§ Mr. Speaker
Before calling the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) to move his motion, I should tell the House that I intend to call after him the hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) to move the amendment in her name and the names of her hon. Friends. That is the only amendment that I have selected.
More than 60 right hon. and hon. Members have already told me that they want to speak. Therefore, I hope there will be a self-denying ordinance as regards both interventions and the length of speeches.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Walden (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I beg to move,That this House, while recognising that political terrorism requires a reappraisal of established attitudes, is of the opinion that a re-introduction of the death penalty would neither deter terrorists nor increase the safety of the public.I was one of those who sought an early debate on this subject because I believe that the House of Commons should speak out clearly today and set at rest all speculation about our intentions.
I want to set against the outrages of the terrorists and the justifiable anger and dread of our people the reasoned judgment of the House of Commons. I choose to take my opponents' arguments at their strongest. I question no man's motives. Indeed, I put it on record that I accept that those who sincerely disagree with me do so out of concern for the safety of the public, and I hope that we shall conduct our deliberations today in the finest traditions of this House— to oppose a man's opinions without questioning his motives. One of the very reasons why I think our judgment will be so crucial is that we have our high and perhaps unique privilege of being able daily to listen to opinions that we cannot endorse.
Before I turn to capital punishment, may I refer to the earlier part of my motion and assure the House that it is not simply idle verbiage. Terrorism has changed our attitudes, and we shall have to accept further change. Already this House has substantially curtailed civil 519 liberties—in my view, an entirely justified decision, but undoubtedly a departure from our traditional values, and we shall have to accept without flinching the justifiable business of counter-terrorism and with good cause.
Since I think deterrence will form a large part of our discussion today, let me give my view on that matter immediately. If I am asked what is the greatest deterrent that we can have against political terrorism, I answer thus: "why, Sir, the same deterrent as we have against any crime—the probability of apprehension. That is the greatest deterrent against criminal acts. That is why the whole House welcomes the arrests that have been made in Birmingham and in Guild-ford. The police are alleging murder against some of those remanded. It is not for us to presume judgment on the likelihood of innocence or guilt, but we are entitled to say, and I shall say it, that in my view those widespread arrests will have done more to reassure the public than any scaffold that we might build.
I mention "scaffold" because I think of murder and capital punishment for it in terms of hanging. But let us waste no time on that. It matters not one jot whether we hang a terrorist murderer, execute him by firing squad, put him in an electric chair or give him a lethal injection. We cannot paint and varnish a judicial execution to make it appear anything other than what it is—the cold-blooded decision of the State to take a life, a wholly different matter, let me add, from killings by servants of the Crown in attempting to counter terrorism or in suppressing rebellious uprising. It is a completely different matter.
Winston Churchill put it in context:Flowers grow soon over the battlefield, but over the scaffold—never.I think the House should weigh those words.
We are told that it must be done and we are given reasons. I want to examine those reasons, I hope logically and perhaps without passion and in a full understanding of the gravity of what we are here determining. I apologise for the fact that I cannot disguise the strength of my convictions, but my respect for those of others remains unabridged.
520 The first argument that we are given is that the public demand the reintroduction of the death penalty for this crime. I concede that. I think the majority of them do. Any expression of public opinion must be a matter of grave concern to this House. It must form part of our judgment—part of our judgment, not the whole. Are we a House of delegates? Some of my hon. Friends who support me today will know that never in any context have I succumbed to the constitutional heresy of seeing this House as other than what it is—a body ultimately responsible to the people but mandated by no one.
Against the strong arguments of my hon. Friends, I have said, and will say now, that I shall never change that opinion. I shall ever hold to it. When it does, parliamentary democracy will die with it and one may make one's peace with plebiscitary democracy, that friend of tyrants and demagogues. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hope that all my points will be so well taken by hon. Members opposite. No man should surrender what he owes most to his constituents, his judgment, simply because he fears that the expression of his convictions might prove unpopular outside this House. Our duty is to use our reason, and to use it well.
The second argument we are given is that retribution is called for and that the only just retribution for this crime can be death. I do not know whether the Divinity exists, but if He does, retribution is certainly a matter for Him and not for us. If a word is to be used in the debased sense which has become current, then retribution is no different from revenge and there is no distinction between them This House should have no business with revenge. Bacon said that it was the foremost function of law to root out revenge —the more so because men are inclined to it when faced by atrocity or terror. I believe that to be true. The business of this House is justice, and justice is that punishment for the guilty that best preserves the lives and the values of the innocent.
The third argument that we are given is that we are not asked to discard our conscientious convictions; we are asked merely to bend them a little. It is not to be capital punishment for all murder but only capital punishment for murder in furtherance of a terrorist act. I do not find 521 it either surprising or reprehensible that men should seek to draw moral distinctions between different kinds of murder, but I must remind the House that every attempt to give legislative effect to that distinction has proved an abject failure. If we do it, we riddle ourselves with anomaly and legal absurdities. We would in all cases, but especially in this one. Think what would be involved.
A woman who hands explosives to a man knowing that those explosives are to be used to commit an act of murder may hang, but a man who commits multiple murder in furtherance of rape will not hang. How long do we think public opinion would be at ease with the moral standards implied in that judgment? In this case, it is doubly absurd, because I think that it is universally conceded that no man should suffer capital punishment without the benefit of trial by jury, which, as we are now situated, would produce the absurd situation that the terrorist murderer would hang in Great Britain but would not hang in Ulster.
I am told that this is a detail, that we could get round it and bring back trial by jury in Ulster—a fine disregard for the reasons why it was abolished in the first place. I wish hon. Members joy of all the jurors they could empanel in Ulster who would convict a man on a capital charge.
I am told that there must be some other legislative way around it, or that, if the worst came to the worst, the man could be tried in front of military tribunals. When we get to that point, wise men will ponder the path down which they are being asked to walk.
Then we come to the very heart of the case for those who wish to reintroduce capital punishment, the claim that it will deter terrorist murderers. I should have thought that the whole of human history stood in disproof of that contention. But let us just consider the particular case of the IRA. Does anybody suppose that the self-appointed chiefs of staff of the Provisional IRA, men careful never the expose themselves to apprehension, are going to be deterred by the possibility that we might execute their convicted followers? Death is their business. It is from the ghastly images of death that they draw their inspiration. It is the abiding characteristic of fanatical men that they can take no joy nor any 522 consolation from that which exists. Destruction does not perturb them.
We have seen it before, have we not? We solemnly shot the leaders of the 1916 Easter rebellion. I do not know whether that was just retribution or not, but much good it did us. It saved not a life, and it cost thousands. A population which had previously had no use for Sinn Fein was converted to it. That was the consequence of what we did then. Would it be different now? Can we never learn? Do we really want yet again to give birth to some of Yeats' "terrible beauty"? Is that the best judgment that the House of Commons can make on the difficulties that currently confront us?
It would not only be the fact that the Provisional IRA would treat anybody we executed, especially if it were a 20-year-old girl, say, as another martyr for all Ireland, another source of fable and legend and stirring of ancient rancour. It is not simply that. However distasteful it may be, the House must consider the hostage issue. I say that it is distasteful because, naturally, neither I nor any other hon. Member wants to discuss the hostage issue in such a way as might lead the IRA or anyone else to suppose that the processes of justice in this country can be coerced by the taking of hostages. But we cannot avoid the issue.
Some hon. Members will have seen the quite disgraceful interview which has been given by O'Connell in Bonn today, in which he threatens that for every convicted IRA terrorist we hang the IRA will take and hang two British soldiers. It might be said that they will take hostages anyway, and so they might. I will give my view on that. It is a considered one, and one which I give with grief and with conviction. I would release no murderer to save any hostage. I think that that has to be done and that we should give no encouragement to them to suppose otherwise. But we should not deceive ourselves that they will not do it. They will do it.
Better people than these scum have done it. After the war we executed some Jewish terrorists. The Irgun Zvei Leumi took three British sergeants and hanged them as a direct reprisal. That appalled the then Israeli leaders. Ben Gurion was shocked. There are probably no other people in the world with 523 a greater moral concern for the preservation of life than the Jewish people. But some Jews were prepared to do that. Why? Because ritual execution plays into the hands of terrorists. It is a game that they understand. They will always "up the ante" on it. It gives them everything they desire—martyrs, publicity and a greater degree of approval within their community, without which they cannot effectively work.
That is my answer to the case which forms the heart of the conclusion that we should restore capital punishment. I think that we should not. In an earlier speech to this House I said that we may have to choose between victory or vengeance. I had just such an occasion as this in mind. The price that we would pay for reintroducing capital punishment is unacceptable in terms of life and law. It would even destroy the Royal Prerogative of mercy. Does anyone suppose that this House can now reintroduce capital punishment for terrorist murder and then have the Secretary of State, not this Secretary of State but any Secretary of State, reprieving all the murderers? Fine nonsense that would be.
The Secretary of State would be under compulsion in effect to allow the execution to go through. That is another fact we would have to face. We must face hard reality. We must brace ourselves to defeat the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and there is no short cut to so doing. We must endure and we must entreat others to endure. We must not do things that will give some transient popular gratification but will carry afterwards, very probably, a terrible price for us to bear on our consciences as legislators.
All hon. Members will do their duty. Those who choose to do it with me can know that I respect all views. Those who come into the Lobby with me can have my assurance, after careful consideration of all the great pressures that have come from my constituency and my own town, that they will be prizing principle above popularity, they will be putting sense and reason above passion, they will be acting in the interests we all seek to serve— the interests of victory. But it is a victory not purchased at an unacceptable price, a victory not simply for our policies but 524 a victory for our values, without which those policies are meaningless.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:is of the opinion that death should be the penalty tor acts of terrorism causing death and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to introduce at an early date legislation to enable Parliament to give effect to that opinion.Today we are discussing the death penalty—not hanging—for terrorist killings and not for other matters. My hon. Friends and I who support this amendment believe that there is a crucial difference between murder by individuals of individuals for private motives and murder by an equipped and organised army acting against the State in the person of any luckless civilian who happens by chance to be in any given spot on any given day. These are not ordinary killers and we cannot treat them as such. They have declared war on our country and they plan and carry out indiscriminate murder on totally innocent, harmless, law-abiding and unarmed people.
Everyone in this land is a possible target solely because we stand on British soil. These are not ordinary killers and they cannot be dealt with in the ordinary way. A prison sentence will not deter these men. To them appeasement reads surrender. To them only fools and the vanquished use kid gloves. Their aim is to defeat Britain, and unless we stiffen our resolve they will succeed.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) spoke of the demand for the death penalty as being merely a demand for vengeance. I must tell him with all the sincerity at my command that neither I nor any of my hon. Friends are interested in vengeance. We are urging the House to enact the death penalty for terrorist murders because we are convinced that it will deter and will save the lives of innocent people. If I were not utterly convinced that the threat of death would stay the hands of the IRA, I would not urge it.
I have no wish to kill anyone. But I have a duty, as we all have in this place, to act in such a way as will protect our people. Indeed, the first duty of any Government is to protect the 525 citizens of a country. While teenagers can be blown to bits over an evening pint, we must face the fact that Parliament is failing in its duty. Does the threat of death deter? The hon. Member thinks that it does not. I must tell him that the IRA thinks that it is a deterrent. It uses it contantly on its members to ensure that those members do not step out of line.
I am told by Army personnel and residents of Ulster that the fear of death daily deters IRA members there from directly attacking the soldiers, which they could do if they were not deterred by the thought of death. Instead they make booby traps and disappear well out of the way. They make their frontal attacks all right, but upon unarmed civilians at their own front doors. They ring the bell and when a person comes they shoot him—a totally unarmed man. Fear of death stops the IRA from attacking armed men.
The hon. Member for Ladywood went back to 1916. I will go back to 1922 and remind him that after the treaty of that year some men broke away from the Sinn Fein and formed the Provisional IRA. They killed wholesale, partly to settle old scores, partly for other reasons. Murder became commonplace. This is all in the history books. The Dublin Government of the day was loath to hang the convicted killers and the situation became desperate. Many murderers were imprisoned but the killings showed no sign of abating.
Finally, the Government steeled their will and ordered the death penalty to be carried out. In one morning 77 executions took place in Dublin Castle—
§ Mrs. Knight
What happened was that the rebellion collapsed overnight and the murders stopped.—[Interruption.] Hon. Members should at least listen. The fact that they do not like what I say is no excuse for not listening. May I remind them of what happened in Coventry in the thirties when a bomb went off and two or three people were killed. The bomber was caught and hanged. There were no more bombs.
§ Mrs. Knight
Life is precious, even to a terrorist. I will concede that probably there are some terrorists who are prepared to die for their cause. But the dupe and the mercenary, the bully, the immature, the unstable and the neurotic—all of whom are presently drawn into the IRA net—would be deterred if they knew that they faced the death penalty. These men frequently act as killers. The paranoid fanatic who would not be deterred is a rare bird. He is the hard core of the local or national organisation. He is not often the man who goes out on the streets to kill. He sends others to do that job. Neither prison nor shot will deter him, but I believe that many innocent lives would be saved if we could deter the others.
How much does the threat of imprisonment deter? The hon. Member for Ladywood said that the deterrent was in the question whether these killers were caught. But may we not go a step further and ask what is to happen when they are caught? If it is imprisonment, does imprisonment deter? The IRA killers may be sentenced to 20 or 30 years in prison, but they are well aware that as political prisoners they will probably be released under an amnesty long before that time is up. I am told that most of them reckon on two or three years inside at the most.
I do not believe that the threat of imprisonment deters these people in the slightest. To be a guest of Her Majesty is not altogether unpleasant these days. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We are talking about deterrence, and hon. Members opposite had better take this matter seriously, because the country does. It is said that innocent people may be taken as hostages and shot to force the authorities to release a convicted killer who faces death. Much play was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) in a newspaper this morning about the case of Leila Khaled who was released because an airliner had been hijacked in Jordan and the passengers had been threatened with death unless the authorities let her go.
That situation could arise again; I concede that. But it could arise far 527 more often and over a far longer period if the killer were merely imprisoned instead of being executed. The phenomenon of hostages being taken in batches and shot until prisoners are released is becoming quite common. It happens in the Middle East and elsewhere and I have no doubt that it will spread to this country if more and more murderers are given prison sentences.
Juries in Northern Ireland are frightened, and have been frightened for a long time, of convicting anybody. What an appalling indictment it is on our Government that juries should be afraid to speak the truth in court. Is it right that, because juries are frightened, we should concede that we shall never put them in the position of having to decide whether to convict a man? The hon. Member for Ladywood said that it had been reported on the tapes this morning that an IRA man had stated that for every IRA killer executed two soldiers would be strung up. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that we should give in to threats like that? When we give in to threats by the IRA, or any other bully or terrorist, we concede that they have won, and that I shall never do.
On the question of court procedure, I believe that as a country at war we cannot countenance the long-drawn out process of intervals between arrest and trial, between trial and appeal, between appeal and decision, and between decision and execution. The course of justice, like the mills of God, grinds slowly in an ordinary situation and against ordinary killers. But the people we are discussing are not ordinary killers. Neither their acts nor our circumstances are ordinary. It is therefore essential that we should take extraordinary measures against them.
I do not think that the method of execution should be hanging. I do not advocate the use of the gallows. There are many other ways of executing people. But these are not the major points for us to discuss now. When people talk as if we are discussing simply hanging, they are wrong. We are talking about the execution of enemies by a country at war.
We must also consider the people's view. An overwhelming number of people want Parliament to tell our enemies loud and clear that they will die if they kill. 528 If a referendum were taken now or in six months' time on this issue, the vote would be in favour of the death penalty. [HON. MEMBERS: "So what?"] Hon. Members say, "So what?". I remind them that they belong to a party which says that we should have a referendum on the question of our membership of the Common Market. If I understood the hon. Member for Ladywood correctly, he has told his Front Bench that there is no point in having a referendum because we should not work like that and we should not govern in that way. I hope that the Government will listen, but I doubt it.
I have received over 8,000 letters and signatures from people all over the United Kingdom who demand the death penalty for terrorist killings. One hundred and fifteen people have written to me expressing the opposite view. Very few of the 8,000 want vengeance. Some want justice, but that it not quite the same thing. However, not one of the 115 people has suggested an alternative deterrent. What worried me about the speech of the hon. Member for Ladywood was that he never suggested an effective deterrent. [HON. MEMBERS: "He did."] I suggest that hon. Gentlemen opposite read the hon. Member's speech tomorrow. It is fair to say that there is an overwhelming demand in the country, not merely for apprehension and two years' imprisonment but for execution of these killers.
Do we care what the public want, or are we convinced that our judgment is superior, that our rectitude sets us above the common herd and that the people's voice does not matter? I remind the House that this country is supposed to be a democracy. We are supposed to care what people say. It is true that the electors send us here to make up our minds on the evidence available, but it would be a foolish Member who thumbed his nose at what his constituents and the country thought.
It is important to warn the House that if the people lose faith in the protection which authority gives them they are likely to take the law into their own hands. The people of Ulster looked to their Government to protect them. When, after two or three years, they felt that their own Government did not sufficiently do that, they mounted their own campaign, which was an appalling disaster. 529 Any action of that sort is bound to make the situation worse. We must not provoke the people by failing them, by ignoring them or by treating their killers with tolerance and softness, not least for for the sake of the innocent Irish people who are already well aware, from experience in Birmingham, that they will be the first to suffer if there is a backlash.
I am not being alarmist. There was a backlash after the Birmingham massacre and it was held in check because people realised that new measures were being taken by the Home Secretary to protect them. Now they are not so sure. They want to know why the Birmingham bombers were not charged with treason, for which the punishment is death. It seems probable that they were guilty of treason—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] They have been apprehended, and it seems very likely; that is all I say. It is astonishing that hon. Members opposite have so little faith in the police that they believe that they have got the wrong men. Was the charge of treason not made because the Home Secretary knew that the prescribed punishment would be death? If so, he was re-writing the laws of England to suit his own views.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order, I should prefer the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) not to deal with a specific case now before the courts.
§ Mrs. Knight
A heavy duty lies on our shoulders tonight. The House has a basic duty, which we cannot avoid, to tell the people that their Parliament intends to protect them. I believe we can most effectively do so by passing the amendment. The onus is on those who take the opposite view to prove to the people that some other step to protect them is to be taken. If so, what is that step? The status quo, as with patriotism, is not enough.
I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the duty of hon. Members is clear. The people wish to know that their Parliament will protect them.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Alf Bates (Bebington and Ellesmere Port)
I believe that it is right that the House should today be debating this matter. It is important that we should be seen to be discussing matters which are of grave concern to the people.
530 I do not wish to go into the general questions surrounding capital punishment because we find ourselves in a new and difficult situation. In that situation, those of us who are opposed to the use of capital punishment face a special danger, which is that we shall be labelled as friends of the IRA. Nothing could be further from the truth. My attitude on this matter springs from a desire to save lives and to see that brutal organisation firmly beaten.
I hope that it will not be suggested in the House that those hon. Members who oppose the death penalty are in any way less hostile to the terrorists or less revolted by their senseless acts of violence, because these murdering Fascists are the sort of people whose political philosophy I most detest and whose monstrous acts fill me with a deep sense of revulsion.
However, the House has a duty not just to react to an emotion. It must also consider very clearly the consequences of its actions. It must consider whether we might not be provoking further violence.
It may be said that it is right and fitting that death should be the only punishment for these bombers. I cannot accept that. We must ask ourselves: what is the purpose of the punishment? Surely it cannot be argued that the death penalty would be a deterrent. There is no evidence that hanging ever was a deterrent. However, we are now all agreed that these deplorable acts are committed by fanatical terrorists, who are least likely to be deterred by the threat of death because they accept the threat of death every time they plant one of their own bombs. We know that that is true of Ireland. No one could suggest that Ulster was a peaceful place before the death penalty was removed last year. When the hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) suggests that the IRA believes in the death penalty because it uses it constantly as a threat against its own members, if it uses it constantly, it is clear that it does not work. If it will not deter the hardened terrorist, will it deter those on the fringe? I suspect that the opposite is the case.
The bombings have been greeted with horror and disgust by the British people. 531 The IRA finds no acceptance amongst the Irish community in England, but, as has happened at other times, the likelihood is that a single hanging of a member of the IRA will produce more members of the IRA in this country than any recruiting campaign that the IRA could possibly mount. I suspect that we would have to face the horrible responsibility of having switched the IRA to the use of younger bombers, below the age at which they could possibly hang.
If the argument is not about hanging being a deterrent if it will not deter the bombers and reduce the bombings, exactly what is it? I can understand the emotions aroused in this case. However, the House must face the consequences of its action. We must face the possibility of hostages being taken and of counter-reprisals. As soon as a terrorist was arrested for a capital offence, the position of the police and of the security forces would be intolerable. If the terrorist was convicted, the Home Secretary would be in an impossible position. If the terrorist was executed, the public would be in danger of a wave of bombing the like of which we have not yet seen. Knowing whom we are up against, we must face that possibility. We shall set for ourselves a fearful trap of violence.
The feelings of many people are understandable, but hon. Members, who have to take a decision tonight, must be ready to accept the consequences of that decision. We must be very confident that we are right before we decide to hang a man. It may well be said, and has been said, that these possibilities should not enter into our consideration, and that we should do what we consider to be right, irrespective of the consequence. I do not believe that bringing back the death penalty would be right. It would not deter and it would not reduce the bombings.
Right or wrong, surely we must consider the consequences of our actions. We cannot blindly take a decision which might provoke a great deal of further violence. That would be foolish and irresponsible. The prime responsibility of the Government is for the lives of their citizens. That is what we are talking about. We are not engaged in an academic argument which may seem plausible in theory and yet disastrous in 532 practice. In my view, the possible consequences must be taken into account.
The argument I put forward is simple. I do not believe that there is any evidence that capital punishment is a deterrent, and it is least likely to be so in the case of terrorists. Indeed, its reintroduction would lead to a greater use of violence and would strengthen the IRA. It is precisely because I am revolted by the acts of violence which have taken place that I hope the House will reject the moves to bring back the death penalty.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)
I rise at this stage in the debate because I wish to express my personal opinions. I emphasise that I do not speak for the Opposition. In fact, what I conclude will probably be different from the conclusions of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends. I am speaking personally.
I think that what I shall say next will be generally welcomed. The House has been fortunate in the opening speeches. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Lady-wood (Mr. Walden) did that which is most difficult. He lived up to his own standards. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) put her points of view crisply and in a restrained way which will have met with a response on both sides of the House and in many parts of the country.
The whole House will also agree with what the hon. Member for Ladywood said, that we should congratulate the police and the Special Branch on their apparent success in identifying people who merit charges. We must hope that they continue to be successful. The hon. Member for Ladywood was right in saying that the arrests in themselves will do more to reassure the public than whatever the result of today's debate may be. He was right to assert that, whatever the result of this debate, the safety of the public will depend more than anything else on the slog of counter-terrorism.
We all recognise that there is no difference between any of us in abomination of terrorism and that in most cases there is no difference between any of us in determination to win.
I have been against capital punishment for murder because most murders are unpremeditated, and that is still my 533 position. So far it has not proved practicable to devise a workable distinction between the premeditated and the unpremeditated civil murder. But in my view terrorism is quite different, and I ask the hon. Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port (Mr. Bates), who made a very sincere speech, to recognise that in terrorism there is no question of impulse. Every action is premeditated. Terrorists equip themselves to kill.
For today, therefore, my abolitionist views do not apply. Nor is there any question of how an execution should be carried out, whether it be hanging, shooting or whatever it may be. That is not the issue. The issue today is whether capital punishment for terrorism is in the public interest.
It is common ground that the first duty of the State is to protect life. We have struggled to do so. Successive Governments have struggled to do so in Ulster. The IRA seeks not just to unite Eire and Ulster but to impose its own dictatorship on a united Ireland.
