§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
There is, I think, one feature of this debate which makes it almost unique in the history of Parliament, at any rate in modern times. The two aspects with which a Motion for the Second Reading of a Bill is usually concerned, are, first, to recommend to the House the principle of the Measure and, secondly, to explain to the House the details of the provisions which it contains.
It seems to me that on this occasion the House, if not precluded from dealing with it, at any rate is not primarily concerned to debate the principle of the Measure, and I regard myself as absolved from the necessity to do so. The House will remember that on 16th February it adopted a Motion in the following terms:That this House believes that the death penalty for murder no longer accords with the needs or the true interests of a civilised society, and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to introduce forthwith legislation for its abolition or for its suspension for an experimental period.That Motion, in the substantive form, was adopted by the House unanimously, and the House, therefore, as recently as 16th February, accepted the principle of this Bill and could not, at least so I respectfully submit, today reject the Second Reading of the Bill, except on one assumption, without stultifying itself here, in the country, and before history.
§ Mr. Silverman
It is, of course, open to any hon. Member or to a majority of hon. Members to change their minds on any issue at any time, according to their own good consciences and good judgment. Obviously, that must be conceded in any free and democratic assembly.
§ Mr. Silverman
What I am saying is that the debate on 16th February was conducted as I am sure everyone would have wished it to be conducted—on the basis that this was an important question which raised some fundamental issues, that it was a matter on which conscientious judgment was involved, that it was a question on which a good deal of argument had already taken place, and that it was regarded as a matter on which the House should then exercise its judgment.
While it is, of course, open, without reproach, to anyone to change his mind on a subject, or for the House itself to change its mind, I still say, with all respect to the point made by the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), that for the House of Commons to change its mind within two or three weeks on so important and fundamental an issue would be regarded in some places as stultifying itself and would not conduce to the heightening of the prestige of a democratic Parliamentary system.
§ Mr. Osborne
My hon. Friends and I will listen most carefully to the hon. Member. If he can so convince us that we change our minds he would welcome us in the Lobby with him, but surely the converse is true. Hon. Members should not be regarded as inconsiderate if they vote against him tonight, though they voted with him on the previous occasion.
§ Mr. Silverman
I have already said, and repeat it now, that it is open to anyone to change his mind. Anyone who voted against the Motion last time and votes with us today we would welcome, and anyone who decided to vote the other way I would not criticise. The general comment of the hon. Member on the principle, if he will forgive me saying so, I would regard as redundant.
I have nothing new to say on the principle and propose to devote myself only to the other aspects of the matter and to seeing whether the Bill which I am commending to the House is a reasonable implementation of the principle which I say the House has already reached. Before dealing with that, however, I should like to say another word about the procedure which has been adopted.
I have heard in many quarters criticism of the Government for having adopted the procedure we are now following. The Motion which was unanimously adopted 38 by the House did, in set terms, call upon the Government to introduce forthwith legislation for carrying out the principle to which it had given its unanimous support. It was thought in many quarters that for the Government then not to do that, but to leave it to a private Member to introduce a Private Member's Bill, was, in some ways, a refusal to carry out their own pledge, or a refusal to be bound by a decision of the House reached on a free vote at the invitation of the Government.
I say at once that I do not share those criticisms. I could see many good reasons, and some practical convenience, if the Government had, in fact, decided to introduce a Measure of their own. Equally well I can see some positive advantages in doing it in the way the Government have chosen. The principal one that I see is that it does serve to reinforce and to emphasise again an aspect of this matter which I am sure we all welcome. That aspect is that it has always been treated in this House as strictly a non-party question. Nothing can serve better to emphasise that it is, and remains, a completely non-party question—a question on which there is indeed deep political controversy but in which the controversy cuts right across all normal ordinary divisions of political opinions—than to leave it still in the hands of a private Member and the decision to be made by each of us in his capacity as a private Member of this House of Commons, exercising his own individual, conscientious judgment on it. That, in my view, is another advantage.
Many hon. Members have been disturbed in this matter—I certainly do not say in any way improperly—by the fear of going too far in advance of public opinion. I think that most of us realise that it would not be right for the House of Commons to fall far behind public opinion. I think, equally, that most of us would agree that it is a good thing for Parliament to be, if anything, a little ahead of public opinion, at any rate in matters of this kind. But the fear has not been that we were a little ahead; the fear has been that we were altogether too far ahead. If we were altogether too far ahead one can see why some hon. Members, at any rate, would think that the time was not appropriate, or, as the Home Secretary said in the debate, "not ripe", for carrying out a reform which they 39 themselves, acting as individuals, would be prepared to support.
How is public opinion to be decided on such a matter? Does anyone think that we really get any useful guidance, any help, in such a matter by a number of well-meaning and, no doubt, responsible and experienced individuals, going about in buses, or public houses, or clubs, or at street corners, button-holing passers-by and asking—note-book and pencil ready in hand—"Are you for or against capital punishment?" and taking down the answer "Yes" or "No," then counting those answers and saying, "That is public opinion"? Surely not. In these, even more than in most discussions, it does not matter very much what a man's or woman's opinion is at the beginning of the argument; the important thing is what he or she thinks at the end of the argument.
§ Mr. Silverman
If, at the end of the argument, there are some who are unable to think, we would be wise to recommend them to abstain from the vote, not to take part in it.
It must depend on the result in some form. The House of Commons does not consist of 630 men and women of genius. It would be so much a less representative assembly if it did. Neither does it consist of 630 fanatics, or 630 cranks. It consists of—and its great merit as a democratic institution consists in the fact that it is made up of a very representative cross-section of the community—630 responsible, experienced, conscientious citizens, elected as such to represent their fellows and representing not merely a cross-section of the whole community according to sex, age, occupation, background and experience, but also, one may venture to think, the normal, average, intellectual grasp and moral integrity.
I say that there can be no better tribunal of instructed, considered public opinion than the opinion of the House of Commons registered at the end of a thoughtfully and well-conducted debate and the decision taken on a free vote, unhampered by party loyalties or group thinking of any kind.
§ Mr, W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
To what extent should hon. Members of this House weigh the representative views of the people of the United Kingdom before they come to their own view?
§ Mr. Silverman
If the hon. Member will tell me how to ascertain the representative views of the people, I will be glad to answer his question, but I know no way of ascertaining them unless we adopt the principle, which this country has always rejected and which, I think, it will continue to reject, of proceeding by a referendum.
We are not delegates; we are representative men and women charged with the duty of bringing our minds, judgments and consciences to bear honestly on the facts as we can ascertain them and then voting according to the best of our judgment and ability at the end of the day. When the House of Commons has recorded judgment in that way, no one has the right to say that that judgment is not a representative judgment, representing true public opinion.
What have been the considerations which most influenced right hon. and hon. Members? I am not repeating the recent debate in any way, but I would mention two considerations very shortly. I derive them both from the very interesting speech made by the Home Secretary in moving the Motion which, at the end of the day, the House rejected. In the OFFICIAL REPORT, column 2551, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said:First, let me say emphatically that I believe capital punishment to be justified only"—I repeat "only" and "emphatically"—if it is likely to reduce the amount of murder.
§ Mr. Silverman
Turning back to column 2547, in the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's same speech he quoted from the Royal Commission's Report, and he quoted it with approval, thus:the only conclusion which can be drawn from these figures is that there is no clear evidence of any influence of the death penalty on the homicide rates of these States."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1956; Vol. 548, c. 2551, 2547.]
§ Colonel O. E. Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest)
The quotation which the hon. Member has just given was made in relation to the United States, and the United States only.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Member must not suppose that I did not listen to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech on 16th February, or that I had not read it since when I chose to offer this quotation. I assure the hon. and gallant Member that I shall be quite fair in my quotation. I was about to make the point which he intervened to make for me.
It is true that that quotation is taken from paragraph 64 of the Royal Commission's Report comparing States in the United States of America which have abolished the death penalty with those which have not, but it is just that that makes the quotation so telling. Let the hon. and gallant Member understand it. This is the U.S.A. There is no question of differences of social, economic or political background. So far as one could have uniformity or integrity of social background, we have it in that one area. [Interruption.] It should not be supposed that I am overstating it or advising the House to read too much into it.
Of course, all the States are not exactly the same. One never finds two places anywhere in the world that are exactly the same. We do not live in watertight compartments. There are human differences in all parts of the world, and, indeed, between one street and another, if the hon. and gallant Member wishes to be as analytical as that. But for practical purposes we have to do the best we can with the best examples available. In looking for an area with the nearest approach to a common background and a common social ethos and trying to find what effect the death penalty has, if we could find a fairly homogeneous area in parts of which that is present and in other parts of which it is not, we have in that example the nearest thing we can get—it is not perfect, but it is the nearest thing—to a laboratory examination of what the effect is if we have it and what the effect is if we have not. That is why the Royal Commission made that comparison for those reasons, and that was why the right hon. and gallant Gentleman quoted it for those reasons.
42 Let us repeat what the Royal Commission found and what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman accepts:the only conclusion which can be drawn…is that there is no clear evidence of any influence of the death penalty"—not of abolition—on the homicide rates of these States.I ask hon. Members, who, whatever their opinion, are as sincere and conscientious as anyone else, whether they are for or against abolition, to compare those two propositions—that is, the Home Secretary's view,let me say emphatically that I believe capital punishment to be justified only if it is likely to reduce the amount of murderand the statement, which the Home Secretary accepts, thatthere is no clear evidence of any influence of the death penalty on the homicide rates"—and consider what then their conscientious judgment ought to be.
I think—I may be wrong—that it was that as much as anything which influenced opinion in this House, as it would influence any rationally-minded man or woman, to decide that if a thing is justified only on a certain assumption and if there is no evidence on which that assumption can be made, the thing is not justified. I see no escape from the logic of that proposition.
The other thing which, I think, greatly influenced Members of the House, as it has greatly influenced the public, is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's insistence, which, I confess, I cannot understand, that beyond any reasonable doubt it is possible to say that in recent years no innocent man has been hanged in this country. I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, in all earnestness, to believe that he is probably the only man in this House who really believes that.
I can understand perfectly well—I am not discussing the cases—that proposition having been made and, indeed, being largely accepted, as I think it was, in 1948. Anyone can say that he believes that no innocent man was hanged—anybody is entitled to believe what he likes—but how any honest man, applying his intelligence to the facts, can say that there is no doubt of it, I really cannot understand, especially when, in the very same speech, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that if those three unfortunate men who were wrongly convicted of 43 attacking a policeman, and who, fortunately, did not die, had been convicted of murder, he would have reprieved them. [Interruption.] If they had been convicted of murder, he said, he would have reprieved them.
It seems to me that, whereas until very recent times the vast majority of people in this country would have accepted confidently the proposition that the risk of a substantial miscarriage of justice was negligible, today the great majority of people no longer believe that the risk of a substantial miscarriage of justice is negligible. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members must not misunderstand me. I am not saying that these things happen every day; I am not saying that they are frequent. No judicial system can be infallible. The risk of error is always there.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Gentleman says that it is very remote. There are still people who agree with one of the most learned and profound of our judges who said that, until human judgment is infallible, we have no right to inflict an irrevocable doom, but although one agrees—
§ Mr. Silverman
Although I think it may be difficult for him to come to a decision, I am quite sure that, knowing him as I do, he would find it extremely difficult for him to come to a decision to carry out the death penalty himself if he remained satisfied that his judgment was as fallible as that of anyone else. The difference is not whether you come to a decision or not; the difference is the enormous moral difficulty of executing a penalty which in no circumstances can be recalled and in circumstances in which one must concede that one may be wrong.
It seems to me that these were the two matters that most influenced Members, but, whether I am right or wrong in thinking that they are the things which most influenced them, they certainly influenced a substantial majority in favour 44 of the principle that the death penalty for murder should be abolished, and I respectfully invite hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who were of that opinion on 16th February to remain of that opinion, and would ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who were not of that opinion on 16th February whether, on consideration, they ought not to accept it now.
I come now to the question whether the Bill can be accepted as a reasonable or reasonably adequate implementation of a decision which the House has already taken, and to begin with, I think I ought to deal with what the Bill does not contain. First, it deals only with the penalty for murder. It does not deal, for instance, with the death penalty for treason or under the Treachery Act. Hon. and right hon. Members may think that there is some logical inconsistency in that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Whether there is a logical inconsistency or not, I think hon. and right hon. Members will realise that there is a very practical justification for it. Treason or treachery has always been on the fringe, as it were, of the criminal law. It occupies a somewhat indeterminate place between the criminal law, on the one hand, and political and sometimes religious ideas, on the other, and this is not only true in our own times, in which deep divisons of ideological opinion cut right across political and geographical frontiers—
§ Mr. Silverman
I agree with my hon. Friend, and I am explaining why it would not, because as we all know the traitor of one generation is so often the hero of the next. There must be many, and my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) is among them, who say that, if one says that Sir Roger Casement, for instance, may have been an offender—and a capital offender—against our law of treason, that will not in any way detract from his fame in Ireland, and this has always been so. One remembers the rhyme of the Jacobite period—God bless the King, I mean the faith's defender; God bless—no harm in blessing—the pretender; Who that pretender is, and who is king,—God bless us all,—that's quite another thing.45 This was repeated very cynically by a poet of the same period, who said:Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.I think this must remain outside the normal scope of the criminal law, and I hope, therefore, that it will not be regarded as in any way a reproach to the Measure that it does not deal with it.
Secondly, another thing with which the Bill does not deal is the making of exceptions of any kind. I appreciate that to many hon. Members the idea of limiting the death penalty to what we may loosely call the worst murders is a very attractive proposition, but I think it was common ground to both sides in the discusion of 16th February, as it always has been, that no such distinction is reasonably practicable or acceptable. I should like to quote the Lord Privy Seal on this point, and hon. Members may like to bear it in mind if and when—though perhaps I should say when and if—we reach the Committee stage.
In colunm 2647 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 16th February, the Lord Privy Seal said this:We are not attempting in this case to define degrees of murder, nor are we attempting, as was done unsuccessfully by the Administration in 1948, to define crimes. I need not tire the House with a recitation of the history of those attempts—but they were unsuccessful, and I accept the hon. Member's view that any such attempt is impossible. I do not see that it can be done. The present Permanent Under-Secretary to the Home Office—than whom there is no more able man upon this question—in evidence before the Royal Commission, said that cleverer men than he had attempted to define degrees of murder and had failed. I cannot believe that it is possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1956; Vol. 548, c. 2647.]The Home Secretary himself, earlier, said:The Government are asking the House to consider the straight issue of retention or abolition—that, I think, is the only issue."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1956; Vol. 548, c. 2545.]Because I accept that view, which appears to be common both to those who are in favour of retaining the death penalty and those who wish to abolish it, the Bill attempts no exceptions of any sort. Nor does the Bill attempt to define the alternative, life imprisonment. Certain criticisms were made of life imprisonment as amounting, in practice, to a short term of imprisonment of eight, nine, ten and 46 eleven years. It has been asked, "Is that sufficient? If life imprisonment meant life imprisonment one might accept it as the alternative, but when it means so short a period of imprisonment it is not a reasonable deterrent to this most capital of crime."
I have not attempted to define it, because there is no need. The rule whereby life imprisonment is a period of eight, nine, ten or eleven years has no statutory authority. It is an administrative practice only, and, no doubt, the administrative practice will be adapted to the new circumstances if this Bill goes upon the Statute Book. It is not necessary for the Bill to deal with it.
There is equally no need, I think, to amend the Bill in any other way except in two drafting senses. The reference to Scotland is no longer apposite because of the Criminal Justice Act, 1949, and I should propose in Committee to amend this; and in Committee, also, I think it would be right to make an Amendment making certain that the Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland. That is not because the circumstances are any different, or that the principle is not applicable, in Northern Ireland. One would hope that the Northern Ireland Government would themselves introduce a similar Measure. However, it has not been the practice of the House of Commons, since the Northern Ireland Parliament was established, to interfere with the transferred functions, of which the administration of justice is one.
What we shall be left with is the operative Clause by which, in future, the death penalty shall not be inflicted in cases of murder. That is all I wish to say about the Measure itself.
I do not know what the Government are going to say to the House today. I have accepted the decision that the Government came to about the method of proceeding, but I do hope that the Government will not advise the House to reject the Bill, or again advise the House to reject the principle, because I think that to do so would be in direct conflict with what the Prime Minister told the House at the end of that debate. He said, in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede):The right hon. Gentleman can be assured that the Government will give full weight at 47 once to a decision taken by this House on a free vote…''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1956; Vol. 548, c. 2664.]Moreover, the Lord Privy Seal that night, at the beginning of his speech, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) said:I would say at once, in answer to the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), himself an ex-Home Secretary, that when we have a free vote, we naturally expect to base our actions, if perhaps after necessary further deliberation, on the decision of the HOUse."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1956; Vol. 548 c. 2643.]If they base their actions on a free decision of the House, and the decision of the House has been given, it would be directly in accordance with that undertaking to invite the House to pass the Bill. Whether the Government do that or not, I hope that the House will stand by its decision.
There is to this Motion an Amendment on the Order Paper which asks us, in the old form, to defer consideration of the Measure for six months. I hardly think that there is an hon. Member in this House who does not in his heart believe that this reform is inevitable—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that if it does not come today it will very soon—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that it is in accordance with the prevailing opinion and what is rapidly becoming the almost universal opinion—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and that we ought not—no Member ought—to fight a last-ditch battle, obstinately clinging to the past, against a necessary and inevitable reform which the House of Commons would make.
When and if this Bill becomes the law of the land there will still be much misery in the world; there will still be much poverty; there will still be the danger of mass destruction; there will still be many evils to face us. No one thinks that the Bill will carry humanity a long step forward, but it will at least place this country again proudly in the van of progress and take our country and the world one step, if a modest one, nearer to a saner, happier, more cheerful, more rational and civilised human society.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Montgomery Hyde (Belfast, North)
I beg to second the Motion.
It is appropriate that I should do so, for my name appears on the back of the Bill 48 as one of its sponsors, with that, also, of my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter), who will wind up the debate. At the same time, I must express my regret that after the Resolution of this House of 16th February, calling on the Government to introduce legislation to abolish or to suspend the death penalty for an experimental period, my right hon. Friends did not feel justified in following the precedent of the Labour Government during the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill in 1948. On that occasion a Clause providing for suspension for five years was carried by a free vote, contrary to the advice of the then Government; and the then Government thereupon accepted the Clause and adopted it as their own during the remaining stages of the Bill in this House.
However, those who are associated with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in the introduction of this Bill are obliged to my right hon. Friends for having provided time for its Second Reading today, again on a free vote, and also for their promise of technical assistance should the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.
I hope that the vote tonight will be, in effect, as free as the vote on 16th February. I am not suggesting for a moment that the Government have deliberately attempted to persuade my hon. Friends on this side of the House who voted against the Government Motion for the retention of the death penalty three weeks ago to change their minds and abstain from voting in favour of this Bill, but I am aware that some of my hon. Friends have been subjected to some pressure both inside and outside the House by those who, in the words of the Daily Express, are "resolute for the rope."
It has been suggested that we have embarrassed the Government in some way by our action in voting as we did last month, and that we should not embarrass the Government any further. I should like to say that I do not agree with that view at all. I believe—and I say this without any disrespect whatever to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, whose perseverance in the matter of the death penalty during many years is much to be admired—that the boot is very much on the other foot. It is the Government who have embarrassed us by 49 declining to act in the terms of the Resolution of 16th February, and by consequently exposing us, or some of us, to the kind of pressures I have mentioned.
Hon. Members like my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate and myself have often spoken and voted in favour of the abolition of the death penalty in the past and I think that we, quite plainly, are impervious to any pressure, even the threat of physical elimination. At our last Unionist Annual Conference last week, in Belfast, a very determined lady began her speech by saying that hanging must be retained as a deterrent. She went on to say that she was seriously thinking of coming to England to shoot me because I disagreed with her. She was quite obviously undeterred by the knowledge that if she succeeded in doing so before the Bill reached the Statute Book she would probably be hanged herself.
It may be that most of my hon. Friends who voted for the first time in favour of the principle of abolition may find it more difficult to resist persuasion of varying kinds than might others. Therefore, I appeal particularly to them not to be swayed by any momentary clamour and to reaffirm their belief in this principle which they expressed on 16th February by again going into the Lobby tonight and recording their votes in favour of the Second Reading.
The purpose of the Bill is very simple and the Bill itself is short. It proposes to substitute a sentence of life imprisonment for the death penalty in crimes of murder. In wording and intention the Bill closely follows the new Clause in the Criminal Justice Bill, 1948, which was rejected in another place.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne mentioned the position of Northern Ireland. It would be constitutionally incorrect for the Bill to apply to Northern Ireland, in view of the fact that the Government of Ireland Act has clearly laid down that the administration of justice is the concern and responsibility of the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland.
At the same time, I would express the hope that the Parliament of Northern Ireland, in accordance with the traditional step-by-step policy, will eventually follow suit in this matter and introduce a similar Measure in the Parliament at Stormont. I would even go further, if I am not out 50 of order, and express the hope that the Government of the Republic of Ireland will do likewise. This last weekend I visited Dublin as well as Belfast. I was impressed at the meetings which I addressed in Dublin by the feeling which exhibited itself that hanging was a terrible thing. What rankled even more was that they could not get an Irishman to do the job either there or in the North and had to import an Englishman to do it.
What would be the effect of the Bill in practice if it became law? There are at present in Great Britain an average of twelve murders a month committed. Of the murderers, one or two are not detected at all. Some are declared insane, either certified as unfit to plead or found guilty but insane, and some commit suicide, when arrested or when under suspicion, in circumstances pointing to mental abnormality, and perhaps four of the twelve are reprieved.
