§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
I beg to move,That this House, whilst recognising that the decision on the future of capital punishment must be a matter for individual Members, deplores Her Majesty's Government's action in asking Parliament to reach a conclusion on the question of the continuance of the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 at an unnecessarily early stage, in disregard of the will and intention of Parliament as declared in that Act, and declines to come to a decision on it until after the publication of all available and relevant statistics covering the full year 1969.Before I outline the reasons which have led my right hon. Friends and myself to put down this Motion for debate, I should inform the House that I have received a message from the Home Secretary that, although he intends this evening to wind up the debate, he finds himself unable to be present during the earlier part of this afternoon.
§ Mr. Hogg
I recognise that Ministers have difficult decisions to take and, therefore, do not reproach the right hon. Gentleman for his absence. Nevertheless, I personally regret it, for obvious reasons, since I would far rather say what I have to say this afternoon in his presence than in his absence, although I am quite sure that the hon. Lady the Minister of State will pass on anything J may say to her right hon. Friend.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mrs. Shirley Williams)
May I explain that the Home Secretary is at present in attendance upon a member of the Royal Family and that he expects to be in the House in about five minutes' time. He is extremely apologetic that there has been some delay.
§ Mr. Hogg
I am obliged for what the hon. Lady has said. I knew the character of the Home Secretary's engagement, since it was on the one o'clock news, but I did not feel at liberty to make any comment because, obviously, attendance on the Royal Family is not a matter that we discuss in this House. What led the right hon. Gentleman, rather than the Secretary of State for Wales, to go to Glamorgan, is not within my personal knowledge.
940 Most hon. Members who have felt that they might take part in today's and tomorrow's debate will have followed the weekend Press. I noticed that it was extremely willing to attribute motives, not perhaps of the highest character, to both the Government and Opposition Front Benches; to the Government a desire to dodge what, it alleged, they knew to be public opinion, and to the Opposition a desire to cash in on what, it alleged, we knew to be public opinion.
For my part, I do not intend or desire to attribute motives, other than perfectly proper ones, to the occupants of the Front Bench opposite, and I trust that they will not attribute motives, other than perfectly proper ones, to me. I sincerely regret the difference which has broken out between us. I have never sought to derive any party advantage from the emotional overtones of what, to me, is a painful but an absolutely necessary subject for discussion. When the vote on the merits of the matter comes tomorrow, it will be, certainly on this side of the House, and, I believe, on the benches opposite, too, an absolutely free vote.
I will comment on only one observation in the weekend Press. If I were to attribute—and I expressly said that I would not—to hon. Gentlemen opposite the motive which it did, I should find it utterly impossible to justify that motive, as the Observer sought to justify it, as an example of leadership.
This is an occasion on which it is at least possible that hon. Members may find themselves at odds with what may be the majority opinion in the country. I have always justified the right of hon. Members here to vote in accordance with their consciences, whatever their consciences may direct them to do. But if I had thought, as the newspaper apparently did, that the Government had been actuated by a desire to dodge or duck public opinion by snatching an early decision for that purpose, then I should have found it impossible to justify such a decision on grounds of policy, or, least of all, on grounds of leadership.
While we are free to express our votes in accordance with our consciences, the public have every right to bring every measure of pressure to bear on us to alter our opinions. Thus, any attempt to bypass public opinion would, at any rate 941 in my judgment, be an absolutely contemptible thing to do.
However much I may have regretted the need to table the Motion before the House, I feel absolutely no doubt as to the propriety of our having done so, for what we are discussing today is not motives, but actions and potential consequences. We are discussing not the death penalty itself—that will be the subject of tomorrow's debate—but a question of constitutional propriety which we believe deserves the attention of Parliament.
As soon as it became rumoured in the Press that the Government were contemplating the action which they have subsequently taken—to seek a decision from Parliament before Christmas—I became aware—I want the House to know this—that there was an absolutely spontaneous outburst of indignation from my party. This indignation was not confined to those who wished to restore or retain the death penalty as part of our penal system. It extended to every known supporter of abolition that I know, and it was, as far as I can tell, absolutely unanimous.
I say frankly that I think that I would have been doing less than my duty if I had not seen to it that the Government became aware of the feeling among my hon. Friends. It would not, of course, be proper for me to discuss in any way the private communications which may or may not have passed between me and members of the Government. However, so much importance did we attach to this particular aspect of the matter that my hon. Friends and I thought it right to table a Motion on 26th November, before the Government could have committed themselves to their present decision, the object of which was to make it known to both Parliament and the world that we would regard the snatching of a decision in this matter as one of constitutional impropriety.
We tabled a Motion in virtually the same terms and reflecting the same attitude as that contained in the Motion before the House today. When the Government took their decision—which they announced only eight days ago—they must have known that there would be a sharp reaction from the Opposition; they must have known full well that they were courting a censure Motion. We tabled the Motion precisely because we 942 wished to avoid this situation arising. And if it has arisen, it has done so because the Government chose, as they were entitled to do, to court such a reaction as we have shown.
The reason for the censure can be stated in a sentence. It is precisely because we regard the question of the death penalty as a matter for the individual conscience and on which the House of Commons may very well prove itself to be out of tune with a considerable body of public opinion, that we felt, and we think now, that when a decision is reached, it should be reached in a way to ensure that it has the maximum moral authority behind it.
This means that hon. Members should have available to them the maximum amount of information and argumentation, in the shape of statistics or facts, to enable them to make up their minds. This should happen at a time and in conditions in which the feelings of minorities, of dissidents and of doubters as to the methods of handling the question—as well as of what might turn out to be the opinion of the majority of the public outside—have been carefully taken into account.
Instead of that, which we had hoped would take place, the Government have deliberately chosen to attempt a snatched decision after only eight days' public notice, not only before the 1969 figures are available and not only before the five-year period provided by the 1965 Statute is nearly concluded, but during the last few days before we rise for Christmas.
So adamant have the Government been that we were told that they would not even contemplate postponing the debate until January. We regard this as indecent haste to dispose of a very grave matter. We regard it as an affront to Parliament. We regard it, above all, as a breach of faith with our constituents and as an outrage to the consciences of the minority opinion in this House in so far as hon. Members may desire further information before they can make up their own minds.
We are led to believe that the objective of the Government is to try to divorce this subject from the emotional atmosphere of an election in a year in which it is not impossible and perhaps probable that a General Election will take place. If that was their intention, it was laudable. It 943 is an intention and an objective which I would have shared with them. But I can only say that, if that was their intention, it was a very remarkable decision for them to have taken because in doing so, as I have attempted to show, they have deliberately courted a vote of censure.
The Government have ensured that the decision, if taken tomorrow, will command the minimum moral authority, either in this House or in the country; they have violated and antagonised the consciences of those who do not wish to make up their minds except in the light of the 1969 figures; and they have, above all, made it quite certain that, whatever we do or say today and tomorrow, the matter will be and must become an election issue, because, whatever we may do or say today and tomorrow, it is certain that dissident opinion in the country will canvass the views of every candidate and, quite legitimately, demand to know where he or she may stand upon the matter.
The Government have also made it absolutely certain that, if not from the Front Benches at least from the back benches of the next Parliament, an attempt will be made to alter the decision, whichever way it goes. That is what the Government have done in an attempt to divorce this question from party politics. I can only say that, although I share their objective, I regard the particular terms in which they have made their decision as an almost unexampled case of governmental incompetence.
It is said, secondly, by way of defence for what is proposed that the 1969 figures will make no difference; alternatively, that the 1969 figures will not be ready in time; alternatively, that the 1969 figures, if ready in time, will then be subject to revision. I cannot regard with seriousness these alternative pleadings. I believe that the figures will be available by March and that they will be sufficiently accurate to be at least informative. Moreover, if the method of computation adopted by Blom-Coopen and Morris is taken up—and it is at least as reputable as, if not a superior method to, the method of computation used by the Home Office—the figures available in March will be a little better than that, because they will be better than the revised figures the Home Office will subsequently produce.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say how far he believes that there are right hon and hon Members in the House who would decide their vote on the basis of the 1969 figures? Would not he agree that virtually everyone in the House has already made up his or her mind on the figures already available?
§ Mr. Hogg
I can testify that the hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I was about to come to this point.
What appears to me conclusive on this aspect of the case is not the issue whether the 1969 figures will be significant or decisive, but the fact, which I know to be true, that, in both Houses, there are a large number of responsible persons who do not wish to make up their minds until these figures are available to them.
I can quite understand that many people will not be influenced by these figures. The out-and-out abolitionists to whom the death penalty is inherently wrong will not be influenced by them, and no doubt the dedicated supporters of the death penalty will not be influenced by the figures either, whatever they may be. But a very large number of hon. Members and people outside are sincerely disturbed about the matter, and even those who may think they know what their decision will be, but may wish to delay their final decision until the full information is available.
I must say to the Government that it is one of the decisive differences between the two sides of the House that, in a matter of this kind, in which the public take such a decided view and in which hon. Members desire to vote in accordance with their consciences, not merely that the Government should have overridden our request but should have taken no account of the minority position in Parliament, if it be a minority position. Above all in a matter of this kind, the minority should have been considered and their consciences taken account of.
The only other argument I have seen apart from the two I have mentioned is that the alternative to permanent abolition is a revival of the status quo under the 1957 Act. Occasionally, this argument is bolstered by the covert suggestion that the Home Secretary might resign if he is not given his way in this 945 matter. The last thing I want to do is to suggest that the Home Secretary should resign separately from the rest of his colleagues, but there really can be nothing in this argumentation at all for the purpose of the debate.
Tomorrow, if I am lucky enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, I shall state reasons why I do not regard the 1957 position as a feasible alternative, but whatever can be said about the position of the 1957 Act and the status quo under it it can be no reason for taking a decision now, just before Christmas, rather than in March, when the figures are available, or even closer to the time, after they have been properly assessed, when the five-year period is at an end.
Nothing could be more startling than the fact that the admirable study, of which most hon. Members have no doubt now received copies, by Blom-Cooper and Morris should have had to be rushed round the House three days before we embark upon the decision and after a somewhat undignified dispute as to whether some of the tables in it have been attempted to be suppressed by the Home Office. A study of this kind was designed, as was claimed, to influence the debate, but although many of us will have read it, and with appreciation, few of us could claim fully to have digested its contents in three days.
The fact is that the 1957 Act has nothing whatever to do with our debate today, because even if the decision were not capable, as it clearly is, of being deferred until March or May, it is clear enough from the most superficial examination of public opinion on this problem that the real alternatives before Parliament and the country are not those between a revival of the 1957 Act and complete abolition, which is the dilemma proposed, but those between some form of restoration of capital penalty otherwise than the 1957 Act and abolition.
I can tell the House from my own researches, at least on my side of the House and in some quarters outside it—and I have done my best to ascertain opinion not only in the House, but outside it, and not only in the public at large, but among experts—that the proposal put forward by The Times in its leading article this morning, that a wiser course than an immediate and conclusive 946 decision before July would be a prolongation of the period provided by the Act, has respectable authority behind it.
I say no more than that, at any rate today, nor did I wish today to enter into the controversy between lawyers whether that can be done by a Resolution of the House or whether it requires a one-Clause Act of Parliament to achieve it. If Parliament wished to take that course before July it would be open to Parliament to do so. If Parliament decided to express its opinion in that sense I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and his Minister of State that they would have my complete support in proposing whatever measures they might wish to put forward in support of such a proposal.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I should like to understand the position. There seems to be an assumption that any decision of this House is binding on Parliaments for ever. Is it not the case that at any time that the need arose Parliament could introduce fresh legislation to enforce capital punishment? What is all the fuss about?
