HC Deb 16 December 1969 vol 793 cc1148-297
Mr. Speaker

Before the debate starts I should like to inform the House that I have not selected the Amendment in the names of the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) and his right hon. and hon. Friends: in line 1, leave out 'expire' to end and add 'but shall continue in force until the thirty-first day of July 1973'. I have not selected, either, the Amendment in the names of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) and his hon. Friends: in line 2, at end add 'but section 4 shall continue to apply in relation to the position in Scotland'. The points of view expressed in those Amendments, together with many others for or against the Motion, will no doubt be put by hon. Members who are called in the debate.

The House will wish to know that between 30 and 40 right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak in this debate. Yesterday, most speeches were reasonably brief. I hope that we can follow the same pattern today.

Sir Myer Galpem (Glasgow, Shettleston)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You said that we would be able to put forward the points of view expressed in the Amendments. What opportunity will be afforded to those who subscribe to one or other of the Amendments to show their support for it in the Lobby?

Mr. Speaker

That is always a difficulty. The hon. Member, if he feels so strongly in favour of either of the Amendments, may vote against the Motion, or he may abstain.

Sir M. Galpern

That does not reflect what the first Amendment purports to achieve, which is merely to continue the status quo for a period of four years. How can one who is not a convinced abolitionist, or a retentionist, but who simply seeks to say that he has inadequate information up to the present time and would like a further period for consideration, go into the Lobby either for or against the Motion?

Mr. Speaker

I have said that the hon. Member can vote for or against the Motion, or he may abstain. The points of view on both Amendments will be expressed during the debate. This is not unusual.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

We defer to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but it puts some of us in a very difficult position indeed. There are many who feel strongly that the information before us is not sufficient for us to arrive at a proper conclusion. We would not necessarily wish to vote against the Motion. On the other hand, we could not with a clear conscience vote for it, or we may be forced to abstain, which many do not wish to do.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not the case that voting for postponement means voting for the Motion before the House, and that the House is entitled four years later, to come to a conclusion?

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman's point is rather on the merits of the Amendment. I am dealing only with the Motion. I have given tremendous consideration to the problem whether to select an Amendment or not, and after much reflection I have decided not to.

4.3 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)

I beg to move, That the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 shall not expire as otherwise provided by section 4 of that Act. The Motion asks the House to reaffirm the decision to do away with capital punishment for murder, which it took, by 355 votes to 170, on a free vote, on 21st December, 1964, on the Second Reading of the Murder (Abolition of Death Penally) Bill introduced by our late colleague Sydney Silverman.

It is necessary for Parliament to reaffirm that descision because, when the Bill was passing through this House, there was added to it, at the instance of Lord Brooke of Cumnor—the right hon. Member for Hampstead, as he then was—a new Clause which provided that the Act should expire on 31st July, 1970, unless Parliament, by Resolutions of both Houses, otherwise determined.

The Clause added to the Bill spelt out what would happen if the abolition Act expired: Upon the expiration of this Act the law existing immediately prior to the passing of this Act shall … again operate as though this Act had not been passed. "The law existing immediately prior to the passing of" the abolition Act was, of course, the Homicide Act, 1957.

The Homicide Act represented an attempt to do what the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, after four years' deliberation, concluded was not practicable, namely, to divide murder into a category for which the penalty would remain hanging, and another category for which the penalty would be life imprisonment. The Homicide Act, as is Parliament's right, attempted to do this and it reserved the capital penalty for murder done in the course or furtherance of theft; by shooting or by causing an explosion; in the course of, or for the purpose of, resisting arrest or escaping from legal custody; and for murder of a police officer or prison officer acting in the execution of his duty, or a person assisting him.

The anomalies in this attempt that was made by the House, with every desire to succeed, to categorise murder are so well known that I shall barely dwell upon them this afternoon. I merely remark that the capital penalty was not retained for murder by poisoning, which to many is perhaps the most deliberate and cold-blooded form of murder. Nor was it retained for child murder, which fills us all with horror and revulsion, and is the kind of murder that most excites public anxiety. The Homicide Act made the distinction between capital and non-capital murder rest upon the choice of weapon, and upon sophisticated legal argument about the relationship of the criminal's other unlawful activity to the act of murder which he was charged with having committed.

The Homicide Act was aimed at confining capital punishment to those forms of murder which particularly struck at public order.

The statistical report on Murder which we have all been studying in recent weeks discloses that during the currency of the Homicide Act 59 people were convicted of capital murder. Of these, 29 were executed, and 30 were reprieved. Executions fell to two a year for murders recorded in 1962, 1963 and 1964. I remark, in passing, that even those who believe in the deterrent effect of capital punishment must surely regard as grotesque a situation where capital punishment was still part of the panopoly of the law but came to be as little used as it was in those latter years of the Homicide Act. It is simply not credible that the structure of law and order should depend upon the execution of two criminals a year. And my view of the Homicide Act is shared by nearly everyone who had any part in its operation.

I have spelled this out because the 1965 Act was intended to give Parliament the choice of one of two courses. The House may make the Abolition Act permanent—as I hope it will, or, if it fails to do so, the country returns to the 1957 Homicide Act, with all its defects. The House did not intend in 1965 to make provision for a temporary extension of abolition after 1970, and the Abolition Act itself makes no provision for such a course, nor for a change to some other form of legislation.

As I understand the debates of 1965—and I heard some of them, and I read them all before I came to this conclusion—Parliament's real intention at that time following on the original vote, was to dispose of capital punishment once and for all. But Parliament yielded to the arguments of those who were against abolition by agreeing that before 31st July, 1970, a last look should be taken at the situation before capital punishment disappeared. I feel emboldened to say that, because, in the light of the absurdities and anomalies of the 1957 Act. I do not believe that anyone in the House at that time thought that going back to the 1957 Act was a desirable or possible alternative. So the choice was quite clear. It was that we should have a last look at it before it was finally abolished.

It is not for me to advise the House on a matter of law—the Attorney-General is here—but it appears to me, and so I am advised, that any attempt to amend the Motion in the sense of either of the Amendments would produce a state of great confusion and uncertainty which would be likely to be regarded as a failure by Parliament to resolve that the Act shall not expire. That, as I understand it, is the position, and this is the choice that we are faced with today by the decision and will of Parliament when it passed the Act in 1965. There is nothing here which has suddenly arisen, or was an oversight. That was the deliberate intention of Parliament at that time.

Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)

Is it not possible, if Parliament so desires and if the Government introduce it for the House to pass another Homicide Act before this Measure expires?

Mr. Callaghan

That is not what I am discussing. I am discussing what was the intention of Parliament when we passed the 1965 Act. I am reinforced in my interpretation by the knowledge that most of us who were here then know what the intention was at the time. That is why I have brought the matter forward on this basis, for I am fulfilling the intention of Parliament. There may be arguments about whether it should be done now or five months later, but there is no doubt just what the intention of Parliament was at that time.

We have had a lot of discussion about statistics, to which the Home Office has contributed a report through its Statistical Division. A lot of the argument has turned on how the figures should be interpreted; about crimes of violence, crimes involving the use of firearms and about the special position of the police and prison officers.

I will say something about each of these topics, but I wish to consider the statistics first, because I do not believe that they play a dominant part in this argument. I therefore wish to put my gloss on them—each hon. Member will put his gloss on the figures—before coming to other matters.

Some take the view that the concept of a "review" of the experience of abolition—which is what brings us here today—implies some faith among its advocates in the significance of the figures and in the inferences that can be drawn from them. What conclusions do I draw? Taking the overall position of murders known to the police in England and Wales, we see that the figures fluctuated between 135 in 1957, at the begining of the period, and 148 in 1968, at the end of it, with peaks and troughs between, ranging from 114 to 154. That is the size and range of the problem which we are discussing.

The figures for the last four years were 135 in 1965—which was the same figure as in the first year of the Homicide Act—then 122, 154 and, for last year, 148; the number per million of the population being three, the same as in 1957. It is my conclusion that those figures show that the murder rate is not soaring as a result of the abolition of capital punishment and that it has remained remarkably stable.

Let us consider some of the categories of murder which, it is claimed by some, the public particularly want to see punished by hanging. First, the murder of policemen. Since the end of the war, 17 police officers have been murdered on duty. Five police officers were murdered between 1958 and 1964, while the protection of the Homicide Act was in force. Two were murdered in 1965, before abolition became law but while it was under discussion. In the case of one of those, the person concerned was found unfit to plead.

Since abolition there have been four murders, three of them in one shocking incident at Shepherds Bush. The fourth was stabbed by a boy aged 14; and the Act would have given no protection against that. Mercifully, no police officer was murdered on duty in 1967 or 1968.

I simply do not believe, on the basis of those figures, that it can be established that capital punishment is necessary for the protection of the forces of law and order. I am, however, aware of the views of the Police Federation. I have argued with the federation about this matter for many years, and I have been as much in personal contact with the federation as any hon. Member. The federation has never been able to convince me, as I have never been able to convince the federation—with or without the aid of selective statistics.

Among policemen generally there are divided opinions about the issue on the general question, although I fully accept the representative character of the Police Federation on the subject of their protection, as was evidenced at the federation's last conference. That body fairly says in a circular which has been distributed to hon. Members that the records here and in other countries are inconclusive about the effects of abolition on the murder of police officers. That is fair enough, but I believe that the statistics are more conclusive than the federation admits; namely, that abolition has made no significant difference, here or anywhere else, to the murder of police officers. The federation speaks especially of crimes of violence, a subject to which I shall come.

As I can be wrong about certain things, so the Police Federation need not always be right. I remember the fierce arguments which I had with the federation about 15 years ago about the need to permit the entry of coloured policemen into the service. I recall how the federation trampled me into the mud. The federation has since come round on that issue, and that is to be welcomed. It now wants volunteers. Thus, while I can be wrong on certain issues, I cannot accept that the federation must universally always be right on these issues.

In coming to the question of prison officers, I assure the House that I know the views of the Prison Officers' Association and understand its apprehensions, because prison officers have a new feature added to their case. Although I do not think that the facts support the case the association makes, prison officers are, or they may be, caused additional difficulties because of the committal to their care of those who might, in earlier times, have been hanged. This is an additional factor which we should take into account.

However, if one is to judge from the figures, then I am glad to say that, mercifully, only one murder of a prison officer took place, in 1965, and that was by a borstal trainee aged 19. It is said that the figures of gross personal violence to prison officers are on the increase. I have inquired especially into this matter and I have been given certain figures.

The numbers of offences of gross personal violence dealt with in this category in the last four years were: 1965, 39; 1966, 15; 1967, 12; and 1968, 22. I do not have other statistics concerning cases dealt with in the courts—I have collected the statistics I could—but I do not really believe that it is possible to say that the number of cases proves that it is necessary to restore the death penalty to safeguard the lives of prison officers.

Another category which causes a great deal of concern contains what are loosely described as "sex murders". Murders of women for a sexual motive were, in general, not capital under the Homicide Act, though public opinion is said to demand that capital punishment is necessary for this kind of murder.

Taking women and girls over 16, victims of what the statisticians call, for want of a better word—personally, I dislike it—"normal" murder—we see that the figures have taken an upward turn. But they began to do so in 1963, and they have remained at a somewhat higher level than they were between 1957 and 1962.

As regards sex murders of women, there is no doubt that domestic quarrels, rage, jealousy and revenge are much the most significant motives. In other words, there is a domestic relationship, as there is about so much murder that is committed in this country. No trend is shown in the figures that can lead anybody to believe that abolition has had an impact on the number of sexual murders. The figures are tiny. In 1962 there were three, in 1963 there were six, in 1966 there were seven and in 1968 there were five. That is the size of this problem.

Another category that causes deep concern and horror to all is the murder of children from a sexual motive. Three children were murdered from a sexual motive in 1957, and three in 1968, 11 years later. In the intervening years the figures have varied from one in 1958 and 1962 to five in 1966.

As for child murder generally, the figure for all victims of so-called "normal" murder between the ages of one and 16 has, mercifully, not exceeded 12 a year. It has been a little higher in recent years than in the early 1960s, but the figures have fluctuated and, again, I submit that no one can detect a clear trend in them. Few of this small number, this handful, of cases were murdered by strangers. I have not included murders of infants of under one year, as they are in a rather different category. Many of them are unsolved murders of newly-born infants—murders which might be found to be infanticide if solved.

Before I leave the statistics, let me say a word about the increase in "capital" murder. A good deal has been made of the juxtaposition of the figure of 67 murders that were, or might have been, capital in 1961-64, and a wholly hypothetical figure of 154 that might have been capital in 1965–68—and it will be noted that I use the words "might have been". There is really no valid comparison here. We can all make our own deductions from statistics, but with capital punishment abolished the assessment of what murders might have been "capital" if the law had been different can only be a paper exercise.

My statisticians have done the best they can and have made an estimate, but they explain very fairly in paragraphs 20 and 21 of their report the problems of estimation and their conclusions from the figures since 1965 are, as they say, "inevitably an over-estimate". Subject to that important caveat, there has been an increase in so-called "normal" murder and it began in the 'sixties, but it began before abolition. The year 1964 is a key date if one looks through the figures. Within the "normal" category, the proportion of estimated "capital" murder is higher than it was in the early 'sixties, though only slightly higher than it was in the late 'fifties.

But what does that prove? Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that the absence of capital punishment causes an increase in capital-type murder, let him recall that capital-type murder is frequently a higher proportion of abnormal murder than of normal murder. In the last two years, the largest single block of capital-type murder has been murder by shooting followed by suicide. The estimated figures of capital murder may tell us something about choice of weapon, but to me they convey no clear message about deterrence or the penalty for murder.

Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)

I am sorry to interrupt the Home Secretary, but as he has pointed out, the figures since 1965 are inevitably overestimated. Can he give the House any idea of the degree of over-estimation?

Mr. Callaghan

No, Sir. I have discussed this question with the statisticians, but they have to apply their best judgment. They have here moved outside the realm of statistics and are applying their judgment. I cannot give any further correction of their figure to show how much it would likely be.

Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)

Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to consider the statistics for Great Britain as a whole? So far, he has been dealing only with England and Wales. The figures for Scotland have shown quite different trends, whatever conclusions one may draw from them. Have we to wait until the end of the debate, when the Secretary of State for Scotland speaks, before we get the whole picture for Britain?

Mr. Callaghan

No, Sir. I hope to say something about Scotland later.

The right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) last night asked me to produce a crude, uncorrected murder figure for 1969 up to as recent a date as possible. In saying that I would produce today a figure in answer to this request, I reminded the House of the caution with which it was necessary to approach this figure. I again remind the House of the caution that is needed in this respect.

As a result of much effort by officials, to whom I am very grateful, I have with me now the figure for the number of murders known to the police in England and Wales this year up to yesterday. It is 172 Last year it was 208. The figure of 172 includes 92 cases not yet resolved. The figure of 208 at the same date last year included 105 unresolved cases. The House now has the crude figures: last year, 208; this year, 172. Last year,: 105 unresolved; this year 92 unresolved.

The House will make what it wishes of these figures. I must stress now that it is not possible at this point of time to predict how the final figure for 1969 will compare with figures of previous years. There is still a fortnight of 1969 to run. We shall then have a large number of unresolved cases, which will pass through the courts during the first six months or so of next year. During this process, some of the deaths initially recorded by the police as murder may turn out not to he the result of crime, or an offender may ultimately be convicted of a lesser offence, such as manslaughter or infanticide. The decision of the court of trial may be upset on appeal.

With all these imponderables, it is simply not prudent to try to predict, at the present time, how the 92 cases not vet resolved, and any that become known to the police between now and the end of the year, will be resolved. The most I will conclude is that it is very unlikely that the corrected figure for 1969 will be as high as that for 1968 which, in its turn, was lower than the figure for 1967.

Finally, I hope that the House will agree that the disclosure of an uncorrected part-year murder figure, which I have produced on this occasion to meet the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West—and, I hope, the convenience of the House—should not become a precedent. I am sure that the normal practice of publishing only corrected figures for full years is sound for, whatever cautions are uttered, figures always are compared with other figures—that is what they are about, and that is what they are for. But I hope that I have said enough to make it plain that comparisons between uncorrected murder figures cannot be sound: the process I have described must be gone through to produce a valid basis of comparison.

I should like now, if I may, to deal with the question raised by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) and give comparable crude figures. I must do this with the permission of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland because, as I say, I am dealing with crude figures, and these are for him to correct. At 15th December, the crude figure is 25 cases of murder known to the police, and the comparable figure a year ago was 40. Of the 25 cases, 11 are still unresolved and of the 40 cases a year ago, eight were unresolved.

Before I finally leave statistical matters I want to say a word about indictable offences of violence and indictable offences involving firearms. I do so because I believe that many of those who advocate the return of hanging to some exent base their unspoken thoughts on the increase in these crimes. I understand that, and I am very much concerned about the increase in these offences. I have said many times since becoming Home Secretary that the police may expect my full support in their fight against violent and organised crime.

I turn, first, to offences of violence. Indictable offences of violence against the person have been increasing annually since the war. This is not peculiar to this country. I should, perhaps, say that it is generally recognised that part of the recorded increase is due to improved reporting procedures. It is also due—and I can speak from my own constituency experience here, and I dare-say that hon. Members who have been in this House for a long time will agree—to a readiness on the part of the community to take casual violence more seriously than was the case before the war. I have noticed this tendency in my own wards.

I have had these offences analysed. It is worth pointing out that in the case of violence against the person it emerges that the annual increases since 1965 have been no greater, and sometimes less, than they were in the preceding years in which the death penalty provisions of the Homicide Act obtained. For offences against property with violence, the increase in breaking and entering offences in the period 1965–68 was much less rapid than in the period 1962–65.

I want here to be absolutely fair with the House. I am talking about rate of increase, not of actual numbers. I say that this trend, which has persisted since the end of the war, is not accelerating. If anything, it is slowing down in certain categories.

The rate of increase in offences of robbery and of assaults with intent to rob—again, I emphasise, I am speaking of the rate of increase—has also dropped since abolition compared with the immediately preceding years. Nevertheless, I submit that all these comparisons show the abolition of capital punishment has little or no bearing, so far, on crimes of violence. I wish to say a word about that, if I may be permitted, because I think that it has an effect on people's thinking, and I am far from being satisfied with the situation.

I told the House in the debate on the Address in reply to the Queen's Speech of my deep concern about the growth of violent crime. I said then that I wished to promote research as well as international study into these matters as well as to engage in international discussion. This work cannot be undertaken by the Home Office alone. It requires the fullest co-operation between those within my Department and outside. They have special expertise and resources to make a special contribution. My officials have been in touch with the Director of the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology, Professor Radzinowicz, who is known to many hon. Members. I have agreed on a programme of study with him and this is germane to the debate.

The institute will make a survey and analysis of research which has been undertaken or is in progress on the causes and prevention of violent crime in this country and elsewhere. It will provide indications of the most promising directions for future research in this country.

As regards the international aspects, I was interested in the fact that President Johnson had set up a national commission on the causes and prevention of violence. I am glad to say that Professor Marvin Wolfgang, Director of the Centre of Criminological Research in the University of Pennsylvania, has agreed to collaborate in this survey as a consultant. He was co-Director of Research for the United States Commission on Causes and Prevention of Violence, which has reported. He was also recently a visiting Fellow at the Cambridge Institute of Criminology. Simultaneously, research will be undertaken by two criminologists, Mr. F. H. McClintock and Dr. D. J. West. Mr. McClintock's research is designed to bring up to date his earlier studies in 1961 and 1963 of the robbery and crimes of violence in London. Dr. West will use data which he is already collecting to investigate the incidence of aggressive attitudes and conduct, and background factors associated with them, among boys of 14 and 15 years of age.

I propose that the Home Office will give financial support to all these projects. Further projects will be undertaken in the light of the studies to which I have referred. For example, important aspects which may prove to be suitable for research are violence by young people of 17 to 21 and the deliberate use of violence by professional criminals. This is a complex and intractable field and no quick or easy results can be expected. I believe that this programme offers the best promise of getting to grips with the problem. I am grateful to the director and staff of the Cambridge Institute and to Dr. Wolfgang for their ready and valuable co-operation. I have endeavoured to make a constructive approach. I suggest that it offers more long-term hope to society than the despair of returning to hanging as a means of deterring violence. This is especially true of the many violent crimes which cause deep horror and revulsion but which are not punished by the death sentence.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

Has the Home Secretary taken note of the emphasis laid by the American commission en the cause and prevention of violence concerning the effect of violence seen on television programmes on human behaviour? Will the research to be conducted by Professor Radzinowicz, at the University of Cambridge, have any bearing on these television programmes?

Mr. Callaghan

I certainly hope that that may be done. The House will remember that Lord Brooke of Cumnor, when he was Home Secretary, set up a Commission to look into this matter. He did many good things. I believe that he had to bear the odium on many occasions for decisions which were not wholly his. More tribute should be paid to Henry Brooke for some of the work he did than has been paid so far. I think that the research done by the television committee is not very conclusive; certainly more work needs to be done on this matter.

Dr. Roper has referred to what he calls the strongly imitative tendency in all criminal activities. Another field of research might well be in the influence that television has on violent crime and its nature and form. We certainly cannot demonstrate a direct link between artificial violence on the screen and violence in our streets. After all we have had Western films with their blood and thunder for many years, but I tend to hold the view that that kind of film violence which we see in the Westerns has little impact on our daily lives, because I do not think that we identify ourselves with those situations in which Westerns are shot.

But does this hold true for what became known a few years ago as "kitchen-sink dramas", where the realism was supposed to be all the greater because they might have taken place, if not at one's own kitchen sink, at the kitchen sink of a neighbour? In this case, it is more likely that we and our children can identify with that kind of violence and that kind of domestic background as shown on the television screen. I do not say that it is, but this matter causes deep concern to the television authorities. Nevertheless, the television authorities should exercise the greatest care over the kind of films shown in our homes.

Sir M. Galpern

We have heard a great deal over the years about research into the causation of violent crime and my right hon. Friend has referred to research projects being set up to ascertain the causation of violence and the growing increase of violence among people of 17 to 21. He will be aware of the recent report by Bedford College which clearly established that drink plays an important part in violence in that section of the community. What steps will he take forthwith, without further research, to deal with that aspect of the matter?

Mr. Callaghan

I have no particular proposals for dealing with this problem. Although I accept what my hon. Friend has said, and that there is a causation here, I cannot, in the middle of this debate, discuss the problem of the effect of alcohol and many other subjects of that sort, but I do not disparage the point that my hon. Friend has made. I know that he has had a lifelong campaign on the subject, with very substantial and effective results.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton) rose

Mr. Callaghan

May I get on, because I have a great deal more to say and if I keep giving way I shall never finish my speech.

I wish to say a word or two about life imprisonment, because this affects the thinking of many people on this subject. There is a great deal of misapprehension about what a life sentence means and I should explain it. Some of my predecessors, especially Lord Butler and Lord Brooke, have attempted to do so in the past, but they did not make much of a go of it. Sometimes it is suggested that prisoners are always released after about nine years, so that even the most dangerous murderer serving a sentence for life imprisonment might be a threat to the public after that time, but this is an illusion. I emphasise once again that no life sentence prisoner is released on licence merely because a certain number of years has elapsed. This view was stated in the House even yesterday, but it is simply not true.

There are cases where the circumstances of the crime and the prisoner's personality and development in prison may justify his release after nine years, or occasionally less time, but cases come before me where even after 10, 11, 12, or more years of detention it is still not possible to contemplate release. I have seen the cases of all these men, I have seen some of them personally when they have asked to see me on my visits to prisons.

It should not be forgotten that nine or 10 years under a life sentence is not the same as a determinate sentence of the same order, because a determinate sentence carries one-third remission for good conduct. So nine years under a life sentence is equivalent to a determinate sentence of 13½ years, 10 years is equivalent to a sentence of 15 years, 12 years to 18 years, and so on. Since 1965, further safeguards have been introduced into the procedure for reviewing life sentences. The 1965 Act provided that before releasing on licence I must consult the Lord Chief Justice and the trial judge if he is available. Sometimes he is not, but I always have the papers submitted to the Lord Chief Justice. He gives me his opinion on the prospects of release. If there are differences, we attempt to resolve them. He and I have met on occasions to discuss some of them.

The Criminal Justice Act, 1967, went one stage further. While continuing the requirement to consult the judiciary, it provides also that the Secretary of State cannot release a life sentence prisoner unless the Parole Board so recommends. The Parole Board includes three High Court judges. I do not need to tell the House that the board, for its part, takes this responsibility very seriously.

Mr. Keith Stainton (Sudbury and Woodbridge)

How can the Lord Chief Justice or the trial judge contribute to a resolution of this situation after the lapse of perhaps 12 or 15 years?

Mr. Callaghan

The trial judge contributes if he records the case. He has his notes. He may or may not submit something which will be of value. I find the opinion of the Lord Chief Justice of extraordinary value, because he can form his judgment and it provides a second opinion on the matter. He has all the papers in front of him. He can judge the man's record, I would not want to dispense in any way at all with this assistance that I get.

It is often overlooked—I wish to lay emphasis on this point—that even when a life sentence prisoner is released on licence he is still under control. Conditions of supervision can be attached to his licence, and now invariably are. The licence remains in force indefinitely. There is power throughout the whole of the offender's life to recall him to prison—this is not a theoretical matter—if his conduct at liberty suggests that he is becoming a danger.

This is not a power that a Home Secretary likes to have to use, but I have not hesitated to use it if I have thought it necessary to protect the public or individual members of it who are particularly at risk. In the last 12 months I have recalled six life licensees to prison, either on the recommendation of the Parole Board or securing its confirmation after I have done so. So there is this additional, and I think very important, protection to the public.

I am certain that what many people hold, and what most of us here would hold, is that murder cannot be regarded like any other crime. It is still a crime apart—I mean by "murder" killing with malice aforethought—and it should be regarded still as a crime apart. Therefore, as part of the programme of the codification of the criminal law, I propose to ask the Criminal Law Revision Committee, when its present commitments permit, to review the whole law of offences against the person, including homicide. This will enable the questions of murder and manslaughter to be gone into.

I do not wish to detain the House for much longer, but perhaps I may say a few words now about overseas experience. I have asked my officials what they can tell me about murder statistics overseas. As far as they can tell, there is a great deal less murder in this country than in most advanced countries. I think it true to say that Britain is still a relative oasis in a violent world.

I say "as far as we can tell" because it is very difficult to make these international comparisons. My staff have put a lot of time and effort into it, but the law differs from country to country. In some countries capital punishment exists, but is in abeyance. The basis of collecting statistics differs. Frankly, many countries simply do not have our concern about murder—I will not say "obsession with murder"—even though it may be more prevalent in their countries; so they put less effort than we do into trying to compute it.

However, subject to that proviso, it seems clear that in the United States the figure for murder and what we call "Section 2 manslaughter", which is explained in the document hon. Members have, rated for population, is more than ten times greater than in this country and for a good many years has been increasing at a faster rate.

As regards Western Europe, our figures also appear to be lower, and in some cases very much lower, than those for other countries. Most Western European countries have been abolitionists for a long time now. Spain is one exception; and there the figures, if they are accurate, appear to be very low compared with ours. France is another exception; and there the figures, on the basis of persons convicted, are higher than ours. There are indications that in France capital punishment, in practice at least, is very much on the decline.

What about the effect of abolition in other countries? In Europe, only Finland and Western Germany have abolished capital punishment since the war. In Finland, there had not been an execution for well over a century before abolition. The Finns tell us that their homicide figures have decreased a lot since abolition, but they relate this to a change in drinking habits following the end of prohibition. In Western Germany., the figures appear to have fallen for a period after 1949, but have gone up more recently. Any comparison with the figure before abolition would clearly he vitiated by the abnormal conditions of the Nazi period.

In the United States, as I have said, the penalty for murder is a State matter and there is a baffling variety of patterns, including a number of States which abolished capital punishment and then restored it. In most cases this experiment took place so long ago and was so short-lived that it is difficult to draw any conclusion. I would prefer not to do so.

One final example: New Zealand abolished the death penalty in 1941, restored it in 1950, and abolished it again in 1961. Before abolition on the second occasion the trend in murder was slightly upwards. Thereafter, apart from one freak year, the trend was slightly downwards; but I must say that the absolute figures are miniscule.