Those add, roughly, to eleven. What then happens to the twelfth man, woman or youth? He or she is taken out of the cell and solemnly put to death on the gallows with a ritual which I need not describe. This happens on an average once a month. The ritual is set out in the Report of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment and in many other sober publications. It is this ritual which the present Bill proposes to abolish in Great Britain as no longer being in accordance with the needs or the true interests of a civilised society.
Since the matter was discussed in 1948, in the debates on the Criminal Justice Bill, there have been some striking conversions from the retentionist to the abolitionist side. It is worthy of note that two former Labour Home Secretaries have come over. I am sure that they will not think me in the least disrespectful if I state my opinion that the conversion which has impressed me most of all has been that of the gentleman who has perhaps given more study to this question of the death penalty than any other living person in Great Britain. That is Sir Ernest Gowers, the Chairman of the Royal Commission.
Sir Ernest Gowers has written a short book, which was published a week or so ago, setting out the reasons for his conversion. The book is called, "A Life for a Life?" I should like to read to 51 the House two short passages from that book. At the beginning, Sir Ernest says:Before serving on the Royal Commission I, like most other people, had given no great thought to this problem. If I had been asked for my opinion, I should probably have said that I was in favour of the death penalty, and disposed to regard abolitionists as people whose hearts were bigger than their heads. Four years of close study of the subject gradually dispelled that feeling. In the end I became convinced that the abolitionists were right in their conclusions—though I did not agree with all their arguments—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.There is another passage towards the end of the book following Sir Ernest's expression of his belief that the burden of proof lies with the supporters of capital punishment. He says:It would be difficult to say just what it was converted me to this view; it was the cumulative effect of many things, including such considerations as the right approach for a professedly Christian people, the manifestly objectionable, not to say repulsive, features of capital punishment and the morbid interest they excite, the possibility, however small, of hanging an innocent man and the large part that the element of vengeance seems to play in the demand for capital punishment. Perhaps the turning point was when I learned what a large number of applications there were for the post of hangman. Any State institution, I thought, that inspires ambitions of that sort in its citizens, and satisfies some of them, though it does not necessarily stand condemned, surely does need to justify itself on utilitarian grounds.The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne gave us some very cogent reasons today why the House should give the Bill a Second Reading and why the death penalty should be abolished. I should like to touch briefly on what I imagine to be the principal arguments which have been advanced and which will be advanced by my hon. Friends who have placed on the Order Paper an Amendment which reads:That the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months.which means, in effect, an Amendment in favour of keeping the death penalty. There are three arguments constantly advanced in favour of keeping the death penalty. They are, first, that public opinion wants it to be retained; secondly, that there is no satisfactory alternative to the death penalty; and, thirdly, that by removing the deterrent effect of the death penalty we shall have more murders.
52 On the question of public opinion, perhaps I place a little more faith in the public opinion poll, or some of the public opinion polls, than the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. As he has put it, it is very difficult, if not impossible, exactly to ascertain public opinion, and some public opinion polls, simply by asking one whether one is for or against and without trying to enter into any argument, may not be very conclusive. But I suggest that the public opinion poll called Mass Observation, conducted on the principles of the American Gallup Poll, which was employed by the Daily Telegraph—a newspaper which, I think, has always advocated the retention of the death penalty—helps us a little, and it is worth while looking for a moment or two at its conclusions.
This poll took place among a wide cross-section of the community shortly before the debate on 16th February. According to the survey, 32 per cent. of those consulted said that they were unreservedly for retention—they were "resolute for the rope"—35 per cent. said that they either supported abolition or they would give it a trial and suspend the death penalty for an experimental period. Twenty-five per cent. said that they did not know—they had not been able to make up their minds. Seven per cent. said that they thought that something like a system of degrees of murder as practised in continental countries and some of the States of the United States should be tried. That makes up 99 per cent. and the remaining 1 per cent. gave answers not within the framework of the question.
I think that it is significant that of the 25 per cent. who said that they did not know and had not been able to make up their minds, as the authors of the survey put it in conversation with them, they were tending in the direction of abolition or suspension, and one of the factors which influenced them in that direction was their uneasiness that there was the possibility that an innocent person might be executed.
The questions revealed that the two cases which particularly worried them were, first, the case of Timothy John Evans and secondly, the case of the three men, Powers, Emery and Thompson who were convicted of maliciously wounding a policeman and wrongly convicted. The Home Secretary said in his very interest 53 ing speech on 16th February that had the policeman died these men would not have been executed because evidence of identity depended upon the testimony of the police officer. But I would submit that the police officer might not have died immediately. He might have lingered on for some time, and he might quite well have made a dying declaration or deposition which would have incriminated these three men. Owing to the peculiar force which our law gives to a dying declaration in those circumstances, I would have thought that we would be justified in considering that there was very strong likelihood that these men would have been executed.
The second argument in favour of retention is that there is no satisfactory alternative to the death penalty in cases of the most heinous murders. That has been an argument which has been advanced since the days of Sir Samuel Romilly, when it was proposed to abolish the death penalty for stealing 5s. or a letter in the post. It was always said that there was no satisfactory alternative or suitable secondary punishment. Romilly's reply invariably was:If there is no alternative, then it is about time that we improved our prison system.We have improved our prison system out of all recognition not only since Sir Samuel Romilly's time but since the time of Sir Alexander Paterson, in 1931. It was much more severe in his time than it is today.
Even the Home Office authorities, in their evidence before the Royal Commission, supported this view. I should like to read one brief quotation on what they said before the Commission:Developments in prison administration since 1930 have materially altered the conditions of confinement for prisoners serving long sentences, particularly for those of the 'star' class. There is much more free association among prisoners; the disciplinary control is less rigid; they are given greater opportunities for exercising personal responsibility; the facilities for educational activities have been widely extended; the use of the library is unrestricted and books and periodicals can be received from outside the prison; and the sense of separation from the outside world is reduced by the introduction of books and wireless, greater facilities for letters and visits, and contact with many voluntary social workers particularly the unofficial Prison Visitors…While therefore the Prison Commissioners remain of the opinion…that a very long sentence is and always must be a dreadful thing, they do not consider that in 54 present conditions its effect on prisoners would be such that it ought not to be contemplated. They would in general find no difficulty in treating prisoners in this category (i.e., serving sentences up to 20 years) under such conditions, subject to the reservation that it remains to be ascertained empirically how far they could be treated in open prisons for very long terms.Then there is the third argument in favour of retention. This, I think, is perhaps the strongest, and it is certainly the one to which I attach the greatest weight. It is the argument of a deterrent, the argument that if the deterrent effect of the death penalty were removed more murders would be committed, professional criminals would resort to the use of firearms, and the police, in their turn, would have to be armed and we should have the kind of gun battles with which we are familiar in films and, indeed, in reports of what happens in some parts of New York and Chicago.
I think that we must look for some guidance on this very important aspect to the experience of continental countries. After all, the Dutch, the Scandinavians, and even the Swiss are not so very different from ourselves. They are foreigners, it is true, but they are no less civilised than we are; yet they have managed to get on quite well without the death penalty for many years, and when the death penalty was abolished in those countries there was no startling rise in the murder rate and it was not necessary to arm the police. In some of them—in Norway, for instance—where the police were never armed, it was not necessary to arm the police in that country.
§ Mr. Graeme Finlay (Epping)
Would my hon. Friend recognise that the Royal Commission found that any comparison between Great Britain and most of these countries, with the exception of Belgium, is vitiated by the differences in social and industrial conditions and in density of population? In other words, with the exception of Belgium, that is not a fair comparison in the opinion of the Royal Commission.
§ Mr. John Taylor (West Lothian)
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that a case nearer home is that of Scotland where, for eighteen years, there has been no execution and there has been no appreciable difference in the figures of capital crimes?
§ Mr. Hyde
I would, indeed. May I reply to both those points? My hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Finlay) said that the Belgian police are armed. That is true, but they were armed before capital punishment was abolished in Belgium, so it makes no difference. The Belgian police have been regarded for frontier purposes as a para-military organisation rather than as an ordinary police force as we know it.
I agree with the observations about Scotland made by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor), and I would add Northern Ireland, where we have not had an execution since 1944, which is twelve years ago. Since 1921, we have had only eleven executions, but then our murder rate has been much lower in relation to the total population than the rate in England and Wales.
The other charge which is brought frequently by those who support abolition is the more popular one of sentiment. It is sometimes asked: why waste sympathy on murderers, what about their victims? That is a question I have been asked frequently. The other day a woman wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph to remind both myself and the hon. Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter), as she put it, that most murderers are men and that the murdered are women and little girls, who, before dying, have suffered unspeakable horrors. Her letter continued by asking whether the hon. Member for Southgate and myself had no thoughtfor these or their relatives? The nauseating drivel written by these M.P.s is enough to raise the gore and distend the stomach of an ox,I am surprised that the literary output of myself and my hon. Friend should have such an effect on the animal world. I am not a sentimentalist, I have no sympathy with murderers, but like others who support the abolition of the death penalty, I am deeply concerned to reduce the murder rate. I am conscious that there have been cases where the existence of 56 the death penalty has been directly responsible for, and has encouraged, the commission of a murder.
There was the case of Marjeram, the man who stabbed the girl on Dartford Common in 1930, who said that he wanted to read the account of the murder in the papers and wanted to know what people said about him. There was also the case, last year, of Donald Brown, the youth who stabbed the old tobacconist in his shop. When questioned afterwards by the psychiatrist, he said, "Well, you know, I felt I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to be in the limelight."
I sympathise with the victim and with the family of the victim. In this connection, I shall quote the words of the father of a child who was killed a few weeks ago by a man called Bancroft, who was looking after the child. Whether the child shouted and annoyed him and the man lost his temper, I do not know, but he struck the child, who died as a result of the blow. Bancroft was charged with murder, convicted and sentenced to death. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary decided that the law must take its course but, a little later, a few hours before the man was due to be executed, my right hon. and gallant Friend had second thoughts and Bancroft was reprieved. This is what the father of the dead child said when he heard the news of the reprieve:We are delighted. I know we have suffered, but hanging him would not bring our baby back to life.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
If I may interrupt the hon. Gentleman, is it not often used as an argument by those who wish to retain the death penalty that life imprisonment is a worse punishment than the execution of the criminal? If that be the case, those people who vote for abolition of the death penalty and its replacement by life imprisonment can hardly be accused of being kind to the criminal.
§ Mr. Hyde
I agree. I know that there are some people who take the view that life imprisonment is worse than hanging. In fact, a woman said to me the other day, rather curiously, I thought, that she was pleased about this Bill because it would mean that murderers will now be locked up for life and that this was worse than being hanged. Some people take that view, but I do not subscribe to it.
57 If I may conclude my argument, surely it is better to make a convicted murderer work in prison to support the dependants and relatives of his victim, as is the practice in Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, than to take his life. I think, too, that we must not forget the grief and suffering inflicted upon the family of the executed person. A few weeks ago, on the third anniversary of the execution of Derek Bentley, his father said this:I wish M.P.s could see the suffering this hanging caused I hope they will soon spare other families the same nightmare experience and end capital punishment for ever. The dead stay dead. But their mothers, fathers, wives or sweethearts live on and suffer. My own wife has become prematurely old because of this heartbreak. My other two children have a blot on their young lives which will probably remain for ever.We have now reached a stage when many of us would like to see the gallows disappear, but we cannot make up our minds about the deterrent value of this punishment. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary on 16th February, as well as in the debate in February last year, said that no one wishes to retain capital punishment for its own sake. I am sure that there is not a single dissentient in this House from that statement.
This is a problem which cannot be solved by argument although it is capable of solution by experiment. Why not try it? The most weighty evidence against the infliction of the death penalty is to be found in the experience of those countries which have abolished it. They include every democratic State in the European continent, with one exception, as well as six of the United States of America and most of the countries in Latin America. Even Israel, which originated the old Biblical conception of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, has joined the ranks of the abolitionist States.
If the evidence of the experience in those countries is rejected by those who believe that conditions in those countries are radically different from our own, then there is no way of proving that abolition is the right solution of the problem except by trying it. Why, then, not give the hangman a holiday for five years, or, better still, pension him off altogether?
One hundred and sixteen years ago a great English writer, William Makepeace Thackeray, happened to witness a public 58 execution. He returned to his house, sat down and wrote an account of what he had seen, calling the essay "On going to see a man hanged." It was published in 1840, in Fraser's Magazine, and I want to make two small quotations from it. This is what Thackeray wrote:Blood demands blood. Does it? The system of compensation might be carried on ad infinitum—an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, as by the old Mosaic law…why, because you lose your eye, is that of your opponent to be extracted…where is the reason for the practice?…knowing that revenge is not only evil but useless we have given it up…on minor points. Only to the last we stick firm…Thackeray then describes the execution, and concludes:I came away from Snow Hill that morning with a digust for murder, but it was for the murder I saw done…I pray to Almighty God to cause this disgraceful sin to pass from among us, and to cleanse our land of blood.That is my prayer in supporting the Bill. I believe that those who vote for its Second Reading will be taking a great step forward towards removing a penalty from our criminal code which has become a futile, unnecessary and barbarous anachronism in the British way of life.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
The hon. Gentleman referred to the death penalty causing murders. I should like to tell him that when I was in Kenya recently I was told by a number of police officers that a considerable number of Mau Mau murders had been carried out for no other purpose than to involve participants in a capital offence, as they would not then be able to draw back. I would mention, incidentally, that a very large number of the police there are very strongly in favour of the abolition of the death penalty.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Grimston (Westbury)
I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months."
The Amendment in my name and the names of a number of right hon. and hon. Friends of mine is, as the House knows, the traditional method of moving the rejection of a Bill. In his opening remarks, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) advanced the 59 view that if the House rejected the Bill today it would be stultifying itself because a week or so ago it passed a Motion in a contrary sense. I disagree with that view. The passing of a Motion is quite different from the House addressing itself to actual legislation. I do not believe that the view advanced by the hon. Gentleman was correct.
The hon. Gentleman also said that he would not go into the arguments upon the principles as he had nothing new to say. I think that he, as a good Parliamentarian, having previously deployed all the arguments at length, was wise in that, but I have not previously taken part in these debates, and I have something new to say upon the principles, and I propose to say it.
Neither of the speeches that we have so far heard has relied upon the emotions. What has struck me about previous debates is that most of them have been carried on very largely on an emotional plane. It has always seemed to me in those debates that what has been forgotten has been the right of the public to ask that they should go about their lawful occasions under the maximum protection that Parliament can give them. That has been very much lost sight of in the past. I propose to argue that the Bill, if passed, will detract from the protection for which the public are entitled to ask Parliament.
I oppose the Bill on three grounds. First, while I should be in favour of some amendment of the law of murder, for reasons which I shall state later, I believe that capital punishment ought to be retained, particularly as a unique deterrent to professional criminals. Secondly, the Bill makes no attempt to deal with the problems arising from abolition, and the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne made that clear in his opening remarks.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
All that I made clear was that the alternative in the Bill was stated as life imprisonment and that the doubts about that could be rectified only administratively and not by legislation.
§ Sir R. Grimston
I think that bears out what I said. My third ground for opposing the Bill is the state of public opinion.
60 I turn first to the deterrent effect of capital punishment, especially in the case of the professional criminal. The Report of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment states in paragraph 59 on page 20:Capital punishment has obviously failed as a deterrent when a murder is committed. We can number its failures. But we cannot number its successes. No one can ever know how many people have refrained from murder because of the fear of being hanged.The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne referred to something that my right hon. and gallant Friend said, but he did not quote the whole passage. My right hon. and gallant Friend said:First, let me say emphatically that I believe capital punishment to be justified only if it is likely to reduce the amount of murder.However, my right hon. and gallant Friend went on:If there is reason to think that without it there might be more murder, then I think that it should be retained…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 16th February, 1956; Vol. 548, c. 2551]It is precisely to that that I wish to direct myself. In considering the question of deterrence, one has to apply one's own mind, and what I want to try to give the House in this connection is a common-sense view of the matter as it would affect the average man. The House will remember the old aying, "You might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb." That arose in the days when people were hanged for minor or major thefts as well as for murder. Under such conditions it was better to commit a big crime and then a murder and get away with it because the penalty was exactly the same. There was no object in stealing a lamb when one might as well have a sheep and murder someone and get away with the sheep. If caught, one hanged, whichever crime one committed.
The change in the law which restricted the death penalty to murder changed all that. The death penalty became the unique penalty for murder, and, I believe, thereby the unique deterrent for murder. If we pass the Bill, we shall go back to the previous condition that, "You might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb."
If a man goes out on a job, which may incur a sentence of fourteen or fifteen years, he will get no more if he shoots a policeman or a watchman. The position will be exactly the same as in the old 61 days when hanging was the penalty for every sort of crime, from the bottom to the top of the scale. May I put that a little more closely, because it is particularly applicable in the case of an older criminal whose expectation of life may not be more than fourteen or fifteen years in the natural course.
If he commits a crime which may land him in jail for the rest of his natural life, that is one thing. If he takes a gun and commits murder, as the law now is, he will be hanged; but if the Bill is passed, he can commit a crime and for committing murder get a sentence no greater than his natural expectation of life. I refuse to believe, especially in the case of the professional criminal with whom I am now dealing, that hanging is not a deterrent. That is a common-sense view of the matter, bearing in mind what the Royal Commission said in the sentence which I have quoted.
Also in this connection we have the view of the police and the prison services. I will not enlarge on that, because it is given at great length in the Report of the Royal Commission. We also have the views of Home Secretaries in and out of office. We have a Home Secretary and an ex-Home Secretary now sitting in the Chamber. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), when in a position of responsibility, could not bring himself to dispense with the death penalty. He now takes a different view. In the case of my right hon. and gallant Friend the present Home Secretary, we have exactly the reverse: in a position of less responsibility, he voted for abolition; now that he has the same responsibility as had the right hon. Gentleman, he cannot see his way to dispense with the death penalty.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Perhaps while the hon. Member is dealing with this aspect of the matter, he might deal with the case of Lord Templewood, who was an abolitionist until he was Home Secretary, who was an anti-abolitionist while he was Home Secretary, and who, on ceasing to be Home Secretary, became and has since remained as convinced an abolitionist as ever.
§ Sir R. Grimston
Perhaps the hon. Member, who, if I may say so, has a very long record of what I might call "interrupting columns" of HANSARD, will let me make my own speech.
62 To be less careful in what one says or does in a position of freedom and to change one's mind in a position of responsibility, is an occupational disease of politicians in all parts of the House, and I am therefore not casting aspersions at either the right hon. Member for South Shields or my right hon. and gallant Friend. However, it is a significant fact that in those two cases where men have found themselves faced with responsibility, they have each taken the view contrary to that which they held when in a position of more freedom and less responsibility.
I want to pass on, because I realise that there are many people who wish to speak and I do not wish to detain the House for too long. My next point concerns the consequences of abolition for which the Bill makes no provision. I merely want to cite them, because the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre), who will follow me, will deal with this aspect of the matter in more detail. They should be noted; they are added reasons for rejecting the Bill. The first is how to deal with murder in order to protect society. There is no definition in the Bill of what life imprisonment means, and I do not believe that that aspect of the matter has had sufficient thought or preparation.
The Bill contains no provision for dealing with a prisoner undergoing a life sentence who commits a murder in prison of either a fellow prisoner or a warder. The Association of Prison Officers has already asked for protection in that regard. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has dealt with the subject of treason. It is outside the Bill, but I must say, in passing, to those who support the Bill very largely on the moral and emotional aspect, that to exclude treason knocks the bottom out of their case. Then there are repercussions in Colonial Territories to be considered. I mention these points to indicate to the House how many things there are for which the Bill does not provide and which would have to have the very serious consideration of Parliament if, as I hope will not be the case, the Bill receives a Second Reading.
I now come to public opinion. It is alleged that public opinion has moved since 1948. None of us really knows, but I am ready to concede that. I think that the public has been worried by one or two particular cases. When a sentence of 63 death has to be passed it is very distasteful that we should have all the paraphernalia for carrying it out, when it is known that in that case there will be a reprieve. It is in many directions of that sort that the law should be amended, but I do not believe that the majority of public opinion is in favour of abolition of the death penalty. I believe that public emotion has been worked upon by misleading propaganda, and I want now to say something about that.
The House will perhaps remember the definition of propaganda. It is often defined as something simpler than the truth. Here I want to mention an article which appeared in the Sunday Observer on Sunday, 4th March. It was headed:Behind the Bulletins.It was written by Mr. Arthur Koestler and was one of those attempts to stir up public opinion by an emotional method. It quoted a speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter), whom I see sitting below me. I informed my hon. Friend this morning that I intended to raise the matter.
On 14th April, 1948 my hon. Friend said, when referring to the execution of Edith Thompson:After her execution …two of the warders who had taken part in that execution came to my office, and their faces were not human. I can assure you, Sir, they were like people out of another world. Edith Thompson had disintegrated as a human creature on the way to the gallows, and yet somehow they had to get her there."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th April, 1948; Vol. 449, c. 1075.]It now appears that the two warders who went to see my hon. Friend had not taken part in the execution. All this was made clear in a statement in another place last week. I must quote what one of those warders said. It was:There is no truth in the suggestion that I and the other officer were extremely upset after the execution. We were the only two officers taking part and it is quite untrue that we went to Mr. Beverley Baxter's office after the execution had taken place. Nor is it true that Mrs. Thompson was in a state of collapse at the time.I must give the House another quotation, because from a statement appearing in yesterday's Sunday Observer it seems that my hon. Friend made the following remark:The two men who came to the Daily Express certainly were from the prison, and were prison officials: they were tremendously 64 excited and I gained the impression that they were actually present at the hanging, which it seems they were not. They described how Edith Thompson had disintegrated on her way to the gallows, which I assumed that they had seen themselves.From what has now come out the House will see that the remarks that my hon. Friend made in that debate—and which may have had considerable effect at the time and since—were completely and utterly misleading.