§ Mr. Hogg
I have been trying to explain what the fuss is about. It is a question of constitutional propriety as to whether a decision should be snatched after only eight days' notice and without sufficient discussion. To answer the right hon. Gentleman's first question, I have never denied—I thought that I had made this plain—that it would be perfectly possible for subsequent Parliaments to reverse the decision of the present Parliament.
I intended tomorrow to say—and perhaps I may still say it, Mr. Speaker, if I catch your eye; and I should like to say very shortly today for the right hon. Gentleman—that more important than the question of abolition or retention or restoration, whichever we choose to call it, is the need to avoid a see-saw between the two. Ever since I have been responsible as spokesman for one of the parliamentary parties on home affairs, more important than the question of retention or abolition has been the thought, which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will carry into the debate tomorrow, that although some people wish to restore capital punishment and some wish to 947 abolish it, nobody wants to see-saw between the two, for that would be the one intolerable alternative.
I believe that the method taken by the Government is precisely the way most likely to achieve that result. However, I do not wish to pursue the right hon. Gentleman's question more deeply, because it would bring me into the debate which we shall hold tomorrow.
I conclude simply by saying to the House, and, in particular, to the Government, that the more I reflect upon this matter the more I am convinced that what divides us today, as distinct from what may divide us tomorrow, is a question not about the death penalty, but about the nature of the parliamentary process. I have spent nearly half my parliamentary life on the Opposition bench. I have reached the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that what divides the Labour Party from the Conservative Party and, I hope, from the Liberal Party—although it is no part of my function to speak for hon. Members of the Liberal Party, either of them—is the belief of which the Labour Party somehow cannot rid itself that Parliament is an instrument simply for registering the opinions and decisions of majorities, taken in advance and outside Parliament, individually in the case of votes about matters of private conscience and collectively in the case of party votes.
We, on the other hand, and, I hope, the Liberal Party, too, think of Parliament in quite a different light. We think of it as a forum for discussion which is just as much judged by the consideration which it gives minorities and the process by which it arrives at conclusions as it is by the hard figures of the Division Lobby. We regard it as in the nature of Parliament that after debate majority opinion must prevail, but we consider it equally important that before the Division occurs account is taken of the consciences and opinions of minorities, the views of persons outside the House and the weight of argument. That is what divides us today.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams rose—948
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I have not called the hon. and learned Member. Is he rising to a point of order?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member may not address the House unless he has caught the eye of Mr. Speaker, or unless he is rising on a point of order.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport (Knutsford)
On a point of order. How many words has the hon. Lady to speak before my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ruislip-North-wood (Mr. Crowder) can intervene?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport), too, must be patient. He will learn the answer in time.
§ Mr. Crowder rose—
§ Mr. Crowder
On a point of order. Before the debate proceeds, as it is on a question of figures, I ask, through you, Mr. Speaker, that two sets of figures be made available to the House for the debate. I want to know how many police n officers have been shot at and missed during the past four years and, equally, as a matter of statistics—and we are concerned with statistics—I want to know how many people have been killed during the last four years as a result of t crimes of violence. These are two figures which the Home Office can produce and these are matters about which I should have interrupted the hon. Lady, whose constituent I am, but as I was not allowed to raise the matter in that way, I do it in this way.
§ Mr. Speaker
The point has been made that the debate would go better if certain statistics were provided by the Government. That is a matter for the Government and not for Mr. Speaker.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mrs. Shirley Williams)
I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder)—my constituent—is fully aware that this censure Motion is not concerned with statistics about capital punishment. His point would be better made on another occasion.
I now turn to the debate before the House today, on the censure Motion. There is always room to debate the timing of any piece of Government business, and we can hold different views on the timing of the Motion to abolish capital punishment. But instead of putting forward any such arguments when the substantive Motion is debated the Opposition have, rather oddly, chosen to elevate the matter of timing to the importance of a censure Motion. I will charitably assume—since the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said that he was making charitable assumptions—that the Opposition are not inspired by political motives and that right hon. Gentlemen opposite really do believe that some fundamental constitutional issue is at stake. But though I have listened with close attention, as indeed I always do, to what the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone has had to say, I simply cannot discover what the issue of principle on constitutional importance is.
Let me consider, first, the wording of the Act itself. Section 4 reads:This Act shall continue in force until the thirty-first day of July, 1970, and shall then expire unless Parliament by affirmative resolutions of both Houses otherwise determines".Whatever the intentions of Lord Brooke of Cumnor, then the right hon. Member for Hampstead, may have been, the wording of the Act means exactly what it says. If Parliament were to determine otherwise, the Act would not expire. And it would only be the case that the Act did not expire if it were made permanent before 31st July, 1970. The Act, however, does not say when Parliament shall determine what to do about the Act.
The abolition Act certainly does not mention a five-year trial period, for the very good reason that it could not do so, for the 1965 Act received its Royal Assent on 8th November, 1965, and came into force the following day, 9th Novem- 950 ber. It expires—unless the necessary Resolutions are carried in both Houses—on 31st July, 1970. So the total period for which the Act can run, even supposing that the debates on the Resolutions were left to the last possible day—which surely no one would seriously argue—is not five years; it is rather less than four years and nine months. This means that Parliament could never have made its mind up on the basis of five years' figures during which capital punishment was abolished, for, as we all know, on and from 31st July, 1970 the Homicide Act, 1957, with its limited death penalty provisions, automatically revives, unless Parliament otherwise decides.
It is true that when he moved his original Amendment on 26th May, 1965, the then right hon. Member for Hampstead referred to a five-year trial period, but the time the Act took to pass through all its stages has from the outset made so long a trial period a mathematical impossibility. The Amendment was not written into the Bill by its sponsor, nor by the Government; indeed, the then Home Secretary was very critical of it. It was eventually reluctantly accepted by Sydney Silverman. What is strange, however, is that those who so strongly advocated a five-year trial did not put down an Amendment at a later stage making the terminal date 31st December, 1970, for, since the Bill did not even get its Second Reading in another place until 20th July, 1965, it was evident well before the Bill became law that if the terminal date were not delayed there could not be a five-year trial period. However, no such Amendment was put down, though there was ample time for anyone in another place who believed that the principle of a five-year trial period was important, to do so.
I have pointed out already that the intentions behind Lord Brooke's 1965 Amendment could not in any case be satisfied, but this leaves us with the further issue, whether it is wrong for the Government to ask the House to make up its mind on the basis of three years' figures rather than four. It has been argued that the House should make up its mind after Easter, when it will have the final 1969 murder figures, and not now. A number of newspapers including The Times, have echoed this argument, suggesting that after Easter would be 951 time enough for right hon. and hon. Members to reach a decision.
Before coming to the specific matter of the figures, I would like to remind the House just how much time and thought has been given to this single issue—so much, indeed, that the addition of one more year's figures would not, one would think, add very much to the sum of our knowledge. It was more than a century ago—1864—that the Royal Commission which considered the death penalty first put forward a case for the abolition of capital punishment. Recognising, however, that public opinion did not favour such a radical change, the Commission recommended that there should be categories of murder, some to be punished by hanging and others not. But the climate of opinion, in the House as well as outside it, was slow to change. It was in 1948 that the House first carried an Amendment to the Criminal Justice Act of that year, abolishing capital punishment for five years. The Amendment was turned down by another place.
In February, 1956, the House debated a Motion by the Government of the day to the effect that the death penalty should be retained but the law varied; however, on a free vote, an Amendment by the late Chuter Ede was carried, calling for the abolition of the death penalty. Later in 1956, an abolition Bill was moved by Sydney Silverman, and once again carried by this House. In Committee a wide range of Amendments was put forward, retaining capital punishment for one kind of murder or another; yet all but one of these amendments was defeated, and that one Amendment retained capital punishment for one circumstance only, which was for a person already serving a life sentence.
However, the Bill was lost in another place.
The Homicide Act, which abolished capital punishment for most, but not all, murders, was the unhappy result of a compromise between this House and that other place. The attempt made in that Act to distinguish between different types of murder had been dismissed as impossible long before the Homicide Bill was introduced. The Royal Commission on Capital Punishment had given its view three years earlier, in 1953:We began our inquiry"—952 the Commissioners wrote in their report—with the determination to make every effort to see whether we could succeed where so many had failed, and discover some effective method of classifying murders so as to confine the death penalty to the more heinous".The Commission went on to say:We conclude with regret that the object of our quest is chimerical and must be abandoned".It was small wonder that in its summary the Commission declared that the real issue was whether capital punishment should be retained or abolished.
The Homicide Act, which was an evasion of that wise advice, was disliked by almost everyone. The attempt to distinguish one murder from another led to anomalies which were impossible to defend. The sort of murder which arouses the utmost horror in all of us—the murder of a child, or murder following a brutal sexual assault—did not incur the supreme penalty. The Act distinguished between murders in terms of the weapons used. The murderer who shot his victim might be condemned to death, but the murderer who stabbed his victim, or who poisoned him, escaped the supreme penalty. It is this Act that would come back into force if the Motion before the House tomorrow were not passed, and it is this Act which might come back if this House refused to consider the whole question until the abolition Act was on the point of expiring.
I hope that I have made the point that the House has discussed the issue of capital punishment over many years. It has been able to consider the effect during the period in which capital punishment was suspended; the period in which it was abolished; the period in which it operated over the whole range of murders, and the period in which an attempt was made at distinguishing between different categories of murder. It has also had the recently published report, from the Statistical Division of the Home Office, of murders from 1957 to 1968, which contained a full study of murder statistics over that 12-year period, up to and including 1968.
In short, I find it very hard to take seriously the claim made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the House still does not have enough factual knowledge or the benefit of enough 953 thought and research to enable it to make up its mind once and for all, having already done so, if I may say so, on three separate occasions over the last 20 years.
The Opposition ask: why now? Why not after Easter? Perhaps I may be allowed to answer in some detail. If the House insists on waiting for the 1969 figures, it might well be attempting to legislate on this important issue only a few days before the expiry of the abolition Act. It would be trying to do so at the end of a Session, when pressure on parliamentary time is at its most acute and when it would be difficult to guarantee that a Motion would have time to pass through both Houses. It would be, I suggest, unfair to the House, and unfair to those who have to administer the legislation we here determine, to engage in such totally unnecessary brinkmanship on what is literally a life and death issue.
Obviously, these serious disadvantages might be set aside if there were, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to believe, reason to think that we would be much better informed as a result of delay. But what does the House hope to learn from the 1969 figures? Do right hon. and hon. Members opposite really suppose that one more year's worth of figures, which are very likely to be inconclusive, will be able to influence in any substantial way how the House votes tomorrow? For, of course, the figures of murder and the rates of murder fluctuate from one year to another. In 1968, as in 1957, the murder rate was relatively high, at 3 per million people per year. In 1966, as in 1958, the murder rate was unusually low, at only 2.5 per million people per year. Yet in each of those former years capital punishment had been abolished, and in each of those latter years the Homicide Act obtained.
Mr. Ian Mac Arthur (Perth and East Perthshire)
Is the hon. Lady including in the figures she has just given to the House the Scottish figures, which showed a very different trend from those for England?
§ Mrs. Williams
The figures I have given are those that are given in the Home Office report which is before me and, if I may say so, the points about the figures can be debated tomorrow. My 954 point is the fluctuation that occurs in the murder rate.