As a conclusion from this and the other available information about capital punishment in various parts of the world, I submit to the House the summary by Monsieur Ancel, who carried out a worldwide survey on behalf of the United Nations. This is the best that I can offer the House. These are his conclusions: With respect to the influence of the abolition of capital punishment upon the incidence of murder, all of the available data suggest that where the murder rate is increasing, abolition does not appear to hasten the increase; where the rate is decreasing, abolition does not appear to interrupt the decrease; where the rate is stable, the presence of or absence of capital punishment does not appear to affect it. I have covered a good deal of ground. I have submitted a case against hanging, with the statistics, with crimes of violence, with crimes involving firearms, and with the provisions of the Homicide Act, to which we shall return if the Motion is not carried. I have left until last the charge that Parliament, if it passes the Motion, will be flying in the face of public opinion.

I want to make two points here. The first is a statistical one. The small print of the poll results which have been so much canvassed does not quite show the same solid phalanx of hangers that the head-lines would suggest. Let us take the Harris Poll published in the Daily Express on 5th December. The headline said: 84 per cent. back hanging". What we find is that 29 per cent. of those interviewed said that they were in favour of capital punishment, by a variety of methods, for all murder. Thirteen per cent. were in favour of abolition. Fifty-five per cent. appeared to want a new attempt at categories of murder.

I doubt whether, when they were asked that question, everyone was fully aware of the fours years' deliberation of the Royal Commission on this matter and of its failure to come up with a solution. I doubt whether everyone was aware that this was what Parliment tried to do in the Homicide Act, 1957, with results which disgusted the judiciary and almost everyone else who had anything to do with it.

I wonder what the 55 per cent. would have said if they had known these facts. I think that it is very misleading to say, "84 per cent. back hanging", in a simple way like that. An alternative headline could well have been: 68 per cent. not in favour of a total return of hanging". That would have been just as true and would have been just as misleading.

Secondly, I recognise public opinion on this matter, and I apologise to the House if it is thought that I have been insensitive to it. Most of our constituents favour the retention of capital punishment for murder in some form or other. But I wonder whether they fully realise to what extent murder is committed in the family. I wonder to what extent they realise that it is committed by the mentally abnormal. I wonder whether they would be content with a return to the anomalies of the Homicide Act if they were put up against the real situation.

I believe—I said this last week—that, if we were to return to that Act, within 12 months there would be a revulsion of public opinion against it once more and that Parliament would be faced with the same problem. I know that the public are concerned at the risk, however slight, and however great the safeguards, that an innocent man may be executed, but many people regard the death penalty as a deterrent.

I would like to say why I do not, and I would like to say it in someone else's words than my own. I refer to a man who was a Principal Medical Officer at Wandsworth, Dartmoor and Wakefield. He served in the Prison Medical Service for 35 years and retired in 1962. I refer to Dr. W. F. Roper, who has recently written on this subject. During the course of his career in these prisons he came up against at one time or another between 30 and 40 murderers. Therefore, with respect, he has far more knowledge than most of us, or even our constituents, or even the police, about what goes on.

This is what he said on the subject of deterrence: A high proportion of murderers are so tensed up at the time of their crime as to be impervious to the consequences to themselves; others manage to persuade themselves that they can get away with it; for them the chance of 20 years or so in prison is as effective a deterrent as any other and they provide a more enduring reminder to other aggressive men that murder does not pay than occasional executions can do. I do not believe that capital punishment affects the willingness to use weapons in the course of raids, robberies and riots once it has become the fashion to do so. There is a strongly imitative tendency in all criminal activities, and the failure of condign punishment in the past does not encourage the hope that if Tyburn failed to deck highwaymen then, the return of private executions will check bank robbers now. There is a very strong gambling element active in adventurous criminals and the higher the stakes the greater the recklessness. That was Dr. Roper's conclusion. Murder itself is obscene and degrading. I do not think that anyone will accuse me of underplaying the serious effect that serious crime can have on its victims or the way it undermines a settled society. But as regards the belief that the death penalty for murder is somehow right or fitting, the more closely one has to consider the application of the death penalty to the individual the harder it is to accept.

I can see that it is easy enough—I say this without disrespect—on the doorstep or in the bus queue to tell the opinion pollsters that one believes in capital punishment for murder; but there is a lot of evidence that those who have been brought up against the issue at close quarters, with whatever view they began, have come to reject totally the idea of capital punishment.

Finally, my position is this. What we are discussing is the right of the State to exact the death of a citizen as a punishment for committing murder. That is an awesome power which is rightly denied to the private citizen. If it is to be given to the State then the onus of proof rests wholly and heavily on those who would bring it back as a punishment. I agree entirely with what was said by Lord Templewood, a former Home Secretary, that capital punishment lowered the moral standard of the whole community. That is my conviction, too. When society exacts this penalty it acts on the same level as the murderer himself.

There are times when Parliament has to act in advance of public opinion and give a lead. On penal questions it is not uncommonly the case: Parliament has done it before and Parliament was not wrong. Let us give a lead again today.

4.54 p.m.

Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)

I apologise for inflicting myself upon the House again today, but I feel that, perhaps for two reasons I am entitled to do so.

First, I think that it is possibly incumbent upon me, holding, as I do, the position of official Opposition spokesman on home affairs, to address the House on this matter when the Home Secretary has spoken fully from his point of view.

I like to think, too, that I have a small positive contribution of my own to add. It is not simply that, like most hon. Members, I have reflected a good deal on this subject since I first came into the House 31 years ago. I suppose that I have participated in about 50 trials since 1932 in which murder was the charge. I do not claim that that gives me a particular expertise, nor have I ever claimed any particular expertise in these matters.

But it is impossible, having studied a great number of cases in the depth to which one has to study them, not to form certain conclusions about them. I am aware that, having done that, one sometimes finds oneself isolated from both sides in the controversy, but I do not think that my attitude is necessarily less worth while because of that.

Yesterday, the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) suggested that the vote on this side of the House would not be absolutely free. With all the emphasis at my command, I say that the vote on this side is absolutely free. I do not need to say it again because the fact will be proved in the Division Lobby tonight. The utter baselessness of the hon. Gentleman's remark will be proved by the record far more effectively than any words of mine could do.

At the beginning of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary raised what I consider to be the irrelevant bogey of the 1957 Homicide Act. As a statement of law it is true that, if nothing is done about it, the 1957 Act will, as a matter of theory, revive on 31st July next. As a statement of fact for reasons which I shall discuss a little later, the probability is that there is no responsible body of opinion either in the House or outside which would welcome, or even accept, the return of the 1957 Act in the terms in which it was enacted.

Nevertheless, I hope that hon. Members will vote on the merits of the question. If Parliament wants to abolish the death penalty indefinitely, let it pass the Motion. That is a rational conclusion to come to. If Parliament wants to defer a decision, there are other means by which it can do that. If it wished to do that I suggest that the logical course to take today would be to vote against the Motion, but it would be easy to defer a decision.

If Parliament wished to enact a statute which would impose a revised death penalty, it would also be possible to do that. Parliament is master of its own affairs. To take the terms of an Amendment which was not selected, it can defer the decision until 1973. It can legislate; it can pass a one-Clause Bill; it can do anything it pleases.

So let us decide the question upon the merits and not allow ourselves to be frightened by any bogey that, if we do not do exactly what one side or the other wants, we shall be faced with the 1957 Act and nothing else.

Now, a word with reference to some observations of the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) yesterday. Since I have been the Shadow spokesman on home affairs, I have been much concerned about the law itself. I recognise that there are a great many people—a majority of the House, I should think, even if a minority outside it—who wish to do away with the death penalty altogether, and there are those who wish to retain it or return to it in some form. But what I am sure nobody wants is a perpetual see-saw between the two. We must not have another botched job. We must get it right next time.

I have said in other contexts and I say it again in this: whatever else may be done about the respect in which the law is held, it must possess on all matters of great import such as this a certain feature of durability. We cannot go back and forth. That is both morally unacceptable and practically ridiculous Even if it involved postponing a decision—which, for many reasons, I myself would like to do—rather than go back and forth I should prefer complete abolition. One of the reasons why I was unhappy about the decision yesterday was precisely that I thought that the way of handling the matter rendered it almost inevitable that a further discussion on these lines would take place in the first months of the next Parliament.

I come now to the merits of the case. Why do I say that the 1957 Act was unacceptable? At this point, I begin, in one respect, to diverge from what the Home Secretary said and from what fell from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier) yesterday in a speech to which I listened with interest. I consider that the 1957 Act was unacceptable because it was an attempt to do both of two divergent things.

First, it was an attempt to do what the Royal Commission had said was chimerical; that is to say, to try to select a category of murder which excited the most horror; and that I believe to be wholly impossible, for reasons which I shall explain. Second, the 1957 Act was an attempt to isolate what I believe would be laudable if it were possible—and which, from some points of view, I think might well be possible—namely, an attempt to isolate not crimes in accordance with the degree of moral indignation which one feels about them but crimes in regard to which one can have some rational belief that the death penalty might have some effect upon the crime rate.

Those two objectives are wholly divergent from one another, and I do not consider that the Home Secretary quite got rid of the 1957 Act by pointing out the anomally that child murders and deliberate poisonings were outside the capital category. In my view at least, almost the last approach to this question should be from the standpoint of how much moral indignation one feels for a particular act. One ought to ask oneself in as detached a way as one can—I hope that the House will not accuse me of being a little cold-blooded when I say it—what are the purposes of the policy one is pursuing and what is the likelihood of achieving some results by it?

At this point, I digress for a moment to the question of the prerogative of mercy. Whatever the result of the debate today—and certainly if it turned out that the House was not prepared finally to abolish capital punishment—I feel that the Home Secretary should, on any view, cease to be solely responsible for the exercise of the prerogative. I say that lot only because I should myself feel wholly inadequate to face that responsibility, as indeed I should, but because I think that in the past Home Secretaries have proved inadequate. With great respect to a Wstinguished succession of gentlemen of humane and civilised bent, I say that they demonstrably made mistakes. Oddly enough, the mistakes they made have erred occasionally in the direction of severity.

One has only to mention some of the cases, such as Evans, whether he was guilty or not—and I do not think that the reprieve should have depended on that issue—Ruth Ellis, Bentley, and, for rather different reasons, even Hanrattyon whose guilt I do not wish to cast the smallest doubt—to realise that the Home Secretary in the isolation of his chamber deciding between life and death is attempting a job which ought not to be done by any one man. On any view of the prerogative of mercy, even on the basis of imprisonment, I should like to see a reprieve board advising the Home Secretary.

The Home Secretary must, of course, have the last responsibility. In the end, Parliament must have control, and there must be a responsible Minister. But I fancy that were he to have a small reprieve board to advise him, it would be a very unusual Home Secretary who overrode its decisions in the direction of severity. If I had control of such a matter, I should see that its terms of reference were such that a great mass of murders—I shall come to that point—would be wholly outside the ambit of the death penalty, whatever the terms of the substantive law might turn out to be.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

I see the point of that argument, but, to be completely logical, must not my right hon. and learned Friend be prepared to give full power to the reprieve board and take it from Parliament?

Mr. Hogg

I think not. That is not what has happened in relation to the parole board, and I should not see any lack of logic in applying the logic of the parole board to the particular instrument of policy which I have suggested.

I come now to what I regard as the heart of the matter. It is at this point that I become distressed at the state of the law as it now is. I shall in a minute discuss both the nature of the crime of murder and the curious results which emerge from a study of statistics relating to it. But I believe that it is in the end beyond dispute, whether one regards the death penalty as a particularly good or a particularly ineffective deterrent, that there are circumstances under the law as it is—that is, the Act of 1965—which put a premium on killing. I cannot view that situation with anything like the comfort and ease of mind which a great number of my most respected friends on both sides of the House seem to do.

There can be no doubt, whatever system of law one has, that the detection and punishment of crime depends in the end on the correct identification of the criminal. It must be true, therefore, that if a man deliberately sets out upon a course which will attract, let us say, a penalty of seven years' imprisonment or more, either by reason of the intrinsic seriousness of the crime or by reason of the seriousness of the criminal's record, occasions will arise from time to time when only one pair of eyes or one pair of hands stand between the criminal and complete liberty. If the only penalty available is imprisonment and, whatever he does, if he is caught he will get a protracted sentence, there must come a point of time at which it pays to remove and eliminate by death the one pair of identifying eyes and the one pair of identifying hands that stand between him and immunity from punishment.

I cannot believe, therefore, that it is as easy a question as the right hon. Gentleman's peroration would lead people to suppose. I ask the House to believe that I do not regard the infliction in cold blood of death upon a young and vigorous person with any less degree of abhorrence than anyone else, but I venture to say that one cannot rest satisfied with a condition of the law which puts in any circumstances at all a premium upon the killing of an innocent victim, whether that victim be the policeman who arrests, the victim who alone sees what is done, or an innocent bystander who happens to be the only observer of the identity of the person concerned. I cannot believe that in stating those fears and anxieties I am being the kind of sadistic monster that some abolitionists would have one believe all retentionists are by nature.

Mr. Paget

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is assuming that criminals have much more foresight in moments of emotion than they have. Can he point to a single statistic in all the murder figures, whether for a time when there was capital punishment or not, in which someone was killed because he was likely to be a witness? I cannot find one in the whole lot.

Mr. Hogg

I was thinking particularly of the shooting of the policemen two years ago.

Mr. Paget rose

Mr. Hogg

I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me for not giving way again now. I was going on to say to him that I have not so far dealt with the statistics, but that I want to say a word about them in a moment.

Mr. Paget rose

Mr. Hogg

I do not want to give way again, because I am still answering the hon. and learned Gentleman's original question. I have not yet given him my answer, with great respect to him; I am still giving it. He is wholly mistaking the character of my argument if he thinks that I am talking about criminals in a state of emotion. I am not. I am talking about the question which may present itself to a professional criminal or member of an organised gang when he considers whether to carry a gun or weapon of offence before he ever sets out on the crime. The hon. and learned Gentlemen would be wise to assume that some of the more obvious considerations have appealed to both sides, and this seems to me a fairly obvious type of consideration.

But I want now to deal with the question of statistics—

Mr. Paget

I am more than grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way again. He raised the question of the three policemen. I think that that is a very good example, because the men concerned shot three policemen in order to escape, but there were two onlookers and they made no attempt to shoot them.

Mr. Hogg

With great respect, I was probably right not to give way in the first place. If we pursue all individual cases into every detail this debate will either not finish or not finish conclusively. I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman will see a little later the way in which I am putting the case if I pursue the argument in its original and, I hope, logical form.

I suppose that there is not one Member on either side of the controversy who is not deeply distressed, and not a little bewildered, by the fact that statistics when they are quoted in this context, and when they have proved such a reliable guide over such a wide range of social subjects, should be so strangely contradictory that equally intelligent persons read the same set of figures in opposite senses. Certainly, this is something which has bewildered and distressed me for a great number of years, and I have given it a great deal of thought.

It it not because I make fun of statistical arguments at all that I believe that this is not altogether unexpected when one reflects on the nature of the crime. On the contrary, so far from making fun of the statistical evidence, I may say perhaps in passing that I was one of the first to accept the statistical evidence which proved the relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. It is a most reliable guide in some things. Why is it not in relation to murder?

There is something in the argument put forward in a letter to The Times today that if one is dealing with the statistics of people who were ex hypothesi not deterred from committing the crime one may get an ambivalent result about the people who were. That argument can be carried too far, but it at least disposes of the kind of argument put forward by the right hon. Gentleman when he suggested that the figure of two criminals a year executed was insufficient to prove a deterrent. One could very easily build up a statistical argument from the convictions for burglary that prison is not a deterrent for burglary, because the figures have risen, in spite of a system of imprisonment, over the past 20 years. But no one argues about whether imprisonment should be abolished as a punishment for burglars.

That is one of the difficulties about the statistical argument on either side. But a much more deep-seated and fundamental difficulty arises when one considers the nature of murder itself. It is not a crime in the sense that theft is a crime. On the contrary, it is a whole series of crimes united only by the terrible end of the story. Between the man who rapes a little girl and kills her, the man who poisons an old lady because he wants to reap a life insurance policy, the man who shoots a policeman because he wants to escape, and the man who stabs an enemy in the heart in the course of a drunken brawl, there is literally nothing in common as to motivation or pattern of action, other than the terrible end to which in each case his unlawful conduct has led.

There are two broad conclusions which must be drawn from this. The first is the simple fact that in computing the statistical evidence, one must take account of the cases of attempted murder in addition to actual murder, and all the cases of conspiracy to murder in addition to attempted murder, and a good many other types of offence as well. These are not inconsiderable difficulties.

Taking simply the figures in the criminal statistics—though they have been brought more up to date since then, I think—murders in the year 1968 were 183, attempted murders were 281, and threats or conspiracy to murder were 115. That radically alters the nature of the figures we are discussing.

But if one looks at the matter in a slightly more far-sighted way, I think one inevitably comes to the conclusion that murder is not a single crime, and the kind of murder which I have been talking about, the kind in which there may have been a premium on killing, is pre- cisely the kind of case where, so far from the murderer being emotionally motivated, he is at the critical point rationally motivated, and that it is related to both—robbery with violence and, above all, to the carrying of firearms when committing a robbery.

The only part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech from which I found myself dissenting strongly was what I thought to be a misleadingly comforting picture that he drew in relation to these other crimes. When I had to reply to a debate on a motion on capital punishment, which I think I was partly instrumental in defeating, three years ago at the Conservative Party Conference, I had to say that, so far as violent crime was concerned—and in that I include robbery with violence and armed with intent to rob, although for some reason the formal categorisation leaves these out of violent crime and offences against the person—we were dealing in 1966 with an all-time on top of an all-time on top of an all-time high.

What the Home Secretary said today was not in the least reassuring. He did not tell us that the number of robberies with violence or firearms offences had gone down. On the contrary, he knows as well as I do that they have gone up. Had been speaking this year at the Conservative Party Conference on this issue, I would have had to add two more all-time highs on top of the 1966 figures. What he referred to was the rate of increase in the numbers. We are faced with a surge of violent crime, and we should be more deeply disturbed even than the Home Secretary allowed for, although I have never accused him of complacency and do not want to do so now.

Mr. Callaghan

I hope that I did not give that impression. I did not think that I had done so. I tried to point out that I was talking about the rate of increase. The point was not whether I was complacent or not but that the figures did not show any particular relationship between the abolition of capital punishment and the rate of increase in these crimes.

Mr. Hogg

I took the point when it was made and I will come back to it. But, to complete this aspect of the murder picture, I simply refer to one sentence in the Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the year 1968 when he was dealing with crimes relating to firearms. He said on page 53: Over one-seventh of all robberies and assaults with intent to rob were carried out with the aid of firearms (or, in a small number of cases, what were thought to be firearms but might have been imitations). There was a rise of 17 per cent. in the number of indictable crimes in which firearms were used but in the case of robberies or assaults with intent to rob, the increase was 31 per cent. That, of course, applied to London.

I draw attention to a further point in this connection, contained in the Blom-Cooper and Morris study of murder. The authors use this rather revealing sentence: Only in one respect have homicidal offences followed the general crime pattern, and that is in the matter of killings arising in the course or furtherance of theft. Of course I cannot demonstrate, and I have indicated why, with this limited class of crime, where there is a premium on killing, that the continued increase has been influenced by the abolition of capital punishment in 1965. I would not expect, after what I have said, to be able to do so. It is obvious that the figures would have increased anyhow whether capital punishment had been abolished or whether it had not. It is obvious that the true figures of these homicides within the murder figures in general are almost impossible to dig out or at any rate could be dug out only with the greatest difficulty.

But two things I claim to be relatively clear from what I have been saying. First, there is in such circumstances a premium on killing if in so far as a potential murderer is capable of a rational motivation. The second is that there has been a continued increase in the figures in precisely the class of crime where the premium on killing exists.

Curiously enough, I agree with a great deal of the argument the right hon. Gentleman presents about murder in general. I have always thought, when dealing sometimes with the most horrible murders, such as the Moors murders, that one is dealing with a class of person or type of criminal who, however much one may view with horror what he has done, one cannot be sure was rationally motivated, and in whose case it is a bold man to claim either that the death penalty is a deterrent or that prison or anything else is a deterrent.

But when dealing with professional organised crime in the Metropolis, I claim that the boot is on the other foot, and I suggest that when one is faced by a great surge towards violence of this kind, rationally motivated for profit, and one puts a premium on killing, one must expect the figures to go up. In the nature of the thing, one cannot show which of the figures represent murders which would have been committed anyhow or represent murders which were committed only because of a difference in the penalty imposed. This is not only difficult but is in the nature of things impossible.

But I venture, without, I hope, seeking in any way to be emotional, to wonder whether it is rational on our part to lump all the murders together and say that, in relation to a matter so obviously sensitive, where the rate of increase in the crude number of crimes has been going up so consistently, we can, in December, 1969, on such figures, some of which have been muddled, as I have suggested, abolish indefinitely and with a view to permanence every possiblility of the death penalty?

I cannot prove this statistically but I believe that there are people dead today in that category who might be alive if the law had been different. I believe that there are people who are alive today but who, if the law is kept as it is, will be dead at some time in the next ten years. I do not claim to be able to demonstrate this by figures but I think it rational to hold that belief in the light of the arguments I have been seeking to present.

That brings me back to the conclusion of my argument. Obviously, this afternoon we cannot rewrite the law of murder. I would not ask today that we should do other than in our own minds intend to continue the period of abolition after 31st July. This, as I indicated earlier, is not only a rational and possible course but an easy course, if the two Houses concur either by legislation or, it may be, for all I know, by resolution. But if there is substance in the argument I have been endeavouring to present—although of course hon. Members on both sides will follow their own consciences and judgment and will not be dictated to either by feelings of party loyalty or by impressive poll figures or anything else—I wonder whether it is wise to pass this Motion. Speaking for myself, I shall vote against it.

5.30 p.m.

Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)

I agree with much of what the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said about the burden on a Home Secretary. I have never been a Home Secretary, but I have been the junior Minister in the Home Office, the man closest to the Home Secretary, and I certainly saw the strain which was imposed on the Home Secretary of the time. It reinforced me in my abolitionist views.

I shall vote for the Motion tonight. Now that there have been two principal speakers and it is 5.30, and as many hon. Members wish to speak, I shall try to confine myself to new arguments and to put them fairly shortly.

I shall speak to begin with entirely from my personal experience. In the 1930s I spent two years at the Yale Law School. One of the subjects I worked on was the possibility of judicial error. At that time I was in favour of capital punishment. I was set worrying about the possibility of an innocent man being convicted. The more I studied the subject, the more I became convinced not only of the possibility of error but that there was an entirely emotional argument for capital punishment which was not supported by what evidence there was.

At the time I was impressed by the fact that the abolitionist states in the American union had a lower murder rate than the others. I realise today that that is a bad argument because some of the states differed very much in nature and geography. But it is a fact that adjoining states were comparable in social conditions and in population. The State of Maine, where there was no capital punishment, adjoined New Hampshire which had capital punishment, and the murder rates were precisely the same; there was no evidence of deterrence there. There was no capital punishment in Rhode Island, which adjoins Massachusetts which had capital punishment; the murder rates were the same; no evidence of deterrence. In Australia there was Queensland with no capital punishment adjoining New South Wales where there was capital punishment until 1955; again the murder rates were the same.

When I came to prepare these notes, I was surprised that I had to rely very much on the same illustrations that I had used in the House 13 years ago. It is very difficult to bring the arguments up to date, because capital punishment is hard to find in Western societies today. In the huge United States not one person was executed in the last year.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

How many murders?

Sir G. de Freitas

I do not know; many. Nevertheless, not one person was executed.

Mr. Wilson

Why not?

Sir G. de Freitas

Because the Americans do not believe it to be a deterrent.

When we come to Europe, we have another problem. Finland and Italy have high murder rates and the tendency in both countries is for the rate to go down. On the other hand, the German Federal Republic and Sweden have low murder rates and the tendency in both countries is for them to go up. One could reach a dozen and one conclusions from these facts, but not one of them has anything to do with the value of capital punishment as a deterrent, because there is no capital punishment anywhere in Western Europe, except Spain. To take them alphabetically, all our neighbours, from Austria, Belgium and Denmark, to Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland, have abolished capital punishment.

I think my right hon. Friend this afternoon did not go far enough when he referred to France. As I have read it in the Press, President Pompidou has said that as long as he is President of France there will be no executions. That leaves Spain alone of our neighbours. The rest have found that there is no evidence that capital punishment is a deterrent.

Frankly, I am not surprised. Why should it be a deterrent when we know that half our murderers are insane and the other half, including the Christies, who are not found to be insane, are, shall we say, a bit odd?

As I have looked back on the debates which we have had over the last 20 years it has become clearer to me that the retentionist case as it has been argued is an emotional case and that it is the abolitionist which is the rational one. I am reminded that Sir Ernest Gowers, who was Chairman of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, after four years of studying the subject, said: … I became convinced that the abolitionists were right in their conclusions … and that so far from the sentimental approach leading into their camp and the rational one into that of the supporters, it was the other way about. I hesitate to mention that again, but I do so for the good reason that it is hard to bring the arguments up to date when we have no capital punishment around us.

I have two further points. One is the obvious advantage that would come to any community by abolishing capital punishment and one is less obvious. The obvious advantage is that of abolishing for ever the risk of hanging an innocent man.

Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)

The right hon. Gentleman uses the expression "abolishing capital punishment". Is he aware that in recent Parliamentary Answers from the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence I have been given figures which show that just over 20 per cent. of all executions carried out since 1939 were for offences other than murder? These offences were treason, treachery, mutiny and other Service offences, the latest in 1953.

Sir G. de Freitas

I am talking about abolishing capital punishment completely. Even for the offences mentioned in that intervention, there was no capital punishment, except in name, in the United States in the whole of last year, no State execution in the whole of that vast country.

Sir Richard Glyn

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that that is because procedural objection has been taken to the same jury finding a man guilty of murder and choosing the penalty. Because of this, capital punishment has not been carried out in America. But when the legal wrangle is settled, something else may be done.

Sir G. de Freitas

I ask the hon. Gentleman to study what is happening in the United States. It is much more interesting than that. Public opinion is turning against it because it recognises that capital punishment is not the deterrent it was thought to be. I beg the hon. Gentleman to study what is happening in California alone, certainly over last year and the first half of this year.

The point about capital punishment, as everyone agrees, is that it is irrevocable and that there is always a possibility of error. We know of errors in convicting the innocent. We know that Adolf Beck was twice falsely convicted of defrauding women. The doubt has been mentioned today—I put it no higher than that—about Evans and Rowland. We know the problem of identity, of mistaken identity. I remind the House of Rowland's last words after being sentenced when he said: One day it will be proved in God's own time that I am totally innocent of this charge and the day will come when this case will be quoted in the courts of this country to show what can happen to a man in a case of mistaken identity". I do not say that it was a case of mistaken identity. I do not go as far as that; I can say only that there was considerable doubt.

The second advantage is not obvious. I believe that if we abolished the death penalty, it would strengthen the forces for our democratic system in the West by showing that it was possible to build up a system of strong government without an all-powerful State. In the ideological conflicts of the world today one of the best arguments on our side is that in this country we have built a system of really strong Government without an all-powerful State.

What has happened on the Continent in the lifetime of all of us here has caused our fellow Europeans to perceive more deeply the implications of allowing the State to take life. Our acceptance of capital punishment weakens our case. Think, for a moment, of those Continentals who have seen the State in their lifetime taking life with the firing squad or the gas ovens. They have actually heard the Minister of Justice reintroducing capital punishment in Mussolini's Italy and commending it to that Parliament, not with any statistics about the deterrent effect but merely because it symbolised the spirit of Fascism. Is it any wonder that capital punishment went out with Mussolini in Italy as it went out of Germany with Hitler?

It is a commonplace—we mention it frequently in public speeches and private conversations—that the State today has enormous power of destruction. I ask hon. Members in deciding this tonight to make it clear and precise, because it is surely our duty in this age to insist that the State should not take life but should foster every instinct and belief that human life is sacred and precious.

5.42 p.m.

Mr. Sandys (Streatham)

As I think the House knows, I favour the restoration of capital punishment for reasons which I will explain. The argument centres round two questions: Is capital punishment a deterrent? Is it morally justifiable? I do not claim that capital punishment will eliminate murder. But I do believe that, taken together with other measures, such as strengthening the police force, improved methods of detection and stricter control of firearms, capital punishment will give additional protection to the community and help curb the growth of gansterism.

