessary to consider the matter until after a prisoner had been granted the Prerogative of Mercy by the Home Secretary.
§ Sir F. Soskice
With great respect, there are many offences for which the penalty is life imprisonment. If this has been part of our legislation for years past, earlier than 1952, it is all the more remarkable that we have had to wait until 1965 for the hon. Gentleman to become so heated about it.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
No, not a bit. Not only was that the position but the whole trend has been moving away from the passing of a life sentence. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, in recent years the judges have been passing long and definitive sentences of periods of years. The most startling is the obvious recent example where sentences of 30 years were passed on the mail train robbers. In many other cases such sentences have been passed, but the number of life sentences in recent years, broadly speaking, having regard to the overall amount of serious crime, has been negligible.
The point I was making was this. At the moment the Bill came up for consideration, as it was quite clear it was going to last November, and since then, it became imperative to give consideration to what should be the sentencing policy. That is why I have been urging this point upon the right hon. Gentleman and upon those of his colleagues who for some time now have been considering what ought to be done.
363 There is a considerable body of support for a proper alternative among the hon. Gentlemen behind him, particularly those members of the trade union movement, who feel quite strongly that there ought to be a genuine sentence given by the judges, which could be a determinate if required, to meet the point. After all, it is widely believed in the country that at the present time a man will get a very much heavier sentence if he is a bank robber and uses no violence, being sentenced to 20 or 25 years, than he will if he commits a murder and is sentenced to life imprisonment.
No mandate has been given at all to alter the whole of the method of judicial sentencing or to remove the protection inherent, in the public belief, in a long sentence by the judge from which a prisoner cannot be released. Let us remember this. The power of release is only given to the Home Secretary where there is a life sentence. It may well be that one will require to amend the law. One will. But this will give an opportunity, on such a Measure, to secure that there is a setting up of a proper review body. Meanwhile, let those who are sentenced now receive whatever sentences the judges think fit. They will then remain safely in custody, and the House can pass the requisite law to set up a proper type of review body in due course.
My right hon. Friend in an earlier Amendment, which I would be out of order in referring back to, dealt with one aspect—a panel of judges. It may well be that a review body which comprised partly judges, partly doctors and partly one or two outside men of eminent position might provide the type of review body which would assist the Home Secretary. But I cannot think that in this modern age it is right that there should not be some advisory committee to the Home Secretary to consider long sentences, including those of people convicted of murder, if, that is, the death penalty is to be abolished.
I know this is only the beginning of the debates on sentencing, and possibly we shall see a difference of view across the House between those who believe that 364 judges ought to give a determinate sentence and those who may take the view that judges should have the power to give an indeterminate sentence. I take the former view. But, whichever view one takes, I have the feeling that in due course the House will express a strong view that there ought to be some body to assist the Home Secretary to review long sentences.
That being so, I only want to speak briefly on one or two other points. If we are to remove this power from the judges, I believe that society will warn us that we are not adequately protected. If the Home Secretary is to keep unto himself entirely the powers of review, I think the public will be very frightened at the thought that they are dependent solely on his advice about whether it is safe to release a prisoner who has been convicted of murder. Personally, if I were Home Secretary, I would certainly wish to pass on, as far as I could, a measure of that responsibility to the shoulders of a panel of men and women able to assist and make recommendations in that regard. However able he may be at any given time, the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office is not a suitable single adviser to the Home Secretary in that regard. Nor do I think he would want it to be felt that he is responsible for the tendering of that advice, to which obviously the Home Secretary will pay very considerable regard.
However, there is another aspect. It has to be borne in mind that life sentences today—
§ Sir F. Soskice
I know the hon. Gentleman will want to get his facts right, because he is on a point which is important. I think he said that between 1914 and 1953 there were not 10 life sentences for offences other than murder.
§ Sir F. Soskice
The advice I have is that from 1954 to 1963—after the passing of the Prison Act, 1952—there were 24 such life sentences and, in addition, there were 68 life sentences for diminished responsibility for manslaughter. It seems extraordinary that if there were all those life sentences and the hon. Gentleman felt keenly about these processes which he has so unkindly described, he should 365 not have raised the matter earlier, but should have waited until 1965, during the discussion of this Bill, to raise it for the very first time.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I am afraid that it is the right hon. and learned Gentleman who should get his facts right. If he checks back he will find that, first of all, the larger proportion are those who were suffering from a sense of diminished responsibility, and those were discretionary sentences in such a term. He will also find that the others were a number of sentences where a life imprisonment sentence followed a conviction for murder. The point that I was making was that the number of life sentences given for other crimes than murder is virtually negligible. A number that were given for murder would not exist if the death penalty applied. Therefore, it is only since the change made in the Homicide Act, 1957, that we find that there is any substantial number at all, and these are really not very many.
It does not in the slightest degree alter the strength and direction of the argument that this Bill removes the normal traditional power of the judge to give a determinate sentence in almost every case.
§ Sir F. Soskice indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
It is no good the right hon. and learned Gentleman shaking his head like that, because that really has fallen into desuetude. Nowadays there is a determinate sentence given in well over 99 per cent. of all the cases of serious murder. By retaining the word "life" here, one is removing from the judges the right to give a sentence for what has been regarded as the most unique form of serious crime. How can it he contended that if in the case of manslaughter they can give a determinate sentence of a period of years and if they are to do so in the case of robbery and violence, they are not to be trusted so to do in the case of murder? I find this argument hard to sustain.
Therefore, I turn straight away to bowl a fast one at the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. He said last time in c. 2192 on 25th June that as the House had decisively rejected any judicial review, the right way to deal with the matter is to continue with the Bill providing life imprisonment. 366 I say to that "certainly not". If the hon. Gentleman provides for no review, the only review being the capacity of the Home Secretary to review a case when he sees fit, one comes back to the absence of four particular factors. One comes back, first, to the factor that one has not got any dual control. One has no control of the judiciary on the one hand, with a further separate consideration by the Home Secretary on the other. One has—this is repetition, it is true—no fair and determinate sentence passed upon the accused so that he knows what his position is. One has no means whereby the public can know the facts or see or hear what is going to be done. Lastly, one has no deterrent factor at all, and this is the fact which worries the public so much, because if one gives a life sentence, so to speak, higgledy-piggledy one not only degrades it but makes it meaningless in that those who are considered for early release will be all mixed up with those who are to serve for a long period.
Therefore, I conclude by saying that of all the real Amendments which have been tabled, the one tabled in this case by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) ought to be supported not only by those who favour the retention of the death penalty, but by all those in the House who really believe that we should have some proper alternative; and the best alternative that we can get is to allow Her Majesty's judges to give sentence and give an opportunity to the Home Secretary to consider the future position of sentencing as a whole and then come back with some proper system in the autumn whereby we shall have a review body which will be able to review long sentences not only in relation to those convicted of murder but those who receive long sentences for serious crimes such as robbery with violence. In that way we can get a fair and proper consideration of sentencing policy which is much overdue. I greatly hope that all my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite will support my right hon. and learned Friend in pressing this Amendment in due course.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
I support what the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has said in support of the Amendment. I have consistently supported my hon. 367 Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) because of the argument which he introduced on Second Reading. His argument was an argument for this Bill, and I think it was an extremely strong one, that it removes an anomaly. It removes the anomaly of a certain type of sentence, the sentence of hanging, for certain types of murder, in a situation where the existing legislation has removed that sentence for very many other types of murder.
This is an extremely strong argument for the Bill. As my hon. Friend said at the commencement of the discussions, we are not really here discussing the abolition of hanging as a principle. The principle has been conceded. We are really considering whether it should now remain for a few individual cases. This is an argument that we should not have an anomaly in the law. It seems to me that the basic principle behind the Amendment is similar, that one should not have an anomaly in the law. One says of all other types of crime that the judge who hears the case is responsible for the sentence. One provides by Statute for the maximum sentence, but gives the judge discretion to impose a sentence less than that maximum. He may not impose a greater one, but in almost all cases he has discretion to impose a lesser one.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I think that my hon. Friend was not here during the earlier part of this debate when the Amendment was moved. He has probably forgotten what Amendment is now being supported by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). It is the Amendment moved by the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson). It was an Amendment to put into the Bill power for the court to have discretion to impose a sentence of life imprisonment. So the only thing that would be achieved by this Amendment is not to give the court the power to impose a determinate sentence but to give it a power to impose a sentence of life imprisonment or no imprisonment at all. There is nothing in the Amendment to give the court any power to impose any other sentence.
§ Mr. English
With respect to my hon. Friend, I have read the OFFICIAL REPORT, which is a verbatim report of 368 all that was said upon this Amendment on the last occasion when it was discussed. I think that my hon. Friend will agree that, although that is his view of the effect of the Amendment, his view was immediately disputed by other hon. Members.
§ Mr. English
The point at issue is the intent behind the Amendment. As I stated before my hon. Friend interrupted me, he takes a different view of the law from those who support the Amendment, and that is something on which I think we as a House could well receive advice, and we may indeed do so, from hon. and learned Members of the House, one of whom, incidentally, has just spoken and who presumably takes a different view from that of my hon. Friend. The point that I am getting at is that one cannot argue the principle of a Bill as a principle to remove an anomaly from the law, the anomaly of hanging, of a definite individual sentence of hanging, and at the same time oppose an Amendment the intent and purport of which is to give the judges a power which they have in nearly all other existing cases under the law.
The argument by way of removing an anomaly applies not merely in one way but in both. Therefore, unless I can be shown that my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne is right on the point of law that he has raised—the majority of lawyers who have spoken so far do not seem to share his view—I do not think that I can in conscience support him, although I have supported him on every occasion during the proceedings of the Bill so far.
What is involved here goes far deeper than what it is possible to deal with by the Bill. There are strong arguments for looking at sentencing policy as a whole. It is not necessarily true that a judge who hears a case and is trained solely in the law and in no other aspects of the matter is the right person to determine the 369 sentence. There are some arguments for other sentencing policies than that which exists. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will look into these things one day.
But so long as the law for all other crimes is as it is, I hope that the House, in getting rid of hanging as an anomaly in the law, will retain the principle that applies to all other crimes. If that principle is wrong, then let us look at sentencing policy and methods as a whole, but that does not matter for this Bill. Meanwhile, if we are to say that murder should be treated like other crimes in one way I cannot see why it should not be so treated in respect of sentencing as well.
§ Sir John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)
The speech of the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) shows clearly that this question has nothing to do with whether one is a retentionist or an abolitionist. All we are discussing, assuming that the death penalty is abolished, is whether it is right that judges should do no more than pass an automatic sentence of life imprisonment or whether they should behave in the way they normally do in sentencing people who have committed other crimes, when they have a discretion as to whether to pass the maximum sentence or a lesser penalty.
In our previous discussion of this issue, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) has tried to show that the Amendment does no more than give a judge discretion to pass a life sentence or nothing, but that view is absurd. Every crime which involves a maximum of life imprisonment is framed in a form of words stating that the defendant shall be liable to imprisonment for life. It is not necessary to state that such a person will also be liable to any lesser penalty. If it is necessary for clarification to adopt some other form of words in this case, and if the hon. Gentleman is so unhappy about it, then it can be done in the House of Lords. What we are discussing is the principle and not minor technicalities of the meaning of words.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
We are not dealing with minor technicalities. We are dealing with the power of a court to inflict a sentence for the gravest crime known to English law. It is necessary—I am sure everyone will agree about this 370 —that the power of the court should be clear. What we are discussing now is not some vague principle or other but the particular Amendment offered to us.
It is not true that, where a sentence is not mentioned, and mentioned to be discretionary, the court has the power to pass any lesser sentence. The court has no power to pass any sentence whatever except by Statute. There is nothing in this Bill to give it power to sentence a man to anything but life imprisonment, and if we make that discretionary then the court will have power to sentence to life imprisonment or not to sentence at all.
The cases the right hon. and learned Gentleman has in mind are Statute cases where life imprisonment is specifically stated to be the maximum. In this Amendment it is not stated to be the maximum. It is merely to be made a discretionary life sentence. I understand that this is not what the right hon. and learned Gentleman means. I understand what he means but the House is concerned with the Amendment.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The Chair does not like two successive interventions at once. I would also say to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) that he must condense his interventions. He has made what is suspiciously like a second speech.
§ Sir J. Hobson
As I understand it, the words of the Amendment are almost uniform in almost every Statute of the 19th century which provide—not by this particular form of words but certainly provide—that the court shall pass such a sentence or less. If the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne refers to Arch-bold and other authorities he will see the words "liable to imprisonment for life" without any alternative provision for a lesser penalty.
§ Mr. Carlisle
Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend will allow me to give an example. Dealing with the punishment for manslaughter, Section 5 of the Offences Against the Person Act says:Whosoever shall be convicted of manslaughter shall be liable, at the discretion of 371 the court, to be kept in penal servitude for life.The Larceny Act, 1916, states that a person found guilty of felonyshall be … liable to penal servitude for life".The law dealing with burglary contains the same wording.
§ Sir J. Hobson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) for producing those examples. I looked at them, of course, when drafting the Amendment. The point made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne is not only petty but wrong. It is ridiculous to try to divert the debate on a form of words used over a long period. It would be plain by our Amendment what the House meant and if clarification were necessary it could be put right. Let us carry out the intention of the House.
I believe that these words carry out that intention. They are traditional and are adequate for the purpose. What is much more important is not the form of words but whether we are to abolish one automatic sentence in order to substitute another or whether we are now to say that, while all other cases provide for the judge to decide the sentence on the seriousness of the crime, the same principle ought not to apply in the case of murder.
We were grateful to the Home Secretary for intervening on the last occasion when we debated this matter and for giving reasons why he supported the view that the word put in to fill the hole in the Bill should simply be "life" so that the court would have no discretion and a sentence of life imprisonment would be automatic on any charge of murder.
We realise that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was anxious not to detain the House long as it was getting near four o'clock, but he expressed his view clearly and I want to say why I find it very difficult to agree with his approach and the argument that he advanced for saying that every judge on every conviction of murder should do no more than pronounce an automatic sentence of life imprisonment.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman's proposition was that the proper sentence 372 for all murder was life imprisonment, but that is untrue. We know that the vast majority of murderers are at present released long before their life sentences expire. We know that a substantial minority are released after a very short time and everyone thinks it right that they should be. We know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has announced his views that, unless there are very exceptional reasons—unless it is obviously essential for the safety of the public—after nine, 10, 11 or 12 years persons sentenced to life imprisonment should, if possible, be released. It is perfectly plain that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not take the view that the proper sentence for murder is life, but what he is putting forward as his proposition is that this is the sentence which all courts ought to pass for everybody convicted of murder.
The second view which the Home Secretary seemed to be taking and which I found very surprising was that mercy was something which concerned the Home Secretary and not the judges. This is an astonishing view of the relationship between the judiciary and the Executive, and particularly an astonishing view of the functions of the judiciary.The quality of mercy is not strainedwas not intended to apply to the exercise only of the Home Secretary's powers. It is something which has always been regarded as part of the exercise of the powers of the judiciary. The quotation goes on to say:And earthly power doth then show likest God'sWhen mercy seasons justice".Surely it is the great tradition of this country that the judges hold the balance between mercy and justice, and it is right that they should continue to do so in all cases, unless one has a situation in which the death penalty is being passed and when it might be said that it is too great a burden for a single individual to decide in his discretion between capital punishment and not capital punishment. With anything less than the death penalty, I cannot understand the view that it is for the Home Secretary and not for the judges to exercise mercy in appropriate cases.
Least of all can I understand the view the Home Secretary advanced, which the 373 hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) also seemed to be advancing, that it is impossible at the time of sentence for the accused person to put forward all the mitigating circumstances which should be taken into account. True some might turn up later, but I would have thought that the experience of anybody who knows the courts was that it was of the greatest advantage to any accused man that at the end of his trial all the mitigating circumstances of his home and background and of the circumstances in which the crime was committed and what went on before, even though not relevant in the course of the trial, should be drawn to the attention of the judge.
There are particular advantages in doing it at that stage. The first is that it enables the accused person publicly to put forward matters of justification which would otherwise not be heard. If the automatic sentence is passed, there is no room for any mitigation and a man may be led down the steps of the dock with only those things which can be said against him having been mentioned in public and none of those things which could be said in his favour having also been said in public, so that he and his family and relations would live in a sense with one side of the story against him in the public mind while that which could be said in his favour would not be known to the public.
There is something else. I would have thought that experienced legal advisers and powerful advocates were useful people for putting forward the mitigating circumstances of a crime. Once he is inside the prison the accused will have no legal advice to put forward the mitigating circumstances. He will not have an advocate who will put them forward. While I appreciate that of course the Home Secretary has great resources and of course he will exercise great care and of course rely on his sources of information to consider everything which could be taken into account, nevertheless the fact remains that for some of the less serious types of murder, for some of those where inevitably anyone would expect the accused person to be released in the shortest possible time, it would be of the greatest benefit and the greatest advantage for mitigating circumstances on behalf of the accused to be put forward in public 374 at the end of the trial for the consideration of the judge, so that he could take them into account when passing sentence.
The only argument which I can see against a discretionary sentence and in favour of an automatic sentence has been scarcely mentioned or used. It is the difficulty that those who have been convicted of murder may in future remain dangerous people and it may be difficult at the time of the trial for a judge at that moment to decide whether it is safe for such a person to be released. But this is true not only of murder, but of many other offences when people are accused of murder and convicted of some other and lesser offence. It is one with which the judges have always dealt and it is one which the public have thought it safe to leave in the hands of the judges and it is one with which Parliament deals by providing a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The Amendment does not mean that judges will not pass life sentences. If a judge thought that there were the slightest risk that a man in future might be unsafe if released after a determinate sentence, he would pass a life sentence. That is exactly what the Amendment provides. It is intended that in the serious cases of wicked murders by wicked men, unlikely to be safe if released, the judge should pass and continue to pass a sentence of life imprisonment.
There must surely be room for the view that the judiciary should retain that discretion as to those sentences which are not automatic sentences and in which it is obvious, right and fair and expected that mercy should flow from the seat of justice. At the time of sentence the judge should be able to say that it is one of those cases in which mercy can be extended to an accused even though a convicted murderer. It is surely true that any judge is diminished if all he can do is to embark on a pantomime which has little meaning and little relation to the effects which are likely to occur as a result of the conviction of a murderer of that crime.
