§ 10.35 a.m.
§ The Chairman
Before I call the first Amendment I have a word or two to say. Last week I undertook that the complaints about the non-ringing of the Division bells would be inquired into. This was done at once and before the end of the morning I had a full and complete report of the testing of the bells. I am happy to say that the bells were in working order. I say "happy" as I welcome the opportunity which this gives me of paying a tribute, which I know both sides of the Committee would wish to support, to the servants of the House to whose devoted labours every hon. and right hon. Member is deeply indebted every day, and whatever divisions there are in the Committee there are certainly no divisions about that.
§ The Chairman
In the unusual position in which the Committee finds itself I have selected Amendment No. 30 in the name of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson). The Chair is of the opinion that the question whether the length of imprisonment be left to the court or to the Minister has been already fully discussed. I hope, therefore, that any debate on this Amendment will be confined now to whether the Amendment 1372 ought to be used to fill the hiatus left in the Clause.
§ Sir John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)
I beg to move Amendment No. 30, in page 1, line 7, in lieu of the word "life" left out, to insert:such period as the court shall determine".I am sure that the whole Committee supports you, Dr. King, as it has shown by the way in which it received your thanks to the servants of the House who attend upon us and whose duties have been made far more onerous and more lengthy by the proceedings of this Committee every Wednesday morning, particularly at a stage when this coincides with the period when the Finance Bill is also being considered.
I bow to your suggestion, and will confine myself to the Amendment and treat it not so much as a proposal as a way of inquiry to ask, first, the sponsors of the Bill and, secondly, the Government, whether and in what way they propose, as it is their Bill, that the matter should be dealt with. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) said last week that the Committee… will certainly have to decide what it shall do about the positionand he supported the Motion to report Progress. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said:I agree that we must reconsider this situation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1965; Vol. 712, C. 474–7.]The situation is certainly anomalous. We spent many days in Committee considering whether capital punishment should be retained at all. That was the first step, and having decided that it should not be retained for any case of murder the vital question arises as to what is to be the alternative in such circumstances. We had some discussion, and there is now a complete hiatus in the Bill and, apparently, after all our labours, the Bill will not produce an answer which makes any sense at all. I had hoped and expected that either the sponsors, or the Government, or both, would put down an Amendment to deal with the situation, but, to my astonishment, nothing has happened. I thought it right, therefore, to put an Amendment down so that the gap would be filled.
I did so so that we might ascertain what the sponsors proposed, whether the 1373 Government would make up their mind now that it was really time they took over the Bill, as they ought to have done from the very beginning, or whether, as a result of our labours and deliberations, we were to send back on Report to the House a Bill with a gap in it which did not make sense and did not deal with the vital question of what is to be done if the capital penalty is abolished.
I have moved the Amendment for those reasons and so that we may as a Committee consider the consequences and ascertain whether those in charge of the Bill, or the Government, have any proposals for dealing with it.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) for having put the Amendment down and for the way in which he moved it, because it gives me an opportunity to say what, in the opinion of the sponsors, the Committee ought to do in view of the almost impossible situation produced by its proceedings last week. After full consideration, I did not put an Amendment down myself because it seemed to me that no Amendment which we put down at the Committee stage would really do justice to the desire of any part of the Committee.
We cannot put the word "life" back at this stage. We could put the word "life" back, subject to Mr. Speaker selecting such an Amendment, on Report. In the opinion of the sponsors of the Bill, this is what the Committee ought to do. I recognise that to send the Bill forward with this hole in its principal Clause is an awkward and unusual thing to do, but I hope to persuade the Committee that it is a less awkward and less inconvenient thing to do than any alternative we might choose.
Last week, there was an Amendment before the Committee to substitute 25 years' imprisonment for life. It was only one Amendment, not two, but, under our procedure in certain cases, the Committee needed two votes. Normally, the carrying of the first vote would almost automatically have led to the carrying of the second on the basis that those who took out the word "life" were a majority, and, by a majority, would wish to substitute 25 years. This did not happen. The word "life" was deleted.
1374 I hope that no one will think that I am complaining of that. It is a perfectly legitimate Parliamentary device which brought it about, but it was an unfortunate one because it led a temporary majority of the Committee to carry part of the Amendment and then not to be a majority any longer when it came to completing the Amendment. Quite frankly, the result was a nonsense, as I recognised last week when I agreed to the Motion, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."
The Amendment now before us looks, on the surface, more than plausible. It looks attractive. It would be sensible. It would be grammatical, and we could do it without losing anything in principle. But I suggest that no Member of the Committee would be happy about it if we did. Why?—because there is no Member of the Committee, either abolitionist or retentionist, who believes that, if we abolish the death sentence, there ought not to be power in suitable cases to keep a man in detention throughout the rest of his life. No one believes that a man who has been convicted of murder should be released into the general public while there is the slightest chance of his being in such a condition that he might commit the offence again. About this the Committee is unanimous.
§ Mr. Anthony Buck (Colchester)
As I understand the Amendment, it would be open to the court to sentence a person to life imprisonment. Thus, the point which the hon. Gentleman makes seems to be met.
§ 10.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
That is so, and I was coming to that point. If the hon. Gentleman wishes, I shall deal with it now. It gives to the court discretion to pronounce a life sentence. What most people want is not a discretion in the court to pronounce a life sentence, but an automatic, fixed, life sentence as an alternative to a fixed death sentence in cases of conviction of murder, for the reason that there is more than one factor involved in the question how long a man should be detained.
Only some of the factors are known on the day of trial to the trial judge. A great deal depends on what happens afterwards. A great deal depends on how the man 1375 develops. There must be in the Home Secretary—it can be nowhere else—power in every case when a man is convicted of murder to be able to say that he is not turned loose on the public at any time while there is the slightest danger of his repeating the offence.
I quite understand that there is a difference of opinion on whether the determination of when, or if, a licence is granted under Section 27 of the Prison Act, 1952, should be exercised solely by the Home Secretary or whether—in accordance with one Amendment on the Notice Paper—he should take the opinion, for instance, of the Court of Appeal. We have not reached that stage and we are not discussing the point now. What I am saying is that I cannot conceive that there is any hon. Member in the Committee who would desire at this stage to remove the substitution of a life sentence for the death sentence which, by large majorities, we have already agreed to abolish.
We must keep that matter open. That possibility must always be there. There may have to be, in the opinion of the Committee, safeguards upon its exercise in various ways, at various times and under various conditions, and there is plenty of room for difference of opinion about that. At the Report stage, no doubt, these matters can be considered. But what would be unsatisfactory, I venture to suggest, to everyone, whether in favour of abolishing the death penalty or against abolishing it, would be to leave with the court at the moment of trial the responsibility of determining then and there what the period should be.
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Gentleman is coming rather near to what I suggested we have already fully discussed. I shall be grateful if he will confine himself to the argument which he was advancing at the beginning.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am much obliged, Dr. King. I shall not pursue it. I was illustrating an argument, and I quite realise that I may have been illustrating it in too much detail. I think that the Committee would not be satisfied with the present Amendment or with any other Amendments which could take its place on the Notice Paper.
1376 It may be asked why I have not put down an Amendment to restore the word "life". I could not do so, because it would have been out of order. Indeed, anything would be out of order at the present stage which would have the effect of substantially restoring the position we changed last week. Therefore, what I recommend to the Committee is that it should reject the Amendment and others of a similar nature and let the Bill go forward to the Report stage, with the gap, on the distinct understanding that the sponsors will put down on that stage an Amendment to restore the word "life".
If this seems to be an admirable course, I confess that it is. But it is not without precedent. Those of us who were Members during the war will remember a rather close parallel. The House was then considering in Committee the Education Act, 1944. One Clause of that Measure dealt with machinery for paying teachers' salaries. A back bench Amendment was moved to provide that equal pay should be given to men and women teachers and, most unexpectedly, this was carried against the Coalition Government by one vote.
The Government decided that this would not do. The Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill, came to the House next day and explained that it would be quite unreasonable to expect him to continue the conduct of the war if he had lost the confidence of the House of Commons to such an extent that, against the Government's desire, it wanted equal pay for men and women teachers. He insisted that the House should reverse its decision then and there.
Of course, it could not reverse its decision then and there in so many words. Indeed, there was no need for it to do anything at all, because an Amendment could equally well be made on the Report stage if nothing were then done. The Government were not satisfied. They persuaded the House, by a vote of about 400 against about 20, that the whole Clause should be deleted. The Measure then went forward to the Report stage without any Clause providing that a single penny of wages should be paid to men or women teachers, or anybody else. On Report, the original Clause, un-amended, was restored. I think that is a fairly close parallel.
1377 The difference is that, whereas in that wartime case it was not necessary to delete the Clause in Committee, since an Amendment restoring the position could have been made on the Report stage, in this case, if we were to fill up the gap at this stage, we should to that extent be embarrassing ourselves on the Report stage. I do not think that I can add anything to the argument. I hope that the Committee will think that, in the circumstances, this is the most practical thing to do.
§ Mr. Joseph Hiley (Pudsey)
Has the hon. Gentleman considered the possibility of his proposal being defeated on Report?