Those newspapers which suggest—
§ Mr. Hogg rose—
§ Mrs. Williams
I am sorry, but I am not giving way again-[Interruption.] If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to finish the sentence, I will give way then, but not until then. I was about to say that I find the right hon. and learned Gentleman's emphasis on one year's figures very hard to understand, because I believe that he knows as well as I do the way in which figures fluctuate and the way in which one year's figures very rarely bear out any decisive trend.
§ Mr. Hogg
But surely the Minister of State, even though she has understandably prepared very full notes, can spare a moment to answer the very courteous point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur), whether the figures she is quoting are those for England and Wales or whether they include Scotland. It really is not impossible to be polite.
§ Mrs. Williams
The right hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friend, can, presumably, read the title of the report as well as I can, and will be quite clear that it refers to the figures for England and Wales. There is an annex to the report concerning the Scottish figures, but we are not now debating the figures for Scotland, on which there is an Amendment tabled to tomorrow's Motion.
§ Mr. MacArthur
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The report to which the hon. Lady refers includes a section on Scottish figures. It is surely only reasonable that the House should know whether or not the figures she is now presenting in this most important speech include those Scottish figures.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
That is not a point of order. The hon. Gentleman should not enter the debate under the guise of a point of order.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Is my hon. Friend aware that this reference to Scottish figures is a red herring, because when capital punishment was in full bloom we went as long as 15 years in Scotland without hanging anyone?
§ Mrs. Williams
I thank my right hon. Friend. To make the position 100 per cent, clear, may I say that there is a section dealing with Scottish figures, but I have been quoting from the main report, which is concerned with murder figures for England and Wales. I hope that that point is now quite clear.
Those newspapers which suggested that the Motion be taken after Easter were understandably vague: after Easter can mean from April onwards. But we will, in fact, know very little more about the final murder statistics in April than we do now, for the statistics of murder cannot be finalised until every case in which murder is alleged to have taken place in a given year has been considered and ruled on by the courts.
Some people accused of murder are acquitted; some are found guilty of manslaughter. We cannot know the figures until every case has been heard and every appeal has been settled. For example, in 1968 the number of deaths still classified as murder at the end of the year was 203, but the final figure for that year, and quoted in the Home Office report, is 148—and even that figure is subject to further minor adjustment.
The rate of passage of cases through the courts is such that a comparable figure for one year's murders is not available until well into the summer of the following year. This year, my right hon. Friend first announced the figures on 9th June, when there were still five cases outstanding. My information is that next year the process is likely to be certainly no quicker because of the delays in the courts of which many right hon. and hon. and learned Gentlemen are very familiar. Therefore, it is unlikely that final figures can be put before the House until July. There is nothing new about this situation. The practice of announcing murder figures on a "latest corrected" basis has operated for many years. Certainly, nothing was said during the debates on Mr. Silverman's Bill to suggest that before the expiry date murder figures for the preceding year, or indeed for any specific period of years, would be available.
I should like to make one additional point. Final figures for murder, which had not been subjected to the careful analysis given to the figures for the 956 period 1957–68 and appearing in the report which hon. Members now have, will not, in any case, be of very great use to the House. It is hard to believe that a bare figure—148, or 152, or 130, or 160—will tell the House much that it does not already know, and there is no prospect whatsoever of the final figures being analysed before the abolition Act expires.
One other argument has been mentioned with regard to this matter—
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen) rose—
§ Mrs. Williams
I am sorry, but I have passed on, and cannot give way now.
As I was saying, one other argument has been mentioned with regard to this matter, although it has not, I am glad to say, been put forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It is that it is quite wrong to take the Motion now instead of leaving it until nearer the time of a General Election. I shall not be drawn into an argument about whether putting the Motion off until next summer would mean that we were in the run-up to a General Election, for the simple reason that I do not know what the answer would be.
I will, however, say just two things. First, as the Opposition Motion itself recognises, the question of capital punishment is a matter for the conscience of individual Members, so even on the Opposition's own statement it should not be an election issue. Secondly, it never has been such an issue, at any rate in recent times, including times when the Opposition were in power. As I said a little while ago, the Conservative Government of the day allowed a free vote, and Government time, for Sydney Silverman's 1956 abolition Bill. Did they consult the electorate before doing so? Did they consult the electorate before introducing their own Homicide Act in 1957, which restricted capital punishment to a few selected categories of murder, so that the number of cases in which the death penalty was carried out was never more than seven in one year, and was usually no more than two or three.
Did the Opposition spell out to the electorate that although there would be a lot of anomalies nevertheless the Government thought that this would be the 957 right solution? Of course they did not, and I am not saying that they should have done. If they as a Government thought this was the right thing to do they were entitled to ask Parliament to agree to it. Equally, the present Government are entitled to say as a matter both of principle and history that capital punishment is an issue for Parliament to decide. It is not unreasonable to say, as the Government are saying, that Parliament is perfectly capable now of making up its own mind.
As I said when I began, it is impossible to find what the constitutional issue or issue of principle is, that so stirs the Opposition. It cannot be the principle of a five-year trial, because that was impossible from the moment the abolition Act became law, as I have shown. It cannot be the view that this debate could be more valuably held shortly after Easter, because, as I have also shown, we will not have final figures for 1969 murders until very shortly before the expiry of the Act.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)
The hon. Lady appears to be coming to a conclusion, but she has not said anything about Scotland. At one point when she was interrupted she said, "We are debating England and Wales", as if Scotland was not concerned. The Secretary of State for Scotland is on the Government Front Bench. Is anyone to speak about facts and figures relating to Scotland and the availability of them before July? As the hon. Lady knows, the position is different in Scotland.
§ Mrs. Williams
I think that the hon. Member misunderstood something I said. I did not say that we were debating England and Wales today and not Scotland. I said that we are debating the censure Motion today and not the Motion dealing with abolition of capital punishment. I am sure that the hon. Member will have all the figures he wants. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be glad to give him all the figures he needs in deciding on the Motion which will be before the House tomorrow.
§ Mr. Mac-Arthur rose—
§ Mrs. Williams
I am sorry. I cannot give way again. I think that this is a matter for tomorrow's debate, not for today's.
958 I have already pointed out that neither the principle of a five-year trial nor the final 1969 murder figures can be reasons for this censure debate. I cannot believe that the Opposition really want to debate this vital issue in a spirit of what might almost be called Russian roulette, risking the return of the Homicide Act possibly for a very short period, with the consequent uncertainty for our courts and our system of law. I am loath to believe that the Opposition are moving this Motion of censure in order to make the abolition issue run on into a General Election, for such an attitude would be both unworthy and misleading; unworthy because none of the parties in this House regards this as other than an issue of conscience; misleading because it is not, and has never been as far as I am aware, simply a party matter. Hon. Members vote as individuals on capital punishment; but they stand at elections committed to the policy of the party they represent.
So capital punishment, as the Opposition well know, is wholly unsuitable to be a subject of party battle at a General Election. But it is very much a matter on which public opinion has a right to be heard.
§ Mr. Timothy Kitson (Richmond, Yorks) rose—
§ Mrs. Williams
I am not giving way.
This censure debate is a supreme irrelevance. For the reasons I have given to the House, we shall gain little or nothing by delay; we shall merely risk creating a dangerous anomaly if the abolition Act lapses before we have been able to consider calmly what should take its place. I believe that we owe it to our reputation as parliamentarians, and to long and honourable tradition, to judge on the facts before us as we believe to be best—and then to explain our judgment to the people and to take whatever consequences there may be. I trust that we shall tomorrow take a decision, a final decision, on this matter, and, speaking for myself, I hope that that decision will be to remove once and for all the shadow of the gallows from this humane land.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Ward (Swindon)
The Minister of State mentioned the several occasions on which this House has expressed itself in one way or another 959 as being opposed to capital punishment. The hon. Gentleman who represented Swindon before I did was well known and respected for his beliefs in that respect. I approach the question as one who would dearly like tomorrow to vote with a clear conscience against capital punishment.
I speak on this Motion because I fear that I may not be able to do that as a result of the way in which this matter is being dealt with. It is a matter on which feeling runs very high both inside and outside the House. Outside this House it is said that feeling is in favour of the return of capital punishment. I should have thought that in those circumstances it was of absolutely paramount importance that if this House were to decide to abolish capital punishment it should do so in circumstances in which all of us could assure the country in general and our constituents in particular that we had done so after weighing up all the evidence which reasonably could be made available and reaching a decision in a cool, calm and collected way after proper consideration of the facts.
The evidence available, I suggest, is not as satisfactory as that which could be made available. Fortunately, the number of murders is so small that when split into categories the numbers have very little statistical significance. For that reason alone many of the totals do not have a great deal of significance when analysed. In many of them, however, the number of murders which are not cleared up is greater than the number which have been analysed. This again makes it very difficult to come to any conclusion from the figures. The overwhelming impression one gets from reading through the whole report is that an alteration in the definition between different types of homicide would result in very different conclusions being reached on the basis of the figures.
I would go a little further than the Motion suggests. I should like to have the opportunity to analyse the full five years' figures. It would be possible to suspend the death penalty for a further period to give the House an opportunity to do that. Then we could have before us the figures for the full five years and we could examine a proper analysis of them.
960 Abolition of capital punishment, if it comes about, will be only one of a number of liberalising measures in our penal code in the last few years, measures to which on the whole I give a welcome but measures which have been accompanied by a rise in crime, particularly in crimes of violence. It may be that liberalism is a luxury of a lawful society and that if we are prepared to liberalise when the number of crimes is rising we should do so only slowly and carefully taking one step at a time and being absolutely sure of our ground all the time. I think it rather unsatisfactory to attempt to do so on a set of figures which I believe to be inconclusive, but which can be reasonably argued to show that capital punishment retains a deterrence which many people think is absolutely unique.
There is another factor. We have another generation, as we are always told, growing up, a generation which does not remember the Second World War and which perhaps takes for granted to a greater extent than we should like law and order and the fabric of our society. It is a generation some of whose members may believe that they can indulge in activities around the fringe of law and order without imperilling its substance. That is another reason why at this time we should proceed very carefully with liberal measures—which, I repeat, I personally welcome if I believe them to be well-founded.
As I said, I should very much like to be able to vote for the abolition of capital punishment with a clear conscience. However, what I have referred to as inadequate evidence makes it very difficult for me—and certain others whom I know think as I do—to do so. For that reason I shall support the Motion in the Division Lobby.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
This is the first time in the five years that have elapsed since I made my maiden speech that I have had pleasure of following a maiden speaker. I congratulate the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Christopher Ward) on a very clear speech, a confident speech and, above all, a speech which showed humanity. I am sure that the whole House will be pleased to hear from the 961 hon. Gentleman many times again before the next General Election.
Today, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) lacked his usual bounce. This was because; he lacked conviction. He did not enjoy being a party to the shabby manoeuvre by the Leader of the Opposition in response to the perfectly laudable action by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that there were insufficient statistics and facts. My hon. Friend the Minister of State has already demolished that argument by saying that there will be no more significant statistics or facts known before the relevant time in 1970.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that the Government have deliberately courted a Motion of censure. The opposite is true, namely, that the Opposition have deliberately decided to table a Motion of censure to embarrass the Government on this issue. The Government's action violates no one's conscience. Much as I admired the speech of the hon. Member for Swindon, I believe that he would damage his conscience tomorrow if he did not follow it into the Lobby instead of yielding to the moral blackmail of his Front Bench. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The noises made by hon. Members opposite indicate that they are relying upon an unrepresentative body in another place to frustrate the democratic workings of this House in a free vote on capital punishment tomorrow.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman waxed eloquent and simulated much indignation about the timing of the Government's action, just as the Opposition became indignant about boundaries a few weeks ago. The only way in which this issue can ultimately be decided is in this House, but the Conservatives are relying on another place to defeat the Government's Motion.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
If the other House does as the hon. Gentleman says, and frustrates the will of this House, which of the two Houses would the hon. Gentleman consider best reflected the will of the people?