The view that every murderer ought to be sentenced to life automatically proceeds from the fallacious parrot-cry which we are constantly hearing—that murder 375 is a unique crime. I do not believe that it is. Many murders are unique crimes, but quite a few are not. After all, the difference between some murders and attempted murders is only that the former succeeded. What the accused did is precisely and exactly the same in each case, and yet on conviction for attempted murder the judge has to determine whether he ought to sentence the accused to life imprisonment, or whether it is safe to give him a determinate sentence and allow him out in a shorter time.
What is even more startling is that since 1957 any person convicted of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility is a person who has in fact committed the crime of murder but whose crime has been reduced to manslaughter by reason of the fact that he was suffering from such an abnormality of mind as substantially to impair his mental responsibility. It would have been thought that these would be the very people against whom the public would require protection and yet Parliament has left to the judges—I believe without complaint—a discretion as to whether they should pass a life sentence or a determinate and lesser sentence.
If it can be passed in the case of a man who has committed the crime of murder but who has been convicted of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, I simply cannot understand why the judges should not also be allowed a discretion in those cases, of which we know there are many, when there are very great mitigating circumstances, when a respectable person who is never ever likely to commit an offence again has, perhaps because of being distraught, or a misguided sense of what is right and wrong, has taken the life of another.
Everyone knows of people who have finished the life of a near and dear one suffering from cancer, or of people who have got rid of a child above the age of one because the child was deformed and an utter burden to himself and his family. I need not mention any other circumstances which are technically murder but which nobody would regard as coming within the category of necessitating a life sentence under any circumstances. 376 Why we should not allow the judges to exercise that discretion and that mercy which they do in all other cases I find it very difficult to understand.
A man who is convicted of espionage may have put at risk the lives of thousands of his fellow countrymen by the secrets that he has disclosed to an enemy or the information that he has given about his country. He has put at peril himself, his country, and many of his colleagues, and yet we still think it right that the judge should have a discretion as to how long a sentence he should pass. It is for these reasons that I would have thought it right, in circumstances where there is to be no capital punishment for any murderer, to say that all murders are not of a type which requires life imprisonment and that it is therefore desirable that the judiciary should have the first opportunity of exercising the discretion of mercy if it thinks it safe to do so. It can still pass a sentence of life imprisonment, and then the question when the prisoner shall be released can be left to the Home Secretary and his advisers, unless we make other arrangements for the review of life sentences. I hope that for murders and other serious crimes we shall shortly move to a position in which a review body of some sort or another deals with all life sentences of, say, more than ten years or more than seven years.
In those circumstances, it would be equally right and fair that judges should pass very long sentences, and should also have power in appropriate cases to pass very short sentences, even in cases of murder. The great advantage would be that public justice would then be seen to have been done in the passing of sentences and we should not merely have a different form of pantomime. There is an advantage in the judge having discretion to mark the gravity of a wicked crime by passing a very heavy sentence and to mark those murders which are less serious by passing moderate or even short sentences.
If we provide that once a jury has pronounced a verdict of guilty all that the judge has to do is to sentence the convicted man automatically to life imprisonment, it means nothing to the accused person or his family or relatives, or to the public. It becomes the meaningless 377 pantomime which the promoters of the Bill have been endeavouring to abolish.
§ Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
The argument has been so fully and cogently put by my three hon. Friends, and I so fully agree with them, that I will confine myself to one point arising out of an intervention by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman). I hope that the House will realise that the point that he made appears to be a thoroughly bad one. My hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) drew attention to several Statutes which provide for the penalty of imprisonment for life. It is a very common one, and it is quite clear what it means. This form of penalty has been used in the Bill itself. That is the point to which I wish to draw attention.
It is remarkable to find the promoters of the Bill arguing against the Amendment when, in subsection (3), they have introduced the self-same provision in respect of sentencing serving men who are guilty of an offence corresponding to murder. Without going into the details of that subsection, I can say that it provides that a court, in sentencing a serving
§ soldier, airman or sailor, has discretion to fix any sentence, up to and including life imprisonment. Nobody versed in the law would dream of quarrelling with that proposition.
§ I suggest that it would be the last word in absurdity and anomaly to provide that a court sentencing a serving soldier, airman or sailor had the power or the duty—whichever way one looks at it—to fix a sentence up to and including life imprisonment and, at the same time, to provide automatically for a sentence of life imprisonment in the case of a civilian. This would introduce a further anomaly, unless the Amendment were carried. That is a further reason why it should be carried.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That "sentenced to imprisonment for" stand part of the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 193, Noes 92.379
|Division No. 252.]||AYES||[7.56 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Dunn, James A.||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Albu, Austen||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Howie, W.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Ennals, David||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Allen, scholefield (Crewe)||Ensor, David||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Fernyhough, E.||Jackson, Colin|
|Baxter, William||Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Beaney, Alan||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Bell, Ronald||Floud, Bernard||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Bence, Cyril||Foley, Maurice||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Binns, John||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Ford, Ben||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Blackburn, F.||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Ginsburg, David||Lawson, George|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S. W.)||Gregory, Arnold||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham. N.)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Grey, Charles||Loughlin, Charles|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Lubbock, Eric|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)||McBride, Neil|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||McCann, J.|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Hale, Leslie||MacColl, James|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||MacDermot, Niall|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mclnnes, James|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Chapman, Donald||Hannan, William||Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)|
|Coleman, Donald||Harper, Joseph||Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hattersley, Roy||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hayman, F. H.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hazell, Bert||Manuel, Archie|
|de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Heffer, Eric S.||Mason, Roy|
|Delargy, Hugh||Herbison, Rt. Hn, Margaret||Maxwell, Robert|
|Dell, Edmund||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Mellish, Robert|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Holman, Percy||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Dodds, Norman||Hooson, H. E.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Driberg, Tom||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Millan, Bruce|
|Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Molloy, William||Reynolds, G. W.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Monslow, Walter||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Tinn, James|
|Murray, Albert||Robinson, Rt. Hn K. (St. Pancras, N.)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Newens, Stan||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Rose, Paul B.||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Norwood, Christopher||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Wallace, George|
|Oakes, Gordon||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)||Watkins, Tudor|
|Ogden, Eric||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|O'Malley, Brian||Silkin, John (Deptford)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Whitlock, William|
|Orbach, Maurice||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Orme, Stanley||Skeffington, Arthur||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Oswald, Thomas||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Paget, R. T.||Small, William||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Snow, Julian||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Parker, John||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Parkin, B. T.||Spriggs, Leslie||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Stainton, Keith||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Pentland, Norman||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Perry, Ernest G.||Stones, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Probert, Arthur||Swain, Thomas||Mr. Richard Crawshaw and|
|Randall, Harry||Swingler, Stephen||Mr. S. C. Silkin.|
|Rees, Merlyn||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Glyn, Sir Richard||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Grant-Ferris, R.||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Grieve, Percy||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Percival, Ian|
|Bessell, Peter||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth|
|Braine, Bernard||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hawkins, Paul||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Sharples, Richard|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Cole, Norman||Hordern, Peter||Stanley, Hn. Richard|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P.||Stodart, Anthony|
|Crowder, F. P.||Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kimball, Marcus||Teeling, Sir William|
|Dean, Paul||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Temple, John M.|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Lagden, Godfrey||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Drayson, G. B.||MacArthur, Ian||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Eden, Sir John||Mathew, Robert||Wall, Patrick|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Maude, Angus||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Emery, Peter||Mawby, Ray||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|English, Michael||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wise, A. R.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.||Mitchell, David||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Gammans, Lady||Monro, Hector||Wylie, N. R.|
|Gardner, Edward||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Giles, Read-Admiral Morgan||Murton, Oscar||Sir R. Thompson and|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Sir Rolf Dudley Williams.|
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I beg to move Amendment No. 6, Clause 1, in page 1, line 7, at the end to insert "life".
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has suggested that we should take with this Amendment the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse), in page 1, line 7, at the end to insert:Such a sentence shall be of indefinite duration subject only to the prerogative of mercy.I am in some difficulty, because the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] Order. The 380 hon. Member for Oxford has just come in, so I will repeat what I have said. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has suggested to me that we should take, with Amendment No. 6, Amendment No. 9, for a single debate. I have no objection to that, if the hon. Member for Oxford has no objection and the House has no objection. I am guided by the House.
§ Mr. Silverman
I propose to do more than move the Amendment 381 virtually formally. The House will remember that, in Committee, by a series of events which I do not need to resume now, a gap was left in the Clause, so that Clause I says that a man convicted of murder shall be "sentenced to imprisonment for". What we have been concerned with in the last two Amendments and what we are concerned with in this one is to fill in that gap. The arguments for and against filling it in with the word "life" have been canvassed exhaustively and repeatedly over many weeks and months and, recently, over many days. I do not believe that I could assist the House one little bit by attempting to state again the arguments in favour or to deploy again the arguments against.
The House has already disposed of every other suggested alternative, so, if the House were to reject this Amendment to fill in the gap with the word "life", we should then be left with an Act of Parliament which imprisoned nobody at all for any period whatever. Since we have exhausted all the other alternatives which have been proposed, it seems that the House has no remaining alternative but to accept my Amendment. Until the word "life" is put back into the Clause, there is nothing to which the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) can attach the gloss which he wishes to attach.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
I should like to add to what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) has said the fact that I entirely support his Amendment, without which—as he has rightly pointed out—my Amendment would be meaningless. I hope that, as I am prepared to support his Amendment, he may be prepared to support mine.
My Amendment introduces a new principle which, for various incidental reasons, has not previously been discussed at any stage of the Bill. I should like to emphasise the fact that the Amendment is not a last-minute afterthought. It was on the Notice Paper at a much earlier stage of the Bill, but it fell by mischance, because of the lacuna created in Committee.
My Amendment offers the House—and this is why I hope the sponsors of the Bill will accept it—the last opportunity seriously to consider the question of an 382 alternative deterrent penalty in place of the capital sentence. It differs from all those which have previously been put forward and discussed on this point in Clause 1 in that it makes no reference to the courts. That is deliberate and I entirely accept the arguments which were adduced by the Home Secretary in rebuttal of previous Amendments which sought to leave the determination of sentences in one way or another to the courts.
My Amendment also differs from previous Amendments in that this is, I think, the first Amendment to Clause 1 that has been put down by an hon. Member on this side of the House who supported the Bill on Second Reading. I have done so because I believe that there is a special onus on the supporters of the Bill to seek to provide a new and adequate deterrent to murder in place of the sentence which the Bill seeks to abolish.
I believe that deterrence is indeed the crux of the whole matter and that it has been in danger in earlier stages of being obscured by emotional arguments of particular cases from the past or imaginary cases in the future. We should not be arguing that one side supports a barbarous and obscene practice or that the other side is inclined to show more sympathy for the killer than the victim. These arguments are by the way. We should be arguing about the best way to protect society in future from murder. We must, therefore, seek a new and effective deterrent, which is what the sponsors of the Bill have not yet done but which the Amendment seeks to do.
My Amendment rests on a quite simple assumption about deterrence. Deterrence does not lie in the threat of what we will do to the potential transgressor if he commits the transgression defined. Still less does deterrence lie in the execution of that threat when he has committed the transgression, because obviously a threat which must be executed has failed to deter. Deterrence lies in a presumption in the mind of the potential criminal—and it does not matter, for the purpose of the argument or the effectiveness of the deterrent, whether or not that presumption is correct. It is the existence of the presumption in the mind of the potential criminal that is crucial and decisive.
I therefore seek in the Amendment to establish in the mind of a potential 383 murderer that if he commits a murder he is unlikely ever to be a free man again. I emphasise, lest I be accused of inhumanity, that the Amendment does not exclude the possibility that a convicted murderer may be released one day. It merely seeks to establish a strong presumption to the contrary in his mind. I repeat; it is the presumption in his mind that counts and the presumption alone in creating deterrence.
I seek to establish this presumption in a very simple way. No doubt the Home Secretary will tell me, with the wisdom and experience of the Parliamentary draftsmen behind him, that I have failed in my intention. That is a common experience of back benchers in drafting Amendments. However, it seemed to me that the intention must be put in an extremely simple form of words if it is to be embodied in a Statute. Otherwise the essential presumption will fail to be established in the often rather crude minds of those whom we are principally concerned to deter.
I have, therefore, stated in the Amendment that a life sentence shall be presumed to mean literally a life sentence—just as death by hanging in the past meant death by hanging. I have said it with the same extremely limited qualification: namely, the possibility of reprieve by the exercise of the Prerogative of mercy on the advice of the Home Secretary. Naturally, in practice, the Prerogative would normally be exercised under my Amendment, if it were exercised at all, not immediately, as it is in the case of capital punishment today, but only after an elapse of time.
I hope that the Home Secretary will not say that the words of my Amendment make no difference to the existing law. I consulted a former Law Officer on this point before tabling the Amendment and, although he was at first disposed to argue that this made no difference to the existing law, he later conceded that it did. The words of the Amendment are intended to make the Home Secretary's decision to release a convicted murderer a much more difficult decision to take—not an impossible decision, but a much more difficult one—because this is essentially 384 the kind of deterrence which I am seeking to create.
The words will make the decision more difficult by taking away the existing power to release a convicted man on licence and compelling the Home Secretary, if he releases a convicted murderer at all, to do so absolutely and finally—therefore, to do so only after the very elaborate, anxious and soul-searching process of the Prerogative.
The difference between my Amendment and the existing law is that a criminal released on licence can be recalled, whereas a criminal recalled under the Prerogative could not, and, therefore, the Home Secretary would be bound to think more than twice before releasing a convicted murderer, especially in very touch cases. The Amendment will, as I say, decrease the probability of release and increase the potential murderer's fear that he will never be a free man again. Therein lies the proposed deterrent effect which, I hope, is obvious in the words of the Amendment.
There is a great difficulty in almost all arguments on this matter. It is that one cannot prove any case by concrete instances or statistics. Statistics can tell us nothing about the effectiveness of any particular deterrent, because statistics are available only for cases where the deterrent has failed. There are no statistics for the occasions when a deterrent has succeeded.
I believe that, in connection with the Amendment, one crucial case can be quoted to show where it might and, I suggest, almost certainly would, have prevented at least one murder from taking place. I use this case as an illustration and not as part of my substantive reason. The case occurred last year, and any hon. Members interested can find the details accurately reported in the Observer of 15th March, 1964. It was the only case of a man who was ever convicted and reprieved for a second capital murder after having been convicted and reprieved for an earlier murder. After the first murder and the first reprieve, and after some years in prison, this man was released on licence under Section 27 of the 1952 Act, making use of the power I seek to eliminate.
The man was subsequently brought to court again after attacking his wife. He 385 was convicted, on pleading guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm. The judge then, after some hesitation, instead of sending the man to prison, put him on probation. This may seem a surprising decision for a judge to have taken, but once the court had so decided it became, in my submission, morally impossible for my right hon. Friend who was then Home Secretary to revoke the licence and recall the man to prison. The man, having been left at liberty by the court, subsequently committed a second murder, for which he was again convicted, again sentenced to death, and again reprieved.
My reason for quoting the case is that under my Amendment the second murder would probably never have happened, as the Home Secretary would have had no power to release this man on licence, subject to recall, but only to release him under the Prerogative, and since there was obviously some element of risk in releasing him at all, and since that risk would have been very much greater had my Amendment then formed part of the law, it seems to me extremely unlikely that the risk would have been taken. I suggest that by virtue of the form of words I propose, the House is able to find the only way in which that particular second murder, or any murder comparable to it, could have been prevented without hanging the criminal after the first murder.
To generalise the matter, I wish to make it much more difficult for the Home Secretary to release a murderer, though not wholly impossible, and I wish this fact of the increased difficulty to be established in the mind of the potential murderer by simple words written into the Statute. These words would put life sentences on all fours with existing capital sentences, subject to the same conditions, the same qualifications, and the same safeguards. The only difference would be that the exercise of the Prerogative, if exercised at all, would not necessarily be immediate—though, of course, it might be immediate in exceptional and compassionate cases, when one assumes that it would be immediate.
I put this Amendment forward because, although I agree with the sponsors of the Bill in hoping that we shall abolish capital punishment, I part company with them by agreeing with many of 386 my hon. Friends in believing that it is not ridiculous or perverse to argue that there can be such a thing as a deterrent to murder. It is easy to quote cases, and many of them, in which the deterrent has failed, and in which probably any deterrent would fail, but it is also possible to believe that there may be some cases, however few, in which it has succeeded, and, however few they may be, it is those cases that are crucial, and it is those cases to which we should address ourselves.
I accept it as demonstrated that capital punishment has failed again and again and again as a deterrent. I agree in finding it repulsive as a deterrent. But it does not follow that the prospect of a life sentence that is more likely than not to be a real life sentence would also fail as a deterrent. Indeed, if it is true, as it is often argued, that to incarcerate a man for the rest of his natural life is a more terrible punishment than death—not an argument I support, but one frequently advanced—a life sentence would to that extent be a more powerful deterrent than capital punishment. I do not go as far as to claim that, but I consider that the onus rests on the abolitionists, of whom in the Second Reading debate I was one, to face the problem of deterrence. It is because the sponsors have failed to do that in the past that I beg to move this Amendment.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)
The hon. Member cannot at the present moment move his Amendment. We are only discussing the Amendments together. He will have an opportunity later of doing so.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)
I regret that I cannot support the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse). I want to speak against Amendment No. 6, Clause 1, moved by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman). We have heard hon. and learned Members on both sides of the House deploying, with their usual skill which makes it a pleasure to listen, all the arguments for and against the various ways in which they existing hole in the Bill should be plugged. We must ask ourselves: What do the ordinary people think about it? The ordinary people think that life imprisonment 387 should mean imprisonment for life, and nothing else whatsoever. All our constituents, when we meet them next weekend, will expect us to explain that when we say in a Bill "life imprisonment". we mean that the criminal shall be imprisoned for the duration of his natural life.
On the other hand, perhaps the one point upon which retentionists and abolitionists alike agree is that genuine imprisonment for the duration of a man's life is not an appropriate sentence in all cases of murder. Therefore, I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne that we are now in a position where a life sentence is the only appropriate way of filling the hole in the Bill. He is quite wrong in saying that we have no alternative in this matter.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
When I said that it was the only alternative I meant that it was the only alternative left undisposed of on the Notice Paper. If there is another one will the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us what it is?
