HC Deb 01 December 1955 vol 546 cc2491-3
22. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has yet decided to make any alteration in the law relating to capital punishment; and if he will now state Government policy on this subject.

64. Mr. V. Yates

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why Her Majesty's Government is unable to accept any of the major recommendations of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)

The Government have found no reason to depart from the provisional views which I expressed when the Royal Commission's Report was debated on 10th February last. I cannot detail the grounds for the Government's decision within the scope of the Answer to a Question, but the hon. Members will find them in the speech that I made on that occasion.

Mr. Hughes

Have the Government therefore definitely made the decision that some human creatures are so much beyond redemption that nothing will do but to take their lives; and, secondly, that our prison system is so defective that imprisonment will not protect the community?

Major Lloyd-George

I think the best thing which the hon. and learned Gentleman can do is to await the discussion which the Prime Minister promised that we should have on this whole question.

Mr. Yates

Does not the Home Secretary consider that, after a Commission has gone to such trouble to prepare a Report, it is remarkable that the Government cannot accept a single recommendation? In view of the fact that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman gave a Written Answer to the Question, is not that treating the Commission and the House with contempt?

Major Lloyd-George

I think that the hon. Gentleman's memory is at fault. We had a debate on this whole matter last February, when I referred in very great detail to the three main recommendations of the Commission. If the hon. Gentleman will look at the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will find that I treated each one in very great detail in my speech.

Mr. S. Silverman

Would not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman nevertheless bear in mind that even among that dwindling number of persons who desire in some cases to retain the death penalty there is an almost universal feeling that the law in its present form, at any rate, cannot be defended? In those circumstances, would he not reconsider the matter?

Major Lloyd-George

As I think the hon. Gentleman appreciated when he referred to my right hon. Friend's answer on the last occasion, it is important that the state of public opinion should be ascertained in this matter. I do not altogether accept his figures, but in any event I think it is essential—and I am sure we all agree—that the present state of public opinion should be ascertained. Surely there is no better place for that than this House.

29. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he proposes to introduce legislation to implement the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment that the law should be amended so that where on a charge of murder a jury consider that the accused killed the deceased upon provocation, that he was deprived of self-control as a result of that provocation, and that a reasonable man might have been so deprived, the nature, as distinct from the degree, of the provocation should be immaterial.

Major Lloyd-George

I cannot hold out any prospect of legislation on this subject in the near future.

Mr. de Freitas

Does the Home Secretary realise the very great care with which the Royal Commission considered this unanimous recommendation? If he is not prepared to have a debate on the whole range of the Report, could we not have a discussion on this unanimous recommendation for the reform of our law?

Major Lloyd-George

I can only refer the hon. Gentleman to the Answer which the Prime Minister gave last week to a Question by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman)—that the Government are prepared to have a discussion on the whole question, which would include this recommendation.