I am not in the least interested in retribution. My purpose is to save lives and discourage violence. My concern is not to punish, but to deter. If I were not convinced that the death penalty was, for certain types of murder at any rate, a significant deterrent, I would not advocate it.

There are those who claim that capital punishment has no deterrent value. The Home Secretary and the right hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) are among them. The Lord Chancellor goes so far as to say that no punishment of any kind, whether the death penalty or life imprisonment, has any appreciable influence upon the incidence of murder. He told a meeting of magistrates that it was the certainty of being caught and not the severity of the punishment which mattered. He said, and it was an extraordinary statement to come from the Head of the Judiciary: If all punishment were abolished for murder there would be hardly any increase in this crime. I find it very hard to follow the noble Lord's reasoning. If there were no punishment, why would the murderer be afraid of being caught?

I cannot accept the view that there is no connection between crime and punishment. Various learned professors say that there is no evidence that the death penalty deters. But the question is: what do the criminals think? In the end it is the opinion of the criminals, rather than that of the criminologists, which matters.

Only yesterday I received a letter from a prisoner serving a long sentence for a serious crime. I would like to read a few sentences of what he wrote from prison. He said: All the talk about hanging not being a deterrent is foolish. As a man who has lived among criminals all his life I can assure you that hanging is the one deterrent most criminals respect and fear. I have no doubt that that man's opinion is shared by many others in the criminal world.

It is self-evident that, except in crimes of passion or anger, a more severe penalty is a greater deterrent than a less severe penalty. Those who dispute what to most people is obvious have an obligation to produce some positive evidence to support their contention. I realise, of course, that many of those who want to abolish capital punishment cannot be influenced by any arguments about its deterrent value. They are irrevocably opposed to the death penalty as a matter of principle. They regard it as a moral issue which cannot be decided on the basis of statistics. I respect their convictions, but the abolitionists should not think that they have a monopoly of conscience.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Sandys

I do not think I can. I have a lot to say, and there are many who are wanting to speak.

We who wish to restore capital punishment believe just as sincerely as anyone in the sanctity of human life. But we do not feel that the best way of showing it is to reduce the penalty for killing. Nor do we accept that ever greater leniency towards criminals is the hallmark of civilised progress.

I do not dispute that this is a moral issue. There is no one with normal reactions who is not emotionally affected, deeply so, by the thought of taking the life of a fellow human being, however wicked. The whole idea of execution is very ugly indeed. The question is whether that is a sufficient reason for rejecting capital punishment, if one truly believes that it will have the effect of saving innocent lives.

Like my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), I am quite convinced that, but for the 1965 Act, some at least of those who were murdered in the last few years would still be alive today. One can take the view that it is better they are dead than that they should have been saved by means which one regards as repugnant. Whatever our attitude, we as Members of Parliament cannot escape responsibility for the consequences of our decisions.

As we all know, this is an issue which is charged with conflicting emotions. The other day I had a letter from a constituent who expressed very strong views about the wickedness of abortion. She said that no human being had the moral right to take the life of another human being, even the unborn child. But she added a P.S.: "Of course I am with you on hanging".

It is said that, instead of arguing about the punishment of crime, we should be trying to eradicate its root causes. But even the most optimistic cannot seriously believe that violence will be eliminated for a very long time. Meanwhile, we have a duty to do what we can to protect the lives of our fellow citizens.

I cannot agree with the Home Secretary's interpretation of Parliament's intention when it passed the 1965 Act. When it passed that Act, it obviously did not regard capital punishment as a simple question of right or wrong. If it had, it would never have introduced a five-year experimental period. It is clear that Parliament intended that the issue of capital punishment should be decided in the light of experience. That was the clear purpose of instituting an experimental period.

If we are to do this, we must compare the trend of crime before and since the suspension of the death penalty. All executions were stopped after the Second Reading of the Bill in December, 1964. We therefore have the experience of four calendar years-1965 to 1968—upon which to base our judgment.

First, I should like to compare the number of capital murders before and since suspension of the death penalty. I take capital murders, since non-capital murders did not previously attract the death penalty and, therefore, could not have been influenced by its suspension. In the four years before capital punishment was suspended there were 78 capital murders in Great Britain. In the four years since suspension there have been 177. They have thus more than doubled. The Government Red Book says, as did the Home Secretary today, that the figures for capital murder must be treated with caution, since they are based on estimations. That is perfectly true. It might possibly account for some marginal error. But it does not explain away a rise of 125 per cent.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that one point which he must consider is that juries have been far more ready to convict in the absence of the finality of the death penalty. The atmosphere in a court during a murder trial is quite different from what it was.

Mr. Sandys

That is one of the elements which led the Home Office to say in the Red Book that we should treat these figures with caution. That may account for a marginal error, but it does not account for a rise of 125 per cent. It is a different order of error altogether. There is also a factor which could create error in the other direction. Courts have tended to deal with cases of murder as cases of manslaughter. Since the penalty in many cases is so little different, it is often easier to dispose of them in that way.

It has been said that the steep increase in the number of capital murders is largely due to the increase in the number of so-called abnormal murders—that is, cases in which the murderer is insane or commits suicide. But again this argument is not borne out by the figures in the Red Book. Table 10 shows that, comparing the last four years with the previous four years, the number of abnormal capital murders increased by about 48 per cent. whereas the number of normal capital murders increased by over 200 per cent.

It is also said that a high proportion of murders are family murders, which would not have been deterred by the death penalty. But these include a large number of non-capital murders, which are irrelevant to this issue. In the last four years there have been nearly five times as many capital murders of strangers as of members of the family.

The mass of statistics in the Red Book have been widely discussed and analysed. But, surprisingly enough, little or no attention has been drawn to one of the most significant facts which they reveal; namely, that the number of non-capital murders has remained virtually static. Comparing the last four years with the previous four years, the number of capital murders has risen by 125 per cent., whereas the number of non-capital murders, which were not affected by suspension, has increased by only 3 per cent.

Mr. Ian Gilmour (Norfolk, Central)

Would my right hon. Friend allow me?

Mr. Sandys

I am trying to deploy a statistical argument.

Mr. Gilmour

This is a statistical point.

Mr. Sandys

I would like to finish my argument.

The number of capital murders has risen by 125 per cent., whereas the number of non-capital murders has increased by only 3 per cent. In other words, three-quarters of the total increase in the number of murders of all kinds is attributable to the steep increase in those categories of murder to which capital punishment previously applied. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will deal with that point when he replies.

If the Red Book was intended to provide Parliament with the necessary information on which to base a decision on this issue, it is surprising that it omits all reference to the startling increase in the use of firearms by criminals. Until recently, robbers rarely carried a gun lest they should be tempted to use it and risk the death penalty. But, since suspension, the behaviour of criminals has altered radically.

The Home Office figures show that in 1968 the number of robberies in which guns were fired or carried was 40 per cent. higher than in the previous year. In the last four years there were nearly four times as many murders by shooting as in the previous four years, and nearly three times as many murders in the course of theft.

I am sorry to have to quote so many statistics. But I think the House will agree that the various figures which I have given, taken together, show that there has been a startling and unprecedented growth of capital murder and gangsterdom in the last four years. In the absence of any other convincing explanation, it is hard to believe that this is altogether unconnected with the suspension of capital punishment four years ago.

Those who wish to abolish the death penalty should tell us what they would put in its place. In particular, we should like to know whether they would propose to lengthen the term actually served by those sentenced to life imprisonment, which is often remarkably short. It has been quite rightly pointed out that those who are now being released are the less serious offenders, who were either convicted of non-capital murder or were reprieved on account of extenuating circumstances.

But that does not apply to murderers sentenced since the suspension of capital punishment. Only the other day two of the Kray gang, who were convicted of particularly callous murders, were sentenced to life imprisonment, one with a minimum of 15 years and the other a minimum of 20 years. It is true that those are minimum terms. But there is little doubt that, with good behaviour, they will be let out at the end of those periods. Other criminals are bound to compare these cases with those of the train robbers, who got 30 year sentences and who will, even with substantial remissions, be lucky if they get out in under 15 to 20 years. Thus a man who has committed a serious offence and who, if caught, can expect a long sentence, has little or nothing to lose by shooting the policeman who comes to arrest him or a man who is a witness to his crime. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, the 1965 Act has put a premium on killing.

The Home Secretary has given the impression that our only choice is between abolishing capital punishment and returning to the Homicide Act of 1957, which established most unsatisfactory definitions of capital and non-capital murder. As my right hon. and learned Friend emphasised, we are not limited to these two rigid alternatives. The Homicide Act is not immutable; and, thanks to the Home Secretary's decision to bring forward this debate, we have seven clear months in which to make any necessary amendments. But, if more time is needed we could without difficulty extend the operation of the 1965 Act for a year or so longer.

The right hon. Member for Kettering said that the retentionist case is emotional. I thought that what he was saying about gas ovens and firing squads was rather emotional.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

They were fact, though.

Mr. Sandys

Those who advocate the restoration of capital punishment are frequently accused of fanning base emotions and appealing to instincts of anger, hatred and revenge. Only the other day Canon Collins from the pulpit of St. Paul's attacked me personally. He accused me of trying to frighten people into taking immoral decisions. That, of course, is quite untrue. I have never tried to arouse emotions or appeal to fear. I have spoken in this House on different occasions on this subject, and I have always used the most restrained language. In fact, I have, as far as possible, confined my argument to the examination of statistics. If anyone is open to the charge of using emotive language, I feel it is the abolitionists. Those who advocate the retention of capital punishment ask for nothing better than that this question should be dealt with in—

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

The right hon. Gentleman is accusing the abolitionists of emotion. Will he give a précis of the letters which he has received from people who wish to restore hanging? I know from my correspondence that the emotion comes from the retentionists and not from the abolitionists.

Mr. Sandys

I have had so many letters. I was talking about Members of Parliament who are advocating the restoration of capital punishment. In particular, I was referring to myself, since only two Sundays ago I was attacked from the pulpit in St. Paul's. My hon. Friends and I who take this view cannot fairly be accused of trying to stir up emotion. We ask for nothing better than that this question should be discussed objectively in a calm atmosphere.

I can think of no issue on which the public have expressed themselves more explicitly or more consistently. Successive opinion polls, popular petitions and countless resolutions at conferences of ail kinds have demonstrated beyond doubt that the country as a whole wants capital punishment restored.

I am no believer in government by referendum, which would erode the authority of both the Executive and the Legislature. Parliament must remain sovereign, but that does not mean it should ride roughshod over public opinion. In reaching our decisions we have a duty to give the fullest consideration to the clearly expressed wishes of those whom we represent; and we have no right to assume that the firmly held views of the overwhelming majority of the British people are unworthy and misguided.

6.8 p.m.

Mr. Peter Doig (Dundee, West)

Like the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), I want to see capital punishment restored. I want to see it restored because I am firmly convinced that it is a deterrent to murder.

I ask those who want to abolish the death penalty why we still retain it for mutiny and treason, why we still have military forces and why we still hold nuclear weapons. Is not the answer that we believe in its deterrent effect on a national and international scale? How can we logically believe that capital punishment is an international deterrent and not believe that it will work on in individual basis? That is not logical. I believe in the deterrent effect of both and that a threat of retaliation is an effective deterrent.

I also believe that no decent person likes to kill. But we go to war sometimes, and wars invariably have the support of the vast majority of the people of this country. In these wars people often are killed who have committed no crime but are simply being loyal to their country. It is usually said in justification that if this is the price of preserving our freedom we must be prepared to pay it.

Is there not a price that we should be prepared to pay to preserve our individual freedom? This is what is now in danger. If one doubts this, let me cite an example in my constituency of a chemist whose shop has been broken into on average four or five times a week. He has reached the point at which no insurance company will insure the shop. He comes out of the shop at night after he has closed to make sure that nobody is breaking in. He has reached the point where he can stand the strain no longer and is to close his shop and get out. Where is his freedom?

There are other shop keepers in Scotland who are scared when gangs of youths come into their shops and most of them very often give into their demands. Again, where is their freedom? There are people in housing schemes in Scotland who are scared to go out of their houses at night. Where is their freedom?

Is there not a price we are prepared to pay to preserve individual freedom in the same way as we are prepared to pay a price to preserve national or international freedom? I believe there is.

A spectacle that has now become a bit of a joke is the match between Rangers and Celtic in Glasgow. But it is not a joke. It is a serious business. People are injured at almost every match played between these teams. People who genuinely want to see the football match are deterred from going because of the danger involved in attending. It is next to committing suicide if somebody standing at the Celtic end of the ground advertises the fact that he supports the Rangers, and the same applies in reverse.

Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, East)

Is my hon. Friend suggesting that bringing back the death penalty will prevent punch-ups at football matches?

Mr. Doig

I am suggesting that people should be prepared to preserve individual freedom and to pay the price, just as apparently people are prepared to pay a price to preserve national or international freedom. I am giving some examples of how the freedom of the individual is being eroded often through fear and lack of respect for the law.

Some States in America believe in capital punishment and other States prohibit it. There has been no execution in those States for a long time; yet in that country the murder rate amounts to a murder a minute. It is fairly certain that in those States the only thing a murderer is ever likely to die of is old age.

I believe that there is no attempt to preserve the individual's freedom, no serious attempt to keep law and order. The abolitionists have won there as apparently they have won here up to now. I am suggesting that it is worth having another look at the matter of law and order and the preservation of freedom.

Fortunately, in this country our murder rate is relatively low. The Home Secretary said that no clear pattern emerges from the Home Office statistics. It is obvious that he was not referring to the Scottish section of the report, in which a clear pattern is to be found.

One finds in that section, a very substantial increase since abolition. Table 51, on page 79, shows a steady rise from 11 cases in 1957 to 37 cases in 1968. The number of victims has gone up fairly steadily from 14 in 1957 to 40 in 1968. The document issued by the Home Office, which is in the main anti-retentionist, says on page 72 There has been a clear upward trend in the figures from 1963 to 1967. The clear upward trend is even clearer from 1965.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

The hon. Gentleman will see that his argument is destroyed by the figures on page 84. One sees there that the capital murders in Scotland were lower in 1968 than they were in 1957 whereas non-capital murders have multiplied by four.


I am not concerned in my remarks about capital or non-capital murders because I do not accept that division as reasonable or proper. I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's point. We are constantly told about emotional or abnormal murders. The hon. Gentleman will see from the table to which he has referred that there is very little difference in the so-called abnormal murder rate, but he will find a very substantial difference in the number of "normal" murders. On Table S7 he will find that in 1957 the total of "normal" murders rose from 14 to 40. It seems to me that the evidence is there for anybody who cares to study it to show that in Scotland at least the deterrent effect has been proved.

A professor from Edinburgh University who has made a study of this subject has said that it is much better to take murder and culpable homicide together. To take the two years taken by the professor, 1963 and 1966, the number of offenders in Scotland in 1963, working on this basis, was 31 and by 1966 it had risen to 59. There is also another significant matter. The number of murderers with previous court appearances for one offence or another is also very considerable. In 1963, 45 per cent. were previous offenders and in 1966 this figure rose to 62 per cent.

To take the picture of domestic homicide in Scotland, the figures over these two years rose from 11 to 13, which shows very little difference in the so-called emotional type of offence, but when one comes to hardened criminals the figure rises from seven in 1963 to 21 in 1966.

Although it is argued that murders are normally committed by people who are not criminals, this is not borne out by the facts. The fact is that a very small number of people who commit murders—this is at least the case in Scotland—have never previously been in court. The majority have been in courts usually on a number of occasions. In 1963 only 10 out of 31 offenders charged with homicide offences had previously no court appearances. In 1966 the figure was only 11 out of 59 with no previous court appearances. Even from these figures it can be seen that the big increase has been among people who are criminals and not among the emotional types of murderer. The idea that murders and culpable homicides are mainly committed by non-criminals is a fallacy and will not stand up to examination.

Looking at the situation from the point of view of the police, four police officers were murdered in 1966. Fortunately, in Scotland there has been none since 1957. However, the number of assaults on policemen is increasing all the time, as is the number of occasions when a policeman could have been killed had a knife gone an inch one way or the other. The police are becoming very alarmed, and that may be part of the reason why we have difficulty in keeping our police forces up to strength.

The police believe that the trebling of crimes involving the use of weapons since 1965 has been due to the abolition of capital punishment. The courts have accepted that there should be harsher penalties for carrying weapons. Certainly that is commendable. But it has a side effect in that it makes criminals more determined than ever not to be caught. There were the two gunmen who killed three policemen at Shepherd's Bush. They simply eliminated the unarmed men who stood between them and freedom. In Scotland we have a different problem in that there is an increasing tendency to use knives rather than guns, and this is very serious. The murder of people who are total strangers to the murderers has increased foue times since 1965, when the possibility of capital punishment was removed.

The police and the vast majority of the people want capital punishment restored. After all, there are not a great many people involved. We were told that in England and Wales there have been about two a year. In Scotland it is even fewer. Taking the last 40 years in which murderers were liable to hang, only 15 people were executed in Scotland. That is less than an average of one in every two years. It is not a question of whether one convicted murderer should lose his life or whether anyone should lose his life. It is whether this one convicted murderer should lose his life or whether 42 innocent people should lose their lives, because that is the average increase in Scotland since the removal of the death penalty.

It seems to me that that is the real question which I have to answer when I am asked whether I believe in the deterrent effect. In my view, the figures prove conclusively that the death penalty has a deterrent effect in Scotland and, therefore, that it should be brought back.

6.25 p.m.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) has brought a breath of common sense into our deliberations. He has made his points clearly and well, and I am glad that he has joined me in supporting the Amendment which draws special attention to the problem in Scotland.

I feel sincerely that anyone in possession of the figures, whether they be those for England or for Scotland, must be blind, deaf and unconscious if he does not believe that capital punishment is a deterrent. In my view, it can save lives, and that is why I support its retention.

Looking briefly at what is revealed in some of the tables in relation to the Scottish position, Table S18 as amended, deals with convictions for capital murder and shows that in the three years since total abolition the number is equal to the total for the previous nine years. It thus appears that there has been a threefold increase. Table S7 gives the numbers of capital murders reported to the police, and a similar increase is seen here. As the hon. Gentleman said, however, many criminals engaged in crime do not always make the fine distinction between what might be a capital murder and what is not capital. It is a climate of opinion existing within the courts and the legal code.

Far more significant is the fact that, according to Table S18, between 1965 and 1968 there were 86 murders in Scotland, whereas in the eight years between 1957 and 1964 there were 41. In the last four years therefore, we have seen twice the number of murder convictions as we saw in the previous eight years.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)

I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. He talked first about murders, but he went on to talk about murder convictions.

Mr. Taylor

If the right hon. Gentleman refers to Table S18, he will see that it relates to convictions.

Another relevant consideration is revealed by Table S19. That relates to the murder of total strangers. In the four years since abolition, the number is 31. In the previous eight years there were 10. In other words, the number of murders of total strangers has trebled in half the time.

As the hon. Gentleman rightly said, even more important is the use of sharp instruments. If the Secretary of State will refer to Table S 18 again, he will see that in the four years since abolition there have been 46 convictions for murder involving the use of sharp instruments compared with 12 in the previous eight years. The number has thus increased fourfold in a period only half as long.

If there is some other reason for the increase, obviously the argument for the deterrent disappears. It has been suggested that the reason is deep-rooted social change, the disturbance in the pattern of family life, television programmes, too much poverty or too much affluence. All kinds of explanations have been advanced. I suggest that hon. Members should look at the clear distinction shown by the figures supplied by the Secretary of State on 23rd April and 5th May (cols. 455 and 23). The right hon. Gentleman indicated then that, during the 11 years after the war between 1946 and 1957, when a major increase in murders and crimes of violence might have been expected because of the upsets caused by the war and the effect of the post-war aftermath, there was no increase in murder and crimes of violence in Scotland. There was actually a reduction of a third in the number of murders and a margin al decrease of about 0.4 per cent. in the number of crimes of violence. Over the 11 years since 1957, we have seen both figures rise by more than 200 per cent.

Here is the question which the Secretary of State has to ask himself, and he has to find an answer. Why is it that during the 11 years immediately after the war there was no increase in murder and violent crime in Scotland, when we had the full weight of the deterrent, though admittedly very few people were subjected to it, whereas during the following 11 years we have seen this dramatic leap to about treble the figures. Although figures cannot be conclusive in any argument, the fact remains that all the indications from the figures lead one to believe that capital punishment is a deterrent.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)

The hon. Gentleman's speech suggests that the Scottish pattern is different from the English pattern? But as capital punishment was in force in England and Scotland at the same time, and was abolished at the same time, the enormous divergence of the trends between the two countries surely has nothing to do with the abolition of capital punishment.

Mr. Taylor

I do not accept that. If the hon. Gentleman had read the Red Book as comprehensively as I know that he normally reads such publications he would see that from 1957 the number of crimes of violence in England has also risen by over 200 per cent. There is a strict comparison in that period. I suggest that a similar pattern has emerged, but that it is particularly bad in Scotland because we have more the problem—

Mr. Dewar

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that in Glasgow, which everyone thinks about, perhaps unfairly, in terms of crimes of violence, there was a decrease last year, and in Scotland as a whole, and that all the indications are that there will be a further decrease? Therefore, where does that lead his alarmist case?

Mr. Taylor

Time and again it has been pointed out that we should not use figures for one year alone. Here are facts and figures. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will stop looking at them in his smug way. If he looks at the situation in cities and towns in Scotland, for 11 years after the war there was no increase, but during the 11 years following that period there was an increase of over 200 per cent. The slight improvement in Glasgow last year relates as much to the fact of having a good strong police convener who is giving full backing to the forces of law and order as to any other factor. The hon. Gentleman should not look on that point so smugly. What would be his explanation for an increase of over 200 per cent. over that 11-year period?

Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Hamilton)

The hon. Gentleman asked the Secretary of State a question to which he himself does not know the answer. Does he accept that he who wants to take life has the onus of proof, and who in this instance is not the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Mr. Taylor

I am suggesting that round about 1957 something happened. I am not saying at one particular moment in that year. I am suggesting that during the 11 years after the war the pattern was completely different from the following 11 years. Something clearly happened about that time. I suggest that partial abolition was a factor in the change in the pattern of crime which came with it.

The acceleration has been particularly steep since 1965 when we took a step towards total abolition. I suggest that this is significant and indicates that we could save lives by reintroducing capital punishment.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Norman Buchan)

Has not the hon. Gentleman also observed that there was a change in the pattern of violence in most Western countries in the middle 1950s? Does he suggest that that was due to the abolition of the death penalty in Scotland?

Mr. Taylor

If the hon. Gentleman could interrupt me with an equally dramatic picture of such a change in other countries I should be glad to reassess my opinion. If he could produce figures from any country in Europe showing a stable situation for 11 years concerning murders and crimes of violence and then trebling over the next 11 years, I should be pleased to look at the position again. But from what I have seen of figures from other countries, I cannot see such a pattern.

Hangings were, of course, comparatively few. Therefore, what is the need for a deterrent? One or two or even three hangings over a period of 10 years is a real deterrent. So long as the deterrent is credible, one hanging over 10 years makes it as credible as five every month. What is the suggested alternative? Life sentences for life? This would impose an impossible burden on prison officers who would have to look after men who had effectively nothing to lose.

I was interested to hear the Home Secretary say that he was satisfied about the police situation. However, I ask him to look at HANSARD of 2nd December, col. 276, where he will see the effective figures of assaults on police officers, admittedly only in Scotland—I have not got the English figures. The surprising fact is that between 1966 and 1968 the number of assaults on police officers in Scotland was 356, which was more than the total for the previous five years. Here is a change in the pattern. Can we see any reason why there should be such a dramatic leap in the number of assaults on police officers?

This is a matter of concern to the police and not something which the Secretary of State can disregard when there is a shortage of police in Scotland and net recruitment at present is about nil. I am not complaining that the hon. Gentleman has not tried. Certainly, the Under-Secretary of State has taken many steps to encourage recruitment, but we have a serious shortage and net recruitment is about nil. Yet, when we see a dramatic change in the number of assaults on police officers in this period of three years compared with the previous five years, we should give the matter serious consideration.

It has been suggested that capital punishment is not a deterrent and that deterrents do not work. The hon. Member for Dundee, West has mentioned the use of sharp instruments. We in Glasgow remember something else which the hon Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) may also remember, because he was in Glasgow at the time. There was a serious outbreak of razor-slashing in the West of Scotland involving a lot of victims. Carment imposed harsh and severe penalties for razor-slashing which, in consequence, was almost eliminated. I do not suggest that we can compare one kind of punishment directly with another. But the evidence is that deterrents work and would substantially reduce the figures.

The evidence from Scotland shows a substantial and accelerated rise since 1965. All the evidence points to the fact that we would save lives by reintroducing capital punishment. That is why I support it. I believe that the situation in Scotland calls for special attention, consideration and answer by the Secretary of State.

6.36 p.m.

Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)

Whilst listening to the last three speakers, I have been thinking of the well-worn tale which has been told, and needs to be told, of the time when we had public hanging in this country which took place but a mile from here. When the gruesome spectacle was about to begin, thousands of London citizens would gather to view the hanging. At a time when pickpockets were subjected to the capital offence, as the thousands gathered to view the spectacle, so hundreds of pickpockets also gathered. They would wait for the moment when the hangman was about to do his work. At the moment that the pickpocket who had been caught was slung up and when all eyes were gazing up, the pickpockets put their hands into the pockets of the unsuspecting populace and went off with their loot.

This shows, as we can see from the statistics before us, that the reactions and behaviour of the criminal classes have not changed very much, if at all. The blunt fact is that it is a mistake to imagine that a murderer, or most criminals, have the same instincts and thought processes as the ordinary man in the street. The rational, sane, balanced criminal who aschews criminality because he may be hanged is, with such clinical experience as I have of both murderers and criminals, a complete figment.

We cannot accept that capital punishment will act as a deterrent. A third of the people who commit murder, when we have had hanging or when we have not, immediately commit suicide. Therefore, demonstrably the punishment can have no effect upon them. We find from the statistics that another third are either insane or found by jurymen not to be fully responsible. So clearly here, too, the question of the penalty has no relevance.

The increase in murder, perhaps in capital murder, has largely occurred as a result of shooting, where again the murderers have either committed suicide or have committed the offence in the course of a domestic quarrel—husbands who have killed wives, lovers who have killed lovers, or wives who have killed husbands. These acts are done in moments of anger; in the midst of escalating and uncalculated quarrels. The men and women who perform these acts are under the strain of great irrationality or distress and nothing could be more nïave than to suggest that, in such moments, a man or woman will think of the consequences, be it the death penalty or anything else

Since, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary clearly revealed, it cannot be established from the statistics that capital punishment is irrelevant to the number of murders, we are thrown back on our objective and somewhat impressionistic attitude towards whether we can save the lives of the victims of murderers by having one penalty or another.

I assure the House, from my experience of defending murderers during the period when we had the gallows, that in many cases the gallows acted as an attraction. In many instances this is not a psychology limited to murderers, for it is well known to exist among many sections of the criminal community.

There are people burdened and loaded with neurotic guilt arising from, perhaps, infantile difficulties which they carry with them all their lives. When they commit an offence they are looking for punishment, probably to asuage their early guilt. Every policeman knows this. A criminal will commit an offence and virtually leave his visiting card to ensure that he gets caught.

Any policeman will agree that many criminals, immediately after committing an offence, go straight to the police station to make a confession. Some of them are choosey and not only select a certain police station but a particular policeman to whom to pour out their guilt. They do this not because they are rational, normal people, but because they are loaded with the guilt of earlier years. The punishment that they seek can sometimes assuage, at any rate temporarily, the heavy guilt burdens that they carry with them.

Many of the murderers I defended when we had the gallows were not pleased when I put to them the possibility of a defence; perhaps of provocation, diminished responsibility or insanity. Some of them were sorely resentful when I succeeded, according to the law, in it being found that they were not guilty of the capital offence with which they were charged. Instead of being pleased, many of them were resentful because they had been cheated of their unconscious fundamental desire.

I challenge those who, by all too easily judging the statistics, say that capital punishment is necessarily a deterrent. On the contrary. For some murderers the gallows may be an attraction. The macabre spectacle of a man being hanged used to create, rather than prevent, murder victims. Cannot the same thing be said of the mere existence of capital punishment?