Yes, I will with pleasure. I think the alternative is to send the Bill to another place with the existing hole in it because I would hope that wiser counsels would prevail in another place by this time.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I do not think I have much to add to what has been said in answer to the arguments addressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) because I should have thought that, subject to his suggestion just made, we had adequately explored them.
What I should like to do is to address some observations to the House in answer to the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse). He spoke cogently and with obvious feeling, and he had quite obviously given a great deal of thought to this matter. His thought was backed by his experience as a Minister. I hope the House will not accept his Amendment, and I shall try to say why. It is perfectly true that his Amendment might have the effect of making less likely, at any rate for a period of time in the earlier part of a life sentence, that the person sentenced to life 388 imprisonment would be released. That may or may not be the case; it depends on the circumstances.
I think the drafting of the Amendment is adequate to achieve the purpose which the hon. Member has in mind. The purpose the hon. Member has in mind, as he explained very clearly, is that there should be much less prospect, and that it should be apparent to the intending killer, that he would be released from a life sentence than if his prospects depended on the exercise of the discretion under Section 27 of the 1952 Act. First, the hon. Member supported his argument on the basis that there must be an adequate deterrent. I have previously said that, at any rate in the view which I and I think a number of hon. Members hold, the real deterrent is the certainty of conviction. That, I think, is a more effective deterrent than any other. If a person knew for certain that in the event of his committing a serious crime he would serve at least nine years in prison—if he thought that was a near certainty—it would be the most powerful deterrent one could think of.
Quite apart from that, in previous debates I have endeavoured to make it plain on the score of deterrence, and I repeat it, that so long as I hold my office—and I think I can speak for my predecessors and those likely to come after me—we would keep murderers in prison as long as necessary to protect society, however long that means and however reluctant we might personally feel if faced with the necessity of keeping any human being incarcerated for a great number of years. The nine year sentence, which has become so much spoken about in popular parlance on these matters, is a bit of a fiction. The average is not nine years. As I have said on previous occasions, the nine years, experience shows, is round about the time when one may begin to get symptoms to show that the person in prison is beginning to break down. Therefore, in practice a number of persons have been released after nine years in prison.
They are generally people who were sentenced to death before the 1957 Act and in whose case ex hypothesi there was some ground for a merciful view which led to their being reprieved after having been sentenced to death. Those are the people who, broadly speaking, 389 have been let out after nine years. It does not follow that hereafter murderers with no mitigating circumstances in their cases who are sentenced to life imprisonment may expect to be let out after nine years. They may have to serve considerably longer. I take the view that a man should not be kept in prison any longer than is necessary for protecting society, but they may have to serve for longer.
I feel, therefore, that my successors would agree that in rare cases—I hope to heaven they may be few and far between—it may be necessary even to keep a person in prison for life. It is a terrible thing to decide for any living soul that one may do that to him—extinguish all hope in him. I know it is a thing which anyone would do with the utmost reluctance and distaste. On the score of deterrence, if it is necessary to keep a person in prison for a long number of years to protect society, I hope it will be well known and understood that he will be kept in prison for that time.
That is my answer to the hon. Member for Oxford on the score of deterrence. First let us try, as I am trying to the best of my ability, to increase the likelihood of discovery and apprehension and conviction. Second, let it be clearly understood that the interest and safety of the community come first. It is only subject to that that one looks for grounds for mercy in deciding whether and when one will let a person out under Section 27 of the 1952 Act.
The hon. Gentleman said that he had been advised that the effect of the Amendment, substituting the prerogative of mercy for the exercise of discretion under Section 27, would indeed be that it would be much less likely that a prisoner would be released from prison. As I have said, in the earlier stages possibly that would be so. Home Secretaries according to precedent recommend the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy only rarely. It has been exercised in the case of death sentences, as I have said, when there are mitigating circumstances, or possibly some ground of doubt, or some similar reason. I accept it from the hon. Gentleman that the Royal Prerogative of Mercy is only rarely recommended, and then on very strong grounds.
I ask the House to suppose that a Section 27 discretion were not available. Let 390 us suppose that Section 27 of the 1952 Act had never been passed and that a Home Secretary was confronted with the case of a man who had been in prison for 11 years. Let us assume that it was made plain by the reports on that man that he had reached breaking point, that he was likely to break down if he were kept in any longer, that he would be driven out of his mind if he were kept in any longer. If it was not perfectly apparent that it was obsolutely necessary in the interests of society that the man should be kept in any longer, I should have thought that few Home Secretaries in those circumstances would hesitate to take the decision of recommending to the Sovereign that the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy would be appropriate.
It seems to me to be a serious defect in the hon. Gentleman's proposal that the effect of the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy is that the man goes free once and for all. There is no power to recall him. The power to let him out on licence which is given by Section 27 of the 1952 Act is radically different from the jurisdiction to recommend to the Sovereign the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. If the man is let out under Section 27, as has been said many times in our debates on the Bill, he can be recalled. If he shows symptoms which give rise to a suspicion that he is still a danger to society, he can be recalled. Prisoners released under Section 27 have on a number of occasions been recalled when their conduct in freedom gives rise to some anxiety as to whether they can properly be left at large.
I should have thought that it was certainly not in the interests of the community that that power should be forgone. If a man has committed a murder and deliberately taken the life of a fellow human being—I repeat that murder is still the most terrible crime in the calendar—great care must be taken before deciding that he can be set at large again. It is essential in the interests of society that the Home Secretary who sets him at large should retain the power to recall him. If the man shows by his behaviour—by truculence, by refusal to comply with conditions imposed upon him, by conduct which may indicate that he still has violent, ungovernable tendencies—that he is possibly still a danger to society there 391 must in the interests of society be a power to recall him to prison.
If the Amendment of the hon. Member for Oxford were accepted—the hon. Gentleman indicated that this was part of the argument he advanced—that power would go. I earnestly put it to the House that that would not be in the public interest. Therefore, I say in a few words in answer to the hon. Gentleman's Amendment that the fatal defect in his proposal is that, whatever other result his Amendment would have, it would take away the power to recall on licence. I submit that that power must be kept, in the interests of society, for the purpose of securing society against the possible recurrence of violent tendencies, temper or rage, so that the hand of the Home Secretary can, if necessary, be put on the person he has set at large and that person can be brought back to prison if the safety of society requires it.
For these reasons, I hope the House will think that, although the hon. Gentleman made a powerful case and has obviously devoted a great deal of thought to this matter, his proposal ought not, in the interests of society, to be accepted.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
I find myself unable to support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) because I feel most strongly that to make the court automatically sentence every convicted murderer to a sentence of imprisonment for life would be as useless and idle a form of words as the form of words which the court up to the present has felt bound to use and which everyone, including the prisoner, has known was virtually meaningless.
I believe that in effect it would bring the court into contempt in the view of the public. It would mean that each and every murderer, regardless of the degree of criminality and the degree of offence—because there are degrees of the offence of murder—would all automatically receive in the court a sentence with the same form of words, whether it was one of those technical murders so well described by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) or whether it was a murder of the most horrific nature which would shock the conscience.
392 For these murderers, so very different in quality, having committed crimes so different in criminality, to be sentenced with a parrot formula of words would simply pass the duty of imposing the sentence in effect to the Home Secretary. This would be most unfortunate. It would have absolutely no deterrent effect at all. Nobody knows what a life sentence means. Since this Bill has been before the House we have had questions on the subject. We know that murderers—I do not say it was wrong—convicted to life sentence have been released after as little as eight months. We know others have been detained for as long as nine years and occasionally more. The Home Secretary was right in saying that the average was not nine years. He did not say what it was. I think the truth is that it is substantially less than nine years. However, perhaps that does not matter.
The point is that a murderer sentenced to life imprisonment goes downstairs from the dock without the slightest idea how long he is going to be incarcerated, how long it will take him to pay his debt to society. He has no opportunity of appealing against the length of a determinate sentence which the court might otherwise have imposed. As has been properly pointed out, in the case of a murderer defended on a defence certificate, there would be no possibility of a plea in mitigation being made because it would be wholly inappropriate if only one sentence is available. It would be a waste of public money and of the time of the court. Therefore, a great number of points in favour of the prisoner would not be brought out in public at the time of the trial, and I believe that every prisoner is entitled to this. If Amendment No. 6 is accepted I do not see how he will have this simple act of justice.
But the matter goes further than that, because I believe that the sentence imposed by the court and the sentence as sustained by the convicted criminal should depend not only on the personality of the criminal, not only on what may be his or her breaking point. It should reflect in some degree the extent of his or her crime. Murderers vary, and those of us who have had to defend murderers and murderesses know how much they vary in what I describe as quality of criminality.
393 8.45 p.m.
It seems to me to be absolutely inappropriate that a person who has committed a murder so shocking as to horrify the public should be shuffled off down to the cells with the same idle formula as the court, if the Amendment were passed, would be forced to employ on someone who had committed what was only a technical murder and who was the person for whom everybody in the court who new the facts had the utmost sympathy.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne is absolutely right that we have got into a position here where we can do nothing about this, but I hope that another place will see that this is put right. I believe that this life sentence has absolutely no element of deterrent in it at all for the particular type of person who has been deterred up to the present by the situation which we have had up to now. This is a fact. I refer to the criminal. In this country criminals do not often commit murder whereas, in other countries unfortunately they often do and have done regularly. Some of us think that this is because of the deterrent effect in this country of the penalty under the 1957 Act, which will no longer apply if this Bill becomes law.
I do not think that a life sentence in the form which we have heard about will have any deterrent effect on these people in the future. Where we have had gang trouble in London and criminals have used firearms it has been repeatedly reported in the papers that they have been careful to shoot each other below the knee where it causes the maximum pain and inconvenience but the least possible danger to life. This has been the position up to now and I should like to think that it will continue, but I believe that it has existed only because of the real deterrent which we have had up to the present. I do not believe in a life sentence where people know that if they are fortunate in the experts or psychologists or whoever advises the Home Secretary taking the view that they are near breaking point they will be released at an early stage and perhaps only after a relatively short time.
The Home Secretary has assured us, and we entirely accept his word, that 394 in his view people will be kept in prison as long as is necessary. But how can anyone be sure how long is necessary? This is the whole difficulty. As many books testify, many prisoners of war succeeded in completely deceiving their captors, the enemy, into being allowed back to this country in the belief that they had become human wrecks, and they were back fighting in three months. This has happened many times.
I was in court, though I was not involved in the case, during the trial of the infamous murderer, Haigh, which many of us remember. One of the leading psychologists in this country was persuaded and gave evidence that his crimes were not crimes for which he was wholly responsible and there were many stories, which I will not repeat, of hallucinations, imagination and dreams. This psychologist, a man of the highest possible professional standing, was asked which of the crimes that Haigh had committed was a crime from which he had not gained financially. He could not answer at all and that was the end of that expert under cross-examination.
But an expert who advises the Home Secretary is not cross-examined. This happens behind closed doors. I this Amendment becomes law the most important and crucial part of the trial, the real vital moment when the length of sentence is decided, will not take place in the court. It will take place somewhere, who knows where, at some time, who knows when, and some expert, who knows who, will give an opinion to the Home Secretary which he will feel bound to accept, and on that the murderer will be released.
Here I support my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse). His wording, "a sentence of indefinite duration", would help to stiffen the expression "life sentence" which means nothing to the criminal who really knows. It may mean something to the public, who may be misled or misunderstand what it means, but the criminal element knows exactly what "life sentence" means—a toss-up. I am sure that the wording, "a sentence of indefinite duration", would be of help, and, with great respect, I do not consider that the Home Secretary's objection to it is altogether well founded.
395 The procedure of release on licence is not nearly so valuable in the case of a murderer as it is in the case of a thief or a person engaged in regular criminal practices. Fortunately, there are not many people who regularly commit murder—not yet, anyway. The right hon. and learned Gentleman pays great regard to the power of recall. How many released murderers have been recalled? One does not often hear this mentioned. I wonder how many have been recalled. If this power is not often used, the right to recall is clearly less important than we had been led to believe.
I feel strongly that if the only penalty for a convicted murderer in the future is to be that which is covered by the phrase "imprisonment for life", which has become idle and meaningless, it will wholly fail to carry out the intentions stated in the Title of the Billto make further provision for … punishmentand it will be wholly inadequate as a deterrent. In addition, it will be a most unfortunate and undesirable form of words to force the court to use in every case regardless of the circumstances.
§ Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip-Northwood)
My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) said—these were his words—that capital punishment has failed again and again as a deterrent. I entirely agree. But has my hon. Friend considered the other aspect of the matter, that, without anyone knowing, capital punishment has succeeded again and again as a deterrent? One does not know how many people have been killed since this Bill was brought before the House of Commons because the deterrent has been removed. That is a statistic which is not available to the House. I have read or know of certain cases which lead one to think that if the Bill had not been introduced quite a number of people would still be alive in England today. That is the responsibility which the promoter of the Bill and those who support him carry on their shoulders tonight.
§ Mr. Crowder
The hon. Gentleman says, "Rubbish". He might have a little 396 more regard for human life. He and those who support him in the House have paid a lot of regard to financial measures over the past month, but apparently when the House turns to discuss human life everything has to be cut short with words like "rubbish". That is typical of the attitude of some hon. Members who support the Bill.
I come now to the word "life". What we are being asked to do is to insert into the Bill a word which means precisely nothing. It does not mean what it says, which is, in effect, natural life. The average member of the public, when he hears that a man has been sentenced to life imprisonment, imagines, prima facie, that that man having committed the dreadful crime of murder is to remain in prison until he dies. We now know that it means nothing of the sort.
It is thought in the Press and in the country that life, on an average, means something like nine or ten years, and, before we come to vote on the matter, I hope we shall have the advantage of hearing what the Home Secretary has to say. I ask him this question because I have no doubt he has gone into the figures most carefully. What is the average term served by a man convicted of murder?
One appreciates that in the main, on that basis, one is dealing with people who have been reprieved, and I suppose those who are sentenced to life imprisonment today, apart from the very bad cases, will fall into that category. I remember many years ago when I was first called to the Bar that I defended a quiet, unassuming little man at London Sessions. He had drunk too much and kicked in a plate-glass window. I told him that he had no option and must plead guilty. He said, "Yes, of course I will." I asked him if he had any previous convictions, because they were bound to know about them, and he said, "No. Nothing of that sort at all." I asked him if he was quite sure, and then he said, "Well, there was one." It turned out to be for murder, and he had been reprieved. I noticed he had served nine years. In the conversation I had with him, quite obviously he should only have served about two or three, if that; one does not know the circumstances of his offence.
397 I know the Home Secretary will correct me if I am wrong, but the view is generally held in the legal profession that if a man, previous to the Bills which have been before the House in recent years, was sentenced to death and then reprieved, provided there were no extenuating circumstances one way or the other, generally speaking he usually served a sentence of something in the region of nine years, and it could run to 12 years. The reason was not because the Home Secretary was being in any way merciful in connection with an offence, and not that he was looking at the mitigating circumstances which surrounded the particular offence of murder itself—and, of course, cases of murder vary in degree quite enormously—but on the basis that if a perfectly normal person is kept within the precincts of a prison for more than nine or ten years he becomes utterly useless to society thereafter.
So, when we come to this word "life" it is only right that before the House puts a word of this importance into the Bill it should know exactly what it means. I think the Home Secretary should first of all tell us whether it is right that, so far as reprieved prisoners were concerned, generally speaking nine years was the average term usually served, only because they would be useless to society afterwards if they were kept in any longer. Secondly—and this is most important—the Home Secretary should tell us what "life" is going to mean in future.
In the old days when people were sentenced to death one of the first duties of a High Court judge, having passed that sentence, was to write a letter to the Home Secretary describing his views of the case and every detail he could bring to bear upon it in connection with the particular surrounding circumstances of that case. I remember that when I was marshal to a judge about 20 years ago it was one of the first things he had to sit down and do.
What is going to happen in the future? My right hon. and learned Friend used the current expression, "life", and it means nothing. A man who is sentenced to life does not have the advantage of people being able to plead for him before the court and call evidence in mitigation.
398 9.0 p.m.
I should like to know whether that is to be a practice of the courts in the future. Very often, once a man has been convicted of something he will completely change his tune and line of action. He can, in those circumstances, tell his solicitor and counsel mitigating features of the case, which can be of quite enormous importance. Is it not right that if that be the case those matters after conviction and sentence should be put before the court, and put before the court in the strongest terms, and, if need be, evidence called in support of them?
I now ask the Home Secretary: when in due course he comes to consider how long "life" is to be, will he have in his hands a memorandum and report from the trial judge as to what his views are on the case? That may raise a rather important question. Again I ask the Home Secretary: how soon does he consider how long to keep a man in prison? Does he do it immediately the man is given this meaningless sentence of life imprisonment? Does he wait a matter of months, or does he wait a matter of years? In view of this word, which is of such importance, those are questions to which the House ought to know the answer before we dream of passing the Amendment.
Equally, how soon do the inquiries begin? Do the Home Secretary's officials, immediately a man has been sentenced to life imprisonment, go and see his solicitors? Do they have the advantage of the advice of counsel who appeared for him at the trial? Time and time again there must be within the knowledge of counsel and solicitors mitigating factors, surrounding circumstances, of the greatest possible assistance and importance to the man. Finally, I ask the Home Secretary: will he in these circumstances ask the trial judge to send him the memorandum which used to be sent in the days when people were sentenced to death?
If the Home Secretary can satisfy me and my right hon. and hon. Friends that if the Bill ever becomes law the judge will have the opportunity of hearing counsel and evidence, if need be, in mitigation, and after that the transcript of what is said in court will be forwarded to the Home Secretary, together with the views of the judge, on the basis of his experience, about 399 the case, having actually seen the defendant, possibly in the witness box under cross-examination, and having had much closer insight, having been there and seen the man, who is a mere name to the Home Secretary in the flesh standing his trial? Can we have an undertaking that in future if "life" is put into the Bill that is the sort of procedure that will be adopted?