§ Mr. Silverman
One always has to consider such possibilities, but one does not refrain from putting down an Amendment and endeavouring to get it carried because there is the possibility that one will fail. One must do one's best.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I hardly think that the response of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) to the Amendment, though most reasonably done, will satisfy all hon. Members. Without, I hope, trespassing on the bounds of order, perhaps I may say that the hon. Gentleman's argument was in a sense misdirected, because he attributed to the Amendment motives which do not lie with those responsible for it. He said that most people wanted a fixed sentence and saw some objection to altering the Bill in that sense. That is not my desire nor that of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that I said that most people wanted a fixed penalty, I must have expressed myself very badly. What I think most people want is power to retain a man for all his life under detention if the death penalty is abolished and if that course seems to be necessary. I think that everybody wants that and that the Amendment, in my opinion, would not achieve such a result.
§ Mr. Deedes
I will deal with that point quite shortly without going beyond what you, Dr. King, have asked.
The Amendment is not simply a mechanical device designed to fill the gap. It would afford to the court the discretion 1378 which many of us think would be a wise and right thing to do and which meets the support of a great many right hon. and hon. Members. There seem to be three reasons why the Committee should give very serious attention to the Amendment.
First, it really seems hardly credible, notwithstanding what the hon. Member has said, that those responsible for the Bill should wish to report it to the House lacking what is, in effect, the whole nub and purpose of the Bill. This is not a detail which has been struck from the texture of the Bill; it is the main point.
Secondly, all right hon. and hon. Members are agreed, whether they be retentionists or abolitionists, that if hanging goes an adequate alternative must be provided. There is no dispute about that. But this is the one point that the Bill, as the hon. Gentleman wants it to be reported, will fail to provide, according to the hon. Gentleman, and that after many hours of work. Our proceedings have so far occupied about 46 hours—about one hour for each line of the Bill. Yet it is proposed to report the Bill to the House with its main purpose unfulfilled. We do not feel that this is an acceptable solution to the difficulty we got into last week.
Thirdly, the Committee should also consider that the sponsors of the Bill clearly envisage that they will be able to refill the gap at a later stage, but the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Mr. Hiley) is exceedingly relevant. They presuppose that they will carry the Amendment when they wish to do so. It may well be that they will carry the Amendment, but equally they may not.
Accidents occur, and accidents seems to occur fairly frequently to this Bill. I do not think that I have ever been concerned with such an accident-prone Measure as this one. To presuppose at this stage that the Amendment which the sponsors intend to put down on Report is assured of success is a very risky way of going about it. Where will we be if that Amendment is defeated? I must not carry this too far at this point, but it is right that the Committee should see the way it may be going. If an Amendment on Report to fill the gap were defeated, there would be no other opportunity to fill the gap.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
The right hon. Gentleman will not have forgotten the rules of the House. When it comes to the Report stage any hon. Member can put down an Amendment and it is inconceivable that an Amendment would not be carried to fill the gap—possibly even the one now before us. It does not follow that because my Amendment might not be carried the House would not carry any other Amendment.
§ 11.0 a.m.
§ Mr. Deedes
My point is that this is the penultimate stage of our consideration of detail and Report would be the ultimate stage. Before we reach it, on the assumption which the hon. Member rather readily reaches, we should be aware where we are going.
Fourthly, I feel some concern about the future course of our proceedings. One merit of our morning sittings is that we have had ample time in which to consider all the Amendments which have been put forward; and the hon. Member will probably agree that it has been done fairly reasonably. We have taken our time, but it has been reasonably done. There is, moreover, no disagreement that there should be ample time for this purpose.
If we proceed with the gap unfulfilled, further discussion of this matter will, I understand, become difficult, perhaps impossible. I cannot, of course, anticipate your Ruling, Dr. King, but it seems to me that other matters which the Committee desire to seek to discuss will cease to be discussable. Again, the Committee has a right to consider this matter in advance. Some may wish to consider the ideas of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) or of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson), who have put down Amendments. As I understand, there is a risk that these things would be outside the bounds of discussion.
It may be, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has suggested, that there will be a later opportunity for that discussion, but it will be in wholly different circumstances and depending upon the provision by the Government of adequate time for a later stage. I am sorry to have to say this, but I do not trust those who are responsible for these 1380 arrangements to provide adequate facilities for that discussion. Early experience with the Bill has led me to say that with regret. Less concern is being shown by some for the provisions of the Bill than for the Government's timetable, and the timetable, we are all aware, like the Bill, is in some trouble.
What guarantee have we that the important matters still to be discussed on the Bill will receive any consideration if we accede to the proposal of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne? What discussion will there be of how the sentence is to be imposed or terminated? I will not develop the point, but this is crucial and as yet we have had a very brief and rather interrupted discussion on it.
I realise that to anticipate the future would take me out of order, but the Committee has the right to look ahead and see where this procedure may lead us. For these reasons, the Committee would be wise to accept the sensible course suggested by my right hon. and learned Friend of accepting the Amendment without prejudice, I stress to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, to anything that may happen in the future. The hon. Member knows full well that he would commit himself to nothing irrevocable by accepting the Amendment. It would enable the Committee to continue its discussion of these important aspects and, when the time comes, to report something to the House which is a respectable product of 46 hours of work and not a farce.
I hope that that will be done and I beg not only the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, but others who have influence in this matter, not to compound what many already regard as an act of folly with obstinacy.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
This is really a simple question. The first point to be considered is whether any alternative to the word "life" will serve. If we were to insert any alternative word to "life", we would remove the effect of Section 27 of the Prison Act, 1952. That Section provides thatThe Secretary of State may … release on licence … subject to … conditions".I should have thought that in the case of murder, nobody would wish to remove from the Home Secretary that right 1381 to release subject to conditions. The conditions may be all-important.
The second power which that Section gives to the Home Secretary is the right to recall to prison somebody who has been released on licence. Again, I should not have thought that any of us would wish to remove from the Home Secretary the right to recall, to release on licence again and to recall again it necessary. These are powers which are given to the Home Secretary in the case of a sentence of imprisonment for life. They are not given to him in any other circumstances. I should have thought that in the case of all murderers——
§ The Chairman
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Member, but it seems to me that he is arguing for the restoration of a word which the Committee has taken out. I hope that he will confine himself to the aspects which I suggested should be discussed.
§ Mr. Paget
I am extremely sorry, Dr. King. I simply make the point that we first have to decide whether any alternative words will do, and I venture to say that no alternative words will serve.
Then comes the simple question of mechanics, in which there is no real problem of how to put back the word "life" if that be considered the only course. In the case of the Education Act, the then Prime Minister's action and proposal set the perfectly good precedent of leaving a blank and filling it on Report.
This and any other wrecking Amendment may be carried or defeated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Wrecking?"] Yes, of course. Wrecking Amendments may be carried on Report. If "life" were again excluded on Report, that would be an Amendment to wreck the Bill. Hon. Members opposite should not look indignant about this.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
On the last occasion when the Committee considered this problem, the hon. and learned Member made accusations about schoolboy tactics and the rest. Now he is talking about wrecking Amendments. If he makes that allegation, he should substantiate it. Nobody on this side of the Committee is getting angry. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman justify the 1382 plain meaning of the words which he is using?
§ Mr. Paget
When my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) concluded his remarks, the hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Hiley) posed the supposition that on Report the proposal to put back the word "life" might be defeated. If that happened, it would be something that would wreck the Bill—of course it would.
§ Sir J. Hobson
All that the hon. and learned Member is saying is that it would wreck his idea of what the Bill should be, but it could be made a perfectly sensible Bill in a different form. It would wreck only the hon. Member's idea and not the Bill.
§ Mr. Paget
Of course, other words could be inserted, but if on Report a blank were left and no other words were inserted, ordinary language would describe that as a wrecking procedure. From the word "go" there have been a lot of hon. Members who have wanted to wreck the Bill because they do not like it. They think that it is wrong. There is no complaint about that. I am merely saying that, although there is always a chance of being defeated, the way to fill this blank with the only word which, in the light of the present Act, will do in the view of the promoters is to wait for the Report stage, and that is what we propose.
§ Mr. C. M. Woodhouse (Oxford)
I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) would not accuse me of seeking to wreck the Bill, because I voted for it on Second Reading. However, he put his finger on a very crucial point when he said that the effect of substituting any form of words other than "life" in the hiatus of the Bill would be to deprive the Home Secretary of the power of release and recall under Section 27 of the 1952 Act.
I feel that it is only fair to point out to him that this would be the effect and is the intention of an Amendment which stands in my name later on the Notice Paper. I will not get out of order by attempting to debate that Amendment now. I would merely assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that my purpose, when I come to discuss the Amendment, as I hope I shall, will not he to wreck the Bill.
§ The Chairman
Order. I have informed the hon. Gentleman privately and the Committee publicly by the notice which I circulated that his Amendment is out of order, whether the Amendment before the Committee is carried or not. He may have an opportunity of dealing with the point at some other stage, but I cannot guarantee that.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
On a point of order, Dr. King. I regret to say that I did not receive any private notification on this point. The purpose of my rising was precisely to ask whether the intention was to call Amendment No. 17, in page 1, line 7, at end insert:Such a sentence shall be of indefinite duration subject only to the exercise of the prerogative of mercy".
§ The Chairman
May I help the hon. Gentleman? I am sorry that my message has not, apparently, reached him, because as a matter of courtesy I try to inform hon. Members in advance. Unfortunately, whether the Amendment which is now before the Committee wins the Division or not, Amendment No. 17 is out of order. I say, "unfortunately" because the hon. Gentleman's Amendment was to be called and, indeed, I was in the process of calling it when other things happened. Perhaps this interchange of views between us will help the hon. Gentleman at a subsequent stage, but I cannot say anything about that.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
With respect, am I entitled to argue with your Ruling, Dr. King, because it appears to me that, although Amendment No. 17 would certainly be out of order if the Amendment now under discussion were carried, it would not be out of order if it were defeated.