As for psychopathic murderers, does any Member really believe that, for example, the Moors murderer was deterred by the existence of the gallows? In recent years I have received a number of letters from the Moors murderer, asking to visit his accomplice. It is clear to me that he is not loaded with guilt or concern about the terrible things that he has done. They have never operated on his mind. From the very beginning, when he committed these offences, he knew that if he committed multiple murders of that kind he would be subjected to hanging. Capital punishment was no deterrent to him. How can one expect people of that kind to be so deterred?

A great mistake which many people make—the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) made it—is to assume that because one is civilised, acts rationally and tries to grope one's way through these problems, everybody is the same. This afternoon, the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in a muddled though sincere speech, gave us to believe that, from his experience, the people he defended reacted and calculated like normal people.

Mr. Hogg

I made no such assumption, however muddled I may have been. I expressly said that, over the great range of murders, the great majority are emotionally motivated and would probably take place, anyway, I said, however, that there was a limited category of murder for which we had put a premium on killing, and I wondered if that could be justified.

Mr. Abse

The right hon. and learned Gentleman tried to develop his argument in such a way that we might be able to discriminate between one murderer's motivation and another. He opened up a whole range of impossibilities with which the House of Commons and various others have tried to deal in the past. For example, for four years the Royal Commission tried to declare categories of murder. We tried to do it in 1957.

We cannot dodge the issue tonight by either postponing this matter or going back to a new form of murder, for we would thereby be trying to avoid facing the facts of life. Whether or not we like it, we must make a definite decision. If we do not, we will do precisely what the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone wants us to avoid, which is an inevitable swing between capital punishment, on the one hand, and its abolition from time to time, on the other.

I am deeply concerned about the police in this matter, because the image that the policeman has in this country is vitally important. We cannot under estimate the preventive rôle which he assumes or devalue the importance of the relationship between the community and the policeman. The mere presence of a policeman can be of great significance.

I recall that when I was the chairman of a watch committee for a distinguished force in the City of Cardiff there was an anthropologist, Geoffrey Gorer, who produced a book about the English. To his surprise, though not to mine, he discovered the almost unqualified regard which the community had for the police. He declared that the policeman was a model of the ideal male character, was self-controlled and possessed a strength of character and purpose that could be called upon in times of grave emergency. Above all, he said, the policeman was held by the community to be a benevolent figure.

We saw this at its best under the leadership of the Home Secretary and the Commissioner when the police looked after the recent Grosvenor Square demonstrations. Geoffrey Gorer published those views in 1955. I wonder whether he would discover the same reactions today? I suspect that a grave change of mood has come about. It is expressed even in this House by the growing demands that are made for independent inquiries into complaints against the police. There is growing concern about the fallibility of the police; and when mature and responsible people feel these doubts it is not surprising that the more mischievous members of the community are able to produce material to confirm their prejudices. Unhappily, too much of this sort of material seems to be about.

In South Wales recently a man convicted for robbery with violence was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. He has just been released with a pardon, having served 12 months. He was convicted on evidence brought by the police. Also in South Wales recently there were disturbing incidents at the Springboks match, when serious and responsible students claimed that they saw sections of the police behave in a way that would not give the police the sort of image which we, in our generation, had of them. I do not need to say anything about the deep disquiet and unease at present in London as a result of the allegations brought by The Times.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

Would not the hon. Member agree that the action of students and all this violence we have seen on television, is nothing like what happened before the war? The police never had to deal with students armed with bicycle chains and other weapons, attacking them.

Mr. Abse

What we have to accept is that, whatever may be our assessment, there is objectively a shift in public mood, which is unhealthy for the police and for the public. Nothing could be more disastrous than that the police should confirm by their public and collective conduct through their federation the distorted image of them projected by the more paranoiac people within the community.

To present themselves, as I suspect they have, as if they had "lost their cool" and wished to block out the statistical evidence adumbrated in relation to the murder of policemen, to indulge their prejudices, and to change their benevolent image for one of retribution, would be a step back. And when police evidence comes under suspicion, the ill-disposed and over-alarmed can too quickly conclude that their irrational demand for State strangulation is prompted by the view that dead men tell no tales.

I hope that the hon. Member who acts as political adviser to the Police Federation adopts the stand that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary indicated he took up when he acted as the police adviser, because I believe that by actively indulging in their present campaign the police are not only doing a disservice to themselves but to the community. I am deeply concerned, because I believe, in my regard for the rôle of the policemen, that it would be very unfortunate for the country if we began to think of the police as authoritarian and retributive types instead of, as we have, as benevolent people—

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

If the hon. Gentleman feels this way about the Police Federation's activities, why did he absent himself from the meeting that took place in this House when officers of the federation came here to discuss, as reasonable men, their views with hon. Members?

Mr. Abse

When members of the police force from South Wales came to the Lobby, I told them what I have told the House. I said that if they invited me to speak to the Police Federation branch in South Wales I would be glad to respond, and tell them why I am deeply concerned—

Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury) rose

Mr. Abse

No, I cannot give way. I have nearly finished.

Sir S. Summers rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) is obviously not giving way.

Mr. Abse

I have little more to say.

I am concerned, above all, with the prevention of crime. No one can say that this House—and the Government—has not shown its great concern. We have spent about £¼ million by the establishment of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to help the dependants of the victims of crime. But that is not enough. We have to see how we can prevent the incidence of murder and of crime. An hon. Member representing a Scottish constituency has drawn attention to the fact that, again and again, people coming before the courts for murder have, although not necessarily belonging to the criminal classes, committed other offences.

I do not understand why, when we have men coming before the courts for assault, for unlawful wounding, for committing grievous bodily harm, we should wait, like hypnotised rabbits, for murder to take place. It would be much better to try to find some method of screening such people. In days when we have all these diagnostic and predictive techniques, it is only our unwillingness to pay the cost that we do not use custodial clinics to anticipate murder. Concern for the victims is far more important than sterile debate about capital punishment.

While concerning ourselves with the prevention of crime it is equally important that we should be looking for the roots of crime. I am happy that the Home Secretary has announced his offer of financial support to Professor Radzinowicz and the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, which has a very serious task. Anyone who knows the work of that institute and of Professor Radzinowicz knows the great debt we owe to it and to him. Nothing that the Home Secretary has done will give a greater sense of reassurance in many directions than the knowledge that he is placing great trust, confidence and money in that institute.

But it cannot all be done by research. Certain things are quite obvious when we look at murderers and discover their backgrounds; when we see how disordered they are; how they come from unhappy and broken homes, and from the slums, and have either economically or emotionally deprived backgrounds. How much more profitable it would be if the House were to think in terms of implementing the whole Seebohm Report and of mobilising our social resources, and providing a social service that would prevent children who are now in trouble from growing up to become monsters like the Bradys, the Moors murderers.

It is time that we turned our backs on this useless and absurd argument. We must recognise that we are living in a Britain which, for the first time, has to learn to live peacefully. Always in the past, we have been able to discharge this violence in war, but in the age of the atom bomb that cannot be done because another would be the end of us all. We are in a Britain that is changing, which is without an empire, and which can no longer export its criminality to Australia and its ne'er do wells to Kenya. We have to learn to live with aggression which we can no longer send abroad. If we were prepared to pay the social cost, we would have fewer murderers and fewer victims.

6.59 p.m.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

I do not possess the certitude or the moral arrogance of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). I speak as one who is troubled by this debate, because I do not know for certain whether or not capital punishment is a deterrent to murder. I suspect that it is. Other hon. Members suspect that it is not. But none of us can be sure. On that, I think, there can be agreement. But I have one firm conviction, and I believe that the figures prove it, namely, that before 1965 the existence of capital punishment in this country was a deterrent to the carrying of guns by criminals. To that extent it provided, and, I believe, once again could provide, a useful form of protection for the unarmed police.

As the House well knows, I have a connection with the Police Federation. Like the Home Secretary, I listen to what the Police Federation has to say, and then I make up my own mind. Sometimes I agree with the federation. Sometimes I disagree. In this instance I am convinced, on the evidence, of the justice of the federation's case.

The first point I want to make is this. Whatever the House may decide tonight, Britain will still retain capital punishment. We shall retain it for our Armed Forces, we shall retain it for treason, and we shall retain it, in certain circumstances, for espionage. So no one can claim that this debate will abolish the shadow of the death penalty from the country. On the contrary, the death penalty will still exist because Parliament believes that it provides a measure of protection for society against those who would make war upon it.

It is my view that a deliberate cold-blooded attack on an unarmed policeman is not far short of an act of war against our society. There is no doubt at all that attacks on the police have increased, and increased substantially, since the abolition of the death penalty. There are no completed statistics to bear this out. The figures of attacks on the police are absorbed into other categories such as attempted murder and assaults on the police. But I cry in aid two pieces of evidence. In the year that followed the abolition of capital punishment, 28 police officers in this country received awards for bravery, one of them posthumously, for their courage in tackling armed criminals.

These were not the only cases where the police faced firearms; they were just cases where conspicuous gallantry was displayed. They take no account, for instance, of cases where police officers were tired on and criminals escaped; they were just some of the cases where unarmed policemen faced armed men with guns. In the following year, four policemen received the George Medal for their chase and capture of "Angel Face" Probyn after shots had been fired at them, and three others got the British Empire Medal in the same affair. In that year, a total of 42 officers were decorated for their actions in dealing with armed criminals.

All told, in the four years which have followed abolition 115 British police officers were commended for their bravery in tackling criminals with guns. There has been no such total in our history before.

My second piece of evidence is the report by the Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police. I make no apology for selecting the report for the Metropolis because it is in the great conurbations where the problem is most severe. The report says that offences against the person in London have virtually doubled during the last 10 years. From less than a dozen a day, they have gone up to more than a score every day, 150 a week, getting on for 700 a month, and well over 8,000 serious assaults on the person every year in the capital city.

The more serious of these crimes—murder and attempted murder—in the words of the Commissioner, "increased by substantial percentages". I will give the relevant figures. In 1959—hon. Members will note that I am not selecting a year immediately before or immediately after abolition of the death penalty, but a year not untypical of the 1950s—there were:36 murders?in London and 27 attempted or threatened murders. In 1966, the figures were 49 murders and 85 attempted murders. In 1967, there were 54 actual murders and 60 attempted murders. In 1968, there were 57 murders and 89 attempted Murders. This year there might be more.

Meanwhile, woundings and assaults in London rose from 2,000 in 1959 to 5,300 last year. More serious, I believe, are the rising number of crimes in which the perpetrators carried, not knives or coshes, but guns. Again, I quote the Commissioner's report and I hope that the House will mark this well: Over one-seventh of all robberies and assaults with intent to rob were carried out"— in 1968— with the aid of firearms. Over the last year there has been a rise of 17 per cent. in the number of indictable crimes in London in which firearms were used —but in the case of robberies or assaults with intention of the increase was no less than 31 per cent. Statistically speaking, four times in every three days a gun is used in London in an attempt to murder, or an attempt to assault or to wound or to rob. It was not like that in London in 1964.

Whatever conclusions the House may draw, there is one which stands out as sharply as the gallows. In spite of all the efforts of the House to stamp out the carrying of firearms, more guns are now being carried and being used by professional criminals than ever before. Each one of those guns constitutes an actual or a potential murder weapon against the unarmed police. That is why the Police Federation says, in its memorandum to this House: Since the suspension of capital punishment there has been a frightening increase in the use of firearms. We believe that these two factors"— abolition and the increase in the use of firearms— are related. Hon. Members may say, as the Home Secretary said, that the police may be wrong. Indeed, they may. I accept that. But no hon. Member can lightly brush aside the views of the best police force in the world. We cannot brush aside its views because none of us is required to undertake its job. None of us is likely to be asked to go unarmed against an armed criminal in a dark alley one night.

So I end by putting three questions to the House. Which hon. Member, whatever his conscience may tell him, can say with enough certainty to take the responsibility of possibly sending others to their death, that in this particular matter he is wiser and more experienced that the police?

Second, which hon. Member who has faced, as most of us have, the wife or the widow of a police officer, can say to that woman who fears that her husband may be wounded or killed, that he would not be better off in a safer job?

My last question is this. Which hon. Member can say with enough moral authority to be willing to risk the lives of policemen that no professional gangster who sets out to commit a crime is not deterred by the fear of hanging from taking a firearm with him?

I assert as a fact well known to the police that in some gangs in Britain the older members actually used to frisk the younger members to make quite certain that they were not carrying firearms with them when they went out to do a job. Those older gangsters did so because, in their own vernacular, they believed "if one of us kills a 'cop' we shall all be 'topped'". That was the phrase they used.

It is a crude and brutal way of putting it, but it is no more than the brutal truth, and it is the truth that I hope I have been able to state about the police tonight.

7.10 p.m.

Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)

I shall speak for but a short while, for two reasons—one in deference to my constituents, and the other because I am suffering from influenza. I felt that I had to come here and make a short speech.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary's presentation of the figures to support his case, and the sincerity with which he made it were admired by the whole House. Obviously, my right hon. Friend feels deeply on this issue. However, his figures left us much as we were. We have not advanced one iota from the position we were in in 1965.

In 1965, the House took a decision. It was obvious to anybody who knew anything about politics and government that that was a decision for all time. Subsequent events have confirmed that. The avenues of opinion, marshalled and otherwise, have supported the Government in that decision, although I voted against it. Today, beyond a peradventure, we shall make the 1965 Act permanent. In my opinion, it was permanent from the time it was passed. Nevertheless, 1, together with others, made my protest.

The remarkable thing was that almost 12 months to the day from the passing of the Act three policemen were brutally gunned to death in my constituency. Although people in a constituency like mine are not much given to letter writing, I received no fewer than 1,012 letters from constituents. They were frightened people. The nation is still frightened. The fear and horror aroused by those killings have not been dissipated, because these were merciless killings of officers entrusted by us to protect the public and execute the law. The public, as shown by the recent poll, has not forgotten this; nor will it forget. Nevertheless, the public will have to go along with the lead that Parliament is now giving.

I believe fundamentally and firmly that violence is now afoot and will grow to an alarming extent. The figures presented to us by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths), who is the spokesman for the Police Federation, were frightening. Today, if the Press report is correct, policemen in a patrol car were confronted by criminals at gunpoint who took the car from them. This might easily have been another case of murder if the police had done as they formerly did and tried to apprehend these criminals.

Comparisons are difficult, but in the United States there is a capital murder every day and a brutal assault every hour. Britain was brought up over centuries on a tight discipline, which has now been relaxed. For various reasons, we no longer have the discipline of the Church, which was formerly a most important factor in behaviour patterns. No longer, thank God, is there the terrible discipline of poverty. We have an expanding society and a freer society. There are bigger physical specimens, with more money. There are greater opportunities for spending that money.

There is more violence today at an early age, when man is at his roughest between 17 and 21. Anyone brought up in the way in which most of us here were brought up knows exactly what I am talking about. In the old days when one went out for an evening one got into a scrap before one knew it and could not avoid it. The same happens today, but the difference is that in a scrap in those days one had the chance of coming out of it, whereas nowadays it is the knife and, in some cases, the gun. It is no longer just a question of a fracas. When moral and federal authority in the form of the police are confronted with such a situation, authority had better look to see exactly where it is going.

The Act is now with us. Time will tell whether Parliament, in its wisdom, has done the right thing. The Act has been with us since 1965. I cannot vote tonight. I must go home and get into bed again. However, I felt compelled to make a short speech and to make the protest which has to be made, and to which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds referred, on behalf of the wives and mothers of the men who died. These were young men with children. Not for them any more sunsets and sunrises; not for them home life and children; not for them the small hand clasped in a father's hand; not for them the joy of guiding children though homework. These men are dead—and they are dead by brutal killing,. Let us be careful that in our judgment we do not give more satisfaction to the murderers than we do to the victims.

7.15 p.m.

Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)

I have great personal and professional sympathy for the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) in his condition. I will understand, as will all hon. Members, if the hon. Gentleman has to leave the Chamber and return to his bed. I only regret that my circumstances for the immediate future will not enable me to accompany him and render him the aid he needs.

I listened with interest and great sympathy to what the hon. Gentleman said about the police. I am sure that he will concede that all hon. Members, whatever view they take on this issue, feel the same way about the need to protect the police, and it is not only those who wish to bring back capital punishment, who wish to protect the police.

However, the arguments advanced by the hon. Gentleman—and by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) were, in part, based upon a fallacy. The questions asked by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds—for example, "Which hon. Member would advise somebody to remain in the police?"—were irrelevant unless it were proved that the kind of protection which we wish to afford to the police, and to which we think the police are entitled, would be provided by a restoration of capital punishment.

I do not believe that it would provide the police with any protection. I would like to see the police protected in many ways, and I should be prepared to comment on that. I am sure that those who hold other views will accept that we who take this view feel equally sincerely about the desperate importance of backing up the police in every possible way and providing the right kind of protection for them.

Sir S. Summers

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that, through a proper zeal to protect policemen, the time may well come when the House will be asked to arm the police because of the dangers to which they are to be put by others who carry arms as a result of our actions?

Dr. Winstanley

We are not discussing the question of arming police. I hold the view that arming the police would expose them to still greater dangers. These are weighty matters which I do not think we should go into now. I repeat that I hope that our bona fides will be accepted.

It was argued that there have been over 300 attacks on prison officers and that this was in some way connected with the abolition of capital punishment. This argument would be valid only if it were established that every one of these attacks was an attempt at murder. These attacks were not attempted murders. They were symptomatic of a change in human behaviour and in character which we have all noticed and commented on and which we all have a duty to do something about. But we are discussing a narrower question.

Although the Whips are not on and there is a free vote, most of us are seeking without any great hope of persuading others to change their views. All of us have studied the matter carefully and have reached our conclusions. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), who would like to have been called to express his view, expressed his view in 1964 and I think I am right in saying that he has not changed it since: he is still an abolitionist. From his great experience, he still holds the same view. I am sure that most hon. Members have not changed their views.

We are speaking so that our constituents will understand clearly where we stand, what we think, and what our views are. In a way, we are speaking for the record, in the hope that in a cumulative sense our collective opinions can influence others.

I will give my own opinion. It has been suggested that we should come here to give the opinions of our constituents as discovered by referenda or plebiscites. I do not take the view that this is necessarily the right way of doing things.

However,' do not clearly know what the views of my constituents are. I believe that they are probably on balance for the restoration of capital punishment, though of the letters I have received on the subject those in favour of abolition have outnumbered the others by about 3 to 1. I deduce nothing from that save that my constituents know to whom it is that they are writing.

I have always made it a point of making my views utterly clear. This is where our responsibility lies. At the last General Election I stated my views over and over again and sought every opportunity to do so. If my constituents decide that my views are not theirs and that I am not the person to represent their views, they have the choice—it is a choice which they must accept—of finding somebody else to represent them. I would accept that as being the proper workings of our democratic machinery.

We are dealing here exclusively with murder. It is a desperately important matter, but, numerically, compared with other crimes, it is not a very large matter. Whatever the figures may be, there have been only three years this century in which the total number of murders has exceeded 200. When we compare those numbers with the numbers pertaining to other crimes they are small numerically. But it is a matter of tremendous importance which dwarfs everything else because of its nature.

We are not dealing here with other crimes, as one would have thought from the constant talk about the need to restore hanging to reduce the rate of one kind of crime or the other. We are not dealing with crime generally, with violence in general, or with sexual assaults, but exclusively with murder. We are not even dealing with murder by the insane. So often when one receives letters about appalling and tragic murders —crimes of a desperate kind—the writers say that such crimes present crucial and overwhelming evidence of the need to restore capital punishment, but they ignore the fact that those are almost always the murders for which people were never executed, even under the old law.

I oppose capital punishment on five grounds.

First, I take the view that it is not a deterrent. About the only matter with which I agreed in the speech of the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) was his view that we ought to decide what course is likely to have the best results in terms of a reduction in the number of murders. As I remember them, his words were that he was concerned not to punish but to deter, and I agree with him on that. I am bound to say that if there were overwhelming evidence, or any clear evidence, that capital punishment constituted a genuine deterrent and itself reduced the number of murders, I should have to re-examine my position. But I am not so convinced.

I believe that we have a duty here to adopt whatever course we conscientiously believe would bring about the best possible result. But the evidence is equivocal. The results of the Home Office Report, the Bedford College report, and the studies by the Royal Commission years ago all present an inconclusive picture, which suggests to me—although, perhaps, not to all hon. Members—that, whatever capital punishment may or may not do, it does not influence the number of murders at any one time.

I do not dispute that crimes have changed. The pattern of human behaviour has changed in many ways. There are many factors responsible for that, factors which have also brought about changes in the criminal picture as a whole. But so far as I can tell from my own conscientious examination, the presence or absence of capital punishment makes little difference from a purely numerical point of view.

Second, I oppose capital punishment because I believe that the existence of capital punishment, and, therefore, the inevitable press and other reports about capital punishment, exert an unwholesome effect upon unstable minds and may do something, although only marginally, to increase the total amount of violent crime. The whole obscene ritual of hanging—and the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) referred to it yesterday as "the macabre and mediaeval paraphernalia of hanging"—leads to reports in the Press. Such reports are inevitable, because no one will recommend that execution should be carried out secretly or never referred to. But reports, public talk, and the focussing of public attention on the matter, has an unwholesome effect on unstable minds and leads, perhaps marginally, to an increase in violent crime. That is the kind of point which the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) was making.

Next, I am opposed to it because I believe it is extremely harmful to those connected with and involved in any way in carrying out the executions. It has a harmful effect in many ways. I have been into the matter in some detail. It is a wholly macabre ritual. I was concerned some years ago with the work of Professor Wood Jones of Manchester University, perhaps one of the outstanding anatomists of the world. A report of his on judicial hanging lies lodged in the Home Office. We did various experiments in the placing of the noose so as to ensure that the medulla was ruptured by the odontoid process, and so on. There were all sorts of subtleties in the way is ought to be done in order to ensure that death was instantaneous.

I abhor all the circumstances which surround executions—the seclusion of the individual, the Press reports, the prisoner's removal to the particular place, and the employment of the hangman. I am reliably informed—perhaps I shall be corrected if I am wrong—that the last time the Home Office sought the services of an assistant hangman, there were a large number of applications, and many were found to be from people known to be unstable, or, if not unstable, dis- turbed to a certain extent. That is the kind of atmosphere in which this extraordinary business takes place. I have no doubt at all that it must have a permanently harmful effect—small in some cases and large in others—on those who are obliged by the nature of their work to be brought closely into contact with it.

Fourth, the death penalty is irreversible. While it is possible for innocent people to be convicted, I find it very difficult to support an irreversible penalty. We had cases brought to the attention of the House not long ago by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), who assembled together the various cases of mistaken identity. There have been persons hanged—I shall not mention any names—who were innocent, and it is impossible to guarantee that that will not happen again.

My fifth reason—I regard it as overwhelming—is that the State should in this matter, as in all others, set an example. If we are trying to bring about a better type of behaviour in the community as a whole, the State must set the example. While judicial hanging remains, all the work we are trying to do in other ways to rid the community of violence and violent behaviour must necessarily fail.

Those of us who are in favour of the permanent abolition of capital punishment have a clear duty to announce and put forward alternatives. It has been said that one cannot contemplate keeping people in prison for ever. I can contemplate that with equanimity. I should have no difficulty in recommending it if it were necessary in any particular case. If we are not to execute murderers we must be prepared to confine certain persons permanently. The public and the police are entitled to protection and the kind of protection needed means that people must not be released into the community unless responsible people—and I include the Home Secretary and all who are responsible as responsible people—can conscientiously say that it is safe for them to be released. That is the position now.

Mr. A. Woodburn

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we already incarcerate for life, without hope of release, people who are slightly dangerous mentally, and they are never likely to commit a murder because they are kept from so doing by being in prison. No one seems to have any sympathy for them.

Dr. Winstanley

Indeed, yes. That is the sort of point which abolitionists should clearly make. We are not trying to dodge the issue. I am not being sentimental in this matter. I am not trying to be gentle to criminals. I want to bring about a state of affairs which in the long term, I believe, will result in a reduction in murder and violent crime.

It behoves all of us who are abolitionists to do all we can to protect the public. We do not do enough now. There must be changes in the prison system and in the methods of segregation. There must be ways of enabling criminals to work in prison and to make money, money which can go to the State for their dependants, for the victims of crime, and so on. Those are separate matters which we cannot discuss now, but it is right to emphasise that those of us who stand for abolition do not stand for abolition alone. We stand for abolition plus a better system to give the public the protection which they are entitled to have.

7.31 p.m.

Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)

There are several matters on which, I believe, all hon. Members will agree, whichever side they sit on and whatever view they hold on this question.

First, we all deplore the rising rate of crime, and violent crime in particular, not only in this country but in most countries of the world. It does not become us to make a special point about the rise in this country unless we can somehow distinguish it from the comparable rise in other countries.

Second, we all agree that those who have a particularly dangerous task to perform, police officers and others, require and deserve a particularly special protection. All of us would wish to give that protection. The argument is not about whether we should give it but about the form of protection which will give them the security they require.

Third, and most important of all, perhaps—this touches an observation made by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys)—we in the House of Commons must argue the matter without emotion. We must argue it on principle, but also on facts, research and study. It is especially important that we should do that because, whether we like it or not, opinion outside the House does not for the most part consider the question in that unemotional way.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Streatham that one must pay regard to public opinion, but that does not mean that we must be bound by public opinion. I have not noticed that the right hon. Gentleman regards himself as bound by what appears to be public opinion today on such matters as the Common Market, and I respect him for it. I respect him for many reasons, but I do not believe that it lies in his mouth to say that on this particular subject, on which he finds himself in tune with what appears today to be the majority of public opinion, it is right to follow it and in other matters it is right to oppose. Parliament has the duty to make up its own mind irrespective of what public opinion may say, though, of course, giving due weight to that public opinion.

When we first debated this matter on the Second Reading of the late Sydney Silverman's Bill—I remember the occasion well because I made my maiden speech in that debate—we were all agreed, and I hope that we are agreed now, that a case must be made for the use of this unique deterrent, as it is called. I remember saying on that occasion that if society wishes to persuade people that it is wrong to kill, then, prima facie at least, it cannot be the right way to go about it for society itself to kill those who have transgressed. That being so, it is necessary to show conclusively that the use of this method will ensure that fewer people are murdered, that there are fewer victims of killing, than would the use of other deterrents which are available.

In those debates, we discussed whether the use of the hangman's rope is really a greater deterrent, whether it does cause fewer people to be killed than would the other forms of penalty available. We recalled the enormous change in public opinion over the years up to 1964 and 1965. In that reference to public opinion, I include people like judges and leading churchmen, men who, perhaps, five or ten years earlier, had fully supported capital punishment as a deterrent but who in the intervening years had changed their mind.

We recalled the comprehensive and detailed report of the Gowers Commission, which looked at the figures not only in this country, as the present document does, but in countries all over the world, comparing them one with another, comparing the figures of countries which were abolitionist, countries which were retentionist, and countries which went first one way and then the other, and then, perhaps, returned to the first again.

The result of all those comparisons was that this House and the other place, by substantial majorities, were persuaded that the death penalty is not a unique deterrent, as it had been believed to be up till then, and for that reason they were willing, first, to give a Second Reading to the Bill, and then in due course pass it into law.

If that is all a correct appreciation of what happened five years ago, what we are asking ourselves today must be a simple question. We are not asking whether we should once again go over the debates of 1964 and 1965; we are not asking whether what we then decided on the material available to us was right or wrong. We should ask ourselves whether anything has happened since then which shows that the decision which we made in 1964 and 1965 was wrong.

I remember well the moving of Mr. Henry Brooke's Amendment which brought in the five-year period because, as a very new Member, I was, to my misfortune, put up to oppose it. I did so without success, but I remember saying that, on the basis of the experience of the Royal Commission and experience in other countries, five years gave far too short a time to make a judgment. As matters stand at present, we have not even the experience of five years; we have the experience of a period substantially shorter. I said then that, in my view, we ought to have no time limit at all but, if we were to have one, it must be much longer so that we could make a proper assessment of the figures and relate them to the figures which we already had from our own country and from others.

Events have proved that to be right, because the figures we have in "Murder 1957 to 1968" are by no means conclusive. They cannot persuade anyone, other than someone who wants to be persuaded, that there is here a case for saying that our decision in 1964 and 1965 was wrong. The very way the figures have been treated in the House this afternoon has shown that to be right.

The right hon. Member for Streatham, for example, has taken the last four years as being the critical period, notwithstanding the fact that the Bill was passed into law at the end of 1965. Other hon. Members have taken the last three years. Already we have a difference of views as to the right period one should take.

