HC Deb 23 November 1966 vol 736 cc1409-18

4.4 p.m.

Mr. Duncan Sandys (Streatham)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to restore capital punishment for the murder of police or prison officers. It is said that Parliament should not allow itself to be influenced by a passing wave of emotion following the murder of three policemen last August. It should not be assumed that those who are asking for this change in the law are inspired by a temporary feeling of anger and indignation and that they are likely very soon to change their minds.

The majority of the British people have all along believed in capital punishment and since it was abolished last year public anxiety has expressed itself in massive petitions all over the country. The effect of the callous murders at Shepherd's Bush has been to focus attention on the increased dangers to which the police are now exposed as a result of the withdrawal of the death penalty.

People are disturbed by the thought that policemen who risk their lives to protect the community are themselves being denied the full protection of the law for which they ask and which, they believe, would increase their safety. This is not just an emotional reaction. The strength of public feeling on this question is the measure of the nation's sense of responsibility for the safety of its servants.

It is said that there is no conclusive evidence that capital punishment deters. That may be so. Nevertheless, I think it worth mentioning that, during the two years since executions were stopped, as many policemen have been murdered as during the whole of the previous 13 years. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many?"] It is also worth mentioning that the number of indictable offences involving firearms this year is just about double what it was two years ago. I am sure that all hon. Members, whatever their views on capital punishment, will feel that this shows a very disturbing trend.

Some people believe that capital punishment would make no difference. Its deterrent effect is, of course, questionable in the case of a murderer who is confident that he will not be found out. But criminals who shoot policemen when trying to avoid arrest have already been found out and in many cases they know that, if they submit to arrest, they will go to prison for terms which will be just as long as the average duration of a life sentence. They have, therefore, little or nothing to lose by trying to shoot their way out. If, on the other hand, they knew that they were risking the death penalty, I am sure that some of them, at any rate, would think twice before taking out a gun and pulling the trigger.

Similar considerations apply in prisons, where the number of violent criminals is increasing all the time. The Prison Officers' Association has pointed out that since the abolition of the death penalty there has been nothing to deter convicts who are serving long sentences from killing warders when attempting to escape.

The police and the prison staff look to Parliament to do all in its power to protect those who are fighting the war against crime. They firmly believe that capital punishment will reduce the risk they have to run. If there are any doubts about this, they feel that the benefit of the doubt ought to be given to them rather than to the murderer.

It has been pointed out that, in any case, the law will come up for review in 1970. But many people regard this matter as very urgent and I am sure that hon. Members will not wish to take the line that this question if not discussible for another four years.

The arguments on both sides cannot be adequately presented in the scope of two ten-minute speeches. I therefore hope that the House will allow the Bill to be presented so that this important issue can be further considered.

4.11 p.m.

Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)

I hope that the House will not give the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) leave to bring in the Bill. The police, Parliament and the public are deeply shocked by the three brutal murders which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, and, of course, the other murder of a policeman in the North. As they have followed the abolition of capital punishment last year, some people have sought to connect the two facts. But however great the personal and the public tragedy of these terrible murders, the fact is that, statistically, no inference can legitimately be drawn.

There is a matter which the right hon. Gentleman did not mention, but with which I should like to deal before coming to the three murders to which he referred. This is a matter which, judging by my correspondence, has worried many people. There have been four brutal murders, one of them by a boy of 14 who is now charged with that murder. But since 1831 we have not hanged boys of 14, so that recent changes in the law could not have any effect whatsoever.

That leaves the three murders which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. They were terrible murders and very significant, it is argued, but certainly not more significant than the figures for the years 1951. I remember them well. I was the junior Minister at the Home Office. In 1951, the number of murders of policemen suddenly went up to three, and that was two or three years after Parliament had refused to abolish the death penalty. I do not see any way in which to draw any positive conclusions from any of those figures and I merely submit that there is just enough statistical evidence to show the danger of drawing positive conclusions from groups of figures.

The Bill would restore the anomalies of the 1957 Act with the distinction between capital murder and non-capital murder. Under the proposed Bill, the deliberate poisoner, or the man who tortured a child to death, or the man who battered to death an old postmistress, would not be hanged, but the petty thief who shot the policeman who happened to come on the scene would be hanged. Is anything more likely to bring the law into disrepute?

Of course, the public is horrified by the murder of these policemen, but is there any evidence that the public is willing to make this distinction between capital and non-capital murder? The House passed the Third Reading of last year's Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill by considerably more than two to one. Many hon. Members voted for it because they knew that the law would be reconsidered in five years. The Act cannot continue beyond July, 1970, unless both Houses of Parliament separately pass Resolutions asking for the Act to continue. This is a sensible safeguard against legislation prompted by emotion or based on insufficient data. Let us accept the Act and try it for five years and not panic after 12 months.