§ The Chairman
I am sorry. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not argue the point of order with me.
§ 11.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Buck
I thought that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) felt really deeply about the procedures of the House and that the House should conduct its affairs in a proper way. Sometimes during our proceedings, however, I have been led to the 1384 conclusion that they are concerned only with what suits their own ends.
I do not purport to be an expert on the procedure of the House, but it seems to me that our function in Committee is to put the Bill in proper order. We should consider it in detail in Committee and send it back to the House for its Report stage amended in such a way that it makes sense and ensure that the Bill is improved and is a cogent Bill proper for presentation to the House. It seems to me extraordinary that the sponsors of the Bill, without a murmur from the Government, it appears, should allow the procedures of the House to be used in this way. The position now is that we have before us a Bill which does not make sense. Yet the Government and the sponsors of the Bill appear to be perfectly content that this should be the case and have not made any real response to proper attempts to make sense of the Bill.
The sponsors rely on the fact that they will be able to carry an Amendment on Report. As has been pointed out, there is no guarantee that any particular Amendment will be passed on Report. But the matter goes further than that, because there is no guarantee that an Amendment will be selected by the Speaker.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I have sought advice on that point and I have been assured that it is the practice of the Chair on Report to select any Amendment put down by the sponsors of the Bill. Therefore, there is no danger in the last point made by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Buck
I am interested to hear that. It will be noted in wider circles. We are glad that the constitutional position should be clarified. My understanding was that there was no guarantee about this matter. However, if the hon. Gentleman says that, it being the constitutional convention, this shall be done, perhaps it disposes of part of the difficulty.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
As I understand it—I may have misunderstood the position, but I do not think I have—the practice is directed to the sponsors of the Bill. It is true that in the great majority of cases the sponsors are the Government. But the practice of allowing to be called any Amendment tabled on Report by the sponsors does not arise out of any discrimination between Bills sponsored by the Government and Bills sponsored by a private Member.
§ Mr. Buck
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. My understanding of the position was that it was a privilege usually extended to sponsors and invariably extended to Governments. I should have thought that this was one of the reasons why the Bill might have been appropriately considered as a Government Measure. None the less, I accept from the hon. Gentleman that there is this convention.
However, it seems to me undersirable that the Report stage should be used in this way. I have always understood that the Committee stage of a Bill was the proper stage for getting Bills into reasonable order, and deliberately to report a Bill back to the House in a nonsensical form seems to me something of an abuse of the procedure of the House. I am surprised that the sponsors of the Bill should be contemplating this action and that we have not had as yet—no doubt we shall in a moment or two—any comment from the Government on the situation. I shall be interested to hear from the Home Secretary what view the Government take of this matter.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne said that the Amendment put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) was an alternative, was rational, made sense and was quite attractive. Then he went on to say that nobody would be happy about the Amendment. Nobody in the House can be said to be happy about the Bill as it stands, because it does not make sense. A much more preferable course would be for the sponsors to accept the Amendment which, as the hon. Gentleman said, 1386 is attractive, makes sense and has great merit. We should not then be in the invidious position of allowing a Bill to be reported from a Committee of the whole House, after a great deal of consideration, in an absurd and ludicrous form.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
Supposing I were to accept the Amendment and supposing that I were to say, "It is a pity to send the Bill forward with a hole in it. If it can be tidied up in any reasonable way, I will accept the Amendment," but, at the same time, giving notice that on Report I would still seek to change it back to a life sentence—the hon. Gentleman knows that this is what I want to do and have wanted to do all the time, so that there would be nothing unexpected if I said that—would he still want me to accept the Amendment on the basis that I would seek to upset it again on Report? Would that be a proper thing to do?
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
This is the point at which I want to intervene on the Bill for the first time. We are in difficulty because the Bill now makes nonsense. There are three arguments against the Amendment. One was put by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—that if we had this form of words, it would not fit in with Section 27 of the 1952 Act. I accept that and if we had this form of words, it would, therefore, be necessary to have a later Amendment widening the provisions of Section 27 of the 1952 Act.
The second argument was put forward by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) and is that he does not like this form of words and would have preferred not to have been defeated last week and, therefore, cannot himself vote for this form of words. That I accept. He undoubtedly has a prerogative on Report, when his Amendments will get a prior claim. Personally, I think that it is unfortunate that that was dragged in at this stage, because nothing should be done to fetter Mr. Speaker's discretion as to what Amendment he calls or does not call. I have 1387 known times when the House has made a clear decision in Committee and when Mr. Speaker has refused to call an Amendment to put hack something on Report. That is why it is unfortunate that the admittedly normal practice should be prayed in aid as a justification for the course taken by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne.
What he could do would be not to challenge these words—in other words, not to vote for them, but not to vote against them, realising that as he was defeated in the first Division on Wednesday, the natural sequence should be for those who won the argument in that Division to put in some form of words in Committee so as to make the Bill make sense at this stage. That is what I shall be unhappy about if this Amendment is defeated. I do not know whether the House of Commons has ever passed a Measure through its Committee stage when it did not make grammatical sense, in other words, completely leaving out the end of the sentence.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne quoted in support of his argument the illustration of the Education Act, 1944, when, having been defeated on a minor Amendment—a major Amendment if hon. Members like to call it so—on equal pay, the Government then took the Clause out of the Bill. The correct parallel, which the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne did not pursue, would be, having been defeated last Wednesday, to negative his Clause and then put it back at the next stage.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not really mean that. The 1944 Education Bill had a lot of Clauses and provided a whole system, an intricate and complex system, for national education, under which we are still operating. What the Government did in that case was to take out the Clause which provided any payments whatever for any of the services for which they were legislating. That was a much bigger nonsense than a mere grammatical inclusion at the end of a sentence. But what the Government could do then, is what I cannot do. They could take the Clause out and put it back in an amended form on Report without destroying the Education Bill as a Bill. If I were to accept the right 1388 hon. Gentleman's argument, I would myself be destroying my own Bill. I assure him that that I have no intention of doing. I intend to carry it.
§ Mr. Turton
The hon. Gentleman complains of my following his own analogy. That is not a precedent for his action. If it were a precedent, the hon. Gentleman would have his own remedy in negativing the Clause and putting it back on Report, as the Coalition Government did in 1944. I do not believe that to be a true precedent.
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary tell us whether there is any precedent for the House of Commons tacitly allowing a Measure to go through Committee with a complete nonsense in the middle of a major Clause? I have always understood it to be the duty of the House to see that its legislation is passed in as good sense as is possible. Therefore, although many are not satisfied with my right hon. and learned Friend's Amendment, it should be allowed to go through so that the Bill will go forward, according to precedent, in grammatical sense at this stage.
§ Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
The approach of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) is wrong. There is no possible objection to his saying, "I accept that I have been defeated at this stage and I want to try to reverse that decision at a later stage, but, meanwhile, I must accept something reasonable to make sense of my Bill". I ask him to reconsider the argument which he has advanced in support of his proposition.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) made an equally false point, and here I am bound to take issue with my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). The Amendment which is now proposed, and which I support, gives power to sentence to life imprisonment. Section 27 applies to any sentence of life imprisonment and not merely to one which is mandatory. Accordingly, there is nothing in that argument.
What appeared to me to be one of the more scandalous points made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton—and that is saying something, because he has made a few in these debates 1389 —was his suggestion that this was a wrecking Amendment.
§ Mr. Paget rose——
§ Mr. Percival
I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will listen for a moment. We have had to listen to a lot from him.
The Clause is wrecked now. What we are seeking to do is to make some sense of it, and if hon. Members who support the Bill so passionately would bend their heads to it a little more, they would see that the Amendment of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) is not only acceptable to them, but introduces consistency where at present there is inconsistency.
§ Mr. Paget rose——
§ Mr. Percival
No, I will not give way.
I hope that I shall be in order if I advance an argument which has not been put before. In subsection (3) it is provided—I paraphrase—that when Section 70 of the Army Act is applied, when a person subject to military law commits the offence of murder overseas and is tried by court-martial—if he commits it in the United Kingdom, he will not be tried by court-martial—he shall be liable to imprisonment for life. In his case, a sentence of imprisonment for life is not mandatory, but the court-martial may sentence him to anything up to and including life imprisonment. That would be the effect of the Amendment moved by my right hon. and learned Friend.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ The Chairman
Order. We are to take that Amendment later. The hon. and learned Gentleman must apply any reference that he makes to it to the Amendment under discussion. I have not seen that yet.
§ Mr. Percival
One has to lay the basis for something that one is going to say later. My purpose in making that point, which I hope to develop later, is directed to the fact that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has said that he cannot accept the Amendment because it is inconsistent with the line that he has adopted.
1390 I am asking him and the Committee to accept that it is not. The Amendment would introduce consistency into the Bill, for the reasons that I have mentioned. We would then have the same provision for punishment for murder committed by a person under military law as for a person not under military law. I therefore suggest, both to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, and to the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, that they would do well to think about this a little more.