The right hon. Member for Streatham has put his faith in the figures for capital murder and has said that non-capital murders do not come into the picture. Yet hon. Members behind him, particularly speaking for Scotland, where there is a different picture, have put their faith in both capital and non-capital murders together. If one compares Table 9 with the Scottish tables, it is interesting to observe that whereas in England in the relevant period since the abolition of the death penalty the number of capital murders has gone up in much greater proportion than the number of non-capital murders, the very opposite has happened in Scotland. One asks oneself why there are these differences and how one can establish anything on figures of that kind.

Reference has been made to such matters as the necessity to protect the police, which I have already mentioned. Yet, looking at the figures, we find that, fortunately, there have been very few murders of policemen both before and after the abolition of the death penalty.

Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)

Do I understand the hon and learned Gentleman to say that the experiment should be allowed to go on for several more years'? Is not that a reason for not taking a final decision tonight?

Mr. Silkin

I did not say that the experiment should go on for a number of years more. If the hon. Gentleman had listened to all that I said, he would have heard me say that I took the view, in 1964 and 1965, and still take the view, that there was no case for a limited-period experiment at all, but that if there was to be such an experiment it should be for a much longer period than the short period we have available to us now.

But that question does not arise today. What we face today is the question whether we should now end capital punishment once and for all, subject to Parliament's right at any time to say "We now have enough material to enable us to show that a mistake was made in 1964–65, and we shall pass a new Act to bring capital punishment back on to the Statute Book", or whether we should say that we should return to the position as it was prior to the passing of the 1965 Act—that is, back to the position under the 1957 Homicide Act.

Going through "Murder 1957 to 1968" page by page, and looking at the figures table by table, as I am sure many other hon. Members have done, one finds it impossible, unless one has already fixed one's mind and is simply looking for material to support one's preconceived ideas, to find figures that are conclusive one way or the other.

I agree—I cannot but agree—with the comments in the document, comments which, for example, tell us that An analysis of previous convictions does not support the suggestion that there is now a higher proportion of professional criminals among murderers. and that The number of convicted men who murdered by shooting showed some increase in recent years but remained relatively small. whereas There was a considerable increase in the number who used sharp instruments. that being a non-capital murder in the ordinary way before the passing of the 1965 Act.

If all that is right, the case which must be made in this debate by those who say that the Motion should not be passed has not been made, and it is that, and only that, that we are considering tonight. Therefore, I fully support the Government and hope that there will be a majority at least as large as that which passed the Act of 1965 in support of the Motion.

7.46 p.m.

Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)

The hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) invited subsequent speakers to address their minds to the reason why the Motion should be opposed, and I propose to do just that in the very limited time I intend to take on this topic.

I want to try to avoid covering ground, which has already been covered. My attitude to the Motion differs somewhat from the views of those who have spoken so far, although I do not dissent from those who speak from a retentionist point of view.

I have sought to be objective, but I must confess to a kind of bias, which is almost unavoidable, because I have found myself on the losing side every time a major change in the law affecting humans in their social capacity has been brought about as a result of a Private Member's Bill. I was on the losing side on the Acts of homosexual offences, abortion and divorce.

I have a feeling that we have gone far enough already, if not a great deal too far, in the changes made in recent years, so I must confess to looking with some suspicion at the change proposed here, which is just such another one, for I have seen no evidence that the changes in the other fields so far have proved to be wise.

My case rests on the proposition that times are so different, and increasingly becoming so, from those which prevailed when Parliament passed the 1965 Act, let alone the 1957 Act, that we should do well to reflect somewhat longer before attempting to reach a final decision at this juncture. When I find that there is a great tendency on all sides to defy authority, to believe in nothing, and consistently to ask, "Why not?", I am very cautious about changes being made now, when the situation is so fluid.

I start with the proposition that as a result of the great increase in crime high penalties have reached the stage where abolition of the death penalty will mean that the effective penalty for many crimes will be greater than that for murder. I fear that one of the consequences of that change, a consequence which is likely to become more apparent, will be to diminish the respect for life which the existence of the death penalty has hitherto encouraged the public to accept. I cannot help thinking that this is part of the reason why so many of our constituents, so we are told, hold the view that it would be a mistake to change now.

I want briefly to advance four reasons why I think we are very unwise to reach a final decision now. That is a proposition somewhat supported by the hon. and learned. Member for Dulwich, who said all along that in his view four years was an insufficient time to reach a judgment. Although, naturally, I accept the Ruling of the Chair, it is a pity that we do not have an opportunity in the Lobby tonight to register that view by a vote in favour of the Amendment to postpone a decision for a further three years.

Mr. Edwin Brooks (Bebington)

Would the hon. Gentleman clarify this point? He keeps talking about this being a final decision. Is it not the case that five years from now Parliament could in any case easily bring in legislation to restore the death penalty if it was warranted? What we are doing tonight is saying whether we shall return next July to the 1957 procedure.

Sir S. Summers

The hon. Gentleman cannot have heard the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg)—

Mr. Brooks

I did.

Sir S. Summers

—who made it clear that one of his objections, and it is one of mine, to a so-called final decision now, which admittedly can be changed, is the prospect of a see-saw.

It is precisely to try to avoid more than one change that I wish to postpone the decision. I call it a permanent decision now, because it will be deemed to be objectionable to change it again. If we prolong the present experiment the chances are that we shall reach a wiser conclusion two or three years from now. That is why more time is needed.

It is a pity that there sould be such a wide divergence of views between the public at large and hon. Members. I accept that it is for us to decide and that we are not here as delegates voicing mere opinions that we think we know, but which cannot be accurately assessed held by those outside. No one, I believe, would dissent from the proposition that it is undesirable that there should be such a wide divergence of views. By allowing more time it might be possible to reconcile these views. One side might perhaps persuade the public that it was mistaken, or the other side might persuade certain hon. Members that the public was right. Who knows what changes will come about?

Mr. S. C. Silkin rose

Sir S. Summers

I cannot give way. Time is scarce and many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.

The Home Secretary referred to a number of research exercises, which we all welcome, to be made into the whole question of criminal behaviour. I should like to see the results of some of that research before reaching a conclusion on a subject of this magnitude I do not need to quote a lot of figures to establish the proposition that crime under all heads has grown in recent years and is still getting worse. The forces of law and order have an increasingly difficult task. This is a new situation not apparent when the Homicide Act was passed, nor was it apparent at the time that Parliament decided for an experimental period to do away with the death penalty. We would be wise to take longer to assess the impact of the growing disregard for law and order, in this country and elsewhere, before deciding permanently to abolish the death penalty. I believe that it will be permanent though technically this may not be the case.

Reference has been made to figures, which satisfy me that there is a strong bias in favour of the death penalty being a deterrent. Hon. and right hon. Members may take a different view, but if these figures show a divergence of conclusions this is surely another reason for waiting rather longer to make certain that we have made the right choice. I do not accept the proposition that we should return to the 1957 Act. I am no lawyer, but I have heard enough evidence to suggest that that is an unsatisfactory selection of types of murder.

Another advantage of prolonging the experiment is that we could have longer to prepare for a new "fall-back" law other than the 1957 Act if it was decided not to abolish the death penalty. But it could hardly be done satisfactorily between now and the summer. I am not concerned today, although I was yesterday, with the proposition to take the decision now as opposed to a few months' hence. A few years hence would give us time to cope with the drafting of an entirely new Bill including capital punishment in some form for some crimes. At present, there is not time to do this.

The hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) spoke of his detestation of the ritual of hanging. I have come across quite a number of people who would be much more willing to accept the death penalty if there was some other form of taking life than hanging. I see no reason why, given more time, we could not reach a more satisfactory way of dealing with this. This method is not practised in other countries. I do not stand here, opposing the abolition of hanging as a determined retentionist at all costs. I am finding my enthusiasm for retention diminishing but as yet I am not prepared to be persuaded otherwise. Three years' hence I might be persuaded. At the moment, I feel that we would be wise to give this trial a longer period. The only way in which I can register my feelings is to vote against the Motion and that I shall do tonight.

7.58 p.m.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

The debate has shown one thing and that is the sense of unreality about the debate that we had yesterday. I do not think that anyone would admit that he has been influenced in the decision that he will make tonight by what he has heard from the Home Secretary or the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). We have made up our minds long ago whether we were retentionists or abolitionists. No matter what figures the Home Secretary presented this afternoon, or what figures are presented by the Secretary of State for Scotland tonight, I shall vote for the abolition, permanently, of the death penalty.

I have a great respect for the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers). We work in close harmony in other spheres in this House, but when he talks about humanising the rigmarole of hanging and making it more pleasant to contemplate I find it a most absurd and repulsive argument. If we take a Christian view of this, it is a very profound argument that we have no right deliberately to take life. In saying that, we are immediately faced with the argument by the retentionists that the murderer has taken a life. This is no argument for saying that because the murderer did something which cannot be based on any Christian ideal, therefore the State ought also to take the same kind of action.

Sir S. Summers

I do not want to challenge the position that the hon. Gentleman is advancing. If he holds that view, well and good. But I want to correct what was clearly a misunderstanding when he accuses me of wishing to humanise the ritual of hanging and to make it more attractive. What I have in mind are the alleged ill-effects on those who carry out the task of the State. I am not thinking of the victim.

Mr. Hamilton

The hon. Member can read his words. I was appalled by what he said. He attempted to suggest that there was some method of making this kind of State taking of life less repulsive so that presumably it would be justified. Here we differ. I do not think that it can be justified in any circumstances.

Every hon. Member has referred to the gulf between public opinion outside and the opinion likely to be expressed in the House tonight. A public opinion poll suggested that public opinion was four to one in favour of a return to public opinion. I do not know whether my constituency is typical or untypical, but my postbag does not indicate that. Certainly, there is a cleavage of opinion and I have had a majority of letters in favour of a return of the death penalty, but nothing like four to one.

Nor if it were would that influence me unduly. Over the years, I have made my position clear to my constituents, and they know it. I will be held to account for my judgment in the House at the next election and if they do not like it, they had better get somebody else to represent them on this and on other matters. I do not think that we ought slavishly to follow the pressure groups and the kind of pressure continually exercised upon us.

After all, there would be no taxation if we accepted the views of public opinion. We would have a 100 per cent. public opinion poll for the abolition of income tax, but that is no good reason why the House should get rid of it. The same argument could be applied to every form of taxation. Taxation is the most unpopular exercise in which we engage, but we do it and we do it with our eyes open. The right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) has tried in his own charming way to find less objectionable ways of taxing the people than we have so far discovered. He may have the answer; I do not know; and the electorate will decide at the next election.

I want to refer to the specific Scottish problems. Up to the debates of the last two days, I have greatly deplored the numbers game which certain hon. Members opposite have sought to play. They have sought to show by selected statistics that somehow the Labour Party was the party of the "softies", that somehow we condoned murder and violence, and that our approach was less forceful, less stringent, than that of the Opposition. Of course one can select statistics, but it is a meaningless exercise.

In 1961, the number of murders made known to the police in Scotland was 10, but in 1965 the number was 29. That is an increase of nearly 200 per cent. in the years during which the Conservative Party was in power. In 1968, the figure was 37, which is an increase of 27 per cent. over the 1965 figure, while the 1969 figure, which my right hon. Friend may have, would have to be 57 or 58 to get the percentage increase comparable with that between 1961 and 1965. I produce these figures merely to illustrate their futility. We ought to get away from that game.

I would not deny, nor would any of my hon. Friends, that there has been an extremely worrying and startling increase in the number of murders in the last few years. The most startling increase percentagewise was between 1963 and 1964, the year before capital punishment was abolished. In 1963, there was one conviction for murder, while in 1964 there were seven. Some propagandists might say that that was a 600 per cent. increase in one year.

Between 1965 and 1968 there was a startling increase and we would not deny it, but, as the Professor of Criminology at Edinburgh University has pointed out, this may well be because since the abolition of capital punishment, juries have been more willing to convict for murder than they were when the death penalty existed.

I should like to refer to this study made by the Edinburgh University Department of Criminology and published a short while ago. It did not get the publicity it deserved. The Press has a great responsibility in these matters in educating instead of scaring the public. The Edinburgh study was for the figures between 1963 and 1966. It gave details of age and sex of the offenders and victims and it sought to classify the incidents as between domestic killings, killings arising from fights, killings for game and killings arising from what was called sexual deviation.

Domestic killings covered family relationships of all kinds, father, mother and child, and distant relationships, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews and the rest of the cohabitation problem of the classic triangle situation of two men and a woman, or two women and a man. Domestic problems were divided into the triangular killings, jealously, and the parent-child killing, many of which would not be susceptible to any kind of deterrent. When a parent kills a child, he does not do so in any premeditated fashion, nor is there usually premeditation in the triangular situation in which there are two of one sex and one of another. The existence of a deterrent would, therefore, not prevent that kind of murder.

Killings from fights are a big problem in Scotland. The study clearly brought out that in many cases there was a drunken brawl in which one or other or both parties were drunk, or adolescents who were socially deprived for one reason or another, or were an example of a longstanding feud between one gang and another. They showed that in 1963, 50 per cent. of all killings in Scotland were domestic, that is, 15 out of the 30. Out of that 15, in six there was evidence of insanity, so that the deterrent would not apply. One was the result of a triangular sexual jealousy quarrel. One was the result of another sexual incident, and seven were unspecified. Ten of the 30 killings were the result of fights, seven of which involved drunkenness and the other three adolescents.

The comparable 1966 figures show total domestic killings at 17 or 39.6 per cent. of the total of 43 killings, and of these there was insanity in six. Out of the total of 43, 13, or 30.2 per cent., were fights in which four involved drunken people, either the victim or the offender.

The deduction is that alcohol plays a greater and more significant part in murders in Scotland than probably south of the Border. In 48 per cent. of the 1963 murders, either the victim or the offender or both had been drinking at about the time of the incident. As the study points out, the data provided had been coded to under-estimate rather than over-estimate the rôle of alcohol. For example, a man consuming three whiskies three hours before the crime was classified as having no alcohol in him. I have no doubt that I would be in no fit state to know anything about anything if I had drunk three whiskies three hours ago, yet I would be classified in this definition as not being drunk.

In the 1966 figures, 56 per cent. of the incidents involved one or two participants who had been consuming alcohol. The point is that, if one is under the influence of alcohol, the existence or absence of a deterrent will not influence what one is going to do to a victim. Table 5 of the study gives a breakdown as between the victims and offenders in terms of blood alcohol level. In 1963, a total of 11 of the 30 victims had a blood alcohol level of anything from 50 to 300-plus milligrammes per 100 millilitres and 36.7 per cent. were drunk or almost drunk. In another two cases, those concerned had been taking drugs.

Thus the drink and drug problems together accounted far more than 43 per cent. of the victims of murders in Scotland in 1963 and the equivalent figure in 1966 was 32.6 per cent. In such cases, capital punishment is no deterrent. Nor do I believe that it would be a deterrent to the youngsters in brawls in Glasgow or elsewhere. It is extremely difficult to attribute murder to one cause rather than another. If one has to attribute, one attributes it to drink, and, therefore, if one wants to suggest a positive solution to the problem of murder and violence in Scotland, it would be to abolish the public house rather than bring back the noose. But, of course, this situation may be peculiar to Scotland.

I do not believe that there is evidence anywhere in the world to suggest that hanging is a deterrent. Certainly it is no deterrent to the drunk or the insane or the enraged or jealous lover or even parent. I cannot believe that anyone who believes in the kind of civilisation we want to build would want to see a return of this bestial obscenity which we got rid of four years ago. To hear some hon. Members opposite who represent Scottish constituencies, one would think that Scotland had been a hanging country, executing people every week. Yet the opposite is the case. Between 1929 and 1946, there were no hangings at all in Scotland and very few between 1946 and 1965. I think that the last one was in 1963.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) talked about the dangers to the police and, of course, we all accept that the police need protection. I do not know how many policemen have been murdered in Scotland during the last few years. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will give us the figure. Certainly no prison officer has been killed in Scotland for very many years.

Mr. Ross

None at all.

Mr. Hamilton

That confirms what I had thought.

I am not afraid to go back to my constituents or to anyone else in Scotland and state my view on this problem. It is a view one holds deeply irrespective of any statistical information, one way or another, which might be presented. The most unacceptable letter I have received on the matter quoted extensively from the Scriptures in favour of hanging murderers. I find this kind of argument totally incomprehensible. No statistics and no one in the country will compel or persuade me to deviate from the view that State murder is wrong and indefensible and that the sooner we get rid of it permanently the better.

8.18 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

I am in favour of the retention of the death penalty. I conceive it my task to try to explain exactly how we should restore it and in what manner and subject to what safeguards it should be carried out. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) that we should not go back to the 1957 Act, and, therefore, those of us who favour a return to the death penalty—as the country undoubtedly does favour it—have a bounden duty to explain how and when this should be achieved.

I regret the introduction of this topic at the present time as a gross irrelevance by the Government and as an abuse of the processes of the House in doing so before next July. If the Government had stated next July that the Home Secretary proposed to reprieve all murderers until after we had taken a vote at the General Election, the House would have accepted that situation. I am sure that all of us who believed in the restoration of the death penalty would have been prepared to await the outcome of the election.

But the Government are funking this issue. They are afraid that it will be an issue in the General Election, and they are trying to deal with it before Christmas so that it may be put to bed and forgotten altogether. I tell them that it will not be forgotten and that the way in which they have dealt with this matter is typical of the "Callamandering" that we had over the boundaries; it has been carried into this issue.

The Government are namby-pamby over the handling of criminals. They have not the faintest idea of how to handle the problem of serious crime—not one of them. Not a single measure taken by the present Home Secretary or by his permissive predecessor has sought to deal with the problem of serious crime. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I hope in the not far distant future to publish views about how this problem can be tackled.

We have not had a single debate in Government time in recent years on how we should deal with serious crime, which is what we should be discussing. We want first to consider whether the structure of the police force is modern —whether they have what they need in modern scientific equipment to meet the problem of serious crime. Have they properly equipped squads to deal with silver thieves, jewellery thieves and art thieves? Not a bit.

A considerable change in the Government's attitude to crime is needed. They are more interested in permitting pornography than in stopping it. They are more concerned about dealing with the permissive state. They have failed to handle problems of law and order in allowing disorder, whether it be on the golf course, on the cricket pitch or in student riots. In all these matters their policies are feeble and namby-pamby. They have not the remotest idea of how to put forward a policy which the country wants. That is the plain, unvarnished truth of what the country thinks about them.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)


Mr. Rees-Davies

Codswallop or not, the fact is that the Government need a first-class wallop to bring them to their senses.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

You are a first-class cod.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I do not know the word which that so-called hon. Gentleman chose, but I can claim two things. First, at the time of the debate in 1955, I can claim to have led against the late Sydney Silverman when we were dealing with the retention of the death penalty. I tabled Amendments to the law relating to provocation, which was not long afterwards amended.

Mr. Mark Woodnutt (Isle of Wight)

On a point of order. I distinctly heard the Government Whip call you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a first-class cod. I am wondering why he was not called to order.

An Hon. Member

He is not a Whip; he is a Minister.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

The interruption prevented me from hearing what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Woodnutt

I distinctly heard the hon. Gentleman sitting on the Government Front Bench refer to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as a first-class cod. I am wondering why you did not call him to order.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The simple reason is that I did not hear the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Rees-Davies

One would not want to tickle the salmon too much.

I was closely concerned in 1955 with the tabling of many Amendments and in engaging in debates which went on for 18 hours or more to reform the law of murder, because, rightly, Mr. Sydney Silverman, in the campaign for abolition, forced the issue. That was perfectly legitimate and proper. What we needed to do at that time was to reform the law of murder, which was in very poor shape. There were a number of cases in which people could be found guilty of murder without the charge being reduced to manslaughter, although they might have been most severely provoked by words if not by actions. Consequently, following the Amendments which we tabled at that time, the law on provocation was changed. Now any form of provocation can reduce the charge to manslaughter.

The second change concerned the doctrine of constructive malice. There was the case of the policeman who was shot at on the roof. If people were acting in concert, although one of them did not carry a gun, they could be held to be guilty of murder. That was the subject of amendment. That law, too, was changed. Now, unless a person is the shooter, the mere fact that people act in concert will not invoke the doctrine of constructive malice, which has been completely altered.

Thirdly, there was the very important law of diminished responsibility. I remember putting it up to the then Conservative Lord Chancellor, who introduced it. This was a wise law which was in existence in Scotland. If a person is mentally subnormal and his responsibility in respect of the crime is diminished, he is charged with manslaughter, so there will not be so many murders. All the law has been completely changed, and the law of murder now is a straightforward sensible law as such.

The question that arises is this. There are few deliberate poisoners, but a deliberate poisoner is a clear case for the death penalty. Someone taking a cosh or weapon, going in to commit a robbery and striking an old woman over the head and killing her is a clear case for the death penalty. Protection racketeers operating together in a gang who fight and perpetrate murder are a clear case for the death penalty. There are not many. The death penalty would have been appropriate in the Kray case, and who would have regarded it as wrong? The members of that gang might not have resorted to such serious gang warfare had this threat been hanging over their heads. Nevertheless, they did, and, as a result, they were given this very long sentence. I take the view that 30 years in prison is worse than being executed, and that it is better for all concerned that there should be execution rather than sentences of imprisonment of 20 years or longer with the complete break-up of the mind and soul of the individual.

In the great majority of cases where murder is committed we know that the murderer should not suffer the death penalty. How is this to be achieved? I believe that we should go back to the law as it was before, bearing in mind that it has been comprehensively changed and altered, but that the exercise of reprieve should not be just the responsibility of the Home Secretary.

One reason why successive Home Secretaries are becoming more abolition minded is the great responsibility which rests upon them personally to exercise the duty to reprieve which is imposed upon them of the Queen's mercy. The Home Secretary should no longer have that duty on his shoulders, but there should be a committee of reprieve appointed by the Home Secretary, comprising a leading judge, a leading doctor, a leading scientist and perhaps five others, who would review the whole circumstances of the crime. The committee, immediately following the hearing, would make a recommendation, and there would be a report from the judge who had conducted the trial. That recommendation would be accepted by the Home Secretary and would become the statement granting, or otherwise, the reprieve.

I believe that the death penalty should be exercised very seldom; and only in cases of deliberate and callous brutality and murder, murder in the course of furtherance of theft or violence and, very occasionally, in cases of poisoning.

This is exactly what the British public want. Whether or not they are right is a matter for the conscience of every hon. Member. I do not believe that the public want unfortunate people who have been provoked or who are in circumstances of misery to be executed. The public do not go into the niceties of whether or not the murder figures have doubled, and I do not tonight. It does not alter my view. More than half the countries of the world retain the death penalty.

There are two views on the matter. It is not right for hon. Members to use this extraordinary language about obscenity which was used by the hon. Gentleman. He may feel it, but should not say it. That is not the general view of people. We are not all obscene because we do not regard the taking of life as necessarily the worst thing that one can do to an individual. To take away his liberty and soul, to break up his mind and his health, to my mind, is far worse than to cut off his head.

On this matter we will all take different views, but I feel sure that we are now going into a world in which I prophesy, and I have no doubt that the prophecy will be correct, that in this country in the next few years we will face infinitely worse serious crime.

The type and pattern of crime in New York and in America is coming here. It will get worse before it gets better. The type of crime will be assaults on individuals in the streets with coshes, with gangs of criminals operating as they operate in London at present.

For such people there must be any deterrent which we can secure. They do not, or did not formerly, carry either guns or coshes or weapons, because the professionals who engage in robberies work out what they are to do on a job. Having worked it out together, they carry it into effect in the manner which is best suited to their means. If they are to engage in a bank raid, a post office robbery, or a household robbery and want to play safe, they will carry with them a gun or cosh or some ammonia in order to throw people off the scent and to give a greater opportunity for them to get away.

The death penalty undoubtedly had an effect of stopping these people from carrying weapons. One could argue that that is not murder. I concede that. Not one of those persons when he goes out has the slightest intention of using the weapon or of doing any harm with it. In many cases some of our leading robbers are the most attractive individuals. They are charming to meet. If one meets them in the West End or goes out with them or has the opportunity to talk with them frequently, as I do, one finds that they are the most delightful individuals. Unfortunately, their pleasure as individuals ends when they happen to take with them weapons in the course of robbery which they intend to perpetrate and which they carry out as professionals.

The number of murders will be reduced by bringing back the death penalty, but that is not my ground for saying so. My ground for bringing back the death penalty is to stop these weapons being carried at all when the pros go to work. We can then get rid of the weapons. That is the sole relevance of this debate today.

What really matters today and what we should be debating and will be debating in a few months' time, and certainly at the next General Election, will be with which party, with whom and with what policy can we get on top of the serious crime which exists in this country.

I hope that it will be felt that I have made some contribution to the view that we cannot go back to the old Act, but should go back to a full return to a situation in which everybody who is convicted of murder is referred to a panel which will deal with sentences. That panel will then consider the cases and reprieve all those other than the few who have engaged in fierce and callous murders or who have acted in the course and furtherance of violence in their criminal activities. Those people should hang. The country believes it and I believe it. I hope that this contribution will be of small assistance to those who have to consider the matter in the future.

8.35 p.m.

Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Scotstoun)

I want to take up one or two aspects raised by the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). He said first that this Government had done nothing to defeat crime in the community, especially violent crime. He went on to refer to New York and the way in which the American style of high life and gambling is becoming evident in this country, and said that the death penalty should not be removed for that reason. However, I believe that the hon. Gentleman supported the Gaming Act which, for the first time in this country, rationalised gaming. He must know that gaming has a fall-out of violence and protection rackets, since there is a high profit motive. But apparently that did not stop the hon. Gentleman supporting the Government's legislation.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I think that I am right in saying that I put up to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) the suggestion of the existing statutory Gaming Board. That board was urged upon the Government by my right hon. and hon. Friends, and our suggestion was carried into effect. I am certain that Sir Stanley Raymond will put an end to any possibility of American gangsters having any kind of control over gaming in this country. I believe that we have made a contribution from these benches to securing an effective and proper control of it.

Mr. Small

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support for the efforts which have been made to contain that element which could come here. This Government are taking steps to prevent any increase in violence.

As an hon. Member representing a Glasgow constituency, which is alleged to be a violent city, I have never yet had one letter for or against capital punishment. That is the incidence of the pressure which I have experienced.

I come now to the value of the 84 per cent. poll which wishes to bring back hanging, and I wonder whether in the minds of those who support the retention of capital punishment there is the retributive aspect of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Experience teaches one that if a child is raped and then murdered, the women in the locality call for the perpetrator to be hanged.

Another point which has come out in the debate relates to the number of people hanged in Scotland in the postwar period. We have heard a lot about "Socialist softness", but we were not the Government in the period covered by the figures which have been quoted. I have the highest respect for the former Secretary of State, John Maclay, who had the onerous task of setting aside a number of convictions in 1962 and then hanging a young man in the Aberdeen case.

The hon. Member for Isle of Thanet called attention to the existence of the royal prerogative. It creates a very difficult situation for those who have to administer the law when a conviction is followed by an appeal for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative.

If capital punishment had been operating in the last four years, I wonder what proportion of the 84 per cent. poll would have demanded hanging for those who were reprieved. If we return to the supposed status quo and bring back hanging, what will be the demand of those people who made up the 84 per cent. poll when it comes to the first four cases in Scotland, England and Wales? No matter the finesse of the arguments within the courts and the judgments at which they arrive, in the minds of many people murder demands the ultimate penalty.

We cannot bring back the death penalty in the sense of a delaying process. I accept the argument that with no death penalty the conviction rate went up because the ultimate end was not available to those who were examining cases and coming to conclusions.

I take the view that there is a retributive aspect in the minds of many who support capital punishment. But what do we do to meet the invalidity argument if we hang the wrong man? No one is so secure in his own judgment that he knows all the answers.

I should like to make my position clear. Taking all these factors into consideration, I do not think that we are right to bring back hanging. The sovereignty of Parliament is such that any Government or any Member can introduce a Bill to bring back capital punishment.

8.41 p.m.

Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)

I will be brief, as many hon. Members wish to speak.

It is clear that hon. Members fall into one of three categories in this debate. First, we have the convinced abolitionists; secondly, we have the convinced retentionists; and, thirdly, we have those who still have a genuine doubt. I fall into the third category.