§ Mr. Rose
The hon. Gentleman misses my point. The other House, by a majority of two to one, took the same view as this House did on a previous occasion. 962 There is little doubt that it would do much the same on this occasion; but by the Opposition's tabling a Motion of censure, by preventing a straight vote of conscience on the question of the death penalty, the freely held views of Members of this House and of another place are being frustrated.
In just the same way, the hon. Member for Swindon, whose speech I so much admired, has had pressure put upon him, I repeat, not to vote according to his conscience, but to vote in a different way or not at all because of a three-line Whip which has been issued for a vote of censure on an entirely irrelevant matter of procedure.
§ Mr. Rose
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is not correct. He alleges that certain hon. Members will not be able to vote according to their consciences tomorrow because they will not have all the information available. He cannot say that in one breath and in another breath say that hon. Members should vote according to their consciences tomorrow. My hon. Friend the Minister of State roundly demolished the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument by showing that it is not possible to have any more fruitful evidence available than is available today.
What is the logic of the argument other than the political advantage of displaying a double face—on the one hand, posing as a liberal, and, on the other, acting as a backwoodsman? The Opposition are riding two horses. We have the spectacle of the Leader of the Opposition splitting himself—not as a man of principle, but as a man of two principles.
Hon. Members can take their pick as to which the real Heath—the one who tables a Motion of censure today or the one who allows a free vote tomorrow. Is he the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) or the right hon. Member for the Solent? Is he the Member who scraped in by 133 votes in 1950 and who seems to have been very anxious 963 to prove his virility ever since by Motions of censure on matters such as capital punishment while looking the other way in the matter of the so-called free vote tomorrow?
I make no apologies for having raised the temperature. The Leader of the Opposition agrees that this is a matter of individual conscience. When I say that, all right hon. and hon. Members opposite nod in assent. The right hon. Gentleman agrees that this is not an election issue. Again, all right hon. and hon. Members opposite will nod in assent. We all know that the right hon. Gentleman's action is intended primarily to frustrate my right hon. Friend in allowing the House to decide on the facts which are in the report which has been circulated, removed from the emotive atmosphere of an election and on the basis of all the facts which can be available.
Why does the Leader of the Opposition object to this? I think that I can supply the answers. It is because he thinks he can gain some electoral advantage from this, while pretending not to, and he can dragoon the many abolitionists in his party into voting against their own consciences in the Lobby tomorrow while pretending to allow freedom of conscience for them.
Let the Leader of the Opposition not deny that many hon. Members opposite will try to take advantage of their less enlightened friends in the constituencies as they have done on other topics. There was the disgusting spectacle in 1966—this is why I speak with some emotion on this subject—of five Conservative candidates in Manchester jointly signing a declaration almost fighting the election on the question of capital punishment. I had to fight an election on the issue of capital punishment shortly after the atrocious Moors murder.
In a leaflet issued at that time, my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) was virtually accused of being a child murderer himself because he was a Teller for the abolitionists in the 1966 Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) was assailed by the most vicious propaganda when a child in his constituency was killed. It later transpired that the child had been 964 killed by a young boy who was too young to suffer the death penalty, anyway. It was the child of a local Labour Party member, who immediately repudiated the disgusting and loathsome pamphlet which had been issued.
We have had to face in the North-West the most loathsome propaganda. My own opponent, in a letter to an abolitionist, said exactly what hon. Members opposite are now saying-that this is a matter of individual conscience. That was six months before the election. During the election it was no matter of individual conscience. It was a matter of who would drum up the most primitive feelings and inflame public feeling about the Moors murder.
The hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), who has a very honourable record in this respect, wrote to The Guardian last week to point out that capital punishment existed at that time for a second murder and that it did not deter the Moors murders. Yet there were hon. Members in his party who took advantage of the Moors murders, in that terribly emotive atmosphere, to try to win an election. The only swinging that happened was a swing of just over 6 per cent, in my favour. This is what happened in Manchester.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
The hon. Gentleman has referred to the decision of some Conservative candidates in Manchester during the last election. Surely he will agree that if they chose to take a certain line of action they were entitled to do so. What the hon. Gentleman should add is that many Conservative candidates in that area declined to take that course. It was a matter for individual choice.
§ Mr. Rose
The hon. Gentleman is right. He is one of those who took the honourable course. The reason I say that the whole thing was done in a dishonourable manner is that it was not done on an individual basis. It was done on the basis of five Conservative candidates, known and labelled as Conservative candidates, and meeting as Conservative candidates, announcing a manifesto in favour of capital punishment as Conservative candidates and not as individuals exercising the right of their own conscience. It was well known throughout the whole of the North-West 965 at the time that this issue, affecting a matter of deep personal conscience, was turned by many dishonourable Members—or, rather, candidates, for few of them were elected-into an election issue.
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Gentleman must realise that if he genuinely does not want this affair to be turned into a party issue he should not indulge in the kind of personal attack on my right hon. Friend or individual candidates of the Opposition party as he is doing. If he wants it turned into an election issue of a party kind, he is going the right way about it.
§ Mr. Rose
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has already turned this into such an issue. By putting down this Motion of censure today, the Opposition are taking away tomorrow the normal right of every Member of this House to vote according to his conscience. He himself has virtually admitted this. He is trying to drag this issue into the arena of party politics, and I am only trying to demonstrate that this was done in 1966 without very much success because the swings in that area were strongly against the Opposition candidates. Decent people rejected that kind of propaganda. I am saying that my right hon. Friend is absolutely correct in trying to deal with this matter now, when all the facts are available, in an atmosphere in which there is not a run-up to a General Election and when we are still some way from it.
I believe that this Motion is offensive for another reason. The time of the House today might have been better spent dealing with the causes of murder, the treatment of criminals and the conditions of our penal institutions. The placing of emphasis on the figure—albeit always too high a figure—of about 150 murders a year instead of placing emphasis on deterrent to crime and its causes does a disservice to the cause of penal reform in this country. An enormous amount of energy is wasted talking about 150 murders a year when 7,000 people are killed on the roads every year. My right hon. Friend the then Minister of Transport had to bring in a Bill which saved 1,000 lives each year—five or six times, the number of murders in a year.
The Opposition, by putting down this Motion, today, are distracting people from far more urgent issues. I think I know why they are doing it. We saw 966 in the trade figures the other day a surplus of £12 million which means, taking into account invisibles, a £600 million surplus in favour of this country. Hon. Members opposite will not be able to win the next election on economic issues. They cannot change the Government's record. Therefore, there are some hon. Members who, like Governor Wallace, of Alabama, think "We can run the law and order ticket or the immigration ticket" or one of those emotive issues which appeal to the basest instincts of some of our people.
The technique is clever. While the Leader of the Opposition and his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone, for whom I have enormous admiration and whom I know to be a man of humanity and charity, stand there as liberals, at the same time we have such slogans as "If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour" or, in Belfast, "Have you any Roman Catholics in your street?", or in my constituency we have the issue of hanging. Therefore, we have, on the one hand, the face of liberalism and, on the other, the primitive face of terrorism. That is why we have this Motion of censure.
§ Mr. Kitson
With the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, may I point out that there are on this side of the House some Members who feel sincerely about the timing and the reasons for the putting down of this Motion. May I explain briefly my own position? I supported abolition the last time we voted on it. At the same time, I have always said that I would discuss in my own constituency the figures when they were available and when we had an opportunity to discuss them. How can we do this when we have only eight days in which to call our constituents together? Is the hon. Gentleman not aware of the embarrassment that many of us feel about the timing?
§ Mr. Rose
I would have thought that my hon. Friend the Minister of State had already dealt with that argument closely and in great detail. I heard her. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not. I thought that my hon. Friend made a remarkably cogent speech, in which she made the position quite clear. Hon. Members have had 100 years in which to do this. There has been Royal Commission after Royal Commission, statistic after statistic and report after report, and 967 to say that he has only eight days in which to talk to his constituents is the most utter and arrant nonsense. I have spoken to 15,000 of my constituents during my time in the House and before, and I know that many of them disagree with me on this issue. I do not intend to speak for anyone but for myself and my own conscience. The hon. Gentleman must do likewise.
The hon. Gentleman heard my hon. Friend say that there are no more figures available. By the time the figures are processed for next year, and when the time lag has expired in the courts, we shall have reverted to the 1957 Act, and then there certainly might be only eight days in which to decide. My right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend are right. There is nothing morally or legally wrong in what they are doing in allowing a free vote tomorrow. They are trying to remove this matter from an emotive atmosphere, and allowing the House to decide in a calm and reasonable manner, which they have been prevented from doing by this Motion of censure. Let no one with any conscience decide tomorrow that today's Motion of censure is a reason for not going into the Lobby as his conscience dictates.
During the last weeks I have voted against my own party on five separate occasions—perhaps because three of the issues involved were about Northern Ireland. I believe in the right of conscience and that nothing has happened today which can alter the right of hon. Members opposite to decide, on the facts and figures available, which way they shall vote tomorrow.
Instead of criticising him, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for grasping this nettle, for dealing with this emotive problem which is fraught with so many fallacies and which is surrounded by so much emotion generated by the unfortunate fact that we all have a tendency to be vindictive rather than to decide on the basis of deterrence. I congratulate him on having done the right thing in bringing this issue before the House before Christmas and before we enter a period when it can be exploited for electoral purposes.
Hon. Members who wish to exercise their conscience could have no more 968 facts than are already available. No action on the part of the Leader of the Opposition can prevent them voting tomorrow according to the principles which they have always held, which they must hold on the facts which are available, and which will be available to them even if this Motion of censure should be passed today.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
The only conclusion reached by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) with which I agree came when he congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Chistopher Ward) on what he described as a very humane and excellent speech. I thought the speech of my hon. Friend was extremely able, and, considering the short time he has been in the House, the way in which he caught the tone of the House foreshadows a brilliant future for him. I should like to add my congratulations to him.
The hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin, (Mrs. Shirley Williams), the Minister of State, said that the Motion was not concerned with statistics. But she cannot have read it, and, clearly, she did not heed what she said at the beginning of her speech because she went on to deal in great detail with those statistics which have been published. She called the Motion a supreme irrelevance, but I do not think that either the hon. Lady or the hon. Member for Blackley have really understood what it is about and what the House is complaining about.
We on this side complain that we were given only eight days' notice of the Government's desire to table a Motion relating to the Section of the 1965 Act originally moved by the present Lord Brooke of Cumnor giving a five-year experimental period for the abolition of capital punishment. By their action the Government have disrupted the business of the House. I think it quite wrong for the Home Secretary or the hon. Lady to be in the dock answering this debate. As I see it, the failure of the Government here is a failure of the Leader of the House. It is he who arranges business, and he has arranged the business in the wrong way.
Every Leader of the House has a double responsibility. First, he is the 969 Government's business manager, and how he manages the Government's business is a matter for the Government. Second, it is his duty to serve the interests of the House of Commons in arranging debates.