§ Mr. Percival
I think that we must leave this to our recollections and to tomorrow's HANSARD. It is plain that if the hon. and learned Gentleman did not mean that, he conveyed that impression to more than one Member on this side of the House. I am glad to have it cleared up, and I take the hon. and learned Gentleman to mean that if he said it, it was inadvertence, and he does not make any such suggestion now.
Perhaps I might consider the reasons for filling the gap in the Bill with something—and the wording suggested by my right hon. Friend is as good as one could have for the time being. I hope that I might have the attention of the Home Secretary. I am sure that he will not mind my saying that it reduces debate to something rather meaningless if one cannot have the attention of the person who has made the point with which one is dealing, or the attention of the person who is to deal with it.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Frank Soskice)
I apologise to the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Mr. Percival
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said, if we leave the gap, a great many questions arise for consideration as to what Amendments are or are not in order. You have ruled on one Amendment, Dr. King, and whatever happens it will not be in order to discuss that. That might be overcome by filling the gap with some other wording which would keep that 1391 Amendment in order, but the same question will arise on all the other Amendments which are down for discussion, and on which many of us hope to have the opportunity to make a contribution on this very important aspect of the problem, namely, what are to be the provisions for sentencing if the death penalty is to be removed?
My right hon. Friend is right in saying that unless the gap is filled now the opportunities for discussing that question will be very limited, if indeed there are any at all, on the remaining parts of the Committee stage. It is true that the opportunity will arise on Report, but, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, the amount of time which will be available then to discuss these matters will rest entirely in the hands of the Government.
My attitude, and that of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, must depend to some extent on what assurances we receive as to the amount of time that we shall have to discuss these matters on Report, and it would be of great assistance if one of the Members of the Government who are present and who have listened to the debate and have now had an hour in which to consider the point, is able to give some indication of the time which the Government propose to provide on Report to discuss these important matters.
Unless we receive a firm assurance that adequate time will be given on Report for discussing this important aspect of the problem, the Committee ought to fill the gap in the Bill so that we can go on discussing this part of the problem.
§ Sir Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
I should like the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) to listen to what I am going to say. I more than half believe that it would be in order now, as a result of the discussion which has proceeded for the last half hour, to discuss and expound one's view of the whole constitutional and procedural history of the Bill, which is remarkable and scandalous. But I do not want to try and go back on all that. I want to mention one or two things, and I apologise if it may be thought that the argument has already been completed.
I think it not altogether superfluous to say two things in particular. The first 1392 is with regard to the alleged precedent from wartime. I do not remember that as clearly as I remember some other things that happened in wartime, and quite a lot did happen. Nevertheless, I remember it pretty clearly. I remember that at the time it was thought to be a pretty disgraceful exercise of the power of indispensability on the part of the then Prime Minister. That was a very small matter compared with his services and with the dangers, the necessities and the urgencies which we were in at the time, but it was widely felt to be an excessive abuse.
It is not an analogy, for two reasons. First, it is not an analogy because of the change in persons and politics. Whatever may be said for the argument that Mr. Churchill, as he then was, was at that moment in 1944 so essential to the survival of our country that something otherwise highly undesirable ought to be done, the same cannot be said about the sponsor of the Bill, and indeed can hardly be said even about the Home Secretary.
The second reason why it is not an analogy is that what was done then did not destroy the Bill; it did not make nonsense of the Bill. It was no doubt a gross inconvenience that the Bill did not provide for the important but still adjective purpose—in the sense of not substantive—of paying teachers. What we are being asked to do today by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, and presumably by the Home Secretary, is to purport to report something which is nonsense. There may be some precedent for that, but if there is it is a bad precedent, and we ought to take great care that it does not happen again.
I cannot believe that the Committee is satisfying its directions from the House if what it does is to send back a form of words which is not a report of the Bill but a piece of nonsense made out of the Bill—and made out of the Bill by whom? The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—who never seems to be able to tear himself away from his more intimate conversations to pay some attention to what the Committee is trying to do—introduced the word "wrecking". If the Bill is wrecked, who will have wrecked it? [HON. MEMBERS: "You."] No. The Bill is not wrecked by us. We should not 1393 be here today if the Bill had been wrecked by the vote in which my hon. Friends and I were successful. What the Bill is in danger of being wrecked by—and is at the moment wrecked by—unless we pass this, or a better Amendment, is the subsequent vote.
The Bill is not now afloat. It cannot be reported. It is not in a position in which it could be reported. There is much else which could be said about this. I apologise to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), because, by implication, he has said all this already, and perhaps I should not have said it again in a rather different and directer way. But I thought it was worth doing. [Interruption.] Dammit! I have listened to the whole debate from the word "go" and this is the first time I have spoken. I beg, hon. and right hon.—I was going to say Gentlemen but I think that there is only one right hon. Gentleman opposite—I beg Members opposite to think twice about this. Do they really want to establish the principle that a Committee—whether a Committee of the whole House or a Standing Committee—which has been given the duty of reporting a Bill, should be advised by those in charge of it, and should accept the advice, to report not the Bill as amended but something which has ceased to be a Bill, and which it is quite clear to everybody, on both sides of the Committee, has ceased to be a Bill?
§ Mr, Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
I wish to address myself very shortly to the subject which we are discussing. It is that the Bill, in its present form, reads:No person shall suffer death for murder, and a person guilty of murder shall, subject to subsection (4) below, be sentenced to imprisonment for".The question is whether, after the word "for", we shall put in the words suggested by my right hon. and learned Friend.
Whatever else will be said about his proposal, nobody can suggest that it is a wrecking Amendment, because it has at any rate the merit of making the Bill a coherent Measure. That is what it is designed to do, and that is what my right hon. and learned Friend has argued for. It may make the Bill a coherent Measure in a form different in some degree from that which the sponsor of the Bill, the 1394 hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), would wish. I accept that. At the same time, I would point out to the hon. Member that he has had great experience in the House and should know that he is taking upon himself a considerable responsibility in proposing to the Committee that it should report the Bill in a form which is virtually meaningless.
§ 11.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that I conceded that point myself in an earlier speech. He will also remember that we are all in a constitutional difficulty for which none of us is responsible but which arises inevitably out of the rules of the House. I have no doubt—and the right hon. Gentleman might concede it to be a possibility—that if it were open to me now to move an Amendment to put the word "life" back the Committee would probably accept it, by a majority. In my opinion, this would be the sensible thing to do. The only reason why I cannot do it is that it would be out of order under our Standing Orders. Therefore, the only option that I have is either to consent to put in a form of words of which I intensely and fundamentally disapprove or to leave the gap as it is to be filled in correctly at the next stage of the Bill. That is the only question before the Committee.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
In a fairly long experience of the House of Commons I have known many an hon. Member say that he was in a constitutional difficulty of a terrible character simply because he had got rather less than he desired or thought that he deserved. This is a very common precedent. I, too, have had some experience of these matters. It so happens that I seconded the Amendment on the Education Bill which brought about the downfall of the Government. I am not wholly ignorant of the precedent to which the hon. Member refers.
But it is not a particularly apposite precedent to these matters, for the reasons which were advanced very well by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn). What we are here dealing with is a matter of great concern to the House of Commons as a whole, namely, to try to make some 1395 sense of the Bill. I welcome the Home Secretary back. [Interruption.] I am not complaining that he left. I am saying that I am grateful that he has come back.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I apologise for being out while the right hon. Member was speaking. It was necessary for me to go out and make an inquiry.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I am not in any way criticising the Home Secretary; I merely said that I was glad that he had come in at this moment.
The subject round which the discussion turns is of deep concern to millions of people. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne to tell us what the majority of people think. The majority of people in this country think very differently from the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. I am not saying that the majority is right, but do not let us all say that we know exactly what the majority think. Whatever the majority think, however, the House of Commons would wish that the deepest and most serious consideration should be given to the matter.
I wish that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) would sit down for a few minutes peacefully. He never stays in one place for a moment. Let him compose himself and try to listen to the debate.
The majority of people are deeply concerned as to what is to be done with men or women guilty of the terrible crime of murder if they are not sentenced to death. This is a matter of immense complexity and difficulty. It is not capable of easy solution. It is terrible that at this moment the Government have not taken charge of the Bill. I concede that they flinched from taking charge of it while the very difficult moral as well as political and legal issue about the death sentence were being debated. Views differ in all parties about that.
But when we consider the question of what should be done when we do not have a death sentence—and this is no reflection upon the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne—we are considering something which no Private Member can deal with, because it is a matter of such 1396 complexity. The Home Office, with all their resources, knowledge and experience, and with their knowledge of the kind of pattern of sentencing which they are seeking, are the only people—acting through the Home Secretary—who can really deal with a situation of this kind.
What frightens me—I mean this as no reflection on anyone—is the amateur approach which we are being compelled to take on a matter of deep complexity and of immense interest to the people of this country——
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman rose——
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I hope that the hon. Member will not leap up at this moment. I am addressing the Home Secretary.
This is something which only the Home Secretary can take ultimate responsibility for——
§ Mr. Silverman rose——
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Please let me finish. If the sponsors of the Bill were a little quieter, we should make greater progress with the Bill.
