HC Deb 09 February 1955 vol 536 cc1985-7

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I beg to move, in page 19, line 42, to leave out "two years" and insert "one year."

The Chairman

I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee to take with this Amendment those to Clauses 31 to 43, standing in the hon. Member's name.

Mr. Hughes

This question is very simple and need not involve a great deal of elaborate legal discussion. It is whether or not the maximum penalty of imprisonment should be two years or one. I submit that one year is more humane, and equally effective as a deterrent, than two years. The maximum sentences laid down are sentences for what might in many cases be trivial offences for which a soldier should not be liable to the exceptionally long period of imprisonment of two years. A maximum of one year would safeguard discipline and serve as a deterrent. I should be interested to hear the legal arguments that can be advanced against me in this case.

Mr. F. Maclean

The hon. Member said that his argument was very simple and very short. I hope that mine will be equally simple and short, but rather more effective. The reason why we need a maximum punishment of two years—and I repeat that it is a maximum—is that, under all the Clauses in question, the offences dealt with are capable of very wide variations of heinousness. Indeed, they vary with the circumstances in which the offences are committed. We have to retain a maximum of two years so as to be able to distinguish between less important offences—which they may also be—and offences committed in circumstances which might imperil the life or limb of large numbers of people, or which may be very much to the detriment of the British Army.

That is why we cannot accept this Amendment, and why the present maximum was accepted by the Select Committee after a great deal of careful thought.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 30 to 62 ordered to stand part of the Bill.