We have had the whole of the plans for Parliamentary business altered by the sudden decision to take the Motion on capital punishment tomorrow. This week was to have seen a two-day debate on public expenditure, which originated from a Report of the Select Committee on Procedure which recommended that we should have a White Paper at the end of November and a two-day debate in December on public expenditure.
As public expenditure has increased from £11,500 million in 1963 to £19,000 million this year, it is important that there be a full debate on public expenditure. When the Leader of the House was asked why he could not give this two-day debate on public expenditure, he said:It is an important matter, but I am pressed for time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1969; Vol. 792, c. 1711.]Why is the debate on capital punishment being taken before Christmas? I listened carefully to every word the hon. Lady said. There was no explanation of why it was necessary to take the Motion on capital punishment before Christmas rather than after, except, presumably, the rumour—the right hon. Gentleman is here and can confirm it—that the Home Secretary asked that the debate should be before Christmas because he was determined to resign if, for any reason, tomorrow's Motion was lost, and he wanted to have the question of his resignation cleared up.
If that is so, it was very wrong of the Leader of the House to arrange business so that the whim of the Home Secretary could be met rather than the need of the House, which, at this stage, is to have a proper debate on the whole problem of public expenditure as presented in the Government's own White Paper.
I have always found the question of capital punishment one of the most difficult to have to decide. Reluctantly, I have now come to the belief that one must have some form of death penalty maintained for certain classes of murder. But I should be very unhappy merely to return to the situation under the 1957 Act, because I do not believe that that 970 Act made a proper classification or distinction as to the classes of murder for which there should be the death penalty. But what concerns me, and, I am sure, the great majority of people in this country, is the very large increase, since we passed the 1965 Act, in crimes of violence and crimes involving the use of firearms.
To take the Home Secretary's own statistics, offences involving the use of firearms in England and Wales—I have not the Scottish figures—have risen from 2,449 in the four-year period 1961–64 to 7,488 in the following four years. That is a very large increase. Taking capital murders under the 1957 Act, where the criminal did not commit suicide or was not found insane, there has been a remarkable increase from 36 to 111 in those two four-year periods. This great increase in the use of firearms, in murders in the course of theft, the number of cases where elderly shopkeepers have been murdered in the last few years, has caused great disquiet. The Times in a Gallup Poll showed that 85 per cent. of the population is in favour of some form of death penalty for some forms of murder, and the House should pay attention to that.
It is proper for my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) and for those on the Government side to say that this must be decided as a matter of conscience. But we cannot neglect the fact that the vast majority of people think that their security demands that there should be a death penalty. We cannot allow ourselves to ignore that fact. The whole idea of the vote on matters of conscience is that Members of Parliament are not delegates, they are representatives of those who have sent them here. That dictum of Burke rests on the fact that to a certain extent we can regard ourselves as experts. In a matter of foreign policy, for instance, we may take views differing from those of our constituents, but the fact that we are perhaps more immersed in what is happening in other countries than most of our constituents allows us to take that view.
In this matter we are not experts, the experts are the prison governors, the judges, the police. They are the ones who have knowledge of crime and the criminal, not Members of Parliament. It is over a hundred years ago since a 971 Prime Minister was murdered in the House of Commons. I believe that that was the only occasion on which a murder has been committed in the House. This is the last matter on which we should rush to a decision. Why should this not be left over until January? It would be far better as The Times has wisely pointed out, if we passed a short Act allowing the death penalty to be abolished for a further two-year period—the hon. Lady mentioned that the Act provides only a four and a half year period—making it a period to cover the General Election.
That would be far wiser. I am not fighting the next General Election, but it would be in the interests of the country if this was done and removed from the election period. We know perfectly well what will happen here tomorrow and it will leave the feeling in the country that Parliament is becoming too remote and does not pay enough attention to the views of the individual, the ordinary voter. They will have a feeling that they have been thwarted by the highbrows of Hampstead.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
With due respect to the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) I should have thought that his speech would have been more appropriate in tomorrow's debate. I should hate it if ever we had to say that a decision on capital punishment should be reached not by us, the elected representatives of the people, but by the judges or prison officers. It is our decision, which we must take tomorrow. When it comes to the question of capital punishment every hon. and right hon. Gentleman must make up his own mind. This is not subject which should be associated in any way with party controversy or debate. I speak as one not usually reluctant to involve party controversy with various issues, because it is healthy that certain issues should be so involved.
I am very sorry that we have had this debate today before tomorrow's debate. I would much rather have had a two-day debate on the issue than one day on what I consider to be a farcical Motion. Why has this Motion been tabled? The real answer has been given by some of 972 my hon. Friends and it reflects little credit on the Opposition leaders. The real reason, the true explanation, is that the Opposition wish to associate the Government with the permanent abolition of capital punishment. They know that for many people this is an unpopular issue. It is not an issue on which some say, and which the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has said, there is a majority in the country. They have tried to associate the Labour Government, not Labour M.P.s, with abolition.
Without wishing to be patronising, it was a sorry spectacle to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman today. He has very little in common with me on most political issues, but I have a respect for him which has grown up in the last three and a half years since I have seen him in action. What a contrast between his speech today and the speech he made 18 months ago, when he defended his Party's attitude on race relations and took so effectively to task the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest (Mr. Powell). It gave me no pleasure to hear him today.
I understand the pressure on the Leader of the Opposition. I have seen him on television, when he has gone to Conservative meetings, and inevitably he has been asked the question by his Tory activists:Where does the Tory Party stand, and where do you stand, Mr. Heath, on capital punishment?".He has replied that capital punishment is a matter that must be decided individually by hon. Members. Had he stood by that and left the matter to be decided by us, it would have reflected more credit on him than this Motion. The trouble with the Leader of the Opposition is that he seems to have what some of his critics have referred to as a soft centre.
While he has some good views on a number of subjects which reflect credit on him, it is very easy for him to give way. We have seen it on race relations in Britain, on Rhodesia and now on hanging. Some of his Right-wing critics inside the Tory Party seem to believe that if they apply more and more pressure on him he will give way to them. It seems that the real author of 973 the Motion is not so much the Shadow Cabinet as the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
I am listening with interest to what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Would he agree that the whole nation has seen how the leader of his party has given way to pressure over and over again?
§ Mr. Winnick
All that I can say is that I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The feeling I have about the Leader of the Opposition is reflected in the opinion polls, although I do not believe that political leaders should be judged by opinion polls. There seems to be a feeling among a large number of people that the right hon. Gentleman is the sort of person I have described, who is soft-centred on certain issues and can be swayed by his Right-wing critics.
Some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have said that this is a manœuvre by the Government to remove the question of hanging from the General Election. I do not believe that this is so, but I do not believe that hanging should be an issue at the General Election. I do not believe that this very deeply emotional subject should be the focus of controversy during a General Election period. That does not alter the fact that every hon. Member who stands for election can be asked questions about his views on hanging.
When the terrible murders of policemen took place in Shepherd's Bush just before the Summer Recess of 1966, a number of my constituents wrote to me saying, "Will you support the reintroduction of hanging? We believe it vital, and unless you support it we will not vote for you at the next election". I replied to those people, explaining my feelings. I am a firm abolitionist and have been all my life. I took the opportunity of making my views clear in the local Press. I am known as an abolitionist. I will not hide my views come the next election, and I do not believe that any of my right hon. and hon. Friends who go into the Division Lobby tonight or tomorrow will do so either.
Unfortunately, some hon. Members opposite want to make hanging an election issue. We are told that public opinion is in favour of hanging. That has been indicated in some opinion polls. If we had listened to some politicians, 974 slavery and public executions would not have been abolished in our country. It is sometimes right for the House to take a lead, and it would be right for it to do so tomorrow night.
One of the reasons given by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone for today's debate is the necessity to have the 1969 figures. I do not believe that that is so. I find it difficult to believe that any right hon. or hon. Member on either side of the House cannot make up his mind until he has seen the 1969 figures. The overwhelming majority of hon. Members have already made up their mind. Whether the decision is taken next July or later in 1970 will make no difference: hon. Members have made up their minds to vote for or against or to abstain.
§ Mr. Winnick
My hon. Friend the Minister of State has given the reason for this Motion. If the hon. and learned Member had been in the Chamber when she gave it he would have heard it. She explained that the processed figures for 1969 will not be ready until later, when the Act expires. No hon. Member, and certainly not the hon. and learned Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder), will change his mind as a result of seeing the 1969 figures. If the hon. and learned Gentleman says that he will, I am willing to give way to him. He has made up his mind and so have his right hon. and hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Crowder
I have not made up my mind. I want to see what the situation is. I will not be satisfied by the 1969 figures. I want to see figures covering a period of at least seven years.
§ Mr. Winnick
Obviously the hon. and learned Gentleman will not be satisfied by the 1969 figures. The reason for the Motion is that the Opposition believe that no decision should be taken until we have the 1969 figures. Obviously the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot be satisfied by either side.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
The hon. Gentleman said that he had been a lifelong abolitionist. That means that, whatever the figures and whatever the evidence, he will not change his mind. 975 But why should he say the same of other hon. Members?
§ Mr. Winnick
I have tried to explain that, in my view, right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have already made up their minds.
We have been told that, whatever decision is taken in this House, another place may decide otherwise. I hope that the Motion will be carried in both Houses and that there will be a permanent end to capital punishment, to the gallows and to the hangman. I hope that that time will come this week. But if a decision to abolish capital punishment is not reached in another place, I will be disappointed but not surprised.
A lot of nonsense has been written in the Press and spoken elsewhere about the difference between the two Chambers. Apparently, those in another place have changed their character. It seems that they are no longer so reactionary and that they give the lead on various progressive social matters. It is interesting that the will of the House of Commons may be frustrated by people who have not been elected and who, in the main, attend the other place only on rare occasions. Some of those who on Wednesday or Thursday will vote against the abolition of capital punishment are apparently rarely seen in another place. I suppose that some of them could be likened to skinheads, opposed to any form of progress, whose precessors voted and glorified in slavery and the continuance of public executions.
This Motion is totally irrelevant. There is no justification for it, and I hope that it will be overwhelmingly defeated in the Division Lobby.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
I want to support the Motion and to consider two relevant and related questions from the point of view of one who over the years has taken the view that, on the balance of argument and an evaluation of the relevant considerations, the case is made out for the discontinuance or suspension of the death penalty as against its retention or resuscitation.
The two questions to which I want to address myself are these. First, does 976 the Government's action in prematurely forcing the issue so radically alter the position as to cause or impose a change of view on the main question? Secondly, even if that not be so, is the Government's action so prejudicial and so reprehensible as to deserve censure tonight? I should indicate very briefly the background against which I speak.
I am one of only five Conservative Members still in the House who voted on 14th April, 1948, in favour of Sydney Silverman's new Clause to introduce an experimental period of five years in discontinuance of the death penalty and the only one of those five with the temerity to address the House on the subject on that occasion. In those days, that was an unfashionable view for a Conservative Member to take—[HON. MEMBERS: "It still is".]—and I received angry letters from Conservative supporters in the country and a measure of dark looks perhaps from the Conservative hierarchy in the House. But times have changed, and that view is less unfashionable in Conservative circles. Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have become Members since 1948 share it, which I find encouraging in the context of certain other matters on which I do not always appear to be swimming on the flood tide of party orthodoxy. I take some comfort from that.