I ask the Home Secretary whether he would not consider from now on, beginning to take a large measure of responsibility for an issue which is central to the responsibilities of his Department; I think that that would be right and proper. So far as this Amendment is concerned——
§ Mr. Silverman
The right hon. Gentleman has said—very politely: I appreciate it—that we are all dealing in a rather amateurish fashion with what must ultimately be the responsibility of the Home Office. I want to remind him that the alternative to the death penalty which we have been recommending as sponsors of the Bill to the Committee is exactly the same as what the Government of which he was a Member recommended the House to do when they abolished the death penalty over five-sixths of the whole area in 1957. It is not fair to charge people with being amateurish. We are merely following the practice of Governments in previous years, who have done exactly the same thing.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
It would be wrong to debate now whether life is the right 1397 sentence, and this is not my purpose. I think that I should be out of order if I did so. Whatever is done with the men or women who commit the terrible crime of murder, it must surely be some responsibility of the Home Secretary to determine what it is. That is all I am asking. I do not ask necessarily for a reply this morning. I ask that the Home Secretary should ponder these matters between now and Report stage. I believe that it would meet the wishes of the Committee and those of the country, and add to the respect and standing of the Home Office, if between now and Report stage——
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Miss Alice Bacon) rose——
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Just one moment, please. Let me finish. I am very glad to see that the hon. Lady has heard the Division bell this morning. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] I should be obliged if she would content herself while I address her chief.
I think that it would meet the wishes of the country and the House of Commons if between now and Report stage the Home Secretary himself—not his junior Minister, but the Home Secretary himself—would give consideration to the possibility of taking responsibility for the Bill.
§ Miss Bacon
I was going to say that if the right hon. Gentleman had been present throughout the whole of the proceedings as some of us have and had been in every Division, as I have, he would have heard the views of the Home Office, both from my right hon. and learned Friend and from me, on the very points which he now puts forward.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I think that the country is entitled to expect from the Home Office something more than interested comments from the sidelines by junior Ministers. This is no way to deal with one of the big issues of the day. This is the Home Secretary's responsibility, not mine and not that of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). It is essential that proposals of this character should be the ultimate responsibility of the Home Secretary. All that I am asking—in a most polite manner, I think—is not even 1398 for an answer now, but that between now and Report stage he should consider with his colleagues, with the Prime Minister and with his advisers in the Home Office, whether it would not be possible to take over responsibility for the Measure.
With regard to these proposals, in a sense, one does not know whom to address in matters of this kind. But I imagine that the Home Secretary and the Government must have some responsibility for a Measure which will be reported to the House which touches the large responsibility of the Home Office. As an old Member of the House of Commons—if I can address him with that background to his credit—the Home Secretary cannot be happy, I think, about leaving the Bill in this condition. There are solid merits in the Amendment. We might at some time go into them in great detail, and one would like to hear the Home Secretary's views.
A life sentence could still be imposed under this Amendment and this is certainly an argument for it. It leaves open the question of sentence in the sort of cases which have happened in the past, of some desperate parent putting an end to the life of a sick and ill child who could never recover, in which the sentence of death had to be imposed, though everybody knew that it could not possibly be carried out. There are cases like that where it might be said that a sentence for less than life could be justified.
These are matters which I do not want to debate in detail now. They are matters of immense moral and political difficulty, but they are matters on which we should like the views of the Home Office. I hope that the sponsors of the Bill will think again before advising their hon. Friends to vote against the Amendment. I believe that it is in the interests of the House of Commons as well as everybody else that the Bill should go forward, whether people agree with it or not, in a way which is at least coherent, which makes some sense, which is comprehensible to people outside. But for the Committee to let the Bill go on to Report stage and be published to the world in a meaningless jumble is a bad reflection on our activities.
I appeal to the Home Secretary to give us the benefit of his advice, not only as 1399 Home Secretary but as one who has spent a great many years in the House, and see whether it would not be possible to accept the Amendment in its present form. No doubt he might, on reflection, come to the conclusion that it is the best answer, but if he thinks that some other answer is better, there will no doubt be opportunities on Report for putting it right.
§ Sir F. Soskice
The right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) has asked me to give my advice to the Committee. My advice to the Committee would be to vote against the Amendment in order that we may make progress with the Committee stage of this most important Bill, about which, as he said, many millions of people are concerned and which should reach finality one way or another at the earliest possible moment. It has been said that time has not been given. We have been hours and hours and hours on this Bill, in Standing Committee and in the House. We had a full Second Reading debate, as we always have, at which views which have been repeated over and over again since were put before the House. A large majority of the House was in favour of the principle of the Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman has asked me for my advice. I have given it many times on the precise point which this Amendment raises. I have indicated time and again how I, so long as I hold this office, would exercise my discretion in these matters. I am sorry that I was not here for the beginning of his speech; I hope that he will accept that I had stepped out for a reasonable purpose. I do not think, with respect, that it is fair of him to say that, so far as my advice might help the House, hon. Members have lacked it. I have given it over and over again. I know that you have ruled out of order discussion on the merits of this Amendment, Dr. King, but I would again have given it had you not given that ruling, which the Committee unreservedly accepts.
The question is, when faced with a somewhat unprecedented situation—not wholly so, because there was one close parallel which my hon. Friend for Nelson and Colne mentioned—what we should do in the presence of that situation. It is the result of our procedure, which has 1400 been worked out after centuries of experience and which works very well. The procedure may be wrong in some respects, but at least it is the procedure of the House of Commons and it has in this case given rise to the result which we are considering.
It is said that the right thing for those of us who supported the Bill in the form in which Clause 1(1) came before the House would be to accept, or vote in favour of, an Amendment which would alter the Bill from its original form. One obvious difficulty for those of us who feel reluctant to vote for the Amendment is that we think that the Amendment is wrong on the merits. Hon. Members opposite think that it is right, but a number of my hon. Friends think that it is entirely wrong. For us to be asked to vote for something which we think would produce an inappropriate result is asking us to put ourselves in a ludicrous position. It is being said that the Committee is in a ludicrous position. Those who deliberately voted for something which they did not consider to be the right result in this most important matter would be putting themselves in a still more ludicrous position.
I hope that hon. Members, on both sides, at least agree that we want to get on and discuss the matters of principle which divide the Committee. People hold serious and strong views about this matter. There are other Amendments——
§ Sir Rolf Dudley Williams (Exeter)
Surely, what the Home Secretary is saying is that because he cannot get the whole cake he will not take a piece of it. When we discussed the Homicide Bill the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as an abolitionist, wanted complete abolition. Because that was not possible, he accepted that certain murders would still be capital murders. The House of Commons has decided that life imprisonment is not acceptable and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) has submitted a compromise. Surely, there is nothing wrong in asking hon. Members who are abolitionists to accept the compromise.
§ Sir F. Soskice
Hon. Members opposite are suggesting a compromise which, in 1401 my view at least, is the wrong one. I cannot remember exactly how I voted on each Clause in the Homicide Bill, but I then did, in so far as I voted against any view put forward by the Government—and I would again—bow to the majority of the House. That is what we all do. It is our duty to do so.
I hope that we can reach a view on the Amendments. If they are rejected, the result will be a situation which every one of us would have wished to avoid. I say that without the least hesitation. Subsection (1) of the Clause would end with the wordsbe sentenced to imprisonment for.On the last occasion when we considered this matter, I ventured a view which received disapproval and even scorn from the Committee, but it is not wholly devoid of justification, as the right, hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson), the former Attorney-General, and the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson), the former Solicitor-General, will agree. I am not so wide of the mark in saying that in construing a document the courts always try to make the best of it. With the Clause stating "imprisonment for", they world regard that as meaning imprisonment for an indefinite period.
§ Sir K. Pickthorn
The right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks of a document. Are there not rules of construction about Acts of Parliament, and, consequently, about Bills proceeding to the next stage, which are quite different?
§ Sir F. Soskice
Having practised for some time in the courts, I have over and over again heard learned judges say, "It is extremely difficult to construe this Act of Parliament, but we must do our best." I know that I have the agreement of the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington in saying this. Although we in the House of Commons consider that something is pellucidly clear, when it is subjected to the microscopic examination that it receives in the courts it is found to be full of the most patent and obvious ambiguities. Learned judges have over and over again been completely perplexed about what view they should take. In construing the words, they make the best of them.
§ Sir J. Hobson
I agree that when the courts are given a document by Parlia- 1402 ment they have to make the best of it. The Home Secretary is suggesting, I understand, that the Committee should not accept my Amendment. If, however, we do not accept it, we cannot have any discussion of Amendment No. 14, in page 1, line 7, at end insert:(2) No person sentenced on a charge of murder to imprisonment for life shall be released by the Secretary of State on licence under section 27 of the Prison Act 1952 until the Secretary of State has referred the question of such release to the Court of Criminal Appeal for its opinion thereon and the Court has considered that question, and furnished the Secretary of State with its opinion thereon accordingly.Would it not be useful to have discussed that Amendment in Committee so that when we reach Report the question of how people who are sentenced to life imprisonment should be dealt with would have been discussed beforehand in Committee?
§ Sir F. Soskice
It is obvious to everybody that we are discussing a rather artificial situation. It does not make it any less artificial to discuss an Amendment the result of which would be to word the Clause in a way which those of us who take the view that we do regard as being wholly wrong but for which, nevertheless, we would be asked to vote. If that Amendment were to be carried and if we had the chance, we would certainly seek to alter it again to make the Bill read differently. It is rather an Alice-in-Wonderland situation.
As our procedure has landed us in this position—nobody intended it; it was the result of two Divisions which produced an inconsistent result, but that is the way the Committee voted—surely it behoves us all, and it is in the interest of those who take any view about this matter, to report the Bill as soon as we can.