The IRA has failed at the ballot box, humiliatingly, north and south of the border. It has imposed terrorism on Ulster. Now we face a new situation— terrorism in England on an increasing scale which is no result of any escalation of ours. The intensification comes partly perhaps from the stalemate position in Ulster and partly perhaps from the sense that there are divisions among us to be exploited.
War has been declared upon us in Ulster and here. We must win. The alternative is to lose and to expose our people to greater horrors. War has been declared upon us by Urban terrorism, and the essence of that is that we are not free to make war back. It is a one-sided war against the British people with the aim of changing British policy as a step towards dictatorship over all Ireland. We shall win only if there is intense political and security action against the IRA in the United Kingdom and on both sides of the border.
The issue will be decided by will power. The IRA has the will to win. Successive Governments here also have had, and have, within the constraints which they have seen as necessary, the will to win. But the will now has to be 534 exercised in the new circumstances of terror in England.
The legitimate reaction to murder by terrorism is that the life of the terrorist should be forfeit. Only then can the State assert its resolve to defeat terrorism and its determination to protect its subjects.
Against this proposition several arguments are put. It is said that urban terrorists aim to provoke over-reaction to win sympathy. It is said that we should be over-reacting since no other country applies the death penalty to terrorists. That is not precisely true. But no other European country has had to endure in its homeland so sustained a campaign as we have had to endure from the IRA.
It is said that capital punishment will be welcomed by the IRA as likely to make martyrs for it. The IRA is in business to persuade. It will make propaganda whatever we do. Perhaps capital punishment will make some martyrs. But it is also said often by the same arguers —and with all his sincerity the hon. Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port was guilty of this contradiction—that, far from seeking martyrdom, the IRA would use juveniles to escape the death penalty. Further, it is said that to save an IRA member from execution the IRA would take hostages. These arguments may have validity, but they weaken the proposition that the death penalty will be welcomed by the IRA as manufacturing martyrs.
The real issue surely must be whether there is any reason to justify the State's not seeking to protect its citizens by using the ultimate sanction against terrorists.
There are three reasons given. The first is that capital punishment would not be a deterrent. We cannot know for sure. But is not it probable, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston said, that capital punishment will deter some people? It cannot but be a greater deterrent than that which exists now.
Prison is no deterrent in the current situation, here or in Ulster. The IRA is convinced that there will be an amnesty and a political bargain. The other day the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced firmly that there would not be, and the whole House believes him. There is no question of any disbelief in this House. But I doubt whether 535 the IRA believes him. [An HON. MEMBER: "It will now."] I hope that it will. But the fact is that it hopes for a political bargain.
It may be that death will not deter all terrorists, but it will deter some, and it will demonstrate the essential determination to win in a way which cannot be achieved otherwise in the constraints operating upon us. A deterrent is necessary. An assertion of determination is necessary.
The second objection is that capital punishment would lead to reprisals. The hon. Member for Ladywood said very properly that outrages, whether reprisals or not, would occur whatever we did— I would add, while the IRA retains the will to win.
The hon. Member for Ladywood went on to take a very proper attitude about hostages. They can and may be used whether or not we have capital punishment. But the examples of countries which do not have capital punishment show that hostages are used to get people out of prison. The fact is that the IRA will erupt against any deterrent, be it capital punishment or effective prison.
What this House has to consider is what the result will be if we continue without an effective deterrent. Will not the IRA feel encouraged to continue its outrages with impunity? In my view, colleagues today should not shrink from the only conceivable deterrent on the ground that it might provoke the terrorists to reprisals.
Who can tell which process will involve the larger number of victims? I repeat, who can tell which process—possible reprisals due to capital punishment, or possible outrages due to a demonstration that we flinch from deciding on capital punishment—will involve the larger number of victims?
Many right hon. and hon. Members think that capital punishment will lead to more horror than now. They may think that I underestimate the extent of reprisals. I may think that they underestimate the repercussions of appearing to be intimidated. We all seek the public good.
I come now to the third and biggest objection to capital punishment. Can it be applied to Ulster? The security decision is for the Government. But, to me, 536 the absence of juries makes the death penalty in Ulster unacceptable in present circumstances. Therefore, those who agree with me approach a very difficult dilemma: can we apply capital punishment to Great Britain and not to Ulster? If the answer is "Yes", right hon. and hon. Members who see the unity of the application of law to the United Kingdom as almost paramount will have another objection. But let them observe that there is jury trial in Great Britain and not in Ulster. Let them observe that there are emergency powers in Ulster and not in Great Britain. I think that we can, and should, differentiate.
I come, finally, to the question of public opinion. I agree with the hon. Member for Ladywood that we are not mandated. We must use our own judgment. It may well be that, though the majority of the public apparently want capital punishment for terrorism, they do not realise the full implications.
The hon. Member for Ladywood spoke of those who happen to agree with me as erecting principle above popularity. I do not believe that the road that I believe is correct would be a popular road in the long run. I believe that the pressures at work upon the Government of the day might swing public opinion from time to time. The public do not realise what those pressures might be and do not even realise how the sympathy of the public can move in favour of an individual person convicted months and months after the horrible event.
The duty of all of us is to warn the public that there will probably be outrages, anyway, whether or not there is capital punishment and perhaps a special turbulence if capital punishment is used. If the public will the end, they should understand the road to the end. I believe that the public can be convinced that there will be fewer horrors if we take this step than if we do not. That is the act of judgment that we must make.
These, then, are my personal views. I have a very high respect for the Home Secretary and, before carrying my views to a vote, I shall listen very carefully to what he says, because it may be that there will be arguments which totally defeat what I believe at present. However, at this moment, I am on balance in favour of bringing back capital punishment for terrorism in Great Britain.
537 However, the amendment does not confine capital punishment to Great Britain, for it does not except Ulster. There is no way in which anyone who has my opinion can tonight vote for what he thinks right; namely, the reintroduction of capital punishment—or, rather, the introduction of legislation which we then consider for capital punishment—in Great Britain but not in Ulster.
Nevertheless, because the logic of my conclusions leads me towards the amendment, I shall vote for it tonight, subject to what the Home Secretary says and subject also to the condition that I would not vote for a Bill that included under present conditions in the reintroduction of capital punishment no exception as to Ulster.
In my view, we are not properly asserting our will to defend the lives of the people unless we vote in the general direction indicated by the amendment. Unless we show this resolve to win, we shall have our policies changed first by the IRA and then, perhaps, by other terrorists.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) developed in part of his speech an argument he had put before the House earlier; namely, that whatever we might personally think on the question of capital punishment, we ought at least to take into account the deep feeling in the country, that we ought to give it proper weight, that we had to avoid the suggestion that the House was lacking in purpose and in firmness, and that if we did give the impression that the House was lacking in firmness and purpose, this would have a bad effect on the situation.
Then came the end of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I put this proposition to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House. Suppose things were to go as the right hon. Gentleman wants. Suppose it were to go out from the House that we had voted for the restoration of capital punishment for terrorism in every part of the United Kingdom except Northern Ireland. What on earth would public opinion make of that? What view about our firmness of purpose would arise if that were decided?
538 The hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight), who moved the amendment, prayed in aid the executions carried out by the Irish Free State Government, as they then were, against those of Sinn Fein who were attempting by killing and violence to turn the Irish Free State into an independent republic. The issue between the two parties was whether Ireland was in future to be the Irish Free State as defined by the treaty and subsequent Act of Parliament or was to be an independent Irish republic.
From the moment those executions were carried out, the cause of the Free State was irretrievably lost. The Irish Free State Government on that occasion made the very error to which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) referred. They chose vengeance, and they lost victory.
The motion asks the House to recognise that we need to reappraise our traditional attitudes in view of terrorism. My hon. Friend pointed out that we did that very seriously when we passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act. I think that the important thing about that Act was that the measures taken in it were relevant to the problem we had to deal with, and this is something that the House must lay hold of firmly.
We should make a very great error if we were to approach this with an attitude of mind which said, "We must do something striking and spectacular to reassure public opinion without inquiring too closely whether it will deal with the problem of terrorism."I believe that the merit of the Prevention of Terrorism Act was that it was relevant. What is at issue between us today is whether the restoration of the death penalty for terrorism would be relevant to the problem of defeating terrorism.
The figures of homicide in this country since the death penalty was abolished can be tossed to and fro, but I think that this can be asserted definitely. Nobody can now on the basis of evidence demonstrate that for what one might call ordinary homicide the death penalty is a necessary deterrent. If we are to approve the amendment tonight, therefore, it must be shown that there are reasons why the death penalty, which plainly we do not need for what I have called ordinary homicide, should be 539 necessary or should be more appropriate or effective in the case of terrorism.
I shall hope to advance briefly some arguments why in the case of terrorism not only is the death penalty less likely to be effective than in the case of ordinary homicide but it will increase the public danger. What must be noticed, first, is the nature of the motive that drives a man to commit an act of terrorism.
I think it is just arguable that people who engage in the cold-blooded planning of robbery and murder for gain—a crime which is done by people who are moved by an ordinary human motive to want to be better off but who allow that motive to pervert them into evil courses of action—may stop and think and weigh up the penalty, but the terrorist who believes, horribly enough, that he is serving a cause is much less likely to be deterred.
Let me make it clear that I do not regard the fact that the terrorist regards himself as serving a cause as in any sense a palliation of what he does. It is not sufficient for a human being to say, "I am sincere. I am acting according to my lights." If the light that be in him is darkness, how great is that darkness. The person who kills for a cause is more evil but—this is our problem—he is less likely to be deterred.
Nor do I think that we can ignore as a second argument what I would call the dreadful attraction of the gallows for those who perpetrate acts of terrorism. Execution can turn what was a disgusting, sordid act into something which, over the years, will be regarded as a piece of heroism. There are plenty of examples in history of crimes which when committed were disgusting and contemptible but over which a glamour has been thrown by the fact that the criminal was subsequently judicially put to death. That is particularly true of a terrorist crime. I believe, for the two reasons I have advanced, that it is less likely that a terrorist will be deterred by the death penalty than an ordinary murderer would be.
There is another practical argument that we should not ignore. Those who have experience in combating terrorism will say that one valuable weapon lies 540 in bringing about some cleavage of policy among the terrorists and moving some to act as informers against the rest. We have reason to believe that something of this nature is already happening, and it is of value to the police in dealing with recent outrages.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, particularly in the Northern Irish situation, the confidential telephone device has encouraged people to inform on quite close friends and relatives in a way which they would not do if people were being sent to the gallows?
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman has completed the argument which I was about to advance to the House. I was arguing that encouragement to give information plays a valuable part in combating terrorism, and I was inviting the House to consider whether if we were to introduce the death penalty specifically for terrorism we would be likely to get more information or less. We must approach the problem on this sober and practical level.
We cannot deny the force of the argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port (Mr. Bates)—an argument which was quoted but not refuted by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East— namely, that it is an obvious invitation to those who plan terrorism to get the acts carried out by people who are under age.
Let us get one point clear. Whether or not people are deterred by the death penalty for terrorism, it is clear that people who cold-bloodedly plan terrorist activities do not want to lose any more of their men than they need. If they know that the penalty is death, they will react by saying, "Let us use in committing these acts people on whom the death penalty cannot be imposed." I do not know whether the hon. Lady for Birmingham, Edgbaston would regard as what she called a "Committee point" whether we should make the death penalty for terrorists inflictable on persons of all ages. If she is not to do that, she should consider the point which I have mentioned.
I should like to add to my general argument one consideration based on experience. Among all the letters which 541 appeared in the Press on this topic—and there have been many—one letter has been given less attention than it deserves. The letter appeared in The Guardian from a soldier who had served in Cyprus at a time when the death penalty existed for terrorism. He was a man who had the strongest possible interest in an effective policy against terrorism. His verdict clearly was that the existence of the death penalty did not reduce terrorism. Therefore, anybody who is thinking of voting tonight in favour of the amendment should weigh this piece of practical experience from a man who was overwhelmingly in a position to know and who had the strongest possible motive in trying to reach a rational and right conclusion.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)
I would not have dreamt of intervening in the right hon. Gentleman's speech had he not mentioned Cyprus. Since he has mentioned Cyprus, I think it right to recall the name of Colonel Sampson, who was reprieved, and who has since been guilty of further crimes of a terrorist nature at the cost of a lot more innocent lives.
§ Mr. Stewart
That may be an argument against premature release. It is not an argument for the death penalty, which is what we are talking about at present.
I wish to conclude by mentioning one or two of the arguments which have been advanced by those who would like to see the amendment carried. One argument takes the form, "Well, if you catch a terrorist and hang him, whether you deter others or not you have at any rate stopped him from committing any more acts of terrorism". But surely this is a hydra-headed monster. Do not let us imagine that because we have caught one and killed him that will reduce the number of people coming forward ready to commit such acts in future. For reasons which I have already advanced, it is at the very least equally probable that the fact that the man has been killed will exalt the dreadful profession of terrorism from the disgusting thing it is into an occupation which men might feel that it was honourable to perform.
A further argument used is that terrorism is a crime of such gravity that the heaviest possible penalty ought to be imposed. I do not regard this as very 542 much more than a civilised version of the mere argument of vengeance. I do not believe that the question how wicked any one of us may be is ultimately for a human tribunal to decide. Human beings generally get things wrong when we start working ourselves up over the question of how wicked we all are. We should do much better to apply ourselves to the problem which is properly within human judgment and duty: how dangerous are these activities and what action is most likely, on the grounds of practicality and common sense, to bring these activities to an end?
I would counsel the House against the argument that because the crime itself is so wicked the punishment must be proportionate. We are not concerned —and in the last resort it is not our human concern—with exactly how wicked any man is. We are concerned with how dangerous he is and what we best can do for the protection of our fellow citizens.
Finally, there is the argument, "Whatever we may feel, even if we feel that the re-introduction of the death penalty will not help, none the less is it wise to become too divorced from public opinion?" That argument is not much better than a dressed-up version of the argument that we should all turn ourselves into delegates. I do not think it could be argued—deep as no doubt are the feelings in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood and indeed in the surrounding constituencies—that there is any feeling on the lines, "If Parliament will not hang, we will lynch." If public opinion had reached that point—and I am not sure that it would be decisive for us—it would face us with a grave dilemma, but I do not think it can be contended that public opinion has reached that point or is ever likely to reach it.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
I had not meant to intervene in an excellent speech which is moving me to reconsider my present state of mind that I must support the amendment. It is an extremely effective speech in convincing people like me who are wavering, but my right hon. Friend is wrong if he thinks that there are not people whom we represent—not the business men in Birmingham whom the Tories represent but the workers whom we represent, people 543 on the shop floor in Birmingham—who are talking in exactly those terms—[An hon. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] My experience—and I can talk only of my constituency of Warley, East—is that there are many who are making this exact point. If we do not go to meet public opinion on this matter I dread what may happen after another bomb incident in Birmingham if some people decide to take their own measures. The House must consider this factor.
§ Mr. Stewart
We all know that what any of us—electors, Members of Parliament, whoever we are—sometimes say as the immediate reaction to a terrible thing is not always an exact indicator of what we would do. I should not dream of passing judgment on any passionate or vindictive statement made in the areas where these activities have taken place. I am saying that Parliament is not in a position where, if it does not reintroduce the death penalty, it will have it use the armed forces of the State to prevent lynchings. If my hon. Friend thinks that over and consults those of his hon. Friends who have had similar experiences and may not have reached the same conclusion, he will see the validity of the point that I am making.
It seems to me that for a Member of Parliament to say, "I personally do not think that this is right, but I feel that I must refer to deeply held public oinion", is contemptuous towards the public. It is one thing to say to one's constituents "I have listened carefully and I disagree" —we can all disagree with another man without being contemptuous of him— but quite another to say "I disagree with you and, what is more, I despair of ever persuading you. You are not a person who can be persuaded either by fact or by argument, so I must just give in to what you, in what I believe to be your ignorance, are saying."
That is not the position to which a Member of Parliament should descend. Certainly his duty is to listen to his constituents with attention and respect. He must weigh their arguments and all the other arguments that are put before him and, drawing from his own experience, form his opinion, act upon it, and state his reasons for acting as he has done and seek to persuade those who disagree. That is the honourable task 544 of a representative in a parliamentary democracy. I hope that that is how we shall all approach the Division tonight.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I have had the opportunity of taking part in every debate on capital punishment over the past 12 or 13 years and I have never found it as easy to make up my mind as today. Surely there is a simple answer to today's problem. We can look at this problem in a detached way because we are not dealing with capital punishment over the whole range of murder. The answer to the dilemma is simple. I think that if we introduced capital punishment for terrorism we would be doing more harm than good. We would be doing more harm both to the State and to ourselves.
As I listened to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) and the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) I could not help reflecting to myself that the whole of British history was against them. Anyone would think that there had never been a Cyprus or an Aden and that the measure that we are proposing today for dealing with terrorism had not been tried before. It has been tried.
I thought that there was greater validity in the hon. Lady's speech than in that by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East. The hon. Lady was conveying to the House a deep-seated emotional feeling which is held throughout the country and which we would be foolish to ignore however much we may disagree with the result of that feeling.
On the other hand, the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East appeared to engage in an exercise of diffuse and very dubious logic. I have always maintained that the only valid argument for the death penalty in a modern civilised State is the one, which most people in this country feel, in favour of retribution.
I do not think that this feeling for retribution should be accepted. However, none of us in the weekend that followed the terrible bombings in Birmingham could easily resist the feeling that justice ought to be meted out to those who had caused the deaths there. That feeling, dress it up as we may, call it justice, and so on, is the deep-seated human emotion that there ought to be retribution—" an eye for an eye, a tooth for 545 a tooth". That is a perfectly valid argument which many people at different stages in our history have felt compelled to accept. However, it is an argument which must be rejected in a modern civilised State.
The truth is that many who support the imposition of the death penalty have argued not only in this debate but in all the debates that I have heard in this House on the basis of retribution. No matter how they dress up the argument —they may call it deterrence or justice; they say that we must seek a deterrent, or that we must seek justice—they are giving vent to a deep-seated human feeling for retribution which is entirely understandable and which we all feel to a greater or less degree. It is a natural reaction.
I now want to come to the actual arguments that have been put forward today in favour of the death penalty for terrorism. If we were to introduce the death penalty for terrorism today, we would be facilitating the making of martyrs out of murderers. It is not that terrorists actually seek martyrdom. Very few of them do that.
§ Mr. Hooson
I will come to the Price sisters later. I should be grateful if the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) would not interrupt me from a sedentary position.
There is a reason why people are made into martyrs. An organisation like the IRA is careful of its manpower. Obviously, it does not want to lose people; it does not want its members to be captured. However, when they are captured, and particularly if they are to be executed, the organisation can transform them into martyrs as a measure of propaganda. The IRA uses terrorism as one weapon, but propaganda is another of its weapons to achieve certain ends. When the Price sisters were captured and convicted, part of the process of the IRA, including themselves, was to change them into martyrs.
The whole of British history illustrates that, although capital punishment can be a deterrent, to a few people it is not a general deterrent. In 1810 this House and the other place were considering a change in our law—that the death penalty 546 should be abolished for shoplifting of goods to the value of 5s. or more. As that time there were between 200 and 250 offences for which capital punishment could be levied. The arguments for change were rejected at that time. Lord Ellenborough, in the other place, forecast that if the law were changed there would be a tremendous spate of shoplifting of property worth over 5s. In fact, the change in our law on that matter did not take place for another 30 or 40 years. Indeed, Sir Robert Peel, in 1842, said that this country had the most savage penal system of any civilised society. Throughout history, for a variety of reasons and in different contexts, people have argued that if we removed the death penalty there would be infinitely more sheep stealing, or breaking and entering, or pickpocketing, or murders. They have all been wrong.
During the last few days I have read the debates on the death penalty in which this House has indulged over the last 12 years. Forecasts that there would be wholesale murders of warders in prison and the murder of many more policemen have not come true, and the evidence points to the fact that capital punishment is not, to ordinary criminals, a deterrent in the broad sense, although I accept always that it may deter a few.
What reason have we for thinking that the death penalty would be a deterrent to a terrorist? Experience shows that most terrorists are young people who have been brainwashed in a variety of ways and that if they are caught the transformation in their minds whereby they become ready for martyrdom is easily made.
I often reflect upon the 1916 rising in Dublin. I am not an expert on Irish history. I am told that many of the instigators of that rising, who had many deaths on their hands, were virtually unknown in Ireland—or unknown to the vast majority of people—before their martyrdom. Having been brought up in a small Welsh school in the 1930s and early 1940s, I knew the names of Padraig Peirse and James Connolly. The fifth and sixth formers talked about them all the time as martyrs, but nobody gave a thought to those whom they had killed.
Did the death penalty prevent the processes that were then taking place in Ireland? The answer is that of course it 547 did not, and I should have thought the whole of our experience in this country, in Ireland, in Cyprus, in Aden, and in many other countries should warn the House not to go down the slippery slope and not to play into the hands of terrorists by creating this added dimension for their propaganda.
The death penalty creates an added attraction for some. During my legal career I have appeared for people—I admit very few—who felt themselves to be deprived when the death penalty could no longer be imposed, who loved the macabre side of it and wanted to continue to be the centre of a drama. I think that the case for the death penalty for terrorism on the ground that it is a unique deterrent is not made out. It is less likely to deter a terrorist.
It is then said that the death penalty would provide a means of ensuring justice. There is a deep feeling that it would be only just to put terrorists to death. Nobody could argue that terrorists do not deserve death. They cold-bloodedly plot to inflict death on innocent people, and they have no regard for the devastation that they cause. The argument is that if anybody should pay the death penalty it is the terrorist, and one can apply that argument to certain murderers. There are sometimes premeditated ruthless murders, and the argument is that if anybody should pay the death penalty it is those who carry out that type of murder.
Would it therefore be right to reintroduce the death penalty for selected murders in present circumstances? Why should the IRA dictate what are to be the standards of this country? Why should the IRA push this country back to a more barbaric form of punishment than we have at present? What is the wisdom of the matter? I can understand the argument for swift retribution in certain circumstances, but the judicial process, which we should not for one moment want to abrogate, is a lengthy one.
When a terrorist commits a murder, there is an immediate outcry against him. Weeks, or even months, later there may be committal proceedings, which may or may not be reported, and then there is the trial. Anybody with any experience of murder trials when there was the 548 death penalty knows how fantastically different they were from trials for murder for which there is no death penalty. From the moment the verdict and the sentence were pronounced in the old days the whole interest of the public and the Press switched from the victim to the accused. Everyone was interested in his family and comments of his friends and in what he said, and he received a tremendous write-up. There then follows the appeal. Every facet of the judicial process would be used by the IRA. Once again there was, and would be, great interest because the death penalty hangs over the man. Then we come to the final part of the drama, the build-up to the day of execution itself.
All those circumstances enable an organisation such as the IRA to use each occasion for its own propaganda or other purposes. In the result, people know of James Connolly and Padraig Peirse, as martyrs but they forget the people for whose deaths those men were responsible.
§ Sir Raymond Gower (Barry)
I am following the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument with a lot of sympathy and agreement. Perhaps he will deal with one point which to many people appears to be more important than any of the matters with which he has dealt; namely, that if the House does not take the course suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) it will be so completely out of touch with the broad swell of public opinion that it will be felt that a gap is developing between Parliament and the public.
§ Mr. Hooson
I was under the impression that the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) dealt with that. I could not deal with it as adequately as he did, but I shall try to do so in reply to the invitation from the hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower).
I accept that if there were a referendum today on whether the death penalty should be brought in for terrorism the public would probably vote overwhelmingly for it, yet I think they would be wrong to do so. I also feel that in this House we have the responsibility for deciding these things. We have to look at the matter in much greater depth than the general public. We have a duty not only to ourselves, to the State and to the people who elected us, but to future generations. 549 We have a duty towards our institutions, and we have to sift carefully these arguments for ourselves. I think that if the public were fully aware of all the arguments that are heard in this House and were sitting here today the result of a referendum would be very different from the result that would follow if a vote were taken without all the arguments being heard.