Here I join with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson). Is it not right that once a man has been convicted by a jury of murder he should have every possible chance? It is, of course, no longer open to me, owing to the Rules of Procedure of the House, in any way to discuss the last Amendment. It was cut short by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) who, with other hon. Members, presumably wants to get the Bill through as quickly as he can without any further ado. I hope I do not do the hon. and learned Gentleman any injustice, and I hope he will forgive me if I take a little time over this.
It seems to me that a man should be given every opportunity. There is precious little difference nowadays between murder and grievous bodily harm. A man who causes another grievous bodily harm with intent and death results is, in law, guilty of murder. Murder statistics in modern times become nonsensical. The prison doctor at Brixton told me the other day, "Figures do not mean a thing. With the introduction of penicillin the number of people who have been victims of grievous bodily harm with intent and who have been saved from death is enormous."
Judges are allowed to try and to consider the most terrible cases of grievous bodily harm. In some cases another quarter of an inch of a knife would have entailed murder, while others have been saved by a modern drug like penicillin. It is that which is to make all the difference as to whether or not the judge should be allowed to consider what sentence he is to pass. The House has decided on that in a matter of moments. But the more we discuss the word "life" and what it is to mean in this context the better. Tomorrow, the British public will want to know what is meant by "life", exactly what it entails and precisely what the procedure is to be.
400 After all, to people who can go out and commit murder and indulge in crimes of violence the word does not mean a thing. Until this wretched Bill found its way to the House the matter was in a wonderful state, because such persons did not understand the Homicide Act. One of their first questions on arrest was, "I have killed this man. Is it capital or not?" They never quite knew, and that meant that the deterrent was always still there. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) has done a grave disservice to the country by removing it. He will forgive me for feeling strongly about it, for I know he feels strongly too. But perhaps he does not deal as much with the criminal classes these days as I do.
The Home Secretary said—and he will correct me if I am wrong—that nobody will be released without the greatest care and scrutiny as to whether or not it is safe to the public to do so. One wants to know precisely what that care and scrutiny will be, what it will entail and who is to be responsible for advising the Home Secretary. Clearly, if a man has committed murder, the Home Secretary has to be extremely careful, once the Bill is passed, because if the man commits another there will be no question of his being hanged for that second murder.
Thus, the responsibility placed on the shoulders of the Home Secretary is enormous. I would say that it is almost too great because he dare not take a risk of any sort and that will result in the most terrible cruelty and unfairness to many people who might otherwise have been released. But no one can blame the Home Secretary upon whom this responsibility is now being placed for taking a decision on these lines.
Supposing the right hon. and learned Gentleman, having gone into a case most carefully—as I know that he will—decides to release a man after four or five years. Supposing that man, although he has been scrutinised by every doctor concerned, goes beserk again and commits another murder. Just think what effect that will have in the country and in the House. These are the sort of considerations which will apply to every Home Secretary from either side of the House in future.
401 Hon. Members who know the Civil Service and Government Departments should know that very well. [Interruption.] There is no need for the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne to be offensive. If he wants to interrupt, he should have the courage to get up and do so. He may not like what I am saying, but he may find my arguments a little difficult to answer. The fact is—and he knows it as well as I do—that, although he may not wish it, in the end the Bill will be inhuman and inhumane, because it will mean that for the sake of safety many prisoners who would be otherwise let out after having committed murder literally on the spur of the moment without thinking will always be regarded as a potential danger. No deterrent is to be left, because there is to be no hanging for second murder. A sensible Department like the Home Office and any Home Secretary will say, "We dare not take a risk and we must keep him inside."
I do not know how many hon. Members had the opportunity to visit prisons. There is nothing more ghastly or depressing than for a man who has committed murder or caused grievous bodily harm when he has lost his temper, perhaps when he was drunk and his girl friend had annoyed him, to spend year after year in these terrible, ghastly, lowering conditions, and yet the unfortunate Home Secretary will not dare to let him out.
§ It is one of the cruellest things which could be imposed on any man, particularly for a crime like murder which is often committed on the spur of the moment. It is my experience that very few men who get up in the morning to shave know that they will commit murder that evening, and yet year after year such men will have to remain in Brixton, or one of the other prisons.
§ As we are asked to include this word "life", we have the right to know what it means and to ask the Home Secretary to tell us in the greatest possible detail what in practice a life sentence is to mean to a prisoner sentenced for murder. What assistance is he to have from his legal advisers and the court? Will they be allowed to plead in mitigation for him in open court? When is the sentence first to be reviewed by the Home Secretary himself? Who is to advise the Home Secretary on whether a man is safe to be let out having been given a life sentence, a sentence which at the moment is utterly meaningless?
§ I am sorry to have detained the House for so long, but I feel strongly about this subject and I am obliged for the attention which I have received.
§ Question put, That "life" be there inserted in the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 207, Noes 86.403
|Division No. 253.]||AYES||[9.13 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Carmichael, Neil||Foley, Maurice|
|Albu, Austen||Chapman, Donald||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Chataway, Christopher||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Coleman, Donald||Ford, Ben|
|Alldritt, Walter||Conlan, Bernard||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)|
|Allen, Schofield (Crewe)||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Ginsburg, David|
|Atkinson, Norman||Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Gregory, Arnold|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Dalkeith, Earl of||Grey, Charles|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Dalyell, Tam||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)|
|Beaney, Alan||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)|
|Bell, Ronald||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hale, Leslie|
|Bence, Cyril||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Bessell, Peter||Delargy, Hugh||Hannan, William|
|Binns, John||Dell, Edmund||Harper, Joseph|
|Bishop, E. S.||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Blackburn, F.||Dodds, Norman||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Driberg, Tom||Hayman, F. H.|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S. W.)||Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||Hazell, Bert|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Dunn, James A.||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||English, Michael||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Ennals, David||Holman, Percy|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Ensor, David||Hooson, H. E.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Hornby, Richard|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Fernyhough, E.||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Floud, Bernard||Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington)|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Monslow, Walter||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Howie, W.||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Hoy, James||Murray, Albert||Small, William|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Newens, Stan||Snow, Julian|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Norwood, Christopher||Stainton, Keith|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Oakes, Gordon||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Jackson, Colin||Ogden, Eric||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||O'Malley, Brian||Stones, William|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)||Swain, Thomas|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Orbach, Maurice||Swingler, Stephen|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Orme, Stanley||Taverne, Dick|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Oswald, Thomas||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Paget, R. T.||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Parker, John||Tinn, James|
|Lawson, George||Parkin, B. T.||Tuck, Raphael|
|Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Pavitt, Laurence||Urwin, T. W.|
|Loughlin, Charles||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Lubbock, Eric||Pentland, Norman||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|McBride, Neil||Perry, Ernest G.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|McCann, J.||Probert, Arthur||Wallace, George|
|MacColl, James||Randall, Harry||Watkins, Tudor|
|MacDermot, Niall||Rees, Merlyn||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Mclnnes, James||Reynolds, G. W.||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Whitlock, William|
|Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras. N.)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Manuel, Archie||Rose, Paul B.||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Mason, Roy||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Mathew, Robert||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Maxwell, Robert||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Silkin, John (Deptford)||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Mikardo, Ian||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Millan, Bruce||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Molloy, William||Skeffington, Arthur||Mr. Crawshaw and Dr, Miller.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Glyn, Sir Richard||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Goodhew, Victor||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Percival, Ian|
|Barlow, Sir John||Grieve, Percy||Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth|
|Box, Donald||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Braine, Bernard||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Roots, William|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hawkins, Paul||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Stanley, Hn. Richard|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Stodart, Anthony|
|Cole, Norman||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hordern, Peter||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow. Cathcart)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)||Temple, John M.|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Kilfedder, James A.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Dean, Paul||Kimball, Marcus||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||King, Evelyn (Dorset. S.)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lagden, Godfrey||Wall, Patrick|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Drayson, G. B.||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Eden, Sir John||MacArthur, Ian||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wise, A. R.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.||Mitchell, David||Wylie, N. R.|
|Gammans, Lady||Monro, Hector|
|Gardner, Edward||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Murton, Oscar||Sir R. Thompson and Mr. Mawby.|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
Amendment proposed: In page 1, line 7, after the word "life" last inserted, to insert:
Such a sentence shall be of indefinite duration subject only to the prerogative of mercy"—[Mr. Woodhouse.]
|Division No. 254.]||AYES||[9.23 p.m.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Glyn, Sir Richard||Percival, Ian|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Goodhew, Victor||Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Barlow, Sir John||Grieve, Percy||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Box, Donald||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin|
|Braine, Bernard||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Roots, William|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Stanley, Hn. Richard|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Stodart, Anthony|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Cole, Norman||Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)||Temple, John M.|
|Cooke, Robert||Kilfedder, James A.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Crowder, F. P.||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lagden, Godfrey||Wall, Patrick|
|Dean, Paul||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||MacArthur, Ian||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||May don, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wise, A. R.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Eden, Sir John||Mitchell, David||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Monro, Hector||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wylie, N. R.|
|Gammans, Lady||Murton, Oscar|
|Gardner, Edward||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Sir K. Thompson and Mr. Mawby.|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Abse, Leo||Driberg, Tom||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Albu, Austen||Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Dunn, James A.||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Alldrift, Walter||English, Michael||Jackson, Colin|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Ennals, David||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Ensor, David||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Fernyhough, E.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Beaney, Alan||Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Bell, Ronald||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Bence, Cyril||Floud, Bernard||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Foley, Maurice||Lawson, George|
|Binns, John||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham. N.)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Ford, Ben||Lubbock, Eric|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S. W.)||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||McBride, Neil|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Ginsburg, David||McCann, J.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Gregory, Arnold||MacColl, James|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Grey, Charles||MacDermot, Niall|
|Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Mclnnes, James|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)||Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Hale, Leslie||Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Harming, William (Woolwich, W.)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hannan, William||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Harper, Joseph||Manuel, Archie|
|Carmichael, Neil||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mason, Roy|
|Chapman, Donald||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Maude, Angus|
|Coleman, Donald||Hazell, Bert||Maxwell, Robert|
|Conlan, Bernard||Heffer, Eric S.||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Mikardo, Ian|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Millan, Bruce|
|Dalyell, Tam||Holman, Percy||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hooson, H. E.||Molloy, William|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Monslow, Walter|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington)||Murray, Albert|
|Delargy, Hush||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Newens, Stan|
|Dell, Edmund||Howie, W.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Hoy, James||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn Philip (Derby, S.)|
|Dodds, Norman||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Norwood, Christopher|
§ Question put, That those words there inserted in the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes Noes 196.407
|Oakes, Gordon||Rose, Paul B.||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Ogden, Eric||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Tinn, James|
|O'Malley, Brian||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Orbach, Maurice||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Orme, Stanley||Silkin, John (Deptford)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Oswald, Thomas||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Wallace, George|
|Paget, R. T.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Watkins, Tudor|
|Parker, John||Skeffington, Arthur||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Parkin, B. T.||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Whitlock, William|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Small, William||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Pentland, Norman||Snow, Julian||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Perry, Ernest C.||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Probert, Arthur||Spriggs, Leslie||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Randall, Harry||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Rees, Merlyn||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Reynolds, G. W.||Stones, William||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Rhodes, Geoffrey||Swain, Thomas||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Swingier, Stephen||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras, N.)||Taverne, Dick||Zilliacus, K.|
|Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Thornton, Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Crawshaw and Dr. Miller.|
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I do not propose to detain the House for more than a few minutes because, although the Bill is an important one, I think it will be generally agreed that it has had pretty thorough discussion and examination by the House. I would think that in my time in this House no Bill has received more careful or more detailed—or, I might add, more repeated—scrutiny in every principle and in every detail than this Measure has had in the seven months that have elapsed since the House gave it a Second Reading by more than a two to one majority. In those circumstances, it is not necessary to say a very great deal at this stage, but in view of the importance of the Measure and of the time and attention that the House has given to it, it would be inappropriate were we to part with it without any exordium at all.
I have called the Bill an important Bill. In the course of our debates people have said that it raises great constitutional issues. This I do not believe. I do not believe that a mere Amendment of the penal code, though it might be important, can ever raise a great constitutional issue. But in so far as the abolition of the death penalty from our law could be supposed to raise a constitutional issue of any kind it was raised in 1957 by the Homicide Act, which Parliament then accepted without much opposition and which really made the change in principle that this Bill does no more than complete.
408 There is perhaps one aspect of the Bill that might raise a constitutional principle, and one for which the original sponsors of the Bill were not responsible. It was thought in Committee that even hon. Members who were utterly convinced that the death penalty had ceased to serve any useful purpose in a civilised community still had fears that perhaps they might be mistaken, so the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), who himself voted for the Second Reading and who I feel sure will vote for the Third Reading tonight, proposed a Clause in order to make sure—this is reported; although I did not hear his speech I read it—that the House of Commons should have an opportunity, and not merely the House of Commons but Parliament, of reconsidering the matter at the end of five years. If Parliament at that time thought it was right it would repeal the law that we are now engaged in discussing and re-enact the law that we are now proposing to abolish, and it should be able to do so quickly and easily by a simple Resolution of both Houses of Parliament.
Although I did not share the anxieties or the fears and although I would have preferred to have had an end to this argument which has been going on now in this country for 150 years, nevertheless I saw and do see this point and I have not sought to interfere with the Clause at any subsequent stage. It is now in the Bill and it remains, but I hope the right hon. Member will not mind my saying that he chose what I think a very odd and eccentric way of 409 doing it which is of very dubious constitutionality because under the Clause now in the Bill—and I have not sought to change it—if it happened in five years' time that a Government did want to repeal what we are now doing and to re-enact what we are abolishing they would not need to come to the House of Commons or to the House of Lords at all. All that they would have to do would be to sit back and do nothing and not permit anyone else by not providng time to do anything either.
This seems a very strange doctrine. I may be asked why, then, I did not try to interfere with it? I am assured by those who know much more about the ways of Governments than I suppose I shall ever know that we ought to enact this power by Statute to repeal a law and enact another law without the voice of Parliament at all because it is inconceivable that any Government should use the power which we are thus giving to them. It seems to me a rather odd, as I said before and as I repeat, and a rather eccentric reason for giving a Government a power that it is inconceivable that they would ever use it. However, the right hon. Gentleman has been a member of a Government. I never have. He has been a member of a Government for a long time, and I must be content with his assurance. Therefore, I have not interfered. In any case, the Clause does not interfere with the principle of the Bill. It has nothing to do with keeping the death penalty. It has nothing to do with abolishing the death penalty. It has nothing to do with what sentences are substituted or not substituted. It has nothing to do with what is to be done with prisoners. So it is not a matter with which I, as the sponsor of the Bill, am concerned.
We have a second Chamber. Some wish we had not. Some are glad we have. Everybody, knowing that we have one, recognises that the second Chamber can, if it wishes, perform a useful purpose by revising what we do. It may very well be—I do not know—that this Clause will afford the second Chamber a suitable subject on which to exercise its powers of revision.
I have every respect for the band of Members of the House—I am glad to say a diminishing band, as is shown by the figures in the Divisions today—who have 410 fought so very hard to prevent the change that we are now enacting. They have done it with courage. They have done it with determination. They have done it with industry. They have neglected no opportunity to make their voices heard and to have their way. They have often done it with eloquence. They have always done it with persistence. I have every respect for them for having done so.
But, in effect, what have they been doing? They have been fighting a gallant losing rearguard action against the 150 years' protest that our history has shown in favour of civilising our penal system. If they had their way, we would be back to the old days described by one of the characters in Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra".And so till the end of history murder shall breed murderAlways in the name of right and peaceUntil the gods get tired of blood and create a race that can understand.We have been trying to learn, trying to create that race for the past 150 years. One hundred and fifty years ago there were between 200 and 300 crimes in this country, some of them very trivial crimes, which were capital crimes. A child of nine was hanged in public for stealing a paint box worth 2d. People were hanged for damaging Westminster Bridge, for cutting down trees on Sundays, for associating with gypsies. I wonder where my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) is, who is the spokesman for gypsies in this House.
This is what we did. Sir Samuel Romilly fought ineffectively year after year after year and never gave up. The fight that he fought in that minority was, in my opinion, a nobler and a more civilised fight than that which has been put up against the Bill during the last few months.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not want to keep the House long. I am only expressing a point of view. Fifty years after that, 100 years ago, 200 or 300 capital crimes which disgraced our country have been reduced to four. In the 100 years since then, this country has never executed anybody in peacetime except for murder. This was good, real progress—maybe by our standards rapid progress—but 411 slower progress than that made in most other parts of Europe where the death penalty for this kind of crime was abolished in some cases 70, 80 and 100 years ago, and in other cases 30 or 40 years ago. We were slow, but we were gradually catching up. In 1957 we had caught up five-sixths of the way. Since 1957 I suppose the average number of people convicted of capital crimes in this country have been two or three a year. All the excitement, fuss and bother, all the late night sittings, the Committee stages—one upstairs and one downstairs—all the prolonged discussions and repeated arguments—what have they been for? They have been in order that we should go on executing two people a year.
The argument was that we were making a very great and dangerous change if we stopped doing it. I am glad to see that the House of Commons, when it has been left to itself, has never held that opinion. In all the years that I have been here the House of Commons has always voted against the death penalty when it was left to itself and not guided by party Whips in any way.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
If the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) does not give way, the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Silverman
I know of only one occasion when any party or any Government invited the House to deal with this matter with the party Whips on. That was on the Homicide Act, 1957 and it is because the House, under the Whips' guidance, in those days made such a mess of it that we are having to improve it now. On every other occasion, in 1936, 1955 and 1956 the Whips were off. On all the other occasions neither party had any official Whips on. It is true that the sponsors and supporters of this Bill have tried to organise their forces and we have 412 had our own unofficial whips. Of course, we have. This is perfectly proper.
This is perfectly legitimate. No one is complaining of it. The point I am making is not about groups of people organising their own forces by unofficial whips, if one likes to call them that. I am talking about the interference of parties for party purposes in such a way as to prevent Members of Parliament from exercising their honest, independent consciences and judgment on this question. I am proud to think that a British House of Commons during all the time I have been in it, whenever it has had that opportunity without being directed, without any question of party loyalties or anything of that kind, has always come down against the death penalty. Now what we are proposing to do is to get rid of the last remnant of it and I rejoice that I have had some little share in doing it. The thing which we are doing and which we hope to complete is to rid at last this green and pleasant land of the shadow of the gallows.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Sir J. Hobson
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) said almost nothing at all about the Bill. He said a great deal about the eighteenth century, about the nineteenth century, about 1957, and about Whipping, but what about the Bill? He is right in saying that what we are discussing are two executions a year, but we are discussing whether those two executions a year do or do not provide a proper protection for society and law and order. I would ask the House to vote against this Third Reading and to say that this is a Bill which the country as a whole does not want and one which could not have been produced at a more inappropriate time, at a time when violence and crime are increasing daily to the horror of every decent citizen.