I was asked whether I would give an undertaking that there will be adequate time. I can give an undertaking that the Government will give time for Report and Third Reading on the Bill. [Interruption.] What is adequate depends upon the number of Amendments and the time which the Chair thinks is reasonable to discuss them. Obviously, that time must be on the Floor of the House. It will not be in the morning. It will be in Government time in the ordinary way. [Interruption.] 1403 I hope that hon Members opposite are not scoffing. Adequate time will be given in Government time for discussion of the Report stage and Third Reading.
If we want to resolve these issues of principle which divide us, much the best thing would be to reject the Amendment and to leave the Clause to be read as it will be in the courts, the courts making the best they can of it. Then we can proceed upon such discussion as, within the rules of order, is still open to us on the remaining stages of the Committee discussion. When we reach Report, those of us who think as we do, and hon. Members who take a different view, can put down the Amendments which they consider appropriate. I would very much hope that the Chair, as I have no doubt it would, would call those Amendments which bring up the real issues which divide the House of Commons on this important Bill.
I hope hon. Members will agree that it does not behove us to spend a long time in discussing procedural matters. I agree that they are important. I am not trying to minimise or belittle them. But let us take our time in discussing the issues of principle. The only way in which we can do so is to get as soon as we can to the end of the Committee stage, which has been hampered because of what has happened. Nobody intended it; it simply happened as a result of our procedure. Then we can get to Report and go into these matters. My advice to the Committee is to vote against the Amendment.
§ Sir J. Hobson
This is, of course, a problem for the Committee as a whole. We must consider how best we can have a proper discussion of the provisions of the Bill and whether we want to proceed with my Amendment, No. 30, and incorporate it in the Measure, or allow the Bill to go on to Report stage as it is. I appreciate what the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary said, and I understand that he and the sponsors of the Bill would not like to proceed with the Measure in a form which they do not want. To some extent it appears rather ridiculous that they should adopt an Amendment which is unsatis- 1404 factory to them when they have their hands tied behind their backs.
I would, therefore, much rather discuss these issues at the appropriate time, when we can go into all the questions affecting life imprisonment. However, if we leave the Bill as it is, unamended, many of the Amendments which appear on the Notice Paper will fall and, to that extent, we will not have had an opportunity in Committee to fully discuss all the very important issues concerning how people who have been sentenced to imprisonment for life in cases of murder should be treated.
I respectfully submit that if Amendment No. 30 were accepted a court would then be able to sentence a person convicted of murder tosuch period as the court shall determine".That could include a sentence of life imprisonment and, to that extent, I submit that Amendment No. 14 would be in order because the Bill, as it then stood, would envisage circumstances in which a murderer would have been sentenced to life imprisonment. We would then be able to have a discussion on Amendment No. 14 and discuss how people sentenced to life imprisonment should be treated—whether it should be a matter entirely left to the discretion of the Home Secretary or whether the judiciary should be brought in and, if so, in what form. To that extent it would be useful for us to go into these matters in Committee before considering them on Report. It is really a question of how we should proceed and if we should allow the Measure to go forward with a gap in it.
I have mentioned these points so that hon. Members may consider them in our consideration of how we should proceed and the consequences of proceeding in either way. The right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that it would be best to leave the matter and discuss these questions of life imprisonment on Report rather than now. I would be prepared, if the Committee thought it right, to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment and proceed in that way. Having had this discussion, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted:—1406
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 128, Noes 184.1407
|Division No. 115.]||AYES||[12.13 p.m.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Goodhew, Victor||Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Gower, Raymond||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Batsford, Brian||Grieve, Percy||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Pym, Francis|
|Blaker, Peter||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Bossom, Hn. Clive||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd)||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin|
|Box, Donald||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Hawkins, Paul||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Braine, Bernard||Hendry, Forbes||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Brewis, John||Hiley, Joseph||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Sharpies, Richard|
|Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWalter||Hopkins, Alan||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Buck, Antony||Hunt, John (Bromley)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Stainton, Keith|
|Campbell, Gordon||Jennings, J. C.||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge)||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Cooke, Robert||Kirk, Peter||Temple, John M.|
|Cordle, John||Kitson, Timothy||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Costain, A. P.||Lagden, Godfrey||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Longden, Gilbert||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Dance, James||Lubbock, Eric||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Dean, Paul||MacArthur, Ian||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||McLaren, Martin||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Walder, David (High Peak)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||McMaster, Stanley||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Douglas-Home, Rt, Hn. Sir Alec||McNair-Wilson, Patrick||Webster, David|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maginnis, John E.||Whitelaw, William|
|Eden, Sir John||Maude, Angus||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Elliott, R. W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wise, A. R.|
|Emery, Peter||Miscampbell, Norman||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Monro, Hector||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||More, Jasper||Woodhouse, Hon. Christopher|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Wylie, N. R.|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Younger, Hn. George|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Peel, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Percival, Ian||Sir Rolf Dudley Williams and|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Peyton, John||Mr. Mawby.|
|Abse, Leo||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Lianelly)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||de Freltas, Sir Geoffrey||Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dell, Edmund||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Dempsey, James||Hamilton, William (West Fife)|
|Barnett, Joel||Diamond, John||Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Bence, Cyril||Dodds, Norman||Hannan, William|
|Binns, John||Dolg, Peter||Harper, Joseph|
|Bishop, E. S.||Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Dunn, James A.||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Boston, T. G.||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hattersley, Roy|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Ennals, David||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Ensor, David||Horner, John|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Evans, loan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Fernyhough, E.||Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||Howie, W.|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Hoy, James|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Hughes, Emrye (S. Ayrshire)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Freeson, Reginald||Jackson, Colin|
|Carter-Jones, Lewie||Galpern, Sir Myer||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Garrett, W. E.||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Garrow, A.||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Gourlay, Harry||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Johnson Smith, G. (East Grinstead)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Gregory, Arnold||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Darling, George||Grey, Charles||Jones,Rt.Hn.SirElwyn(W.Ham,s.)|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||O'Malley, Brian||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Orbach, Maurice||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Jopling, Michael||Oswald, Thomas||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Padley, Walter||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Paget, R. T.||Small, William|
|Lawson, George||Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S.E.)||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Parkin, B. T.||Stones, William|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Pavitt, Laurence||Swain, Thomas|
|Lipton, Marcus||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Loughlin, Charles||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|McCann, J.||Perry, Ernest G.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|MacColl, James||Popplewell, Ernest||Thornton, Ernest|
|Mclnnes, James||Prentice, R. E.||Tinn, James|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Varley, Eric G.|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Rankin, John||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)||Redhead, Edward||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|MacMillan, Malcolm||Roes, Merlyn||Wallace, George|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Watkins, Tudor|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Richard, Ivor||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Whitlock, William|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Marsh, Richard||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Williams, Albert (Abertillery)|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Rose Paul B.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Rowland, Christopher||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Millan, Bruce||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Sheldon, Robert||Wool, Robert|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Monslow, Walter||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Short,Rt.Hn.E.(N'c'tle-on-Tyne,C.)|
|Newens, Stan||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton.N.E.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Norwood, Christopher||Silkin, John (Deptford)||Mr. Crawshaw and Mr. Orme.|
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
I beg to move Amendment No. 20, in page 1, line 15, to leave out subsection (3).
Subsection (3) is the subsection which refers to… an offence of or corresponding to murder under Section 70 of the Army Act 1955 or of the Air Force Act 1955 or under Section 42 of the Naval Discipline Act 1957 …These Acts are substantially the same.
This Amendment is needed to put right what would otherwise be a most serious and critical anomaly in the criminal law as it affects Service people which would occur if the Bill went through in its present form. It would not be appropriate for me to invite right hon. and hon. Members to study the details of military law, and I have no intention of so doing, but it is right to remind the Committee that, as the Bill stands, it does not delete capital punishment for a number of offences, including certain military offences and, in particular, the offence of mutiny.
It is sufficient to say that mutiny can only be committed by several Service people—there must be more than one; one man cannot create a mutiny. The only other fact that is relevant—indeed, crucial—is that any mutiny involving any violence, or even threat of violence, retains capital punishment, because it is not affected by this Bill at all.
1408 That does not mean, as used to be the case with murder, that capital punishment is necessarily imposed. That is not the position. The Act lays it down that any person subject to the Service law who takes part in a mutiny involving violence or the threat of violence or who even incites anyone to such mutiny,… shall, on conviction by court martial, be liable to suffer death or any other punishment provided by this Act.That means that two or more persons subject to military law who even threaten violence are, and will be if the Act goes through as it is, liable to be sentenced to death for mutiny. It is true that the maximum penalty is not generally imposed except in the most serious circumstances—generally that the act is done in the face of the enemy—but I shall not weary the Committee with such details.
What I want to stress is that Amendment after Amendment has been argued against and even condemned by hon. Members opposite on the grounds that they would create anomalies. Those hon. Members founds themselves unable to tolerate anything that smacked to them of an anomaly. As they have so regularly said that their consciences would not allow them to support anything in the form of an anomaly, I confidently look forward to their support of this Amendment, which would remove— 1409 and is, I think, the only way in which one can remove—a far greater anomaly than any that would have been created by any of the Amendments they resisted.