I have mentioned insufficient data. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the figures for the carrying of firearms. We have had those figures for only the last very few years, when they were established in our criminal statistics, but I must not chase that too far, because the essential point is that we are discussing a Bill about homicide, and we have statistics for homicide going back for years and years. We know that homicides have increased since the war, but they have not increased in proportion to the growth of indictable crime generally. There is no evidence yet that they have been in any way affected by changes in the law relating to capital punishment.

But the root of the argument for the Bill is deterrence related to the murder of policemen. The right hon. Gentleman stated as a fact that the abolition of capital punishment increased the dangers to policemen. We have very little to go on in our criminal statistics, but I have the result of a survey made by the University of Pennsylvania showing the figures for 266 American cities over 35 years. It was found that in States where there was no capital punishment, fatal attacks on policemen were 1.2 per 100,000, while in cities with capital punishment the rate was almost exactly the same, although slightly higher at 1.3.

Professor Sellin, who conducted the survey, does not make any point of the small fraction of a decimal point, but concludes after this wide study it is impossible to conclude that the States which had no death penalty had thereby made the policemen's lot more hazardous". On this side of the Atlantic, in Western Europe only France and Spain find capital punishment necessary. All our other 13 Western European neighbours, from Iceland to Italy and from Portugal to Finland, get along without capital punishment. The Scandinavians, the Dutch and the Belgians, who are not very different in outlook and institutions from us—and the social conditions in Belgium are even worse than ours in the sense of industrialisation and overcrowding

—all get along without capital punishment.

In our long European history it is only recently that Europeans have begun to realise the power of the State not only to destroy its enemies, but to destroy its own citizens. We should, therefore, demand that the State do everything to foster any instinct or belief that human life is the most important thing there is. Above all, we should demand that the State set an example and not itself take human life. I have no time to argue as I would like the possibility of conviction in error and the consequences, but I have time to ask one question: would not many of us sleep more easily if Evans were alive?

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 170, Noes 292.