The right hon. Member for Fulham was right to say that we have to listen to all the arguments and take into account the deep-seated feelings expressed by our constituents. We have to sift these things, but we have the ultimate responsibility of saying to ourselves "Do they convince me? Are they right or wrong?", and if we think they are wrong it is for us to lead public opinion.
I think that in the ultimate the public will agree with this House, because they perhaps cannot now appreciate, but will in time do so, that we would be unwise and wrong to take the retrograde step of going back to the death penalty, even for terrorism.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
I was interested to hear that the experience of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) in defending murderers corresponds with my own. Those who participated in trials when the gallows were still in the land have vivid and unpleasant recollections.
The hon. and learned Gentleman stressed in passing something that clearly had not been understood either by the hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) or the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph); namely, that the dealth penalty, far from necessarily being a deterrent, is to many murderers a positive attraction. I can recall a murderer whom I was defending who for no apparent reason had cut his wife up in shreds in the bathroom of their surburban home. He told me, courteously and gently explaining his savage conduct, "It was absolutely necessary to kill her. If I had not killed her, I should have had no choice but to kill myself." His mad frankness may have been somewhat unusual, but his motivation for murder was lamentably orthodox.
The lure of self-destruction, the attraction of death, is often warded off only by 550 turning outwards the aggression which threatens to destroy the potential assailant. If there are those who think that this is bizarre and believe that the ultimate consummation of hanging is not desired, that death is not desired by the killer, let them look at the statistic that a third of the murderers in Britain commit suicide before being brought to trial, and many more make many determined attempts, sometimes with a high sense of occasion, as I found when I once arrived at an interview in a prison with a murderer client who had so timed the appointment that he was able to receive me with a freshly-cut throat and slashed wrists. Many murderers kill to die, and so long as the gallows survives, the State fulfils their deepest needs by strangling them to death. The attraction of the gallows often guarantees rather than deters killing.
Mr. Michael Males (Petersfield)
I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument in referring to murderers, although I do not agree with it, but does he seriously suggest that this bizarre death wish is the motivation of the sort of terrorists with whom we are trying to deal? That is what the amendment is about.
§ Mr. Abse
I am leading naturally to the more relevant problem of the terrorist murderer, and if the hon. Gentleman will have patience he will hear me trying to reach that point.
What one is dealing with in this matter is the dynamics of the masochist, which are so strange and so alien to the more normal but which many believe are operating far more dangerously today than ever. Certainly it is established that certain disastrous social conditions such as those in which the lost generation of Belfast have lived and are living tease out this masochism. Those young people in Belfast are being brought up in a world where there is much hate and little love. Those are exactly the conditions which lead to the awkward, ataxic, behaviour so often infuriatingly found and provocatively displayed nowadays by so many young people in their manners and intercourse with older people. Behind the provocations is the deep disappointment prompted by lack of love, a terrible fear of being alone, the fear of losing contact in the world so that the youngster then seeks to establish contact inadequately through spite and provocation.
551 If people think that this is a pattern that we do not know in this country already, let them look at the postcards of Soho or the current huge sales of flagellation pornography, which reveal how many in our own lonely and alienated society are yearning to establish contact by wishing to be punished, to be fettered or whipped. In alienated Belfast there will be no shortage of young recruits seeking to assuage their perverted yearnings on the gallows. They have been brought up in the violent and lonely society which is exactly the well fertilised base upon which masochism flourishes.
Do we not note already with dismay as we glance at these arrests that a pattern is emerging? The older men plot, while those of tender years go out to plant the bombs and become the sacrificial lambs. The return of the gallows, rather than being a deterrent, will, within such an appalling sub-culture as has been bequeathed to the young in Belfast, be a veritable incitement.
Nor should we forget how the masochistic tendencies of the society with which we are now dealing and about which we are concerned have been traditionally, powerfully and positively contained in Northern Ireland. The passion, the contemplation of the agony of the Cross, the identification with the Saviour, can, as we all know, be the source of the higher values, but we live in secular days, and in these secular days the same basic feelings can be aroused not for the positive good but for the most perverted of goals.
Hon. Members should be warned that it is possible that they could create the conditions, if they accepted the amendment, in which the young of Northern Ireland could embrace the gallows with the same passion as their grandparents more happily embraced the Crucifixion.
A return to State strangulation would be a victory, not a defeat, for the IRA. That is not only because these men, together with those who constitute the Ulster majority, would have coarsened our society and values. The IRA is a small minority unable to obtain through the ballot box the support of the overwhelming majority of the Catholic community of Northern Ireland, and in its frustration it acts undemocratically. But its crimes in the eyes of its own members 552 succeed as a force only when they are public. The criminal proceeds by stealth, but the IRA, like all terrorists, succeeds only when its crimes are known and heavily publicised.
Their so-called success depends on the media. The reality of blowing up a building or killing innocent soldiers is dependent not upon the actuality of the occurrence but upon the events being emblazoned abroad. No matter how awful the event, it is not the corpses but the television screens that corroborate, indeed prove, their senseless killings. A blanket silence upon their attacks would defeat their essential goal. The bank robber is satisfied if he escapes with the money. The IRA regards an operation as fulfilled only if it attracts maximum attention to their distorted goals.
Nothing would marry in more with their aims than the inevitably heavily-publicised murder trials in which the accused could end on the rope. It has always been so. Hundreds of thousands of cheering Londoners were out in the streets when the notorious housebreaker Jack Sheppard and later the highwayman Dick Turpin were hauled to the gallows. Times, alas, have not changed that much. How many more acres of print were used by the Press when the end of a murder trial could be a hanging? Indeed, it was the obscenity of the pre-hanging publicity that brought home to many who otherwise would not have been convinced the necessity to abolish hanging. To be or not to be, to live or to die—no drama could excite more attention.
The IRA, like the PLO, wants a world audience as it stages its psychopathic theatre. Voting for a hanging resolution would be booking a reserved seat for these obscene dramas which would be put on with the histrionic talents which can be used in so many more laudable ways by the Irish people being used most perversely.
The answer to the IRA is not hanging. It can only be to have policies that will make the IRA irrelevant. The House has had its bipartisan policies frustrated by the obduracy of the majority group in Northern Ireland, whose leader, the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), only last week yet again in this House confirmed his refusal to have any meaningful power sharing with a 553 minority group. So the Ulster majority continues on that disastrous course despite all that we say.
Many in the course of the debate have explicitly said that we should not in coming to our conclusion give way to blackmail. That is right; we should not yield to blackmail. But I believe that the real blackmail comes from the political strikers of the Ulster majority and is contained in the implicit or explicit threat that if we withdraw troops and money a pogrom of the minority will follow in Northern Ireland. Hanging IRA men does not resolve that dilemma. We should insist that either the wishes of Britain to have power sharing in Northern Ireland are realised or we withdraw our troops and our money, seeking only to help in rehabilitation and rehousing of the minority who may consequently suffer.
If we passively yield to the stubborn men of Ulster the erosion of our civil liberties will continue, the excuses will mount for the IRA to justify its demented attacks, and hanging will in the end lamentably return. Before the vulgar and primitive aims of the hon. Member for Antrim, South and his allies triumph it is surely necessary for us to speak out plainly and make clear that we have a contingency plan for withdrawal which should be publicly spelt out. Then, and only then, will Ulster clearly understand that Britain and the House of Commons are not to be manipulated into making regressive responses, such as that contained in the amendment, to the unnecessary tragedy of Northern Ireland.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West)
I have the honour to represent the constituency of Edinburgh, West which contains within it one of Scotland's most famous battlefields, and I am referring not to Bannockburn but to the Murrayfield rugby football ground where a short time ago the Scots inflicted a decisive defeat on the English which I welcomed with patriotic enthusiasm. My predecessor, Mr. Anthony Stodart was a member of the House for 15 years, and he made many friends on both sides, representing his constituents extremely well at all times.
Some six years ago the right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Murray), now the Lord Advocate, 554 asked me to assist him with the prosecution of a large number of persons who had been charged with murder. As far as I can remember, each case that he prosecuted was followed by a conviction, and at that time it was impressed upon me that if capital punishment had been the penalty it would have been very much harder to have obtained the necessary convictions from the jury.
As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) said victory over the IRA and vengeance may not necessarily be the same thing. Indeed, it may be possible that the two are in conflict, and, however natural it may be to demand a return of the old law, surely we should not allow our instincts however natural they may be, to make a final victory over these terrorists harder to obtain.
I wish to put before the House four difficulties which might be encountered in the reintroduction of capital punishment for acts of terrorism. The first is the problem of defining murder by an act of terrorism. Surely it would be difficult for a prosecutor to distinguish political murder from other types of murder. Secondly, even if the prosecutor successfully differentiated between different forms of murder and obtained convictions, would the threat of execution deter the committed terrorist? After all, we saw only a short time ago that a man who blew himself up with his own bomb was hailed as martyr by his fanatical supporters. How much more clamour would there be for a man who was executed by the public executioner of a country which was regarded by those supporters as a foreign oppressor? The execution would provide the opportunity for exhibitions of sympathy for men of violence and for their causes.
Anyone who has studied the history of modern Ireland and read about the Manchester martyrs and the martyrs of the 1916 uprising will realise the impact of the cult of martyrdom on the brooding consciousness of the Irish people. I feel that the pitiful psychopaths who form the terrorist squads judge that their own unaided actions will not provide a place for them in history, so why should we rush to give them the notoriety they want by means of public execution or firing squad?
555 Thirdly, even if the prosecutor obtained the necessary conviction, and even if that conviction carried with it the sentence of capital punishment, would it not inevitably be some time before the appeal was heard in accordance with normal judicial procedures, and might not that give an opportunity for the terrorist's friends to retaliate and take hostages? In these circumstances, by going through with an execution is it not very much an open question that the situation may be reached in which there might be more violence and deaths, and not a net saving of life?
Fourthly, even if the convicted terrorist's appeal was dismissed and the sentence of execution were carried out, no hostages having been taken in reprisal, is there not the appalling, if remote, possibility that the wrong man might have been executed? I am reminded of the famous Scottish cases of Oscar Slater who was sentenced to death and whose sentence was finally communted to one of life imprisonment. Only after he had served 20 years in the most sturdy of all Scottish prisons—Barlinnie—was it discovered that he was entirely innocent. I need hardly remind the House that execution of a man for an act of terrorism because he had been in the wrong place, had the wrong accent and the wrong build, and was there at the wrong time might lead to appalling repercussions.
What, therefore, is the alternative to capital punishment? In the simplest terms it is that terrorists convicted of murder should serve sentences of imprisonment for much of the rest of their lives without favours as so-called political prisoners and without amnesty. The alternative must be very long sentences, and that is a principle which surely should be applied not only to terrorists.
Some two years ago Lord Emslie, the present Lord Justice General of the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland, reported to the Government, as he had been instructed to do, on the penalty for murder. His committee recommended that it should lie within the discretion of the judges to specify the minimum number of years which the convicted murderer should serve in prison. His report was completely disregarded. The failure to implement that report has caused resent- 556 ment in Scotland. The fact that some English judges might have thought quite differently from Lord Emslie is irrelevant because there has not been a single Scottish criminal appeal to England since the days of King Edward I, and King Edward I was extremely unsympathetic.
Throughout Scotland there is very strong feeling that the average sentence for murder of eight or nine years is far too short, and I would ask the Government and the Secretary of State for Scotland to give full consideration to implementing Lord Emslie's report, which is now more relevant than it was when it first appeared two years ago. As long as the Government are absolutely firm and determined not to be blackmailed in any circumstances, and as long as they refuse to release a single convicted criminal under duress, the case for capital punishment sureley assumes less significance and the need to increase police effectiveness reaches paramount importance.
Surely the recent measures will help. Most terrorists are surely more likely to be deterred by the prospect of immediate detection than by the likelihood of possible capital punishment. Those who seek to reintroduce capital punishment must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that it will lead to a net saving of human life. That has not been firmly established tonight. It therefore seems that the final verdict in this debate for or against capital punishment must remain that peculiarly Scottish verdict "Not proven."
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)
It gives me great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) and to congratulate him on his maiden speech. I use the traditional words, that we look forward to hearing from him again. They are traditional but they are sincerely meant.
I looked up the hon. Gentleman's constituency while he was speaking and saw that there are 52,000 electors in it. I mention that because it seems that all the Scots, like the Irish, are already in my constituency. They come to work in the steelworks. There are thousands of Scots and Irish. But what is more significant, for the purpose of the debate, is that the Registrar-General's report proves that in my constituency there are more people 557 from Northern Ireland than in any other constituency in Great Britain. It is not in Glasgow or Liverpool but in the heart of Northamptonshire. They are working in the steelworks.
What is the relevance of that? It is that they live together in Corby in peace and friendship, even when the symbols of the older people are flaunted, as in a picture of his Holiness the Pope in a window on one side of the road and confronting it on the other side a picture of His Majesty King William. The atmosphere in Corby is tolerant and full of goodwill.
If the people are divided into little groups it is not by reference to the Churches to which they belong or are expected to belong. If I am in a working-men's club and I am asked "Are you Celtic or Rangers?", I reply "I am the referee." If I were pressed, I would say that I am Church of England, but the people there do not press me. Why? It is because to live and let live is the premise of the life of that community. It is tolerant. It provides a delicate balance, but a balance so delicate that if there were an excuse for a return to traditional attitudes there could be a great deal of unhappiness—and I use the most modest and gentle word.
I have no doubt—and this certainty is shared by many people in the Churches— that the most provocative act would be the hanging of a terrorist. Overnight the murderer could become a hero, and the outrage could become an act of patriotism. Before one could say "Napper Tandy", the facts would disappear in the twilight of truth, and people would say that men and women were being hanged "fo' the wearin' o' the Green".
Army officers who have served in Northern Ireland seldom agree on what should be done. After they have left Ireland, they have ideas, but they seldom agree on the solution. However, I have found increasing agreement that one of the needs of the IRA is fresh martyrs.
If there were any evidence that capital punishment was a deterrent, it would be our duty to put it in the balance against the possibility of creating martyrs. But there is no such evidence. Murderers are seldom rational people. Terrorists are mostly killers moved by passion and not by reason. The hon. and learned Mem- 558 ber for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) said that he had been reading HANSARD covering the period during which he had been a Member and during which we had debated the subject. I, too, re-read HANSARD last night and came to the conclusion that in so many of the debates starting from 1955 what appeared to be rational argument was really emotional.
I was not surprised to find Sir Ernest Gowers, Chairman of the Royal Commission, quoted in one of the early debates as saying: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.Sir Ernest had spent four years studying the matter intensely.
I hesitate to put my small experience before the House immediately after quoting Sir Ernest. I do so because I was impressed by the reference of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West to the case of Oscar Slater. I spent two years at the Yale Law School, where one of the subjects I worked on from the beginning was the possibility of judicial error. I worked under Professor Borchard, who wrote the standard book on innocent people who had been convicted. The book set me worrying about the consequences of judicial error and the appalling consequences when there was capital punishment.
The more I have studied the subject, the more I have read of the debates over the past 20 years, and the more I have heard tonight, the more I am convinced of the possibility not only of the innocent being convicted but that the case for capital punishment is essentially emotional and not according to what evidence there is.
In all the debates on the matter, no evidence has been produced in the House that capital punishment is a deterrent. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery referred to the figures before and after abolition, and quoted Lord Ellenborough in another place. We have figures not only for before and after abolition but for adjoining States in the United States and in Australia, one with and one without capital punishment. The situation is always the same. There is no difference in the murder rate.
559 But the argument tonight is that the murderers we are talking about are different. I agree. They are even more irrational. They act through passion and risk a hero's death by being hanged— and on a British gallows—so as to live for ever in Valhalla. They are dedicated to force. They are dedicated to war. In war, the soldier risks his life as a duty, and it is a duty of which he is proud. Of course, I do not feel proud of these men, but this is a fact. We must recognise that they feel that they are at war, and I do not see how the death penalty can be relevant.
My last argument is the power of the State, which must not be ignored. It is only recently in our long European history that we have had to consider the power of the State not only over its enemies but over its own citizens. It is no accident that during Mussolini's rule in Italy capital punishment was reintroduced, not, as the Minister of Justice of the Fascist Government said, because there was any statistical evidence to justify it, but because, as he said, it conformed to the whole spirit of Fascism. Similarly, many Communist countries have capital punishment because a Communist State seeks to dominate the people in it.
One of the first things the Italians did after the war, when Mussolini went, was to abolish capital punishment. The Germans did the same. The Germans recalled the tens of thousands of their citizens who had been killed by the German State exercising its power in the gas chambers.
In this House we must insist that the State fosters any instinct or belief that human life is the most precious thing there is. Above all, we must demand that the State sets an example and does not itself take human life.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Rawlinson (Epsom and Ewell)
Like the right hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas), over the past 20 years I have taken part in many debates in which the issue has been: what is the correct penalty for murder? I should have thought that the one thing which all who have taken part in those debates must have learnt is that it is a matter which everybody must approach with the greatest of humility.
560 The only persons for whom I have any contempt are those with a certain intellectual arrogance who sneer at and deride the arguments and beliefs of others. I do not think this will happen in this debate today because I do not think anybody can be so foolish as to come to this debate determined that the question is easy to answer. I certainly do not believe the question is easy to determine. Some of us have, of course, made up our minds, but I do not believe that any person who sincerely tries to do his duty as a Member of Parliament, with his responsibilities, can have reached a decision without a great deal of grave and worried thought. When I come to my conclusion, I fully accept the risks and dangers in what is necessarily involved in the recommendation which I shall make to the House.
Those hon. Members who have obviously thought about this issue have also taken into account that which is deeply felt by many persons outside this House. We ought not to accept their view merely because there is a mass of opinion in favour of the restoration of capital punishment. But we would be very arrogant and foolish if we did not pay a real respect to this belief, the idea and conviction held by many people who have just as many wits, just as much brain and heart as any of us who have the honour to represent them here in this Chamber.
§ Hon. Members: Hear, hear.
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
It seems to me that this question is this. After the experience, not only in this country and in Northern Ireland—but in international experience, over the past 10 years and after the developments that we have seen across the world, sometimes involving British people, though very often not, should we now reintroduce the death penalty for acts of terrorism, not as an act of vengeance or retribution but as a deliberate act of State, by the State to protect the State and the people who make up the State? I presume that we would only do that if we believed that it would be effective and that it would firmly demonstrate to the terrorist groups across the length and breadth of the world the seriousness of purpose and the will of the people, Parliament and Government of the United Kingdom.
561 I said in July that the time had nearly arrived when we ought to consider once again this penalty. It is in respect of people committing crimes involving the illegal acquisition of explosives, the hiding of those explosives and of making them up; the organisation, the orders, all the concentrated and very skilful, deliberate and well-planned acts which lead to the final act of leaving a package bomb and then slipping away, while innocent persons are blown to pieces. I said in July that the time had nearly arrived when we ought to consider it, and I think the time has now arrived.
I differ from my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) when he said he felt that the reintroduction of capital punishment should be limited only to Great Britain and should not extend to all the United Kingdom because of the present mode of trial in Northern Ireland. In 1973 I voted as a member of the Government for the Act which brought the law of Northern Ireland into line with that of the United Kingdom, first because Section 10 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1966 was totally inoperative and ineffective and, secondly, because we cannot have a different law in different parts of the United Kingdom on the matter of the penalty. But this issue is wider than the IRA and Northern Ireland. Sooner or later this country will be faced more than it has been up to now by similar situations which have been faced in Holland, France and Italy.
It seems to me that there is now no sanction against the international terrorist. The State is powerless, and the terrorists have demonstrated how powerless the State is. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden), who opened the debate, said that the real deterrent is the probability of detection and apprehension. But that is a real deterrent only if there follows from it the certainty of incarceration for very long periods of time, and it has been demonstrated that that does not happen because if terrorists pile terror upon terror, as they do, they can demonstrate to those whom they recruit into their organisations that no matter where their members are in prison, their comrades will use terror once again and will get their people out of prison. Time and time again this has happened.
562 What does the State do when it is presented with these problems? In order to save other lives it has to release those persons. It is rather ironic that only now, when the PLO has become respectable, that organisation is going to apply its own sanctions—the PLO whose members have fought, shot and murdered their way into respectability. If a State is going to hand over these persons whenever it is faced with this agonising problem, how easy it is to recruit into those organisations. They say "Do this. It does not matter how many innocent people you kill. You will only be sent to gaol, and we will get you out of gaol. See, we have already done it. We shall do it again." Only if the State has got the resolution to say "Terrible though it may be, nevertheless this is what has got to happen… You must die".
§ Mr. Churchill (Stretford)
What evidence would my right hon. and learned Friend advance for the premise which he has just put forward? Two States which, along with the United Kingdom, are most faced with acts of terrorism are the State of Israel and the State of Jordan. In neither case have they given in to threats and the taking of hostages.
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
The State of Israel has done so on one occasion in fact, but I agree it does not usually do so. However, my hon. Friend must have misunderstood me. What of the Japanese group, and the Arab group involved in the Rome massacre? Were they not released from Holland? Only if the State says that crime, such as murder of the German business man in the VC10, will be met by trial and death if there is a conviction will it be possible to show that the State will sustain the State and society.
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)
At least in the case of Israel, where there is no death penalty, there is nevertheless a general assumption that there will be summary execution accompanied by retaliation on a massive scale in foreign territories.
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
That seems to be so. Israel seems to do it very effectively because it considers itself to be in a state of war, and treats those who engage in 563 terrorism as engaged in war against the State and meriting instant death.
Then there is the question of recruitment. Members of the IRA active service units who come here and make acts of war are assured that they will never be deserted, that there will be no political settlement unless and until they are released. They are told that they will never have to serve their full term of imprisonment, that they are prisoners of war, and that one of the first conditions of a political settlement will be their release.
I do not believe that any Secretary of State, of whatever party, would ever be able to state on oath to the House that he would never be a party to any such condition. There is no such word as "never" in politics. This is why the IRA will say to its members "You will come out of prison when the political settlement comes." No Secretary of State can ever say that he will never permit that condition to be made.
So what is the sanction? Persons are prepared to kill innocent people in furtherance of political opinions. They are prepared to murder in order to destroy the State. The State which is conscious of its validity and has faith in its rights is entitled to say in such circumstances "If you do this, you too will die." I do not believe that that is an intolerable stand. I do believe that that is an attitude which can be held.
It may be said "You will make martyrs." But the present situation has not prevented martyrs from being made. The martyrs are there—for example, the Price sisters. They came here, engaged in terrorist activities, lied on oath, denied that they had come here to do that which they did, and accused the police. They are not in the noble tradition of Irish patriots, some of whom stood in the dock and refused to acknowledge the court. Nevertheless, they were made into martyrs and could die by hunger strike. We shall not prevent martyrs from being made if the IRA wishes to make them. Propaganda will be raised for them, whatever it may be.
The 1916 Easter rebellion was different. The flag flew over the Post Office in Dublin. Peirse and Connolly wore the uniform. They were there in the great 564 tradition of the Irish Republican Army. They became the great martyrs. But it is different now. Those who took part in the 1916 rebellion were very different from the sneaking riff-raff who take a bomb into a public house or a shop and then leave before it blows innocent people to pieces. That is very different from taking a rifle, and saying "I stand for a united Ireland", and fighting for it openly and manfully. Sneaking a bomb into a shop or a public house is a safe method, except for the very few who kill themselves by accident. It is a very safe method of murder.
How does the State defend itself? We may be told by the Home Secretary, to whom I will listen with great care, that the security forces will find the situation intolerable if there are persons under sentence of death. We should listen to his words very closely, but are the views of the security forces unanimous? I am not sure that he will be able to tell us that they are, but if he does say so, it is a confession of grave weakness.