It is being introduced at such a time when its effect is to remove one of the principal deterrents and one of the most potent barriers against the dangerous criminals under whom we have to suffer today. One could not imagine a more inappropriate week in which we should have the Third Reading of the Bill, a week in which Wandsworth Prison was sprung by a dangerous gang and some of the most dangerous criminals were released, and a week in which there 413 was another bank robbery—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I remind the House that this is a very serious debate. I hope that hon. Members will behave in a way worthy of the occasion.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie (Caithness and Sutherland)
The right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) has mentioned Wands-worth Prison. Would he therefore have hanged the train robbers instead of committing them to prison?
§ Sir J. Hobson
That is a futile question. They never committed murder, and we are discussing penalties for murder. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why bring them in?"] I am saying that this Bill by its consequences removes a most potent protection, first of all for police officers, secondly for prison warders, thirdly for those who are responsible for effecting lawful arrest, and fourthly for those responsible for preventing rescues from lawful prisons. We are considering the question of the use of guns for the purpose of effecting dangerous crimes or, if necessary, releasing prisoners from prison. We are considering the way in which the criminal classes in this country behave and have not, up to now, carried arms. This is one of the few countries in which, by and large, neither the police officer nor the criminal is armed. Yet it is proposed to remove what I regard as one of the vital protections which have perpetuated this situation.
I have always made clear that I thought that the principle of the 1957 Act was right. I was not in the House at the time, but I have never spoken against it and I consider that the House was right to remove the supreme penalty except for those murders for which its retention was maintained by the 1957 Act. But the fact that the 1957 Act may have been right affords no argument for saying that its principle should be extended to every possible case. I have always thought that the exceptions preserved by the 1957 Act, which are now to be abolished by the Bill were right and correct exceptions. I cannot follow the argument that, because in many cases it may be right not to have the death penalty, it is right in all cases not to have it. This is simply an argument for uniformity and does not 414 begin to approach the question whether the presence of the death penalty in certain cases does or does not preserve the life of those who are particularly at risk and does or does not preserve law and order by the unhappy circumstance that two people a year have to be executed.
The 1957 Act was essentially designed to protect those who had to undertake particularly dangerous service on behalf of the community, police officers, prison warders, those who have to arrest criminals and those who have to keep prisoners in safe custody and prevent their being set at large again. I think it vital, and I am sure that most of the rest of the country thinks it vital, that these protections should be preserved for the public servants upon whom we rely.
Some hon. Members may have noted the statement issued by Scotland Yard after the events at Wandsworth Prison last Friday afternoon. It said:As these men may be armed, members of the public who may encounter them are advised to contact the police at once, without approaching them".The implication of that is that we can sleep sound and warm in our beds while we expect some police officers, on our behalf, to approach and apprehend these men who are thought to be armed and likely to shoot. It is at this stage that the promoter of the Bill and the Home Secretary propose to remove the protections which the law has until now provided.
Can anyone pretend that the presence of the death penalty in such circumstances has no effect whatever upon the conduct of either the fugitive or the pursuer? Anyone who has ever used a firearm or who has been at the receiving end of powder and shot, in peace or war, knows what an impact the thought of capital punishment can have upon those who are minded to carry arms. One has only to state the equation to see what a difference there is.
§ Sir J. Hobson
No; there is little time. On one side, the equation may be stated in this way. The criminal puts it to himself as, "The chance of my liberty or a policeman's life". That is the situation when there is no capital punishment. 415 If there is capital punishment, the criminal's equation is, "The chance of my liberty against a policeman's life or the chance of my life". The difference between those two situations is immense for those who have to enforce the law, for those who have to keep dangerous prisoners in custody and for those who are expected to tackle armed men on behalf of the community. I deeply regret that we are at this stage removing this protection which we have always given.
I realise that many hon. Members are haunted by the picture of the gallows. I have always made plain that I detest the idea of judicial capital punishment, but I am also convinced that murder is a filthy crime, and I am haunted by some of those who have suffered at the hands of murderers.
Above all, since the introduction of the Bill, I am haunted by the history of two ordinary bodies of the Cumberland Police Force, one of whom is now dead, leaving a widow and children, and the other of whom is paralysed for life with a bullet in his spine, all because a petty thief, after this Bill was introduced, took out a gun and decided to use it. No one can tell what impact the introduction of the Bill had on that man.
It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
Ordered, 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, though opposed.—[Mr. Edward Short.]
§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
§ Sir J. Hobson
The question comes back in every case to whether petty thieves and other criminals will in future be more minded to take out their guns and use them than they have been in the past. It comes back, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) said, to whether one believes that the existence of the capital sentence is or is not a deterrent. That is the whole nub of the Bill, and it is the topic that the mover of the Bill and the mover of the Third Reading never mentioned once in the whole course of his speech. Does one believe that the 416 existence of the death penalty for these particular types of crimes is or is not a deterrent?
As I have always said in these debates, it must be largely a matter of judgment and estimation, and I think it is also a matter of common sense and of common experience. Certainly the vast majority of people in the country think that it is a deterrent. Certainly those most concerned, the police forces and prison officers, think it is a deterrent. Certainly I, with a little experience of crime, am convinced in my own mind that it is a deterrent and that these types of murders will increase in future and that, while two people a year may not hang, more people will suffer death than might have been the situation if the Bill was not passed.
The figures support that view, although they are not conclusive. In my absence, the hon. Gentleman for Nelson and Colne in Committee, without notice, delivered an attack upon figures I had included in a letter to The Times. I think it will turn out that my figures were quite accurate and that his attack was wholly unjustified. He did not withdraw it, but never mind about that.
Let us look at the latest figures published in Written Answers to Questions on 17th June of this year. The Home Secretary gave figures of what has been happening since the 1957 Act was passed. The first part of the table shows that since the 1957 Homicide Act, the number of murders per million of the population has steadily increased over the whole period. It has never declined, and it is now at the highest level at which it has ever been. The rate is 26 per cent. higher than in the years before 1957. When one looks at the table which divides up those murders which were capital and always have been capital and those which became non-capital after 1957, one finds that in the three-year period immediately before 1957 and in the immediately preceding three years before today, there has been a very substantial increase in the non-capital murders and that the number of capital murders is almost exactly the same.
For the three years before 1957, there were 67 capital murders, and in the last three years there were 69. That is an increase of 3 per cent., and, substantially, it is the same. For non-capital murders 417 in the three years before 1957 there were 361 such murders. In the last three years there were 488, which is an increase of 35 per cent. over the position that existed before the 1957 Act was passed. If one looks at the figures of non-capital murders where the deterrent has been abolished, one finds that in every single year since 1957 they were higher than they were in any year before 1957, that they were steadily rising over the whole period and that in the last two years they were higher than they have ever been.
§ Sir J. Hobson
I am perfectly well aware that he was found to be unfit to plead because he was shot by the police.
§ Sir J. Hobson
He may have shot himself but the police also shot him. That event was one of the most horrifying that has ever happened. I personally think—it must be a matter of judgment and estimation—that, whatever one says about that case, there may well be more cases in future when thieves go out with guns and, when startled, will be minded to use them. Whether as a result of using them they decide subsequently to take their own life must be a matter of estimation, too.
I do not want to detain the House further because so many of my hon. Friends want to speak. I merely say that I regard the promoter of the Bill as a misguided crusader who is suffering from some self-induced myopia. The principle may have been good in 1957, but the fact that it was a good principle in 1957 for the majority of cases does not mean that that principle must be applied in every case. The exception sometimes does prove the rule and, in my view, the extension of the principle of 1957 to every case is a mistake, and I hope that the House will reject the Bill.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
I shall detain the House only a short while. I want to explain to the 418 House, and to my constituents, too, the standpoint I take, why on Second Reading I abstained and why on Third Reading I am proposing to vote against the Bill. It is usually the reverse that one finds in this House.
When I saw the Bill for the first time I thought it was a bad Bill, for reasons which I shall come to. To start off with, I should like to indicate the background from which I personally speak. In a previous incarnation many years ago, in the course of my duties I had to preside over courts trying homicide cases, and though the circumstances were very different from those in this country, the principles on which that work was founded were the same as one finds here.
I would say in passing that I regret the increase in publicity for murderers in the last few years, the glamorisation of murder, and the way in which death, whether it is in war or through murder, is made out to be clean and painless. If only the people as a whole could see what a terrible thing it is, whether in war or murder, as many of us have seen, I think they would be very much more against it.
The second point that I want to make about the background from which I speak is that I have for 20 years now listened to the voice of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) and listened to the great advocacy which he has brought, in my opinion, in a somewhat misguided way from time to time, to this issue. It was, however, during the five years recently when I was not in this House that I came to the conclusion, particularly after having done a certain amount of work concerned with mental illness, that all who deliberately take life should be regarded in broad terms as mentally ill.
So in principle I came to the conclusion that the time had perhaps been reached for abolition, subject to certain provisos. Though, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) has said, very few individuals have been hanged in the last few years, I still think this is a question of first principle. The three provisos, which have already been argued so much in full during the course of the Committee and Report stages, and which were put so admirably by my right hon. and hon. Friends, have not, unfortunately, 419 been accepted by the sponsors of the Bill, who have not, in my opinion, done what is required to protect society from murderers.
All the arguments have been gone over time and again, and I do not propose to repeat them. But I support in the strongest possible terms what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington said about the police force. I find it strange that the Home Secretary, in the course of his remarks—and I have tried to follow this Bill through Committee—seems to have taken no line for the police force for which he is administratively, in general terms, responsible.
I remember that when the issue of flogging came before the House some years ago it decided to abolish flogging except in the case of attacks on prison officers. I think that it was then generally accepted that had this not been done, we should not have been able to maintain a proper prison service.
I also underline what my right hon. and learned Friend said about the recent jail breaks and the attempts to break out using armed men from outside. Perhaps I may again quote from my personal experience. About 30 years ago, I was required to clear up a disturbed part of the world and managed to collect 5,000 firearms under circumstances of civilian disturbance and, fortunately, only two lives were lost. I would not have been prepared to do it had the police under my command felt that, if they were shot during their duties, the individuals responsible would be punished only in the very vague terms set forth in this Bill.
The second proviso, which has also been argued in full, concerns the question of an alternative sentence. The term "life" is obviously unsatisfactory as defined today. I shall not go over the ground again, for it has been covered so much in the past few months, but I am certain that the review body should consist primarily of judges with doctors and others with lay experience; and that the decisions should not be left to politicians, however distinguished they may be and however full of and charged with mercy.
There have also been certain contradictions in the arguments of hon. Members 420 supporting abolition. They maintain that human life is sacred and that therefore the community must not take life, as it were, in revenge. At the same time, they seem to argue that those who have taken life should not themselves be deprived of any very substantial period of their life, but should be let out and a risk taken in the circumstances which have been described from this side of the House earlier this evening.
This puts a tremendous burden on the Home Secretary of the day, and I think that he will be found more unwilling than in the past to take a risk by letting out some individual convicted of capital murder. I am not as closely in touch with the criminal classes as some hon. Members on both sides of the House, but I understand that the 30-year sentences for the train robbers have shaken the criminal classes—and certainly for treason I feel that few terms of imprisonment could be too long.
But if one accepts that those who kill are mentally ill, as I tend to believe, I also feel that those convicted of capital murder as it stands under the 1957 Act should be kept in more or less permanent detention. If I may finally quote from my own experience, I remember the case of an individual sentenced to life imprisonment. He came out after ten years and it was thought that everything would be all right. However, he was soon back for he did the same thing again. He himself said, "I can never come out again. I cannot be trusted. I cannot ask anyone to trust me outside again."
The third point, which occurred to me when I first saw the Bill, was that it should be subject to review after five years. Now, on the initiative of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), to whom I am grateful, that provision has been inserted in the Bill.
What disturbs me is that there appears to be no acceptance by the sponsors of the Bill of points raised in genuine good faith from this side of the House. In the last twenty years I have noticed that, with notable exceptions, many of the abolitionists are not prepared to give the same credit for sincerity to the retentionists as we give to those who stand for abolition. Therefore, while I accept the very general principle that the day 421 has probably come for abolition, in view of the rigidity of the sponsors of the Bill, I shall go into the Lobby against it tonight.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
I am one of those who have a sincere fear that if the Bill becomes law in its present form it will invite a development which hitherto this country has been spared. It will create what I can describe only as a Chicago situation. Hitherto—and here I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker)—it may sometimes have been true that people who killed have generally been mentally ill—although not always, because in our criminal experience we have had one or two people who have systematically killed for gain, and Haigh, of course, was one.
Anybody who successfully sets out on a career of killing for gain is altogether more dangerous and altogether more antisocial than the mentally ill killers. Hitherto, these killers for gain have been fortunately quite exceptional and, as long as there was a real deterrent, the professional criminal has practically never carried a firearm or other dangerous weapon with the intention of shooting his way out if arrested. We now have two quite new developments. First, we are now on the Third Reading of the Bill, and it may well become law. If it does, the only effective deterrent will cease to exist for professional criminals.
There is a distinct difference of opinion on both sides of the House between those of us whose duty it has been in the past to defend or prosecute and occasionally to try professional criminals and those who have not done so. My own opinion was strongly affected years before the war when at Middlesex Sessions just over the way I defended an Irishman charged with a quite minor offence. As his defending counsel it was my duty to ascertain his previous convictions. He had a list of minor previous convictions in this country, but in his own country of Southern Ireland he had two convictions for shooting policemen, although not killing them, and one for shooting and wounding a member of the militia. He said quite frankly that in those days in Southern Ireland it paid to shoot and in this country it did not. 422 I am afraid that if the Bill becomes law it will pay to shoot in this country and the professional classes will begin to shoot their way out regardless.
This fear is greatly augmented by what happened last week. The Home Secretary says—and we accept that he speaks with perfect sincerity—that he willl not release a convicted murderer as long as that man is a danger, but we have now reached a stage when he is not the only person with power to release from prison and when there is no prison in this country which can hold a dangerous man securely if his equally dangerous confederates are resolved to get him out. It is not only that they have succeeded repeatedly; it is that up to the present they have never failed. In these circumstances, to allow the Bill to become law when the country has no secure prison in which a really dangerous man can be kept longer than his associates decide is an act of irresponsibility, and I believe that those who are associated with it are failing in their duty to their fellow citizens.
A great deal has been said about hanging being barbaric. Perhaps it is. Those of us who saw a little of sudden death in the last war—and hon. Members on both sides of the House saw it—know that death by shooting is neither kind nor unbarbaric. It may be instantaneous, and so may hanging, but it can be a long drawn out and barbaric business. If the Bill becomes law we shall be giving a professional criminal the right to shoot his way, first, out of any attempt to apprehend him and, secondly—if he can get the weapon—out of prison. He has nothing at all to lose, because if he is in prison his mates shoot their way in and shoot his way out, and if they are apprehended in doing that they will merely be put into prison, and then someone else gets them out. To the professional criminal with a sufficient number of professional associates the Bill takes all the deterrent out of murder, from first to last.
In my view, the Bill could create a Chicago situation in this country. We have some successful, desperate criminals—people who have been inhibited from shooting their way out in the past only by the known consequences of doing so. If the Bill becomes law these consequences will be wholly removed. It will 423 not be forgotten that the daring escape of which we have been talking was achieved in daylight last week with the aid of loaded guns. The warders were prevented from following the escaped prisoners over the wall because they were covered with loaded guns, one of which was left in the pantechnicon which was an essential part of the escape apparatus. When they were away from the prison the gang did not need so many guns.
Does the Home Secretary expect warders to face loaded weapons as part of their duty to restrain prisoners from escaping with the aid of armed accomplices? If so, he is being a little unreasonable. We are glad to know that he is taking steps to create a more secure prison. It is said that this will be ready in, perhaps, three years' time. We have learned to appreciate that these estimates are generally optimistic, but even if this prison is ready in three years' time what will happen in those three years? Why is not this Bill held up until an effective security prison exists? What possible deterrent is it to a member of a resolute and cunning gang to tell him that he will be convicted? First, will he be detected? Very few of these successful robbers are detected, even without the advantage of being able to use firearms.
At a time when the conviction rate for these offences is lower than it has ever been we are going to provide that if these people are convicted they are merely to be sentenced to imprisonment in one of the several prisons from which their accomplices can get them out, I do not say overnight, but after a relatively short time, the length of which may depend more on the willingness of the prisoner to pay than upon anything else. We have had a wholesale escape in daylight with the aid of loaded firearms.
For this House to pass this Bill the very next week is a desperate step and one which puts into jeopardy not only the prison officers and police officers whose duty it will be to apprehend these men, if they can be found, but those members of the public who feel it their duty—and it is their duty—to assist the police in this regard. It is very interesting to notice that only a few weeks ago Scotland Yard invited the public to assist them in apprehending violent criminals and asked 424 them "to have a go". It is very significant that, last week, after this escape—this rescue, for that is what it was—from prison in London, the police advised the public not to have a go. They said, "These men are armed with loaded firearms and are dangerous. You should not attempt to restrain them."
This is the position to which we are being brought. The word has gone out to the criminals that it is no longer any danger to shoot a civilian, an honest citizen, or a policeman or a prison officer if it happens to be convenient to do so. This will be the effective position throughout the country if this Bill becomes law. We shall have arrived at a Chicago position and the responsibility will lie heavily not only on the shoulders of the sponsors of this Bill—some of them are present, though there was a moment at an important stage in Committee when none was present and the Committee was in some difficulties because of their absence—
§ Sir Richard Glyn
I will give way in a moment.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) is not here. He made a statement in opening this debate which is very much on a par with a number of his other statements in a way which demonstrates to us his arrogance in his conduct of this Bill. He told us that no one had been executed in peace time except for murder for many years. I wonder if he contends that "Lord Haw-Haw" and other traitors were executed for murder. They were executed long after the war had finished—[AN HON. MEMBER: "For crimes in war-time."] War time is war and peace time is peace time. What the hon. Member said was inaccurate on that occasion, as a number of his other statements have been.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
That is perfectly true, but they had got to a stage in Chicago where none of the more prominent gangsters was ever even arrested for murder, indeed, not even for any charge at all.