§ Sir R. Grimston
I will give way in one moment. I do not wish my hon. Friend to think that I am accusing him of dishonesty, I am not. But what I am saying is that I think it should have been up to him to take some care to verify the evidence before using it in the way he did. That is why I say that the public are being misled by misleading propaganda, of which that is a typical instance.
§ Sir B. Baxter
I thank my hon. Friend for having told me that he proposed to raise this matter. I would say in reply that if I am fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, I shall give such answer as may occur to me after a very careful investigation of the whole matter. I am obliged to my hon. Friend for having informed me of what he proposed to do.
§ Sir R. Grimston
It had not escaped me—indeed I saw in the Press—that my hon. Friend is to wind up this debate. I thought, therefore, that I was being quite fair in letting him know that I proposed to raise this question, in the expectation that he would have an ample right of reply.
I wish to come back again to the point, without accusing my hon. Friend of dishonesty, that this was a misleading statement, and that it has played a part in the formation of public opinion. When people say that public opinion has moved very much, they should remember the sort of propaganda by which it has been moved.
In the same article there was a quotation by Mr. Koestler, or a partial quotation, of a Home Office instruction. The partial quotation of this instruction gave a misleading impression. Further, no doubt in perfectly good faith, the Howard League for Penal Reform has also used 65 an abridged form of the Home Office instruction which is misleading. All these things added together have played on the minds of the public; and I believe that when the public know the truth—that a lot of this propaganda is absolutely wrong—they will realise that their minds have been played on, and there will be a reaction in public opinion—
§ Mr. Hyde
My hon. Friend has raised the point about the Home Office instruction. It was quoted in the only form in which it was available. It had been introduced in evidence at, I think, the trial of the Governor of Holloway Prison in connection with a breach of the Official Secrets Act. It was introduced in the form in which it was subsequently quoted, and so I think it unfair to say that the Howard League has been deliberately misleading the public. The League quoted the instruction in the only form in which it was available.
§ Sir R. Grimston
I did not say that the Howard League had been deliberately misleading. I said that the League probably did not know it was quoting only part of the instruction. That only strengthens the argument which I am trying to advance. Both my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate and the Howard League have, inadvertently, been putting out propaganda which has swung public opinion, and that propaganda has been glossly misleading. When the public know how grossly misleading—
§ Sir R. Grimston
—has been propaganda given in perfectly good faith, there will be a reaction of public opinion. I do not wish to detain the House further—
§ Mr. Paget
If the Home Office allows that sort of thing and does not correct it, how can it be corrected? For instance, quotations were made from the other side about the Northampton case of the three men. I asked to see the transcript of that case, and I was refused. If the Home Office goes in for that sort of concealment, how can we blame the others?
§ Sir R. Grimston
I must reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman with the old saying, "People in glass houses should not throw stones." The hon. and learned Member will remember what he said 66 about Sir Alexander Paterson in the last debate, and that it was grossly misleading.
I oppose the Bill on three grounds. It does not face the issues; it has not a majority of public opinion behind it; and it seeks to deprive the law of something which could be a unique deterrent to the crime of murder, the most terrible crime there is. I believe that society demands, and that it is our duty to give to society, the maximum protection that we can, and that we should not be doing so if we passed this Bill.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Colonel O. E. Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest)
I beg to second the Amendment.
In the speeches which we have heard on this subject, I think there has been a most reasoned account of why hon. Members on this side of the House object to the Bill. I think that we should also take into account the three main reasons why some hon. Members have supported it. There have been some who have done so on what they called religious grounds; some have done so on sentimental grounds; and some have said that unless those who oppose the Bill can prove that capital punishment is a deterrent, then their claim that it is must go by the board.
I have been slightly shocked by what has been said by some hon. Members opposite who have tried to claim that the whole weight of Christian doctrine is on their side, and who have made themselves self-appointed champions of Christianity. In this House it is a most difficult thing to state one's own views on a religious basis. Individually we may all have those views, but to try to convince this House that one is in some way speaking as a chosen leader of thought and an interpreter of Christianity is most difficult. The hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. G. H. R. Rogers) made it clear in his own, I think rather ill-chosen, words, that he was the interpreter of the words of Christ. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) started a long passage with quotations from the Archbishop of Canterbury and worked up to his own quotations from the New Testament. He sought an authority which no moral theologian that I know of has ever dared to assume. I think that that is a very difficult thing to do.
67 We have the simple proposition that every man is, of course, entitled to judge the New Testament as he may think fit and to form his own judgment. But if he wishes to preach on the basis of his own judgment and his own decisions, I think that he should study those moral theologians who, throughout the centuries, have commanded the respect of civilisation—the words of either Augustine or Thomas Aquinas might be considered to have been respected in every walk of life—and he would find they all say that it is the right of the State of take life, provided, and provided only, that that life is not taken for motives of revenge.
It is obviously difficult to define revenge. I looked up the definitions last night, and I think it true to say that the easiest possible example of revenge as defined by these cases is when there is a sort of "Hang the Kaiser" campaign, or, alternatively, when the Duke of Wellington was asked to do away with Napoleon before he could come to trial. That is obviously revenge, something which is not put before the normal courts of justice and the normal procedure of justice.
Where the State has a system of justice, however, and has employed that system, no moral theologian in Christian history has even said that it is wrong for the State to take life as a result of the judgment of the State. Therefore, I hope that we shall hear no more of these rather vague, and, if I may say so with respect, woolly appeals to the New Testament without realising what that Testament means and what its results mean.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
The hon. Gentleman has been quoting the views of theologians. Does he know that the late Archbishop Temple, who was, I take it, a respected theologian, differed entirely from what the hon. Gentleman has said? Would the hon. Gentleman assume that he himself is a better theologian than was the Archbishop?
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I have quoted authorities. If I may quote from what the hon. Member referred to, he will see that the Archbishop enters the most careful caveat that after one has taken into consideration all the normal rules of social behaviour and the virtues 68 that any man ought to seek, it is still right to take human life.
Everyone must have his own interpretation. I have merely stated what I think to be correct. If I am wrong, no doubt others will correct me.
My next point concerns sentimentality. I think that hon. Members dislike sentimentality except when it happens to suit a particular plea. I say this because I have never listened to so much inaccuracy as during these latest debates on capital punishment. For instance, we are told that Mrs. Thompson disintegrated on the way to the scaffold. Do hon. Members realise that the amount of time which elapses between the escort coming in to the condemned cell to conduct a person to the scaffold and when that person is hanged is under a minute? How can anybody "disintegrate" in that time? I put that merely as a purely physical consideration.
We are also told of the hangman who committed suicide. That matter is always produced as evidence of the shocking and almost inconceivable events associated with hanging.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I am just coming to that point, if I may be allowed to. The hangman certainly committed suicide, but it was a long time afterwards, and after he had, in fact, performed a large number of other executions. My hon. Friend tried to prove that he committed suicide because of the Thompson execution. That is nonsense, because, if he had done so, he would have committed suicide at that time and not carried out a large number of other executions before doing so. I am not going to say why he committed suicide in the end, but to try to cite a particular case as the reason for that suicide when a long period of time had elapsed, and when a large number of other executions had been carried out by the hangman, seems to me to stretch probability to the extreme.
Then we had the statement of the hon. Member for Kensington, North which seems to me typical of what one might call the sentimental approach. Speaking in the previous debate, the hon. Gentleman said:Ruth Ellis had a son—a poor little lost waif. I took that boy into my home to try 69 to save him from the horror of the day of execution. Anyone in my circumstances would have done the same. Can hon. Members imagine the agony experienced by my wife and children when they had to pretend to that fatherless boy that everything was normal when, at that time, his mother was being taken from the condemned cell to be hanged?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1956; Vol. 548, c. 2606.]I quote that because I think that no one—and I say this, I hope, advisedly—could make a more impassioned sentimental plea.
Why do not we try to think for one moment, not necessarily of the relations of those suffering the death penalty, but of the relations of those who have been deprived by the murderer of their right to life'? If we are to have sentiment, why cannot we have it where it should lie, on the side of the innocent party?
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
The hon. Gentleman asks who was deprived. What of the young widow of a policeman, whose husband is murdered and who has fatherless children to bring up? Is such a person not worthy of any sign of sympathy from hon. Members opposite? What of the parents of a child aged nine whose body is found in a wood after being raped? Are not those parents due for any sympathy? Again, what about the parents of the young woman whose murdered body has, after death, been mutilated by a sadistic murderer. Are they not worthy of any sympathy? Why should we think every time that sympathy must merely be shown to the relations of murderers and not to the relations of their victims? The quotation which I have read to the House was part of a long speech made by the hon. Member for Kensington, North in which he said that one of his main reasons for supporting abolition was this tragedy to the family of the murderer.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
Nobody suggested that they did.
I now come to the question of deterrent, and on this point I think that hon. Members opposite tried to take up the most impossible position.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
On a point of order. Is it in order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for the hon and gallant Member to point an accusing finger at hon. Members on this side of the House when this is a non-party matter supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House?
I do not think that hon. Members should point fingers at other hon. Members on either side of the House.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
Perhaps I had better amend my reference to hon. Members and make it a reference to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who introduced the Bill.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I had hoped that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was advancing a general argument to the discussion, but in his last sentence he now seems to be attributing to me—whom he named as introducing the Bill—the arguments based on sentimentality with which he has been dealing. Am I in order, Mr. Speaker, in reminding you and the House that I used no such argument, and that I have never done so at any time in this discussion?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
This seems to be a matter of debate. It is not a point of order.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
It would seem to me that hon. Members who supported the Amendment to the Motion on the occasion of our previous debate, were trying to put upon those who wished to retain capital punishment the onus of proving that such retention was necessary. They said, "Unless you can prove that, we shall believe ourselves right in voting for its abolition." I think that that is quite a wrong attitude. The first duty of this House is to look after public safety, and any amendment of our present code of public safety must be justified by those who propose it; the onus is not upon those who say that it should be retained.
It think it is equally true to say that people have now given up arguing upon the basis of statistics as between various countries. I agree. After all, it is very difficult to compare the situation in various countries which have different degrees of murder. The case of Belgium has been mentioned. One has to realise that in Belgium the death penalty had been abolished for a great many years in 71 practice before it was abolished in law. Therefore, to talk about the abolition of the death penalty in Belgium is a little off-side. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?] If the death penalty is abolished in practice and is then abolished twenty years later in law, what does it prove? Nothing at all.
There are two facts which cannot be contradicted. First, of the countries whose statistics were considered by the Royal Commission, ours has the lowest murder rate; and, secondly, we have the highest concentration of property—especially in London—in the world, except New York. It is obvious that where there is such a concentration of property, criminals will come. There is no doubt that we have in this country some very well-organised and well-prepared gangs of criminals.
In London about 14,000 cases of housebreaking occur each year. That is an average of about 40 a day. What will be the effect of the Bill upon those people who enter houses to gain money and wealth? What will happen when they find it necessary temporarily to put out of commission a night watchman or a servant who may appear on the scene unexpectedly? I understand that the maximum detention which a burglar can expect, even if he has committed violence, is fourteen years' preventive detention. If he commits murder and is reprieved he will receive a life sentence, but that sentence, as was stated in the last debate, cannot be more than nine years.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
That is quite true.
The Commission's Report states that one person is serving an eighteen years' sentence at the moment. But the average is nine, as the Home Secretary said. There is also a report which says that the maximum life sentence should not be more than twelve years.
If the Bill is passed, what will be the position of a man who is committing armed burglary? He knows that if he merely puts the person who interrupts him out of commission temporarily, he will, if he is apprehended, receive a sentence of preventive detention which 72 cannot be more than twelve years, allowing for remission. On the other hand, if he is convicted of murder, he may receive a life sentence, which, on the average, now means a sentence of only nine years' imprisonment. I would ask hon. Members to think of that position. The one thought that the armed burglar will always have in his mind—and he is a man of considerable practice; he is not a beginner—will be, "What shall I lose if I commit murder?" So far as I can see, nothing whatsoever will be added to his sentence. Not only that, but he will get rid of the one person who could identify him and bring the crime home to him.
In future, instead of there being any reluctance for people to undertake armed burglary at the rate of 14,000 cases a year, as at the moment—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not armed burglary."] I am sorry; I meant ordinary burglary. Instead of the criminal having to bear in mind that whatever may happen he must not lay himself open to a murder conviction, he will now realise that he has nothing to lose if murder should happen—and he will have everything to gain, because nobody will be able to identify him.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
What has Belgium to do with this? There is no equivalent concentration of people in Belgium.
We must also consider what may happen when a murderer is sent to prison, if the Bill is passed. He will receive a life sentence. Hon. Members on both sides of the House who have had the experience of talking either to prison officers or to those who have had contact with these hardened criminals, will know that one of the things which they try to do is to keep up their reputation for toughness. The situation may arise in which a prisoner who has been convicted of murder and has been reprieved and sent to one of Her Majesty's prisons murders another prisoner or a warder. Under the Bill he would be able to do so without receiving the slightest additional penalty. That is a shocking thing to contemplate.
A few months ago there was a case of a convicted murderer who twice assaulted warders at Peterhead. On the last occasion he did so armed with an iron bar. 73 It may interest the House to know that the only penalty that that man is bound to undergo is one of fifteen days without a mattress and twenty-eight days without privileges. That was in Scotland. If a prison officer is attacked in England and is wounded or incapacitated, his attacker may suffer a flogging, but if he murders the officer nothing can happen to him if this Bill is passed. Therefore, the only thing necessary for him to do will be to strike hard and often. He will then suffer no extra penalty.
Those of us who have had any opportunity of judging public opinion in this matter during the last week or ten days know that there are many people in this House who believe that abolition should come about. That opinion must be respected, as this House always respects anybody's opinion, but I am certain that that is not the view of the majority. The country as a whole does not appreciate why we should introduce a variation into our criminal code which will produce the extraordinary anomaly that, so long as a person is a successful murderer, once, for instance, the is a prisoner, he can get away with further murders.
We all want, equally, to see that the grim court regulations in regard to murder are confined to those cases where the judgment will be carried out. I think all of us would agree now to the Motion which was proposed and defeated that the rules at present in force should be reviewed. That is not to say that at the present time we can abandon a sanction which every single informed group of people wants. It is often said that one can disregard the judges, one can disregard to police, the prison warders and the criminal banisters, but I believe that it is necessary for us to take the considered opinion of those who have to deal with these criminals.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I would say, in conclusion, that if we were to take the opinion of those who have to deal with the safety of the community and who are responsible for it to this House, we should find that an overwhelming 74 majority would wish to retain the death penalty and so save us from all the anomalies that would certainly arise were this Bill to reach the Statute Book.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
I intervene at this stage because I understand that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Home Secretary wants to speak fairly soon. Before he does so, I should like on behalf of the Opposition to put certain points though, of course, my only real official duty tonight is to emphasise that we on this side will be leaving this matter entirely to the individual judgment of hon. Members and will not be exerting any influence whatsoever on them.
I do not want this evening to canvass the merits or demerits of the case for hanging or its abolition. I do not want to call Christianity to aid—something which, as the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) has said, is so prevalent in discussions such as this. Nor do I want to resort to what I thought were his rather partisan arguments. Nor do I want to deal with the controversy between the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter) and his hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston). I think that the hon. Member for Southgate will be able to answer for himself. But while we are discussing such matters as the Thompson case I should like to ask the Home Secretary whether he can assure the House that, when the Royal Commission was sitting, all evidence about executions which may possibly have gone wrong was placed before the Commission.
The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Hyde) reminded us of what happened in 1948, and perhaps I should remind the House of one part of what happened at that time. When the Criminal Justice Bill returned from another place, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, offered to the House a compromise Clause which was accepted—on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread at all—by the official leaders of the abolitionists in this House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle), Mr. Christopher Hollis and myself rejected that 75 proposal, because we believed that hanging was an evil thing and that no good could come out of retaining it even to a modified extent. We argued that we could not accept it on grounds of conscience, and that, anyhow, we believed that when it went to another place the compromise proposal would be rejected as unworkable. That was a prophecy that was justified by events.
My hon. Friends and I tabled an Amendment which would have had the effect of restoring what I think I can, without offending against the rules of the House, call the Silverman Clause and we forced it to a Division. To our surprise, when the Division took place, we saw hon. Gentlemen who were then on the Opposition benches being led by the right hon. Gentleman, who was the Leader of the Opposition, into our Lobby. Most of the abolitionists, on the other hand, voted against us.
One of my happiest memories is of seeing my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) emerging suddenly from the Lobby and saying, "I went into the wrong Lobby and I found there that old right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford"—but he called him by a rather more colourful term. It was only with the greatest difficulty that I was able to persuade my hon. Friend that, by happy coincidence, he and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), happened on that occasion to be on the side of the angels. The upshot of all that confusion was that in the space of four months all but fourteen hon. Members voted both for and against hanging.
I tell this story because it has a moral for many of us here today. It is that of those fourteen intransigent, dyed-in-the-wool, last-ditch, anti-hangers none was defeated at the subsequent General Election. Eleven of us are still in the House, and one is the present Foreign Secretary. That may encourage those hon. Members who may have wondered whether, from a constituency point of view, it was wise to vote against hanging on 16th February. I hope that on this occasion there will be no suggestion of any confusing compromise of that kind.
I cannot agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for Westbury that hon. 76 Members have come to their decision on a largely emotional plane. This is, after all, the third time in little more than a year that we have discussed this subject, and I believe that hon. Members on both sides have reached their decision after the most grave and serious consideration. One of the most significant features is that whereas in 1948 seventy-four Labour Members of the House voted in favour of the retention of hanging, only eight voted in favour of it on 16th February. On that occasion three times as many Conservative Members voted against hanging as was the case in 1948.
I want, if I may, to address my arguments primarily to hon. Members who voted in favour of abolition. I want to express the hope that those hon. Members will stand firm. I have sufficient confidence in the Patronage Secretary to believe that he and the Government will not attempt to influence, either directly or indirectly, hon. Members opposite; but there are other pressures to which hon. Members from time to time are subject. As the hon. Member for Belfast, North, pointed out, there are resolutions from constituency parties and constituency associations; there are letters and telegrams from indignant and influential constituents. There are the more subtle pressures that one tends to exert upon oneself—the fear of letting down the Minister to whom one is acting as Parliamentary Private Secretary; the reluctance all of us have to seem to be embarrassing a Minister—
§ Mr. K. Thompson
I hope the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that the pressures to which he is now referring are improper pressures or drawing a conclusion from his last remark about Parliamentary Private Secretaries which would be highly improper.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I think the hon. Member must not have heard what I said. I was talking about the subtle pressures which one exerts upon oneself. When I was a Parliamentary Private Secretary I was always very careful not to do anything which might conceivably embarrass the Minister whom I was serving, and when I was a back bencher and my party was in power I was always anxious to avoid doing anything which might embarrass any of my own Ministers. Those are the subtle pressures which I think all of us exert upon ourselves. Far 77 from being improper pressures, I think they are the kind of pressures which ordinary civilised behaviour ought to impose upon every one of us, but I hope that tonight those pressures, whether internal or external, will be resisted by hon. Members, because there are far more important issues to be determined.
§ Mr. Osborne
Surely we have also been subjected to very high pressure from the other side, for instance, from the Gollancz publications and the Howard League. If we disregard one set of pressures we ought surely to disregard the other. We cannot completely disregard what is said to us.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I do not think the hon. Member has followed my argument. I said that all pressures, both internal and external, ought to be resisted, but there is a great difference between forms of pressure brought to bear upon us by our constituents and information tendered to us in an attempt to help us to make up our minds.
When the Lord Privy Seal was replying to our last debate on the subject he referred to the right hon. Member for Woodford as being one ex-Home Secretary who had not changed his mind. There is another issue upon which I am confident that the right hon. Gentleman also has not changed his mind, for it was the right hon. Member for Woodford who had this to say on one occasion:What is the use of sending Members to the House of Commons who say just the popular things of the moment and merely endeavour to give satisfaction to the Government Whips by cheering loudly every Ministerial platitude, and by walking through the lobbies oblivious of the criticisms they hear? People talk about our Parliamentary institutions and Parliamentary democracy, but if these are to survive it will not be because the constituencies return tame, docile subservient Members and try to stamp out every form of independent judgment.That was said at a time when he was a supporter of the Government of the day, and I am sure he still believes it as firmly as he did then. I believe, as most hon. Members believe, that Parliament should contain men and women with independence of judgment and men and women with courage to stand up for the point of view in which they believe. I believe that hon. Members will find that even though their constituents disagree with them, they will respect them more for having stuck 78 to their principles than if they had scattered at the first whiff of grape shot and indignation from their constituents.
If I may speak on a personal note, when I voted for the abolition of hanging eight years ago it was a rather difficult situation, because at that time in Lancashire we had two particularly brutal murders of children, one of them very close to my constituency. Public opinion swung very much against us and even the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who had for long been abolitionists were influenced in their decision and decided to vote against those of us who wanted to suspend hanging for a period of five years.
I was in a difficulty because at that time I had a majority of 452, and I felt fairly certain when I went into the Division Lobby that I was, to use a phrase which I hope is not inappropriate, signing my own death warrant. It was therefore a matter for some jubilation on my part when, having taken this rather up-popular line, I found that the local newspaper had an article saying that although it violently disagreed with me, it thought it refreshing to find an hon. Member who was prepared to take a stand against public opinion even though it meant some temporary unpopularity. I make that point in the hope that it will encourage hon. Members to be firm and to stand by the decision which we took a month ago.