Against that background, the first question concerns the significance of the Government's action on the attitude to the main question. We must bear in mind that the significance of their action arises primarily in the context of the statistical evaluation of the effect that this will have in regard to deterrence. We must also bear in mind that the question of deterrence does not turn wholly on a comparison of annual statistics and that, although very important, deterrence is only one factor.
Traditionally there are three elements in punishment as identified by Professor T. H. Green in his essay on,"The Right of the State to Punish"—the locus classicus in this matter: retribution, prevention, or what we sometimes call deterrence, and reformation, although from retribution Professor Green excluded the concept of vengeance and the equivalence of suffering.
The reason capital punishment is such a peculiarly difficult aspect of punishment 977 lies in its unique character in the context of retribution and reformation. If there is an error and retribution is exacted from the wrong person, the action of the law has put it out of the power of the State to make subsequent redress. In the context of reformation, in Professor Green's words, it carries…the presumption of a permanent incapacity on the part of the criminal at any time in future to lead a social life, based on the observance of rights.In religious terms, it excludes, or virtually excludes, the application of the Christian principle of regeneration. All those matters lie outside deterrence and therefore outside these questions of statistical evaluation which are affected by the Government's action, and they all favour doing away with the death penalty.
Looking at the statistics in the context of deterrence, two matters strike me. The first of them has been referred to already in the admirable maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Christopher Ward), and it is the relative smallness of the figures overall. That means that we find a fluctuation which is dependent on the individual circumstances from year to year and whose general significance cannot necessarily be measured by the percentage of variations from year to year. We see the smallness of the figures quite clearly at Appendix 1 on page 62 of the Home Office Study. In 1966, the number of murders was a little less than the average of the pre-suspension years. In 1967 and 1968, it was rather more.
The other matter which strikes me is the pattern of the types of murder. It is true that there is an increase in murder by shooting, as we see from Table 26. However, according to page 60 of the Home Office Study, the figures remain "relatively small". The murder of police officers, fortunately, is in still smaller dimensions, with four in 1966, and none in 1967, and 1968. These small figures are to be contrasted with the larger figures of those murderers who, having killed, then killed themselves. Clearly, that is a category which is not subject to the deterrence of the death penalty.
I add to the specific considerations one general one. It is that experience shows that abolition of the death penalty for 978 non-homicide offences did not lead to an increase of those offences. I feel, therefore, that the long-term trend must be towards the discontinuance of the death penalty, more especially away from the macabre mediæval paraphernalia of hanging.
The conclusion which I submit to the House on my first question is that the Government's action does not so radically alter the main position as to cause a change in my attitude to that tomorrow night. It is fair to say that, in the context of all the relevant considerations, in my case it is unlikely that a further year's statistics would alter the balance of the main argument. It is unlikely, though it is not impossible—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) laughs, but on 14th April, 1948, I told the House that at the end of the five-year period which I was then supporting I would come to the matter with an open mind, assuming that Sydney Silverman's Clause, for which I voted, was carried. I think that the hon. Gentleman will be fair enough to agree that, against that background, I am now entitled to put it as fairly as I can. I do not think that these figures would affect my view, but I do not regard it as wholly impossible.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
I regard the right hon. and learned Gentleman as a reasonable and intelligent man He has said that he has thought about this matter for a very long time. Looking through the figures over the years since 1957, how can he say that one year's figures in relation to the offence of murder will sway his position one way or the other? It is completely impossible.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
What I have said is that I do not think that it would in my own case. I say that because I think that I should say it. But I do not regard it as impossible in the case of those who have reserved their position up to this point.
I come then to the second question. Does the fact that it might only have this marginal effect on the main question excuse or justify the Government's action in denying the full figures and seeking to pre-empt the decision? My answer on that would be "No", for two main 979 reasons. The first is that Parliament clearly contemplated that the decision at the end of the period should be taken in the light of the fullest up-to-date information possible. That intention is clearly not fulfilled if the decision is taken seven and a half months in advance. The fact that it is not possible to take into consideration the figures up to midnight on 31st July, 1970, is no justification for guillotining consideration on 31st December, 1968, more than 18 months in advance and virtually making the assessment of what was thought to be a five-year period dependent on only three years' statistics. It is clear that an extra year's statistics might have helped in the evaluation on some of the most important aspects of the matter; for example, killing by shooting and the killing of policemen and prison officers.
In the category of killing by shooting, one gets these figures from Table 26: In 1965, seven; in 1966, 11; in 1967, eight; and in 1968, seven. It is obviously of interest and possibly of significance to see whether that falling trend continues, whether 1966 was possibly a freak year or whether there is further evidence of increase in 1969.
Taking the killing of policemen and prison officers, the figures at Table 27 show that in 1965 there were two, that in 1966 there were four and, happily, that in 1967 and 1968 there was none. Again, a further year's figures would obviously be of value to see whether the favourable position of 1967 and 1968 continues or is confirmed, or whether there is a fall-back and, if so, to what extent.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)
I think that it is a matter of common knowledge that, thank heavens, no prison officer has been killed. One policeman was killed when on duty, and a verdict of manslaughter was returned.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. In the narrower context of policemen and prison officers, he has been able to give us the information immediately. The category of killing by shooting is a wider one for which the figures would be even more significant.
Would it have been possible to have provided more figures? I cannot see 980 that it would not have been possible to furnish the 1969 figures or the substantial majority of them in time for a decision to be taken this summer. After all, we have been told that the 1968 figures were communicated to the House as early as 8th June, 1969. We know that the machinery of parliamentary Resolutions is a quick one and that they could be tabled as late as July itself.
The other reason which makes the Government deserving of censure in this matter is that, on an issue of public importance, they have chosen deliberately a course which pre-empts the decision and excludes the public contribution from the formative processes of parliamentary consideration. This is something which one is entitled to resent, whatever view one holds on the main question. I resent it for those who, over the years, have taken what is called the abolitionist view, but have taken it subject to the possible correction of up-to-date figures.
But I resent it most for those who take the opposite, retentionist, view, and who will feel that they have been subjected to sleight-of-hand. Although I hold my personal view, which I have held over the years and made clear to the House, I also represent in this House many who hold the opposite view. Surely, they are entitled to a reasonable period to make their views known to their Member of Parliament and to contribute to that full discussion, which is one of the continuing characteristics and essential prerequisites of the true functioning of parliamentary democracy. But they have been deprived of those rights, and I fear that some will feel that they have been cheated.
This was recognised in the powerful and persuasive article of Mr. Ronald Butt in The Times of last Thursday—[Interruption.] It was a clearly reasoned argument, the more potent and cogent coming from somebody who, like myself, has held a view in favour of the discontinuance of the death penalty. Indeed, so far from curtailing consideration, there is much to be said for an extension of the period of experiment and evaluation as suggested in The Times this morning.
Therefore, I submit that the Government's action in this matter is undemocratic, unconstitutional, unbecoming and unworthy, and it comes at a bad time when some people are questioning the 981 sensitivity of Parliament to public opinion. The action of the Government has to be viewed in the context of their bland indifference to public sentiment on matters such as the Common Market—[Interruption.]—obviously I carry with me some hon. Gentlemen opposite-and in particular the right hon. Gentleman's disingenuous and high-handed conduct in regard to parliamentary boundaries. Therefore, inevitably their action today will create a gulf between Parliament and the people or, in so far as one has already been created, will extend it, and because their action flouts the basic principles of parliamentary democracy, it has a wider significance even than the subject of tomorrow's debate, important as that is.
For these reasons, the Government deserve the censure of the House, which will reflect the censure already felt in the hearts and minds of the people.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) has demonstrated his skill as an advocate because, his party having put down a Motion of censure, he has strained his conscience and everything else to make a speech, plausible as it sounds, in favour of it. But as an intelligent, logical man, I feelsure that he will realise that most of his speech was quite illogical and not genuine. He is simply substituting party loyalty for tackling a problem which should be discussed reasonably.
I was probably one of the few Ministers who had any responsibility for administering this kind of justice in the form of capital punishment. I am not fanatically either against or for capital punishment. This is a matter that Parliament ought to discuss in a reasonable and wise manner. I do not believe that right hon. and hon. Members are entitled to carry a decision of this kind according to their private consciences. This leads to prejudice. We are not only the representatives of the people, but the Parliament which has to make and administer the law in the interests of the people One of the great interests of the people is the preservation of law and order. It is also to give a sense of security to the decent people of this 982 country, and I put the interests of decent people before those of murderers.
In a debate in the French Parliament about a hundred years ago one member said that he was in favour of the abolition of capital punishment, but he said "Let the assassins, the murderers, begin", and there might be some justice in reasoning this way.
We are not discussing today the pros and cons of capital punishment as a preservation of law and order. That is to be discussed tomorrow and at other times; not today. We are discussing a censure Motion stating that the Government have done wrong to bring in this Motion at this time.
The argument against bringing in the Motion is that it should be postponed until July next. What will the decision be in July and what will the decision be tomorrow? It is whether we continue the present system or revert to the Act of Parliament that was in force, before the abolition of capital punishment, with its ridiculous attempt to discriminate between different kinds of murder.
All right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken today have immediately disclaimed any intention of going back to this ridiculous selection of types of murder. The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) is against capital punishment, but he made clear today that he is desperately against going back to this curious selection of types of murder to which capital punishment may be applied.
The choice before us on this Motion is: do we continue the present system or go back to that Act? We are told that we can decide this in July.
§ Mr. John Hall
Is that really the alternative before us? Could not the Government, if they so desired, either extend the period for another 12 months, which would give them time to bring forward alternative legislation, or put before us a form of legislation to consider now as an alternative? They do not have to go back to the old Act.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. Gentleman is right. If he wants that process, then he should vote for the Government's Motion to continue the present system until Parliament changes it. In other 983 words, we continue the present experiment until Parliament considers that it has gone far enough to think of different methods. That is the point that I wish to make. Whether in July or tomorrow night we reverse the present position, we go back to the ridiculous system that existed before. Nobody can justify that. Therefore, I agree that we ought to continue the experiment until such time as Parliament can make up its mind on what it will do.
The problem of the kind of capital punishment to introduce has puzzled everybody. The Conservative Government which passed the previous law did their best to find some description of capital murders as distinct from other murders and they got into the ridiculous position that a person who deliberately calculated the poisoning of a wife or husband and spent six months doing it was considered not to have committed a capital murder, but that somebody who killed almost on impulse had committed capital murder.
§ Mr. Crowder
Does the right hon. Gentleman know why? I think that only two poisoners in the last 50 years have been sane. They are nearly always insane. That is why they were not included in the Act. The right hon. Gentleman is using a false argument.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. and learned Gentleman has not the slightest idea how many people are poisoned every year in this country, because it is most difficult to discover. Most of the murders that take place are domestic murders. Many of them used to be of the poisoning type, and many of them may still be, for all we know. An Irishman who said that he was always quarrelling with his wife was asked, "Do you never think of divorce?". He replied, "Divorce has never struck me. But murder, yes." That kind of murder is a natural murder—[Laughter.]—it takes place regularly. There are all sorts of ways of doing it. It was said of Winston Churchill that he believed in choking his enemies with kindness. Therefore, some people could even be murdered by kindness.
To get back to the serious issue, the decision is upon whether we should go back to the anomalous system which existed previously, or whether we should 984 be in favour of giving Parliament the necessary time to review the position. Everybody has argued for more time. It we want more time, we should vote for the Government's suggestion to carry on with this legislation until Parliament changes it.