Division No. 208.] AYES [4.20 p.m.
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Baker, W. H. K. Drayson, G. B. Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Dunnett, Jack Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)
Batsford, Brian Eden, Sir John Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Baxter, William Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Elliott, R.W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Longden, Gilbert
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Ensor, David McAdden, Sir Stephen
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos. A Fhm) Errington, Sir Eric Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Cromarty)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Eyre, Reginald Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Biggs-Davison, John Fisher, Nigel Maginnis, John E.
Blaker, Peter Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Marten, Neil
Boardman, H. Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan Mathew, Robert
Booth, Albert Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Bossom, Sir Clive Glyn, Sir Richard Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Braine, Bernard Goodhart, Philip Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Brewis, John Goodhew, Victor Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.Col.Sir Walter Gower, Raymond Monro, Hector
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Grant-Ferris, R. More, Jasper
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Bryan, Paul Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Murton, Oscar
Bullus, Sir Eric Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Burden, F. A. Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Neave, Airey
Cary, Sir Robert Harvey, sir Arthur Vere Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Chichester-Clark, R. Harvie Anderson, Miss Onslow, Cranley
Clegg, Walker Hastings, Stephen Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Concannon, J. D. Hawkins, Paul Osborn, John (Hallam)
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hiley, Joseph Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Corfield, F. V. Hill, J. E. B. Page, Graham (Crosby)
Costain, A. P. Hirst, Geoffrey Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Crawley, Aidan Holland, Philip Peel, John
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver Hordern, Peter Percival, Ian
Crouch, David Hunt, John Pink, R. Bonner
Crowder, F. P. Iremonger, T. L. Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Cunningham, Sir Knox Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pym, Francis
Currie, G. B. H. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Dalkeith, Earl of Kaberry, Sir Donald Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Dance, James Kerby, Capt. Henry Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kershaw, Anthony Rees-Davies, W. R.
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Renton Rt. Hn. Sir David
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Kitson, Timothy Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Doig, Peter Knight, Mrs. Jill Ridsdale, Julian
Doughty, Charles Lambton, Viscount Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Robson Brown, Sir William Talbot, John E. Wells, John (Maidstone)
Roots, William Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Russell, Sir Ronald Teeling, Sir William Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Sandys, Rt. Hn. D. Temple, John M. Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Sharples, Richard Tilney, John Woodnutt, Mark
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Tomney, Frank Woof, Robert
Sinclair, Sir George Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. Wylie, N. R.
Smith, John van Straubenzee, W. R. Younger, Hn. George
Stainton, Keith Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Stodart, Anthony Wall, Patrick TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon) Webster, David Mr. Robert Cooke and
Summers, Sir Spencer Wellbeloved, James Mr. Albert Roberts.
Abse Leo Fernyhough, E. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Finch, Harold Judd, Frank
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Kelley, Richard
Alldritt, Walter Fletcher, Raymond (IIkeston) Kenyon, Clifford
Allen, Scholefield Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)
Anderson, Donald Floud, Bernard Kerr, Russell (Feltham)
Archer, Peter Foley, Maurice Lawson, George
Armstrong, Ernest Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Leadbitter, Ted
Ashley, Jack Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Ford, Ben Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Forrester, John Lee, John (Reading)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Lestor, Miss Joan
Balniel, Lord Fraser, John (Norwood) Lomas, Kenneth
Barnes, Michael Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton) Loughlin, Charles
Barnett, Joel Freeson, Reginald Loveys, W. H.
Bell, Ronald Gardner, Tony Luard, Evan
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood G arrow, Alex Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Binns, John Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Bishop, E. S. Ginsburg, David Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Blackburn, F. Cordon-Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. McBride, Neil
Boston, Terence Gourlay, Harry McCann, John
Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) MacColl, James
Boyden, James Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony MacDermot, Niall
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Gregory, Arnold Macdonald, A. H.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Gresham Cooke, R. McKay, Mrs. Margaret
Bradley, Tom Grey, Charles (Durham) Mackie, John
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Mackintosh, John P.
Brooks, Edwin Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Maclennan, Robert
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Macleod, Rt. Hn. Ian
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W) Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Buchan, Norman Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) McNamara, J. Kevin
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hamling, William MacPherson, Malcolm
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hannan, William Maddan, Martin
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Cant, R. B. Haseldine, Norman Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Hattersley, Roy Maltalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Chanmon, H. P. G. Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mapp, Charles
Chapman, Donald Heffer, Eric S. Marquand, David
Coleman, Donald Henig, Stanley Mason, Roy
Conlan, Bernard Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Maxwell, Robert
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Heseltine, Michael Mayhew, Christopher
Dalyell, Tarn Higgins, Terence L. Mendelson, J. J.
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town) Mikardo, Ian
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Hooley, Frank Millan, Bruce
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stratford) Hooson, Emlyn Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Horner, John Molloy, William
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Howell, David (Guildford) Morris, John (Aberavon)
Davies, Robert (Cambridge) Howie, W. Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Moyle, Roland
Delargy, Hugh Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Dell, Edmund Hunter, Adam Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Hynd, John Murray, Albert
Dickens, James Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Dobson, Ray Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Nott, John
Driberg, Tom Janner, Sir Barnett Oakes, Gordon
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Ogden, Eric
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.) O'Malley, Brian
Eadie, Alex Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Oram, Albert E.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Orme, Stanley
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Ellis, John Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Oswald, Thomas
English, Michael Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Ennals, David Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Owen Will (Morpeth)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Padley, Walter
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Paget, R. T.
Faulds, Andrew Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Palmer, Arthur
Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles St. John-stevas, Norman Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Pardoe, John Scott, Nicholas Wallace, George
Park, Trevor Shaw, Arnold (IIford, S.) Walters, Dennis
Parker, John (Dagenham) Sheldon, Robert Watkins, David (Consett)
Parkyn, Brian (Bedford) Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N 'c' tle-u-Tyne) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Pavitt, Laurence Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.) Weitzman, David
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Peart, Rt. Hon. Fred Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Whitaker, Ben
Pentland, Norman Silverman, Julius (Aston) White, Mrs. Eirene
Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Skeffington, Arthur Whitlock, William
Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Slater, Joseph Wigg, Rt. Hn. George
Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Snow, Julian Wilkins, W. A.
Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Spriggs, Leslie Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Probert, Arthur Steel, David (Roxburgh) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Randall, Harry Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Redhead, Edward Stonehouse, John Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Rees, Merlyn Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Reynolds, G. W. Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Richard, Ivor Swingler, Stephen Winnick, David
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Tapsell, Peter Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as) Taverne, Dick Winterbottom, R. E.
Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.) Thornton, Ernest Worsley, Marcus
Rodgers, William (Stockton) Thorpe, Jeremy Wyatt, Woodrow
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Tuck, Raphael Yates, Victor
Rose, Paul Varley, Eric G. Zilliacus, K.
Ross, Rt. Hn. William Vickers, Dame Joan
Rowland, Christopher (Meriden) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.) Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley) Mr. Eric Lubbock and
Royle, Anthony Walden, Brian (All Saints) Mr. Stan Newens.
Ryan, John Walker, Harold (Doncaster)