I want to ask the Home Secretary to clarify the attitude which the Government intend to take during the subsequent stages of the Bill. We accept, of course, as I said, that no pressure will be brought to bear upon private Members, but I ask the Home Secretary whether the Government will consider, both in this House and in another place, giving complete freedom to members of the Government as well. Will the Home Secretary promise that we shall have enough time in this Session and, if necessary, in another Session, to ensure that the Bill will get through, if it is the wish of hon. Members that it should? I hope he will agree to give that time early in the Session so that we shall not later have a crisis of time.
Thirdly, I hope he will discourage any sort of obstruction in the Committee stage if, as I think will happen, the Bill gets a Second Reading tonight. I do not think that obstruction in Committee will be in the interests of the Government or of the 79 House as a whole, nor do I think it would commend itself to public opinion.
There is perhaps another point which I could appropriately put to the Government at this stage, and that is to say how much we on this side of the House hope that at any later stage there will be no obstruction in another place. We have no party line on the question of capital punishment, but I am certain that there would be a party line on this side of the House if it seemed clear to us that another place were doing its best to obstruct the decision of the elected representatives of the people, taken on a free vote.
§ Mr. K. Thompson
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that there ought to be any limit of any kind on the free exercise of conscientious convictions, either here or in another place?
§ Mr. Greenwood
No, indeed, but I hope that it will be exercised with restraint and consideration.
I believe that tonight something more than the future of hanging is involved. The dignity and prestige of the House are involved. I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said that he had heard criticisms of the Government's handling of this rather difficult situation but that he did not propose himself to make any complaint. I support him in that point of view. I realise the Government's difficulty and in a way I am sorry that we have been unable to get off to a better start in our consideration of this extremely important subject, but, these difficulties having arisen, I think there is a special obligation upon us as ordinary hon. Members to do nothing to reduce the prestige of Parliament in the eyes of the public.
It seems to me that there are three courses open tonight to those of us who voted on the last occasion in favour of abolition. First of all, we could say that we took our decision on that occasion on inadequate information and after insufficient consideration and that we have since changed our minds. I think that would be a course of folly. Secondly, we could say that we took our decision after due consideration and after paying the most careful attention to the arguments on both sides, and that we thought 80 we had taken the right decision; but that we have not at this stage the courage to go ahead with it. That, I think, would be a course of cowardice.
The third course would be to say quite boldly that we took our decision on 16th February because we were determined to remove an evil, as we believed it to be, from the law of the country, and that we are determined to stand by the decision we then took. That, I believe, is the course of honour, and that is the course which I commend to the House tonight.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. It was arranged that I should speak. Naturally, having sat as a Member of this House for 25 years, I want to speak in this debate. I understand that the Home Secretary is now to reply. In my opinion, his rising now creates a precedent. It might be all right to say that you can call a Front Bench speaker or a back bench speaker, but I maintain that when it is a debate on which there is to be a free vote there is no right of preference for a Front Bencher, especially when the hon. Member who wants to speak, as I wish to speak, contrary to the Motion, is to be ruled out. This is not the first time I have been ruled out by a Minister going to Mr. Speaker and asking him not to call me, and I am now saying—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Before the hon. Member proceeds any further, I must say that that has never been said to me—that I should not call an hon. Member.
§ Mr. Logan
With all due respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am not imputing anything against your Chairmanship; I have received every courtesy at your hands. I am protesting that the curtain drops when I have to make a speech and I do not agree that that is the right way to proceed in the British House of Commons.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think there has been a little misunderstanding. As the hon. Member knows, there is to be a maiden speech on the Government side of the House and the hon. Member was asked if he would follow the maiden 81 speaker, with the usual politeness. That is why he knew in advance when he was likely to be called.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Front Bench Members are called in the same way as Privy Councillors are called when they rise. Everything will be made all right if the hon. Member keeps patient for a time.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I intervened at this moment to give the Government view on this matter. It is quite wrong to say that I am replying to the debate; I am not. It is usual when there is a Private Member's Bill before the House for the Minister at some time in the debate to say a word or two about it.
In case I forget them, I should like first to deal with one or two points which have been made, one in particular which was made by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) about whether all the evidence has been given on the question of whether there had been any difficulty in any execution. I have looked through the minutes of evidence and found it was mentioned that in 1885 there had been an incident. As a result a committee was formed to look into the question, and, according to the minutes of evidence:there is no record during the present century of any failure of … in connection with an execution.…I think that should be said, because nothing has been said since to alter the fact. The minutes continued:and, as now carried out, execution … can be regarded as speedy and certainI wish to thank the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, for what he said about the action the Government have taken. There has been a great deal of what I regard as unfair criticism of the action the Government took. I can honestly say, as I was one as much responsible as anyone, that I thought, and still think, that under 82 the circumstances the course we have taken is the best one. I am grateful to the hon. Member for making perfectly plain that he agrees with me in that.
I naturally do not propose to weary the House, as I am afraid I did when I last spoke on this matter. I shall certainly not speak for so long, but I simply remind the House as briefly as I can of the ground on which the Government thought it necessary to give the advice last time, and to say that they remain convinced that it was right that capital punishment should be retained. We have heard a great deal today and in the last debate about the question of capital punishment as a unique deterrent. I believe it is so and that more murders would have been committed had the death penalty not been retained. We said last time that capital punishment marks out murder as the horrible crime it is. I am still convinced that capital punishment has a deterring effect, because I still believe there are some people in this and other countries who refrain from killing for fear of being hanged.
Mention has been made of the quotation by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne of a part of my speech in which I was making reference to certain States in America. On that occasion, as in most of my speech, I was quoting from the Report of the Royal Commission. The hon. Member quite correctly quoted the words of the Report, which I quoted on the last occasion as follows:the only conclusion which can be drawn from these figures is that there is no clear evidence of any influence of the death penalty on the homicide rates of these States."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 16th February, 1956; Vol. 548, c. 2547.]I said that that was what the Commission had said and it was important not to misrepresent its views and not to read too much into them. The Commission said that there was:no reliable evidence one way or the other.I made that perfectly plain throughout my speech—
§ Major Lloyd-George
Yes, but I said that that did not prove the case one way or the other. It is obvious that we cannot provide statistics of those who have been deterred, because we never know who they are. I still feel that there are people who have been deterred—that is 83 only commonsense; it must be so. I ask hon. Members if they are honest with themselves, do they really think that the threat of hanging would not be a deterrent? Surely that is commonsense.
§ Mr. Silverman
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is inviting the House not to bother about statistics, on the ground that they are indeterminate, but to rely on commonsense. Does he not agree that there was commonsense in the argument of one of his hon. Friends in the last debate that, if one is driving on the road and the speed is exactly the same whether the brakes are on or not, there is a commonsense inference to be drawn that one's brakes are not very effective?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I am afraid I shall have to go home with that and work it out. I still stick to the point that surely this is commonsense. We believe that the death penalty is a unique deterrent, particularly so in the case of a professional criminal. I was particularly interested in reading a letter I had the other day from the Birmingham Committee for the Abolition of Capital Punishment. It was in reply, I think, to a speech I made in the debate last year, and it stated:First you restated the belief that the death penalty is a unique deterrent in the case of professional criminals. We would remind you that most murderers are not professional criminals.That has my complete and absolute agreement, but why are murderers not professional criminals? In other words, why are professional criminals not very often murderers? I think the reason is that, having weighed all the risks, they are deterred by the punishment provided under the law as it exists today. I know that the statistics, according to the Commission, have not proved the argument one way or the other. That we all accept, but it has been mentioned today, and I think it is a matter of some significance that the homicide rate in this country is low. Allowing for all the difficulties to which the Commission referred—different types of country and population, different degrees of congestion, and so forth—the Commission, in what I regard as a triumph of understatement, said that the figure was at least as low as that in the other countries for which they collected figures.
84 On pages 371 and 372 of the Royal Commission's Report hon. Members will see tables 46 and 47. Table 46 deals with the number of intentional homicides per million of population and table 47 with the number of convictions for murder. It will surprise hon. Members to hear that some countries do not keep figures of the number of intentional homicides per million. From the figures in table 46, it will be found that the last decennial average for England and Wales is 4.0—that is, four homicides per million of the population. That is the lowest figure in the table, and it is the lowest by a long way of some of the countries, which include figures of 10, 7, over 100, 50, 28 and 27. England and Wales are 4.0 and Scotland is 2.7.
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich, North)
In table 46, from which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is quoting, would it not be desirable to include the Scottish figure in the British figure? Surely, the figure he is quoting is for England and Wales only.
§ Major Lloyd-George
If I took the Scottish figure and then divided the two, instead of having 4.0 for England the figure would be something over 3, which would be even better. By separating England and Wales from Scotland, I am making the worst possible case by giving a figure of 4.0. The figures do, in fact, show an interesting position.
Then, the Commission set out in table 47 the numbers of convicted murderers. We have heard a good deal about Belgium because, as has been rightly said, Belgium is similar to this country, both in density of population and in other ways. I accept that. In England and Wales in the three decades from 1910–1939, the average number of murders per million of the population was 4.1, 3.9 and 3.3. The next lowest figures were in Norway, and elsewhere they were much higher. For example, in Italy, the figure was 38.3. Hon. Members can see the other figures in the table for themselves.
The only abolitionist country which is at all comparable with this country is Belgium, where from 1930 to 1939 the figure for convictions for murder per million of the population—the other figures are not available; only for convictions are figures available in Belgium—was 2.4, compared with .49 in England 85 and Wales, or a figure five times as great. In Scotland, again the figure was much lower, being .14, I ask hon. Members to realise how fortunate we are in this country that murder is so comparatively rare. There is no doubt at all that this is due to a combination of factors—for example, we are probably less easily roused to violence than some peoples; but he would be a bold man who would say that capital punishment is not among the reasons for our low murder rate in this country, or that the rate would remain low if it was removed.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
Would the Home Secretary deal with a recent case in which a man committed a murder of somebody he had never met before so that he might himself be executed, pleaded guilty to the murder and was accordingly executed?
§ Major Lloyd-George
If the hon. Member is to argue on that sort of basis, it is quite ridiculous. I know there are extraordinary cases. I am talking about the general run of people. I shall come to the murderers presently. In any case, this House has a responsibility to the public. Hon. Members have to think very carefully and be satisfied before removing what, I still think, is the deterrent to this crime, and particularly at a time when crimes of violence are on the increase.
When the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) spoke in 1947, he drew attention to the danger of removing the death penalty in view of what he then described as the phenomenal increase in violent crime. Before the war, the number of indictable crimes of violence known to the police in this country averaged about 2,700 a year. In 1946, the number had gone up to 4,600, and in 1954 it was well over 8,000. Even making all possible allowances for the possibility that some part of the increase may be due to a tendency to charge some forms of assault in a more serious category, this is a striking increase and the right hon. Gentleman's argument seems to me to carry even greater weight today than when he made it himself. I do not believe that when there is this really remarkable increase in crimes of violence, this is the time when we can lightly remove deterrents against violence.
I should like to refer to one or two of the problems that we would have to face 86 if capital punishment were abolished. Two which give us particular concern are the problem of the professional criminal and the problem of protecting prison officers and others from murderous assaults from prisoners serving very long sentences. Professional criminals in this country rarely carry weapons, and those with most experience of criminals attribute this fact to the criminal's fear of being hanged; my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston) referred to this. I have yet to learn how those who advocate abolition would propose, in the absence of the death penalty, to deter a criminal who, if caught, would go down for life or for 14 years' preventive detention from killing to avoid capture. What is to deter the man who has nothing to lose by committing murder but who sees a chance of getting away with it altogether?
Let me consider the position of prison officers. The man who is already serving a life sentence or a long sentence of detention would also have little or nothing to lose by committing murder in prison. It has happened elsewhere, as we know; we know of attacks made on prison officers from time to time. If such a prisoner as that has nothing to lose by it, the danger is that the position will become much more serious. It is true that prisoners who are serving sentences in prison for murder are at present amongst the least troublesome prisoners, but if they included the type of murderer who is now executed and professional criminals who had thought it worth their while to kill in the course of their crime, the situation would be very different.
The reprieved murderers who now serve life sentences are by definition those in whose case it has been possible to find mitigating circumstances. It is the constant endeavour of every Home Secretary to make every possible search for those mitigating circumstances. Very often, they are first offenders. Indeed, if my memory serves me rightly, the Royal Commission's Report states that the majority are first offenders. On the whole, they are people who are not violent and who are not undisciplined by nature. They have before them—and this is a very important point—as an inducement to good behaviour, the hope of fairly early release, but, if it becomes necessary to keep for very long periods murderers of the type now hanged, it will not in the 87 least follow that they will be model prisoners or that they will be deterred by the fact of postponement of a release which is already distant, and which is problematical, from giving way to impulses of rage or violence and making murderous attacks on prison officers or indeed on fellow prisoners.
§ Mrs. Jeger
If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will forgive me, may I say that I was trying to follow his argument? I thought he was saying that one reason for retaining capital punishment was that these murderers constituted a danger to prison officers, and it seems to me to be strangely irrelevant as an argument in defence of the execution of Ruth Ellis.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I was not bringing that point before the House as an argument for the execution of Ruth Ellis. I was talking about one of the problems which we have to face up to if the Bill receives a Second Reading and becomes law. This is one of the problems which we should have to face. It is no good pretending that these people who will go into prison after the passing of this Bill will be model prisoners and behave nicely. They will not; this is going to be a severe problem.
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
Has not this problem, which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman finds so insuperable, been overcome by countries which have abolished the death penalty? Can he tell the House of any country which has reinstated it because of difficulty in this matter?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I am stating a proposition, which anybody who knows anything about prison conditions knows to be a serious one. [Interruption.] Of course, it is a problem, but conditions in some other countries are very different from our own conditions of detention. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the Commission's Report to find out what happens in other countries, he will get quite a shock.
88 Similar considerations apply to other prisoners serving long sentences who are not murderers, but many of whom have very long records of extreme violence, although they may not be murderers. I suppose that most hon. Members who oppose capital punishment do so largely on the grounds of its inhumanity, and to them I want to say a word or two about the alternative. I assume that those who believe in abolition believe that the alternative is more humane. As I told the House quite frankly some time ago, I myself at one time believed that life imprisonment would be a better alternative, but I must confess that I had not fully realised the implications of real life imprisonment. I think there are many hon. Members who do not fully realise what a life sentence means.
Many hon. Gentlemen in this House are of the opinion that, because reprieved murderers today are released after nine, eight or seven years, or whatever it may be, that is what is going to happen if imprisonment takes the place of execution. I can assure the House that that is not so. Many of these murderers—in fact, all the murderers—who have been reprieved have been reprieved because of extenuating circumstances—either because of their youth, provocation, or pathetic circumstances of one kind or another.
If we look at the records of those who have been executed, on the other hand, I can assure the House that there will be no question of release after nine years, and that is a point which has to be clearly understood. There is quite a misunderstanding about this. The Home Secretary, whoever he may be, has a responsibility to the public of this country, and he cannot lightly take the risk of releasing a murderer unless he is absolutely satisfied that he is running no risk of the murderer doing it again.
I have looked into this, possibility with a great deal of care, and on a rough assessment—obviously, it can be no more than that—of the murderers executed between 1949 and 1953, something like 60 would have had to be detained for periods of up to 20 years and some 25 for longer, some of them for the whole course of their natural lives. There would probably be in time about 250 in the first category and about 100 in the second in prison. These men—let us make no mistake—could not be kept in an open 89 prison, with opportunities to go out to work without an escort outside the prison. They would have to be kept under conditions of maximum security.
I wonder how many hon. Members have really considered what very long periods of detention in such conditions involve. [An HON. MEMBER: "Broad-moor."] That is a totally different thing. The hon. Gentleman keeps on asking questions and does not give me a chance to reply. This is not a party issue, and I am trying to put the case properly. I am saying that the alternative must be faced, and that many abolitionists have not faced up to what it involves. It is no good the hon. Gentleman making a comparison with Broadmoor, because many of these murderers would not be qualified for Broadmoor at all, because they would not be certified, and I should certainly like to know what would happen in this House if we certified people who were not certifiable. They could not be sent to Broadmoor; they would have to be in a security prison, and so secure because we could not take the chance of letting them out, or of their getting out.
I have asked hon. Members to consider this question of the gradual deterioration of a man who knows that he will be kept in strict confinement for the rest of his days without any hope of being released. However humane the conditions, and everybody knows that prison conditions have much improved, it is inevitable—and this is borne out by every man of experience in the prison service—that mentally and spiritually he will rot. Dr. Methven, a man with nearly 40 years of experience behind him—and hon. Members already know this, but I make no apology for reading it again—was asked this question by the Royal Commission:Supposing there were in the prisons, a group, possibly a small group, of people who had no hope of ever being released. Would you care to express an opinion as to the effect of that condition on the mind and behaviour of the prisoners, and on the difficulties that the prison officers might experience in carrying on the prison administration?His reply was:The hope of release is ever present in every prisoner in prison. I am not talking about mental hospitals, Broadmoor, or anything else; but in prison the hope of release is ever present in the prisoner's mind. I think it would be an impossible proposition to keep men in prison for the whole term of their 90 natural lives, unless you gave them some hope that, at some time, they could be released.He went on to emphasise that, without such a hope, the prisoners themselves would deteriorate very rapidly, and said that the difficulties of the prison authorities in maintaining proper standards of behaviour would be increased enormously. Surely, in view of the opinion of people with all this long experience, hon. Members must pause to consider whether that punishment is more humane than what exists today, and whether it is not better to go on as we are, with certain reforms?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I am not talking about that. I am not saying what the position will be in years to come. Anything may happen. Nobody can tell what may happen about the treatment, and so on. I am dealing with the position as it is today, and the responsibility of the House is for today. I am not arguing with the hon. and learned Gentleman about the future. I am talking about the position as it is now.
It is a fact that there would be in our prisons many people who would have no hope of getting out in their natural lives. That is the question which hon. Members must face honestly tonight before they vote. It is not a question which confused or sentimental thinking must allow us to evade.
There was one queer passage in the speech of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne which I could not follow. He was talking of the humane side of the matter, and he said that treason was excluded. I could not understand his argument that we must not take the life of a murderer but could take life for treason. He said that the traitor of today may be the hero of tomorrow. It would seem to me that if there ever was a case of miscarriage of justice that would be a very good example.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. If I had my way and had other opportunities, I personally would abolish the death penalty for any crime, for I do not believe in the death penalty for any crime in any circumstances. What I was explaining was that 91 the considerations which apply to the law on treason are on all hands admitted to be very different considerations from those which apply to the law on murder.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I do not complain of the hon. Member's interruption, but that was the impression he gave me and the whole House. I thought he was slightly illogical.
The Bill provides for suspension of the death penalty. I must ask the House, as I did last time, not to provide for suspension if it can see its way not to. I think it is the wrong way to tackle the problem. The suggestion that during a period of five or even ten years we can conduct an experiment which will produce really valuable figures for evidence is quite illusory. We cannot isolate the factors which affect the fluctuation of the figures in any given time. The fluctuations in the number of murders from time to time are such that it would be impossible to base any valuable conclusion upon an experiment conducted within the space of ten years. Any such experiment would throw no light whatever on the problems involved in keeping men in detention for 20 or 30 years. Therefore, for practical purposes experimental abolition is indistinguishable from plain abolition, and it is far better, in my judgment, to go on with the latter.
I have said before in the House, and I have been criticised both inside and outside the House for saying it, and I repeat that I do not see any great change in public opinion about this matter. I remain of that opinion. One of the things that worries me most about the whole of this debate—although I am making no criticism of it—is the fact that emotion does sway both one side and the other. If there is a bad murder there is a swing of public opinion in favour of retention. On the other hand there are campaigns such as we have had for a long time now by the abolitionists.
However, a fact which struck me was this. If one judges by one's correspondence, then one must observe that the flood of correspondence from the retentionists did not start until the Resolution was carried in this House—in other words, until they realised that abolition was a possibility. This is not a matter to be decided in a sentimental way—
§ Major Lloyd-George
I have given way more than anyone else during this debate, and I do not propose to give way again. The hon. Member can say what he has to say in his own speech afterwards.
These are matters which need very careful thought. There are apt to be swings of opinion from one side to the other because of events which occur. I would remind the House of a thing which happened within two days of the passing of the Resolution—a murder was committed in London. I know the effect of that on public opinion.
The hon. Gentleman did not seem to think much of Gallup Polls and polls of that sort. I have a sort of feeling that that depends very much on the way the poll goes. I have looked with interest at one this morning, and I have not drawn the same conclusion as the leading article in a newspaper did. In 1947, apparently, the question asked was, "Are you in favour of retention or not?" The answer had to be yes or no. In 1947 69 per cent. were in favour of retention. This time the question was, "What would you like the Government to do with murderers?" In answer 42 per cent. said the law should stand as it is and 29 per cent. said we should retain it for the most heinous crimes. In other words 71 per cent. as opposed to 69 per cent. were for retention. It is a fact that 29 per cent. said they were in favour of retaining capital punishment for certain forms of murder. That is not abolition. It is grossly misleading to say that the 69 per cent. who answer as they did in 1947 to a totally different question are now 42 per cent. in favour of retention in some form or another. Therefore, I suggest the change has been very little indeed.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I am very grateful to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for giving way. He has been very generous in giving way. I am concerned with a question of fact. Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not think that the most significant result shown in that poll this morning was that in answer to the question, "If Parliament did in fact abolish or disapprove the death penalty, would you approve or disapprove?" 45 per cent. said "Approve," and 41 per cent. said "Disapprove"? Is that not a change of opinion?
§ Major Lloyd-George
We are discussing the Bill on Second Reading. I should prefer to take the view of people afterwards. It is not correct to say 69 per cent. in 1947 is no more than 42 per cent. now. It is 71 per cent. now. Therefore, the figure remains practically the same. There is nothing to show a change one way or the other.