425 The Chicago situation was one in which honest citizens were so afraid to give evidence or even to take part in a convicting jury that it proved impossible to convict any of these notorious murderers for years. The hon. and learned Gentleman should know, and perhaps does, that the most notorious of the Chicago murderers—Al Capone—who was involved in literally hundreds of murders, was never convicted of murder and was tried only once on that charge and acquitted. He was eventually imprisoned, after many years, not for any offence of violence, but only for not paying income tax—[HON. MEMBERS: "So what?"]
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. We are getting a little wide of the Third Reading of the Bill if we discuss in detail the fate of Al Capone.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
I apologise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was misled, as on several occasions before, by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. 426 Paget). Perhaps I went rather wide in trying to answer his argument.
If the Bill makes sense—I accept the sincerity of those who think that it does—this is no time to introduce it, when it has been clearly demonstrated beyond argument that we have no prison in this country which is capable of holding a ruffian whose accomplices are sufficiently resolute and determined to get him out.
This is not the time to enact a Measure of this kind. As the Bill is drafted, there is no real deterrent in it. The long title talks of making further provision for the punishment of people convicted of murder, but the Bill completely fails to achieve that. I believe that if the Bill becomes law not just one or two convicted murderers who might otherwise have been hanged will remain alive but a greater number of innocent citizens, policemen and prison officers—who will have been innocent of everything except that they got in the way of a resolute criminal armed with a loaded gun—will be killed.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson
I have always been opposed, certainly during my adult years, to the death penalty. I listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn), but I believe that he grossly exaggerates what will be the consequences of abolishing the death penalty, although I appreciate that he is genuine in his fears.
I have no wish to repeat the arguments which I adduced on Second Reading, when I analysed some of the speeches which have been made since 1810 expressing, as the speakers then believed, the legitimate fears of those who opposed the abolition of capital punishment, whether for sheep stealing, pickpocketing or anything else. The judges were particularly emphatic about the spate of crimes that would take place if the death penalty was abolished for those crimes.
Although I will not repeat my earlier arguments, I must mention one example; the fact that the death penalty used to be imposed for pickpocketing. When it was originally suggested that hanging for pickpocketing should be abolished, there was a great outcry against the suggestion. It was said that there would be a greater number of pickpockets and that hanging was the only deterrent to that sort of criminal.
Arthur Koestler much later analysed the facts and proved conclusively that hanging for pickpocketing was not a deterrent. Indeed, he found that at the very moment when people's necks were stretched, so to speak, as they watched the spectacle of a public hanging, so then the pickpockets got to work. That was the extent of the deterrent for the crime of pickpocketing. I am not trying to ridicule the hon. Member for Dorset, North, for I accept that he is genuine in his fears of the consequences of the abolition of the death penalty for murder. However, I am convinced that his fears are unfounded.
I defended my first murder case when I was 27 years old. I will not go into the circumstances whereby a very junior counsel defended the man because there were peculiar circumstances. I will always remember the case. He was the last man, under the old dispensation, to be hanged at Walton Prison, although I suppose that that does not say much 428 for my advocacy. That man has been dead for many years, so perhaps I may be forgiven for repeating some of his words to me. When I first saw him he said, "I did it. I deserve to die. She deserved to die and I want to hang." He added, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth".
I accept that as the only genuine argument in favour of the death penalty. Let us get rid of all the cant and hypocrisy about the deterrent. The only genuine argument in favour of hanging is retribution. I understand the satisfaction of the widow of a man who has been murdered feeling that the man who did the murder has paid the supreme penalty for that crime. I understand—it is a well understood human emotion—that people get satisfaction from the knowledge; say, the widow of a policeman getting some satisfaction from the knowledge that the man who killed her husband has paid the supreme penalty. While this is the only genuine argument in favour of the retention of the death penalty, I suggest that in a civilised community its retention on this ground cannot be tolerated.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
The hon. and learned Gentleman talks of this not being a deterrent, but most of our argument against the Bill at the present moment is that no alternative is provided. That is the whole argument. There must be a deterrent against this sort of crime, and we are arguing that hanging is a deterrent, or the death penalty is a deterrent. I ask for a deterrent against these ghastly murders.
§ Mr. Hooson
I would listen with more sympathy to the hon. Member if he could show by historical analysis that when the death penalty was abolished for, say, sheep stealing, there was more sheep stealing; that when it was abolished for picking pockets there was more pocket picking; that when it was abolished for the two hundred offences for which it was originally imposed more of those offences were committed—
§ Mr. Hooson
There are fewer murders today than there were when we had a very much smaller population.
429 Since my first case I have appeared in many other cases of murder both for the prosecution and for the defence. My experience may not be that of other hon. and learned Members, but I can only speak from my own experience. I am not convinced that in any case in which I have appeared the sentence made any difference at all—the murder would still have been committed. I may be wrong, but my conviction is based on personal experience.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
The hon. and learned Member asked whether anyone could give an example of where there had been an increase in crime for which the death penalty had been abolished. I thought that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) had made it clear that comparing the three years before the passing of the 1957 Act with the last three years there had been a 3 per cent. increase in capital murders and an increase of over 30 per cent. in non-capital murders. There is a perfectly concrete example—not sheep stealing, but something going on now.
§ Mr. Hooson
I will ignore that intervention and take another example. I have a good friend who is a judge in the court of appeal in Finland, where there is no death penalty. After the war, many of their judges, worried about the incidence of murder advocated its return. In Lapland, particularly, after the war, there were many murders because it was very much a Klondyke after the German devastation there. This experience supported those who advocated the return of the death penalty. It was not restored, but I understand that murder in Finland has gone down steadily since about 1955. That is an example of how one can not take statistics out of any one period to prove this issue one way or the other.
As I said on Second Reading, I think that the genuine fears expressed by many hon. Members on this side of the House will prove to be unfounded. If in ten years' time the same arguments can be put forward that we have heard in these debates, I shall be astonished—
§ Mr. Hooson
The hon. Member tends to forget that the death penalty is not only for those who commit murder. I 430 have listened with respect to the arguments put forward by the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington, but I invite arty hon. Member to read the speeches in favour of the retention of the death penalty from 1810 onwards; except for emphasis, they have not changed much since. We have exactly the same arguments based on a genuine fear, but, in the ultimate, based entirely on misapprehension.
We have a great deal to learn in this country about the relationship between crime and punishment; most crime, I believe, is not calculated at all. I revert to the point made by the hon. Member for Dorset, North about the train robbery. I think that this was an exceptional crime. This was a highly calculated crime, and there was a great deal to be said for the long sentences passed upon the criminals involved because they had made their calculation, and the judge, in his way, made his calculation, too. This escape was made not to rescue a murderer but because those concerned had the money with which to engineer and organise a highly skilled operation of escape. I am sure that that escape cost many thousands of pounds. It has no relevance to the issue of the death penalty.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that the train robbery was committed before this Bill had been brought before the House, and the evidence given at the trial was that the leaders had insisted that no lethal weapon of any kind, let alone a firearm, was to be carried? At the escape, on the other hand, which took place after the Bill was before the House, firearms were used.
§ Mr. Hooson
I appreciate that point, but it was done because they had hired people to do it. There are people who are willing to be hired for large sums; and this was a calculated crime of an exceptional kind in this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "There will be some more."]
Now that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) is back in his place, I wish to congratulate him upon the persistence with which he has put forward this reform. I have disagreed with the hon. Gentleman on occasions, and I expect that I shall violently disagree with him on some 431 occasions in the future, but I believe that his name will go down in the history of this House. Whether hon. Members agree or disagree with him, one cannot but admire the persistence with which he has put forward this very necessary reform in our system, and I am sure that in the future people will be amazed at the resistance there was to this essentially civilising change in our penal system.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Mr. James Dance
I dislike the Bill. I have always disliked it because (a) it is ill framed, (b) it is ill timed, and (c) it is extremely dangerous.
It is ill framed to the extent that there is no alternative to capital punishment provided for in it. There is no alternative to deter a violent man from committing murder. It is ill timed because it is brought forward at a moment when crimes of violence are very much on the increase. It is dangerous because it endangers every member of the public, as I shall show.
But more than the Bill itself I dislike the way it has been introduced and put before us. The House has been taken in contempt. I wish that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) would listen to what I am saying. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why should he?"]
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
The hon. Member did not listen to the last speech, so why should we listen to his?
§ Mr. Dance
It was not worth listening to. The arrogance of the promoter has annoyed many people on this side of the House. We put down many good reasoned Amendments, and they have just been turned down by the hon. Gentleman out of hand. He has been completely arrogant and has not listened to the will of many people on this side or to the certain will of millions of people outside the House.
I attack the Government on this, too. On this side we have all the time had a free vote on the Bill.
§ Mr. Paget
All I wish to say, because I think it is important that this should be on the record, is that the whips have never been put on this side. There has been no two-line or any other line whip. I have not had any advantage of the whips machinery or the pairing machinery. It has been done entirely by private effort.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)
The hon. and learned Gentleman will also recall that earlier tonight one hon. Member would not leave the House until he could obtain a pair.
§ Mr. Thomas Swain (Derbyshire, North-East)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have in my hand a note circulated to all Members of the Government party. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is not a point of order."] It is a point of order, in the interests of accuracy, against an accusation made by someone who, I suggest, does not know what he is talking about. It says—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Frederic Harris
Just before that interruption an hon. Gentleman sitting on the Government Front Bench called me a liar. Other people are now saying that what I said was perfectly true. I ask you to be good enough, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to ask the hon. Member to withdraw that.
§ Mr. Harris
The right hon. Gentleman for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). He knows he called me a liar.—[Interruption.] I apologise. It was the hon. Member sitting next to him, an Assistant Whip, the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie).
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I must ask the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) whether he did refer to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Frederic Harris) as a liar. If so, he must withdraw it.
§ Mr. W. Howie (Luton)
I most certainly did, and I unreservedly withdraw. I did it in the heat of repeated allegations from the other side.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The insinuation is that I said something which was untruthful, and I will not accept that. I ask for your protection.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Frederic Harris) suggested that the party opposite had issued a whip of one, two or three lines and had been told that was a lie, and if, as I hear from the hon. Members opposite that there is substantiation for the proposition that it is untrue, is not the hon. Gentleman wilfully misleading the House by withdrawing the suggestion that it was a lie? Could the hon. Gentleman not be invited to reinstate it on the record?
§ Sir Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
I am bound to point out to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), in a rather excited condition, has again repeated the allegation that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Frederic Harris) is a liar. Will you instruct him to withdraw the suggestion?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If the hon. Member for Orpington did use the word "liar", he, too, must withdraw it.
§ Mr. Lubbock
If the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Frederic Harris) said something which is not true, then, according to the meaning of English, he must be a liar.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am dealing with a point of order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman for the last time to withdraw the expression "liar".
§ Mr. Lubbock
If the hon. Gentleman said that the Government had a one, two or three line whip on and evidence has been produced that that is not true, then he is guilty of a terminological inexactitude.
§ Mr. Lubbock
In that case, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I replace the word "lie" with "terminological inexactitude".
§ Mr. Frederic Harris
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Can I have no further protection from the Chair? [Interruption.] What I said was perfectly accurate. There is no question at all about it. Is it fair that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) should, in effect, get away with calling me a liar and you do not get him to retract it?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Gentleman has had protection. I have made two hon. Members withdraw the expression. "Terminological inexactitude" is, I believe, a phrase which has been used before.
§ Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have been sitting next to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Frederic Harris) and 435 all he said was that he had been offered a pair. As far as I know, there is no evidence whatever that this is untrue. I suggest, with all respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the purely technical withdrawal by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) is not sufficient.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I have already ruled that it is sufficient and that "terminological inexactitude" is a phrase for which there is a precedent. Mr. Dance.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Now that the little fracas about liars and non-liars has ended, is it not the practice of the House that if an hon. Member makes a statement about another hon. Member and the other hon. Member refutes it, the hon. Gentleman who made the original statement either withdraws the statement or proves it? The hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) made the clear accusation that hon. Members on this side in support of the Bill were subject to an official party whip. I think that that has been denied. I suggest to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the hon. Member should withdraw the accusation or prove it.
§ Mr. Goodhew
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. It might be of help to you to know that yesterday I was approached by a junior Minister asking for a pair tonight since he knew—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. That does not appear to be a point of order. I hope that we may end this and not throw accusations across the House.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. As I understand it, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) is still assuming that what I said was incorrect. It does not look as though I am being very fairly treated. I have been in the House long enough to be more fairly treated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to question what I have said from the Chair he must do 436 so by means of a substantive Motion. Mr. Dance.
§ Mr. Dance
I have been a Member of the House for a comparatively short time, but during the 10 years that I have been here I do not think I have ever been approached by more members of the Government to pair with me than I have over this debate, which to my mind proves that there must be some sort of whip. [Interruption.] Anyhow, if I am completely inaccurate I am sorry, but I have shown that there seems to have been some coercion put on hon. Members on the other side of the House over this matter. [Interruption.]
§ Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
Perhaps I might point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) that I have also been approached by hon. Members on this side of the House who wished to pair with me.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
I have been approached by hon. Members on both sides of the House who wished to pair.
§ Mr. Dance
The fact remains that I gather that much more coercion—[Interruption.] All right. Shall we leave this point for the moment?
I want to refer to the recent escape from Wandsworth Prison by one of the train robbers. During the weekend, the radio broadcast a statement by the police—and I have never known of this before—that the general public should take no action but get in touch with the police. Why? Because the man concerned was serving a very long sentence—a sentence which I do not think would have been bigger had he been convicted of murder. Thus, he is potentially a very dangerous man. There is no deterrent to his taking life or shooting someone down. No sanction can be taken against him because he has already been sentenced to a very long term.
The Home Secretary, during these proceedings, has rightly laid great stress on the importance of recruiting more police, saying that the way to keep down crime is to have more police on the beat. But 437 my word! What wonderful recruiting propaganda the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne—
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
On a point of order. Is it not the case that on Third Reading one can only refer to what is in the Bill? Is there anything in the Bill about police recruiting?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) is, I think, illustrating his point that he does not approve of what is in the Bill on Third Reading.
§ Mr. Dance
I merely say, and repeat, what wonderful propaganda for police recruiting this dangerous Bill is going to be. I want to put a hypothetical question to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. At any time in his life would he have been prepared to put on a uniform as a policeman and go down to Limehouse on a really foggy, murky night, unarmed, to apprehend an armed criminal, knowing that he had not the protection of the death penalty above him?
The hon. Member does not appear to answer. But that is what he is asking the police to do. Does he want them to be armed? I know that the general public do not and that the police do not. If he does not answer my question presumably that is what he wants, however. [Interruption.] I am attacking the hon. Member and I intend to go on attacking him. Many hon. Members on this side are getting extremely tired—[Interruption]—though not as tired as some hon. Members opposite on the Finance Bill—of the attitude whereby the criminal is always being defended. "Oh, we must look after him." What about the unfortunate victim?
A friend of mine who was driving along quite innocently opened the window and asked someone the direction. He was coshed and he did not become conscious until a month later and he is now paralysed for life. Ought we not to pay a little more attention to him? [HON. MEMBERS: "He was not murdered."] But he might well have been murdered.
I deplore the attitude of hon. Members opposite and those on the Liberal Benches, the attitude that the criminal must always be thought about and must be cared for and that the victim means nothing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] 438 Hon. Members may think it nonsense, but there are millions upon millions of people who do not think that it is nonsense and who believe that the Bill is dangerous. That is why I implore the House to vote against it.
§ 11.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (Billericay)
I refer first to words used by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) when opening this debate. He said that the purpose of the Bill was to civilise the penal system. In all gravity I submit that the penal system is not civilised by being weakened. It is not civilised if, as many people strongly believe will be the case, we make a nonsense of it.
We all agreed with the hon. Gentleman when in Committee he said that murder was the gravest crime known to English law. The purpose of the Bill, with which we are now all too familiar, is to abolish capital punishment and to substitute for that punishment that form of imprisonment known as life imprisonment. During this momentous debate—and I do not exaggerate, for this is a Bill of great importance—we have to ask ourselves two questions. The first is whether we can safely abolish the death penalty. We ought to bear in mind—because it would be a contempt of public opinion if we were to overlook this—that the majority of people in this country are against abolition of the death penalty.
I agree at once that there is a difficulty, possibly an insuperable difficulty, about deciding just how strong and effective the death penalty is. Statistics may show how many murders and of what types are committed in the course of a year, but statistics never show, never have and never will, how many murders have not been committed because of the presence of the death penalty. We have to remember and respect that point of view. It is a view which is not shared by many who are in favour of the Bill, and I fear—I am trying to be realistic—that it is a view which will be overwhelmed in the Division Lobbies tonight.
The second question is the practical question. It is a question which has to be resolved, and it is not resolved by the Bill. What are we going to put in place of the death penalty as a punishment for murder? The Bill does away with capital 439 punishment and puts in its place life imprisonment. Life imprisonment is the most uncertain form of punishment known to English law. It has been described accurately as an empty formula. One Archbishop of Canterbury described it as a degradation of the law. It is the only punishment which will be left for murder once the Bill becomes law.
We have to ask, if we are going to act responsibly, "Is this good enough? Can we accept this?" In my opinion—and most hon. and right hon. Members would probably agree with me—the Bill alarms the majority of our people. One thing that it does not do is to frighten the potential killer. Because we have only life imprisonment left, and there is no alternative, it is a fair and serious criticism of the Bill to say that it has no deterrent effect. It has removed the frightening effect which capital punishment undoubtedly had.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am listening to the hon. and learned Member's argument with the respect which it demands. Will he address his mind to the statistics which the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) put before the House in the Second Reading debate relating to those murders committed since 1957 which were of a non-capital nature and those murders committed since 1957 which carried the penalty of capital punishment? They would seem to indicate that the latter category did not in any way carry a greater deterring factor than the former category. Will he address his mind to the question whether the post-1957 experience indicates that the punishment for the capital crime has deterred people more than the punishment for the non-capital crime?