I accept entirely that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary is not responsible for discipline in the Services overseas. He is, therefore, not involved in capital punishment when it is awarded for mutiny or other military crimes. To that extent, perhaps, he has discussed this point with his colleagues the Service Ministers, and no doubt their views have been made known. I am glad to see that the sponsor of the Bill, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), has now rejoined us; no doubt he will be given a short synopsis of what I have already said.
Is it possible to think of a greater anomoly than the position which will be created, if this Amendment is not accepted; where two soldiers together threaten a sergeant major with violence, they commit mutiny, and are subject to capital punishment; when one of them, alone, kills a sergeant major, he is not? That position will arise if subsection (3) remains. The subsection is not, in my view, capable of being amended, nor has any Amendment been put down to it. It is necessary to delete it, and that is the purpose of my Amendment. I do not think that there is any other way out of the difficulty.
This emphasises a fact that has already become apparent to many hon. Members on this side—and also, I think, outside the House—that this is an unfortunate subject for a Private Member's Bill.
It has become increasingly clear that this ought to have been a Government Bill. The whole Cabinet is involved in this particular point, because the defence Ministers also come into it. There ought to have been a Cabinet decision on this point. It is almost unthinkable that the Cabinet would not have wished to have an Amendment of this sort, either in these or in similar words. The Cabinet could not wish to create the astounding position I have outlined, not only in the Army, but in all the Services, affecting all Service men and women wherever they may be. Yet that is the position which will arise if this 1410 Amendment is negatived and a similar one is not introduced at a later stage.
Of course, the responsibility is on the whole of the Government for this. It goes wider than the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary, but, as he is representing the Government here this morning, it is to him that I must address my remarks. The original picture of a Private Member's Bill, which was the way in which this matter first came to our Order Paper, has now been very greatly changed as months have gone by. It is not often that a Private Member's Bill is referred to in the Gracious Speech. Nor is it often that a Government find the time to give it a Second Reading in such a way as to allow it to jump the queue of Private Member's Bills. Without continuing on that line, because all these facts are known to the Committee, I add that it is not every Private Member's Bill which, in Committee, has the Home Secretary and two other Ministers present in the Committee.
Responsibility is squarely put on the Government. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne wishes to intervene, and cares to stand up to do so, I shall give way to him.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I had not intended to intervene, but, since the hon. Member invites me to do so, I shall repeat aloud what I said sotto voce, although perhaps I should not have done so. The hon. Member is complaining, on the one hand, that the Government are not taking a proper share of responsibility in this matter and he is complaining, on the other hand, that there are three Ministers on the Front Bench. I wondered what he was grumbling about.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
I am not at the moment complaining about their absence, because they are visibly here. What I am complaining about is their inaction. This is a serious matter and the hon. Member knows that it is. It is a matter which, in the long run, is one of life and death, perhaps as serious a matter as we could have before the Committee. I am only sorry that there are not more hon. Members present now.
Without elaborating, as I have no wish to repeat the argument or to gild this rather malformed lily, the fact is that if the Bill goes through with this 1411 unfortunate subsection in its present form it will create a position in the Services so anomalous that it will shock the conscience of everyone who carefully considers it.
Of course, there are not a very great number of mutinies, I am glad to say. I am glad to say that the majority of those mutinies such as they are are not very serious, not sufficiently serious to be thought to necessitate capital punishment. However, there are such and there have been quite a number of executions for mutiny during the last 25 years. There has been considerably more, for example, than there have been for the murder of prison officers in prisons, which was one of the Amendments in which the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) took such an interest.
This is a serious point. I cannot believe that it would be argued that it is not a valid one. We have now reached a position where the Government must provide time for the Report stage. Therefore, there cannot be any argument on those lines for resisting this Amendment. I very much look forward to seeing the Government and all the hon. Members opposite so concerned with anomalies up to the present, agreeing that this Amendment should be accepted.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu)
It might be helpful if I intervene, very briefly, to put the view of the Service Departments on this Amendment. The hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) is concerned with anomalies. We doubt whether the anomalies to which he referred, and of which I am aware, would be affected by the Amendment, because the crimes of mutiny, for example, throwing down one's arms in the face of the enemy, and the rest, are not affected by the Bill at all. The governing Clause, Clause 1(1), deals solely with murder. That provision will continue even if we take out subsection (3), so these anomalies would persist and we recognise them.
The point is that they are outside the scope of the Bill as it stands. Any references to mutiny or treason, because they are not included in the Long Title, All that the hon. Member has done is 1412 to make a most powerful case for providing another Private Member's Bill, which would remove the death penalty for treason, mutiny and all those other crimes.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
I think that we are beginning to see eye to eye. It is precisely because it is not possible to put in an Amendment to take out the death penalty for those military offences that the only possible way of avoiding those anomalies is to adopt my Amendment.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
But the Amendment would not have the effect of clearing away the anomalies. That could be done only by another Bill. If the hon. Member cares to produce one I have no doubt that he will get the warm support of the Service Departments.
These anomalies are unsatisfactory, but they apply equally to civilians who may be guilty of treason as they do to Service men. It is essential that in anything we do we should not legislate especially for the Armed Forces. We are trying to ensure that members of the Forces feel themselves to be in the same main stream as civilians. We do not want them to be in any way a class apart.
It might conceivably be one result of accepting the Amendment that members of the Armed Forces would be treated differently for the same crime from members of the civilian population. We in the Service Departments would not accept that for one moment. I very much hope that the Committee will refuse it also, and will resist the Amendment if it is pressed.
§ Sir J. Hobson
I am sure that the Committee is grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) for raising this point. It raises a very awkward and difficult problem because, whatever answer we give, 1413 or another. The question is: which is the more or the less desirable anomaly? The only answer given by the Under-Secretary, who spoke on behalf of the Service Departments, is the rather futile suggestion that perhaps some of these anomalies could be dealt with by my hon. Friend introducing a Bill, which the hon. Gentleman knows is no suggestion at all but is a piece of flippancy.
§ Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu
I certainly did not mean that in any flippant way. My point is that the only way that we can get rid of anomalies is by the introduction of a Bill, either a Private Member's Bill or a Government Bill.
§ Sir J. Hobson
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is now saying that we should reject the Amendment and deal with the Service aspect by means of a separate Bill, or deal with two of the three Services in the quinquennial review. If this is the suggestion, the proposed Amendment could perhaps be withdrawn and we could then proceed in that way. But that is not what I understood the hon. Gentleman to suggest when he was speaking at the Dispatch Box on behalf of the Service Departments. One can see that there are a number of cases where the death penalty will be retained not only for treason but, I understand, also for piracy with violence on the high seas and arson in Her Majesty's dockyards.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will not expect me to repeat the argument which prompted the sponsors of the Bill to introduce it in its present form. All I would say is that if the Bill is left as it stands there is no anomaly. The Bill applies to soldiers and civilians in abolishing the death penalty for murder. There would be an anomaly if the Amendment were carried, in that we would be hanging only soldiers for murder. I am sure that principle would not commend itself to the Committee.
§ Sir J. Hobson
This is the whole difficulty, is it not? One may say that for the crime of murder not only soldiers but sailors and airmen should be tried as ordinary citizens. But, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, they are liable to the death penalty for mutiny.
§ Sir J. Hobson
That has nothing to do with the Bill but it is a matter which should be dealt with as a Service problem and not as a general problem concerning murder. One can leave aside treason, arson in Her Majesty's dockyards and piracy with violence on the high seas; but when we find that it is proposed to extend the Bill so as to apply its provisions to all Service personnel, even when serving in a country where there is the death penalty by the civil law of that country, it is perhaps something which ought to be considered. We either extend this Bill to people in all three Services and then find that they are still liable to the death penalty for what may be an infinitely less important crime, or one should do as has been suggested as a solution, and not extend this Bill to the Services but consider the whole question of sentencing persons in the Services to capital punishment, not only in relation to mutiny, but in relation to murder committed both in this country and in other countries where the civil authorities think that the proper sentence is one of death.
This is a question which requires overall consideration from the point of view of the Services as a whole. I do not say there is necessarily one right or wrong solution. It may be that the solution ought to be to abolish the death penalty throughout the Services and not to retain it for mutiny—I do not know—but this ought to be considered wholly as a Service matter and should not be treated by extending this rule into the Services as a whole so that members of the Services are liable to this punishment for less important crimes.
Therefore, we ought to accept this Amendment. I hope the Government will agree that this anomaly requires to be cleared up. It may be that the matter of capital punishment in the Services requires to be dealt with. Perhaps this can be done in the quinquennial review of two of the Services, and the other Service can be dealt with in a separate quinquennial review or by means of a special Measure. But we ought not in this Bill to deal with the difficult problem of murder overseas and acts which are short of murder for which the death penalty can be imposed.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)
I wish to reinforce the remarks made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson). I speak as one who until recently has had responsibility for exercising the powers given to commanding officers under the Naval Discipline Act. I should like to state as forcefully as I can how vitally important it is that the law affecting the rights and duties of commanding officers should not be involved in any anomalies brought about by this Bill. The anomalies which have been pointed out are very real and could, if allowed to remain, only serve to sow a great deal of doubt in the minds of commanding officers as to how they stand in relation to their powers, and, even worse, a great deal of doubt in the minds of the men serving under them as to their commanding officers' powers.