I voted for the abolition experiment. I should like to abolish hanging altogether if I truly felt that such a step could be justified. Judicial hanging is an obscene procedure, as many hon. Members have said. It certainly has a sinister and macabre effect on those who take part in it and on the public as a whole. Therefore, there is a strong case for abolition.

Until recently I was an abolitionist. But I have recently changed my mind, and I must try to explain why. This has been a difficult decision for me. I imagine that many hon. Members will find it difficult to make up their minds tonight. I hope that not too many will abstain altogether, because this is a vote of crucial importance.

We decided to make this experiment a few years ago in order to find out whether capital punishment was a real and effective deterrent. Obviously, that is the only possible justification for keeping it, and I have always accepted that. But certainly no one today has claimed that the experiment has yet produced any conclusive answer to the problem. More time is needed to assess the facts and figures and their implications. The hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin), in a most impressive and thoughtful speech, at least conceded that if there is to be a proper experiment it must be for a longer period.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said that while the experiment has been going on there has been a frightening increase in violent crime. What is also worrying is that there has been a significant increase in the use of firearms. Clearly, this is not due to the abolition of the death penalty, but it is the background against which the debate takes place. Surely this must make all thoughtful Members pause to consider whether December, 1969, is the right time to abolish the death penalty for ever.

Statistics are important and should be considered, but there are other considerations that should weigh with us before we take this decision. Most hon. Members will concede that the majority of the general public wish to retain the death penalty for certain types of murder. I do not suggest that we should blindly follow public opinion, but hon. Members who, like me, are genuinely in doubt on this issue, really ought to consider the views of the public, even if the convinced abolitionists do not feel a need to do so. I suggest that it would be unwise for those who are in doubt to ignore public opinion on this issue.

Then we have the views of the Police Federation. Are we right just to ignore the police and put their views on one side? Their role in fighting crime is vital and unique and they deserve our special support and understanding. Being in doubt on this issue, I have been impressed, perhaps swayed, by the views of the federation.

It is not putting it too high to say that the nation is fighting a war against crime and, I fear, is losing. In this situation people will feel more secure in their hearts if we retain, at any rate for the time being, the ultimate penalty for certain murders.

I accept that we cannot go back to the position of the 1957 Act. Nobody wants that. We need a new Measure and I am certain that if we had one, and if the death penalty were retained for certain types of murder only, then that penalty would be exacted in only a very few cases. That is what the public is demanding.

I am, therefore, still in grave doubt on this issue. Although I would like to vote for the abolition of capital punishment, and although, emotionally, I have always been, and have always admitted to being, an abolitionist, I feel that it would be unwise to take that step tonight. I will, therefore, accept the advice of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) and oppose the Motion—with some reluctance, but with a clear conscience.

8.47 p.m.

Mr. Mark Woodnutt (Isle of Wight)

I wish that we could get our nomenclature right. Hon. Members on both sides of the House keep using the word "hanging" and the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) made dramatic references to the "noose" and the "gallows". Even the Home Secretary talked about "hanging". We are, of course, not discussing the method of capital punishment. Many people, including myself, abhor the thought of somebody being hanged, but believe that we should retain a degree of capital punishment by some other method.

I believe that capital punishment must be retained for certain crimes. My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry) and I are emotionally against this dreadful thing, but, as he said, we must look at the issues involved in a practical way.

I respect the sincerity of hon. Members on both sides of the argument and I hope that they will respect mine. I wish to refer particularly to prison officers and their case, about which not a lot has been said. I have a vested interest in prisons because in the Isle of Wight I have no fewer than three, with upwards of 1,000 prisoners in them. About 1 per cent. of the population of my constituency are permanently guests of Her Majesty in these establishments. This is probably a greater number of prisoners per 1,000 of the population than in any other county of the United Kingdom.

Not surprisingly, my main concern is for prison officers. The death penalty should be retained, I suggest, for the murder of a prison officer, any inmate of a prison, including prisoners, and policemen.

I have another reason for particularly selecting these groups, and it is that prison officers are always at risk. Every day of their lives they face assault and the risk of death. Others prisoners in jail are also always at risk in exactly the same way as are prison officers. A policeman is occasionally at risk.

Parkhurst Prison, in the Isle of Wight, contains some men for whom learned judges have given up all hope of redemption. In this respect it is unlike any other of our prisons. It contains a far higher proportion of vicious and wicked men of this type. These men are hardened criminals, the scum of the country, who would stop at nothing to achieve their ends. They are men who every week threaten prison officers that, to use their vernacular, they will "do" them. This information I have obtained from personal discussion and contacts with prison officers themselves. It is well within the memory of this House that at the end of October we had at Parkhurst the biggest organised punch-up and assault there has been since the Dartmoor riots of many years ago.

The main point I should like the House to realise is that in Parkhurst there are prisoners who are there for the rest of their natural lives. In some cases, it is because they have a very long term of imprisonment and do not have much hope of living for that long. In other cases they may only be imprisoned for 10 or 12 years but have already reached a time of life, with 15 or 16 previous convictions behind them, when they will not live until they get out. To these men, who have a grudge against a particular prison officer or who suddenly see a chance of escape, there is absolutely no deterrent whatever. It is no good giving them a prison sentence; they are already there for the rest of their natural lives, and, let there be no mistake about it, they are hardened, vicious and wicked men. So what have they to lose?

The Home Secretary said that a lot of these people commit or attempt to commit murder on impulse. That is true, and one accepts that in those cases nothing is a deterrent. But in a prison like Parkhurst this sort of operation is planned very carefully, like a military operation. It is premeditated attempt at murder, as it was at the end of October of this year. It is, therefore, right to say that although these men occasionally do things on impulse, in most cases what is done is carefully planned. All I say is that in those cases the death sentence would not necessarily be a deterrent —one cannot prove it; these statistics prove nothing—but for these men there is no other deterrent. In many cases capital punishment might be a deterrent, and in some cases it would be. That being the case, we have a duty to protect our prison officers. If we do not, we shall find enrolment figures falling until there are not enough prison officers to look after this type of prisoner.

Much has been said about statistics and what they prove. Quite frankly I ignore the statistical argument on both sides. Statistics prove nothing. It was, I think, Disraeli who said that there were lies, damned lies and statistics. He seems to have got statistics in the right perspective. Nevertheless, some figures are indicative of a trend. Earlier today the Home Secretary said that he had caused to be made a particular study of assaults and violence in prison. He told us that in 1965 there were 39 such cases, in 1966, 15, in 1967, 12, and in 1968, 22. Then, to my intense surprise, the Home Secretary said that he had not figures for earlier years so he was not able to give the House a comparison.

I can give the House a comparison from my conversations with prison officers. I can assure the House that assaults causing bodily harm to prison officers in Parkhurst Prison have increased dramatically since the abolition of capital punishment, not only in numbers but in intensity. I saw a prison officer the other day with his throat cut from ear to ear, and another with 12 stitches in his head.

When we look at the tables in the Red Book we see that in the country as a whole from 1963 to 1968 in England and Wales assaults and violence against the person increased by 11,767 as against an increase of 9,123 in the previous seven years. It is all very well for the Home Secretary to say that the percentage rate of increase has decreased; so it has, but he should have said that the numbers have jumped dramatically, not only in the country, but in cases of bodily harm in prisons.

I do not believe that we should revert to the 1957 Homicide Act. That was a hotch-potch and we would be quite wrong to go back to it. The House has been misled by being told that the alternative is to support the Government tonight and to abolish capital punishment completely, or go back to the 1957 Homicide Act. It is quite easy to add a category of murder, murder of anyone within a prison or any law enforcement officer, to those categories punishable by the death sentence. It would be easy for the Government to introduce a short Bill to retain capital punishment for that particular offence in addition to treason or espionage. In view of the magnificent job which our prison officers do while on risk every day, they are worthy of our support in giving them the protection which they not only deserve but for which they ask. This House will fail in its duty if it does not give them that protection.

I am sick and tired of hearing, whenever there is a case of a prisoner being dealt with rather severely, many people in and outside this House, accusing police and prison officers of brutality. When it is the other way round those same people say that the poor prisoner must be in need of psychiatric treatment and they ask what can be done for him. Let us not forget that justice is not a means to an end but is an end in itself. I shall oppose the Government's Motion.

8.59 p.m.

Mr. Denis Coe (Middleton and Prestwich)

When I came to this House in 1966 it was just after a very brutal murder, the Moors murder in the North-West. Consequently, in the General Election that year all of us who were candidates in that area were subjected to a great deal of questioning about capital punishment. I am sorry to say that a number of candidates filled their election addresses with reasons why they though capital punishment should be reintroduced. There was very little else in many of the addresses and other election literature.

The fact that we are now some years on from then is germane to the argument whether there should be an experimental period of five years before a decision is taken, but my experience at that election demonstrated that the issue of capital punishment was being fully discussed by the elector. My experience since then is that the public have continued to think about the question. I must admit that the majority of the letters which I receive on this issue are in favour of the retention of capital punishment, though at a recent public meeting a large body of people was prepared to accept my view that abolition should be made permanent and that if the issue came before the House I should vote for permanent abolition. That is what I shall do tonight.

The public think as they do because they believe that capital punishment is a deterrent. I shall not indulge in any argument about statistics, because from statistics it is possible to argue either way. What is clear is that, compared with other countries, in Britain there is a remarkably small number of murders.

The number of violent crimes and the problems associated with crime must be a matter of concern to all of us, not least to the Government. This is why I was very disappointed to hear the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) talk about this Government's namby-pamby attitude towards crime. That was a party political point which totally failed to recognise the way in which the Government have sought to tackle the problem of crime by reorganising and properly equipping the police. However, that is not the issue tonight.

I cannot believe that the answer is to retain the death penalty for certain types of murder. That was tried in the 1957 Act and it obviously failed, as hon. Members opposite who are retentionists accept. Difficulty arises immediately an attempt is made to categorise groups for whom the death penalty should be brought back, because then it can be argued that there are marginal other groups which should qualify for the death penalty. A decision must be taken either for general retention, or, at the other extreme, total abolition of the death penalty.

The question of the terrible decision which the Home Secretary must take as to execution cannot be glossed over. I believe that we must never in future impose this on a Home Secretary. The alternative suggested by the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet would not solve the problem. Either there must be a royal prerogative of mercy, exercised through Her Majesty's Ministers, or no imposition of the death sentence. I believe that mistakes in conviction for murder can occur and that this factor must not be ignored.

We must learn from the experience of other countries. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the evidence of other countries does not suggest that capital punishment is a deterrent. I therefore take my stand on the quality of the society we want to achieve. As a Christian, I believe that we should see how far we can build a Christian society. As a concomitant of this, the State must not impose judicial murder.

For that reason—quite apart from the arguments about deterrents, or mistakes, or experience in other countries, or the role of the Home Secretary, which are all of importance—above all, I believe that what we are searching towards is a saner and more Christian society. To get that sort of approach into our attitude to crime we must look at the root causes of crime. That is why all hon. Members are concerned about the rise in violent crime during recent years.

In the last analysis I believe that we lose something as a society if we retain a system of judicial murder, and that is why I shall gladly cast my vote tonight for a permanent ending of the death penalty in this country.

9.6 p.m.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I speak as an unrepentant abolitionist. My attitude to capital punishment has always been that of the clergyman in the story on sin. I am against it, and I think it is a bad penalty.

But before I come to the wider argument I should like to make one or two remarks on the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and some of the figures he quoted. I mentioned to him that I would refer to his speech if I caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

My right hon. Friend based a considerable part of his case—as I would have expected—on the increase in what would have been capital murder under the 1957 Act. I suggest that, for two reasons, hon. Members should use those figures with considerable caution.

The first reason is that the significant figure is the lesser figure—that is the figure for what is known as "normal" murder in Table 10 of the Home Office Red Book. The second reason why I would urge caution in the figures which my right hon. Friend referred to is contained in paragraph 21 of the report, which says: The figures since 1965 are inevitably overestimated since offences are classified as 'capital' on the basis of circumstances on which doubt might have been thrown in the course of trial if capital murder had been an issue. This particularly applies to murder in the course or furtherance of theft, which allows scope for argument and is often difficult to prove conclusively. That paragraph is fully borne out if hon. Members look at Table 25 on page 29 of the Red Book, which contains one interesting fact. If one takes the whole period 1957 to 1965 and looks at the figures for murder in the context of theft, one will find 45 cases of capital murder and 30 cases of non-capital murder. But if we look at the corresponding figures for the period since 1965, we find that there are only two cases recorded as being cases which would have been non-capital murder under the old Act. That notable discrepancy surely very much bears out the warning words in paragraph 21.

I mention this because it seems to me a very good example of a point which the Home Secretary fairly made today; namely., that this is an easy enough subject to generalise about at the bus stop, but that when we look at the figures and their implications we find that they do not bear the immediate, unsophisticated interpretation. We should use with great care the statistics of the increase in capital murder during the last few years.

I agree with those like the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley), who have said that the figures on this subject will never be conclusive. There is surely one happy reason for this—that the murder rate in this country is relatively low. That is a point which Nigel Walker made in his recent book on sentencing. It is always much harder to dogmatise about the significance of any figures when those figures are relatively low. At the same time, I would not underrate the seriousness of murder, which has rightly been referred to today as a crime apart.

I recall the very powerful speech made by Mr. Henry Brooke, as he then was, in December, 1964. I am not sure whether any other hon. Member on this side of the House has said it, but I should like to say how much I welcomed the Home Secretary's remarks about him today which I thought were generous and well deserved. Mr. Henry Brooke made it clear in that debate that he had not started as an abolitionist but that he had been convinced by two considerations. The first was the highly unsatisfactory nature of the 1957 Act. I think that there is unanimity about that in the House. I do not believe that one Member today has expressed a wish to go back to the 1957 Act. We recall the remarks of the Lord Chief Justice and many other people. Secondly, Mr. Brooke emphasised to the House that the evidence suggested to him that we no longer needed the death penalty. I believe that the arguments which Mr. Henry Brooke advanced to the House five years ago are still sound today.

I listened with great respect, as I always do, to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) today. I listened to what he had to say about the danger of the state of the law putting, as he said, "a premium on killing". I would venture only two corn-merits on what he said. First, do the facts about murder in this country bear out the suggestion that murder so frequently takes place in the context of what my right hon. and learned Friend called "the surge of violence motivated towards profit"? I am not sure that they do. Judging from one or two things which the Home Secretary said, I believe that we have both recently been reading a collection of essays by Mr. Blom-Cooper and others, and I was interested in the remark of Sir Charles Cunningham, that very distinguished former Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, who reminded us of "the circumstances in which so many murders are committed—family quarrels, panic in an unexpected situation, drunken or sexual frenzies". It is very easy in the House to forget the squalid, dingy and yet somehow everyday atmosphere in which a considerable number of murders take place.

The second point is this. Listening to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone, my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) and others, I found myself thinking that some people still believe that we could devise a law, which, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry), dealt with the worst cases and yet was not open to the objections of the 1957 Act. I believe that an attempt at a new and improved Act on the 1957 model, would never be likely to succeed.

I do not claim to be an expert on this subject, but I have long been interested in it, and I think of the sort of anomalies which we had under the 1957 Act. One of the worst—and hon. Members who are interested in these matters may agree —was the anomaly between the case of Fantle and the case of Walden, the technical college lecturer, whose sentence was one of the most intolerable to be carried out under the 1957 Act. I find it hard to believe that we could devise a new Act to bring in capital punishment again for purposes of law and order which would not be open to many of the intolerable anomalies and objections that arose in connection with the 1957 Act.

Many hon. Members referred to public opinion. I agree that public opinion is highly important. At one moment in his speech the Home Secretary indulged, I thought, in some special pleading over the interpretation of the figures on this subject. I should have thought that the figures of public opinion, so far as we know them, showed pretty clearly that public opinion does not want capital punishment to be finally removed from the Statute Book. There is a great deal of unease about this.

The House is faced with a major decision tonight, and we should bear in mind the state of public opinion. In my opinion, public opinion is fully justified in forcing the subject of crimes of violence on our attention in this House and demanding to know what we intend to do about it. There is deep concern today in all our constituencies about crimes of violence. My right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) was very right some months ago to remind the House that this could become an uncomfortably active subject at the next general election. Electors want to hear our views on this. They want to know our views as individuals, and also the commitments which the political parties are publicly prepared to take on the subject.

I welcome the Home Secretary's announcement today on research. I would only add that I think that research on this subject, as I think he would agree, needs great skill in its execution and a good deal of local co-operation if it is to be effective.

I have no doubt about the public concern about crimes of violence, or that we should be responsive to it. But there is one thing that public opinion cannot do; it cannot force us in this House to vote for some particular measure that we are determined to have no part in. I see no inconsistency in saying that we should be responsive to concern felt by public opinion over a particular social problem, and that at the same time were are determined not to vote for something we feel with all our being to be wrong. I think that many of us feel this way.

Speaking for myself, I would say that I do so for two main reasons. First, I am dead against a penalty which deprives anyone of an ultimate message of hope. I recognise that some murderers and some other criminals must be kept deprived of liberty for a considerable time, even a very long time, but with any penalty other than the death penalty they are left with some hope for the future. I am tremendously opposed to the one penalty which is final, and which deprives a person of any ultimate message of hope.

Second, I always bear in mind the words of a former Member of this House, Christopher Hollis, who said once that he thought the organised and institutionalised killing of anyone in the prime of life was an inexpressably horrible thing to do.

I was interested that in his speech this afternoon the Home Secretary quoted the views of Dr. Roper, who has been concerned for many years as a medical officer in the prison service. I would like to quote one more brief extract from that same contribution by Dr. Roper, where he talks about murderers as individuals. He say that he saw enough of those who were hanged …to believe that the lives of some of them would have been well worth preserving and that most of the others were not beyond redemption. Of the thirty or forty with whom I was concerned. I can only think of one who might have been considered better out of this world because of his savage disposition. Whether he was so or not we can never know now; but savage and violent men serving long sentences for murder or lesser offences change over the years,… There is something very concrete and moderate, with obviously no sentimentality, about those words, which makes them impressive to me.

It is a fact that when we are personally involved in a murder case, however distressing the circumstances of that case may be, nothing makes us more ask ourselves whether we really want any part in this organised and institutionalised killing of one of our fellow men.

There is another impressive essay in the same collection by someone who will, I hope, shortly be a Member of this House, Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler, who described the Marwood case—one of the most dingy and depressing cases imaginable. He said that his disagreement with society's verdict was "monumental". He went on: I asked myself at the time…if I agreed with capital punishment in general, would it be the most appropriate solution in this case? The answer was, and still is, a resounding 'No'. Never before had an execution seemed so utterly pointless and inappropriate. I am sorry to have detained the House a little longer than I had intended. It is a major decision that the House and Parliament must take during this Session. I regret that we have to take the decision now. Like my right hon. and hon. Friends, I would much have preferred to take it rather later in the Session. But, none the less, having, I believe rightly, expressed our views last night on the aspect of timing, we are concerned tonight with the decision itself.

I know that many of my hon. Friends understandably do not find this easy. It is understandable for a number of reasons. But I remind them of this elementary point—that all through history it has been very much easier to add to the criminal law and the criminal code than to subtract from it. I believe that the great majority of hon. Members know in their hearts that they will never again vote for capital punishment, and that it is unthinkable that it should be brought back again after this period of suspension.

My strong advice to all those who know in their hearts that it is unthinkable that we should return to capital punishment is that they should vote for the Motion tonight.

9.21 p.m.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)

I do not think that I could match the kind of contribution that has been made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). Nevertheless, I think that I can add a little to the debate, even although there is an unusually large audience because, I think, most hon. Members are under the impression that the debate finishes at 10 o'clock.

All of us are concerned with crimes of violence, whatever our arguments about the figures of capital and non-capital offences. I do not want to draw particular attention to the fact that we are not unaware of crimes of violence in Scotland, including Glasgow and my own constituency, which has, unfortunately, featured in the past year or so through the Easterhouse project with which Frankie Vaughan has been associated. I want to come back to this because I think it quite important.

The other qualification I have for making a contribution is that there is a large prison in my constituency. I disagree strongly with the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt), who claimed to speak on behalf of the prison officers there. It is true that in Barlinnie there are no long-term violent criminals but—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is difficult for an hon. Member to address the House against a background of multifarious conversations.

Mr. Brown

Nevertheless, the attitude of the prison officers of Barlinnie is similar. I admit, therefore, that I do not represent the majority opinion they hold on this subject. Having examined the problem, I have concluded that one of the reasons for fear and alarm among prison officers is the inadequate conditions in which they have to work. I am amazed that the argument put forward by the retentionists does not square up with the reluctance to spend money on worthwhile causes such as the improvement of prison buildings and the conditions of the staff.

The security of prison officers is a genuine problem. If we think in such terms, we inevitably come up against the question how we are to make prisoners more content—though perhaps that is not quite the right way of describing it. But one of the things that can be done is to give the prisoners something useful to do. Is there any hon. Member who knows anything useful which can be done without tools or equipment of some kind? The prisoners cannot play tiddleywinks all day.

There is a practical problem in terms of trying to recognise the legitimate fears of prison officers. The hon. Gentleman referred to intimidation. What is the offence to be if the murder is committed outside the prison? What happens if a prison officer is off-duty and out of uniform and a hardened criminal who has left prison has marked him out and does him in? Is it not a kind of false protection which is offered to prison officers when it is suggested that they could be included in a nice single category? The retentionists do not do the prison officers a service when they argue in that way.

The influence of drink on crime has not been emphasised. Most hon. Members would discard the abnormal murders, so we are left with what might be called the normal murders. There is no doubt that drink plays an enormous part in murders resulting from acts of violence. Does anyone suggest that we could get complete agreement between retentionists and abolitionists on a proposal to ban all advertising of drink?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member must not widen the debate. We are debating the abolition or non-abolition of capital punishment.

Mr. Brown

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you are not calling me to order because this is an unpopular line of argument. I think that drink has a bearing.

Some crimes of violence become murder merely because of the accident of where the weapon strikes. We have to recognise that there has been an increase in crimes of violence. What concerns me about it is the lack of public attention given to the nature of the individual who gets himself involved in this kind of situation. Even by our long discussion this evening we are diverting public attention from this problem, and it is the problem that most worries the public.

There are all sorts of difficulties. I suppose that it is inevitable, in view of the Calvinist background in Scotland, that some of the organisations and institutions which one would have thought would be most sympathetic and understanding about this kind of problem are amongst the most reactionary when it comes to considering its causes and cures.

The other day, I had occasion to visit a woman who was almost at her wits' end. Her husband was a regular wife assaulter and was serving a period of detention for that kind of crime. She has a son who unfortunately has been in some minor bother. He is reaching the age when he will physicaly be able to take on the father. A daughter has had to leave home and someone else in the family has been ill. The boy is now starting to make threats about what he will do to his father if his father beats up his mother again. Is there any hon. Member in the House who, if a tragic incident arose from that kind of situation, could seriously argue that having or not having a deterrent would have any great bearing on the conduct of that boy? No one can say with certitude.

What I do say is that I will not be placed in the position of condemning someone who is so provoked into this kind of action. I am not willing to take his or her life. With this kind of argument we are diverting public attention from the real problem namely, the increase in crimes of violence. There are no votes in this, and I am not suggesting that any hon. Member is imagining that there are. I am very conscious that there are no votes in it for me.

I do not accept the 80 per cent. figure, but I would accept that, broadly speaking, the majority of the public would be against those of us who are in favour of abolition. Nevertheless, I find it quite intolerable that we should be arguing about this kind of subject year after year, linking it up with all the other arguments about the so-called permissive society. This matter is in a category by itself and I hope that there will be an overwhelming vote tonight in favour of abolition.

9.31 p.m.

Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)

After the many interesting and sincere speeches we have heard I believe that this debate boils down to the question whether or not capital punishment is a deterrent. This has been considered already, but there are one or two aspects of it which have not been dealt with. A number of hon. Members from both sides of the House have spoken as though we were proposing to abolish capital punishment tonight. We are doing no such thing. The most that we can do murder, which is a very different point. Those who feel so strongly on the moral issue might ask themselves why we are retaining capital punishment for things like treason and mutiny, when we are not, if they have their way, to retain it for murder.

I thank that capital punishment is a deterrent in all cases, in treason, treachery, mutiny and these other offences. I raised this point during the Second Reading of the 1965 Act. I am not suggesting that the late Mr. Sydney Silverman was anything but absolutely sincere, but he said that the offences I have mentioned were obsolete. He said that there had only been three executions in 100 years for offences other than murder, even in wartime or just after the war for offences committed during the war.

I know that he believed it and that many other hon. Members who are abolitionists believe it. This is very remarkable, because since then I have succeeded in getting the truth. We do not need to worry about 100 years. The Home Secretary told me, in an answer to a Question in July, that there had been 17 executions since 1939 for treason and treachery—treachery being in most cases espionage during the war. None the less, it was during the 25 years before the Bill. The Ministry of Defence told me on the 11th of this month that there had been no fewer than 49 executions since 1939 for mutiny and military offences, the last being in 1953. These offences are not obsolete considering that there were only 259 executions for murder since 1939. That is 325 executions in all, of which over one-fifth were for offences other than murder.

Yet the architect of the 1965 Act honestly and sincerely believed—I do not doubt that he had been told by people who ought to have known better—what he told me then. He utterly misled the House in saying that these offences were obsolete, because they are not. Any hon. Gentleman who says that there is no question of capital punishment being a deterrent in murder must search his conscience and ask why we retain it for treason and mutiny and the similar offences, which have accounted for over 20 per cent. of all executions since 1939.

True, many of the Service executions were abroad, but they were ordered by British courts, carried out on British subjects, and were the responsibility of the British Government just as much as every execution for murder in this country. The difference is that the fierce glare of publicity was not turned on them, and abolitionists have preferred to ignore them. I make no charge of insincerity. I simply point to that remarkable fact.

I believe that execution is a deterrent. One of the first points in proof is the statement of the Lord Chief Justice, speaking in favour of abolition in the other place, that every murderer convicted of capital murder while he had been Lord Chief Justice had instantly appealed against sentence, to have his capital sentence changed to life imprisonment. That is an indication of what is thought by the criminal to be the greater punishment.

Now, a word about the 1957 Act, a much abused Statute. The chief architect of that Act, the late Lord Kilmuir, pointed out in another place that it was not entirely intended as a deterrent for murder. He said that it was designed to protect the public by checking violent criminals. Looked at in that light, it has had at least some measure of success. I should never suggest that it be brought back in its entirety, but there is good reason to think that it could be profitably improved. As Lord Denning said in the other place, the difficulties in it could be ironed out. That attempt should be made.

What alternative deterrent is available? What does a life sentence really mean? I have collected some statistics on the question. Only two murderers in prison at present have been there for more than 15 years, but there are no fewer than 29 criminals who committed no murder but only offences against property who are serving sentences of over 18 years. During the last five years, 129 murderers have been set free, having served, according to figures produced by the Home Office, an average of just under eight years and nine months each. Yet we have in prison nearly 90 offenders against property, not murderers, serving sentences of 12 to 18 years, and over 300 serving sentences of 10 to 12 years.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

When the hon. Gentleman speaks of persons who have committed only offences against property serving sentences of 18 years or more, does he include in offences against property, armed robbery or the like, such as, perhaps, the great train robbers, who did considerable harm to an individual in the course of the robbery which they effected?

Sir Richard Glyn

The offence with which the train robbers were charged was the robbery of about £2 million. The serious offence of injuring a train driver was not the offence for which they were sentenced. I put my Question to the Home Office in the form—

Mr. Niall MacDermot (Derby, North) rose

Sir Richard Glyn

No. I must clear this question up.

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) must resume his seat.

Sir Richard Glyn

I worded my question to the Home Office carefully. I have quoted the answer. If hon. Members do not like the answer, they must refer to the Home Office, not to me.

Mr. MacDermot rose

Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman does not give way, that is his business.

Sir Richard Glyn

I gave way on the major point.

It has been said that, if a murderer is released from prison and commits other offences of violence, he will be recalled. But this does not always happen. I dare say that is the intention, but the Home Office has not the means of sufficiently following up released murderers who change their names and often their identity.

Let the hon. Gentleman check the case of a man named Cawley, who was convicted of murder in 1947 and served about ten years in custody. Eighteen months after he was released he was convicted of grievous bodily harm and did nine months in prison. Within two years of being released he received seven year's imprisonment for robbery with violence, from which he was released about four years ago. In October this year he was convicted of the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. If the hon. Gentleman and the Home Office care to check this, they will find those particulars absolutely correct, and this man has never been recalled or interfered with in any way with regard to his murder sentence. There are cases where the Home Office system does not work, and they are much better known to criminals than to Members of Parliament. I came upon this example only by chance.