I have from the beginning accepted that in the short term the reintroduction of the capital penalty would bring grave consequences. There would be the taking of hostages, violence and assissina-tion. It would take courage and determination. But if the State was seen to withstand, to hold fast, I do not believe that such events would often be repeated. Unless the State so demonstrates its national will to defend itself and its institutions, we shall never limit the assault upon the State and society.
We have an obligation to our own people. We have it as Members of the House of Commons, and the Government have it because they are the Government. We have to establish with our people the credibility that the State believes in itself and will fight for itself. For months until fairly recently I had the not very pleasant experience of having my house turned into a fortress, with police officers around it with dogs and electronic devices. I had all that until I was relieved of my duties by the electorate, and then the police went away. But from the very fact of my speaking last Monday on television and saying what I had to say, the threats returned. I am glad to say that the police returned with them.
We must not underestimate what these persons are about, what they want, what 565 they intend to do. There is no Member of this House who will not be fully conscious of the dangers, public and private, which exist. But I believe that this is war. I remain convinced that unless and until this country and others prove that they have the will to defend themselves to the death, terrible as that may be, our States and our peoples will remain at the mercy of international terrorism.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Ray Carter (Birmingham, Northfield)
I shall not make a long speech for the simple reason that what I have to say can be put into very few words. Nor do I intend to support my argument with the use of the statistics, technicalities and logistics without which so many people believe their arguments to be valueless. I say these things because I am an unrepentant abolitionist, and at this point I am prepared to let my argument rest on the simple faith that has sustained it all my thinking life. I will not even enlist the doubtful and transitory aid of principle.
However, as a preface to what I have to say, I want to deal with the question of the victims involved in acts of violence and murder, and the suggestion contained in many letters sent to me after the Birmingham bombings that those who support the abolitionist argument have no sympathy for those victims. That is a wilful misrepresentation of the abolitionist argument because, as even any fair-minded supporter of capital punishment will concede, it is the whole question of sympathy that lies at the centre of the abolitionist case.
The abolitionists did not have to wait for the Birmingham bombings to have their sympathy aroused. It has been alive, consistently opposing violence at all levels and in all places, for a long time. No one can claim a monopoly of sympathy. What we must do is to distinguish between what passes for sympathy and what is no more than open and naked revenge. In a world in which social and political values are being overturned and reborn only to disappear again with even greater rapidity, today's debate gives us the opportunity, albeit an unwelcome one, to examine the values upon which we believe civilised society should be based.
566 For my part I am bound to say that, notwithstanding the battering that my political faith has been subjected to over the past two decades, I remain unflinching in my view that violence is repugnant to and in contradiction of civilised society. To institutionalise it in the form of capital punishment is to undermine in the most savage of ways the values upon which a civilised society claims to rest. My reasons for saying that are more instinctive than acquired, more felt than thought and more a question of faith than anything else.
I know that that statement will not meet with the wholehearted approval of large numbers of my electorate. But I hope that on this issue, above all others, the public will be prepared to leave it to this place to decide the issue. I say that because I find it strange that some of the people who are strongest in their demand that Members of Parliament should be free to exercise their conscience at all times on all issues are now the people telling me that I should reflect public opinion and support the reintroduction of capital punishment.
The question before us today is about rather more than the straight issue of capital punishment. In a much wider sense it is about the way in which we as a society react to what could be a mere prelude to a period of great trauma in world history. If we now over-react with a policy of violence to meet violence we shall, for the duration of our troubles, set ourselves on a course from which there will be no turning. There is, however, another way. Our responsibility is surely to ensure that everyone, including the violent or potentially violent minority among us, travels that other way. That is not an easy task, but nothing worth while ever is.
If we still claim to live in a tolerant society we must at all times, as leaders of opinion, affirm our belief in tolerance. If we do not, have not the bombers won? I sincerely hope not only that the reintroduction of capital punishment will be soundly defeated tonight but that in defeating it we shall make some contribution to the withering away of the violence that has caused this debate to take place.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Irving (Cheltenham)
I feel somewhat apprehensive, Mr. Deputy 567 Speaker, about being your second "maiden" of the day. Nevertheless I will try, in accordance with the good custom and tradition of this House, to be concise. I know that there are many hon. Members wishing to speak, and I can tell you that I shall take only 10 minutes of the time of the House. I timed my speech several times in the bath at 3 o'clock this morning and it is exactly 10 minutes long.
In accordance with custom, I pay tribute to my predecessor, Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker, who gave long and faithful service to this House over 30 years. He was a dedicated parliamentarian and, along with his wife, was popular and well thought of in the constituency. I follow that by saying how greatly I have appreciated the honour of being elected to serve Cheltenham in this House. Cheltenham is my home town, where I was born and bred. It is a beautiful town, and I hope to serve it for many years to come. It is a difficult seat, but I will try to retain it.
I must now turn to the bombings at Guildford, London, Birmingham, and elsewhere. Capital punishment is perhaps a macabre subject for a maiden speech. I have been involved for 20 years with penal affairs, and I felt that this was a subject on which I should express a view. There is no doubt that these bombings have aroused feelings of intense revulsion, feelings which I fully share and understand. There may be a logic which some would use to justify such happenings but it is one hidden from ordinary reason and totally foreign to all feelings of common humanity.
Let me say a word about the victims. For those who died there is, alas, little that we can do. But for the living, some of them deformed beyond description, there are provisions under the criminal injuries compensation scheme. I have been involved for some years with a number of such schemes aimed at helping victims. But I speak from bitter experience when I say that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is totally and utterly inadequate to handle the task now confronting it. Many victims do not even hear of the board's activities, although I am aware that special efforts were made to publicise its proposals after the bombings. Many victims never apply 568 for compensation, and for those who do, the relief they get is often too little and too late.
I fear that many people are thinking not necessarily about the victims but about retribution. That is a wholly understandable reaction, but it brings with it some wholly undersirable consequences. As the cry of "Hang the bombers" goes up, not only in the streets of Britain but in the Lobby of Westminster, it is time for an angry nation to ask itself a realistic question. If total retribution is to be our policy against the IRA, have we really got the guts to go through with it? While it is easy and satisfying to execute some nameless terrorist on the Order Paper of the House, in the bar of the local pub or in the columns of a newspaper, such a decision by Parliament would bring appalling perils, not only for the community but for law and order itself.
The reality is that carrying out such executions might well prove politically impossible even for the most determined Government. It is simple enough perhaps to think of the due process of law—the trial, the black cap, the appeal, the refusal of a reprieve, the pulling of the lever and the lonely interment in an anonymous grave behind the prison wall. But what does the Home Secretary do, for example, when two days before the execution is due he receives a message, complete with the identifying code of the IRA, saying that five children have been kidnapped and will be killed if the bomber is not reprieved or perhaps released?
I hope that we have seen the last of that obscene public servant, the hangman, but even if some special provision such as an amendment of the Treason Act could be introduced which allowed only the execution of terrorists the problems of implementing it would be immense. Does someone have to die in a bomb attack before the death penalty can be invoked? Do we execute the minor bombers of a murder gang who happen to be caught whilst the principals remain at large? If the death sentence is not mandatory in all cases of terrorism, are we to ask judges to make political decisions about who is to live and who is to die? What would be the personal consequences of that to them and to their families? How will the Home Secretary respond to the seizure 569 and threatened killings of innocent hostages held against the lives of condemned terrorists?
The last time we had a partial application of the death penalty in this country the Judiciary found it intolerable, impracticable and unworkable. On a diferent plane, the last time British firing squads shot members of the Irish Republican movement was in the wake of the 1916 Easter rising in Dublin. The result of those shooting was a massive shift of Irish sympathies which led directly to the establishment of Eire and the partition of Ireland. No one can say what the effect would be today, but the IRA would welcome a fresh crop of martyrs to renew the faith of its flagging supporters.
In Ireland the past lives on in the present like nowhere else in the world. Ulster represents the unfinished business of Cromwell and Lloyd George. The present troubles are only the latest instalment of a war which has been going on for nearly 800 years. If we are not to endure many more hundreds of years of violent strife, greater efforts than ever before must be made to find a political solution to the Ulster question. Let us invite those who cry loudest for vengeance to be the first to put forward their positive and constructive proposals for solving the Ulster problem by political means. The judicial killing of a few fervent terrorists is a poor substitute for thoughtful policy and no help at all to the victims of the Birmingham bombers.
I am sorry that I cannot support the amendment.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)
This is the first time in 10 years' membership of the House that I have had the opportunity to congratulate a maiden speaker. It always involves certain conventions. When I say that I want the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving) to speak often and as sensibly as he has just spoken, and to address the House with the confidence which he has just displayed, that is not a mere convention. Many of us remember his predecessor, Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker. It can now be revealed, as it cannot possibly do him any political damage, that Sir Douglas had as many friends on this side of the House as he had on his side. The hon. Gentleman 570 is well on the way to making that kind of enviable reputation.
I have here an absolutely splendid speech which, again for the first time in 10 years, I have bothered to write, but unfortunately most of the main points in it have already been made. Although occasionally I may irritate and annoy the House, I do not think that I have ever been guilty of boring it. So I put the notes for that speech on one side.
It is difficult for anyone to approach this subject without having very strong emotions. I am no exception to that general rule. We should, however, remind ourselves what we are not debating. We are not debating capital punishment as such. We are not discussing whether there is more moral rectitude among Members on this side of the House than among Members on the benches opposite. No one has challenged the sincerity or motives of Members who have spoken. Therefore, I repeat that we are not talking about capital punishment as a deterrent in general, and we are not going through a series of postures to demonstrate to our local vicars what virtuous parishioners we are.
I wish to talk about this method of deterrence as a means of bringing to a successful conclusion a type of warfare which this country has never experienced except in this century. It affects not only Northern Ireland but the Middle East, even the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany and most other countries. The vital difference between this kind of activity and the forms of guerrilla action which have established States in the past is this—and I propose to use the grab bag of history to illustrate my argument. The guerrillas who supported the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular campaign were terrorists to the French and pretty rough customers, but they fought for a political objective— the ejection of the Bonapartist army from Spain. Guerrilla movements have always been the cutting edge of political movements which, after the victory of the guerrillas, were able to organise new States or new communities.
But the kind of terrorism against which we legislated the other day and which we are now discussing is terrorism with no political objective whatever. What can be the objective of the IRA except to stick a flag on the ruins of Belfast and 571 the ruins of Dublin? There is no ideology and no strategy. It is terrorism for terrorism's sake by degraded individuals who find in this form of activity a satisfying way of taking their revenge on a society in which they have not been able to make their way. Most of them are social rejects having nothing in common with the Irish rebels of 1916, the Russian revolutionaries of 1917 or the officers in the Portuguese army who staged a revoluution not long ago.
Therefore, how do we deal with this new type of attack against what I have described in the House on a previous occasion as the whole fabric of Western civilisation? The question that has to be answered, and I hope it will be answered in the Lobbies tonight, is whether the reintroduction of the death penalty for this crime would be an effective weapon for the defence and preservation not only of the State but of the nation.
First, I do not challenge the right of the State to kill. In two world wars the State killed on a large scale in an organised way. In my view, its right to do so was absolute.
Secondly, I do not feel that I am obliged by any religious convictions, either of my own or those conveyed to me by my theologically trained friends, to place an absolute value on human life. If I were confronted with a terrorist and I had the kind of abilities that I possessed 25 years ago—in other words, if I could handle a pistol, see straight and aim properly—I should have no more compunction about shooting that terrorist in the act than I would about squashing a scorpion walking into this Chamber, even though it might be heading for the Opposition Front Bench.
I do not speak through sentimentality. I am trying to speak with the cold sense of realism. If a deterrent, which includes death, has to be applied either in Northern Ireland or in other parts of the United Kingdom, let me assert, without the opportunity to document this, that the more indiscriminate and ruthless the application of death, the more successful it is as a deterrent. In fact, the hanging of an innocent man serves as much as a deterrent as the hanging of a guilty man. Do not let us delude ourselves that there is not a military solution to the problems 572 of Northern Ireland. There is a military solution which has frequently been applied by other countries in their past tormented histories.
The Committee of Public Safety, which carried through the reign of terror under Robespierre, is recalled with horror even by those of my hon. Friends who are revolutionaries. Nevertheless the French people have named a Metro station after Robespierre and were quite right to do so because in spite of, and perhaps because of, the indiscriminate slaughter and shedding of blood in that area, which is now the Place de la Concorde, the Committee of Public Safety saved France and the revolution. That may not be regarded as entirely desirable by certain hon. Members but it is too late to change it now. Even under the terms of the Treaty of Rome we cannot rescind the French Revolution. These are historical facts. Because this type of deterrent, both indiscriminate and ruthless, was applied, the effect on French fighting capacity to defend the State during the revolution was very effective. In describing that, I hope that I shall not be accused of advocating it.
I start from what I consider to be a somewhat dubious premise, and I am trying to move from that to what I think is the awful inevitable conclusion that the more indiscriminate we are about killing, the more effective the quality of deterrence will be. If we hang or shoot a terrorist, we obviously do not deter him because afterwards he will be placed in the lime pit and will be burned away. He will have gone. It is equally evident that, because of the very nature of this type of terrorism, we can have little effect on deterring his fellow terrorists, because the most recent equivalent to this type of person was the kamikaze pilots who crashed their aircraft on the decks of United States ships in the Pacific during the closing weeks of the Second World War. The terrorists and the kamikaze pilots resemble each other in several respects.
Allow me to pursue the argument about the type of deterrent which can be effective. I hope that nothing I say will be misinterpreted and that the House will recall that I am describing, not advocating.
It is generally assumed that the Nazi policy of repression in occupied Europe 573 was unsuccessful. That is not true. That policy involved the total destruction of Warsaw. It involved horrors which we do not like to think about, even now. However, as a method of cowing and the terrorising a population it was effective, because the resistance movements, much as I honour them, did not have a serious effect on the efficiency of the German Army, which confronted our troops from June 1944. We must not be hypnotised by the myths perpetrated by Hollywood films when we take this cold look at the situation when Europe was under the control of the most ruthless advocates and practitioners of deterrence that the world has probably ever seen.
The policy of deterrence, if we are to follow it, must in the light of history resemble the historical deterrence which I have described. Would any hon. Member support that kind of policy? I honour the soldiers carrying out their duties in Northern Ireland. A few days ago I had the terrible job of writing to the parents of an 18-year-old boy killed there. It is a most awful duty to perform. However, is there a soldier, of whatever rank, in Northern Ireland who would obey such orders and carry out such a policy to lay waste at least half of Belfast to terrorise the people who constitute the sea in which the urban guerrillas swim? I doubt it very much.
We have therefore to answer this question. "Liquidation" is a horrible phrase which has crept into the language of murder during the past 30 years. Can the liquidation of the individual terrorist help those who are trying to impose order and some kind of social organisation on the tormented Province of Northern Ireland, to say nothing of Birmingham and other cities which are equally threatened? I do not believe that it will help.
Sometimes, to the accompanying laughter of my hon. Friends, I assert that the Labour Party should be more the party of order than the Conservative Party, by which I mean order sustained by law. Nevertheless, would the reintroduction of the penalty for terrorists help those who must fight this new kind of war against this new enemy who has no ideology, no strategy and no ideals but only a nihilistic desire to destroy that of which he is too inferior to become an effective part—that is civilised society? For the reasons adduced by my hon. 574 Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden), I cannot believe that it would help.
In spite of the fact that I share the feelings of many hon. Gentlemen who will vote differently, and in spite of the fact that I too can feel a desire for retribution and vengeance as strongly as any of my constituents or the citizens of Birmingham, I am compelled to look at the question before us in as cold and as unemotional a way as I possibly can, even though he who could be totally cold and unemotional about this matter would be some kind of monster. In the circumstances, therefore, I have no alternative but to support the motion.
§ Mr. Gorst
I have not made up my mind on how to vote on the motion. May I describe to the hon. Member the way in which the matter was presented to me by a judge when capital punishment was abolished? That judge said that the State had downgraded the crime of murder. Would not the hon. Gentleman consider that in this particularly horrible situation the State now ought to upgrade the penalty for terrorism?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) for making that intervention. However, to reply to it effectively would require me to make another speech, and I should be in serious trouble if I tried to do that.
It seems to me that by ourselves refusing to take even the most despicable of lives we are in some sense maintaining the values by which we wish to live and sustaining the fabric of that civilisation of which we are all a loyal part. That is not an effective answer, I know. I wish that the hon. Gentleman, who is a personal friend of mine, had put his question to me a little earlier.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
I begin by associating myself with the congratulations and tributes fittingly paid to my two hon. Friends who have made such admirable maiden speeches today. They must have realised from the warmth and attention with which the House listened to them how much their contributions were appreciated and how much the House looks forward to hearing them again.
575 Over the years I have taken part in several debates on the subject of capital punishment. It is a subject which I have found a peculiarly difficult one, giving rise to many doubts. If I may paraphrase Dr. Johnson's words on another subject, I have never known whether to envy or marvel at the certainty with which some are able to invest these problems.
All questions involving the death penalty arouse in an acute form anxieties and complexities concerning the old and enduring problem of the rights and duties of the State in regard to punishment. The problem is as old as organised society itself.
I have taken the view that in general circumstances the death penalty is inappropriate in modern society. I have taken that view not because I feel that the death penalty is inherently inadmissible or morally wrong in all circumstances but because, on the balance of relevant considerations, that is the correct position.
Today, however, we are dealing with one specific aspect—the limited imposition of the penalty for certain acts specifically directed against society as a whole, and the question for me, and perhaps for many in this House and outside it, is whether these offences warrant and require a treatment different from the general. Can this genus of planned political murders—of terrorist murders—be distinguished in principle, and effectively differentiated in penalty from the general run of murder? After much anxious thought, I have come to the conclusion that it can.
After all, so much is different. Whereas the ordinary murder, if I may call it that, is specific, limited and individual, terrorist murder is, or is likely to be and is intended to be, general, widespread and haphazard. Motive, method, scale of operation and the mentality of the murderer all tend to be different. Whereas the ordinary murder is an isolated and frequently wholly uncharacteristic act, the terrorist murder is part of a pattern designed to promote and encourage the perpetration of further killings.
Therefore, I believe that it is possible and proper to distinguish in principle the terrorist murder from the generality, and I do not consider that the reintro- 576 duction of capital punishment for this type of murder, and this alone, would impose any logical necessity for a more general reversion to the death penalty. I believe that it is probably the reverse and that it makes it more likely that we would be able to retain the non-user of the death penalty in the ordinary way.
Since terrorist murders are sui generis, since they are political or anarchical, I do not believe either that it would impose any logical necessity for reintroducing the general dual classification of murder attempted, unsuccessfully in the event, in the Homicide Act.
If these crimes can be distinguished in principle from the generality, the next question is whether it would be proper and practical to treat them differently. Would there be a specific benefit as well as a justification to society in so doing? Some may feel—we know that some do in the country—that the element of retribution should here weigh heavily and sufficiently of itself. There has been some misunderstanding in the debate about the use of the word "retribution". The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) wholly excluded retribution. Probably he has not recently refreshed his memory with the locus classicus on punishment, Professor T. H. Green's essay on the right of the State to punish, which includes as well as reformation and prevention, or what we call deterrence, the element of retribution. But Professor Green was careful to point out that retribution, properly understood, as an element of punishment, excludes vengeance and the concept of the equivalence of suffering. The difference is, I would think, that one should take into account the just imposition of punishment but should exclude the angry exaction of revenge.
The main matter here is the question of deterrence. In the ordinary case of murder, that is a difficult question enough, not least because it assumes a degree of calculation in a single individual committing an isolated act which in the state of his mind before committing the offence may not exist at all. Terrorist murders are not isolated individual acts. They require a much greater degree of planning and preparation and a much more sophisticated organisation. In such a case there is 577 and must be always the hope and possibility in the context of deterrence that the strength of the chain will prove to be the weakest link.
Probably there would be no deterrent in the case of some, perhaps the prime participants or the most resolute. But in the case of others—principals in the act of murder, although secondary perhaps in role and status, whose co-operation is required for the success of the dreadful undertaking—the deterrent factor might well be real. The totality of the perpetrators is likely to be large. All these people who participate, who aid and abet, who "invite, procure, set on and stir up"—in the ancient words—the commission of these crimes make up a large number. Therefore it seems likely that there must be some amongst them on whom this penalty would act as a deterrent.
It does not follow that the principal in the first degree—the planter of the bomb himself—is the most impervious to deterrence. He may be only a tool, or conceivably a mercenary. If there is an effective deterrent at any point in the chain, be it in the planning sector, the operating sector or the aiding and abetting sector, the task of those who pursue these methods becomes cumulatively harder at each point.
It is said by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood that apprehension is more important. Apprehension is vitally important. No deterrent whatever it may be, is of any value without detection and apprehension. Equally, however, the efficacy of apprehension is dependent on the adequacy of the penalty to which it leads. If this be right, if there is a reasonable chance and prospect of this penalty acting as a deterrent, that is something which must weigh heavily against the general disinclination to exact it.
If it be right to entertain the principle, can effect be given to it? It can scarcely be impossible one would think, as a matter of definition, to define the offence of killing arising out of or occurring as a result of operations instituted for political objectives or designed to induce fear in Her Majesty's subjects or substantial sections thereof.
Apart from the question of principle and the possible complexities of defin- 578 ition, there is the further argument that the imposition of the death penalty would expose society to a greater risk of reprisals. That is a matter which must be closely and earnestly considered, though in considering it we as the House of Commons must have regard to the implications of such an argument, since it carries with it in the final analysis a consequence that the content of law might be fashioned and its limits prescribed, not by the law maker, but by the law breaker. We have to consider, therefore, the implications for the rule of law of the application of that principle.
In any event, there would be a contrasting consideration. If the terrorist is apprehended he will be sentenced, if not to death, to a lengthy term of imprisonment. May not the arguments about violence and the exaction of hostages apply to the release of prisoners as well as to the avoidance of execution? The impulse may not be so immediate or so strong, but the motive and the occasion will be more lasting. The danger may not be so prompt, but it will be more protracted.
There is the further consideration with political crimes that the deterrent effect of imprisonment is likely to be mitigated, not only by the hope of release by reprisals, but by the possibility of easement through political pressure, of a change of sentiment, or the hope of amnesty. If the apprehension of execution is softened by the possibility of the martyr's crown, the penalty of imprisonment is mitigated by the prospect of political promotion, by the hope that the prisoner of today may be the president of tomorrow. There is no lack of examples, ancient and modern, for this proposition.
I agree with those who have said that capital punishment would not and should not, in this context, be synonymous with hanging. One would not suggest a return to that or to the macabre associations that it carries. If the penalty exercises the deterrent effect that is hoped for, its actual application would be very rare. Where it has to be done, it would have to be done as expeditiously as is consonant with justice, as humanely as possible, and with the minimum of that attendant publicity to which reference has been made.
579 I view this as a limited expedient. I will listen, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), with whose approach to this I found myself very much in agreement, said, to everything that is said in the reply of the Home Secretary and the rest of the debate, bu I regard it in any event as a limited expedient and one to be embarked on only with reluctance.
It is right to say that the circumstances attending, first, the suspension of the death penalty all those years ago in 1948, and then its abolition in the 1960s, are not paralleled in the special circumstances of today. In one of those early debates I ventured to propound, as the test for one's approach to questions of social and legal reform, the attempt to project oneself 50 years forward and credit oneself with the notional hindsight of how it would look at that time.
It is fair to say that when I spoke those words I no doubt shared to a large extent the comfortable assumption of our forebears of the doctrine of the inevitability of progress. Fifty years forward would be 50 years better and wiser, and 50 years forward would be 50 years more tranquil and more tolerant. Over half of that period has passed since I propounded that test, and I am bound to say that I am disappointed by the result that has been achieved. Today we have to take the situation as we find it and deal with it as best we may in this specific context in which we find ourselves.