All that has been said on this side of the Committee reinforces what a great many of us have felt, that this is indeed a particularly unfortunate subject for a Private Member's Bill. If we wanted any further illustration of why this is so, there is the absolutely incredible procedural snarl-up in which we found ourselves in Committee last week——
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
Yes, Dr. King. The point is that we must avoid anomalies in Service law, and if this Bill is going to produce anomalies in Service law I for one strongly support the Amendment.
§ Mr. David Walder (The High Peak)
I should like to revert for a moment to the reasons why I supported the Second Reading of the Bill. It was on the basis of my objection to the form of punishment and not so much to the special nature of the crime of murder. I was and still am an opponent of capital punishment.
The Bill leaves certain exceptions and anomalies, and this Amendment points out but one of these. I would have thought that it would be an extraordinary situation so far as any Government were concerned, when there has been an expression of opinion in the House by a 1416 majority that that majority is opposed to capital punishment, that one should not have some sort of indication from the Government that they will remove such anomalies. So that we are then in a position where there is no capital punishment whatever the circumstances, however unlikely those circumstances might be.
I am bound to support the Amendment on the basis that I wish to see as much capital punishment removed as possible. The only circumstance that I can imagine in which I would not support the Amendment would be if one were to have some indication from the Government, whose responsibility I think this is, that they would at an early stage introduce a Government Measure to remove the anomalies and abolish capital punishment, whatever the offence might be. I do not think it is too much to ask in these circumstances that one should have some such indication from a Minister on this subject.
§ Mr. Percival
I rise to make just a brief point or two on this. I want to suggest, as one who has listened to the whole of the discussion on this, that the promoter of this Bill might well consider accepting this Amendment and the Minister who spoke might well reconsider his advice and advise the Committee to accept this Amendment. It is apparent to one who claims no special knowledge in this subject, from this brief discussion, that the scantiest consideration has been given to this by the various Departments, if the views expressed by the Minister are to be taken as the full views of the Services at the moment.
We have heard a great deal about anomalies this way and anomalies that way. The Minister said briefly, and I think he might feel on reflection, at all events, a little frivolously, that the mover of this Amendment had merely made a case for another Bill—he used the phrase Private Member's Bill—to abolish the remaining instances of capital punishment. I want to draw his attention and that of the promoters to this further subdivision of the subject which has to be recognised and considered before views can be properly expressed. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) said it was wrong that a soldier should be in a different position 1417 so far as murder was concerned from that of a civilian.
I think the whole House agrees that where a soldier murders, for instance, a civilian, or one of his friends or enemies in the Services, in circumstances such as to make it analogous only to the civil crime of murder, then it would be anomalous if he were to suffer a different punishment. My hon. Friend who moved this Amendment was not talking of that. There may be cases in the Services where a serving man murders someone in circumstances which affect merely discipline. These are the subdivisions that the Services have to consider, and this must be considered or the Services will be in a very invidious position. There would be an anomaly that whereas if two soldiers told the sergeant major——
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that under the existing law a soldier is not liable to the death penalty for murder except in the exceptions reserved by the 1957 Act? Is he then saying that a soldier, and nobody else, should be executed if he commits a crime with his rifle but not if he stabs somebody in the back?
§ Mr. Percival
The hon. Gentleman has really only drawn attention to further anomalies—[Interruption.]—it will not do for an hon. Gentleman to come in at the last moment, not having listened to any of the discussion, and hope to get away with a few snorts sitting down. There are those of us who will not be in the least perturbed by it and hope we will see a little more courtesy.
The hon. Gentleman has merely drawn attention to what may be further anomalies which ought to be considered and ironed out one way or the other. If three or four soldiers get together and tell the sergeant major where to go, then they may be liable for the death penalty, but if one takes the much more effective means of avoiding carrying out an order and shooting the sergeant major, then, as this Bill stands at the moment, he would not be subject to the death penalty. I am not seeking to show precisely how these anomalies should be resolved.
I agree with the Minister who spoke on this Amendment on one proposition, namely, that the mere removal of this subsection would not resolve those 1418 anomalies. There would still be arguments on the effect of subsection 1 on a crime, the equivalent of murder under Section 70 of the Army Act. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman to the extent that merely to remove subsection (3) would probably not be enough. That is not the argument for saying that it must stay there and if anyone wants to do something about it they must take the necessary step.
If subsection (3) remains and the Bill is passed in its present form, it will, as is so plain from this morning's discussion, create a number of additional anomalies in a situation which already has several. It simply will not do for the Minister to say "There will be further anomalies. Anyone can introduce a Private Member's Bill." There are two good reasons why that is not an adequate answer. The first is that any matters which affect the Services are matters for the Government and not for private Members. They are essentially matters in which the Government should take the lead and advise this House as to what steps should be taken. It is perfectly right and proper for private Members to draw the attention of the Government to other anomalies or difficulties in Service matters, but once attention has been drawn to those difficulties they are essentially matters in which the Government must take a lead and advise the House. Many of us came here hoping to hear a serious contribution from one of the Service Ministers as to how these anomalies were to be removed.
§ The Chairman
Order. It would be difficult for the Minister to go into detail about solving the anomalies without going out of order. It would be outside the Scope of this Bill.
§ Mr. Percival
I appreciate that, Dr. King, and that is why I am not attempting to go into details. But there have been occasions when, both in the interests of the House doing the right thing and in the interests of saving time, the rules have been stretched a little to give Ministers the opportunity to give some indication of what they had in mind. Perhaps I should have said that many of us came here and stayed for the discussion of this Amendment hoping that some Service Minister would give us some advice first 1419 as to how far this Amendment would go in resolving anomalies and if he was going to advise us——
§ Mr. Percival
We had hoped that if the Minister's advice to the House was that this Amendment should be rejected he would have explained in a little more detail why he could not resolve the anomalies. Many of us hoped he would advise us to reject this Amendment and the basis of his advice would have been that there was a much better way of dealing with the situation.
The second reason I suggest this is essentially a matter to be dealt with by the Service Ministers and the Government rather than, as was suggested by the Minister, by private Members, is that not only must the Government take the
§ responsibility, but that it has at its disposal all the means of assessing the facts relevant to this discussion.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause, put accordingly and agreed to.
§ The Chairman
I am of the opinion that the principle of the Clause and any matters arising thereon have been adequately discussed in the course of debate on the Amendments proposed thereto. I propose therefore, in pursuance of Standing Order No. 47, to put the Question forthwith.
§ Question put, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 156, Noes 84.1421
|Division No. 116.]||AYES||[1.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Freeson, Reginald||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Carrett, W. E.||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Garrow, A.||Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Gourlay, Harry||Marsh, Richard|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Gregory, Arnold||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Baxter, William||Grey, Charles||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Bence, Cyril||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Millan, Bruce|
|Binns, John||Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Monslow, Walter|
|Boston, T. G.||Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)||Murray, Albert|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Hannan, William||Newens, Stan|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Harper, Joseph||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Norwood, Christopher|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hattersley, Roy||Oakes, Gordon|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Hefter, Eric S.||O'Malley, Brian|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Horner, John||Orbach, Maurice|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Howie, W.||Oswald, Thomas|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Hoy, James||Paget, R. T.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jackson, Colin||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Prentice, R. E.|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Probert, Arthur|
|Dalyell, Tam||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Redhead, Edward|
|Darling, George||Johnson,James(K'ston-on-Hull,W.)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Dempsey, James||Jones,Rt.Hn.SirElwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Dodds, Norman||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Doig, Peter||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Dunn, James A.||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Rowland, Christopher|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lawson, George||Sheldon, Robert|
|English, Michael||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Ensor, David||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Short,Rt.Hn.E.(N'c'tle-on-Tyne,C.)|
|Evans, loan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Loughlin, Charles||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton,N.E.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lubbock, Eric||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||McCann, J.||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||MacColl, James||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mclnnes, James||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)||Small, William|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Snow, Julian|
|Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank||Wallace, George||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Stones, William||Watkins, Tudor||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Swain, Thomas||White, Mrs. Eirene||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Whitlock, William||Woof, Robert|
|Thornton, Ernest||Wilkins, W. A.||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Tinn, James||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Zilliacus, K.|
|Varley, Eric G.||Williams, Albert (Abertillery)|
|Wainwright, Edwin||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)||Mr. Crawshaw and|
|Mr. Emrys Hughes.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Goodhew, Victor||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Gower, Raymond||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Grieve, Percy||Percival, Ian|
|Batstord, Brian||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Pike, Mrs. Mervyn|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Harrison, Col, Sir Harwood (Eye)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Blaker, Peter||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd)||Pym, Francis|
|Braine, Bernard||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Brewis, John||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||stainton, Keith|
|Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWalter||Hunt, John (Bromley)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Buck, Antony||Jennings, J. C.||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Kitson, Timothy||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Lagden, Godfrey||Temple, John M.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Cooke, Robert||MacArthur,Ian||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)|
|Cordle, John||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Corfield, F. V.||McMaster, Stanley||Walder, David (High Peak)|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||McNair-Wilson, Patrick||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)||Maginnis, John E.||Webster, David|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. w. F.||Maude, Angus||Whitelaw, William|
|Drayson, G. B.||Mawby, Ray||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Eden, Sir John||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Elliott, R. W.(N'c'te-upon-Tyne,N.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||wise, A. R.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)||Miscampbell, Norman||Younger, Hn. George|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Mitchell, David|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Monro, Hector||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||More, Jasper||Rear-Admiral Giles and Mr. Hiley.|
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday next.1423
§ Sitting resumed at 2.30 p.m.