I believe that Lord Denning was right in saying that the 1957 Act could be improved, but I would go further. We need also a new method of execution, perhaps for murder but certainly for treason, mutiny and the other offences that will remain capital offences. The Royal Commission on Capital Punishment considered alternative means of execution and devoted a considerable section of its report to this subject. It is prophesied that in time to come more modern and more humane methods will become available. I believe that time has come. I have considerable information upon this subject, and I think this matter should be looked at.

Murder is the one criminal offence for which we have only one sentence. It used to be death; it is now a sentence of so-called life imprisonment. Because of this, there is no plea in mitigation. On conviction for any ordinary crime the defending counsel makes a plea in mitigation, evidence is called as to good character, the police give evidence as to bad character and witnesses can be called by both sides. This is not now done in murder cases, and I am convinced that it should be. This is another possibility which has been considered and tried in other countries. If this were to be done after conviction in a murder case information of the utmost importance could be recorded at the time when the facts were fresh in the memory of the court. The mental state of the accused should be examined automatically, which is not now done; his previous record and convictions should be brought forward by the police and should be subject to cross-examination, which is not now done. This would be fairer to the accused and to all concerned, and a record could be kept until such time as the Home Secretary had to consider the possibility of releasing this man on licence. All this would be a great improvement.

We have heard much about statistics. Possibly more significant than the actual statistics, which I believe are significant in themselves, is the effect of gangsterdom that we have seen in London during the last few years. There is this new system of terrorisation, practised by, for example, the Kray gang and the Richardson gang, by not so much killing by shooting as by pretending to shoot. This applies particularly to threatening police. Until last year the Home Office kept no record of this, but on 23 occasions last year police officers were threatened without being actually shot at.

As the policeman approached the gangsters a weapon would be pulled out and he would be told, "You take another step and I'll shoot". On 23 occasions no shot was fired. Perhaps the policeman thought discretion was the better part of valour, and which of us would blame him? On 12 other occasions, making 35 in all, a shot was fired, and three times the policeman was actually hit and wounded, although on none of these occasions, mercifully, was he killed. This was pure chance.

When a policeman is shot, whether he lives or dies as a result has more to do with fate or with the doctor than with the skill of the gangster who shoots. Those hon. Members who have seen the evening paper will know that this very day gangsters hijacked a police car and crew with the aid of a sawn-off shotgun. They held up an inspector and two constables, who had to stand back while the gangsters drove off in the police car. This occurred in London early this morning.

These things are becoming increasingly frequent. This is exactly what the police witnesses told the Royal Commission 17 years ago would happen if capital punishment did not continue at least for crimes of shooting. We have now reached a stage when an increasing percentage of raids on banks are conducted with the aid of firearms. I am informed that whereas five years ago Securicor knew nothing of attacks by gangs armed with firearms, in the last year over half the attacks on Securicor vehicles have been conducted by gangs one or more of whom carried firearms. Some figures have been given by the Home Secretary showing that whereas in 1964 robberies in London with the aid of firearms—dangerous fire- arms, not toys—averaged fewer than eight a month, in the last 22 months they have averaged over 20 a month. That is an increase of more than 250 per cent. These figures must be significant to any statistician whatever his inclinations with regard to deterrents or otherwise.

No sincere student of murder figures would imagine that what we do about capital murder could affect murders which have been non-capital for so many years. The Home Office document, in Table 9, on page 12, shows that in the four years before capital punishment was suspended there were 67 capital murders. In the four years since there have been 154 capital murders, an increase of 125 per cent. In the four years before capital punishment was suspended, we executed in England and Wales 10 murderers. In the four years in which we have executed nobody, capital murder is estimated to have increased by 87.

Experts vary in their views on this matter, although the Home Office document said that juries would acquit more when a man's life was at stake. But page 41 of the enormous tome that was produced yesterday tells us that the acquittal rate has been exactly the same before and after the suspension of capital punishment. If that means anything, it means that the estimate of 87 is not so far short of the mark.

Let hon. Members examine these figures in the light of their consciences. They say that the increase is not 87 but is 77, 67, 57 or 50. Let each hon. Member make up his own mind. But I believe that in the eyes of the general public it is not acceptable to any Christian community to forfeit 50 innocent lives as a price to pay for having failed to execute 10 convicted murderers for whom the Home Secretary could find no grounds for reprieve. I believe the public do not see these statistics as mere pieces of arithmetic or marks on paper. They see the dead men and dead women lying on the ground, sometimes killed in horrible circumstances. I believe the public see the matter in this light. I believe, too, that they are right to say that 50 innocent lives is too great a price for the community to pay for failing to execute the worst 10 murderers in those four years and, of course, the figures for the victims will increase.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that some hon. Members have been in the Chamber all day trying to get into the debate. Brief speeches will help.

9.50 p.m.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) began his speech by saying that he was a convinced abolitionist. I envy him the certainty of his conviction, though I appreciate that, like every other hon. Member who shares his view, it has been reached after diligent examination of the facts and by sincere endeavour.

I come to this debate with a mind which is in something of a turmoil. I am struggling with my inclinations, instincts, emotions and conscience to try to decide in which Lobby I shall vote, and I want to examine some of the issues which I believe that I have to take into account in making up my mind.

Before doing so, I want to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who gave us with great clarity and courage his evaluation of the situation confronting the House.

I will not deal with the statistics, because they have been covered by other speakers. In any case, in a matter of this nature one can put many interpretations upon them. I believe that a genuine and deep study of the statistics show that the arguments in favour of either case are marginal.

During the last few weeks, I have had many private conversations with police officers, and I have been struck by their attitude. If I may say so, I thought that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) gave a brilliant exposition of the views of the Police Federation. We are all indebted to him

Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham)


Mr. Wellbeloved

I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) was in the Chamber at the time, but if he shares my view that the police are a vital and essential part of our society, it is right and proper that we should give due regard and weight to their views.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Is it not also true that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) is paid for his services in this regard?

Hon. Members


Mr. Wellbeloved

If my memory serves me right, when the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds made his remarks, he made it clear that he was an adviser to the Police Federation. That should be said in fairness to the hon. Gentleman. However, it must be said that, on every other occasion that I have heard him speak, I have been in fundamental disagreement with him.

Mr. William Price (Rugby)

I did not hear the speech of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) and I am sorry that I missed it. However, all members of the police force are not entirely in agreement with the views which the hon. Gentleman expressed. I have a police chief who is a convinced abolitionist.

Mr. Wellbeloved

That may be true, but I can give the House only my own experience, and I have not found one police officer who takes that view, though I accept my hon. Friend's assertion that many do.

The point about policemen which concerns me is that we, as legislators, lay many responsibilities upon the police force to uphold the laws that we pass. As a Parliament, we expect every policeman to be willing and eager to step between society and the man who holds the weapon threatening society. The police genuinely and sincerely believe that the death penalty for the murder of a policeman in the execution of his duty gives them some protection.

I do not go all the way with them in that view, because the statistics do not substantiate it. None the less, the police believe it. I have to decide as an individual Member when I go into the Lobby whether I have the right to deny them this mystical belief that the death penalty gives them some protection.

Mr. Russell Kerr

What does my hon. Friend believe?

Mr. Wellbeloved

I am partly with the police. If my hon. Friend would listen instead of interrupting, he would more clearly understand and gather the threads of the argument.

Mr. Russell Kerr

I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that I am listening to his argument with great attention, and that I am sure that it is delivered with the utmost sincerity.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I thank my hon. Friend.

I now turn to prison officers. In view of the justifiable tendency of the courts to give criminals maximum sentences, we must bear in mind the problem of the long term prisoner who may come to the conclusion that he has nothing to lose, in the absence of the death penalty, in committing murder in order to escape from prison. The prison officers sincerely feel that this is a grave problem, and I believe that we must take account of their views.

Some hon. Members have referred to the tremendous increase in crimes of violence that has taken place in recent years. Many people outside this House believe that there is a clear case for the death penalty for murder committed in the furtherance of crime. I do not believe that the statistics support that belief. But I cannot, in all honesty, say that there is not a probability, however remote, that it might deter some criminals from using violence in furtherance of crime.

Whatever the outcome of tonight's vote, one thing is clear. Hon. Members who share my views and apprehension about the increase in violence and the increase in the number of criminals carrying shotguns and revolvers clearly must start a campaign in this House to see whether the law should be tightened and, indeed, needs to be tightened in this respect. I am told that it is a simple matter to purchase a shotgun, get a licence for it, saw off the end and carry it around as a very effective weapon. Something needs to be done to strengthen that side of the law.

Those who, like myself, have come here seeking to find a solution to the problem of their conscience in this crucial vote should join with me in voting tonight, because I believe that is the clear duty of every hon. Member. I do not believe that any hon. Member should abstain in this vital issue. We have a duty one way or the other to declare ourselves. Therefore, I must declare how I will vote.

I cannot accept a return to the Homicide Act, 1957. The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said that that is not the issue before us and that we can do something about it. But in the remaining months between now and July, 1970, we have not got time to bring forward a Homicide Bill which would be suitable and acceptable to the House.

We must either continue abolition or return to the 1957 Act position. As a result of this, I will be in the abolitionist lobby tonight, but I serve notice on the Home Secretary that the House will be returning to this subject again and that my vote tonight is not for permanent abolition but for an extension of abolition until another, more acceptable, method is found to deal with this matter.

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

The vote tonight will depend on the judgments and consciences of hon. Members and not on the judgment and conscience of the majority of the public, who have declared that they are for retention. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hour is late, but hon. Members who have so far taken part in the debate have been listened to in silence. I hope that the House will keep reasonably quiet now.

Mr. Gurden

I am grateful for your protection, Mr. Speaker. I regret that the vote is delayed, but that is none of my doing.

The decision tonight must be the decision of hon. Members and not that of the majority of the public. I was interested to hear the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry), who finds himself in exactly the same position as I do in that I, too, have previously always voted for abolition but now feel that I must change to the other Lobby.

Several factors have caused me to make this change. One is that I had hoped that the figures would convince me, after several years of abolition, that there was nothing of a deterrent in capital punishment. I believe, however, that there is a deterrent in it. Figures I have obtained from the Birmingham police show that while, in 1963, there were 46 attacks on the police, in 1968 there were 80 such attacks. One-quarter of those attacks were of wounding, and any one of them could have resulted in the death of a policeman.

We always take into account the feelings of the community. I regret that very little account is taken of the wishes of the police, prison officers, post-mistresses and others who are seriously at risk in this matter. Derogatory remarks have been made by hon. Members on both sides about public opinion. I was sorry to hear them, because the public are in a position to judge this issue, as distinct from many other issues, just as well as hon. Members.

This is a simple issue which has been well set out on television, books and newspapers. The public understand the pros and cons and it is time that their opinion was observed. I trust that we will observe it in making our decision to night.

A short time ago I sought leave to introduce under the Ten-Minute Rule a referendum Bill, but I did not succeed. I believe that if on this issue, we had had a referendum we should have been clearly told what the public wished us to do this evening. The public would have instructed us to retain some form of capital punishment, and we would not now have the task of deciding the issue.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that during the last 15 years public opinion has swung between two-thirds being against capital punishment and two-thirds being in favour of it? Does that not make nonsense of what he says?

Mr. Gurden

I have not seen figures that would justify the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, but I know that during the 15 years that I have been a member of Parliament public opinion has been consistently in favour of the retention of capital punishment.

Time and again this evening we have been asked by the abolitionists to consider the effect upon the criminal. What is less quoted is the effect upon victims. I have in mind the very serious case of Simcox, the Smethwick murderer. He murdered his second wife in 1948, and was released from gaol in 1958. He then murdered his sister-in-law. His life was again spared, as the abolitionists would wish, but after his further release from prison he took another life, and he is back in gaol again. If hon Members' consciences are so disturbed by the thought of the loss of life of the criminal, I suggest that their consciences should be equally disturbed by the loss of the victim's life.

Mr. Paget

In the case to which the hon. Member refers, was there any question that he was found by a jury to be mad by any definition?

Mr. Gurden

No, and these people are released because they are found not to be mentally deficient, and the result of these murderers being released from gaol involves the risk of further deaths. I have quoted one example, and in future other murderers will probably be released from gaol and may commit other murders.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

Would not my hon. Friend agree that that man was convicted of murder both times when capital punishment was in existence, thereby showing that he was not deterred by the death penalty at that time? Unless my hon. Friend says that the prerogative of mercy should not have been exercised, how does he think that helps his case?

Mr. Gurden

That is quite a fair point. The answer has been given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), who said today, and I agree, that we are not committed to go back to exactly the previous Act. It is up to this House to produce another Act of Parliament which will cover these points and see to it that murderers are not released from gaol. It is not impossible for a law to be made to prevent the release of murderers.

For the reason that I believe the public, as represented by us, should have their say in this matter, I shall vote against the Motion.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Again I remind the House of the need for short speeches. Eight hon. Members have sat here all day trying to get into the debate.

10.11 p.m.

Mr. Niall MacDermot (Derby, North)

The choice before the House tonight is whether we should abolish capital punishment for murder, or go back to the earlier Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members say, "No", and the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) began his speech by trying to dismiss the 1957 Act as something which no one could defend and which we would not return to, but, in fact, that will happen if the Motion is rejected. The alternative is something completely unknown which has never been explained to this House.

I thought this argument came very curiously from the mouth of the right hon. and learned Gentleman when yesterday he was objecting to our voting on this matter tonight. If his argument is that this Motion ought to be defeated so that we should be able to use the rest of this Parliamentary Session to find a better solution than the 1957 Act, surely it ill became him last night to suggest that this debate is premature. The choice is between going back to the old law and total abolition.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman sought to knock down the 1957 Act by saying that that Act was confused in the thinking that lay behind it and in trying to do two irreconcilable things. The first was to make a selection of categories of murder in which it was believed that the death penalty had an exceptional deterrent effect. The second reason underlying it, as he said, was that this House meant to give effect to the particular class or murder which excited the greatest abhorrence. It was surely only the first reason which underlay the Butler Act, and it was declared to be so at the time.

The murders which tend to excite the greatest abhorrence—the violent sexual assaults and cold-blooded premeditated murders by poisoning—were not capital murders under that Act. The six categories were chosen exclusively because of the supposed deterrent effect, but when it was tried in practice it was found to make a nonsense of the law and to produce anomalies which were wholly indefensible. Many members of the judiciary itself protested at the law they were expected to enforce. Surely all the arguments we have heard tonight in speeches in favour of retention have been exactly the same arguments as underlay the Butler Act. Which of those categories is it that it is suggested should be rejected if we are to retain capital punishment, as is argued tonight, for its deterrent effect?

The first of those categories was the one of which we have heard the most tonight, which is murder in pursuance of theft. I gather from the speeches of the retentionists tonight that they would wish to retain capital punishment in pursuance of theft, because this is aimed at the professional criminal, and it is argued that unless capital punishment is retained, more and more professional criminals will go out on their housebreaking and burglarious expeditions carrying firearms to be able to shoot their way out if they think that it would be to their advantage to do so.

The second category was directed to the same purpose; namely, murder by the use of firearms. The third was murder in resisting lawful arrest. The fourth was murder of a policeman in the course of his duty.

Is it suggested that any of those categories of murder were wrongly included in that Act, and that if capital punishment is to be retained for deterrent purposes, those categories ought not to appear in such a Statute?

Then there was another category of murder under that Act; namely, recidivist murder—the kind of case quoted by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden). Under that Act, the offender would not have been liable to have been hanged for the first murder. He would have been liable to have been hanged for the second murder. It is not possible to tell who is going to be the recidivist murderer in advance. This was perhaps the second class of case where the supposed deterrent argument was rather illogical, and perhaps the retentionists who want to retain capital punishment for deterrent purposes would abolish that category of murder.

We still would be left with a wholly illogical and indefensible Act.

Mr. Gurden

If capital punishment were retained, it would at least prevent the man whose case I quoted from committing a third murder.

Mr. MacDermot

If the hon. Gentleman is realistic, he will realise that if a man has committed two murders no Home Secretary is likely to release him after the second murder.

What the retentionists have not shown is how they would propose to revise the Butler Act to do better the job which the Butler Act was supposed to do.

Another aspect of the same argument put forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and by other speakers was what was called the alleged premium on murder which it is suggested total abolition produces. This is again aimed at the same kind of case—the professional criminal who is deciding whether to carry arms. This is a catch-phrase which bears little relation to reality and to the facts.

There is no premium on murder. A man who decides, when he is going on a housebreaking or a burglarious expedition, to take firearms with him knows that he is running at once a risk of a very much greater sentence—

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson


Mr. MacDermot

—if he is caught, and is caught with firearms on him. The hon. Gentleman says "No", but I see every lawyer in the House nodding assent with me. Every lawyer knows that the mere possession of firearms will at once probably double the sentence.

Mr. Wilson

I said "No" because if the criminal shoots the man who is arresting him, he is not arrested and has no sentence.

Mr. MacDermot

The hon. Gentleman has shown that he is incapable of following an argument. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I shall come to the point the hon. Gentleman has made, but he is not following my argument.

It is not right to say that there is a premium on murder. By the mere fact of carrying a firearm a criminal at once runs a very much greater risk.

Mr. Paget

His sentence would be much more than doubled.

Mr. MacDermot

If the criminal were to use, or to attempt to use, the firearm, as my learned Friend says his sentence would be much more than doubled; so he is running a very great risk indeed.

Other hon. Members speak from their own experience, but it is not within my experience that the effect of abolition has been that the old lag type has taken to using firearms where he would not have done so before. This was the unspoken suggestion underlying the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument. It is almost entirely the young criminals who use the firearms. I do not know why they do it and I do not think that any other hon. Member does. It is terrifying that they do it, as is the extent in which they do it, and it is not a new thing. It was so when we had both full capital punishment and limited capital punishment.

It is true that all classes of crime are increasing—

Sir Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)

is the hon. and learned Gentleman going to tell the House that recent cases of organised robberies at banks, with the use of sawn-off shot guns, have been carried out by young amateur criminals? Surely he realises that there have been a great increase in organised criminals using this kind of firearm.

Mr. MacDermot

I did not say "young amateur criminals". I said "young professional criminals". The right hon. and learned Gentleman misheard me. I think he will agree that the type of offences of which he spoke is committed almost entirely by young criminals and not by the "old lag" type of professional criminal.

What has not been proved, and it is the crux of the argument, is that the increase in the number of such crimes is due to the removal or suspension of capital punishment.

The only argument used to suggest it was that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone, who quoted a figure from the criminal statistics to show that the number of murders committed by professional criminals has increased. That is true; but what has also increased is the number of crimes of violence, theft, larceny and burglary pursuant to which those murders occurred. The number of armed robberies has also increased. What has to be shown is that in the cases in which that kind of crime has been committed the number of murders consequent upon that crime has increased following the removal of capital punishment. I do not believe the figures show that.

I think it has been widely agreed by both sides that all attempts to prove the case by statistics have failed. Neither side can prove its case by statistics. The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) sought to prove his case by statistics, but most hon. Members who heard his speech thought that his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) exposed the fallacies of his attempted argument.

I think most of us have reached our conclusions not primarily through statistics, though we have looked carefully at the statistics to see whether there is anything in them which compels us to change our view. Any dispassionate examination of the statistics now available shows that nothing has happened since 1965 to prove that the decision of the House on that occasion was wrong, and I hope that the House will endorse it again tonight.

10.24 p.m.

Mr. Tim Fortescue (Liverpool, Garston)

We are all to some extent prisoners of our own past. Our upbringing and experience have formed our views, but most hon. Members, like most of the electorate, have, happily, had no direct involvement in murder or capital punishment and are thus able to bring their own uninvolved emotions to the consideration of the problem tonight.

Some of us, however, in war, or in our professions before coming to the House, or apart from the House, have been sentenced to death or have played a direct part in pronouncing or implementing a death sentence. Some of us have been involved both as prospective victim and, on a separate occasion, as executioner, and such experiences have inevitably coloured our views.

I was at one time clerk to the executive council of a British Colony. It was the council which heard appeals against the death sentence, and at such times my job was to sit quietly in the corner and, when the decision had been reached, to convey it to the governor of the goal.

On one occasion, the council considered two similar cases, two men with similar names appealing against their death sentences. The council discussed these two cases for a long time, and it discussed them not separately but intermingled—one case and then the other—which, I suppose, was wrong. The decision was taken to reprieve one man and not to allow the appeal of the other.

When the council meeting was over, I telephoned to the governor of the gaol, as was my job, to tell him the result of the council's deliberations, and I had to confirm that telephone call the next day. I made that telephone call. That night, I woke up in a sweat because I had convinced myself somehow, subconsciously, that I had telephoned the wrong man's name. I telephoned then to the governor of the gaol again and asked him whether he had told them. By the mercy of God, he had not. I told him not to. The next morning, I went to see the governor—a fearsome character of whom I was terrified—and I said that I was not certain what the council bad decided. Luckily for me, he was certain. He confirmed that what I had done was right. I had telephoned the right name. I had not made a mistake.

That was, I suppose, an inexcusable fault in a young civil servant in a faraway place, but it has coloured my views on capital punishment, and it colours them still. For me, the deliberate taking of life by the State is in any circumstances barbaric and uncivilised. The arguments against it have been well deployed today, and I need not repeat them. But murder and violence also are barbaric and uncivilised, and it is difficult to argue that a penalty which would deter from murder would not be preferable in the interests of society to the murder itself. No other argument in favour of capital punishment is, in my view, tenable.

Can it then be, or will it ever be, established that the existence of capital punishment is a deterrent to murder? The Home Office figures establish no such thing in my mind, and there are as many interpretations of them as there are views on the matter as a whole. I must accept that not only is a three-year statistical record of murder since provisional abolition quite inadequate to enable a considered judgment to be made on the deterrent effect of the death penalty, but four years' figures will be equally inadequate. We shall never know whether a particular murder would not have been committed if capital punishment had been in effect at the time, just as we shall never know whether, if capital punishment were to be restored, no murder would then be left uncommitted which would otherwise have been committed.

Here I see a serious flaw in the arguments of those who find in the Home Office figures ground for restoration of the death penalty. Hearing them speak, one would imagine that nothing had happened since 1965 except abolition of the death penalty. Let me remind them. In 1964, the strength of the police in England and Wales was 90 per cent. of its establishment, whereas this year it is only just over 80 per cent. Under the new unit beat system, there are far fewer policemen, the policemen who are acknowledged to be the best deterrent to crime, patrolling the beat than there used to be. Let me remind them of the enormously increased penetration of television into our homes, so that adults and young people now, in nearly every home in the country, can at the turn of a switch tune in to the continuous demonstrations of violence authorised by those who control the media.

Let me remind, them also, perhaps less seriously but still significantly, of the course of feminine fashions since 1964. You and I, Mr. Deputy Speaker, can look at a pretty girl in a mini-skirt with amused appreciation, or at a see-through blouse with no more than a third glance. But who is to say that these deliberately provocative fashions have not done more to drive less balanced men to sexually-motivated murders than the absence of capital punishment? All the time the population has been increasing, the disciplines of society are being broken down and permissiveness is the watchword, and I find it impossible, in the light of all these other influences, to make the 1965 Act responsible for the increase in violent crime.

Finally, convinced abolitionist as I am, I am still in the strongest sympathy with the Amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson), but which was not called by Mr. Speaker. This Amendment proposes a delay in taking this decision till 1973. I can see nothing but advantage for all shades of opinion in postponing the decision until statistics for more years are available and until the studies of which the Home Secretary told us earlier have been made.

I have no doubt at all that such statistics as we shall have will be indecisive on the deterrent issue and thus will strengthen my case and the abolitionists' case. If any abolitionist disagrees with me, and believes that they will tend to establish that capital punishment is a deterrent, then that abolitionist should examine very carefully his own case for abolition.

For retentionists, who are in a minority in the House, postponement of the decision would mean the possibility that their cause would be strengthened instead of certainty that it would be defeated. For the House of Commons, delay could and should mean that we would not be faced with this evening's false alternative when we have to choose between abolition and the universally condemned 1957 Act, and for the electorate postponement would be evidence that their representatives accept the need to consider the voice of the people. There would be no hanging if this Amendment had been carried, but there would be no rough-shod riding either.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)

Is it not a fact that if the Government lose the vote tonight we do not go back to the Homicide Act, but merely continue the trial period to the date in Section 4, when we can reconsider the matter? Hence we get another seven months at least?

Mr. Fortescue

That is not my impression, but my hon. Friend may be right.

Given the only choice open to me tonight, I shall vote for abolition. But I believe that the House would have been much wiser to have postponed this vote until more evidence was available.

10.33 p.m.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

I do not believe that what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Fortescue), after a most moving speech in favour of abolition, has just said is correct. I do not think that a further year or two years' delay would have made any difference at all to the general argument, because he based that view partly on the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary of the further studies in depth which are to take place into the causes of violence, and so on, and these are clearly very long-term studies.

However, I was delighted to hear the last words of the hon. Gentleman, because I thought they confirmed what he had said in his extremely moving and convincing speech, and I think it was the more moving and convincing, as our speeches usually are if they contain, as his did, some personal experience of the subject in question.

I have known personally only a very few murderers, and only one of them really well, but I am convinced that if that one murderer had been executed it would have been a loss to the community. He is now reformed, is married, has a family of several children, is working happily and is a redeemed character. I refuse to believe, as the implication seems to be in some quarters, that any character is unredeemable; though I accept that, with his proper concern for the protection of the public, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) would never say that.

I listened with great interest and respect to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech and thought that he was perfectly sincere when he said that there would be a completely free vote on the benches opposite. However, I also thought that when, with all the prestige of his shadow office and speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, he deployed at length and with great skill the retentionist case, he was putting the equivalent of a little pressure on his hon. Friends.

Mr. Hogg

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would think that when the other case was presented by the Home Secretary, that, too, was improper pressure.

Mr. Driberg

I did not refer to "improper pressure". It is known that there will be a completely free vote on this side of the House. [Interruption.] I wish that hon. Gentlemen opposite would not get so excited. I was not being provocative.

Mr. Sandys rose

Mr. Driberg

I will not give way. I promised to speak for only a few minutes. Mr. Speaker is always reminding us that interventions prolong speeches, and I wish to be brief.

The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone spoke of emotion and reason and said that when a criminal was setting out, perhaps in a gang, on a criminal exploit he was, at that moment, rational. I do not necessarily agree. There may be instances of cold-blooded rationality, but, in the majority of cases, when a criminal sets out to rob he is suffering from a kind of euphoria, perhaps tempered by anxiety—a sort of exaggerated optimistic euphoria—and this is an emotional experience and not a purely rational one.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman passed too lightly over what seems to me the major argument against retention, which is the possibility of error. He referred to Evans and other cases in passing when, with his legal and—if I may say so—his Christian background, I should have thought that he would have subscribed to the view that it is better that one guilty man should go free than that an innocent man should be punished irrevocably by hanging, as may have happened in the cases of Evans and several others who have been mentioned. I am almost sure, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman must be, that the Evans case was a misjudgment. This seems to be the final and crucial argument against capital punishment; that is, that it is so irrevocable.

I thought that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary today was the finest that I have heard even him make. I was glad to hear what he said about the research that is to be done, about the commissions that are to be set up to investigate the causes of violence and so on. I hope very much that in that exercise will be involved the extremely able and highly qualified staff of Grendon Underwood Prison, the psychiatric prison.

I am grateful to have had these few minutes to condense what I would otherwise like to have said. I shall certainly vote for the Motion.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

I think that the Secretary of State for Scotland will probably not agree with much of what I shall say, but that he will agree with me that today has been one of the finest days of debate in this House for many years. He and I have heard the greater part of the debate and there is no doubt that it has been a day of real debate on a real issue, not without emotion, and none the worse for that—for intellectual argument without feeling is apt to be rather sterile—concentrating on the very considerable issue before us. Shortly, the House will have to come to what one of my right hon. Friends rightly called a great decision.

I do not, however, share the view of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) that this is necessarily the last decision which the House will have to make on this issue. I do not believe that it is unthinkable, as he put it, that this matter will have to be, unhappily, debated again. There have been countries in the world—New Zealand has been mentioned—where capital punishment has been abolished, restored and then abolished again.