I have been as brief as I could have been. During the last debate I gave it as the conclusion of the Government, after very careful consideration of all the facts, that whilst the law relating to murder should be amended, the death penalty should be retained. I can only say now that nothing has altered our opinion, nothing I have seen has altered my own opinion, and that the Government remain of the same opinion today as on the last occasion when we debated the subject.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
Whenever difficult legal problems come before the House, it is right that the Home Secretary should give a considered statement of his views, and it is right that the House should pay great regard to what he says. He is charged with the responsibility of preserving law and order, and he must consider every possible ramification of a change in the law. Successive Home Secretaries have always been reluctant to advise the House in favour of a change like this. I understand the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's concern, his worry, and the care with which he has treated this subject. What I do not understand is, how he and his hon. Friends can so misunderstand the case of those of us who are abolitionists.
The key to this misunderstanding was at the beginning of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech on the last occasion, when he said that the number of people involved in this matter is very small compared with the millions of people whose welfare we often debate in the House. That is a complete misunderstanding of our case. The number concerned is not small. The number is large. It includes every man, woman and child in the country.
It is important to realise that we are not concerned merely with the twelve men who are hanged each year. Our case is broader and deeper than that. Apart from the point about judicial 94 error—the possibility of hanging an innocent man—our case rests largely on the belief that we should let the State conduct itself in such a way as to elevate the regard for human life. It is a broader and bigger point than the Home Secretary and his hon. Friends have conceded.
I shall try to deal with two or three of the arguments which have been put, and must obviously be put, to any Home Secretary. My hon. Friends on both sides of the House will no doubt deal with the others. Any Home Secretary must have put to him the problem of arms being carried by criminals and the problem of arming the police. So highly do I regard the tradition in this country of an unarmed police that if I thought that the necessary consequence of the change in the law proposed in the Bill was that police should carry arms, I should be very reluctant to vote for the Bill.
What is the position? We have the opinion expressed that if capital punishment were abolished professional criminals would begin to carry arms, but we have the contrary opinion expressed that if capital punishment were abolished, professional criminals, in their professional wisdom, would know that if they were detected carrying arms they would be much more heavily punished. There is opinion and contrary opinion. We have little evidence as to the facts, but we know that the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment travelled to countries where capital punishment had been abolished. It heard evidence from the police in those countries, and without exception the Commission was told that where capital punishment had been abolished it had not led to an increase in the carrying of firearms. The Select Committee had had similar evidence before it.
The Home Secretary referred to Belgium. The Select Committee had before it the evidence of the Brussels public prosecutor who, speaking fifty years after the abolition of capital punishment, said that it was true that some of the young burglars had now taken to carrying arms but that was because they are copying the French. Young Frenchmen, he said, were beginning to carry arms, and France, of course, was a capital-punishment country.
95 I was interested to hear the Secretary-General of the International Police Commission say that in his opinion professional burglars carried arms more often in France and Spain than in any other countries in Western Europe. France and Spain are the only countries on the continent of Western Europe which have capital punishment. I believe that that has some significance.
Those who ask what lesson we can draw from the carrying of arms, because in most countries the police have always been armed, make a fair point. But it so happens that Norway, Denmark, Queensland and New Zealand had the same tradition as we have. The police in those countries were unarmed when capital punishment was abolished in those countries, and in none of them was it found necessary to arm the police. Those countries continued to do what we do. They issued automatics to the police when the police were going after men who were armed and were likely to use arms. That is what we do, and that is what those countries continue to do.
The Home Secretary referred to prison officers. The second group of men and women who must inevitably put their arguments before any Home Secretary when he is considering this matter are the prison officers. The Home Secretary must hear their views, and it is his duty to consider matters which will have an effect on them if all the people convicted of murder are kept in prison for a long period. We know that reprieved murderers are, on the whole, good prisoners. That is common ground. Eighty per cent. of them are "star" prisoners and 25 per cent. are in open prisons. Obviously we do not know what kind of prisoners men who have been executed would have made.
We can turn, therefore, only to two pointers. The first is that although the Home Secretary spoke a little while ago about the great consideration and care taken in deciding whether or not to reprieve, he did not say, and I am sure that he would not say, that people were reprieved because they were likely to make good prisoners. Again the Royal Commission was emphatic that in none of the countries where capital punishment has been abolished were special problems created by having imprisoned murderers. 96 In passing, I must say I found it difficult to follow his argument that life imprisonment is a greater punishment and yet a smaller deterrent than capital punishment.
A third argument which is inevitably put before any Home Secretary before he has to advise the Government and the House is that of the figures of crime. He would be a remarkable Home Secretary if he did not quote them, but the fact is that throughout the last century, when figures of crime were going up, those figures were quoted against the abolition of capital punishment—at that time the penalty for as many as 200 offences—and when the figures were going down they were quoted against the abolition of capital punishment because it was then said, "Everything is going very well now. Let us leave it alone."
Looking back upon debates this year and last year on this subject we find that a great deal of what passed for a rational case was really emotional. I was not at all surprised to find Sir Ernest Gowers using these words:… I became convinced"—that is after four years of studying the subject intensely—that the abolitionists were right in their conclusions … and that so far from the sentimental approach leading into their camp and the rational one into that of the supporters, it was the other way about.I hesitate to refer to my own experience immediately after quoting Sir Ernest Gowers. My experience was on a very much smaller scale. About twenty years ago I went to an American law school for a couple of years, and I worked under Professor Borchard, who had written a book on convicting the innocent. I was at that time in favour of capital punishment. The book set me worrying about the possibility of judicial error. The more I studied the subject the more I became convinced, not only of the possibility of judicial error, but that the case for capital punishment was really emotional and not according to what evidence existed. I agree entirely that the evidence is very hard to come by.
At that time I was impressed by the fact that the abolitionist States in the United States had lower murder rates than the others. On reflection, as the years have passed, I do not think that that is so good an argument because it is difficult to compare, for instance, the State of 97 Maine in the North with Alabama in the South. What I think can be compared are two adjoining States. We have the State of Maine, which has no capital punishment, and the State of New Hampshire, which has. The murder rates are the same. There seems to be no evidence of deterrence there. Then we have the State of Rhode Island, with no capital punishment, adjoining the State of Massachusetts which has capital punishment. Again the murder rate is the same. What evidence is there of deterrence?
In Australia, there is Queensland, with no capital punishment, and New South Wales, where until last year there was capital punishment. Again the story is the same.
When we come nearer home we have the fact that all over Western Europe, except in France and Spain, capital punishment has been abolished. I will mention the countries—Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, the Saar, Western Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Portugal. All of them saying, "We have abolished capital punishment and there is no evidence that it was ever a deterrent."
The Home Secretary quoted the very low incidence of murder in this country. Of course, that is true, but I do not see what point capital punishment has in that context. The murder rates of France and Spain are high and they are the two other Western European countries with capital punishment. Surely what evidence there is shows that there is no evidence that it is a deterrent. I am content to leave it there to the words of the Royal Commission.
I should like to add this. No one should be surprised if they find that there is no evidence that capital punishment is a deterrent, because let us remember that one half of our murderers are insane and the other half include people, like Christie, not found to be insane, but who are, to put it at the mildest, a trifle odd.
I have two further points to make. One is the obvious advantage which would accrue to the community if we did abolish capital punishment. The other is not so obvious, and I will ask the House to bear with me on that in a few moments. The obvious one is the advantage of abolishing for ever the risk of hanging an innocent man. Capital 98 punishment is irrevocable, and there is always the possibility of error. We know that Habron was falsely convicted of murder. We know that Abdolf Beck was twice falsely convicted of defrauding women. There is a doubt—I put it no higher than that—about Evans and Rowland. We know the difficult problem of identity. Every day we have this point of mistaken identity. I should like to remind the House of Rowland's last words after he had been convicted and sentenced:One day it will be proved in God's own time that I am totally innocent of this charge and the day will come when this case will be quoted in the courts of this country to show what can happen to a man in a case of mistaken identity.I do not say that it was a case of mistaken identity. I can only say that there is considerable doubt until this day.
The second advantage which I put is not an obvious one, and it is difficult to compress, but I must compress it, and I beg the House to bear with me for a moment. I believe that if we abolish the death penalty it will strengthen our political position in Europe today by showing that it is possible to build up a system of strong Government without an all-powerful State. Let me put it this way. In the great ideological conflicts going on in the world today the very best argument is our achievement in this country of having built up a system of strong Government without an all-powerful State. But experience among Europeans has caused them to perceive more deeply the implications of the State taking life in cold blood. To them, capital punishment is a manifestation of the absolute power of the State over the individual. Our acceptance of capital punishment weakens our appeal to these people.
§ Mr. J. E. S. Simon (Middlesbrough, West)
Surely, on the argument of the hon. Gentleman, which is a very interesting one, the crucial case is that of treason.
§ Mr. de Freitas
My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, has already discussed that in his speech and also by intervention. I certainly am against capital punishment entirely, and so I think these Continentals of whom I am speaking would be. Let me sketch the background. These Continentals have looked at the 99 State, and they have had the terrible experience that the power of death over the individual was a sign of the all-powerful State. We must remember what they have experienced. They have known the sudden, irrevocable sentence of the firing squad. They have seen the State execute thousands of its citizens in gas chambers. They have heard the Minister of Justice reintroducing capital punishment in Italy and commending it to its Parliament, not on statistics or evidence of deterrence, but because it symbolised the spirit of Fascism. Is it any wonder that capital punishment went out of Italy with Mussolini and went out of Germany with Hitler?
Today the State has under its control appalling weapons of mass destruction. I ask hon. Members whether it is not our duty, in this frightful age in which we live, to insist that the State should foster every instinct and belief that human life is the most precious thing there is, and that the State should not take it away.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. D. M. Keegan (Nottingham, South)
A few days ago my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Leavey) reminded you, Mr. Speaker, that you had told new Members of this House that when they addressed it for the first time they would generally find sitting opposite them people who were not necessarily in agreement with what they were about to say. I find myself this afternoon in a unique position, because I think that it is a fact that most hon. Members opposite are in agreement with what I have to say, whereas a great many on this side of the House are not necessarily in agreement with me.
It is always an ordeal to address this House for the first time. It is customary to ask for its indulgence, and I do so. I compare this experience with the first time that I addressed a jury. I think that the difference is that when addressing that jury I was at least guaranteed of the attendance of twelve for the whole time. I know that in making a maiden speech on a subject so highly-controversial and, indeed, as has been said during the debate, as emotional as this one, one runs the risk of offending the views of those people who take the opposite side in the debate. I hope that in stating my views simply and straightforwardly I 100 shall not be thought to be transgressing any of the ancient traditions of this House or of trying to ridicule or to hold in contempt those who have different views from my own.
A great deal has been said during the debate about sentimentality, and it is a point which I noted to make when I first thought about making this speech. What I say is not the result of what I have heard today but because I feel that this is important from the public point of view. Before the House gives a Second Reading to the Bill today, and before we pass it through all its other stages, it would be just as well for the public to be told that the abolition of the death penalty has not been carried out by a lot of sentimental ninnnies who do not know what they are doing. I therefore feel that some attention must be paid to this question.
Without examining the merits of the cases for and against capital punishment, I should like to catalogue what I feel to be the general trends of both sides of the argument, so that we can see which side is the more guilty of expressed emotionalism and sentiment. I have had many discussions with my constituents and others interested in this subject and I have heard roughly the following arguments put forward from either side. I know that there is an element in the country which says, "Hang the lot" and, "Hanging is too good for them". There does appear to be, I regret to say, even a small section of the population which would like to see sheep stealing reintroduced as a capital offence. That is perhaps a small, but none the less vocal section of public opinion.
A second argument—and much the more common and much the more responsible—in favour of retention of the death penalty is that hanging deters and that as a measure of public security we must maintain the death penalty. On the other side of the fence, the abolitionists advance a variety of arguments and they have collected a great variety of statistics which, I think, support abolition. It is as well immediately to make a point that most of the statistics on capital punishment in Appendix 6 of the Royal Commission's Report were in fact available from the various societies which for many years have been studying the abolition of capital punishment. That in itself is some 101 evidence that those societies have at least tried to produce facts and figures and not just emotion to back up their case.
The argument for abolition runs in many forms and perhaps I can give four. They are: that capital punishment is not the unique deterrent which it is claimed to be; that there is a possibility of error; that the effect of executions upon the public is distasteful, to say the least; and that it is a denial of the principle of reform which we, as a modern humanitarian State, accept. I ask hon. Members to examine these arguments, but not from the point of view of whether they are right or wrong. I can find only one among them which is an expression of pure emotion and that is the argument put by those people who seek to retain the death penalty. I find myself in complete disagreement with what has been said about the charge of sentimentality which was made by the hon. Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre). If anything, the circumstances are entirely the reverse.
Of course, the danger of an emotional approach to capital punishment is that unfortunately it deters people from looking at the statistics in a proper light and in a proper frame of mind. I feel that the argument cannot be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, unless one makes an assumption before looking at the great body of evidence which has been brought together in the Royal Commission's Report. What assumption to make is obviously a matter for one's personal dictates.
Some people will say, "Thou shalt not kill" in any circumstances. I cannot agree with it, but that is the sort of assumption which some people will make, Others will make the assumption that hanging is too good for some types of person. That is another assumption. On the whole, if one is to make an assumption, one must make an assumption which adequately reflects the social conscience of our community—not a statement of morality, and heaven forbid that it should be a statement of theology.
It must be some practical, accepted principle to which all thoughtful and intelligent members of our society would subscribe. Such an assumption—and it is the one I shall make for the purpose of my argument—is that this modern humanitarian society of ours places a 102 value upon human life. That is all. I do not think that any hon. Member will disagree with that. As Parliament we spend many millions of pounds a year in preserving human life and in trying to make it more fruitful in every way.
We cannot say that human life is cheaply held in our society. It is far from held cheaply; indeed, it is valued. As a result, one can draw the conclusion that the justification for taking a life always rests fairly and squarely upon those who seek to take it. There can be no argument about that. We are told, as we have been told this afternoon, that the onus of proof is always upon those who wish to change the law. Certainly that is an attractive proposition. It is neat and it appeals to those of us who regard ourselves as traditionalists.
Unfortunately it is fallacious, because the Government may take sanctions against criminals, but must always be prepared to justify those sanctions in the light of modern circumstances. The onus is always on them to show that the punishments are not only fair, but in accordance with what people today accept as ordinary and decent behaviour. If one accepts that the onus or burden of proof lies upon those who seek to retain capital punishment, one can come to a very definite conclusion, by looking at the statistics available, and that conclusion is certainly in support of abolition. It may be that if one makes no assumption and reads the statistics without any fixed framework upon which to place these facts, one will not come to any satisfactory conclusion.
I know that some of these points have been made before. I suppose that it is always one of the worst features of making a maiden speech that one sits and listens to everybody saying exactly what one wants to say. That makes one cautious about repeating the whole argument all over again. I do not intend to go through all the arguments we have heard, not only this afternoon but on previous occasions, but there are one or two points which I can usefully make.
The statistics are here for everyone to see—and I hope that hon. Members will read them most carefully; they are discussed at great length in the main body of the Report. There are only two quotations to which I want to refer. One is at the end of paragraph 65 where the 103 Commission has been discussing the basis for the argument afforded by the trend of the homicide rate in a country before and after abolition. These figures are not subject to the criticisms that have been levelled at them, that the crime of murder is differently defined in other countries, because one is dealing with completely consistent countries where there has been no change in the definition of murder as the result of abolition. One can therefore see what the trend has been before and after abolition. The Report says:The general conclusion … is that there is no clear evidence in in any of the figures … examined that the abolition of capital punishment has led to an increase in the homicide rate, or that its reintroduction has led to a fall.Believing that the onus is on those who seek to retain capital punishment, that is surely a very powerful weapon in the armament.
In paragraph 68 there is set out the general conclusion concerning the statistics collected. It is:Prima facie the penalty of death is likely to have a stronger effect as a deterrent to normal human beings than any other form of punishment, and there is some evidence (though no convincing statistical evidence) that this is in fact so. But this effect does not operate universally or uniformly, and there are many offenders on whom it is limited and may often be negligible. It is accordingly important to view this question in a just perspective …"—and these are the important words—… and not to base a penal policy in relation to murder on exaggerated estimates of the uniquely deterrent force of the death penalty.That is the final conclusion reached by members of the Royal Commission. If one looks at the problem in that light, that the case must be made out by those who seek to take life, then surely the only tendency one can see from the statistics is that the case is not so made out. I do not think there is one statistic which supports that, but we have been invited too frequently to say that these statistics are of no importance, that they are not conclusive one way or the other. I do not agree.
We have been asked to fall back on common sense and to consider the matter from a common-sense point of view. We all know the argument which generally follows that. It is that because a man values his life more than anything, the 104 threat to take it away will deter him. That is an argument which has echoed down the years, many hundreds of years, in every debate on capital punishment which has taken place in this House. My first reflection on that argument is that it is a logical and attractive argument which it is hard to fault; except that one is attempting to apply a logical argument to a situation which in itself is not logical at all. When we talk about a deterrent we are talking not about a deterrent which is logical, but psychological, and that is a very different thing.
Who knows what effect the death penalty has upon a criminal mind, the mind of a potential murderer? I should not like to say, and I do not think that anyone else would. But surely it is up to the abolitionists and not the retentionists to tell us what is the deterrent. We have heard that there would be a danger to public security were the death penalty abolished. Is there any truth in that? When we argue this as a matter of common sense—and that is what the argument boils down to; we are asked to assume it as a matter of common sense—is there any way of proving that the abolition of the death penalty will be potentially dangerous to society because of its effect upon a potential criminal? It may or may not be true, but that simple statement must surely mean that the day is won for the abolitionists, if we believe that the onus of proof should be where I am sure that it ought to be.
That is very largely my argument about the question of deterrents. I am sure that those who seek to retain the death penalty do so from the highest possible motives. I do not wish them to think that I accuse them of any other motives, but there is no evidence to that effect. There is no general evidence to that effect. I defy anyone to produce any general evidence. We have all heard the old story of the burglar with the jemmy, and how he told after his capture that he did not use it because he might "swing" for it. But that type of evidence is purely anecdotal and has no significance in an argument of this kind. A criminal may be completely unable to inform his captor of what did deter him, and we need much more general evidence than that.
Perhaps that evidence could be forthcoming; I do not know. One would have thought, were the death penalty the great 105 deterrent it is said to be, that other countries after abolishing the death penalty would have found an increase in a certain type of murderer that the professional class of criminals would arm themselves and shoot policemen. But that is not the experience of any country that has abolished the death penalty and I do not think that it would be the experience in this country. I am convinced that we have now reached a stage in our society when capital punishment may be dispensed with quite safely and that there will be no danger to public security as a result.
If this House makes up its mind to abolish the death penalty, I think it most important that there should be some responsible statement to the effect that there is no danger to public security. The point has been made by other hon. Gentlemen that if the public do not feel secure, they are not secure. We must make the public feel secure and realise that the case for abolition depends on a rational and concrete argument; that we can now remove the death penalty without fear of any large-scale attacks on old women living alone in the countryside, and that sort of thing.
The argument does not end there. I have submitted no positive arguments in favour of abolition. All of us read with a good deal of distress the enormous publicity given, not necessarily to murderers, but to executions. That is a revolting, sordid, and disgraceful practice; but do not let us delude ourselves. The "niggers in the woodpile" are not necessarily the newspaper proprietors. After all, their job is to give the public something to read which they want to read. The danger here, the criminal here, is the death penalty itself. We shall not stop that sort of publicity in this country until we abolish the death penalty. I ask those people who seek to retain the death penalty to consider the effect of newspaper publicity on members of the public; that is a matter which I do not think has been raised often in this House. I believe it to have a very deleterious effect indeed on certain sections of the public.
The views of Sir Ernest Gowers have been referred to on a number of occasions during the debate. Perhaps nothing was more significant to him than the fact that five people a week, on the average, 106 apply for the job of public hangman in this country. That seems to me a rather disgraceful reflection upon the morbid interest paid by some sections of society to all the ritual which surrounds a public hanging.
I have given a very few arguments and I have perhaps spoken long enough for a maiden speaker. I wish to thank the House for the indulgence which has been shown to me, and I hope that what I have said has not caused any offence to any hon. Members. I have no hesitation in saying that I support the Bill and shall continue to support it during the rest of the stages of its passage through this House.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
It falls to my lot to congratulate the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Keegan) who has just spoken. It is not often that in a maiden speech we get so cogent a statement as we heard tonight, and I trust that the hon. Member will be long spared to adorn this House and to give us the benefit of his intellect.
Today we have been discussing the question of the abolition of the death penalty, and the meaning of words is known by none better than to my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). He taught English in the University at Helsinki, and I take it that one who is in the legal profession and who has taught English in another country is thoroughly aware of what words mean. There is no need for me to argue the merits or demerits of what words mean in the English language. There was earlier some disputation about whether treason should be brought within the ambit of the Bill, but later it was stated definitely that it was murder. A famous philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, said that we should be true in definition. He said that when we are true in our definitions we should then be able to argue on the point that may be raised. There is no need tonight to argue on the point that has been raised. The point has been definitely settled, that what we are to discuss and what is before the House is the question of murder and the abolition of the penalty for murder, which is hanging. Therefore, it means that we are discussing doing away with hanging. In other words, in plain English, that the man in the street can 107 understand, it means that now we shall have liberty to kill without a penalty—[Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I never read or heard of an argument more farcical than that—the right to kill without a penalty. After murderers have been put in gaol for ten, twelve or fifteen years, the next thing that hon. Members on this side will come along and ask is when they are to be taken for a picnic, what is being done for their health, and whether television shows are to be organised on their behalf. Perhaps some of the television stars on this side of the House will also appear with them before the public.
