HC Deb 04 February 1965 vol 705 cc1260-1
12. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received from the Police Officers' Association in regard to the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill; what extra protection he proposes to provide for police officers whilst on duty; and if he will make a statement.

Sir F. Soskice

The Police Federation have represented to me that capital punishment should be retained for the murder of a police officer acting in the execution of his duty or of any person coming to his assistance. With regard to extra protection, I am satisfied that other penalties which are available to the courts for attacks on police officers whilst on duty are adequate.

Sir C. Osborne

May I ask two simple questions? First, what answer has the right hon. and learned Gentleman given to the police on their first request? Secondly, does he think it fair to the police officers that they should risk their lives trying to protect civilians and that the Government should not give them the protection to which they think they are entitled? Does he not think that the present action is unfair to police officers?

Sir F. Soskice

The answer which I give was that in the opinion which I have formed and in any advice which I should tender on any necessary occasion it was not desirable or in the public interest to retain the death penalty for the purpose indicated. I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by so doing. If we start retaining the death penalty for individual types of murder, we are back to where we were in the Homicide Act, 1957.

Mr. Rees-Davies

In the light of the very great increase in gangsterism, particularly in the protection racket, and more particularly in the London area, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider reviewing whether police officers ought not to carry some sort of offensive weapon, even if not guns, having regard to the very substantial and striking increase in crimes of violence?

Sir F.. Soskice

To begin with, I do not accept that the rise in the number of crimes of violence is so striking. It fluctuates. Secondly, I am certain that public opinion at large and police opinion is very much against police officers being armed in general. I think that it puts them in a very invidious position if they are armed and that it is in the general interest that they should be regarded as other citizens and treated and respected as such.

Sir C. Osborne

On a point of order. May I, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, give notice that I shall raise the matter at the earliest moment on the Adjournment?