It is the experience of this country that if a Government, equipped with a temporary majority, take a decision contrary —and this, I think is accepted—to the prevalent public feeling, it is at least possible that on another occasion, in another Parliament, that decision may fall to be reversed. But that does not detract from the importance of what we shall be doing tonight.

I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Fortescue), but with comparatively few other hon. Members, one qualification for taking part in the debate. It fell to me at one time to have the responsibility of imposing capital sentences and on occasion of witnessing their execution. At least I can claim that, in advocating the retention of capital punishment, I am not urging that other people should do things in which I have been unwilling to take part myself, and, in the phrase used by the Home Secretary, these are experiences that bring one up against it.

I would claim to be as humane and sensitive in these matters as any hon. Member, but I can claim, too, from direct experience, that the handling of this matter, although obviously trying and deeply worrying, is not an impossible burden for any human being. I can say that for this reason in particular. The people upon whom it fell to me to impose this sentence were, generally speaking, brave men doing what they thought right in the interests of their own country, far finer types of men, on the whole, than fall to be dealt with in time of peace in our criminal courts.

If the House will allow me one digression, I shall never forget one of those men, a sergeant major in the parachutists from Northern Italy, who, when the inevitable sentence was passed upon him, took it with a dignified bow and, when he faced the firing squad, declined the usual eye bandage and died with the words "Viva L'Italia Fascista" on his lips.

The House may ask why it was necessary for men of this calibre and quality to die, and the answer is immensely relevant to the issue which the House has before it tonight. They had to die because, under international law and the accepted laws of warfare, those who, in civilian clothes, come to spy or to sabotage in the territories of opposing armies have to be dealt with in this way lest less brave men be tempted to do the same and do irreparable damage to the army upon whom they intrude. It has, therefore, long been accepted in international law and the law of warfare that those who bravely take this risk upon them risk this kind of penalty.

The basic question in the issue before the House tonight is whether a special penalty on the taking of life protects life. Does it, again to use the Home Secretary's phrase, make murder a crime apart? I concede at once that in some classes of murder it does not do so. I would not seek to argue that it does so in the case of decadents or degenerates, or in certain of those types of unusual, abnormal murders, as the Home Secretary called them. But I believe, and here I take up what was said in a very good leading article in The Times yesterday, that in the context of the professional criminal there is a real protection given to innocent people by the death penalty where there is a killing in cases of that type.

It has been argued that this cannot be, because people, when they kill, kill in the heat of passion and excitement and do not reflect precisely upon the provisions of the criminal law. But the crucial decision is not taken then. It is taken when those people equip themselves to go out on the criminal expedition on which they are setting forth, and they decide this matter not in the heat of excitement, but when they decide whether to take a gun or some other weapon with them.

I remember that some years ago, when I was a junior in practice at the Bar, it was very unusual for the professional criminal to carry a gun. Indeed, professional criminals had a horror of it. They had a feeling that if they carried a gun, they might use it and if they used it, they might kill and if they killed, they would face a totally different penalty from that which would be imposed upon them for the offence of robbery or burglary, or whatever it was on which they were setting forth.

Now it is our experience, and the Home Secretary does not dispute it, that many of these professional criminals carry a gun or other weapon. The reason is plain. If they use it and kill, they will suffer additional penalty, of course; but it will be of the same kind and quality as that which will be imposed upon them for the robbery or burglary.

And it will not necessarily be proportionately that much greater. Against that they can weigh the possibilities to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) referred, that they may be able to shoot their way out, they may be able to get clean away, or they may be able to destroy a vital witness against them. The whole balance of considerations has been shifted and it is, above all, in those cases, the case of the professional criminal setting out to rob, that the deterrent value of capital punishment is at its greatest.

I believe that in this sphere, an increasingly dangerous one in these days, when a considerable number of lives are at risk, we ought not to abolish capital punishment. It is not only lives that are at stake. These people take the risk of killing. Although they do not necessarily wish or intend to kill, they are prepared to risk it. If they miss, if the contingency they fear does not arise, and no one seeks to apprehend them, and they do not fire, their enterprise does not figure in the Home Secretary's murder statistics.

But the violence that they indulge in, the violence in which they have been willing to risk killing, is part of the major criminal problem of our times. It is, therefore, not only the statistical figures for murders actually committed that should sway our decision tonight; it is our understanding of what will be the effect of leaving those who are prepared to risk killing to go forth on criminal enterprises in the knowledge, at the time that they make the decision to go forth in that way, that even if they kill they will not be exposed to any special penalty or to one very much in excess of what they would suffer in any event if they were apprehended.

Given that situation, and we are all deeply concerned about the rise in crime, could there be a worse moment to make this change permanent? Could there be a moment more calculated to cause not only the deaths of one or two innocent people, but injury, fear and alarm to a considerable larger number? The Home Secretary said this afternoon that work in the Home Office tended to turn one into an abolitionist. What he has said is manifestly true. But the House may be prepared to put even more weight on the testimony of the police, so eloquently conveyed to this House through my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths).

After all, the police, with due respect to the Home Office, are a great deal closer, personally, at greater personal risk, than even the most distinguished figures in the Home Office. If hon. Members opposite are to argue that capital punishment is not a special and peculiarly effective deterrent they must argue that the alternative is as good. So, what is the alternative? Is it true imprisonment for life or not? The Home Secretary said that 12 years was something in the nature of a maximum, equivalent to an 18-year nominal definitive sentence.

Mr. Callaghan

I said nothing of the sort.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am sorry if the right hon. Gentleman did not say that. I can only say that he conveyed that impression. But I accept at once what he says. I must ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to tell us whether there is contemplated, in appropriate cases, detention truly for life, for dangerous murderers.

It is essential to know what the alternative which we are told is as good a deterrent really is. It is arguable, if it is truly for life, that this is as dreadful a sentence as death, but I think that the weakness of it as a deterrent is that to unimaginative people it does not immediately seem so. Its weakness too is that they will always hope that a reforming Home Secretary, a parole board, or even escape, may result in their not remaining within prison walls for life. And to remain within prison walls for life poses appalling problems on those compelled to look after these people, problems which account for the fact that the other category of people deeply interested in this matter, the prison warders, share my view that the retention of capital punishment is right.

I think that I am right to press the Secretary of State for Scotland to tell us whether, in cases like that to which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) referred, it is intended to keep the convicted murderer in prison truly for life. On that case I remind the right hon. Gentleman that no politician, but last week a judge of the High Court, Mr. Justice Baker, said of this very man that it would be severe moral responsibility for anyone ever to free a man twice reprieved from the death sentence.

Throughout the debate an attempt has been made, particularly with his habitual ability, by the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) to pose a false dilemma. That dilemma was that we had to choose between the permanent abolition of capital punishment, or a precise return to the provisions of the Homicide Act, 1957. The House knows that this is not a sound or a valid point. There is one advantage to be derived from the action of the Home Secretary, which we criticised yesterday, in bringing this Motion forward at this stage, because if the House decides tonight in favour of the retention of capital punishment this will give at any rate a number of months, as I read the Act, during which any necessary amendments to the 1957 Act can be legislated through and put into effect before capital punishment is resumed.

If that is not long enough—and I do not underrate the difficulties of the task —the Government could include in that legislation a provision suspending capital punishment for a further year. It is, therefore, a false dilemma to say that we must either once and for all abolish capital punishment, or return docilely to legislation which no one regards as perfect.

Perhaps because I was a member of the Government which passed it, I am not as critical of that Act as a good many hon. Members are. If one added the category of poisoner, and made one or two adjustments, we could possibly get a workable system. But that is not the issue tonight. The issue tonight is the straight one of principle. Do we say that for no offence of murder, for no murder, however dangerous, whatever its consequences, shall capital punishment be imposed in this country in future? It is only when we have decided that, and if we have decided it as I should like to see it decided, that we come to the practical administrative details, to the point so well made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) about possible improvements, to the change in the method of execution which another of my hon. Friends so wisely and sensibly advocated.

I regard the actual procedure of hanging as barbarous, obsolete, and unnecessarily cruel, and I know that modern science could evolve very much better methods of imposing the death penalty if the House decides to impose it.

But that is not for tonight. Tonight, we are on the great principle on which hon. Members feel strongly, and on which the public, too, feel strongly. I think that it is wrong—

Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham) rose

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am sorry, but I lost several minutes of my time, and I do not wish to crowd the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mrs. Anne Kerr rose

Hon. Members

Sit down.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irvine)

The right hon. Gentleman is not giving way.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I hope that the hon. Lady will understand that I was called several minutes after I had hoped and expected to be called, and that I do not wish unduly to trench on the time of the Secretary of State for Scotland. The House knows that I am generally very free in giving way, but I have a little still to say.

Public opinion on this matter may be wrong or may be right. I accept what my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) said last night, that ultimately the responsibility falls on us, but we should weigh and consider the opinion of the public and the genuine fears of those people who think that their lives will be less safe, less secure, without capital punishment than with it.

It is, therefore, a great pity that we should rush to a decision tonight, seven and a half months before the Act of 1965 makes it necessary. It would be wrong to give the slightly arrogant impression that we are so sure we know better than our fellow countrymen that we propose to deny them the opportunity of public debate and of perhaps even casting a vote during a General Election with this issue in mind.

Mrs. Anne Kerr rose

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

We are told that this is a matter of conscience—

Mrs. Anne Kerr rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Is the hon. Lady addressing the Chair?

Mrs. Anne Kerr

It is a question of principle.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I apologise to the Secretary of State if I take a moment of his time, but it is perhaps more his hon. Friend who has taken it.

We are told that this is a matter of conscience. I rather regretted that phrase, because it might be thought outside, though not in the House, to imply that all serious matters of this House are not matters of our individual conscience. But this debate is about human life, that curious force which neither theologians nor scientists can wholly identify or dis- sect. We are all agreed that it is our duty to protect human life. The question is: which human lives? Hon. Members opposite, and on this side, too, have, to their credit, deep concern for the unhappy man in the condemned cell passing his last night on earth, and they think of him. I think, too, of the old lady in the sub-post office, the policeman on his lonely beat, the night watchman in the warehouse, the girl on the dark road, and our awful dilemma is that, on all the evidence, we cannot equally protect all these lives.

The House must face the dilemma which George Bernard Shaw posed to the doctors in that fine play "The Doctor's Dilemma"—which lives shall be saved? This is a matter of conscience, but I should not feel clear in mine if my vote tonight did not go in favour of the innocent.

11.4 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)

The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) shares with me the privilege, not allowed to all of us here, that since the war we have both been present at every single debate on this subject. He was right when he said that the debate today was a credit to the House, but he must equally agree with me that at times there was not that sense of urgency and drama that there has been on other occasions.

I am reminded of the activities, work and dedication of Sydney Silverman and Leslie Hale and speeches by Beverley Baxter and former colleagues which were charged with emotion, but also with conviction, about this unique penalty.

The right hon. Gentleman posed the question whether murder was a unique crime. It is the taking of life that makes it unique and lifts it above other crimes. But, equally, the lives of other people charged with murder which have in the past depended on the outcome of legal proceedings that have stemmed from a Statute passed by this House have charged it even further with drama.

I remember the kind of thing that took place in this House when there was capital punishment over a wide sphere. I remember Sydney Silverman pursuing almost to the last minute, and using every device of procedure available in this House, to save the life of one man and how we all felt about that. [HON. MEMBERS "Bentley."] Bentley. Indeed, we changed the law in 1957 to try to ensure that that should not happen again.

I think that, the drama having been taken out of this subject with the passing of the last four years, we have tended to forget some of the dilemmas that were posed to us and some of the things that happened when we had a former Home Secretary standing on the back benches casting doubt upon a decision that he took that led to the death of a man.

This is a serious subject. This is why, after many debates, we reached the conclusion in 1965 that we really must make up our minds to stop the see-saw, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said last night and said again today. But, as I visualise some of the speeches that were made, there is an indication that we should get back on to the see-saw and that we should not get that measure of certainty that is only fair to those administering justice.

I am disappointed at some of the arguments that have been put forward about what we are deciding tonight. There is no doubt about what we are deciding. The will of Parliament, expressed in the Statute that left the Lords and the Commons in 1965, was that abolition would fall unless there was carried through this House a Motion to the contrary. In that event we would go back to the 1957 Act. There was never any doubt about that. It was not questioned at the time.

The suggestion now is that somehow or another we can get away from that on the basis of a decision tonight—

Mr. Sandys rose

Mr. Ross

This House decided that in 1965—

Mr. Sandys rose

Mr. Ross

The right hon. Gentleman —[Interruption.] Let me finish. That was a decision taken in the last Parliament, but there was a decision taken in this Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman sought leave to introduce a Bill on 24th June this year. Its purpose was to ensure that our proceedings tonight would not take place and that changes to the 1957 Act would be effected by a Bill, but this House on a free vote refused him that permission.

Mr. Sandys

The right hon. Gentleman said that we have no alternative but to go back to the 1957 Act. That is what the 1965 Act says, but this Parliament is not bound by what a previous Parliament did. If there is agreement, as there probably would be on both sides, why cannot we pass a short, one-Clause Act extending, if we wish, the suspension for another year, to give time to revise and amend the 1957 Act, as we would like to do?

Mr. Ross

I am just coming to that very point.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have taken this point of view cannot have it both ways, telling us tonight that we have time to introduce a Bill. Anyone who thinks a Bill on this subject will be simple has no knowledge of the past debates on this subject. The very same hon. Members were telling us that we should not do this now, but should go right up to the last minute, when we would have no time even to introduce a non-controversial Bill.

Mr. Sandys

There is time.

Mr. Ross

We have not time.

I heard the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and others all broaching this same subject, and what they thought should be the right categories of murder to attract the death penalty. Many of them prefaced their remarks by the advice given by the Royal Commission after four years' study, that it was impossible satisfactorily to devise such categories. What makes us think that in such a short time as is now available before the end of the Session we can do this?

Mr. Sandys

The Government can extend.

Mr. Ross

This is not open to us tonight. The right hon. Gentleman must face this. I think that hon. Members have been deceiving themselves as to how they can vote on the matter tonight. The right hon. Gentleman changed his ground, because he said that what we are deciding tonight is a matter of principle. Deferment is not a matter of principle. We are really concerned with the matter of principle—whether or not we shall get off the see-saw.

There can be no guarantee that another Parliament would not take another point of view. In 1966, the right hon. Gentleman sought leave to introduce a Bill to bring back capital punishment for the murder of prison warders and police. He tried again this year, and I have not the slightest doubt that those with dedication to a cause will use this Parliament to try to effect what they consider to be a desirable change. But I assure right hon. and hon. Gentlemen that what will be decided tonight really is that question of principle, and if we do not think so we are deceiving ourselves.

The suggestion was made time and time again during the debate that hanging is barbarous. I agree that it is. So is the taking of life; whether by murder or judicial murder, it is barbarous. But I sometimes wonder whether people really mean what they say about the question of a deterrent. I would have thought that the more barbarous a thing was the greater a deterrent it would be. I sometimes wonder what would be people's reaction if, instead of the act of judicial killing taking place behind high walls, they were taken inside and there saw the whole effect—as could easily be done now by television—[Interruption.] Let us face the barbarity of it.

I have no doubt, and it has been admitted by every hon. Member who has said that he would support the Motion, that in that support we are moving against public opinion, but there is some doubt as to what the proportions are and what that public opinion really constitutes. I think that in this case the opinion of the public is an understandable and instinctive reaction or revulsion against murder, and against particular types of murder. but the more we talk to people who have this reaction—as I have found in discussions in which I have been involved, and on television, and elsewhere—the more one finds that people immediately begin to categorise. In other words, they get down to the same problem which the Royal Commission found to be not entirely soluble satisfactorily.

The whole thing then comes back to the question whether or not capital punishment is a deterrent. This was the main plank in the argument put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). With all due respect, I do not think that he proved his case. He sincerely believes in his case, and does so as sincerely as my right hon. and hon. Friends believe that the death penalty is not a deterrent.

We have been almost saturated with statistics during the past few weeks and days. Sometimes I have got the impression that these are the only statistics we have ever had. But we have far more statistics that those of three years, plus crude figures for England and Wales and Scotland of murders made known. We have all the statistics that were available to the Royal Commission, which worked on them for four years. We have all the experience of other countries in Europe, and elsewhere. But no one today or in any of the other discussions I have heard has been able to disprove what the Royal Commission itself said after four years of study: The general conclusion that we have reached is that there is no clear evidence in any of the figures we have examined that the abolition of capital punishment has led to an increase in the homicide rate or that its re-introduction has led to a fall. Indeed, in respect of many of the figures for crime and for murder that have been produced today, capital punishment itself has been quite irrelevant.

It is only fair to my Scottish colleagues that I should say a word or two about the Scottish figures—

Mr. Hooson

Would not the Secretary of State also agree that another important suggestion has been mentioned? In 1810, there were 147 offences for which the death penalty could be levied. They were abolished over the years, we are left with only these two or three, and this country has never sought to reimpose capital punishment for the other offences, however unique a deterrent it has been described.

Mr. Ross

There is no doubt that we have gradually moved towards a much more civilised approach to the whole question of the application of the death penalty.

Attention has been drawn to the fact that the figures for Scotland, unlike those for England and Wales, have shown a higher incidence of murders made known to the police. I admit this right away, but I have not been able to find in any arguments produced today that this would be in any measure affected by restoration of the death penalty. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) should remember that the increase of violence did not start in the year 1965. It did not even start in the year 1957. While capital punishment was still in operation, not only was there an increase in violence but an increase in murders made known to the police. All the analyses that have been carefully done bring out more and more the fact that many of these murders could not and would not have been influenced by the presence of capital punishment.

The hon. Member mentioned one of the factors which we have to cope with in Scotland, the pattern of violence among the young. This is in evidence also in England and Wales. It always surprises me, when we talk of statistics going back to 1957, that people forget where young men of 18 to 20 were before 1957. Have they forgotten the existence of National Service? If we want correct and relevant statistics we might need to include crimes and offences committed elsewhere. We get a distortion by relating some years with others in this respect.

The form which violence has taken in Scotland is not entirely unique in our history. There have been brawls outside public houses, outside dance halls, or inside dance halls or at football matches. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig), who spoke about Celtic and Rangers football matches. There has been trouble at Celtic and Rangers football matches ever since I was a boy. I wondered exactly to what conclusion he was coming to about Saturday sport in Scotland. This is one of the serious aspects of violence in Scotland, but I do not think that restoration of capital punishment would improve the position.

I think the hon. Member for Cathcart would agree that most of these killings are not killing which would attract the death penalty, and most of them did not attract it under the 1957 Act. So far as I could see he wanted to take us back to before 1957; he wanted not only restoration of hanging but more hangings. If some hon. Members opposite, and some of my hon. Friends, were frank, they would recognise this as the logic of their argument.

In terms of violence, be it in England, in Wales, or in Scotland, the essential point is prevention, detection, conviction, adequate penalties. I regretted that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Fortescue), in a moving speech, spoke about the seeming failure to build up the police. In 1965, we greatly raised the establishment of the police. In 1967, there were 10,000 more officers in England and Wales than there had been in 1964. The manpower in Scotland is higher than it was, although I would like there to be many more policemen. Their equipment is better and their capacity to fight crime is greater, although it still may not be great enough. These are the right ways of tackling violence.

The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone argued that the abolition of the death penalty puts in some cases a premium on murder. This point deserves careful consideration. The right hon. and learned Gentleman limited it to cases where there is a professional criminal with rational motivation who sees a chance, by shooting a single witness or policeman, of avoiding what may well be a long term of imprisonment. I hope that I have put the point fairly.

An examination of this argument leads me to the conclusion that this person would have to be not the ordinary professional criminal, but a computer, because of all the considerations he would need to weigh up in quickly reaching a rational decision.

The suggestion has also been made that increasingly the professional criminal is using a gun. As to murder by shooting, it is true that the number of victims, small though it is, has increased from low single figures from 1957 to 1964 to a figure which in England and Wales is estimated to stand at 10 per year from 1965 to 1968. By no means were the majority of even these very small numbers murders committed by professional criminals in the pursuit of other crime. The number of persons murdered by shooting in the course of theft was only seven out of the 40 murders by shooting in the four years since abolition and only eight of 20 in the previous eight years.

There has been a tendency to over-exaggeration and to misuse many of the figures and to build up pessimism. We are not pessimistic. I am glad that in Scotland last year we stabilised the figures for crime and violence and that this year there is a decrease of about 5 per cent. This is a matter of principle. It is a matter which we cannot escape. We have the prospect tonight of making a decision

which puts Scotland, England and Wales more into line with enlightened countries on the Continent and elsewhere. This itself reflects the status of our country and the civilised state of our society.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 343, Noes 185.

Division No. 39.] AYES [11.30 p.m.
Alise, Leo de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Heseltine, Michael
Albu, Austen Delargy, H. J. Higgins, Terence L.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Dell, Edmund Hilton, W. S.
Alldritt, Walter Dempsey, James Hobden, Dennis
Allen, Scholefield Dewar, Donald Hooley, Frank
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Hooson, Emlyn
Armstrong, Ernest Dickens, James Hornby, Richard
Ashley, Jack Dobson, Ray Horner, John
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Driberg, Tom Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Astor, John Dunn, James A. Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Atkinson Norman (Tottenham) Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Howie, W.
Bagier, Cordon A. T. Eadie, Alex Hoy, Rt. Hn. James
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Edelman, Maurice Huckfield, Leslie
Balniel, Lord Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Barnes, Michael Edwards, William (Merioneth) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Barnett, Joel Ellis, John Hunter, Adam
Beaney, Alan Emery, Peter Hutchison, Michael Clark
Bell, Ronald English, Michael Irving, Rt. Hn. Sydney (Dartford)
Bence, Cyril Ennals, David Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Janner, Sir Barnett
Bessell, Peter Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Bidwell, Sydney Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Jeger, George (Goole)
Biggs-Davison, John Ewing, Mrs. Winifred Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)
Binns, John Fernyhough, E. Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Finch, Harold Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Body, Richard Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Booth, Albert Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Bossom, Sir Clive Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Boston, Terence Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Johnson, Rusell (Inverness)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur
Boyden, James Foley, Maurice Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Bradley, Tom Forrester, John Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Fowler, Gerry Jopling, Michael
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Fraser, John (Norwood) Kelley, Richard
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Freeson, Reginald Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)
Buchan, Norman Fry, Peter Kerr, Russell (Feltham)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Galpern, Sir Myer Kershaw, Anthony
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Gardner, Tony Kirk, Peter
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Garrett, W. E. Lane, David
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Latham, Arthur
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Ginsburg, David Lawson, George
Cant, R. B. Golding, John Leadbitter, Ted
Carlisle, Mark Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Carmichael, Neil Grant, Anthony Lestor, Miss Joan
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Gregory, Arnold Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Grey, Charles (Durham) Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Channon H. P. G. Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Loughlin, Charles
Chapman, Donald Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Luard, Evan
Coe, Denis Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Lubbock, Eric
Coleman, Donald Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Concannon, J. D. Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Conlan, Bernard Hamling, William Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Crawshaw, Richard Hannan, William McBrirte, Neil
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Harper, Joseph McCann, John
Dalyell, Tam Harrison, Brian (Maldon) MacColl, James
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) MacDermot, Niall
Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Macdonald, A. H,
Davies, E. Hudson (Conway) Haseldine, Norman McElhone, Frank
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hattersley, Roy McGuire, Michael
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Hazell, Bert Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mackie, John
Davies, Ifor (Cower) Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Mackintosh, John P.
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Heffer, Eric S. Maclennan, Robert
MacLeod, Fit. Hn. Iain Pardoe, John Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Park, Trevor Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Parker, John (Dagenham) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
McNamara, J. Kevin Parkyn, Brian (Bedford) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
MacPherson, Malcolm Pavitt, Laurence Tapsell, Peter
Maddan, Martin Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Taverne, Dick
Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Pentland, Norman Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Thornton, Ernest
Manuel, Archie Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Mapp, Charles Peyton, John Tinn, James
Marks, Kenneth Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Urwin, T. W.
Marquand, David Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Varley, Eric G.
Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Vickers, Dame Joan
Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Price, William (Rugby) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Maxwell, Robert Prior, J. M. L. Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Mayhew, Christopher Probert, Arthur Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Randall, Harry Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Mendelson, John Rankin, John Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Mikardo, Ian Rees, Merlyn Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Millan, Bruce Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Wallace, George
Miller, Dr. M. S. Richard, Ivor Walters, Dennis
Milne, Edward (Blyth) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy Watkins, David (Consett)
Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Molloy William Robertson, John (Paisley) Weitzman, David
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as) Wellbeloved, James
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Roebuck, Roy Whitaker, Ben
Morris, John (Aberavon) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) White, Mrs. Eirene
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Rose, Paul Whitlock, William
Moyle, Roland Ross, Rt. Hn. William Wilkins, W. A.
Mutley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Rowlands, E. Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh St. John-Stevas, Norman Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Murray, Albert Scott, Nicholas Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Newens, Stan Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip Sheldon, Robert Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Norwood, Christopher Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Oakes, Gordon Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Ogden, Eric Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.) Winnick, David
O'Halloran, Michael Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Oram, Albert E. Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Orbach, Maurice Silverman, Julius Woof, Robert
Orme, Stanley Skeffington, Arthur Worsley, Marcus
Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Slater, Joseph Wyatt, Woodrow
Owen, Will (Morpeth) Small, William
Padley, Walter Snow, Julian
Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Speed, Keith TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Paget, R. T. Spriggs, Leslie Mr. Peter Jackson and
Palmer, Arthur Steel, David (Roxburgh) Mr. Tim Fortescue.
Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Corfield, F. V. Gresham Cooke, R.
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Costain, A. P. Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)
Awdrey, Daniel Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Gurden, Harold
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Crouch, David Hall, John (Wycombe)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Crowder, F. P. Hall-Davis, A. G. F.
Batsford, Brian Cunningham, Sir Knox Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Dalkeith, Earl of Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Dance, James Harris, Reader (Heston)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Dean, Paul Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere
Black, Sir Cyril Digby, Simon Wingfield Hastings, Stephen
Blaker, Peter Dodds-Parker, Douglas Hawkins, Paul
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Doig, Peter Hay, John
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Donnelly, Desmond Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Brewis, John Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Hiley, Joseph
Brinton, Sir Tatton Drayson, G. B. Hill, J. E. B.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter Dunnett, Jack Hirst, Geoffrey
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Eden, Sir John Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Hordern, Peter
Bryan, Paul Eitiott, R.W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Howell, David (Guildford)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Errington, Sir Eric Hunt, John
Bullus, Sir Eric Farr, John Iremonger, T. L,
Burden, F. A. Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Campbell, Cordon (Moray & Nairn) Gibson-Watt, David Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Cary, Sir Robert Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Kaberry, Sir Donald
Chichester-Clark, R. Glyn, Sir Richard Kerby, Capt. Henry
Clegg, Walter Goodhart, Philip Kimball, Marcus
Cooke, Robert Goodhew, Victor Kitson, Timothy
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Gower, Raymond Knight, Mrs. Jill
Cordle, John Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert Lambton, Viscount
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Stainton, Keith
Lawler, Wallace Nott, John Stodart, Anthony
Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Onslow, Cranley Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian Summers, Sir Spencer
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Osbont, John (Hallam) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Longden, Gilbert Page, Graham (Crosby) Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
McAdden, Sir Stephen Page, John (Harrow, W.) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
MacArthur, Ian Pearson, Sir Frank (Clithcroe) Temple, John M.
Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty) Peel, John Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Percival, Ian Tilney, John
McMaster, Stanley Pike, Miss Mervyn Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Pink, R. Bonner van Straubenzee, W, R.
Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Pounder, Rafton Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Marten, Neil Pym, Francis Waddington, David
Maude, Angus Quennell, Miss J. M. Wall, Patrick
Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Ward, Dame Irene
Mawby, Ray Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Weatherill, Bernard
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Rees-Davies, W. R. Wells, John (Maidstone)
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Wiggin, A. W.
Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Ridsdale, Julian Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Robson Brown, Sir William Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Monro, Hector Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Montgomery, Fergus Russell, Sir Ronald Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
More, Jasper Sandys, Rt. Hn. D. Woodnutt, Mark
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Scott-Hopkins, James Wright, Esmond
Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Sharples, Richard Wylie, N. R.
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Younger, Hn. George
Murton, Oscar Silvester, Frederick
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Sinclair, Sir George TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Neave, Airey Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Mr. David Ensor and
Nicholls, Sir Harmar Smith, John (London & W'minster) Miss Harvie Anderson.

Resolved, That the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 shall not expire as otherwise provided by section 4 of that Act.