Let us make this House a reality and not a circus. I hear that one of my hon. Friends agrees with me, but I know that he means it the other way about. Life, as I understand it, is real; life is earnest, and the poet said that death is not its goal. Any arguments in this House should be logical, and I should imagine that logic should be dominated by truth. A person who wants to argue logically ought to be able to carry out in his life what he believes and what, in principle, he advocates in this House. Although I admit that the mighty atom who sits below the Gangway is a clever lawyer—
§ Mr. Logan
He is present although he is not sitting in his usual place. He knows that I am going to speak about him. I told him that I was going to speak against him, and if he is not here that is not my fault. I believe that had my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne been advocating the precise opposite, he would have taken on the brief just as easily. I do not think there would have been any difference except that he would have said, "I am moving a Motion for the retention of the death penalty."
§ Mr. Logan
No. I have waited all day, and I am going to get ahead now. I have had enough interruption and want to get on with what I want to say. I do not want any pats on the back, and I do not expect to get them.
108 I wish to turn the attention of the House to something practical. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad that hon. Members appreciate it, because it is not often that they do. I wish to draw the attention of the House to a remarkable record in history. We have read of the beginning in Genesis. We have read of the great sacrifice, of the Crucifixion, and of the betrayal of Christ. I have read all these things, and I do not see any difference between those days and the world of today. The question either prevails today as it did then or it does not. The remarkable thing is that Christ was put to death by the multitude—vox populi, the voice of the people, not vox Dei.
I have never heard a greater fallacy than that the multitude thinks. The multitude does not think. Its leaders do the thinking for it, and very often the leaders are unable to think. I have seen leaders in this House come and go, and when I am dead and gone it will be no novelty for others to see them come and go, because they will do just that. We have seen Prime Ministers disappear. We have seen them fill a gap for many years and then go. Just like the stream, this game goes on for ever. That sort of thing will go on as long as Parliament lasts.
The crowd was asked, "Whom shall we release?" After Pilate had washed his hands—because he said that he wanted to wash his hands clean of this man—he had the responsibility of administering the law. As a Roman governor he could and should have put the law into execution. But he was afraid. I want to find out the responsibility of the Home Secretary and of the Government in this matter. They cannot wash their hands clean of the responsibility. The responsibility is that of those who have the power, not of back benchers who have not the power.
§ Mr. Logan
Because the responsibility was that of the Government. If the matter was of such importance and if the Government agreed, then their back 109 benchers should have supported them to a man on this Motion. I am against it. I think it is a most fallacious and most abominable thing in regard to the liberty of the people that has ever been brought before the House of Commons. It proposes to give people the licence to kill without any penalty. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
§ Mr. Logan
I have heard people shouting the same sort of thing outside my house, but that has not made any difference to me. I say that it is now proposed to give people licence to kill.
What are we doing? We are taking away from judge and jury, from the criminal justiciary of this country and from the learned men who sit to administer the law, the right—
§ Mr. Logan
—to sit in judgment and to pass sentence according to the law. Hon. Members must know that there are no better courts in the world than the judges' courts, nothing purer and less corrupt. Therefore, every sane man would be tried according to the law of the land. But now it is proposed that sane men should not be convicted. I do not know where we are getting to. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I want the House to understand the enormity of what it is proposed to do. I want the people to understand what it means. It means that my daughter, my wife or my mother—or the wife, daughter or mother of any hon. Member—can be murdered by one who has made up his mind to get rid of her. It means that he can enter my house and kill, while the law stands looking on, and this House stands looking on. I may lose my child, or my wife, or my daughter; the pride of my home may go—but we are asked to sympathise with the murderer. There is to be no sympathy for those who have suffered. All our sympathy must be given to the poor murderer. I sometimes wonder if people who advocate these views are anxious to be given a caption in a newspaper, or to appear on television. I say that the House of Commons should be above that kind of thing.
110 I have as much experience of this sort of thing as anybody. I have seen the great gangs of a city murder men; I have seen police assaulted with knives and ripped open, and I have seen them thrown over bridges into canals.
§ Mr. Logan
I am speaking of the civilised city of Liverpool, not Birmingham.
I have seen two gangs of men, one known as the High Rip Gang and the other as the Logwood Gang, leaving six or eight men across the street to keep watch and then going along in a band of about forty or fifty men, stripping all the shops and taking their spoils down to the dockside. Anybody who tried to thwart them was ripped open, knocked down and had to be taken to hospital. Sometimes death occurred. I saw all that. I knew those people well.
One man—a man whom Liverpool will never forget—settled the difficulty. I remember him going on a tour, at 12 o'clock at night, into a place called Sebastopol, to find out where these people lived and carried out their operations. He saw those people on the following day and gave them the "cat." There are some hon. Members who do not believe in the use of the "cat," or in the chastisement of a child, but the greatest band of ruffians I ever saw in the city of Liverpool never came back for another stroke after they had received the "cat" from Mr. Justice Day.
Some of these people seem to have a nimbus round their heads; they are the goody-goody kind of people. I remember two ladies who used to give soup to any of their neighbours who fell ill. They carried the soup to the sick person; ladled it out; the person drank it—and ten or fourteen days after that we had a lovely funeral. These are not stories from France, but from Liverpool. Christian men and women took life and did not worry about it. The people to whom I am referring were Flanagan and Higgins. I used to serve them with the milk which they used. Very often I sat on the backyard wall, in 1885 or 1886, looking at a dish containing arsenic paper diluted with water, which was one of the sauces that went into the soup which they made.
111 These are facts from life. When my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne was speaking, I thought I could have done better had I been in Eamonn Andrews' place, with a book in my hand, saying, "This is your life." I could give the life of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne as well as any other hon. Member, but we do not generally tell tales about each other. But lawyers do sometimes think loosely. Clients very often lose their money as a result of the advice they receive from lawyers. Therefore, I am not carried away by any hon. Member in the legal profession, whether he be a Front bencher or a back bencher. Two ounces of experience is better than the lot.
It was a wonderful thing for my hon. Friend to magnetise this House—although it does not take much to magnetise it when some people get going. When I was on the stage I used to do not mesmerism but conjuring and thought-reading and I can appreciate that my hon. Friend may have found it a very easy job to magnetise the House. I hope that in spite of all the pleasures he has derived from it, people outside will not have to suffer.
I felt that it was my duty to do everything in my power to defeat this Bill. Hon. Members on this side of the House have as much right as I have to vote for or against the Bill. Brains and intellect are not a monopoly either of the Labour Party or the Tory Party. I am convinced that only the merits and demerits of this issue should be considered by every right-thinking man and I say that if we value our own lives; if we value law and order in this country; if we want to protect the things that are sacred. then in the name of God, let us do our duty and vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
I was born in Birkenhead—just outside that civilised City of Liverpool—so I am very glad to have been called to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland (Mr. Logan).
I learned in July, at the time of my maiden speech, that to be a lawyer was not the brightest or most shining recommendation that one could have to speak in this House. When one talks as a lawyer on coal mining or the railways 112 some hon. Members ask what, as a lawyer, one knows about it. When one talks of a matter such as this—about which some of us perhaps know something—one hears it said by hon. Members that on such a subject a lawyer's advice can be totally unhelpful. All I can say is that I have had some personal experience in that, in my few years' practice at the Bar, I have been concerned in some nine murder cases—in six of which I have been the sole counsel.
Those murder cases have included most of the issues which have been raised in the debate today and in that which we had about a fortnight or so ago. They included trials in which there was an issue of provocation by words alone; trials of survivors of suicide pacts; trials in which the sanity of the accused was in issue and cases concerning the identity of the murderer. I think one can say, therefore, that I have had some experience of or acquaintance with murderers. I do not know how much acquaintance other hon. Members may have had, but it is something which can give one some idea of the kind of person with whom one is dealing.
I include in the cases of which I have had personal experience some of those which have been mentioned by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. I was surprised to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) and the hon. Lady for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) raise a particular case, because, having listened to what they had to say about it, I could not understand how they had gained the impression which they had gained. Were they basing their idea of the case of Ruth Ellis, for instance, on newspaper reports? If so, I must say that a newspaper report cannot and does not contain all the facts of the case. It does not ever even contain all the evidence given in the case. There is so much more background, so much more of the story behind a particular murder than one reads, and I am sure that if those hon. Members who have been continually referring to that particular case knew all the background they would change their opinion.
I am sure that everyone would agree that the responsibility of presenting the accused's case to a jury is an awful and a taxing duty when the charge is a capital one. I would not deny that the effect 113 of hearing the words of the sentence of death being spoken to someone whose defence one has had in one's hands made me at one time wonder—and I frankly admit it—whether it was, in fact, necessary to retain this penalty. All my personal feelings of determination to do all that I could and should, within my duty, in defence, made me revolted, on hearing the accused sentenced to death, by the whole of what I can only describe as the macabre pantomime which at present goes with the death sentence.
I think that anyone who has witnessed the awkward balancing of the black cap—which is, in fact, a square of black cloth—on the wig of the judge by his clerk, who has heard the words spoken by the judge, and the chaplain's formal "Amen" at the end of them, will agree that—whatever happens to this Bill—all that is not necessary to maintain the dignity and majesty of our law. Having said that, I must add that, having read the Report of the Royal Commission, having read all the pamphlets and books which have been produced by the Howard League, having heard the arguments advanced today, and having had the advantage of private argument with my friend the author of this book "Capital Punishment as a Deterrent", I can only say that I cannot, in all honesty and sincerity, banish my belief that capital punishment must be retained to deter a criminal.
I should like to repeat what has been so well said by hon. Gentlemen, and in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston). I refer to the danger there is from the man who knows that if he is identified he will, if convicted, probably get a sentence of fourteen years' preventive detention. It seems to me that that man's only hope is the obliteration of the witness who might identify him. That is the awful fear which I have in my mind in weighing up what should be done on this issue.
Another argument raised by the abolitionists is that the existence of the death penalty—and this has been raised, I think, by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Keegan) in a maiden speech—arouses a morbid interest in murder which may even encourage murder by the unbalanced. From my personal experience I can say that it is not only murder or the death penalty which makes people flock to the trials. I think of a 114 case at Winchester in which I was personally concerned, a matter of gross indecency—nothing at all to do with murder or the death penalty. On that occasion, believe it or not, there were organised charabanc loads of women coming to listen to the case; there were crocodiles of school children being led into court to hear this most unpleasant cause celèbre which happened to be down for trial on that particular day.
That it is blamed on the Press is, I think, most unfair. At the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey one can hear the applications of people who wish to listen to a particular case—one can see the avidity with which those people wish to see other people upon their trial. Publicity, I agree, does reveal the dangerous number of half-crazy people who exist in the world but who yet go about ordinary daily tasks. I can remember that when I was in chambers with my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Defence, when he was defending a man called Leys, there then suddenly appeared a person who confessed to a murder in a certain way; who came and gave evidence that he had been flown by aeroplane and had accidently tightened the ropes that caused the strangulation. The responsibility upon those charged with the defence was whether that evidence had to be presented to the jury. I have had visits to my chambers from people who, because of publicity given in murder cases, have said that they were secret service agents.
There has been criticism of counsel for attacking the police. I should like to say, in passing, that perhaps it is not always appreciated how much this country's traditions depend on having a free Bar—members of the Bar who will fearlessly and courageously do what they think to be their duty to the court and to their clients. There is no perfect legal system—how could there ever be?—but nowhere, I think, are there so many safeguards in the interests of the accused as there are here. I am a believer, as I am sure all in this House are, in trial by jury. I believe that if there are these miscarriages of justice they come about because the person on trial lies, and demonstrates to the satisfaction of the jury that he is lying. Once those accused reveal themselves as liars one can be quite certain—and I think that the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) will 115 agree—that the jury will convict. That may be the explanation of the cases to which we have been referred, such as the Evans case. The jury convicted because those men were proved to be liars.
I want to go very much further than my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary in changing the law of murder; I want to see not only the implementation of the three recommendations which he made in his speech when we debated the Motion. I want also to see the alteration of the M'Naghten Rules in accordance with the Royal Commission recommendations; I want to see a change in the procedure on the issue of guilty but insane; I want to see increased powers for the Court of Criminal appeal, particularly in connection with retrials; and I want to see—perhaps this is of technical interest—changes in the Judges' Rules concerning confessions and statements by accused people while in custody.
Mr. Justice Humphreys, who died only recently, used to say that when he first practised at the Bar at the end of the last century there were never these strange confessions which appear almost inevitably these days in certain criminal trials—confessions or statements made while in custody. He said that in those days each case had to be fought out to the conclusion because the accused person knew that, if convicted, he would get little mercy and little of the magnificent treatment which can and should be given now.
Personally, I want to see all these matters dealt with and, contrary to what has been recommended in the Royal Commission's Report, I must ask why we should not try the two-degree system of murder. Admittedly it may be imperfect, but why not try it? I have sufficient confidence in the sense and wits of the jury in knowing what that system means. It means either that a person has committed a murder in circumstances which in their view make it a first-degree murder—in other words, that he should be convicted of murder and therefore hanged; or that it is a second degree murder—in other words, that it may be a killing but does not amount to murder.
It has been made out time and time again that the case for the change of the law is vital. Why is it vital? Because it is necessary to determine who is a murderer. Not every killer is a murderer. 116 Perhaps I may give examples, and I will speak only of cases of which I have personal knowledge. The first is the case of Mrs. Williams, an A.T.S. girl, who stabbed her husband in a drunken fit of anger and who was sentenced to death for murder. The second is the case of Mrs. Ellis, who planned the shooting of the lover who had left her. She was sentenced to death for murder. The next is the case of the man who killed his wife's lover who had taunted him and laughed at him. He was sentenced to death for murder. The last is the case of Alfred Charles Whiteway, who struck on the head and raped a little girl; who later struck on the head and raped an elderly woman; who was known to carry knives and hatchets, which he threw at trees; and who was convicted of striking down, stabbing and raping two young women.
All those people, in all those different categories of crime, were sentenced to death for murder. It is perfectly clear that there was a complete distinction between the cases, two cases of men and two of women. Of those concerning women, one was the case of a sudden stabbing and the other was that of the planned shooting of the woman's lover. In the case of the men, one, who was taunted by the man with whom his wife was sleeping, struck him and killed him; the other was the case of a man who went out and planned to kill.
Whatever the merits or demerits of the case for the abolition of capital punishment, this Bill is a bad one, since it substitutes one uniform penalty for another. As reported in c. 2640 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 16th February, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) described the Royal Comission asthe most influential and experienced committee it was possible to get together.What is the first recommendation of thismost influential and experienced committee it was possible to get together …It is that,The outstanding defect of the law of murder is that it provides a single punishment for a crime widely varying in culpability.Although the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne pays such a tribute to the Royal Commission, he brings here a Bill which, whatever the merits or demerits of capital punishment, imposes exactly the same penalty for all convictions.
117 As reported in c. 2642, the hon. Member places the onus on those who wish to retain capital punishment. His argument was repeated by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South. Is not that answered in paragraph (3) of the conclusions of the Royal Commission? May I read what I say is the answer? The Royal Commission said:Of the three purposes commonly assigned to punishment …deterrence is generally held to be the most important, although the continuing public demand for retribution cannot be ignored. Prima facie the death sentence is likely to have a stronger effect as a deterrent to normal human beings than any other form of punishment. There is some evidence (though no convincing statistical evidence) that this is in fact so; and also"—and this is what I should like hon. Members to bear in mind—that abolition may be followed for a short time by an increase in homicides and crimes of violence.
§ Mr. Rawlinson
I will read on in a moment.
The Royal Commission says categorically that in its viewabolition may be followed for a short time by an increase in homicides and crimes of violence.I agree that the conclusion continues:But there is no clear evidence of any lasting increase, and there are many offenders on whom the deterrent effect is limited and may often be negligible. It is therefore important to view the question in a just perspective and not to base a penal policy in relation to murder on exaggerated estimates of the uniquely deterrent force of the death penalty.
§ Mr. Rawlinson
The hon. and learned Member says, "Hear, hear." Let me put this question to him. Does he think that any Government can freely accept abolition when the Royal Commission says itmay be followed for a short time by an increase in homicides and crimes of violence?As a supporter of the Bill, would he accept that responsibility, bearing in mind that in the opinion of the Commission some people, at any rate, will suffer and that there will be some increase in homicides? Does he accept fairly and squarely the responsibility of introducing into the law what, in the opinion of the Royal Commission, may, even for a short 118 time, increase homicides and crimes of violence?
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
Surely the whole burden of the Report is that the death penalty is not a deterrent and does not maintain the end of the protection of the public which I am sure the hon. Member has in mind.
§ Mr. Rawlinson
I am pointing out to the hon. and learned Gentleman what is stated in a summary of the conclusions of the Royal Commission on page 274 of its Report.
Presumably we are entitled to have regard to the fact that these people, to whom the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne paid such high tribute, and to whom we would all pay high tribute, came to the conclusion that there may be this increase which may be short or may be lasting. [HON. MEMBERS: "May be."] Do hon. Members accept that responsibility, bearing in mind that homicide will increase, is likely to increase or may increase? The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne is reported as saying:In the end, it is a great moral issue …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1956 Vol. 548, c. 2640–42.]What is the moral issue? Is it that it is wrong to kill judicially? If it is, is it wrong to kill in time of war? I can understand and appreciate the arguments of those who say that it is wrong to kill either judicially or in time of war. That is a logical and coherent argument which I can respect.
If we concede the right to kill in war presumably we must concede the right of the State to kill judicially. I have heard hon. Members say that the death penalty must be abolished for murder but if war came it must be used in cases of treason. I fail to understand that argument. If we introduce abolition in this country, are we to introduce it also in the Colonies—in Cyprus? Are hon. Members proposing one kind of law for the white and another for the black? Let that be taken into account.
Having voted for the retention of capital punishment and attempted to canvass the views of my constituents by means of the local Press and a constituency magazine, I received a postcard which said:Why didn't you vote for abolition? Why didn't you consult the opinion of your constituents? You will see the result in the Election, you big head.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
As a constituent of the hon. Member, I should like him to know that I did not send that postcard.
§ Mr. Rawlinson
I am very relieved to have that reassurance. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman for South Shields (Mr. Ede) is present. I was determined he should know that one of my constituents had addressed me in that way.
I can appreciate only too well the sincerity of those hon. Members who believe that we can abolish hanging. I very much envy them their certainty, because there must be for a short period the possibility of an increase in homicide. I cannot bring myself to vote for the Bill, much as in some ways I should like to, because I believe it is not in fact the true answer to this very grave and difficult problem.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. John Henderson (Glasgow, Cathcart)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I should like to point out that there are several hon. Members on both sides of this House who very seldom speak. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael), who is opposed to the views I hold, and I on this side of the House have sought to catch the eye of the occupant of the Chair since the beginning of the debate. So far not one Scottish hon. Member has been called. I think it grossly unfair to Scotland that Scottish hon. Members should not have been allowed to participate in this debate up to the present time.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
Further to that point of order, will you bear in mind, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in replying to the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. J. Henderson), that the law in Scotland is different from that in England in relation to the death penalty?
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If we are to be called on a regional basis when debating a matter on which we all feel deeply, will you bear in mind the claims of the Principality?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
That is not a point of order. Many hon. Members wish to speak, but I can only call one at a time.
§ Mr. Benson
Before I address myself to the problem before the House, I wish to refer to an incident which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston), who moved the Amendment. That was a quotation from a publication of the Howard League. I have been chairman of the Howard League for nearly 20 years, and I assure the hon. Member, if that is necessary, that the Howard League was not consciously guilty of any suppression of evidence. As a matter of fact, we published all the evidence there was on the subject, and no one is more perturbed than we are that it was not complete because, if there is anything on which the Howard League prides itself, it is upon the extreme and meticulous accuracy of the propaganda it puts out.
§ Sir R. Grimston
I thank the hon. Member for giving way. In my remarks I made it quite clear that I was perfectly certain that there was no bad faith on the part of the Howard League, but it had been put into that position and that was some of the misleading proganganda which had come from a very reputable society.
§ Mr. Benson
I now want to pick another quarrel with the hon. Member. He said that he supported capital punishment because he wished to have the maximum protection for the community and capital punishment was a unique deterrent. I want to examine that question of deterrents and to consider capital punishment merely as one form of a severely deterrent punishment. I want to examine the general question of deterrence, and to discuss capital punishment in that general context, because the death penalty is only one facet of the whole problem of our treatment of criminals.
The idea that the more severe we make the penalty the more effective it is as a deterrent is a very simple theory. It is a very logical theory; it is, as I think the hon. Member said, a commonsense theory. It is a theory that has a great appeal. There is a lot to be said for it, and there is only one thing to be said against it—that it does not fit the facts and that the whole of penal history directly contradicts it. There is not a shred of evidence that by increasing the severity of penalties we increase their deterrent effect.
121 I wish to look at some of the severe penalties that we have imposed and do impose and to look at their effects. Let us start with capital punishment. I think the facts are fairly well agreed. I think it is generally agreed that the great bulk of the civilised world has abolished capital punishment and, as a result of that abolition, there has been no increase in the homicide rate when it was abolished. I do not think there is any dispute about that.
§ Mr. Finlay
Is the hon. Member aware that in Belgium, the country mentioned by the Royal Commission as the one bearing most resemblance to ours, when the death penalty was not enforced in the 1830's, there was a sharp upsurge of murders, so much so that the King was later advised to reimpose the death penalty?
§ Mr. Benson
I am making a general case that the effect of abolition in foreign countries has never led to an increase in murders.
§ Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
How does the hon. Member know how many more murders would have been committed had the deterrent not existed here or elsewhere?
§ Mr. Benson
The Royal Commission point out that when the death penalty was abolished there was no increase in the number of murders. Again, just over a century ago more than 200 crimes against property carried the death penalty. After a bitter fight it was abolished for those crimes, and remained practically for murder alone. Everybody knows that after the abolition of capital punishment for these various crimes against property the community steadily became more law-abiding and there was no increase in crimes against property as a result of abolition.
Whether one looks abroad or at home, one finds that the unique deterrent effect 122 of the death penalty has not merely been not proved but has been disproved, and yet, curiously enough, despite the experience of foreign countries and of our own country, hon. Members claim, as did the hon. Member for Westbury, who moved the Amendment, that the death penalty is a unique deterrent.
Let us consider one or two other severe penalties. In the 1948 Criminal Justice Act, we abolished corporal punishment. That was a savage penalty, and it was also defended on the ground that it was a unique deterrent. In fact, it collected to itself a complete mythology It was defended on the grounds that no man would ever risk being flogged twice and that it stamped out garrotting.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Scotland (Mr. Logan) today mentioned the High Rip Gang and claimed that Mr. Justice Day stamped out robbery with violence in Liverpool by the "cat". That was a very common claim. There is not a word of truth in it. These legends were exposed time and time again. The hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) nodded his head enthusiastically when the hon. Member claimed that Mr. Justice Day had stamped out robbery with violence.
§ Mr. Benson
Then all I can say is, heaven help the hon. Member. Those legends provide a marvellous example of the power of the myth. Hon. Members, apparently, still believe that corporal punishment is an effective deterrent. The report of the Departmental Committee was roughly the same as that of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment: it could find nothing in the history of the last century which gave any support whatever to the suggestion that corporal punishment was a more effective deterrent than ordinary imprisonment.
We abolished corporal punishment. For many years it had not been given for any other offence than robbery with violence. Abolition was followed by an immediate drop in the numbers of robberies with violence known to the police. I am not suggesting that that was cause and effect, but I do suggest that it completely destroyed the case which had been so enthusiastically put up for that very savage penalty of corporal punishment.
123 Let us consider another attempt by this country to reduce crime by savagery. In 1878, the Prisons Act was passed and the whole of our prisons were taken over by the Home Office and out of the hands of the local justices. With the unification of the prison system there was introduced what was known as the Ducane system, after Sir Edmund Ducane, the first Chairman of the Prison Commissioners. The system was one of savage deterrence.
It is not too much to say that in the last twenty or more years of the nineteenth century, the prisons of this country were turned into little hells. After twenty years it was so clear that something was wrong that the Gladstone Committee was appointed, and in 1898 it reported. It examined the whole question of this savagely deterrent regime and it reported that, far from stamping out or deterring crime, this regime turned the casual offender into a habitual criminal and sent the habitual criminal out of prison worse than when he went in. This is another example of the attempt to base a penal system upon savagery. It is the third example I have given that has failed.
Let us consider our modern prison system. I admit that I do not have any conclusion quite so spectacular to offer as was drawn from the Ducane system. But let us consider the effect of our present prison system upon the habitual criminal. The only effective examination of the problem has been done by Professor Morris, of Melbourne, who was a reader at London University. In 1948, he investigated the full records of some 300 men in Wandsworth who had criminal records equivalent to twice what would qualify them for preventive detention.
Professor Morris picked out the 270 worst men in Wandsworth and thirty preventive detainees under the 1908 Act. He got a pretty bunch. He made a thorough investigation of their records. He found, as one does when examining such records, that men had long and short sentences hopelessly mixed up. He also found that it was quite impossible to connect the period between sentences with the length of the previous sentence served. A man might serve a short sentence and be out of prison for six or eight months; he might serve a three-year sentence and be back again in a fortnight. There was no possibility of connecting the deterrent 124 effect of a long sentence with the crime-free period.
I admit that that is not a very strong case, because the period of liberty is not necessarily crime-free, but one would have thought that if a long sentence were more deterrent than a short one, it would have produced some noticeable effect on the time a man kept out of trouble, and yet it did not. I quote this not very convincing evidence because it fits in completely with a piece of research which I did myself, again on habitual criminals.
I was not concerned with a particular group, but with seeing whether I could discover what happened to the habitual criminal—a question which, curiously enough, had never previously been asked and certainly never previously answered. I went through a vast number of records, and eventually got an answer to my question. I do not want to go into it in detail, because it is complicated. Suffice it to say that, taking habitual criminals over the age of 30, 75 per cent. stop before they come to the age of 60, for reasons other than death.
Just as Morris was quite unable to find any relationship between the length of sentence and the crime-free period, I myself found it utterly impossible to trace any connection between the length of sentence and whether a man stopped after it or not. Do not let us forget that 75 per cent. of people stopped between 30 and 60, but cessation of a criminal career was just as likely to happen after a three months' sentence as it was after one of five years. Here again, it is impossible to trace the effect of severe punishments on the conduct of the habitual criminal.
Let me turn from the habitual criminal to another type, the first offender. We have in the case of the first offenders a very interesting piece of research which has been carried out by the Metropolitan Police. In 1932, the Metropolitan Police took note of some 23,000 first offenders in London and the surrounding districts, and followed their careers for five years, at the end of that time publishing the results. They divided the first offenders into four groups—those receiving imprisonment, those put on probation, those bound over, and those who were fined. The results of these four penalties were identical. There was not a shred of evidence to show that with first offenders a sentence of imprisonment was one whit 125 more effective a deterrent than being bound over.
Search where we will, we cannot find any evidence in penal history which conclusively, or even inconclusively, shows that savage penalties produce a greater deterrent effect than mild penalties. That is a very disturbing conclusion to come to, but I defy any hon. Member to produce evidence to the contrary.
§ Mr. Benson
I felt sure that I should get exactly that comment from the hon. Member for Ayr. This is a very difficult and complex subject, and if I have to offer any explanation of it, I do so very tentatively and would say that what appears to me to be the explanation is this. There are two types of offenders—the type of offender whom we cannot deter, no matter what we do, and the type of offender who is deterred by mild penalties. The bulk of the first offenders are in the latter class. As a matter of fact, as far as the bulk of first offenders are concerned, I think the effective cause is that they have been brought into court, and no other penalty is necessary.
In regard to other classes of offenders, the fact that we have over 100 murders a year, despite the risk of capital punishment, is an indication that these persons are not deterred. The fact that we can find men in Wandsworth, in Dartmoor, and in Parkhurst who spend half their lives in jail shows that long sentences of imprisonment on certain types of men are no deterrents. It is a difficult and awkward problem to meet, but the sooner we realise that it is a difficult and awkward problem, the sooner we shall handle it better. I know that there are certain hon. Members whose answer to this problem is to stiffen up the penalties, but that is not the answer. One reason severe penalties fail—I am talking about really severe penalties—was pointed out by the Marquis Beccarea in his remarkable essay nearly 200 years ago on "Crime and Punishment," and that is that if we employ savage punishment it merely brutalises public opinion. As he put it in his own words,If you introduce breaking on the wheel it is not long before this is no more feared than prison.There are people who, apparently, are not susceptible to deterrence. They have 126 to be handled. The Home Secretary asked whether we realised that many of these people would never come out if they were sent to prison for murder. Of course we realise that. We cannot let loose our Heaths, our Haighs and our Christies, but the mere fact that these men fall into the class of people who appear to be incapable of being deterred, the mere fact that we have to take away their liberty, does not mean we are compelled to impose upon a decent and humane body of public servants the beastly task of taking away their lives.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Sir Victor Raikes (Liverpool, Garston)
In a way I am glad to take part in the debate, although it is the sort of debate in which it is most difficult to speak because, however we may contain ourselves, in such a debate as this emotion must play a part on both sides. I do not think that it is a bad thing that that should be so. Sir Ernest Gowers was quoted as having turned from being a mild supporter of capital punishment to favouring abolition, and he was quoted as having said that he had decided, from everything he had seen, that the really sentimental people were the people in favour of retention. It is curious that, following that, he claimed in his book that what finally decided him beyond all else was the number of people who were applying for the post of hangman from week to week. That was sentiment—though I am not saying it was false—rather than logic, without any doubt.
The view that I shall express tonight is not, perhaps, the most lofty one. I am not going to talk in high philosophy. What I am interested in is, will this penalty restrain the limited number of potential murderers from committing murder who otherwise, were the penalty abolished, might commit it? That is the issue before us tonight. We are not tonight to speak about degrees of murder. It is a straight issue which is before us. It is one queston only, and it is the great question: is capital punishment a greater deterrent than abolition of capital punishment, or is it not?
Many statistics have been quoted, and many comments made upon them. It is at best doubtful to what extent these statistics constitute a reliable guide, but, as they have been quoted by various hon. Members opposite, I propose to give one example to show why, in my view, they 127 are really a completely unreliable guide. Statistics have been quoted from States in the United States of America which are said to be comparable with this country. A nice little group of three States was taken, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. I shall give one example. In North Dakota there was no capital punishment. In South Dakota capital punishment was abolished and then reintroduced. Incidentally, nobody would ever guess from what has been said by the abolitionists in this debate that anybody had ever reintroduced capital punishment anywhere. Finally, in Nebraska, another adjoining State, there had always been capital punishment.
What happened after South Dakota reintroduced capital punishment? The fall in the number of murders was lower in South Dakota after capital punishment was reintroduced than it was in North Dakota which had always been abolitionist. On top of that, in Nebraska, which had never abolished and had always carried out capital punishment, there was the sharpest decline of all. I give that as an example of how impossible it is to draw any direct conclusions from statistics in other countries. I propose in a moment to suggest another form of test which we can apply to this matter, completely outside statistics.
We should reconsider for a moment the background in this country at the time of this great debate. As has been pointed out, the known murder rate in the United Kingdom is the lowest of any country in the world for which there are comparable figures. The interesting thing is not only that we have the lowest figure but that in a country like ours with vast cities and with, for example, in London alone a police area of eight million people, we should not have the kind of rate we might expect, that is, a rate more comparable with those in France and parts of the United States, but even a lower rate than in Scandinavian countries where there is none of the polyglot population that is to be found in our great cities.
If under our present system and with an unarmed police force we can maintain the lowest rate of murder in Europe, the onus of proof should be on those who wish to change the system rather than upon us who wish to retain capital punishment. That does not mean that the 128 onus of proof cannot be shifted. I do not believe that statistics by themselves tell the whole story.
Brussels has been mentioned a number of times and it has been suggested that conditions here are comparable with those in that city, but, unfortunately for his case, my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Hyde) was stirred by questioning to say, "In Belgium where you have abolition you have a para-military police force." It may be that with a paramilitary police force in this country we could safely abolish capital punishment, but do we want that? I am merely dealing with the argument used in connection with Brussels, with which we compare very favourably today, although our police are not armed.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The hon. Member has put his argument very clearly and I know that he will not want to make a false point, but the para-military police force is independent of the abolitionist or retentionist argument. There is no case on record where there was an unarmed police force before abolition, then abolition and then an armed police. Whenever there has been abolition there has been an armed police before and after abolition.
§ Sir V. Raikes
I am quite aware of that. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that my point was that the position might be very different for a country like ours which, with capital punishment and an unarmed police force, has maintained the lowest rate of murder in Europe, if we as an industrialised State abolished capital punishment without having an armed police force on Continental lines.
It is also perfectly plain that at present the professional criminal classes of this country do not resort to murder. If we want to find a different method from that of statistics in order to consider how men's minds work, I will suggest one or two other tests. Do actual murderers fear death more than imprisonment? The answer is not a difficult one. As the House will be aware, in case after case a brutal murderer has done his utmost, by pleading insanity, to go to Broadmoor rather than to the scaffold. Let us take one or two examples. If ever there was a cold-blooded murderer, who had murdered six times for gain, that was Haigh; but only after Haigh was captured were these 129 strange bloodthirsty stories produced plus a tame psychiatrist, Dr. Yellowes, to say that Haigh was mad. The plea was that Haigh should go to Broadmoor and not to the scaffold.
There was the case of Trevor, who, in 1942, murdered an old lady for gain. In a moment, there was a plea for insanity—a plea for Broadmoor. In the Christie case, although that is more difficult, there was a man on whom the police could actually pin six murders, but he confessed to nine. The other three were generally considered to be part of the picture to avoid the scaffold. I say without hesitation that if we can find that hardened criminals prefer life imprisonment or Broadmoor to the scaffold, we have a clearer case than doubtful statistics for assuming that potential murderers, less hardened, may be deterred by the rope rather than imprisonment.
§ Mr. K. Robinson
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the Home Secretary spent quite a large part of his speech in trying to convince the House that life imprisonment is a much harsher sentence than hanging?
§ Sir V. Raikes
If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I will make my speech in my own way, but I will deal with that point in a moment. I would remind the House that not only have we this experience of actual murderers seeking Broad-moor rather than the rope, but we know what has happened once or twice in other countries. The House may recollect that one of the main reasons why capital punishment was reintroduced in the State of Kansas was, according to the Attorney-General, because of the number of deliberate cases of murder which took place in that city by persons who were already wanted for murder in surrounding States which had the penalty of death. They went into Kansas and murdered again, knowing that the verdict must be imprisonment and not death. If we want facts rather than theories, it is clear that in those cases in Kansas at that time there could have been only one reason—one reason alone—for these otherwise objectless murders, and that was to avoid the rope. If that amuses the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) he is easily amused.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
Surely the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Sir V. Raikes) made an unwarranted remark about my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) who was engaged in a private conversation and who appears to have been made to look quite inhuman. He was turning his laughter to another matter.
§ Sir V. Raikes
I am quite prepared to accept the fact that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West was not amused by what I was saying. I entirely accept that and withdraw anything I was saying about him.
The next point which the House might consider is that the police as a whole are strongly opposed to the abolition of capital punishment. That is borne out by the Royal Commission's Report. Although I have no doubt that hon. Gentlemen can find—as one can always find—individual exceptions, I say without hesitation that the general view of the police and particularly of the uniformed branch is almost, if not quite, solidly in favour of retention. The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) said the other day that he accepted that. He said, however, that the police were rather like the old admirals of sixty years ago who had a hunch that if flogging were abolished, discipline in the Navy would fall to pieces. However, there is a good deal of difference between an old admiral shrugging his shoulders and saying, "Confound it! Things should not be altered from what they were in my young day", and the young men who day after day have to risk their lives defending law and order.
It was stated in the Press only a short time ago that even since the last debate on capital punishment, when the Government Motion was defeated, there has been a rush on the police friendly society for insurance for the benefit of policemen's families. That has not been denied. People do not take out extra insurance, especially when their wages or salaries are not unduly high, simply because they have a slight hunch. They do it, if they do it, because they feel the need is very great.
131 Again, is this the perfect moment to choose for the abolition of capital punishment? We know perfectly clearly that while the rate of capital crime is only slightly higher than it was just before the war, violent assault and burglaries have trebled in the last few years and sex offences have almost trebled. We have managed to hold the murder rate down to something only a little above pre-war.
Hon. Members have referred to the views of the public. Almost every hon. Member will admit, whether he likes it or not, that public opinion is strongly against abolition. Are we not taking something of a risk in going so far in advance of public opinion? May we not find that if men feel that law and order is not sufficiently protected, they will keep shotguns and prepare, as some have already said, to defend themselves in the future? If they do that, there will be more killings—not murders, because no jury would convict those responsible—of burglars than we have had in this generation or the last.
We come down to this, that abolition must, at least in their own view, involve the police in new risks in the dangers which they undertake day by day. Can we be sure that abolition would not provide a new temptation in the minds of those who rob shops or small houses or factories where the watchman or shopkeeper is knocked out? Today the watchman or shopkeeper is seldom killed by members of the criminal classes. He is not worth the risk of killing because today killing him means the rope. If the Bill goes through, will not the criminal be tempted to silence the one tongue and destroy the only pair of eyes which have seen him at his work? By so doing the criminal will know that he has halved the danger of being caught.
That brings me to a point which has been made previously in the debate. If such a man be convicted hon. Members do not imagine that a sentence of life imprisonment will be imposed—under the Bill it is not imposed at all. Hon. Members will not imagine that such a sentence would be imposed except in the most terrible cases. A man who commits murder for the first time and is caught after a watchman has been found strangled will not get life imprisonment, he will not get a much longer sentence 132 than if he had a bad record for burglary and is sentenced to penal detention. The sentence would be much about the same. If that does not mean that an extra temptation will be provided, human nature is different from what most of us have found in our daily lives. At present if a young girl is caught by some lustful scoundrel in the dark and raped, after the act the man might think that if he killed his victim—the only person who could recognise him—that would mean the rope rather than imprisonment.
Finally, I would support what has already been said, that even the Report admits that there is some evidence to show that the abolition of the death penalty might lead to some temporary increase in murder even though the increase might be only temporary. I would put the case far higher than that, but even were it merely a temporary increase, even though it meant that for five or six years only an extra few innocent people would be killed year by year, and then murders would stop, I should vote against the Bill, because the overriding duty of this House is to protect the innocent and not to defend the guilty.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. J. E. S. Simon (Middlesbrough, West)
It is with a very grave sense of responsibility that any one as junior in the service of the House as myself rises in response to the wishes of my hon. Friends to reply to this debate. I feel my shortcomings, particularly when I know that I have stopped the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Paton) from intervening in the debate when he has thought so deeply about these matters and has so much to contribute.
I should like, with due modesty I hope, to pay a tribute to the quality of the speeches that we have heard this evening. One would have thought, this matter having been debated over and over again, that everything had been said, but I think that those who have attended the debate this evening will agree that fresh thoughts have been brought to bear, and that those who have not made up their minds—and I hope that there are some—will feel that they have had fruitful instruction given to them.
I wish to pay tribute to a most notable maiden speech by my hon. Friend the 133 Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Keegan). Nobody would make the accusation that it was non-controversial; but I think that those who agreed with it and equally those who disagreed with it will feel that it was a very real contribution to the discussion of this momentous problem.
The debate and the decision this evening differ in two respects from the decision which we took a few nights ago. In the first place, that decision, in a sense, was an abstract resolution. Tonight we are faced with a vital decision, whether or not to initiate a legislative process. On our vote tonight depends whether capital punishment for murder is to be abolished in this country.
The second respect is that since the previous debate there has been a chance for public opinion to be more accurately ascertained. There has been a great campaign by the abolitionists—a perfectly legitimate campaign—and, as always when we get a propaganda effort of that sort, one feels swept away. It is difficult to find one's bearings, to retain a sober, accurate judgment, and to know where one stands. I am sure that many people must have felt that during this campaign.
But in two respects we have learned a great deal. In the first place, the campaign has in some respects over-reached itself. It is now being shown abundantly clearly that certain matters which were stated as fact, and stated most effectively as fact, were untrue. Certainly no one would imagine for a moment that my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter) or the Howard League, whose spokesman, the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson), made a most instructive contribution this evening, would intentionally mislead the House or public opinion in any way. I do not know Mr. Arthur Koestler in the same way, but I admire his writing very much, and I have no reason to think that he, either, would be guilty of an intentional misrepresentation. But that is not the point; the point is that that misrepresentation was made and that it has had a great influence on public opinion.
Having read the correspondence in the Observer on Sunday, I cannot help saying how noticeable it was that although excuses were given—to my mind valid excuses—for the mistake that had been 134 made, there was not one word of apology from the Home Office, from Mr. Koestler or from the Howard League.
§ Mr. Simon
I expressly absolve the Howard League from culpability, but I do not accept for a moment that the Home Office was suppressing anything.
The Howard League published, in good' faith, part of a direction which had been published in legal proceedings. The Home Office was in no way a party to them. Its sole intervention in the matter was in response to a Question in the House of Lords, to clear up the mistake which had been made. In those circumstances I think that I am quite justified in saying that. We may have—and if it is due to us I am sure we shall have it—an expression of contrition from my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate for the fact—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Certainly. It is a thing which the House welcomes readily, and accepts readily, when a mistake is made.
I want to say only one more thing before coming to the great matter which concerns us this evening, and that arises out of the Government's part in the proceedings with which we are concerned. I was very glad that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said what he did. I do not think that we should accept for a moment the view that the Government—the Executive—are the only source of legislation in this Chamber or in Parliament. On the contrary, although I regard the Bill with great misgivings, and although I and a number of other hon. Members on both sides of the House feel that it may be attended by disastrous consequences, if it is passed I shall be the first to congratulate the hon. Member. I shall be the first to welcome the fact that am important Measure of this sort has been' secured upon the initiative of a private Member of Parliament.
The problem which we must decide this evening is an easy one for some hon. Members, but a difficult one for most of us. For those who say that the State is under no circumstances entitled to 135 order the taking of life, the problem is a simple one; they will vote for the Bill. On the other hand, those who think, as I do, that the State was justified in ordering the young men of this nation into battle in 1939 and 1949—not from any narrowly selfish interest; not even in self-defence in any real sense, but in vindication of the rule of international law, and as a deterrent lest the Nazis, or Communists in North Korea, or others who felt like them, might go further—have a grave problem before them this evening. So, too, have those who do not accept the view that the death penalty should he abolished for treason or under the Army Act.
Once one accepts that position it is no longer possible to say that the State is quite unjustified in any circumstances in ordering the taking of life. One has immediately accepted the view that in some cases the State is so justified, and it is incumbent on us who feel like that to weigh up where the justice of the case lies. It is only right that I should remind the House that when the question of the death penalty under the Army Act came before the House for decision only 10 hon. Members were found to support the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, who has shown himself completely consistent in this matter.