A threatened society must equip itself with the defences and deterrents at its command, in the hope that the need for them will be limited and brief and in the knowledge that their application will be in the spirit of the rule of law, carried out, not in a spirit of vengeance, but in the defence of and for the protection and survival of a free and fair society.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. William Craig (Belfast, East)
Once again we are concerned with the problems arising out of terrorism and, unhappily, once again we are only considering one aspect, though a very important aspect. The tragedy of Birmingham and the fall-out from Birmingham has caused many of us to rethink the position, not because we are simply reacting out of 580 Birmingham but because we fear a continuation and an escalation of terrorist campaigns. Surely, if we fear a continuation and escalation we should be looking at the problem on a much greater scale.
I have no doubt that the death penalty may have a part to play in dealing with terrorists, but if it has a part to play I would want to be sure that we are resorting to that decision because there is nothing else left to complete the armoury against the terrorist. It is for that reason that I and my colleagues would like to have seen a much wider-ranging discussion, looking at all the problems that arise out of the various crimes that terrorists commit.
Perhaps the only different thing I can say from what has been generally emphasised in earlier speeches is that terrorist crimes are different, not only because of their indiscriminate nature or because of the horror of the deed but for another reason altogether. They present a threat to the rule of law, because they produce a condition that invites retaliation. We in Ulster know what that means, and I think that hon. Members are probably beginning to know because, as I understand from some hon. Members who have a ground knowledge of Birmingham, there was very real evidence of a serious backlash. We must pay special attention to this problem.
It is a threat to the rule of law. I think that the rule of law breaks down on three occasions—when crime is not detected or followed through, if crime is detected and there is no follow-through, or if the perpetrator is arrested and the law is inadequate.
We have been told by a number of hon. Members that by and large people feel strongly about this matter and appear to be in favour of the death penalty. In considering the possibility of a breakdown in the rule of law because of a lack of confidence and a feeling that it is inadequate, we must weigh this feeling very carefully. At the same time we must ask the question "If this feeling of inadequacy exists, is there any other way to repair it?"
I believe that there is a good case for a special code of law dealing with the crimes arising out of terrorism. We have a law for murder, a law for arson and a law for armed robbery, but when offences 581 are committed in pursuit of a political terrorist campaign they are all of a different nature and should be dealt with by a special code of law.
We have also to think of a special judicial arrangement. This is of particular importance to Northern Ireland. We were rather startled to hear one learned person suggest that Northern Ireland might be exempted from any decision on the death penalty. I think that there is a good case for a special division of the English High Court or some court to have a United Kingdom jurisdiction to deal with offences arising out of terrorism. There is absolutely no objection to criminals being brought from all parts of the kingdom to a central court to be dealt with for crimes which are a threat to the nation.
A special judicial arrangement of that nature could get over a number of difficulties, because a special division of the court would not have the same backlog of cases as exist in the ordinary courts and might result in a more expeditious administration of the law. We in Ulster would seriously advocate a code of law to deal with terrorist crime in general and a special court to administer it. Against that overall code we would have to weigh the decision whether it was right and proper to institute the death penalty.
I have listened carefully to all the arguments as to whether the death penalty is a deterrent and what dangers there might be. No doubt there are fresh arguments to come. But the overriding consideration in my mind is what gives confidence to the people. We need to weigh against that the difficulties which have been mentioned—for example, the problem of creating martyrs. We tend to assume too easily that we shall make martyrs of these people. We have only to remember the man who, in seeking to carry out a terrorist act, recently blew himself to pieces in Coventry. It was difficult to get that man buried. In the first place it was difficult to get the man out of England since the airport workers would not handle him, and there was great difficulty in handling the situation in Dublin. There appeared to be no question of that illustrious member of the IRA being regarded as a martyr. These crimes spread horror in the hearts of all and I would be inclined to discount the risk of martydom.
582 The question of deterrence is not an easy one to answer. It is true to say that these terrorist organisations comprise a very few people. They depend for their success on manipulating other people and in taking advantage of the feelings in the community. If the law is such that it indicates to people the abhorrence of the whole nation at such a crime, it will be more difficult for the terrorist to manipulate, particularly if we take the firm view that we are dealing with criminals rather than with patriotic freedom fighters.
There is the problem of the young teenager who can be used to plant a bomb or to pull the trigger of a gun. It has been argued that we may only encourage the IRA to use teenagers. I doubt very much whether that is a significant argument. The teenager by and large has been conned into doing these things because a false sense of patriotic duty has been cultivated. If the penalties are very severe, including perhaps the death penalty, the teenager will not be so easily conned and his parents will be very much more concerned about what he is up to.
I am sure the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will confirm that in recent times there has been a greater flow of information about people involved in terrorist organisations. That flow has increased because of the growing sense of horror and desire among people to see the law cope with the terrorist. I am sure that there have been cases where parents have seen to it that their sons have been locked up because they feared that if they were allowed to continue in freedom in these terrorist organisations they would eventually be guilty of more dreadful crimes.
There has been reference to the problem of trial by jury. I am sure that none from Ulster would support the death penalty in the absence of trial by jury. In Great Britain there is trial by jury, but on the basis of a majority verdict. I would find it extremely difficult to accept a majority decision that would inflict capital punishment. This matter would have to be dealt with in the context of the new judicial machinery which I advocated earlier All of us, want to show the country that the forces of law and order will win the battle against terrorism 583 and that the law adequately demonstrates that this is the case.
We have not been fortunate to have been given an authoritative review of the situation. If we had before us the considered opinion of the police, the Army and experts in terrorism, we would all be in a much better position to decide how to vote tonight. But we are not in that position. The police in a general way in Northern Ireland have said that they favour the death penalty, and indeed the Police Federation has said that on behalf of its men. I know that it is the opinion of many Army officers that the death penalty should be introduced. But we cannot say that those opinions are based on an authoritative examination of the subject. Because we feel the lack of such an examination, my colleagues and I have tabled the amendment.
We find ourselves in difficulty this evening. Are we to vote for the motion, are we to vote for the amendment or are we not to vote at all? I personally feel that we have got to vote. The country should know how its elected representatives feel in this situation. Despite all the reservations and qualifications which I have expressed, I feel that I must vote for the amendment.
The motion rules out something which it may be necessary to consider after the most careful review; all the problems which have been related to the adoption of the death penalty could possibly be resolved in a study of the problem. I feel that if we were to abstain we should fail to give a lead to the country that we intend to deal with this serious problem. I certainly hope that the message that will emerge from this debate is that we intend to deal with the problem.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Hoyle (Nelson and Colne)
I am indebted to you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me because my constituency will always be associated with the abolition of capital punishment through the activities of Sydney Silverman, who spent a large part of his life fighting to bring that about. I am sure that as we speak his spirit is with us bobbing up and down on the benches. I have no doubt that before he died he thought that this matter was at last at rest. Nevertheless, I appreciate that changed circum- 584 stances make it necessary for us to debate this subject today.
At the outset I should like to express my sympathy to all the victims of the bomb outrages in Birmingham and London and to the people of Northern Ireland who have suffered so long from terrorist activities.
In view of recent happenings, whether we like it or not, we must accept that this is an emotion-charged debate. Indeed, it would be very difficult at this time if it were not.
The debate has been of a high quality in examining the problem. However, I find some of the arguments somewhat illogical. The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) said that he could see a case for the reintroduction of capital punishment in Great Britain but not in Northern Ireland. I find that rather illogical. It is also illogical that on 14th May 1973 the right hon. Gentleman should have voted against capital punishment in Northern Ireland if he believed that it was a deterrent.
Many hon. Members have said that we do not know the policy of the Army. The only cutting I have found which could refer to the Army is from a recent Sunday Telegraph. It states that many of the fears that we have expressed, particularly on this side of the House, are backed by intelligent experts of the security forces in Northern Ireland. They have said:These men and women are psychopathic murderers. Capital punishment would only spur them towards more and greater atrocities to attract an aura of martyrdom to their cause. The death penalty in the circumstances can only be counter-productive and would not help one iota in the fight against terrorism.There is a further reference to the need particularly of the Provisional IRA for martyrs. It suggests that they are hungry for modern martyrs and that one result would bea spate of private memorials like the one recently erected in the border town of Crossmaglen to Michael McVerry, local Provisional IRA Commander, responsible for the deaths of 23 British soldiers, who was shot dead in November last year. The memorial has cost local people £10,000.Is that the kind of situation we want to create? Would it help one whit towards bringing about peace in Northern Ireland? I do not think so. I do not think that would be the result.
585 It is necessary to clarify in our minds to whom capital punishment would apply. Would it apply to the person who plants the bomb or the explosive, or would it also apply to accomplices behind the scenes? If it applied to accomplices, we could well be executing as many as 30 people for one offence. I am sure that that is a matter that this House would not wish to contemplate.
One of the tragedies of the situation in Northern Ireland has been the involvement of many children. I have grieved about it. I believe that this stirring up of hatred, particularly amongst the young, is not much encouragement for the future. Whatever is said, it must logically follow that if we bring in capital punishment terrorists will turn to using very young children to plant explosives in order that they may escape the consequences of their actions. Again, I do not believe that is what this House would desire.
The great question of martyrs needs to be looked at in detail. There is no doubt that Irish history is littered with martyrs. By the very fact that they carry the explosives, those who plant bombs already risk their lives, as we know from the incident in Coventry where a man was blown up while planting explosive. Therefore, I do not see how capital punishment would be a deterrent to that kind of person.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
Surely terrorism is a world problem. It is not confined to the IRA. Unless the nations of the world unite and are determined to defeat terrorism, it is a counsel of despair. What constructive suggestions can opponents of capital punishment make to put an end to terrorism?
§ Mr. Hoyle
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking me that question. I was dealing first with Northern Ireland and was hoping later to come on to hijacking and other matters.
There can only be a political solution to the problems in Northern Ireland. It is only by working towards a long-term political solution that we shall bring an end to terrorist activities there. Terrorism has only just occurred in this country, but it has been going on for a very long time through all the troubles 586 that have befallen Northern Ireland. The people there are somewhat cynical about the reaction in this country, because they have had to put up with these activities for such a long time. Capital punishment was not a deterrent to terrorist activities in Northern Ireland, because it had not been used since 1961 up to its abolition.
The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) very fairly asks how I would tackle the problem of the urban guerrilla or the hijacker. I am particularly concerned about the hijacking problem. I have an interest because I am a member of ASTMS, a trade union which has members working for airlines. Here again we have a determined group of people who know when they get on board a plane that they put at risk the lives not only of innocent people, but of themselves. In those circumstances, I do not feel that capital punishment would be a deterrent.
The only answer I see to the hijacker is for every country in the world to refuse him asylum. If that is not done, and done fairly soon, many of my members will refuse to fly to countries that harbour and give asylum to these despicable people.
§ Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House what evidence there is to show that hijackers believe they are likely to lose their lives? My recollection of recent hijackings is that few hijackers have lost their lives compared with the numbers who have been involved in this business in recent years.
§ Mr. Hoyle
I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman when he says that few hijackers have lost their lives, but the fact is that they know they run the risk of losing their lives because they carry the explosive with them if it is a bomb, or if they carry a pistol they run the risk of being shot if the security forces suddenly appear at the airport. We know that some hijackers who have tried to hijack Israeli airliners or carry out their activities at Israeli airports have lost their lives, and any hijacker must take that into account.
§ Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire) rose—587
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I asked for limited interventions. The hon. Member who has the Floor has given way twice, and I hope that he will be allowed to finish his speech.
§ Mr. Hoyle
I take note of your comment, Mr. Speaker, and I shall not be much longer.
I do not think the case has been made for bringing back capital punishment, particularly for dealing with terrorists. I should hate to debase our civilised standards in the eyes of the world. I should hate also to think that this country's answer to the gunman and the bomber is the rope, and I hope, therefore, that the amendment will be overwhelmingly rejected.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)
I am associated with the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) and I am grateful for this opportunity to speak in favour of it.
I am sure that the whole country will welcome this debate. Over the months there has been growing in the House a deep anxiety about what is happening not only in this country but in Northern Ireland. We are experiencing for the first time the fear that ordinary people have for their safety, and we are seeing terrorism gradually escalating. It is, therefore, right that the House should debate this crucial issue tonight and give a lead which is what the country is calling for in grappling with this problem.
We are seeing the horrors of Northern Ireland brought to us, and this is creating a new dimension and a new situation. There is no precedent in my life in peace time for circumstances such as those we have seen on the M62 and in Birmingham recently. This action is tactically calculated and run on military lines. It is a campaign that goes beyond the rules of war and has no regard for human and innocent lives. The aim of the IRA is to secure a political victory and the withdrawal of our protection from Northern Ireland.
In these circumstances we should restate our aims, which are to secure peace, reason, sanity and security. We must be master in our own land It is inconceivable to me that a policy of 588 appeasement will succeed. It is my view that if we hold back from making the decision that we feel in our hearts we must make we shall do a grave disservice to this country and adversely influence what may happen in the future.
It would be unwise of Parliament to ignore public opinion and the strength of it. Many people have come to the conclusion that we should introduce capital punishment for acts of terrorism. Are we so wrong in thinking that we should take that step, and are all these people so wrong in saying that that is what we should do?
This debate is not born of a sudden passion or a desire for vengeance for what happened in Birmingham. It is, perhaps, born of a love for our countrymen and a desire to see that they have the fullest protection that Parliament in its wisdom can provide.
A sense of vengeance is understandable amongst those who lost relatives in Birmingham or in bombings in other areas, or whose relatives have been maimed for life or severely injured. Vengeance is a human characteristic, and is closely equal to justice, but justice must be equal to the extent of the crime and vengeance is something that exceeds the moral line of justice. I do not doubt that crimes of terrorism involving death demand and should receive a sentence of capital punishment. After all, surely those who trade in death value their own lives and appreciate the risks they are running.
We have seen a gradual increase in the succession of bombings, deaths and casualties in Northern Ireland, and now here, and this is strengthening the call for a lead from Parliament to do something more than we have done so far. People wish to be satisfied that sentences not only fit the crime but offer the strongest possible deterrent, and the deterrent value is worth only as must as the public's understanding of it.
The expression "life" in a term of imprisonment has, to my mind, and in the view of many people, been devalued because it can cover a varying span of years. The facts show that criminals who are sentenced to life imprisonment spend anything from 10 to 15 years in prison, and to many people that is not the deterrent that we need to combat terrorist activity. The reintroduction of 589 capital punishment would, I believe, bring in a new deterrent.
This is a controversial issue, and many hon. Members have given their views on whether they see capital punishment as a deterrent factor. I think that we should look at it from the human angle of the young person who may be tempted to be drawn into a terrorist organisation, go through his training, his practice and his planning for his activities. Surely somewhere along the line there is a point at which he must stop and realise that if he is caught his life is the sacrifice that he will have to make.
A prison sentence can vary in number of years, but add to that the chance of an amnesty, or the possibility of escape, or of realise earlier than the term of years specified, and I think that we would come to the conclusion that that is not a sufficient deterrent for the type of crime that leads to the death of possibly, two, 12 or 20 people, and the maiming of several hundred other people. It is the public's sense of recognising this that has, I believe, called for this debate. I believe that capital punishment for acts of terrorism involving death has a deterrent factor. I do not think anybody would doubt that the crimes would deserve it, and I think that the morale of the public demands it.
Against this amendment we have two dangerous arguments both of which are hypothetical—that martyrs will be made of those who are executed, and that hostages may be taken to secure the release of terrorists before their execution.
It is not the sentence that creates the martyrs. It is the words and the actions of the terrorist organisation. We must ask ourselves whether the nation will stand by and accept the hero worship and martyrdom of those people who have been sentenced, if we agree to the amendment. I do not believe that people will stand by in this way. Equally that could apply to those people who are imprisoned or even those who blow themselves up through their own actions. It is in the mind of the terrorist organisation that there is a martyr, and not the nation's.
This can also apply to hostages who might be taken in order to release prisoners, and it is dangerous to use this argument specifically on capital punishment. Come what may, if, Heaven forbid, 590 hostages were to be taken to secure the release of prisoners we would be faced with exactly the same situation as if those people were under the sentence of death from the courts.
The debate is about beating the terrorist. Nobody wants to bring back capital punishment simply to secure the death of an individual, but we must show our will to beat the terrorist. The debate must not be about whether we have the courage to take action but about whether we feel, in our conscience, that it is morally justified. The consequences of not passing the amendment must be considered. If we were not to pass the amendment because of fear of reprisals arising from capital punishment sentences we would be abdicating our ability to govern by law. We must stand firm against the challenge to our authority. People look to us for the courage of our decisions. They also look for a total abhorrence in the House of the acts of terrorism which have occurred, and for the strength of our resolve to win, to beat the terrorist.
It is time that the lion of Britain stirred, and stood beside justice in defiance of terrorists who seek to impose their will through the killing of innocent people.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)
In this debate it is the first duty of every hon. Member to act, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) said, as a representative and to use his best judgment in deciding how to vote, not as some kind of arid intellectual exercise but in what he will suppose to be the best interests and welfare of the community which we all represent, a community threatened today, as many hon. Members have said, on all sides not merely by the urban terrorism of the IRA but by other forces of unreason which are now stalking the land.
The hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) said that terrorism is on the increase, and so it is. But precisely these forces are on the increase throughout Western society partly in response to the stress and strains which our society in general is undergoing and partly for other, perhaps deeper, reasons as yet imperfectly understood. When we consider the activities of the Palestine Liberation 591 Organisation and its many perverted offshoots, and the activities of the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany, and the Symbionese Liberation Army in the State of California, and many similar groups we can see that the escalation of terror and objections to reason are prevalent throughout society.
The hon. Member for Harrogate said that our constituents expect that in the debate we shall do what we can to represent their views. My views are known on this matter. I am a sponsor of the motion before the House, and my constituents have put their views to me forcibly. Our constituents say "We expect you here to do what we in the white heat of our passion at the moment desire". One constituent has written to me to say that he does not expect me to have the luxury of a conscience here tonight, because that would mean that we would forget the victims of the outrages, the broken bodies in Birmingham and Guildford, and in many parts of Belfast, and throughout the Six Counties of Northern Ireland.
But, as I hope to show in a brief speech, I think that we would be doing a disservice to the victims, and providing the one thing that might guarantee that these broken bodies were forgotten, if we were to reintroduce capital punishment for terrorism and put the lurid spotlight of publicity on martyrdom of the men in the death cell—if that is the judicial process that we reintroduce in this country.
We are in one sense different in our deliberations here today, not because in any sense we are an elite or that we are considering in the debate matters removed from our constituents, but because it is here in this assembly that laws are made and changed. If the amendment were passed we would not only be doing what the last Royal Commission on the matter, 20 or more years ago, warned against but what the experience of many Parliaments has warned against—creating differential categories of murder—and anomaly piled upon anomaly, differential penalties between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
I do not believe that that is the right answer. I do not believe that we here, particularly in this assembly, have the right individually to say to some of our 592 colleagues that they must take the decisions that they would have to take on the death penalty if we reintroduce it and have to decide which man should have the right to live and which man should not. Within the 635 Members of Parliament there are four who have already served as Home Secretary, there are those who have held supreme responsibility in Northern Ireland, and others who will aspire to hold these high offices. It would be their responsibility. We would be saying to them that they must take a grim decision as to who would be done to death following conviction.
We have heard little from those who support the various amendments about precisely what categories of terrorist would be involved. We are led to believe that there would be a sweeping category of capital offence for terrorism, and not merely the man who pulled the trigger or planted the bomb would be sent to the gallows but the man waiting outside with the car engine turning over, the man who had manufactured the bomb, and the accomplices to the act.
This brings us back to the central dilemma which we have all had to face in considering the capital penalty, which is the appalling anomalies which throughout the years were revealed when we had differential punishment for murder. Some categories of crime were open to the capital penalty and some were not. Some categories of offender were open to that penalty and some were not.
Supposing that the man who plants the bomb is 17 and does not hang, while the man outside waiting with the getaway car is 18 and must go to the gallows. That was the situation, more or less, in the Craig and Bentley case 20 years ago. We all remember that case, but who in this House now remembers the policeman who was killed by Christopher Craig? As my right hon. Friend said when he opposed the Ten-Minute Bill over a year ago, the spotlight goes on the murderer and away from the victim. We do no service to the victim if we put the spotlight on the murderer.
There is also the possibility of error. My right hon. Friend knows that I have been concerned in pressing him for an inquiry, which has now opened, into a murder many years ago for which many of us believe the wrong man was hanged. 593 In posthumous vindication of that man, we have pressed for an inquiry and a review of the evidence. In this kind of situation, with the possibilities of denunciation, with the problems of obtaining conviction when a man is facing the capital sentence, we would put on the right hon. Member who was Secretary of State for the Home Department the responsibility of deciding whether or not to send a man to the gallows who might conceivably not be the person responsible, when there might be a scintilla of doubt.
There is a final consideration which, to do him justice, the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) conceded, which is that the House, in willing the end, must also will the means. If, by some chance, the amendment were passed and capital punishment for terrorism were reintroduced, we should then see the emotional pull which would transfer to the man or woman in the death cell. It might be the Price sisters; it would be their contemporaries, people like them. It would be the young girl of 18 or 19 who has lived by the bomb and the Armalite rifle who is a murderer or a terrorist but in the death cell, awaiting the decision on whether she goes to the rope—the British rope, as it will be put about by her criminal and terrorist associates—will inevitably become an object of sympathy.
We may not like to realise this fact, but once the person concerned is in the death cell, other factors begin to apply. Public opinion, particularly international public opinion, is fickle. The person in the death cell is discovered to have an old mother who is petitioning the Home Secretary, young children and dependants, a wife, others who will be bereaved. Sympathy tends to switch, and how much more does it switch when so many torn loyalties are involved as in this case.
The hon. Member for Harrogate said that this was pure hypothesis, that we did not know whether martyrs would be created. But the whole terrible history of Ireland over the last hundred years suggests that, however ghastly the murder, however great the repugnance at the time, sympathy has switched during the judicial processes which led, after four, six or eight months, to the execution.
594 There was universal condemnation for the assassination in Phoenix Park of Mr. Burke and Lord Frederick Cavendish, but all Ireland mourned at the gallows by the time the executions took place. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), in a remarkable maiden speech, referred to the Manchester martyrs, precisely another case in point. There is not a single pub in Ireland where one cannot hear every verse of Kevin Barry sung. Who now remembers, who can tell us the name of, the young soldier, also 19, who was shot by Kevin Barry? We do not remember the victims. We tend to remember the man who goes to the gallows.
I believe that these people should be given the anonymity of a life sentence, a real life's sentence, one which means just that. They should not be given the glory of the gallows, as they would see it. They may end their own lives—some are determined enough to do so. That in itself is a situation which makes for an agonising dilemma by my right hon. Friend or whoever may be discharging his responsibilities. In the case of the Price sisters and their hunger strike, he took precisely the right line, but we only had to see there, when they had decided to end their lives, when society was not ending their lives by an act of judicial killing, what an emotional pull was exercised on the Home Office to concede their demands and let them go back to Northern Ireland.
Finally, on the question of hostages and hostage taking, we should all remember again, looking at the historical parallels—we are not speaking ex hypothesi here—that many societies have undergone this, and that we underwent it under the Palestine Mandate. After the execution of Dov Gruner by the British in 1947, a whole spate of reprisal and counter-reprisal took place, culminating in the execution of the three British sergeants. That is probably one of the reasons why to this day the State of Israel, which suffers terrorism every bit as frightful as anything that we have experienced, is resolutely set against the capital penalty. They do not need to be told about terrorist atrocity who have recently suffered Ma'alot and things like that. But they remember what happened, if one put the spotlight back again on the man who has committed the crime and what may happen if one executes him.