It has been canvassed in the country and in the Press that if this Motion is passed today it is for ever. It is no more permanent than anything else which is done in this House. Nothing that is done here is permanent. Parliament can decide to change this next year, the year after that, or at any time it likes. But when should we change it? Should there be a rush to change it between July and the election next year or should somebody be given time to sit down and find out what should be put in place of the existing system or the previous system? Who is to decide this matter?
Should we set up another Royal Commission to go into the problem as to what kinds of murders should be capital and what kind should not? I hope those who are to discuss the problem tomorrow will be honest enough to put forward their views as to what they wish to apply capital punishment to. What do they intend to do when they return to power, in place of their own unsatisfactory Act of Parliament which was abolished? This is what we want to hear from them tomorrow. It is no good making a political stunt of capital punishment and implying that the Labour Party is in favour of abolition of capital punishment and the Conservatives are against abolition. That is the object of today's debate. Everybody knows that the party opposite is making a stunt of the figures of capital punishment for political purposes only.
I am willing to admit that the public is apprehensive about increasing crime. But it is criminal for people to play on those fears to get them to reach a panic decision. Parliament should act with consideration and after full investigation of all the facts.
The right hon. Gentleman asked for all the facts. If he wants the 1969 figures, why not wait for the 1970 figures and indeed the 1971 figures? The party opposite is optimistic enough to believe that it will comprise the next Government. Why then not wait until they are able to deal with the matter? It will only be a matter of two years, and how 985 many murderers will be involved in that period? We, however, are not legislating for the next Parliament but for this one. There is no reason why they should not wait until the 1970 figures are available, the 1971 figures and the 1972 figures—
§ Mr. John Hall
Would not this difficulty be overcome if the Government were prepared to extend the experimental period for another two years? If the matter were put in that way it would be easier for us to vote today.
§ Mr. Woodburn
That would just be fiddling the matter. What is the good of Parliament extending something for another two years? This would involve another two-day debate in two years' time on the same matter as we are discussing today. This is a game of always giving the minorities a second vote. If they do not win the first time they want to play the game all over again.
It has been said on the other side of the House that we must protect minorities, but when the Conservatives are in opposition they always want to win even though the majority are against them. This is anarchy. There was once a meeting in a certain town held by anarchists to discuss the most important question as to whether minorities were always right. After long and deep discussion, by a huge majority they came to the decision that minorities were always right.
Parliament should decide this matter as a businesslike operation. Do not let us force any future Parliament unnecessarily to rediscuss the matter. Let any such Parliament make up its own mind.
The question is, should we impose on the next Parliament the duty of having a further two-day debate on capital punishment? This reinforces the argument put by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone that this should not be a see-saw operation. Nobody is ever sure what will happen two or three years later. Let us have some feeling of stability so that the gallows can be put away in a shed and not be left waiting in case Parliament comes to some new decision. It seems unwise to proceed on the lines that the whole arrangements of the Prison Service will be upset because next July we will change over to imposing capital punishment on the old lines.
986 I hope that Parliament will return to its proper task which is to consider carefully what is in the best interests of the people. I hope that it will decide to appoint some body to get down to sensible propositions if it wishes to bring back capital punishment. In the meantime, it is the duty of those who want to restore capital punishment to come forward with sensible proposals and to put them before Parliament. It is misleading the people of the country and a political stunt to seek to restore capital punishment without Parliament knowing what it is to restore except to return to the illogical earlier Act of Parliament. If Royal Commissions in months of study have not discovered how murders can be distinguished from one another in an acceptable way I cannot see how in a short debate we will be able to solve this problem tomorrow.
I hope that we will remember the real issue on which we are voting tomorrow. Do we go back to the old Act or do we continue until such time as Parliament finds reason to change its mind? No matter whether it be three, four or five years, we should vote for Parliament having time to consider the matter. This is what most hon. Members have asked for. If they want that they must vote with the Government and not for the vague restoration of capital punishment.
§ 6.18 p.m.
Sir Henry d'Avigdor-GoIdsmid (Walsall, South)
The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) has made a characteristically forthright contribution to tomorrow's debate rather than today's. But I am sure that those who speak in tomorrow's debate will heed his words, as we have heeded them this afternoon.
I find myself in a position of coming in where I started. I came to the House in 1955 as an abolitionist. I find myself today still an abolitionist, and I shall vote for abolition tomorrow. Equally, I feel that this is a matter that must be judged on a pragmatic basis. I feel that the House does not reason better by using its conscience than it does by using its brains. This is the distinction that one has to make.
Why was I an abolitionist in 1955? This stemmed from my experiences as High Sheriff of the County of Kent in 1953. When I was High Sheriff I saw 987 two prisoners sentenced to death, one of whom was an ignorant girl. When the judge donned the black cap, she was the only person in court who did not know that she was bound to be reprieved by the Home Secretary. This gave me a horror of this obscene mumbo-jumbo. In the other case I witnessed an execution.
As a soldier, I have taken life. I have taken life at close quarters—and the act of taking life in the way of duty is not shocking to me. What was shocking to me was the number of honourable, decent people who were involved in the act of cruelty—involved in hanging—the warders who played draughts with the condemned man night after night; the doctor who had to see that he was in good health before he faced his final judgment, and the clergyman who had to see that his soul was right to meet his Maker. It was a degrading experience, and I felt that if I could do anything in Parliament I ought to do my share to prevent its recurring. Therefore, I was—on a pragmatic and not a conscience basis—a determined abolitionist in 1955.
We have come a long way since then—and we have come back to the same place. The reason I stand here as an abolitionist and yet condemn the Government is that in acting in this way today the Government have shown a callous—I was going to say "disgusting"—disregard of public opinion. All of us, in our constituencies, have to stand up to this problem. I have never hidden my views from my constituents in any way. When we know that those who wish to see capital punishment reintroduced are in an immense majority it is idle for us to think that our constituents are different. We have to explain this matter to them and tell them why we think that they are wrong.
This is the possibility that the Government, by their deliberate action, have removed from us. Parliament has been asked to act today in a manner entirely regardless of the expressed views of the great majority of our people—and quite unnecessarily. There is no reason for the Government to force Parliament to take this decision tomorrow. It could well be postponed by three or even six months. That would give those of us who will vote for abolition tomorrow a better chance of 988 explaining the facts of life to our constituents.
In 1965, when Sydney Silverman's Bill came in, many of us thought that this was the last we would hear of the question. But it was not so. We underrated the great vested interest that the Press has in the maintenance of capital punishment. I remember, in connection with the Kray trial, an old reporter saying, "You do not get the crowds here fighting for admission now. It would have been different if the men in the dock had been fighting for their lives." They certainly would have sold more copies of their newspapers if those men had been fighting for their lives.
Abolitionists can take a justifiable pride in the conviction of the Kray brothers. Nothing will persuade me that a jury would have convicted them of capital murder in the absence of corroborative evidence other than from other criminals. I believe that they would still be at liberty if it had not been for the fact that capital punishment had been abolished.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
That is a startling observation. I suggest that those who have experience of the criminal courts would disagree with my hon. Friend almost unanimously.
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
Over the years I have come to have less and less regard for the views of those who have experience in criminal courts. I am expressing my own opinion, as we all do during these debates.
During these years, in my constituency two little girls were murdered in the most horrible, disgusting and grievous circumstances. The mothers of those two girls saw me frequently, and I told them time and again, "Do not you think that the person responsible for these dreadful crimes is being covered up by somebody else?".
Time went on, and I am glad to say that the person responsible was apprehended when attempting another assault. When he was apprehended his wife changed the evidence that would have given him an alibi on the previous charge, and he was convicted on that charge. He is now out of the way and, the schoolchildren of Walsall can go to school without fear of being assaulted. 989 or picked up—a fear which haunted their parents for a long time.
I put that to the credit of the abolition of capital punishment. Again, my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) will probably tell me that I am wrong, but it is my belief that that man's wife would not have changed her evidence if she had known that in doing so she would be sending her husband to the gallows. That is my impression, and no doubt other hon. Members will seek to correct me.
It may seem anomalous that I, as an abolitionist, should yet condemn the Government. The Government have not understood the problem. When I voted for the five-year rule I thought that it would extend into two Parliaments. The first Parliament lasted only for one-and-a-half years, and I thought that the second Parliament would have a chance of reconsidering the views of its predecessor. For Parliament to pronounce now is simply to repeat the verdict of 1965. I go along with that verdict, but I still think that this is a matter in respect of which the views of the public have been totally disregarded, and a matter in respect of which we have a responsibility as educators.
It is because I feel that this question has been entirely pushed to one side—because, although we are doing what we think is right, in doing so we are flouting the express wishes of the great majority of our people—that I go along with the Motion of censure.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon A. T. Bagier (Sunderland, South)
I have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid). In his opening remarks in a speech made in a debate on a Motion of censure concerning timing, and not concerning the Bill itself or the abolition of capital punishment as such, he said something which I would have hoped he would say on another occasion—possibly tomorrow. I refer to his remarks about the warder, the callousness, and about what is involved in a State killing.
The hon. Member went on to point out that he was abolitionist. I listened with great interest and respect to him because I am also an abolitionist. But then, with- 990 out following the logic of some of his remarks, he said that the House must take notice of public opinion. A week or a fortnight ago, according to the Daily Express, 84 per cent, of our people voted for the restoration of capital punishment. Where will the hon. Member be tomorrow, when it comes to the vote? He and I are in an extremely difficult position.
I understand the difficulties of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. They have a tremendous conscience problem. When the House debated this matter on the Sydney Silverman Bill it did so with a completely clear conscience, and with no Whips applied. The Bill went through the House after some difficulty, and we then had this five year period of suspension. Many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite voted for the Bill, as did many of my hon. Friends.
The theme of today's debate is that the Government have acted hastily. It has been said that we must put this off. This has always been the view of the party opposite when an unpopular decision has to be made. This question of the five-year period is not completely relevant, as the Minister of State so eloquently pointed out. How far do we go back with this? Do we go back to the 1957 Act? The hon. Member for Walsall, South has referred to a particularly brutal murder. I am not a lawyer, but, as I understand, in the Moors murder, for example, or murders such as the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, a little girl could be raped, beaten to death, but as long as her purse was not stolen it was non-capital murder. What a ridiculous situation.
This was the position which the House looked at in 1965. Poisoning is another example. I can think of no murder which can be more premeditated than murder by poison. This House in its wisdom dealt with the situation. Should we go back to 1967? Let us go back further. It is only during this century that it was a capital crime to deface Westminster Bridge. It is often defaced these days, but we cannot always catch the people. Shortly after the death penalty for that offence was removed this House threw out on three occasions a demand for the abolition of capital punishment for shoplifting. It has taken an 991 evolution of humanity to reach today's position.
I wish that this has been a two-day debate on capital punishment. Then we could more easily have outlined the case for and against. As we have a one-day debate I must ask: what are the motives of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in tabling a censure Motion? I suggest that they are backing a horse each way. Tomorrow they will salve their consciences—I believe that the vast majority of the House will-on this important matter. There are no votes in it. I shall argue my case as an abolitionist in a marginal constituency in Sunderland. The Opposition are tabling the Motion because tomorrow the Press will say that the Government voted for abolition and the Opposition for retention. Whether we like it or not this is how it will be dealt with.