§ Mr. Gardner
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) was here when my figures were rehearsed. I understand that he was. I introduced this facet of the argument with a frank statement that the statistics did not assist us. I say with emphasis and with some cogency that if persons argue that the death penalty can be removed safely they have a duty to satisfy the country about it, and I do not believe that they have done so. I know that some people disagree with me about this, but in my opinion the statistics to which the 440 hon. Member for Devon, North referred can be argued in two directions. In this matter I place the burden of proof firmly and squarely on the shoulders of those who wish to abolish capital punishment.
I now return to the point that I was asking the House to consider, because it is the essence of the debate. What shall we put in the place of capital punishment? I do not believe that life imprisonment, as such—whatever it may mean—is adequate. I believe that we need something else. I agree with the Home Secretary that there are some murders for which life imprisonment is a suitable sentence—but there are other forms of murder for which it is not suitable or adequate, and it is wholly wrong to give the potential killer the feeling that he can have at the moment, with justification, that if he kills the only thing that can happen to him is to be sentenced to life imprisonment, which, in the past, has meant an average of nine years' imprisonment.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson). He drew upon his personal experience, and upon Arthur Koestler and his various views, to satisfy himself and this House that we were right tonight to vote for this Bill to abolish capital punishment. Personal experiences are not always a sure guide, but he has given one to satisfy the House that we can safely dispense with capital punishment and, presumably, without any alternative punishment except life imprisonment.
May I be allowed to make one personal illustration and call upon my own experience in defending a young man? He was about 18½ and had kicked to death with two young companions a young man and did this because he wanted to steal money which he believed the young man had in his pocket. As his victim was dying in the roadway he leaned over him and put his hand into the dying man's waistcoat pocket. There was 14s. 5½d. in that waistcoat pocket, but just as he was about to extract the money from the pocket he heard footsteps approaching.
He withdrew his hand, ran off and was later caught by the police. He was brought to the police station and later I saw him. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery told the House what was said to him on such an occasion 441 by a person who was convicted of murder. This young man said to the police: "Oh, well, I will only get five to nine years for this. It is a life job." He was then told that this was capital murder because it was done in the course or furtherance of theft, and he said—and I do not quote his exact words—"Well, if I had known that I would have thought again before trying to take money in that way".
If you put one personal illustration in one direction, here is another in the opposite direction. If you are going to take notice of one, surely you must take notice of the other.
I am concerned mainly with the alternative punishment. It seems to me—and I do not want to use colourful or exaggerated language about so serious a subject—that if you do away with capital punishment and introduce in its place only life imprisonment, you are in effect giving the professional criminal what can well be regarded as a licence to kill. Why should a criminal who might, if he were found guilty of robbery, be sent to prison for 30 years, hesitate to shoot his way out of his predicament if he knows he will go for life imprisonment which may be no longer than nine years?
I do not believe it makes sense. Whatever this House may do tonight, and most of us can anticipate the result when we go into the Division Lobbies, whatever we do in passing a Bill at this stage will be done against the will of the majority of the people in this country. This Bill takes an anomaly which appears in the Homicide Act of 1957, one of the worst anomalies of the Act, perpetuates it and extends it to all forms of murder. This is an extremely serious anomaly which makes a nonsense for lawyers. This is why, in reply to the remark of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne about civilising the penal system of this country, I was able to say, "You do not civilise it by making a nonsense of it".
The Bill makes a nonsense of it because once it becomes law, anyone who commits a murder will be sentenced to the automatic punishment of life imprisonment; whereas if the killing is done under provocation or if it is a killing by someone who is mentally affected so that he is suffering from diminished responsibility, that person 442 will be found guilty of manslaughter, and under the Offences Against The Person Act the punishment may be either life imprisonment or any sentence which the trial judge at his discretion imposes. We have gone past the stage of attempting to introduce into the Bill an Amendment which would have the effect of giving the trial judge in cases of murder the very same powers as those which he has for manslaughter. The result is that this anomaly, which I believe to be very serious, will cover the whole range of murder.
We have done nothing in the House—although, Heaven knows, we have tried—to cure that anomaly. What has astonished me has been the view taken by the Home Secretary. "Life imprisonment", the agument runs—and it has the support of the Home Secretary—"will do for all forms of murder." No thought of any kind has been given among those supporting the Bill to an alternative punishment. No one has directed his mind to any form of alternative punishment.
The Bill in its present form simply will not do. It is a bad Bill, it is a dangerous Bill, and if it is passed it will be passed in contempt of public opinion.
§ 11.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Brooke (Hampstead)
I had not intended to take part in the Third Reading debate. I expressed my views on Second Reading and both sides of the House were good enough to listen to me on that occasion with attention. I have nothing to retract from what I said then and very little to add.
Afterwards I was congratulated—I do not know why—on having made a courageous speech. It did not seem to require courage then. It requires rather more courage to speak from these benches on the same lines at this moment. But I have risen to speak because the statistics which I quoted on Second Reading have been challenged. I seek to remind the House that those statistics still stand. Statistics prove nothing in this case. They are indications but they are not a proof. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson), who quoted some statistics designed to counteract mine would accept that view of all statistics.
§ Sir J. Hobson
I did not quote statistics designed for any purpose. I quoted figures given by the Home Secretary in a Written Answer of 17th June.
§ Mr. Brooke
I have that here. My right hon. and learned Friend chose two sets of three years whereas the figures which I quoted were rather more extensive and far-reaching as they covered two sets of six years. These figures show that whereas the abolition of the death penalty for non-capital murder in 1957 ought, on the theory of the unique deterrent, to have brought about a tremendous fall in the ratio of capital to non-capital murders, in fact it did not. In fact, the ratio hardly altered at all, but that, as I have said, is only an indication, though perhaps a disproof of some of the more extreme statements about the deterrent power of the death penalty.
Some of the speeches this evening have given me an uncomfortable feeling that I am nearer to the criminal classes than some of my hon. and right hon. Friends. They speak, it seems to me, with great knowledge of the way in which hardened criminals react to situations. They have, very sincerely, given the impression that the criminal is terrified of the death sentence but treats the prospect of nine or ten years in prison as nothing more than a fleabite.
Believe me, that is really not so. If I had no opinion about it before, I should certainly have learned it during my contact with all sorts of people through the Home Office. To be shut away from the ordinary free life of this country and suddenly deprived of all liberty for as long as nine or ten years is a terrible fate. It is a great deterrent.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
Would my right hon. Friend be so good as to say whether he considers a life sentence any deterrent to a man already serving thirty years should he choose to use firearms to effect an escape? Would he say what is to take its place if the death penalty goes?
§ Mr. Brooke
I accept at once that the five or six people in this country who are now in custody and serving sentences of thirty years obviously cannot be deterred from further crimes if they escape from prison by anything short of the death penalty. I grant that at once, but 444 I do not think that these five or six people constitute a sufficient argument in themselves for retaining the death penalty over the whole field of capital murder. I agree that the case for the retentionists has been considerably strengthened by the events at Wandsworth prison last week and at Birmingham during the time when I was Home Secretary, but I must say here that I am sorry my successor has not felt able to follow up my suggestion of the appointment of a special expert security officer which I put forward during my last weeks at the Home Office. If that had been done, I think that Biggs might still have been in custody.
However, that is speculation. In my view, the figures which I gave to the House during the Second Reading debate and which I have given again this evening do not in any way support the more extreme statements made in the House about the value of the death penalty as a deterrent. I ask the House to accept it from me that the vast majority of people—not the five or six already serving thirty years or more, and perhaps a handful of others—treat the thought that if they are caught they will be shut up for a long period of years as a very real deterrent.
I have listened for many hours during the different stages of this Bill, upstairs and on the Floor of the House, and I regret that the Home Secretary did not say at an early stage of our proceedings that if this Bill became law he would think it right that where murderers are serving life imprisonment because the law has not allowed them to be sentenced to death and where there are no compassionate circumstances, they will have to be kept in prison for a substantially longer period than has been the case hitherto for the people who are alive today because compassionate considerations in their histories led the Home Secretary of the day to reprieve them.
I do not think that averages are of great value in this matter. I know, and my successor knows and my predecessors as Home Secretary knew, that the normal term of imprisonment for a person who was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder was nine years. Believe me, if the criminal does not know that beforehand, he discovers it very soon after he 445 has gone into prison. The sentence of life imprisonment is not something which makes any man smile. He knows at that stage the full uncertainty of it. He discovers from his fellow prisoners that it is most unlikely that he will be let out within nine years unless there is a very special factor in his case.
I would like it to have been made clear by the Home Secretary that anybody who committed murder which was not liable to the death penalty and did not carry with it any compassionate circumstances must expect normally to spend 15 years in prison. I believe that drastic alterations in our custodial arrangements will need to be made in any event so that men can be kept in prison for long periods of time without rotting, as they are liable to do, in the ordinary prison cell.
I hope that the Home Secretary acknowledges that, because he has gone so far as to say that in certain circumstances men may have to be kept in prison for the rest of their lives. I trust that they will not have to be kept in prison under the existing arrangements as I know them in the various prisons that are available.
The Bill must be regarded as experimental, and Clause 3 now enacts that. I know that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) is against that Clause. I am glad that he decided not to seek to have it removed. I think that the only way of allaying the disquiet that may be widespread throughout the country about the passage of the Bill is to make it absolutely clear that this experiment is on trial. It should be on trial, because neither the hon. Member nor my right hon. and hon. Friends who have spoken against the Bill can prove their case. Nothing can prove the case except experience. Five years may be too short a time, it may be too long a time, but I do not believe that one can run an experiment for ever. It seems to me that if the Bill becomes law, in five years' time we shall all know a great deal more than we do today, and we shall have had the benefit of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Penal System, which may help us with the terribly difficult problem of sentencing, on which we have spent so much time.
446 I end with this thought. The House was good enough to listen to me with some attention on Second Reading. I apologise for taking up time now, but I submit that it would be not consonant with the importance of the subject if we were to divide on it at 4 o'clock in the morning. It would be wise, if we could, to seek to come to a conclusion at an earlier hour than that. I only make that appeal. It may not be right, it may not be possible, because I know that a number of hon. Members still wish to speak. I apologise for speaking at all, but I thought that possibly the House would desire me to do so.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)
Much of the ten years that I have been in the House has been taken up with debates on this subject. Hitherto I have never sought to intervene, and I do so with great trepidation tonight, particularly following my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), whose speech I found moving and impressive. It was moving because he has had to do something which I have not, and I thank God that I have not, and that is to operate the 1957 Act.
I remember his speech on the Second Reading debate describing how the painful experience of acting as Home Secretary converted him to becoming an abolitionist. It so happens that I am a marginal retentionist, and I believe that the 1957 Act was as an acceptable a solution to the dilemma which faced us as human wit could devise. At any rate, it covered those categories of capital murder in which I would like to see the death penalty retained, notably those cases where it would protect the police and persons attempting to assist the police and prison officers. I regret that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) was unable to accept the Amendment on those lines.
I described myself as a marginal retentionist because I accept that in the fulness of time capital punishment should go, but I would hope that with it would go excessive criminal violence. However, I see no sign of that at the moment. I accept that capital punishment in general does not operate as a deterrent to murder, but I believe that it has been some deterrent to excessive violence in crime. I confess that I felt very disturbed at the 447 great increase in the crimes of violence not only over pre-war standards but particularly since 1955.
There has been some dispute about the correct interpretation to be put on the statistics of murder since the 1957 Act. Even following my right hon. Friend's view of the statistics, I expected to see some rise in capital murders after the 1957 Act proportionate to the increase in crimes of violence. I find it significant that the rate did not rise and, therefore, I argue, although I accept that it cannot be proved, that there is some evidence that capital punishment has acted as a deterrent to excessive violence in crime, particularly those crimes which might lead to capital murder. This deterrent may have acted all the way down the criminal code. I wonder whether it is too fanciful to suppose that the British professional criminal by tradition has used no more force than necessary to achieve his criminal purpose. There is some evidence that, generally, professional criminals have hitherto been against the carrying of guns. We do not know enough about the detailed pattern of crimes of violence. The pamphlet "Murder" has been of great assistance to us, but we still do not know, for example, what weapons are used in armed robbery and what weight of violence exists down through the crimes which have not resulted in murder but only in violence falling short of murder. In Committee, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said, in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), that murderers cannot be deterred and that we all have inhibitions against killing, except for a tiny minority, from whom the murderers come.
I disagree with the hon. and learned Member, but again there is no certainty. If his thesis is correct, I should have expected the proportion of murderers in the population to be roughly comparable in similar societies everywhere. One of the difficulties in all comparisons is that we cannot compare like with like, but I suggest that conditions in the United States of America are not wholly dissimilar to those in this country. There is, broadly speaking, an Anglo-Saxon tradition, an industrial society, high standards of living, considerable contrasts of poverty and wealth and social and racial tensions. 448 What is significant is that the murder rate in the United States is about 40 per million of the population, which is roughly ten times the rate in this country. I asked myself why this should be so. In America there is both capital punishment and non-capital punishment in the different States, but the overall pattern is 40 murders per million.
I cannot explain that difference by the deterrent effect of capital punishment. I found myself asking whether the difference may not spring from a different tradition of violence. Is there a different historical and psychological attitude to it? I advance a view which seems to me to be only a possible clue, that in the United States of America the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees to every citizen the right to keep and bear arms, in theory to defend his home. This is—if for the wrong reasons today—jealously argued as a justification for the possession of firearms. It is based historically on the tradition of the uncertain frontier—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
Order. What the hon. Gentleman says is very interesting, but he is getting away from the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Hill
I was hoping to contrast those conditions with the tradition in this country, which is relevant to the Bill. The British tradition is quite different. It is a tradition of the Queen's peace which goes back to at least the twelfth century or earlier. By this tradition, it is the citizen's duty to keep it and to assist the police in preventing its breach. That tradition obtained until quite recently. In this fast-changing age, all our traditions seem to be under criticism. It is not untrue to say that most of our standards are being challenged and that some are in a state of flux. Therefore, my anxiety is that our recognition that we are living in times of rapid change may lead us—perhaps unwittingly—to alter our general attitude to crimes of violence. If, therefore, Parliament can be thought—however much this may be misinterpreting our attitude—to be relaxing its abhorrence of capital murder, some members of the public, particularly the criminal or potentially criminal members of it, may think that they must accept violence as an expected hazard in real life as well as in fiction.
449 I do not want to weaken the readiness of the public to assist the police in the repression of crime. As I said, I believe that the 1957 Act broadly met the difficulties. I should prefer to have continued that Act, at least until 1970, although I am glad that the new Clause was accepted because it will give us a chance of looking at the whole situation again. I would have liked to have had more experience of the working of the 1957 Act, both in regard to the incidence of capital murder and to the treatment of non-capital murderers. I would have liked to have known more about the attitude of the police towards the Bill. It is unfortunate that, being a Private Member's Bill, it may be that the Government were not able to conduct all the consultations they would have conducted had it been a Government Measure. We might then have known, for example, whether the police will wish to be armed when the Bill becomes law.
I wish I had the supreme self-confidence of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne that he is right. I retain my doubts. I cannot help retaining them until I see an assured decline in crimes of violence and be satisfied that the Government know more about the causation of crime and the future treatment of life prisoners. The question is whether the Bill will produce a change in the public, especially the criminal's attitude to violence, for better or for worse. I confess to a feeling of pessimism. I hope that events will prove me wrong, but, as matters stand tonight, I cannot support the Bill.
§ 11.43 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
The views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) are common to very many people, including many hon. Members. It is now about eight months since the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) moved the Second Reading of the Bill. I was the first speaker in reply and in opposition on that occasion. I have, during the course of those eight months, missed only one or two of the debates on the Measure, either in Committee upstairs or on the floor of the House.
We have, in terms of Parliamentary time, spent 50 hours discussing the Bill. That, from the point of view of the 450 Patronage Secretary or anyone else in charge of Government business, is a considerable amount of Parliamentary time. However, it represents five minutes being allowed to each Member of Parliament—that is, of each hon. and right hon. Member wished to speak on the matter—five minutes for each to express his or her views on something which is of the greatest importance to the general public, particularly to those who we insist look after the safety and security of the community.
It is to be regretted that some people tend to snigger at the attitude which is taken by some of us towards the Bill. As the House has been reminded, we sit here in reasonable and relative peace. The worst that may happen to us is that we may get a few insults thrown at us, couched in the careful language of Parliament. We sit here and debate this matter, we talk about various cases and discuss the thing rather like an academic exercise. Views are expressed, sometimes frivolous views, but it is to other people that we have entrusted a task which no one can pretend is not a task of the greatest danger and gravity. To sit calmly may be the appropriate posture for a deliberate and grave assembly of legislators, but the House should nevertheless express its sense of urgency in considering the present situation, with the whole fabric of our society assaulted by organised crime, and bearing in mind all the rewards of crime and the risks that criminals will run. It is something about which all our constituents feel very deeply and gravely.
In the Bill's seven-month course there have emerged certain political lessons, quite apart from the across-the-House debating—although most of the debate has come from my right hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) and for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), with little from the other side, except from the promoter of the Bill. Some of these Parliamentary reformers about whom we hear and read were not very much in evidence; this side was debating this issue with only members of the Government and some officials of the House present.
I say to the Home Secretary—although not personally, of course, but to the Government which he represents tonight—that his Government has behaved in this 451 matter in a craven fashion. This was a Bill that the Government should have taken over after it had received its Second Reading, while allowing each hon. Member to vote according to his conscience. That would have been the right way in which to treat the House over something that is so much a House of Commons matter.
But the argument rests finally on matters of judgment, and my judgment here is as good as that of hon. Members opposite, and theirs is as good as mine. The judgment one has to make is whether by Act of Parliament we do anything which will render probable or likely the death of others outside the House who are entitled to look to us to see that the Executive ensure the Queen's peace. That is a matter of judgment. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead has rightly said that statistics are not the determining factor in this matter, but we all know that one statistic is the increase in violent crime which is being inflicted on the people day in and night out. It is the form and pattern of violence and violent crime that we see daily around us.
During the Second Reading debate I asked the Home Secretary whether he had any evidence of the increase in organised gang warfare; whether there was evidence of protection rackets having developed; whether more criminals were armed, and whether there had been a change in the last few months and years in this pattern of crime. Those are the questions that must be answered before anyone can make a judgment on this subject.