595 I believe that hostage taking would be more prevalent. It is not enough simply to say that they may take hostages just to get someone out of prison. The pressure on the Home Secretary of the day would be quite different if it were simply a matter of saying to him "There are two innocent lives at stake because they are being held by the IRA and there is another life in the death cell. Commute the penalty and you have saved three lives." That is an intolerable pressure, and it is quite different from saying "You should let the convicted murderer go scot free from prison in response to an act of hijacking or hostage taking."
So hostage taking would increase, although I do not believe that the threats made by Mr. O'Connell in the interview he gave to a Bonn newspaper should influence this debate one way or another. We should all hold a healthy contempt for Mr. O'Connell and all that he represents.
Like many other hon. Members, particularly on this side, I represent a constituency with a significant Irish population, many of them involved in the community and in local public life, but with their own separate clubs, churches and schools—an integrated community still with its own sense of identity, not a community at the moment set aside, not alienated. If we were now to offer as some of them might see it, evidence either of harassment through the new legislation or, even worse, the taking of young people—misguided people, as some of the Irish community might see it—and putting them in the death cell, there would be a real chance of their repugnance at the crimes committed, like the repugnance of many Irish people at those committed in the last century and in the time of the troubles, being significantly changed because of all the emotional pulls which go with this.
When the British shot 15 and hanged one of the leaders of the Easter rebellion in 1916, in a mood very similar to the present, those people were seen as traitors, rebels against the Crown. The Ulster Division were dying in their thousands on the Somme, and at that moment there was a stab in the back. Of course there was widespread public support, to which the Asquith Government capitulated, to have them shot out 596 of hand. One of those who recorded this for us and has immortalised it for us was the poet Yeats:O but we talked at largeBefore the sixteen men were shot,But who can talk of give and take,What should be and what should not,While those sixteen men are loitering thereTo stir the boiling pot?What is the business of this House except with give and take in the democratic arena, with accommodation, reason, argument, persuasion? We all feel the heat of the boiling pot today, and I am not talking just about the IRA and the Northern Irish crisis. I am talking of winning and preserving the values on which our society is based.
It is not a matter of not having the will to win, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) said. General Massu and Field Marshal Harding had the will to win and for a time they prevailed, but the only way in which we shall prevail is if we are not stampeded into an atmosphere of reprisal and counter-terror. That may madness lies. A society that blindly lashes out at the psychopaths and terrorists who threaten it is demonstrating not its strength but its weaknesses. If we reintroduce capital punishment today, we shall not be diminishing terrorism; we shall be diminishing ourselves.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. Hon. Members are bound to have seen the stream of Members coming to the side of the Chair. I can assure the House that they were not inquiring after my health, but were all anxious to take part in the debate. If speakers could limit their contributions to a maximum of 10 minutes the Chair could accommodate most of those who are anxious to take part. The closing speeches are due to commence at 9 o'clock, so there is little time left and hon. Members will need to co-operate if we are to avoid too many disappointments.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)
I accept your guidance on the restrictions about time, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Contrary to the views expressed by the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) I believe that in this debate it is right and necessary that I should put before the House what I have 597 good reason to believe are the views and feeling of a strong majority of Birmingham people.
My first point relates to the scale and nature of the outrages in Birmingham. When I left Westminster and returned to Birmingham on that unhappy Friday afternoon a November mist was gathering in the city streets. Walking the short distance between the sites of the two explosions—the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town—I became immediately aware of the smell of explosives, contained by the mist, and still persisting in the air. The bomb sites themselves were piled with splintered wood, broken masonry and heaps of other debris. The police stood in groups, and the firemen still worked on clearance. More than 220 casulties had been removed to hospital, and 21 were dead or dying. Crowds of people moved slowly along the pavements opposite assessing the damage.
It was, on a smaller scale, a repetition of the city's war-time experience of November 1941. The same smell of death and destruction was immediately recognisable by those who had experienced the war-time blitz on the city. For thousands of Birmingham people, therefore, these terrible incidents were at once identifiable as acts of war. The strength of feeling in the city and the judgment on the nature of what had happened must, therefore, be understood upon that basis.
It is clear to me that the effect upon the people of a recognisable act of war of this kind is to bring out their instinctive feeling that the society of which they are a part is in danger and that their survival and the survival of society as a whole is threatened. They therefore expect the seriousness of the terrorist attack to be recognised by the system of law under which they hope to live in peace. They would expect the repugnance of society to the unspeakable wickedness of the assault to be registered, otherwise they would think that society, for some reason of weakness or lack of will to preserve itself, had failed to recognise and record the terribly serious nature of the threat being made to the very basis of its existence.
So, many Birmingham people said at once and instinctively that the dreadful nature and scale of the attack was an act 598 of war against the people as a whole and that those who wage this kind of war deserved, and could expect nothing less than, the penalty of death. For more than a week following the outrages considerable apprehension and quite deep fear was felt in the city. People did not care to go into the city centre or, if they went, to say there after dark. They experienced a real sense of danger in visiting public houses and stores and other places of public access. For a time many people felt insecure in their own homes. Fortunately, nearly all these apprehensions have lessened, precautions have been taken and greater vigilance is being exercised, but people will not easily forget those hours of emergency when they felt that their survival was endangered by acts of war. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) expressed this judgment well and with great understanding in his remarkable speech this afternoon.
Here I pay tribute to the police and the firemen who acted so speedily and efficiently, and to the doctors and nurses who laboured with great dedication throughout the weekend to tend to the urgent needs of the wounded and the dying in the hospitals. I pay tribute, too, to those who volunteered their services in so many ways, including the taxi drivers who immediately ferried the casualties to the hospitals. I am proud to say that all these people gave unstinting service to those in need in a manner which echoed the spirit of 1941.
I want to say a few words in defensive praise of the general population of the city, who are, in spite of the great disadvantages of living in an over-populated industrial city, tolerant and kindly. After the first understandable burst of indignation and a very small number of minor regrettable incidents it soon became accepted that the overwhelming majority of Birmingham residents of Irish origin were entirely repelled by these outrages. They are as quick and sincere in their condemnation of these terrible acts as other Birmingham residents. The number of letters I have received from those of Irish origin confirms this, and many of those letters included support for the death penalty for acts of terrorism.
I wish to comment on two main points which have been raised in the debate. The first relates to the creation of 599 martyrs. A factual account of the Birmingham outrages shows that James McDade took a bomb to Coventry and killed himself as a result of its premature explosion. The Birmingham Roman Catholic Archbishop very properly refused funeral rites within his diocese. A great deal of attention was given by newspapers and television to this situation and to the arrangements for the transfer of the remains to Belfast for burial. James McDade had already become a martyr as a result of what happened, and revenge for this event was wreaked upon innocent and mainly young people in Birmingham by the bomb terrorists. That is where the word "revenge" properly occurs. This simple account shows that judicial death penalties are not needed for the creation of martyrs.
On the question of the deterrent, anyone who has seen the hole blasted in the concrete floor of the Tavern in the Town would realise that a very heavy and powerful explosive was used. The assembly of materials for the manufacture of this wickedly damaging device is not easy. The transport of it and the terrorist to the selected site also requires organisation. Although the person actually placing the bomb may or may not be a fanatic all those knowingly involved in the line of supply are calcula-tingly and intentionally taking part in acts of terrorism and murder. If those people were in danger of suffering the death penalty, many Birmingham people believe, it would be more difficult to get this deadly work done. They believe that fewer bombs would be assembled, transported and delivered, thus saving innocent lives.
I return to the main point about the instinctive judgment of so many people in Birmingham that those terrible acts were acts of war deserving and requiring the extreme penalty. Those who oppose the amendment tonight may argue that the present measures are sufficient to win that war. It is undoubtedly true that quick action by the police in making rapid arrests has given hope that those responsible will be apprehended and that the terrorist organisations will be weakened, but the question I would have difficulty in answering in Birmingham, should the amendment not be carried, is, what does one do if the war goes 600 on? There are those in the city who with great feeling say to me that in those circumstances they would regard Parliament as having failed in its responsibilities. They say that they would act themselves to do what they believe to be merited by a lawless situation in what has become an area of war.
It is at once apparent how undesirable such consequences could be. It is necessary for the amendment to be carried as proof of the State's right and determination to defend itself and its people against active war taking place within its homeland.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)
I have listened to most of the debate and have been impressed by its high level. I have also been impressed by the manner in which it has been conducted, without rancour and without name-calling, bearing in mind that this is an emotional issue, and with great understanding on both sides of the argument. The House has done itself great credit in carrying on a debate at that level.
I understand the point of view of the constituents of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre), with whom I sympathise very greatly in their present stress. I can understand that after the bombing there was a state of apprehension and that people were afraid, but that now the fear has largely gone. The apprehensiveness has disappeared and people are coming back into the town centre. But I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that the reason why people are less afraid, why they are coming back, is that the police have been successful in tracking down the people who were, they think, responsible for terrorism. I believe that it has everything to do with that and nothing to do with our debate today. The point was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden), when he opened the debate, that the best way of curing terrorism is to catch the terrorists and to ensure that they know that there is a good chance of their being caught.
The other point I would like to take up with the hon. Member for Hall Green is one that Members of Parliament and the public should consider seriously. It is the point of view that acts of terrorism are acts of war. I do not believe that they 601 are acts of war. Indeed, it is to put the vicious, dreadful acts on much too high a plane to consider them as acts of war. I would prefer that people did not glorify such acts as the Birmingham bombings as acts of war. If we say that they are acts of war, we are saying that the people who perpetrate them are soldiers. They are not soldiers. They are louts, they are scum. Furthermore, we do not execute prisoners of war. I hope that when people use the argument that terrorism is an act of war they will think clearly about what they are doing.
I have been impressed by many of the arguments. I shall vote against the amendment because I believe that it will not help to cure terrorism. We have heard of the possibility of hostages being taken if a man is in the condemned cell. That is a very real probability. What concerns me is that if such a thing happens the pressure will mainly be on the Home Secretary. It is not the 635 Members of Parliament who will have to take the decision whether to reprieve the terrorist or let the innocents die. It will be this one man, and it is an intolerable burden for any man to carry.
Past Home Secretaries have written about what they went through when they had to decide whether to reprieve a murderer. Think of the situation where the lives of, perhaps, six innocent children have to be decided by one man, the Home Secretary—one terrorist or six children. That is a serious point, which we must consider when we vote.
I shall not deal with many of the other arguments as they have already been very well put. However, I would like to take up a point raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). In a lucidly argued speech he said that we could, without danger of extension, restore the death penalty for terrorism. He believed that we could say that for all categories of murder other than terrorism there should be no death penalty but that for murder by terrorism there should be the death penalty. I wonder whether he is right. We must consider the matter deeply. One can imagine what the situation would be if the death penalty were reintroduced for terrorist murder.
Would not a comparison be made if, for example, three children had been 602 raped and then murdered, as recently happened in this country, and the murderer went free, while a terrorist murderer, who had killed one adult person, perhaps 75 years of age, were hanged. Would there not be an extension of the demand? Would not people say "Isn't it absurd that a man should be hanged for killing one, but another man should not hang for killing three?"
It is extremely difficult to distinguish between forms and sorts of murder. There is no doubt that the legal profession would have a heyday in arguing that particular murders were not terrorist murders, when perhaps they actually were. British juries, which were becoming increasingly reluctant to convict for crimes of murder, would be even more confused.
My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) spoke of the possibility of hanging an innocent person and of the confusion that could arise. He mentioned the Craig and Bentley case. What he did not mention was that Bentley who was hanged was actually in custody when the policeman was killed.
There are many others who wish to speak, and in conclusion I merely reiterate, for all the reasons which I have adduced and for reasons adduced by other speakers, that I shall vote against the amendment.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)
I support the amendment in the name of my hon. Friends. I shall pick up one or two points in the speech of the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart) as I go along.
I think we must understand the nature and psychology of terrorism. It is so to sicken public opinion by the horror of the crimes which these terrorists commit that public opinion and, by implication, Governments bow to their demands. As applied to the present situation, this means the abandonment of Northern Ireland at the point of the gun and the eventuality of an amnesty, as we have had abandonment at the point of the gun in Palestine. I was interested when the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) specifically mentioned Palestine and the three sergeants. I was in the search party hunting for those three sergeants, and so I have had experience of these matters.
The converse to the terrorists' aims is that, being cowards, they respect strength. 603 They despise clemency as a sign of weakness. This is an unfortunate fact which we have to recognise. It is a war of nerves and a battle of wills. The only way in which we shall win this battle of wills is by persuading the terrorists that their defeat is inevitable. Then we shall find that two-thirds of the battle is won, in the same way as we persuaded the IRA in the previous campaign in Northern Ireland which ended in 1962 that their days were numbered and that they had better give the game up.
Where I think the argument of the hon. Member for Ladywood fell down—it was an eloquent speech—was when he said that we must concentrate on catching the terrorists and convicting them. But the point is that there is no deterrent. Every terrorist knows that if he pushes hard enough and if he and his friends continue escalating the terrorism, the chances of his release and of an amnesty are that much greater. The hon. Gentleman's argument falls down, as do other arguments from hon. Members on the Government side, because there is no deterrent. I should be interested if anyone could suggest an adequate deterrent.
Neither do I think that the argument about martyrs applies. There are hundreds of martyrs in Northern Ireland. The pages of history of the last four years are littered with martyrs. We have them by the barrow load. One or two more will not have any effect at all. We find in these days that a live martyr—such as the Price sisters—is far more successful and more significant than a dead one. Continued imprisonment must be an open invitation to further acts of terrorism.
On the question of hostages, it may happen that hostages are taken if we bring in the death penalty for terrorism, but if we fear the taking of hostages and we do not bring in this change of policy for that reason, we are saying that we are not willing to defend ourselves for fear of reprisals. We now have to take our courage in both hands. It is worth taking the risk—and I doubt whether there is much of a risk—because it will save more lives in the long run.
If we have another Birmingham, can we in Parliament face the country with a clear conscience unless we have made certain that we have left no stone unturned to combat terrorism? It may be 604 said "If it comes to the crunch and if hostages are taken, have you the guts to see it through if they threaten to shoot the hostages?" If we do not have the guts to see it through, shall we not be worse off in the long run? If we pursue this argument, it means that we have no stomach for the fight and that we might as well fold our tents and steal silently away. Some people may say "Suppose public opinion will not support this attitude." I do not believe that public opinion in this country is like that. I believe it is doing public opinion a great injustice to say that it is like that.
As to whether it is right to have a difference in the law between Britain and Northern Ireland, I was strongly opposed to the abolition of the death penalty in Northern Ireland, but I believe that in this instance a red herring is being drawn across the trail. We have a clear precedent. Before the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act last year there was a difference in the laws, and it is no good arguing that we cannot have this difference. We are considering terrorism in Britain and we have to set our minds to this and deal with the Northern Ireland situation later. Our amendment follows closely on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. It stems directly from it. We therefore have a precedent there. There is a difference in Northern Ireland. There is virtually a state of martial law there. We have 15,000 troops stood to arms, and a security blanket hangs over the Province. We do not have that protection in this country at the moment.
I believe that we in Parliament now stand before the court of the country. If we fail the country and if there happens to be another outrage, the backlash which the Home Secretary so greatly fears may become a reality and people may begin to take the law into their own hands. We may find to our utter dismay that we have imported into this country the most hideous aspect of the war in Northern Ireland—inter-communal killings. This is a very real danger.
We must ask how long we in this House can continue to fly in the face of public opinion. We hear a lot about the alienation of Parliament from the people. If there is another outrage, let us not ask, then, for whom the bell tolls. I believe 605 we are debating not so much the effectiveness of the measures which are proposed but the effectiveness of Parliament, our parliamentary will and our parliamentary response to the clearly expressed opinion of most people in this country.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
As so many hon. Members have referred to public opinion, or what they imagine it to be, I feel that I should contribute my own equally insubstantial evidence of what public opinion is.
In the wake of the Birmingham outrage I received, as did many others, a large number of letters demanding the death penalty for that sort of crime. As time went on, not only did the flow of that kind of letter fall off, but a different kind of comunication took its place—the still, small voice saying "Do not hang people"—for various reasons. Just as the hangers had different reasons for wishing to hang people, the people who opposed hanging do so for different reasons and with different degrees of persuasiveness. The number of letters that I have received is about equal on either side of the argument. I would not wish to suggest that that is conclusive proof of anything. I am sure that most of us know enough about statistics to know the difference between a significant statistical sample and an insignificant statistical sample.
One of the disadvantages of coming into a debate like this is that one can in all conscience be brief because most of the points have already been made, and I am left with only one or two.
I accept, on the basis of the evidence of years of terrorist activity, that if the death penalty is used hostages will be taken and hostages will be killed. Can we ask our fellow citizens to be prepared to die for a decision we may take here today? That is what it boils down to. We know that the terrorist organisations are prepared to kill hostages. They will do it without compunction. That is the sort of people they are. They have a kind of crazy conviction of their own Tightness which makes such an horrendous act of inhumanity easy for them.
How is one to explain oneself, as a law maker, to the next of kin of victims taken as hostages? How can one tell a 606 mother who knows that a single word by the Home Secretary could save her child that this must not happen because it would be seen to be weakness in the face of the enemy? Most of us have not the heart for such inhumanity, because that is what it would be.
Since so many hon. Members have used the analogy of war, we also have to ask ourselves what kind of war it is and whose war it is. In this connection, I have to raise a point which may be embarrassing to many of us. We are really talking about Ulster here, and there is an important sense in which what is going on there is not our war. Scratch an Englishman and one finds under the skin an Englishman, not something called "British" but an Englishman who is aware of his Englishness. Much more important in this context, he is aware that he is not an Irishman. He is bewildered by the behaviour of Irishmen towards one another. He is a little more than bewildered by the behaviour of some Irishmen towards him.
I suspect—I put it no stronger than that—that the vast majority of Englishmen now feel that they have nothing to do at all with what a great Irishman once called "John Bull's other island". I do not think that John Bull wants it any more, whoever and whatever John Bull might be.
A peculiar war is going on in Ulster, waged by people who when not throwing bombs at each other or killing each other in other ways, fight a dialectical war that Englishmen cannot come to terms with. It is not part of the Englishman's life. Englishmen are not sectarian people; they know nothing of sectarian intolerance. They are bewildered by manifestations of disrespect for law because they do not know or realise that the business of law making, of the administration of law and of the administration of the State in Ulster has for more than 50 years been prostituted for partisan ends and is so calculated as to provoke contempt for law and order in the minds of those who are at the wrong end of the power system.
Englishmen know nothing of all this. Perhaps it is our fault as non-Irishmen, as it were, but that is how it has happened. People have come to the conclusion that in Ulster the political process cannot be made to work. I bring the 607 House's attention to what is not an untypical statement made by Irishmen about Irish politics:The Roman Catholic church must be declared an illegal organisation.All Roman Catholic centres of education must be closed.Police will be fighting side by side with us against a common foe, namely Romanism. …We need men of conviction, men of high principle, men of courage and of faith who are prepared to resist to the death. …".It goes on to talk about knowledge of ballistics and military tactics. That document was issued by a religious organisation in Ireland.
§ Mr. John Dunlop (Mid-Ulster) rose—
§ Mr. Litterick
No. I want to be brief. You people have done enough damage to British politics.
I find this kind of document shocking to the point at which my insides heave. Is this not evidence of a community which knows nothing of the civilised processes? I happen to know, although unfortunately I cannot produce them now, of similar documents issued on the other side of the divide in Ulster. In them is to be found equal evidence of lunacy. This is not a climate in which men can talk to one another about religious differences. It is a climate in which we must conclude that they are not fit to govern themselves, or that we should have nothing to do with them. It may be that hon. Members suggest other conclusions, but there is one that we should resist— that the answer to all this is that we should start hanging one another.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) introduced a rather strange note into a debate the high level of which he had just praised. I suggest that, after saying scratch a Britisher and one finds under the skin an Englishman, he will need police protection in Scotland or Wales, in the foreseeable future. Also, when a Member introduces the sort of document which the hon. Gentleman has read from it is only right that he should say what body produced it. Anyone in this House can always produce some document by some lunatic fringe right across the political spectrum.
§ Mr. Litterick rose—
§ Sir Frederic Bennett
No. The hon. Gentleman would not give way. It would have been fairer of the hon. Gentleman to have attributed that document.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett
The hon. Gentleman has given them publicity very successfully.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) is not here and has not been here for some time, because I want to make one or two comments about his speech. I thought that it was one of the most persuasive I have ever heard in the House. If anyone could have persuaded me, he might have done. But I must add one note of criticism. He lowered the standard of his speech when he claimed, at the end, for those who would support him, that they and they alone were putting principle above popularity.
I say this with great conviction because I am a life-long abolitionist. Frequently over the years I have been challenged in my constituency because of the attitude I have taken—for instance, in voting for the original Bill introduced by the late Sydney Silverman. The right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) said that to try to draw a distinction between different types of murder was an absurdity. If that is so then every right hon. and hon. Member has been guilty of that over the past 25 years. Even the late Sydney Silverman, who can claim a great responsibility for the abolition of the death penalty, agreed in this House, in debate after debate—it can be checked in HANSARD—that the law of treason covering terrorism against the State should continue and that the death penalty should continue to operate in that context.
This House and all parties in it have accepted over the years that it is not an absurdity to seek to draw a distinction between different types of murder if one type of murder amounts to an assault on the State and comes under the law of treason. I wish that I had the time to develop the theme of treason because I have tabled an amendment stating that the simplest and most effective way of dealing with this situation would be for the Government not to overlook the law 609 of treason in appropriate cases. If we had not done that in the past a great deal of the heat might have been taken out of the present controversy.
Since my amendment has not been selected and as there is no possibility of the Government invoking the law of treason which would precisely cover the sort of offences about which we have been talking I am driven for the first time in my life, in pursuit of consistency, to support the selected amendment because it ties up in effect with what Parliament has been doing over the last quarter of a century.
In these circumstances I can shorten my speech by making only three points. First, today we have heard a great deal of wisdom from those who are supporting the amendment to the effect that one of the factors to be taken into account in a democratic Parliament is the need to meet the sense of public outrage even without being too certain of what the ultimate effects will be. Only three weeks ago I tabled some Questions to the Home Secretary asking for the immediate banning of the collection of funds in London to buy weapons for the IRA—in tins which were labelled "10 new pence will help to kill a British soldier." I was told in a parliamentary answer on the Thursday before the Birmingham bombings that it was impracticable to do this and that legislation would not be effective in that context.
Then came the Birmingham bombings. I tabled a similar Question the following Tuesday, five days later, and I was told that the Home Secretary was introducing legislation to deal with this problem. In his explanation to the House the right hon. Gentleman said that public outrage had now got so strong that we had to do something about it by way of banning the IRA and the collection of funds for it. We are being perfectly logical tonight in saying that the sense of public outrage at present is one to which the Home Secretary in one context has already had to yield. I suspect that if he does not yield tonight, and if further outrages of the sort we have experienced in Birmingham take place, the right hon. Gentleman will have to change his mind again, because he will be driven to yield to the sort of amendment which is being put forward. Public opinion will 610 demand it so stridently that he will have no alternative.
We must get this point about hostages out of the way. It is such an easy argument to advance, to talk about six little children being held hostage while one terrorist is under sentence of death. What about the same six little children being held till someone serving a term of imprisonment is released? No one has mentioned that. Why are the six little children less likely to be sacrificed if they are held hostage till Mr. X has his sentence of 20 or 30 years cancelled? The argument that hostages are only taken when the death penalty is involved is made a nonsense of by recent hijackings throughout the world. Over and over again hijack demands have involved the setting free of someone serving a term of imprisonment.
In my amendment I said that not only should we invoke the law of treason but that, if the lawyers think that in reinforcement this is the quickest way to accomplish what I believe the great majority of people want, we should have another look at the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 1966. That Act was passed during the lifetime of a Labour Government. No objection was taken to it. If that Government or the succeeding Conservative Government had objected to it they could have overridden it by repeal. I have checked that this is so with the authorities. So I will read two paragraphs from the Act which summarise exactly what most hon. Members who support the amendment believe. This was the law of part of the United Kingdom until a short time ago. The Act says:Subject to subsection (2), the following murders shall be capital murders, that is to say,—and so on. That Act, which by implication was consented to by this House because no steps were taken to override it, was until recently on the statute book for a number of years.