I know that the hon. Member feels the same about treason, and the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) was driven to say this evening that he regarded the same argument as applying to treason, but the great bulk of right hon. and hon. Members do not so regard it. They wish the penalty of death to be reserved, at any rate for treason—a great many do. One then has to ascertain where the distinction is between treason as a crime and murder as a crime. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, in his very able reference to that, said, I think, that treason was only on the verge of crime and indicated that it partakes really of a political offence. That really will not do in this connection. We do not execute a traitor because he differs from us politically. We execute him because he has offended against the criminal law—in other words for the same reason that we execute a murderer.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The hon. and learned Gentleman surely appreciates 136 that although what he has said is literally true there is, nevertheless, a great distinction in the cases, in that a murderer is never regarded in any generation as anything but a murderer, whereas the judgment on a traitor is a much more subjective thing, changing from generation to generation according to the political climate of the time.
§ Mr. Simon
I do not accept that as a valid consideration, even if it were true. And there is no real distinction there, because a great many tyrannicides, for example, have been regarded as heroes not only by the next but by their own generation. I therefore say that we who feel that the State is justified in ordering the slaying of human beings in war, in civil strife, for treason or under the Army Act, have to make up our mind not on the general ground which was put forward in so many of the speeches we have heard this evening and on the occasion of the previous debate, but by a balancing of a number of considerations.
Above all, we have to consider in that connection what is the real purpose of punishment. It is obviously too big a problem to be canvassed in the short space of time that remains this evening. But I think that hon. Members will agree that the prime, the most important, purpose is not the deterrence, but that the punishment should mark a sense of reprobation by the community of crime, and constitute a sanction of our criminal law or, as I think one of the witnesses before the Royal Commission put it, an emphatic denunciation by the community of a crime. One of the questions that arise before the question of deterrence arises is whether there are certain crimes so terrible that they affront the conscience of the nation, so that the conscience of the nation is justified in demanding the supreme penalty for that crime, as it is justified in demanding the supreme penalty for the crime of treason.
I will give only one or two examples. The first is not from this country at all. In 1932 a coal miner in Upper Silesia was torn from his bed in the middle of a night by a number of Storm Troopers and beaten up. As he lay writhing on the ground, five of them finished him off with their boots, kicking his throat until it was torn to ribbons. I am sure that hon. Members recall that now. All five of them were reprieved, and a cry of indignation 137 went up throughout the whole of the free world. That was one type of crime.
May I give another example, which is given in the Appendix to the Royal Commission's Report? It concerns a little girl aged eight or nine. As she was on her way home some vicious lout lay in wait for her. As he wreaked his brutal purpose on her, the life was crushed out of her body. I wonder if one may not say of a crime like that that the conscience of the community would not be satisfied except by the supreme penalty.
We have been very properly asked to consider the feelings of those who are related to the man who is executed. That plea is made with perfect propriety, because we must bear in mind all considerations; but must we not also consider the feelings of the relatives, the mother and father and the brothers and sisters, of that small child? Whatever else comes out of the debate, I am sure the whole House would be resolved that no action which we take shall consciously render more likely another offence of that sort.
§ Mr. Simon
I cannot give way, as I have little time.
I know that it is in that spirit that both the abolitionists and the retentionists approach the problem. I propose to give only one more example. Most hon. Members are in favour of the retention of the death penalty for treason. Let us consider this case, which is another of those given in the Appendix to the Royal Commission Report: a group of I.R.A. prepared a bomb and placed it in the carrier of a bicycle, which was ridden into the middle of a crowded street and left there to do its mischief. It exploded, of course, and killed five innocent people. Two members of the gang were caught. They were not the ones who placed the bomb there, although they had taken part in its preparation, and they were executed. How does that case differ from the crime of treason? Where is the distinction? Does not the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne think those men were regarded as heroes by certain misguided members of their community.
The matter goes further because, in addition to the punishment being the reprobation by the community of grave crimes, in addition to it being the mark 138 of the community's disapproval of those who break its rules, it passes into deterrence. It does that because the criminal law itself and its penal sanctions raise a barrier in our minds against crime. If we reserve a particularly terrible penalty for a particularly terrible crime, a psychological barrier is raised against that crime.
When one discusses deterrents, as indeed we must, there are two things to be said initially. The first is that it is not all types of mind which are capable of being deterred by the death penalty. But that type of mind, generally speaking, is not capable of being deterred by any penalty. That type of case, about which we have heard so much, is really quite irrelevant to the argument which we have to sustain this evening.
The second is the case, at which in effect I have already glanced, which was put by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) in the previous debate, when he said that the great bulk of murders were not premeditated. That is true, but it does not mean that the punishment—particularly capital punishment—is not necessarily a deterrent, because of that psychological barrier which comes up at the moment of action to inhibit action of which the community disapproves. That is something of which we have all been conscious, and it remains very true.
It is sometimes said that there is no evidence that hanging acts as a deterrent. I suggest that there is, and that it falls into four quite separate groups. The first is some quite objective evidence, the evidence of people who have been deterred. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) gave an example in the last debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Knox Cunningham) gave a personal example, which I am quite sure anyone who heard it must have found very moving. [Interruption.] I do not think it is a matter for mockery.
There was the case mentioned in the Report of the Royal Commission of the burglar who laid aside his jemmy rather than that he should be put in temptation. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South, in his excellent maiden speech, was disposed to dismiss that case as of no particular significance, but it was of some particular significance to one man at any rate, who lived on to old age.
139 Finally, in this class of objective evidence, there are the number of American cases mentioned by the Royal Commission where a murderer has enveigled his victim from a retentionist State to a abolitionist State. That is consistent only with the fact that the death penalty in his own State was a deterrent.
The second type of evidence on deterrence is the subjective evidence. How do we ourselves feel? Have we never, any of us, felt the sort of promptings which might lead us to take life? I do not say that any of us have gone anything like as close to it as that, but can we not imagine ourselves in that situation? Are we not quite sure that when it came to the point, if we premeditated, one of the matters that would weigh with every sane man—and it is with the sane man that we are concerned—is the fact that he must, if he commits murder and is found out, pay the supreme penalty?
The third type of evidence is something to which I have already referred in another connection. We retain capital punishment for treason under the Army Act, the Air Force Act and the Naval Discipline Act. We do so, surely, not out of revenge but because we believe that it is a deterrent.
Lastly, there is the final summing up of the Royal Commission on this matter after it had considered all the evidence. The Royal Commission said:Prima facie the death sentence is likely to have a stronger effect as a deterrent to normal human beings than any other form of punishment. There is some evidence (though no convincing statistical evidence) that this is in fact so;…
§ Mr. Simon
I will read on. It has been read many times. The Report goes on to say that this effect does not operate universally or uniformly—that is what I have said. What we are dealing with is the normal person. The Royal Commission went on to say:there are many offenders on whom the deterrent effect is limited and may often be negligible.So be it—all punishment is negligible on that type of people.It is therefore important to view the question in a just perspective"—140 that is what we all hope to do—and not to base a penal policy in relation to murder on exaggerated estimates…That point, again, has been made over and over in the debate.
One type of murderer on whom, in the nature of things, a sentence of long imprisonment cannot have the same deterrent value as capital punishment is the professional criminal faced with the prospect of life imprisonment. My hon. Friend the Member for Garston (Sir V. Raikes) was challenged as to the effect of the police evidence in this matter. He was quite correct in what he said. This is what the Royal Commission said:From them"—that is the police and prison service—we received virtually unanimous evidence in both England and Scotland to the effect that they were convinced of the uniquely deterrent value of capital punishment it its effect on professional criminals.For the professional criminal, prison is a professional risk that he takes almost every day, and those who are already serving a long sentence of imprisonment are already undergoing virtually the full rigour of what the law would impose under the Bill. For that class of person, at any rate, I suggest that capital punishment must, in the nature of things, be a stronger deterrent.
I cannot look in any detail at the arguments which have been advanced against us, but there is one, because of its strong appeal, that I should like to mention. It was one that was put by Mr. Gerald Gardiner, who is admired by those who know him as much for his matchless advocacy as for his high-mindedness in this as in so many other matters. It was put by the hon. Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) in our previous debate in a most effective speech and by the hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. G. H. R. Rogers); and it has also been put by some hon. Members this evening. It is "resist not evil," which is the basis of the case presented against us in a great many speeches. Really, that is an argument—and a powerful argument—to which we must give great weight, but it is an argument against all punishments, not an argument specifically directed against capital punishment.
The other argument in that sphere—the moral argument—which I desire to counter is the argument that the Christian 141 purpose is redemption, and that therefore one is not justified in taking human life, even that of a criminal. One does not want to treat any part of this problem with levity, but I am sure the House will remember what Dr. Johnson said in this very connection.
When he had done his utmost to save the life of Dr. Dodd, with whom he had no sympathy at all, but who lay under sentence of death, and had failed, he was told that Dr. Dodd was making a good end. He said "Depend on it, Sir, nothing concentrates a man's mind so well as the prospect of being hanged in a fortnight." There is a great deal of truth in that, and I at any rate believe that there is more chance of repentance for a man under the certainty of death than in the living death of a life imprisonment.
What, then, should we do? There is a great deal we can do to improve the law. [Interruption.] I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have consulted my hon. Friend, and I shall be perfectly fair. We can, first, as many of us have advocated, amend the law by rendering less rigorous the rule about provocation; and, secondly, we can introduce into this country the Scottish law of diminished responsibility. I believe myself that if these two things were done, we should have limited convictions for murder to those gravest cases in which public opinion and the social conscience of the community demand the supreme penalty for the gravest crime.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ Sir Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
As this may be the last speech of the debate tonight, I hope I may take this opportunity on behalf of the abolitionists to express our great gratitude to the Government for having found time for this debate, and also to the Whips, who have not in any way brought any pressure whatever upon any of us who take the view that hanging should go. Therefore, I am very grateful to them. May I pay one other tribute to my leader—the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman)—for his tenacity of purpose, his consistency and his sincerity? I shall look forward after this debate to getting back to our natural emnities.
I am certain that all of us who were in this House in the 1948 debate regretted very much at that time and still regret that the House of Lords thought fit to 142 reverse, or at any rate to hold up, our decision. That debate was memorable in the history of this great Parliament. There had been so much harshness in the world; there had been a metallic influence upon the human spirit; and yet then we found time to speak words of justice and mercy and pity—not for the murderer, but for mankind. I think myself that a great mistake was made in another place.
I at once got into trouble, because the first murderer to be reprieved was the young devil who murdered P.C. Edgar in my constituency. My constituents took up a fund of £1,000 for the widow. The House can imagine how my constituents felt towards me because of my part in that debate, but when an issue such as this confronts us we cannot be swayed by personal feelings or the personal affiliations we have and cannot avoid.
I come to the charge which has been made against me. The story is this. I spoke towards the end of the 1948 debate. I described to the House an event which had occurred many years before, when on the afternoon following the execution of Edith Thompson two men who said they were warders from the prison came to the news room. It was an exciting scene. The whole of England had been moved by this terrible thing which had happened. Those men told me that what had happened at the execution was too terrible to describe. It may have been that they were suffering from hysteria. That is quite possible. I formed the opinion that they were two warders who had taken part in the execution. Apparently, I was wrong in that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am not attempting to deny it. However, they were undoubtedly members of the prison staff. In the debate in 1948 I told that story; it was part of my speech.
Four or five days later I got a letter from Sir John Anderson—Lord Waverley, as he now is—who himself had been Home Secretary. He enclosed a letter from one of the warders who had actually taken part in the execution of Edith Thompson. The letter said that neither he nor his pal—that was the word used—had come to the Daily Express office to talk, and that my description was completely incorrect. According to him the execution was a credit to everybody concerned; it went smoothly, and according 143 to plan; and, including the doomed woman herself, everything was as it should have been.
Sir John then said in the letter that he intended to raise this matter in the House. This was in 1948, and these were events of long years before, and it was a little awkward. On the day Sir John was going to raise it, and just before the House sat, I met a very high personage in our party—very high indeed. He told me "Anderson is not going to raise this matter." I was very glad to hear it. Anderson did not raise it. But now, when those articles came out in the Observer recently, and quoted what was said in that debate, there has come in reply another letter from Lord Waverley, saying that he would raise it in another place, and he did. I stood at a respectful distance and listened to what he had to say. I think, however, that in delaying it for eight years it was a rather remarkable example of what one might call impetuosity under control.
I do not want to labour too long on this Edith Thompson case, and yet what I am now going to say has something in it of very great importance to us all. There was another person present at the execution, and of that there is no doubt—the executioner himself, a man called Ellis. He committed suicide. The Rochdale correspondent of the Daily Express was a close personal friend of this man. He wrote an article from which I should like to quote. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] This is from the Daily Express of 21st December, 1932. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is not my fault that we are going back on this thing. I believe that reading these extracts brings the whole matter up to date.
The correspondent wrote:John Ellis, for twenty-three years public hangman and responsible for the death of 200 persons was found dead in his home…One of the last executions he carried out was the hanging of Mrs. Thompson, who, with the youth By waters, was condemned to death for the murder of her husband. After the execution, it was stated, Ellis informed a warder that he would never again hang a woman. When I interviewed him at the time, on behalf of the Daily Express, he would neither confirm nor deny the report, but later informed me that it was true, as the ordeal had been a terrible one. Ellis afterwards was a bundle of nerves and, in 1924, he retired, and told me it was on account of not being able to sleep as a result of hanging Mrs. Thompson. 'I cannot 144 tell you how really horrible it was,' he repeated. 'My nerves have all gone.'This was borne out by the fact that he committed suicide not long afterwards.
I ask the Home Secretary, can we not have the full facts? I do not believe for one minute that this House has been given the information which is available. That is all that I have to say on that point, and I hope that Lord Waverley is now satisfied.
I think that we would all agree that the great struggles in human life are not between right and wrong but between right and partially wrong. That is why civil wars are so deadly in their character. We who want to do away with hanging have not all the justice on our side or all the arguments. Nor is it true of those who want to retain hanging. I must confess that when I look at Western Germany—a country great in bestial cruelty—where not so long ago we had the terrible exhibition of the concentration camps—and somebody says, "No, it is not true of Nazi Germany, history is a liar", yet I find that Western Germany finds it possible to do away with hanging.
Are we so debased in this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that hon. Members in this House take the view that they cannot show the same trust as the Government of Western Germany? I think that is a very fair case to take. I think that it shows the error of their ways.
The charge is made against us that we are the emotionalists and that the retentionists are the realists. I think that the very opposite is the case. We want to do away with the sordid glamour of the murder trial and the mediaeval horror of the gallows.
I am trying to apply logic now and, as I said before, it is the others who are emotional. We want to close the doors for ever to the hall of fame that is created by the murder trial. Once a man commits murder and is tried on that charge, if he cannot hang that is the end of all the sordid sensationalism. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] It is the gamble with death that makes the drama. Everyone today over the age of fifteen or sixteen knows of Crippin, Ruth Ellis, Thompson and so on, but ask him who Nurse Cavell is and he will not know. It is because under our system we give to 145 these murderers publicity and immortality which is only made possible through their trial and eventual execution—
§ Mr. C. Pannell
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member who is addressing the House is being subjected to great disorderliness by the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie), who is sitting immediately behind him, and who is considered, in Parliamentary language, to be his hon. Friend. He is doing it behind the body of the hon. Member who is addressing the House, so that you cannot hear him and cannot see him. May I ask you to call him to order?
§ Mr. Speaker
If I heard anything disorderly I should soon call on the hon. Member to keep order, but I heard nothing disorderly. I hope that hon. Members will conclude this debate, which has been a good one, with due decorum.
§ Sir B. Baxter
I was describing—[Interruption.] Mr. Speaker, I am sorry if you cannot hear me. I should like to make my case. The other side must have a pretty poor case if—[Interruption.] Mr. Speaker, I have said that we want to do away with the glamour, excitement and immortality of the murderer. It has been said that I am a servant of Lord Beaver-brook. I regret to say that I do not draw any money of any kind from Lord Beaver-brook, except now and then on a caprice.
Sometimes we have to look back for a moment to find where we lost our way. A hundred years ago an old accountant whose wife was very sick forged a cheque for £14 to buy medicine. He was sentenced to death. I know there will be
§ groan—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sentiment."] I do not see anything sentimental about sentencing a man to death for that. The case went before the Home Secretary and many people before their time, many reformers in front of public opinion, said to the Home Secretary, "You must not hang this man." The Home Secretary was a good man and he said, "I could not face my conscience or my God if this man did not hang."
§ We look back and say that that was a hundred years ago and of course things were different. Let us look forward one hundred years. A hundred years from now these debates will be studied and there will be read the speeches of those who have argued that the only way we can preserve our civilisation is by choking a man to death by order of the law. I say that we have logic with us and we have history with us. I need not very much more detain the House.
§ Those of us who go to the seaside have all seen the tide coming in. One wave goes so far and the other waves go just the same distance. And then for some reason, some supercharged wave goes further than the others have gone. The other waves follow and that is how the tide comes in. That is how reforms come. I believe that tonight is a moment of history in this country. I believe it sincerely. I believe the wave is coming in further than the waves have come before. In conclusion, I say that the abolition of the death penalty I am sure will come, if not tonight, then tomorrow; if not tomorrow, yet it will come. I hope with all my heart that it will come tonight.
§ Question put accordingly, That "now" stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 286, Noes 262.151
|Division No. 119.]||AYES||[9.54 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Awbery, S. S.||Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)|
|Albu, A. H.||Baoon, Miss Alice||Benson, G.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Baird, J.||Beswick, F.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Balniel, Lord||Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bartley, P.||Blenkinsop, A.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Baxter, Sir Beverley||Blyton, W. R.|
|Anderson, Frank||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Boardman, H.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Body, R. F.|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Houghton, Douglas||Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Parker, J.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Paton, J.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pearson, A.|
|Brookway, A. F.||Hunter, A. E.||Peart, T. F.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hyde, Montgomery||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Burke, W. A.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Irving, S. (Dartford)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Popplewell, E.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Janner, B.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Carmichael, J.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)||Probert, A. R.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Clunie, J.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Coldrick, W.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Randall, H. E.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Rankin, John|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Reeves, J.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Reid, William|
|Cove, W. C.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Keegan, D.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Cronin, J. D.||Kenyon, C.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Kershaw, J. A.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Daines, P.||King, Dr. H. M.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Ross, William|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lawson, G. M.||Royle, C.|
|Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement (Montgomery)||Leather, E. H. C.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Ledger, R. J.||Short, E. w.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lee, Frederick (Newtown)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Deer, G.||Lewis, Arthur||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lindgren, G. S.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lipton, Lt-Col. M.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Slater, J. (Sedge field)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Dye, S.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Snow, J. W.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacColl, J. E.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Edelman, M.||McGhee, H. G.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||McGovern, J.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McInnes, J.||Steele, T.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McLeavy, Frank||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs, Evelyn||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Maddan, Martin||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mahon, Simon||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Summer skill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Finch, H.J.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Foster, John||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mason, Roy||Teeling, W.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mathew, R.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Mayhew, C. P.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mellish, R. J.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Messer, Sir F.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Gower, H. R.||Mitchison, G. R.||Thornton, E.|
|Green, A.||Monslow, W.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mort, D. L.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Grey, C. F.||Moss, R.||Viant, S. P.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Moyle, A.||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mulley, F. W.||Wade, D. W.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Neal, Harold (Bolsolver)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Grimond, J.||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Hale, Leslie||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Weitzman, D.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hannan, W.||Oliver, G. H.||West, D. G.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Oram, A. E.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Orbach, M.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Hastings, S.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Wigg, George|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Oswald, T.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Owen, W. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Padley, W. T.||Willey, Frederick|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Paget, R. T.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Holman, P.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Holmes, Horace||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Holt, A. F.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Winterbottom, Richard||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Kenneth Robinson and Mr. Kirk.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Godber, J. B.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Aitken, W. T.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Cough, C. F. H.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Grant, W. (Woodside)||Macpherson, Neill (Dumfries)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Ashton, H.||Gresham Cooke, R.||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Marples, A. E.|
|Barber, Anthony||Harrison, J, (Nottingham, N.)||Marshall, Douglas|
|Barlow, Sir John||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.|
|Barter, John||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Mawby, R. L.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Harvie-Watt Sir George||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Hay, John||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter|
|Black, C. W.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Moody, A. S.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Boyd, T. C.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Neave, Airey|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hobson, C. R.||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Bryan, P.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hope, Lord John||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Horobin, Sir Ian||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridge shire)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Campbell, Sir David||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Osborne, C.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Howard, John (Test)||Page, R. G.|
|Channon, H.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, W.)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Partridge, E.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pott, H. P.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hurd, A. R.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Crouch, R. F.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Iremonger, T. L.||Redmayne, M.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruisllp—Northwood)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Kaberry, D.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Russell, R. S.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kimball, M.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|du Cann, E. D, L.||Lagden, G. W.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lambert, Hon. G.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Duncan, Capt, J. A. L.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Sharpies, R. C.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Leavey, J. A.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Leburn, W. G.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Warwick & L'm'tn)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Peters field)||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Speir, R. M.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Farey-Jones, P. W.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Fell, A.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Fisher, Nigel||Logan, D. G.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lucas, P. B. (Brent ford & Chiswick)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||McAdden, S. J.||Storey, S.|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Freeth, D. K.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Studholme, H. G.|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||McKibbin, A. J.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Glover, D.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.||Whitelaw, W.S.I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Thompson, Lt-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)||Vosper, D. F.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.||Wakefield, Edward, (Derbyshire, W.)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Wall, Major Patrick||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Touche, Sir Gordon||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Turner, H. F. L.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Turner-Samuels, M.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C,|
|Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Tweedsmuir, Lady||Webbe, Sir H.||Sir Robert Grimston and|
|Vane, W. M. F.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre.|
Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. S. Silverman.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.