There is nobody here who does not know how ugly it is. We have been regaled by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) with instances of what happened in the eighteenth century, in conditions when there were no police except for a few Bow Street runners, which meant that there had to be the supreme deterrent for almost every crime. There were entirely different conditions and circumstances. One cannot compare the 18th or 19th century with the present day.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
Do I understand that if the right hon. and learned Gentleman had lived in the 18th century he would 452 have defended capital punishment for theft of property?
Sir P. Rawliason
The hon. Gentleman is too naive, and this is too serious a matter for that kind of intervention. I was pointing out that there was capital punishment in the 18th century because of conditions at that time, the circumstances of life, of crime and the need to protect human beings. I do not live in the 18th century, so I do not know how I should have voted. But we are called upon to vote in 1965, responsible as we are for thousands of people outside, responsible to the 20,000 people who, between now and next year, will suffer violence upon themselves. We should take this issue seriously and apply proper judgment to it.
As I said on Second Reading, I believe that we have seen a change in the pattern of crime. There has been a change in the threat to our society. The British people look to us, and through us to the Executive, to see that nothing is done to weaken their position in these circumstances. Since the war, we seem to have bred an evil and vicious type of criminal. I do not know whether it is a consequence of the great troubles the world has gone through and the threats which still rest over it, but there has, without doubt, been this change.
How successful has so-called progressive thought been? How well have the new ways of dealing with crime met the problems which face us? There is a steady growth of crime, and all the time there are suggestions for a different attitude towards the criminal. They may be right, but let no one forget that the people of this country are getting sick and tired of proposals to try to change criminals when they see daily their property and themselves being threatened and the State is unable even to keep in detention those criminals who have been sent to prison.
I hope that a secure system of imprisonment will be created. I hope that it will be given absolute priority. I agree with some of my hon. Friends who wondered why this Bill was introduced if we were not able to provide a proper system for men who were sentenced to life imprisonment.
What about the alternative sentence of which the Bill speaks when capital punishment is abolished? We had debates 453 in the House about this, with little opposition, calling for a real alternative to capital punishment. But we have not got it in the Bill, and this is one of its major defects. After voting as a matter of conscience on whether capital punishment should be abolished, the House then debated the alternative, and at that time, when there were, I think, eight members present on the Government side, four of them came into the Lobby with us. They had heard the argument. I only wish that more hon. Members had been here to hear the argument which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) addressed to the House this evening.
This, I suppose, is the culmination of our proceedings on the Bill in this House. If it is given a Third Reading, goes through another place, and becomes law, we shall have enacted a Measure which does not have the support of the public. It does not have the support of those people whom we trust to maintain law and order. We shall have taken a calculated gamble.
The judgment of right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite may be correct, but it is a calculated gamble with other people's lives. Therefore, I remain, as I was when the Bill was first before the House in December, opposed to the principle, and I am opposed to it not in anger, but certainly with apprehension. I trust that the hon. Gentleman who has introduced this Bill with as much determination and persistence as we have opposed it and to whom, I suppose, this evening must be the culmination of many long and weary hours, realises that he takes upon his shoulders and upon his judgment all these apprehensions. I hope to God he is correct. But, because I do not think he is correct, I am going to vote against his Bill.
§ 11.56 p.m.
§ Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)
On behalf of the sponsors of the Bill, I should like to clear up two matters which were discussed earlier and which led to some heat. A good many words were said and withdrawn during the exchanges.
The first point is that at no stage have the Government issued a Whip.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
If that is the case, why should Government Parliamentary Private Secretary's have approached hon. Members on this side on behalf of their Ministers in order to seek pairs?
§ Sir G. de Freitas
The hon. Gentleman was not here earlier, and he does not know the point to which I am replying. The Government have at no stage issued a Whip. The point about Parliamentary Private Secretaries and others approaching hon. Members on the other side seeking pairs is very simple. My hon. Friend and I and a few other hon. Members who are acting as sponsors of the Bill have done everything we can to organise a private Whip system, which is a perfectly legitimate plan. We have organised it with discrimination. It never occurred to us, for instance, to get someone to pair with the hon. Lady for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers), because we know she is an abolitionist. It would never have occurred to us to treat the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) as being in that category, because we know his attitude. So we organised a pairing system. That is the explanation of what I know bothered the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Frederic Harris) earlier and the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) who has just intervened.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
I have had a Parliamentary Private Secretary and I have been a Parliamentary Private Secretary myself, and I know that one has a close relationship with one's Minister. What could be more natural than for a Minister to say to his Parliamentary Private Secretary "See if you can find me a 'hanger' to pair with"?
§ Brigadier Clarke
On that wonderful explanation for the fact that the Government side have not got a Whip, may I say that I was very surprised that anyone could believe that that side of the House could be 100 per cent. wrong.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
That is an interesting point, and no doubt it will go 455 down in the hon. and gallant Member's reminiscences.
I made the point because I think it is important, since there was so much talk about it earlier in the debate.
§ Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)
The hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) has stated that at no stage has the Government Whip been applied. Is it not a fact that, following the Second Reading debate, a vote was taken on whether the Bill should be considered by a Committee of the whole House or in Committee upstairs, and was not a Government Whip applied then?
§ Sir G. de Freitas
It is well known that that was a procedural matter, not concerned with the Bill as such.—[An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."]—It was nothing to do with the Bill at all.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
Order. I think that we have pursued the subject of Whips and Parliamentary Private Secretaries long enough. I hope that the hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) will come to the Bill.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
I know that there are many hon. Members who wish to prolong this debate and if you direct me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to come to the Bill, I am not able to go charging off after these interventions, and I will not do so.
I have time to take up only one or two of the recent points. The hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) interested me by his quiet sincere discussion of the statistics, and his doubt whether they proved deterrence or otherwise. He gave us some very interesting figures and referred to their limitations and showed how genuinely puzzled he was. He is right. There are difficulties. He referred to the statistics from the United States. But if he had pursued the point a little further he would, I think, have realised that one of the important 456 factors is that with adjoining States like Maine and New Hampshire or Rhode Island and Massachusetts, where one has no capital punishment and the other has, the murder rate is the same in each. This is an important fact which emerges from a lot of data from the United States.
It was the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) who brought us to the essential point, that we have to rely on judgment and that the statistics can only help us to come to our conclusion. But I think it is right for us to draw on the experience of others. It is difficult at this stage, after seven months of discussion, to bring new matter in, but I should like right hon. and hon. Members to look for one moment at our neighbours on the Continent. I was one of those who felt disappointed when we were deprived today of a debate on Europe and our relations with it. I am sorry that we did not have it, because I think that it would have conditioned us a little more to this debate. We are getting nearer and nearer to our Continental neighbours, and more and more they learn from us and more and more we learn from them. After all, we are not so very different. We have a common civilisation, many common institutions and many common laws.
The fact is that only two of our 16 Continental neighbours find it necessary to have the death penalty. I am not saying that that is an overwhelming argument, but surely it is something that we should consider if, as so many of us feel today, there is so much in our common European institutions and civilisation. The point which concerns me above all others—at this time one cannot range over all the points—is the power of the State. We are in a period when the State has enormous powers of destruction over not only its own citizens but other people. Therefore, every one of us should insist that the State does everything to foster every instinct and belief that human life is the most important thing there is and should set an example, above all others, by not taking life itself.
During these debates over the months many arguments have been used. I do not think that any Bill has been more seriously considered. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) deserves the congratulations of all the supporters of the Bill not 457 only for his work over the last seven months but for his work over the last nearly 30 years. The right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) drew our attention to the fact that it was getting late and that it was, he felt, inappropriate that we should decide this important issue in the early hours. It is too late to persuade or convince—we should now respect each other's opinion. I hope that we can now come to a conclusion. I hope that this Bill will be given its Third Reading.
§ 12.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Bessell
I am very glad to have the opportunity of speaking briefly, for no issue has aroused such passionate feelings both in the House and the country. I should like immediately to pay my tribute, as other hon. Members have done, to the hon. Member for Nelson a id Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) not only for the way in which he has brought in this Bill but for the persistence with which he has fought his cause through so many years. I do not think that either retentionists or abolitionists can do other than respect and praise his honesty and integrity in this matter.
I make no bones about the fact that, like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), I have always, throughout my adult life, been an abolitionist. I have always felt that it was entirely wrong that we as a people, and as a civilised people, should use, as a punishment or deterrent, hanging, which cannot be regarded as other than a most uncivilised and bestial performance.
Throughout the three General Election campaigns and the one by-election campaign that I have fought in the last 10 years, and throughout the 20 years that I have appeared on political platforms, I have always answered with an unequivocal "Yes" the question whether I was in favour of the abolition of capital punishment.
It was for that reason that I was very glad that, by one means or another, this 458 Bill was introduced, and the words which the hon. Gentleman used at the end of his Second Reading speech made a deep impression upon me and, indeed, summed up the feelings of many of us who have regarded this matter with anxiety for years. He said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1964; Vol. 704, c. 890.]They were memorable words.
However, as the Bill proceeded through its various stages, I am bound to confess that I had to ask myself whether, over the years, I had not been guided more by emotion than by logic and I was disturbed, particularly when the Bill was upstairs in Committee, to see how impossible it was to persuade the sponsors to accept any Amendments which were tabled, often to very good purpose. For that reason I was glad when the opportunity arose for the Bill to be returned to the Floor of the House, and during the long Committee stage I was able to attend all but one of the sittings and to take part in them.
For me it was a struggle, because I felt that it was impossible to ignore the representations which had been made not only to me but to many other hon. Members by, for example, the police and prison officer associations. I felt that we could not ignore those representations or treat them with complete contempt. I therefore hoped that the sponsors of the Bill would find it possible to accept some of the reasonable Amendments which were put forward by hon. Members from the Conservative Benches. I separated from my hon. Friends on the Liberal Bench by voting for many of those Amendments. I found it a matter of great regret that the Amendment which would have retained capital punishment as a deterrent against the murder of a police officer in the execution of his duty was defeated. It is notable that during the stages of the Bill a very similar measure was introduced in the State of New York providing for the abolition of the death penalty, except in the case of—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot now advocate an Amendment which has not been incorporated into the Bill.
§ Mr. Bessell
I am grateful for your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was merely trying to make the point that the Bill would have been better and more acceptable if it had been on the lines of that adopted in the State of New York.
However, the one Amendment which was made, and which is now an integral part of the Bill, was that to make the Bill operative for five years only. This is important for one specific reason, namely, that we as hon. Members have no mandate from the electorate to introduce the Bill in the sense that neither the Government, as the Labour Party fighting the last election, nor my own party, the Liberal Party, included the abolition of capital punishment in its election manifesto.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I know that the hon. Gentleman wants to be fair and we are all listening to him with great attention and interest. It is perfectly true that it was not in anybody's election manifesto, but it never has been. It was not in the election manifesto of the Conservative Government which brought in what became the Homicide Act, 1957, and it has not been in an election manifesto since. But it is perfectly right that Governments and Parliaments should make up their minds as genuine democratic representatives and not mandatees in matters of the criminal law. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that, whether the point he is making is valid or invalid, it is equally applicable to every other stage in this controversy and in every other aspect of the criminal law.
§ Mr. Bessell
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making the point which I was about to make myself. I recognise that there is no demand upon a Government to have a mandate on any issue. We are here as representatives of the people and not as delegates. I accept that without question. But because this has been
§ a controversial issue for many years and because it has been clearly in the minds of many of us—and I include myself—to seek an opportunity to abolish capital punishment at the earliest chance, we should have put this issue to the electorate at the last General Election.
§ The issue has been resolved for me by virtue of the fact that the Amendment which was proposed by the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) was accepted in Committee, and has not been opposed by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. It means that every hon. and right hon. Member will have to face this issue at the next General Election fairly and frankly. When this matter comes up for reconsideration at the end of the five-year period we shall be asked what our intentions are, and how we shall vote. That being the case, I can vote for the Bill tonight. I can do so because I know that in doing so I shall be answerable to the electorate not only for my actions tonight but for my future behaviour.
§ If the Clause had not been accepted—if the Bill had abolished capital punishment for all time—I should not have felt able to vote for it, but because the Bill in its amended form meets the strongest objection that I have always had, namely, that we have no mandate from the electorate and have no means of knowing whether we are carrying out the real wishes of the people, I can support the Bill. If we had not met that objection I should not have been able to vote for it, but in the circumstances I do so with a thankful heart, because I want to be rid of this bestial form of punishment as quickly as possible.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 187, Noes 73.
|de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Probert, Arthur|
|Dell, Edmund||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Randall, Harry|
|Dodds, Norman||Kenyon, Clifford||Rees, Merlyn|
|Driberg, Tom||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Richard, Ivor|
|Dunn, James A.||Lawson, George||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|English, Michael||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Ennals, David||Loughlin, Charles||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Ensor, David||Lubbock, Eric||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)||McBride, Neil||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacColl, James||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||MacDermot, Niall||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||McInnes, James||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Floud, Bernard||Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Foley, Maurice||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Ford, Ben||Manuel, Archie||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Maude, Angus||Small, William|
|Ginsburg, David||Maxwell, Robert||Snow, Julian|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mendelson, J. J.||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank|
|Grey, Charles||Mikardo, Ian||Swain, Thomas|
|Grieve, Percy||Millan, Bruce||Swingler, Stephen|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Taverne, Dick|
|Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Teeling, Sir William|
|Hale, Leslie||Molloy, William||Thornton, Erneset|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Sheffield Pk)||Tinn, James|
|Hannan, William||Murray, Albert||Tuck, Raphael|
|Harper, Joseph||Newens, Stan||Urwin, T. W.|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Hattersley, Roy||Norwood, Christopher||Walker, Harold, (Doncaster)|
|Hazell, Bert||Oakes, Gordon||Wallace, George|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Watkins, Tudor|
|Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Ogden, Eric||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hooson, H. E.||O'Malley, Brian||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)||Whitelaw, William|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Orbach, Maurice||Whitlock, William|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Orme, Stanley||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Howie, W.||Oswald, Thomas||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paget, R. T.||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Palmer, Arthur||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Parker, John||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Jackson, Colin||Parkin, B. T.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Pentland, Norman||Mr. Richard Crawshaw and|
|Johnson Smith, G. (East Grinstead)||Perry, Ernest G.||Mr. S. C. Silkin.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Batsford, Brian||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Bessell, Peter||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Box, Donald||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P.||Stodart, Anthony|
|Braine, Bernard||Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Temple, John M.|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kilfedder, James A.||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Kimball, Marcus||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Dance, James||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)||Lagden, Godfrey||Wall, Patrick|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Longden, Gilbert||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Drayson, C. B.||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Wise, A. R.|
|Eden, Sir John||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Mitchell, David||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Farr, John||Monro, Hector||Wylie, N. R.|
|Gardner, Edward||Murton, Oscar||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Noble, Flt. Hn. Michael|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Onslow, Cranley||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop and|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)||Mr. Ray Mawby.|
|Goodhew, Victor||Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth|
§ Question put accordingly:—
|Division No. 256.]||AYES||[12.26 a.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Albu, Austen||Hannan, William||Orme, Stanley|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Harper, Joseph||Oswald, Thomas|
|Alldritt, Walter||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Paget, R. T.|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hattersley, Roy||Palmer, Arthur|
|Awdry, Daniel||Hazell, Bert||Parker, John|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Heffer, Eric S.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Higgins, Terence L.||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Bell, Ronald||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Pentland, Norman|
|Bence, Cyril||Hooson, H. E.||Perry, Ernest C.|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Hornby, Richard||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Bessell, Peter||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Binns, John||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Probert, Arthur|
|Bishop, E. S.||Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington)||Randall, Harry|
|Blackburn, F.||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Howie, W.||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Richard, Ivor|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Jackson, Cohn||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Johnson Smith, G. (East Grinstead)||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Coleman, Donald||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Conlan, Bernard||Kenyon, Clifford||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Slater, Joseph (sengefield)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Small, William|
|Dalyell, Tam||Lawson, George||Snow, Julian|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Loughlin, Charles||Stainton, Keith|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lubbock, Eric||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||McBride, Neil||Swain, Thomas|
|Delargy, Hugh||MacColl, James||Swingler, Stephen|
|Dell, Edmund||MacDermot, Niall||Taverne, Dick|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||McInnes, James||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Dodds, Norman||Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)|
|Driberg, Tom||Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Dunn, James A.||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Tinn, James|
|English, Michael||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Ennals, David||Manuel, Archie||Urwin, T. W.|
|Ensor, David||Maude, Angus||Varley, Eric G.|
|Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Maxwell, Robert||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mendelson, J. J.||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||Mikardo, Ian||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Millan, Bruce||Wallace, George|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Watkins, Tudor|
|Floud, Bernard||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Foley, Maurice||Molloy, William||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Whitlock, William|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Sheffield Pk)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Ford, Ben||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Murray, Albert||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Newens, Stan||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Ginsburg, David||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Grey, Charles||Norwood, Christopher||Zilliacus, K.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)||Ogden, Eric||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hale, Leslie||O'Malley, Brian||Mr. Richard Crawshaw and|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)||Mr. S. C. Silkin.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Dean, Paul|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Cooke, Robert||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.|
|Batsford, Brian||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Dodds-Parker, Douglas|
|Box, Donald||Corfield, F. V.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Braine, Bernard||Crowder, F. P.||Eden, Sir John|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Dance, James||Farr, John|
§ The House divided: Ayes 200, Noes 98.
|Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Lagden, Godfrey||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Gammans, Lady||Longden, Gilbert||Roots, William|
|Gardner, Edward||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Sharples, Richard|
|Gibson-Watt, David||MacArthur, Ian||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Mawby, Ray||Stodart, Anthony|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mitchell, David||Teeling, Sir William|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Monro, Hector||Temple, John M.|
|Grieve, Percy||More, Jasper||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Murton, Oscar||Wall, Patrick|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Onslow, Cranley||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Whitelaw, William|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Wise, A. R.|
|Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Percival, Ian||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Hordern, Peter||Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P.||Pitt, Dame Edith||Wylie, N. R.|
|Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Kilfedder, James A.||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin||Sir Richard Thompson and|
|Kimball, Marcus||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Mr. Humphrey Atkins.|
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.