- (a) murder of any constable or person in the service of the Crown acting in the course of, or of any person assisting any constable or person in the service of the Crown acting in the course of, any duty involving the enforcement of the law …
- (b)murder done in the course or furtherance of any seditious conspiracy or of the activities of any association or organization which is an unlawful association"—
611 The provisions which I have just read to the House are all that hon. Members who support the amendment wish to see re-enacted. That is not an unreasonable demand.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
I wish to refer to what has been said time and again about what the reintroduction of capital punishment would do, notably to the bombers and hijackers. We should discuss such matters as terrorism on an international basis. We should not make a special case of the IRA, because it has been proved that terrorism can win the day in various parts of the world. Unless all countries come to the conference table and sign an international agreement refusing to allow hijackers to use their airfields, terrorism will pay off.
Irishmen value freedom and life as much as we do. The many assertions which have been made about the creation of martyrdom is a lot of rubbish.
§ Mr. Spriggs
I do not support the amendment, so do not cheer too soon.
As a Socialist, and, as someone who believes in justice for everyone, I think that it is wrong to intern people without trial, and the sooner the Government find a way of sorting out the not so bad from the very bad and putting on trial people against whom they have sufficient evidence the better, so that we can show the people of Ireland that we, too, believe in justice. We call upon our Government to take emergency steps to end internment without trial.
I cannot understand the motive behind the motion. There is no motion calling for the introduction of capital punishment. Had the motion statedThat this House recognises that political terrorism requires a reappraisal of established attitudesand stopped there, I could have gone into the Lobby in support of it. But it continuesis of the opinion that a re-introduction of the death penalty would neither deter terrorists nor increase the safety of the public".There is something wrong with that. It is the wrong way round.
I voted to end capital punishment. We already have this power on the statute 612 book, yet here we have a motion which saysThat this House … is of the opinion that a re-introduction of the death penalty would neither deter terrorists nor increase the safety of the public.How do its sponsors know? What do they know about it? For years we have been in Northern Ireland trying to show the Irish people how to behave and how to enforce the law. We passed certain measures in the early stages to abolish the B Specials at the request of certain people in Ireland. Arms were taken away from the police in the early stages as a result of the common demand of the Irish people.
This is an important matter not only for the people of Northern Ireland, who are only asking for the right to govern their own country in their own way, but for the economic and safety position of the people of this country. We are jeopardising the safety of the citizens of the United Kingdom and it costs us many millions of pounds per year to station British troops in Northern Ireland and to maintain and service them.
I believe the motion to be wrong. Its timing is wrong. Ministers have said that no discussion should take place on capital punishment until the emotional period had come to an end, when tempers had cooled and when people had had time to think. Very few people want revenge. We want a common sense end to the attitude of those who want to hold on to a part of Ireland as a colony of this country rather than to give the people of Ireland a political settlement and the right to govern themselves.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Sir Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) will forgive me for not following his argument in any detail because at this hour I must be very brief. I do not believe in capital punishment unless and until it can be shown to be an effective deterrent, but I shall confine my few comments to the context of Northern Ireland.
I know Northern Ireland very well— about as well as any Englishman can—although that is not saying very much. I have learned a little over the years of the way in which the terrorists think and act. By our English standards they are murderous fanatics, and no one deserves the death 613 penalty more than they do, but by their own standards, they are fighting a holy war, in which, at least to some of them, even martyrdom may be welcome. To them, any means justifies the end. Hanging them will not deprive their cause of sympathy and support. It will make new martyrs and create new patriotic fervour among their followers, ft will contribute nothing to the defeat of the IRA.
These men do not think as we do. They have no compassion, no mercy and very little fear. They are prepared to blow themselves up in the course of planting their own bombs. If they fear anything at all, it is not the decision of a British court of law. It is the torture and reprisals by their own kind. They genuinely believe that their atrocities are justified because they believe that they are furthering a cause to which they are totally dedicated. Of all murderers, this kind of murderer is the least rational and the least likely to be deterred by any penalty. The deterrent argument is in this case quite illusory.
It is for this reason, no doubt, that the death penalty has not been used for years in any country which has suffered from terrorism—not even in Israel against the Arabs. I believe that those who advocate capital punishment today are over-reacting to the horrifying bombs in Birmingham and Guildford. They did not demand the death penalty for the bombs in Belfast, day after day and week after week for the past five years. Indeed, the House of Commons abolished the death penalty in Northern Ireland only 18 months ago.
I understand that some of my hon. Friends who take a different line are reflecting the views of their constituents. But in doing so they are reacting emotionally from revulsion, perhaps from their fears, but not logically from their minds. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight), I have always believed that Parliament should lead, not follow, public opinion. Anger, revulsion and fear, although very understandable, are not the best bases for legislation in this House of Commons.
It seems to me that many hon. Members who have spoken in the debate either do not know and understand the Irish, or have not thought through the consequences of their own policy. I beg them to do so. Inevitably, judicial killing is a 614 very protracted process. In Britain we do not kill people without trial and without the right of appeal and the possibility of reprieve—
§ Sir N. Fisher
At the moment—and I disagree very much with one of my hon. Friends. Let me ask him: what would be the position of the Home Secretary if the IRA kidnapped two or three innocent people—women and children or perhaps British soldiers—and then telephoned the Secretary of State at the Home Office with a demand for the release of the convicted murderers and a threat to kill the hostages if a reprieve was not granted? The point is that the IRA would kill its hostages and, therefore, the Home Secretary would be signing the death warrants of innocent people if he refused to sign the reprieve. Can the right hon. Gentleman do that? Would he do that? Should he do that? If he reprieved the murderers, the law would be a charade, inoperative and unworkable.
It is not surprising to me to be informed that the best military advice from those who have served in Northern Ireland is against reintroducing the death penalty because it would lead to an escalation of reprisals.
There is another aspect—intimidation. A man is told to abandon his car with a bomb in it. If he refuses, he is threatened with reprisals against his wife and children, which he knows will be carried out. Which should he choose? His choice is between the possible death of some, to him, unknown people and the killing or maiming of his own family. It is a very difficult choice. Surely we could not hang him for murder under duress. But if not, we should have to write into a homicide Bill different categories of capital and non-capital murder. And how can duress be proved?
Those who remember the Homicide Act of 1957—I confess that, rather naively, I voted for it at the time—know perfectly well that the death penalty must apply to all murderers or to none.
Another aspect of intimidation, if we are to revive trial by jury in Ulster, is that it is very unlikely that any jury in Northern Ireland would dare to convict for a capital offence.
615 I come, lastly, to a point on which I disagree with the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig). Is it seriously suggested that the law of Britain should be further altered to execute those who are under age? If not, hon. Members who ask for the death penalty are putting a premium on the terrorist tactic of training teenagers to kill, which is already a feature of IRA policy in the Province of Ulster.
The truth is that there is only one real argument for hanging. It is the emotional argument of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It is understandable, perhaps, in the context in which we are talking today, but I hope that in the second half of the twentieth century a civilised State no longer legislates for retribution and revenge.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Before calling the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) may I say that certain arrangements have been made regarding an orderly winding up of this very important debate, and I hope that the hon. Member will respect the wishes of the Chair by resuming his seat, if at all possible, by 9 o'clock.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
I do not propose, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to exceed the limits which you have imposed upon me.
Unfortunately I was not here this afternoon to hear the remarks of the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig). I can quite understand the feelings of revulsion which have swept through the whole of the British population—in this context when I say "the British population" I include my own constituency of Belfast, West—in the wake of the Birmingham bombings. I understand that there is a natural wave of anger and revulsion and that some people are seeking revenge.
I can understand the feelings of the hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) when she demands the reintroduction of the death penalty in this context. I live in Belfast. I have seen many atrocious killings, not only by the anonymous means of bomb-but by assassination. In my capacity as the representative of Belfast, West in the 616 House and as the representative for Belfast, North in the Northern Ireland Assembly, I have carried 84 coffins on my back. I know this figure because this afternoon I made a count before coming here to make this speech.
Those coffins contained the bodies of 84 innocent people who were killed in bombings. They contained the bodies of ordinary Catholic and Protestant people who had been assassinated. I speak from a fund of knowledge that I never sought. I did not want to carry even one coffin on my back if it contained the body of someone who had lost his life through violence.
In Stormont I opposed capital punishment, as I did in this House. With the knowledge of all that is happening in Northern Ireland, I ask: has anything happened because of Birmingham, Guild-ford and Woolwich to change my opinion? When I saw on television what had happened in Birmingham, Guild-ford and Woolwich, my immediate gut reaction was "Hang them. Get them out of society." That was an immediate reaction that any human being must have arising from the atrocities which had been committed.
Next day I thought to myself "Would hanging bring this situation to an end?" I live in Belfast and I shall be returning there tomorrow. There will probably be assassinations, bombings and killings in Northern Ireland, and capital punishment will not bring them to an end. I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Surbiton (Sir N. Fisher) and his analysis of what is happening in Northern Ireland.
I believe that the explosions in Birmingham have lead to a watershed situation. People in Birmingham, London, Guildford and all the other areas have stood back and said "What will happen to Britain and, indeed, to Northern Ireland?" We must remember that since the Birmingham explosions there has not been a single assassination in Northern Ireland. Long may that situation continue. Indeed, since the Birmingham outrage there has not been a bomb explosion in Northern Ireland. I believe that the Provisional IRA is on the run—and long may that continue. People in Northern Ireland, both Catholics and Protestants, are defeating 617 the IRA. This will be a continuing process.
If tonight the House supports the move to a restoration of capital punishment, it will be the greatest disaster not only for this House but for the whole of the United Kingdom. We in Northern Ireland know the great emotional value of funerals in the IRA cause. A funeral recently took place of a young man called McDade, who died when trying to set off a bomb in Coventry. When the man's body or his remains were brought back to Northern Ireland, there was a great deal of intimidation among ordinary Catholic people to try to persuade them to go out on the streets to support the funeral. But the ordinary Catholic people in Northern Ireland said "No, We are not going." Furthermore, a funeral took place yesterday involving a young girl who had been making letter bombs and who in the process unfortunately lost her life. I do not want to see anybody lose his life. Once more, that funeral was not supported by the overwhelming majority of Catholics in Northern Ireland.
I believe that the age of martyrdom in Northern Ireland is coming to an end. Therefore, if we were to agree to a restoration of capital punishment—I do not believe the House will take this course—we would give the IRA a piece of armoury which it does not have at the moment.
The tone of the debate so far appears to have been geared to the activities of the IRA. We must remember that there is not only one violent force in Northern Ireland; there are many violent forces there. I refer to the UDA, the UVF, the Ulster Commandos, the Red Hand Commandos and God knows what.
It will be interesting to see the result of this debate. There are many people who are now in prison in Northern Ireland who have been shooting policemen and soldiers. They are not on my side of the political fence but are members of the UDA and the UVF.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Before the hon. Gentleman responds, may I say that I hope that he and others will respect my wishes.
§ Mr. Fitt
Of course I shall respect your wishes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In answer to the point made by the right hon. Member for Belfast, East, I would say that the majority of people who have been convicted in Northern Ireland of murdering policemen are from the Unionist or so-called Loyalist side of the fence. I make that statement without fear of contradiction.
I am opposed to capital punishment. I recognise that the debate is taking place in the wake of the Birmingham explosions. However, the judicial killing of alleged terrorists in Northern Ireland will in no way help this country in its war against violence.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
First, I should like to echo the congratulations that have already been offered to my hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) and Cheltenham (Mr. Irving) who made their maiden speeches today. I do not think that either of them would expect me to agree with the content of their speeches. Many of us knew, liked and respected their predecessors very well. We hope and expect that, they, too, will enjoy the happiness and respect so richly enjoyed by their predecessors. Secondly, I should like to apologise to hon. Members whose speeches I have not heard between half-past seven and eight o'clock.
I want to get on as quickly as possible, because I understand that the Home Secretary wants to start his speech promptly at half-past nine.
§ Mr. Percival
I think that is a little optimistic but I shall do my best, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I want to get through what I have to say as quickly as possible, because I do not underestimate the importance of what the Home Secretary has to say. I must emphasise that this is an unusual feature of the debate. It is the only time in the 619 15 years that I have been a Member of this House that I have had to wait for the Government's view until all opportunity for question or comments on it had passed. Therefore, if I do not anticipate some of the points that the right hon. Gentleman may make, I hope he will be generous in giving way to short interventions. There is no other way of replying to the new points which he may make.
I want to pick up some of the points that have been made in favour of my amendment, answer as many of the arguments against it as I can and give some of my personal beliefs and commitments. Many hon. Members have said that there is no certainty about anything. It is very much a matter of personal belief and judgment.
I should like to start by emphasising what was said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). We are dealing with a situation quite different from anything which we have had to deal with in our previous debates on this subject. We are not talking about the reintroduction of anything. This is half way between what we abolished and what we kept. We still have the death penalty for treason. During my 15 years here no attempt has been made to abolish that.
I do not want to get into the argument about how much comes within the law of treason. That would be counter-productive. If we are to change the law to deal with the present situation, by all means let us build on what we have if it is useful, but let us not be trammelled by it. But the matters about which we are talking are more in the nature of treason. They constitute offences against the community rather than against individuals.
The different nature of the problem before us gives rise to two very important considerations advanced in the tremendously important speech made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Sir P. Rawlinson). The first was that we must accept that what is proposed in the amendment is no easy answer to the problem and is likely of itself to bring dangers. We have a real obligation to tell those in whose name we purport to 620 do what those who support my amendment are seeking to do what it entails in practice. If we are to ask them to support us—and we get nowhere in any aspect of this war without their support— we must tell them what we are about.
The second point made by my right hon. and learned Friend was also made by other speakers, but the House may have felt—I mean no disrespect to anyone else who made the point—that it came particularly strongly from him. He said that this was a war of wills. We are dealing with attacks on our integrity of an indescribably cowardly, cruel and evil nature, and it is not only the nature of them but also their purpose that is so evil.
The purpose of the attacks is to break our spirit, to impose upon us the obligation to do that in which we do not believe, and not to do that in which we do believe, for fear of the consequences. That degrades us individually and collectively and makes us a great deal less than the free men we have been so proud to be for so long. It will therefore be no surprise to the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) if I say that I take an entirely different view of this war from that which he advanced.
Two main points emerge from what I have said. First, are we really saying that those who engage in these indescribably cowardly and evil actions will become martyrs in the eyes of all but the meanest few? Have not we in this House perhaps done something to elevate them to a status far above anything they deserve? If they are remembered at all, will they not be remembered as the beasts they were, who maimed and murdered indiscriminately?
Two different views have been advanced on this by two Members for two divisions of the same city, the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig). The House must form its own judgment. For my money, I thought that the right hon. Member for Belfast, East, who has been so near to so many of these atrocities, spoke with a degree of restraint that one could not but admire enormously. Speaking for myself, I am bound to say that his attitude towards the likelihood of any of these people becoming martyrs was much more persuasive 621 than any view advanced by any other hon. Member.
The other thing that emerges from what I have said—I put it starkly because this is a stark business—is that this is a war of horror and wills, horror on the one side to break the will on the other.
That leads me, I think quite naturally, to the broad propositions that govern my thinking and which, I think, must govern the feelings of others. If we expect to beat this horror without suffering, we are out of our minds. There is no way to beat it but by being prepared to stand up to it and take what suffering it may bring.
It needs a combination of strength of will and willingness to suffer, but on whose part? The answer is not only this House but the whole people of the United Kingdom, of Northern Ireland, of Scotland and of England. Therefore, the strength of public opinion is of great importance in beating this war of horror against will. We do not do it by talking here. We do not even do it by our own strength of will, assuming that we have it. We do it, if we do it at all, with the strength of will and the backing of the people of this country. We therefore have the strongest of all reasons on this occasion to pay heed to their feelings and wishes in this matter.
Lives will be lost. I accept that, if we do what my amendment calls for, lives may be lost as a result, but is it not as plain as anything could be that anything we do to resist this evil is likely to result in the loss of lives in the short run? Is it not perfectly clear that the one way to stop that loss of life is to beat the terrorist? Is it not equally clear that the one way to beat the terrorist is to convince him—yes, convince him—that we will not be intimidated. I suggest that we only begin to do that when, with full acceptance of the risks run by all members of the public in our United Kingdom, we in this House have faith in, believe in the people, the people believe in us once again, and the IRA believe that together this House and the people of this country have the spirit, the will and the determination to beat that organisation.
I want to say a final word about personal commitment. I think it was a pity that some hon. Members talked about 622 revenge and vengeance, but I am glad that retribution was mentioned. If retribution goes beyond the bounds of propriety, if what is done in punishment is out of proportion to the offence being punished, that is revenge or vengeance. But could anything be disproportionate to the level of the offence here? Are the people of this country wrong when, in their millions, they sense that there is only one just penalty for these evil killings? Is it not, as the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) said, justice they are seeking rather than retribution? Is that very wrong?
Is it not time that we in this country face up to this and say what justice is in these circumstances? Are our people not perhaps right in saying that justice demands for this evil offence the penalty of death? Has not the time come when we should say yes, that is right? And we should be prepared to stand up and take whatever consequences it may bring—
§ Mr. Fitt rose—
§ Mr. Percival
I am trying to get on quickly in order to give the Home Secretary as much time as I can, but I have a great deal to cover, and so cannot now give way to the hon. Gentleman. I have sat here all day and have not intervened even once during the debate, though the temptation to do so has been very great.
I turn now to some of the points made against my amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Sir N. Fisher) talked about the abolition of capital punishment in Northern Ireland. I do not know whether the Home Secretary will refer to this, but if he does he will, no doubt, bear in mind that a previous Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said on that occasion that the question was whether, having abolished capital punishment for murder in England, it should be retained in Northern Ireland. Now we are talking on a different basis—whether to have it over the whole of the United Kingdom, for terrorism.
My hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton seemed to say that those who took the opposite view to his were merely reflecting the views of their constituents, on an emotional basis. He also said that it is our job to lead, not to follow. Is he, or anyone who takes that view, 623 suggesting that every time a Member takes a different view from that of his constituents he is ahead of his constituents and they should follow him? Is he suggesting that every time an hon. Member takes a view different from that of another hon. Member who is in sympathy with the feeling of the former that the latter is behind his constituents? Anyone who looks such ideas in the eye will cast them aside as unworthy.
Much more difficult questions are raised by the application of the death penalty in Northern Ireland should the amendment be agreed. I accept at once that these are real difficulties. I do not shrink from them in the least. If the amendment were agreed we should have to get together all the expertise we could to seek the answer. Various answers have been put forward tonight and it would not be appropriate for me to plump for one or another. Certain things, like the desirability of jury trial, are in my nature, and I have accepted them as a lawyer all my life. The idea of a trial by one judge alone with capital punishment at the end is not attractive. These are the matters that we should have to consider with all the collective expertise at our disposal, but they do not go to the principle of what we are seeking to do today.
It is also argued that, if we do this, the age of those planting the bombs would get lower and lower. Yes, that sends a chill up my spine, too, but the horror that it engenders in me is that anybody should be so evil as to send children about this dirty work to let them face the risk involved. That is what horrifies me. I entertain no doubt that the law which we would pass, whether we brought the old law up to date or made new law, would be sufficiently sensible to deal with that. The Home Secretary knows that anyone who is an accessory before the fact, who plays an active part is liable as a principal in the first degree. We should have to ensure that this applies in every respect necessary to deal with the situation. Do not let us be put off from saying what our principles are, and sticking to them, by having our spines chilled by the horrors which these people could perpetrate.
I was hoping that we could have had a speech from the Government earlier, be- 624 cause one would like to have heard earlier the views of the security forces. I should like to draw the attention of the House to the observations of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell. We all know how closely involved he was in these matters and I respectfully commend his views to the House.
I am sorry that there has been so much unattractive morbidity today about the gallows. With help from such as Hardy, Housman and Wilde's "Ballad of Reading Goal", this has been an emotive subject for a long time. It has nothing to do with what we are debating. The method is another matter. Of course we would all agree that, if we decided to implement what we are urging upon the House, the only tests for carrying it out would be speed and humanity. Let us not be diverted by such emotive considerations as have surrounded gallows and hanging for so long.
I come now to the question of deterrence [Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members will realise that I have certain things that I propose to say and that if my time is taken up with interruptions the consequent loss may be shared with others. No one who has spoken against the amendment has tackled the question of what to do if we do not execute. There is only one alternative, a real life imprisonment. That is the only thing which will deter other than capital punishment. The belief that a man who commits crimes of this evilness will go to prison for life and stay there—and I have yet to hear any right hon. or hon. Member from the Government benches say that that punishment should be visited upon these people—is the only other deterrent.
Many points have been made about deterrence. The real point is that at the moment we do not have a deterrent, and the question is whether what we are proposing would be more of a deterrent than the nothing we have now. However strong might be the resolve of someone to keep a man in prison for a substantial time, no terrorist believes it will happen. The terrorists all believe that either they will be got out by further acts of terrorism or, if they are still in when the settlement comes, they will be freed as a result of an amnesty. We are therefore talking about bringing in a deterrent where there is none.
625 I have said that if it was possible to convince the terrorist that the punishment would be prison for life, which is a most horrible thing to contemplate, that would be a deterrent. But does any right hon. or hon. Member think that that is practicable? If it is not, is it not plain that what we are proposing must introduce a deterrent?
Of course there are fanatics, but is it likely that everyone in the chain of evilness is fighting for a cause and will risk everything to see it through? Have we not had evidence that there are a lot of cheap petty crooks in the chain who are used as front men so that the important members do not get hurt, and do hon. Members think that they will run the risk of execution for their paymasters? It is hard to believe. We are fortified in the belief that it does not make sense by the view of a good many who have long experience of these people.
We should also remember an important consideration, that deterrence is part of the argument dealing with public safety. If someone convicted of these evil offences is executed, that certainly prevents further participation by that person or his being the cause of further acts of terrorism to secure his release.
I shall speak a little more slowly now because I regard my final point as the most important in the whole matter for two reasons which I shall seek to demonstrate. I am sure that the Home Secretary will want to advise the House about this aspect. Of course, there is the danger that, if there are prisoners, hostages will be taken. That is a danger we run already. That is what most of the recent hijackings have been about. It is said that execution would provide another occasion, and that is right, but let us not think that it is a new ploy. The question is the same as is already before us.
Would we break? If the IRA were to believe for a moment that the taking of hostages in any cases would break us it would be greatly encouraged. Is not that what this war is all about? I do not underestimate the agony of a Home Secretary faced such a decision, but it would be an invitation to escalation— here I echo what many other right hon. and hon. Members have said—if one word went out from the Home Secretary or 626 from this debate which led the IRA or any other terrorist organisation to believe that we can be intimidated. It would confirm them in the assumptions made by O'Connell if there were the slightest suggestion that we would not introduce the dealth penalty because we feared reprisals. They would be wrong to think that they could break us, but I fear that they might be tempted, relying on such a belief, to venture on a further fearful atrocity. I do not think that they would succeed but—and this is where public opinion is very important—such terrorist action might well cause such a fearful backlash as would wreak an awful vengeance on the guilty and possibly the innocent alike. Even worse, it would be a terrible blow to the rule of law. Therefore I beg the Home Secretary, whatever he may or may not say, to make it clear beyond the slightest possible doubt that neither he nor the Government will waver one inch in the face of terrorism, however evil, and that he will affirm his belief in hon. Members and the people and their will to do what they have to do.
There is however one even better way to make it clear. If we pass the amendment we shall demonstrate both our determination to do what we and our people believe to be right, and our trust in our people. Therein lies the key. We in the House—Government and Opposition, Front Bench and back bench alike —must trust the people. If we do, they will not fail themselves or their country. If we do not, we might well fail them.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)
I listened most carefully to the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival), but I thought that he was better at expressing the abhorrence of terrorism, which we all feel, and our determination not to be intimidated by it, which I reiterate, than in adducing detailed arguments in favour of his amendment.
Debates on this subject, most of all in present circumstances, are necessarily and rightly sombre rather than inspiriting occasions. Nevertheless, today's debate has been conducted in a spirit of constructive inquiry and searching after sense.
I add my congratulations to the two maiden speakers, the hon. and learned 627 Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) and the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving), both of whom made brave and lucid speeches.
I begin with two propositions which, unlike some others which I may have to advance later, will probably be acceptable to those on both sides of the controversy. First, let none of us adopt a holier-than-thou attitude on this difficult issue. I do not regard the virtues of civilisation as being exclusively enshrined on one side of the argument. To believe otherwise would be to take an intolerably complacent and patronising view of people both inside and outside the House whom I greatly respect. Most of us are seeking a little uncertainly from where truth, justice and safety best lie.
Secondly, I thought it right in the past two months, not only since Birmingham but since the Tower of London explosion in July, to try to reappraise my attitude to capital punishment. To do this I have sought to analyse and in a sense to set aside the main arguments which influenced me in the old pre-terrorist days. These I summarise as being as follows: first, almost as a prerequisite, there was the fact that no unique deterrent effect could be shown. Neither from this country nor from abroad did there begin to be a statistical case for believing that there was any clear correlation between murder rates and the existence or otherwise of the death penalty. On the contrary, the evidence suggested that murder rates in this country had been curiously constant over the whole of this century at least, although somewhat lower recently than in the first decade or so, but less volatile and less subject to deter rence by penalty than almost any other form of crime.
This being so, the positive objections to the death penalty seemed to me, as to many other hon. Members on both sides of the House—although we might all, I suppose, define them slightly differently— to assume decisive importance: the ghoulish nature of the act and of the preparation for it; the degrading effect, strongly testified to, upon those who had to take part in a hanging, and, in the case of a widely publicised one, upon a large part of the nation; the fact that public sympathy—a fickle quality, as the 628 hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) rightly said—often as the day of execution approached, tended perversely to flow from the forgotten victim to the convicted and remembered criminal; and the finality of the penalty in relation to the frailty of human judgment. Out of 192 people hanged in Britain between 1945 and the end of capital punishment, there is thought to be considerable doubt over at least three of them.
§ Mr. Goodhew rose—
§ Hon. Members: Sit down.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am trying to reply, as I believe the great majority of the House would wish to hear a logical and restrained argument, and I am beginning by saying why, although I think it necessary now to reappraise my attitude and summarise my view, the decisive argument until recently—
§ Mr. Jenkins
Yes, indeed, but cannot the hon. Gentleman take the point logically and in order?
Three out of 192 seems to me to be a disturbingly high proportion if one takes the view that to be an innocent man in the death cell, or to have an innocent son in the death cell amounts to a degree of human anguish of a different order from the physical perils of life, the risks of accident or even attack to which we are all to some extent inevitably exposed.
These are what may be called the classical arguments against the death penalty. I believe them to be very powerful. They have convinced me and much of the House over many years, but I have none the less come to believe in recent months, when we have witnessed a mounting wave of indiscriminate terrorist killing, that in this situation of special menace we should not rest upon traditional arguments. We should approach the matter afresh. This I have endeavoured to do, and if I were convinced that lives could be saved, that greater safety could be given to innnocent 629 citizens by the restoration of the death penalty for acts of terrorism, I would consider it my duty to overcome this repugnance, to subordinate any feelings of individual conscience I may have, to set aside these established arguments, and to recommend this change of mind to the House. That, however, is not the conclusion to which I come.
I believe, after the most careful reflection, that the reintroduction of the death penalty, whether for acts of terrorism alone or more generally, whether for the United Kingdom as a whole or Great Britain alone, would not merely secure no improvement but would in all likelihood make matters worse, would lead to a still greater threat of violence than would otherwise exist, would mean warrants of death and not warrants of safety for innocent and as yet unidentified persons.
Why do I believe this? First, I believe that, of all classes of killer, dedicated terrorists are the least likely to be deterred by the threat of execution. They have certainly not been deterred by the killing and the counter-killing in Northern Ireland. There, without question, death and violence have fed upon themselves. No one appears to have been deterred from the killing of others by the very real and immediate threat to his own life. It may be argued, however, that Northern Ireland is different from Great Britain and that a hot death in the streets is different from a cold death upon the scaffold. Let us take these points one by one.
First, it was suggested by the right hon. Members for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) that we should restore capital punishment for Great Britain but not for Northern Ireland. That to me is a most extraordinary proposition—use the weapon where the threat is less and sheathe it where it is greater. That is surely no way in which to treat a favoured, allegedly effective and unique deterrent. I can see no argument, either of principle or of expediency, for such a course.
Secondly, let us not delude ourselves that the threat of hanging, or of judicial shooting for that matter, would be particularly horrifying to those who are prepared to commit a major terrorist crime. I believe that those who so argue fail to 630 understand the psychology—or the psychosis—of fanatical terrorism.
The martyrdom argument is an old one but it is not less valid for that reason. Although I do not put those who have committed the recent senseless and wholly ignoble acts of mass murder in any way on a par with those who made the 1916 Easter rebellion, it is undoubtedly the case that it was the executions which turned the fiasco of that unpopular rising into a national legend. It was the executions, not the rising, which led Yeats to write the haunting phrase that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) quoted in his remarkable speech. There have been enough martyrs in the past, it may be argued, but fresh ones can always be used by an organisation like the IRA.
I am, I need hardly say, totally without a shred of sympathy for those who perpetrate outrages such as we have seen. I suppose that I have seen the results of these more than almost any other hon. Member in the House. It has been my duty to see those in hospital after the incidents at the Tower, Guildford and Birmingham. I have no desire at all to preserve the lives of those who have perpetrated such horrible acts. But I do have a desire, in dealing with the enemy, not to play into his hands. I am as convinced as I can be that were this House to vote for the amendment tonight it would be regarded by the IRA not as a defeat or a deterrent but as a victory. Let us play no part in giving the IRA such a victory.
I know that it is held by some—by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight), for instance—that these arguments may be valid for a core of hard-line terrorists but that the death penalty would none the less deter those who succour or support terrorists. This is a dangerous argument. Certainly a deterrent is not a deterrent unless we are prepared to use it. I do not believe that any significant section of this House or of public opinion, despite its recent mood, would be so prepared when it came up against the actuality of what was involved.
We cannot hang landladies, we cannot hang mothers who shelter their sons, we cannot hang women who shelter their husbands. It is important in this context that we try to cast our minds a little into the future and not think merely of 631 the present. There would be a total revulsion of feeling if we were to hang such people. One of the great, essential battles at the moment in this fight against terrorism, which the police are handling very well indeed, is to prevent any significant part of the Irish community wishing to give cover to terrorists and instead to encourage them to help flush out the terrorists. That battle is going well at the moment. In my view it would go less well, not better, with the death penalty. There would be more of a temptation to cover up.
The second major question is the protection we owe not only to the public but to the police and security services here and in Northern Ireland. Would it help them if we were to accept the amendment? First I deal briefly with Northern Ireland, which is not my direct responsibility but that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He has no doubt that there is no place, either in principle or in practice, for capital punishment in Northern Ireland. He is far from being alone. For instance, many hon. Members will have noticed the views attributed to senior police officers there in the Sunday Telegraph 10 days ago.
Still more striking, however, as I told the House previously, is the statement made by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) in the House in May 1973. Former retentionist as he was, he moved the abolition of the death penalty in Northern Ireland and referred to his experience. He did it in these words:I am therefore absolutely convinced … that in the days immediately before and after any proposed execution the police and the soldiers would be at increased risk. As a result, the effort to protect the lives of policemen and soldiers by making an example in the case of a death which cannot be reprieved would be likely to provoke more shooting and more risk of death than to reduce it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May 1973; Vol. 856, c. 1029.]I would simply add to those wise and courageous words that I believe that, broadly speaking, the same would apply in Great Britain, and I include the public among those whose lives would be additionally at risk.
§ Mr. William Whitelaw (Penrith and The Border)
As the right hon. Gentleman has specifically referred 632 to me, and as I had major responsibility in Northern Ireland at the time that I moved the clause, it would be quite wrong if I did not tell the House what my present position is. To leave anyone in any doubt would be entirely wrong.
Like all other right hon. and hon. Members, I have very carefully considered the new position. I have thought deeply about public opinion and the feeling of the public. However, I have concluded that I would wish to stand by the views which I expressed then. I know that my right hon. Friend the then Prime Minister concurs in this. Therefore, I must tell the House that, having worried very much about my decision, I shall vote for the motion and against the amendment.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I salute the courage and forthrightness of the right hon. Gentleman.
Then there is the question of the attitude of the police here in London and throughout Great Britain. I have hesitated about what, if anything, I should say on this matter. There is always the danger of being anxious to attribute views when it suits one's book and to suppress them when it does not. However, I have been persuaded by the fact that several right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, but mainly on the benches opposite, have asked me about this matter in the Chamber and outside it.
I am also influenced by the fact that the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has volunteered a statement in a form which he would be glad to have used. It is an expert opinion which should be known to the House and to the country. I did not ask him for it; he volunteered it. He has rightly and cautiously said thatthere is no collective police view of capital punishment and that no one can properly purport to express one.But he has also said that,of the six most senior officers of the Metropolitan Police, five are opposed to the return of capital punishment. The five include the Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner, and the Assistant Commissioners (Crime) and (Operational). All are long-serving professional policemen with extensive practical experience. The senior operational detective is of the same view.633 I should add—I am not quoting now but speaking on my own responsibility —that in reaching this conclusion the Commissioner has been greatly influenced by his own view of effective deterrence. This he regards as the likelihood of detection followed by, for the guilty, the near certainty of conviction. He thinks that this process would be weakened by capital punishment. He fears that majority verdicts, which at present result in one out of nine convictions, including a number relating to terrorists recently, will have to go. As the author of the measure to introduce majority verdicts, which was passed by this House against considerable opposition, especially from Conservative Members, I do not think that such verdicts could remain for capital offences. Once we begin to say that a verdict is not good enough for one form of offence and for one form of punishment it becomes very difficult to defend it for others.
The Commissioner also believes—this point was taken in a previous debate by the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner)—that, majority verdicts apart, juries would in general be more hesitant to convict with a capital sentence. Again I agree with him.
Let no one be in any doubt of the deterrent effect, where deterrence applies at all, given the psychosis of the individual, of a long, undramatic prison sentence.
§ Mr. Nigel Lawson (Blaby)
What the Home Secretary says is of great importance. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Commissioner of Police was talking about capital punishment in general or about the specific issue of terrorism?
§ Mr. Jenkins
The Commissioner of Police was talking about capital punishment specifically in relation to the present debate and the present wave of terrorist offences.
§ Sir Keith Joseph
I raise this point while there is still time for the Home Secretary to fit it in. I take seriously all he said. Will he find time to deal with the argument which affects many of us, that the IRA does not believe that its members will be left in prison for long, and that there is no effective deterrent in 634 the prison system because of the belief in a political bargain?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I shall indeed do so. I make no objection. Had the right hon. Gentleman not put that point to me I would have been answering it already.
Let no one believe that there is no real deterrence in, as I put it, a long undramatic prison sentence. I wish to introduce as little controversy as possible tonight. However, I think that some Opposition hon. Members have done great damage by endorsing the view, which I hold to be wholly false, that terrorists will be released from prison in a short time.
No Home Secretary can bind his successor. But in my view—and I speak with full consideration here—there is no prospect of amnesties for those who have committed cold-blooded and indiscriminate murder or maiming in this country. I do not recognise political excuses for crimes of that order. Those who have received long sentences should, in my view, serve them, whatever political settlements there may be.
§ Mrs. Knight
What would be the view of the Home Secretary if the situation were to arise where hostages were taken in an attempt to enforce the release of prisoners?
§ Mr. Jenkins
My view is that no one can bargain for such circumstances. My view is also that, because of the heightened drama and the particular concentration on one moment, this would be a much greater threat after the death penalty had been carried out than the threat which exists now, and is not negligible when the moment is not so heightened. Therefore, I believe that this House would be detracting both from security and from deterrence were it to vote for the amendment.
There remains the argument that if we take this view we are probably at variance with public opinion and may be, it is argued, dangerously so. However, this argument takes us to the heart of our representative and democratic dilemma. We are a new Parliament. We were all elected after the Tower, after Guildford, but not after the dreadful Birmingham incident. Presumably we were all asked at some stage in the 635 election campaign—certainly I was— about our views on capital punishment, and presumably we all gave them.
I do not discount the doubts and fears of those who hesitate about going against what appear to be the wishes of their constituents. I do not dismiss it for a moment as cowardice or mere popularity seeking. None the less, it would be wrong to take a decision upon this basis.
For those who are firmly convinced of the value of the death penalty, there is no problem. For others it might perhaps be reasonable to vote in accordance with outside views if they were convinced that hanging, even if it did no good, could at least do no harm. But that is not the position. None of us can claim infallibility of knowledge or judgment in this or in any other matter. But it is my view and that of nearly everyone who has had high responsibility for dealing with this new and horrible challenge that the potentiality for greater harm and greater violence is formidable.
§ Nothing that we can do will guarantee us complete safety. Whatever course we take, it is likely that there will be further outrages. I believe, however, that the risks to our people, the risks to our police and security services and the prospect of an almost inevitable escalation of violence would be greater if we took this step tonight. What is more, the chances of a political settlement would be less.
§ This is exactly the sort of situation in which this House should exercise its qualities of independent judgment and not merely those of reflecting opinion. Above all, it is an issue on which it is our public duty to import perspective, to learn from the past and to look to the future as well as to react to the present.
§ I ask the House to support the motion and not the amendment.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 217, Noes 369.639
|Division No. 32]||AYES||[9.58 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Holland, Philip|
|Aitken, J. W. P.||Dunlop, J.||Hordern, Peter|
|Alison, Michael||Dunnett, Jack||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Arnold, Tom||Durant, Tony||Hunt, John|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||James, David|
|Banks, Robert||Emery, Peter||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick (Redbr.)|
|Bell, Ronald||Fairbairn, Nicholas||Jesse!, Toby|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Farr, John||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Fell, Anthony||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)|
|Biffen, John||Finsberg, Geoffrey||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N.)||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Blaker, Peter||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Fookes, Miss Janet||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Bowden, Andrew (Brighton)||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C.)||Kilfedder, James|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Fox, Marcus||Kimball, Marcus|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St.)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Fry, Peter||Kitson, Sir Timothy|
|Brittan, Leon||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Knight, Mrs Jill|
|Brotherton, Michael||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Lane, David|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Gardner, Edward (S. Fylde)||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Latham, Michael (Mellon)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Glyn, Dr Alan||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Lawson, Nigel|
|Burden, F. A.||Goodhart, Philip||Le Merchant, Spencer|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Goodhew, Victor||Lester, Jim (Beeston)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gow, I. (Eastbourne)||Lewis, Arthur (Newham N.)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C.)||Luce, Richard|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, S)||Gray, Hamish||MacCormick, lain|
|Clark, William (Croydon, S.)||Grieve, Percy||McCrindle, Robert|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Griffiths, Eldon||McCusker, Harold|
|Cope, John||Grylls, Michael||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Cordle, John H.||Hall, Sir John||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Marten, Neil|
|Corrie, John||Hampson, Dr Keith||Mates, Michael|
|Costain, A. P.||Hannam, John||Mather, Carol|
|Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast)||Harrison, Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maude, Angus|
|Crawford, Douglas||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Critchley, Julian||Hastings, Stephen||Mawby, Ray|
|Crouch, David||Havers, Sir Michael||Maxwell-K'yslop, Robin|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hawkins, Paul||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Henderson, Douglas||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Doig, Peter||Hicks, Robert||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)|
|Mills, Peter||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Stokes, John|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Tapsell, Peter|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Renton Rt Hn Sir D. (Hunts.)||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Molyneaux, James||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||Taylor, Teddy (Glasgow C.)|
|Monro, Hector||Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Tebbit, Norman|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Ridsdale, Julian||Temple-Morris, P.|
|Moore, John (Croydon C)||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Thatcher, Rt Hon M.|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff N.W.)||Trotter, Neville|
|Morgan, Geraint||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Ross, William (Londonderry)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Morris, Michael (Northants)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Morrison, Peter (Chester)||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)||Vlggers, P. J.|
|Mudd, David||Scott-Hopkins, James||Wakeham, John|
|Neave, Airey||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Neubert, Michael||Shelton, William (Lambeth St.)||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Nott, John||Shersby, Michael||Wall, Patrick|
|Onslow, Cranley||Silvester, Fred||Warren, Kenneth|
|Oppenheim, Mrs Sally||Sims, Roger||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Osborn, John||Sinclair, Sir George||Wells, John|
|Page, John (Harrow West)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)||Wiggin, Jerry (Weston-s-Mare)|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Spence, John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Spicer, James (W. Dorset)||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Percival, Ian||Spicer, Michael (S. Worcester)||Young, Sir George (Ealing)|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Sproat, lain||Younger, Hon George|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stainton Keith|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Stanbrook, Ivor||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Stanley, John||Mr. Reginald Eyre and|
|Raison, Timothy||Steen, Anthony (Liverpool)||Mr. Keith Speed.|
|Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Abse, Leo||Channon, Paul||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast)|
|Allaun, Frank||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushclifte)||Flannery, Martin|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Clemitson, I. M.||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)|
|Anderson, Donald||Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Archer, Peter||Cohen, Stanley||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Coleman, Donald||Ford, Ben T.|
|Ashley, Jack||Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Forrester, John|
|Ashton, Joe||Concannon, J. D.||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Conlan, Bernard||Fraser, John (Lambeth N.)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Freeson, Reginald|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Corbett, Robin||Freud, Clement|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Cox, Thomas (Wands, Toot)||Garrett, John (Norwich S.)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow M.)||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood)||Crawshaw, Richard||George, Bruce|
|Bates, Alf||Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Gilbert, Dr John|
|Bean, Robert E.||Cryer, Bob||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)|
|Beith, A. J.||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh.)||Ginsburg, David|
|Benn, Rt Hn Anthony Wedgwood||Dalyell, Tam||Goodlad, A.|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Davidson, Arthur||Gorst, John|
|Benyon, W. R.||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N.)||Gould, Bryan|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Gourlay, Harry|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Graham, Ted|
|Bishop, Edward||Davis, S. Clinton (Hackney C.)||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Deakins, Eric||Grant, John (Islington C.)|
|Boardman, H.||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Grimond, Rt Hon J.|
|Body, Richard||de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Grist, Ian|
|Booth, Albert||Delargy, Hugh||Grocott, Bruce|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Dempsey, James||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck.)||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)|
|Bradley, Tom||Dormand, Jack||Hamling, William|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Hardy, Peter|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Harper, Joseph|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Duffy, A. E. P.||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow Pr.)||Dunn, James A.||Hart, Rt Hon Judith|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle)||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth||Hatton, Frank|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S.)||Eadie, Alex||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Buchan, Norman||Edelman, Maurice||Hayman, Mrs Helene|
|Buchanan, Richard||Edge, Geoffrey||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Buck, Antony||Edwards, Robert (Wolv. S.E.)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Budgen, Nick||Elliott, Sir William||Heseltine, Michael|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Haringey)||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Higgins, Terencs L.|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P.)||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Hooley, Frank|
|Campbell, Ian||English, Michael||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Canavan, Dennis||Evans, loan L. (Aberdare)||Horam, John|
|Cant, R. B.||Evans, John (Newton)||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Carmichael, Neil||Swing, Harry (Stirling)||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)|
|Carr, Rt Hon Robert||Fairgrieve, Russell||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)|
|Carter, Ray||Faulds, Andrew||Hoyle, Douglas (Nelson)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Huckfield, Leslie|
|Cartwright, John||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N.)||Mendelson, John||Silkin Rt Hn John (Lewish.)|
|Hunter, Adam||Mikardo, Ian||Silkin, Rt Hn S. C. (Southwk.)|
|Hurd, Dougias||Millan, Bruce||Sillars, James|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Miller, Dr M. (E. Kilbride)||Silverman, Julius|
|Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (L'pool)||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Molloy, William||Small, William|
|Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Moonman, Eric||Smith, John (N. Lanarkshire)|
|Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Snape, Peter|
|Jackson Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Janner, Greville||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Jeger, Mrs Lena||Moyle, Roland||Stewart, Rt Hn Michael (H'smith, F)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Wandsworth)||Murray, Ronald King||Stoddart, David|
|Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (B'ham, St)||Nelson, Anthony||Stott, Roger|
|John, Brynmor||Newens, Stanley||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Johnson, James (Kingston, W.)||Newton, Tony||Strang, Gavin|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Noble, Mike||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Oakes, Gordon||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Ogden, Eric||Swain, Thomas|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||O'Halloran, Michael||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||O'Malley, Brian||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Judd, Frank||Orbach, Maurice||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle)|
|Kelley, Richard||Ovenden, John||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Barnet)|
|Kerr, Russell||Owen, Dr David||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Padiey, Waiter||Thompson, George|
|King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Palmer, Arthur||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Kinnock, Neil||Pardoe, John||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (Devon)|
|Knox, David||Park, George||Tierney, Sydney|
|Lamborn, Harry||Parker, John||Tinn, James|
|Lamond, James||Parry, Robert||Tomlinson, John|
|Lamont, Norman||Pavitt, Laurie||Torney, Tom|
|Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Peart, Rt Hon Fred||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Pendry, Tom||Tuck, Raphael|
|Lee, John||Penhaligon, David||Urwin, T. W.|
|Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Perry, Ernest||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V.)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Phipps, Dr Colin||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Litterick, Tom||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Prescott, John||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Price, William (Rugby)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Loyden, Eddie||Radice, Giles||Walters, Dennis|
|Luard, Evan||Rathbone, Tim||Ward, Michael|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S.)||Watkins, David|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Reid, George||Watkinson, John|
|Mabon, Dr J. Dickson||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Weetch, Ken|
|McCartney, Hugh||Richardson, Miss Jo||Weitzman, David|
|McElhone, Frank||Rifkind, Maicoim||Wellbeloved, James|
|MacFarquhar, R.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||White Frank R. (Bury)|
|MacGregor, John||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||White, James (Glasgow, P)|
|Mackenzie, Gregor||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Rodgers, William (Teesside)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Maclennan, Robert||Rooker, J. W.||Wigley, Dafydd (Caernarvon)|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Roper, John||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C.)||Rose, Paul B.||Williams, Alan (Swansea)|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Williams, Alan, Lee (Haver'g)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock)||Williams, Rt Hn Shirley (Hertford)|
|Madden, Max||Rowlands, Ted||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Madel, David||Ryman, John||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Magee, Bryan||Sainsbury, Tim||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E.)|
|Maguire, M. F. (Fermanagh)||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)|
|Mahon, Simon||Sandelson, Neville||Wilson, William (Coventry S.E.)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Scott, N.||Wise Mrs Audrey|
|Marks, Ken||Sedgemore, B.||Woodall, Alec|
|Marquand, David||Selby, Harry||Woof, Robert|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Shaw, Arnold (Redbridge, IIf.)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester)||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Young, David (Bolton E.)|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Shepherd, Colin||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Short, Rt Hon Edward (Newcastle C)||Mr. John Golding and|
|Meacher, Michael||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Mrs Millie Miller.|
|Mellish. Rt Hon Robert|
§ Question accordingly negatived
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
That this House, while recognising that political terrorism requires a reappraisal of
established attitudes, is of opinion that a re-introduction of the death penalty would neither deter terrorists nor increase the safety of the public.