I wish that I could exonerate certain right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite from this ploy. They are trying to back a horse each way and bringing into party politics a matter which should not be anywhere near it, but which should be left to the conscience of each individual Member. Certain sections of the Press have been deliberately dirty on this issue. This is an extremely emotive situation. People ask me, "What would you do if your daughter was murdered?" If I caught the man who did it, he would not even reach a court. I say this with all the sincerity I can command, but what would happen from there on? Would I be a murderer? Would I suffer capital punishment? Suppose I caught the wrong person? These are the emotive deep-rooted considerations, which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have to consider.
There was a particularly deplorable article in a newspaper recently which said that the hangman was rather sorry that he was unemployed. I have always argued against unemployment in any part of the country, but the hangman is one person who, I hope, will always remain unemployed, on the scaffold at any rate. Tomorrow, after we have got over this rather bad exercise on the part of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, I hope that the House will consider the position of the present Home Secretary as well as 992 that of previous Home Secretaries, and those who will hold the office in future.
I hope that we will not put him or any of his successors into the position of worrying about cases like the Craig and the Bentley case. I hope that we will not have him wondering whether another Ruth Ellis should die, whether Timothy Evans, who, I am convinced, was legally murdered for a crime he did not commit, should die. I hope that we will not put any Home Secretary in this position in future.
I am sorry that the debate has been about tactics and timing. Such a debate should not have taken place in this atmosphere, with a three-line Whip. I know that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has deep feelings about this, but it is a great pity that we should be discussing, in this way, something which is such a deeply emotive subject. I hope that the country will judge the opposition on this Motion.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier) has sat through the whole of the debate—
§ Mr. Peyton
Then I regret that he did not allow a little more of what was said on this side of the House to sink in. I regret that he has not listened more carefully instead of making a prepared speech about what he thought he would hear from these benches.
We have had to listen during today's debate to a right hon. Gentleman and a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite delivering themselves of the position and motives of the Conservative Party on this issue. They have said that it was our desire to carry this question on into a General Election. I want to put the position from which I approach the whole of this very unpleasant subject. It is my intention to vote against the Government tonight, but, equally, it is my intention tomorrow to vote for abolition, as I have done for 14 or 15 years now.
I do not find it possible, in the face of such evidence as we have, to change my view. I ask the House, and particularly the Home Secretary, to accept that in my mind there is no insincerity or 993 unreason in taking these decisions. In facing this most odious of all issues, I find myself unconvinced, to put it mildly, by the demands for the return of the gallows. I see in the public opinion polls a demand for a limited measure of hanging and I ask myself: how much do we have to have for it to be effective? It seems to me that we should need to prove by a very substantial number of executions that capital punishment was effectively back.
We have all learned the impossibility of seeking to draw distinctions between various classes of murders or murderers. There are those, for instance, who would have capital punishment applied to someone who goes out to rob when armed with a gun. There are those who would make special provision in respect of murders of prison warders. Those of us who accept the case for abolition are at least under some duty to address ourselves to the opinion of those who strongly hold that it is necessary to restore capital punishment to our modern scene. We do ourselves little good when we accuse all those who are against us simply of being brutal and out of date.
My position on the basic issue of capital punishment must be that to justify such brutality and finality as are involved in an execution, carried out with due formality by the State, its effectiveness must be proved beyond every possible doubt; and that is where the case for capital punishment effectively stops. But we are wrong if we lightly push aside the fact that the vast majority of our constituents, of all parties and of none, disagree with what perhaps the majority of the House will do tomorrow. I well remember the late Sydney Silverman stating, on this issue particularly, that it was essential that Parliament and Government, on issues such as this, should remain within hail of public opinion. With respect to the Home Secretary, that is what we are failing to do because of the speed with which the question has been put before the House.
The Home Secretary can rightly say that the question has been public and open for many years. Nevertheless, none of us—certainly not myself—expected that we should be called upon to give an answer to the question tomorrow after so short a period of notice. We are wrong if we suppose that many of our 994 constituents who sent us here would not welcome the opportunity of discussing the matter further.
I do not criticise the Home Secretary in any way if it is his desire to extract this highly emotive issue from the rather charged atmosphere of a General Election. I do not challenge that. But he would be the first to agree that there are many people of all parties who would not at all mind the opportunity of an effective discussion on the issue, if not at a General Election then at least now, and he is culpable for having curtailed the time which will be allowed them for such discussion.
The second reason why I am anxious to support the censure Motion arises from the position of Parliament. Ever since I have been here I have felt an increasing anxiety about the way in which Parliament is treated by the Executive—and I do not say that only of this Administration. Ten or more years ago I made a speech in which I called attention to the fact that the House of Commons had become the pekingese of the Administration.
Perhaps I might remind the right hon. Gentleman of a sad story which I read the other day, greatly publicised, of a dog whose owner had allowed its hair to grow over its eyes to such an extent that it could move only backwards, or, rather, that it had developed the habit of moving backwards. It seems to me that the House of Commons has degenerated from the pekingese with which I compared it 10 or 15 years ago to this unhappy animal with hair growing over its eyes and that it has become more and more the creature of the executive.
Reference has been made to the unhappy issue of the parliamentary boundaries. Without reopening that issue, I ask the Government to accept that there are some people who still regard the House of Commons and Parliament as a buttress for the remaining liberties of the people. They are anxious lest the overweening qualities of the Executive may lead them into trespassing far too much and without justification upon the rights of Parliament—and I need not remind the right hon. Gentleman that the rights of Parliament are the rights of the citizens.
That is why I am worried today. As I understood it, with great respect to the 995 hon. Lady I thought that her answer on this aspect of the matter was slightly legalistic. I remember the debate which took place on Lord Brooke's Motion. The impression left in my mind, and as far as I am aware in the mind of the public, was that Parliament would give this proposal a five-year trial and that when those five years were over Parliament itself would have a very good look at the figures and would attempt to learn from them.
I concede at once to the right hon. Gentleman that it is highly unlikely that the mere availability of the 1969 figures would alter my view—and I can speak for no one else. But I remind him that people outside only too often fail to distinguish between Government and Parliament. If Government and Parliament say to the people, "We know that you are anxious. We are most desirous that your worries should be calmed and that you should be assured that we are doing the right thing. We shall, therefore, have this five years' period of trial".
Then, just because a General Election threatens, to intervene and to hurry up the whole process is wrong. People will misconstrue the motives. I am not saying that the right hon. Gentleman's motives are wrong. I am merely saying that in his position it is incumbent upon him so to act that there is no possibility of such misconstruction.
Despite the rather ill-balanced judgments which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have reached about the motives of the Opposition, there are many of us who are convinced that there is no justification—and we are convinced of this at some cost in our constituencies—for continuing a penalty which is both brutal and ineffective. But, that being the case, we believe that it is of the utmost importance, even if it involves us in some inconvenience and worse, that we should go through the solemn motions of allowing people to speak, because when we flaunt or turn aside from public opinion as lightly as we are doing, we earn not merely their ingratitude but also their lasting and damaging contempt.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)
I confess to a slight feeling of anti-climax on rising to speak at this time, in that 996 what promised to be a remarkable occasion—one of those few nights in the House of Commons to recall and with which to bore one's grandchildren in years to come—seems to have fallen flat.
In my admittedly short career so far as an hon. Member, there have been only a handful of truly full-scale Opposition censure debates. Today, there has been a remarkable lack of enthusiasm from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who do not seem able to get to grips with the task in hand. The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) tried to represent the Government's action on this issue as some sort of appalling outrage perpetrated by the Executive on a hapless House of Commons. His was a remarkably unconvincing attempt.
Compared with the angry scenes that I have witnessed in the House in the last three or four years, when back benchers—not just opposite, but on this side of the House, too—have complained about lack of consultation, about the usual channels, or the Executive abusing the House of Commons or bringing it into disrespect, what we are witnessing today is very small beer indeed. I do not see the massive ranks and serried rows of hon. Gentlemen opposite waiting to attack the Government to expose, demolish and destroy them. Instead, hon. Gentlemen opposite are merely going through the motions; performing their party duty, and I have no doubt, doing it conscientiously, but very much as a chore.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite know that this whole business—this so-called Opposition censure—is a sham. I frequently get tired listening to hon. Gentlemen opposite make speeches on this matter. It is fashionable, perhaps almost inevitable, that hon. Members should talk in pious terms about the need to keep this subject out of the General Election arena. We have constantly been told that this is not a political matter that no party labels are attached to it. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier) that the only reasonable and plausible interpretation that one can place on the Opposition's action in tabling this censure Motion is that hon. Gentlemen opposite know only too well that while many of them will honourably, for personal reasons, vote for abolition, they are trying to create a general impression 997 in the Press—and particularly in the popular Press, which is read notably by people who are understandably not conversant with the niceties of the House of Commons activities—that the Conservatives tried to stand in the way of abolition while the Labour Party is tied irrevocably to it.
I am in favour of abolition and I have defended my views in my constituency. The same can be said of many of my hon. Friends, and we are not ashamed of the stand we have taken. It is undeniable that there is a political motive behind the Conservative manœuvre on this issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There is a political motive as distinct from prim constitutional niceties, and that explains why we are discussing this matter today.
I recall the campaign that was waged by the Conservative Party in the West of Scotland during the 1966 General Election. Capital punishment and the question whether or not it should return was perhaps the main party plank, though one or two Conservatives introduced the question of flogging just to vary the diet. With the honourable exception of one Conservative candidate—he was predictably standing for a hopeless seat from the Tories' point of view—the Conservatives seized on hanging as an issue which might whip up public enthusiasm for their cause. I do not for an instant believe chat that would not happen again if hon. Gentlemen opposite were given a chance to perform in like manner.
The arguments that have been used in various parts of the country, and particularly in my part of Scotland, by Conservatives give the lie to what the Opposition are trying to do today. For example, I recall hearing one Conservative hon. Member say in public only the other day that he was opposed to "this rush" on the part of the Government but not just because everything should be left until the 1969 figures were available. He went on to argue, I am sure honestly, that the decision should have been left until after the next General Election, because then the House of Commons would, he thought, have taken on a different complexion and the result itself might be different.
In other words, that hon. Gentleman was saying openly that Tory attitudes had nothing to do with the status of the 998 House of Commons or with the merits of the constitutional procedures of the House. It was purely and simply a straw at which he could clutch in the hope that there would be enough Conservatives with a reactionary turn of mind to put off the day when abolition would become the law. If that is not bringing politics into the matter even if disguised as concern for the niceties of the House of Commons, and bringing them in in the most shabby way, I do not know what is.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Would the hon. Gentleman explain why the Government have brought this matter forward now? Why not leave it until the proper time, or at least until July? At that time we might have asked for a short delay—of, perhaps, 12 months—until after the General Election.
§ Mr. Dewar
I was illustrating how political motives run deep. Behind the reasonably made speeches that some hon. Gentlemen opposite make on this issue from time to time, there is without doubt a political motive.
There are two main reasons why the Government have been right, on the merits of the case, to deal with this issue now. First, apart from taking the whole issue out of the main stream of politics, it is clear—the Minister explained this at length and with authority in her speech— that there is a technical difficulty in processing the figures. The law as it stands states that by 31st July next abolition will lapse and we will return to the indefensible position of the 1957 Act, a hotchpotch of a Measure the provisions of which no hon. Member, whatever his views on the subject, would wish to see reintroduced. Some people may say that this is a legalistic and technical argument and that figures of a sort could be produced. I gree, but they would not be final figures and would, therefore, not help us greatly.
In Scottish terms, if one looks at the history of this matter one sees the number of charges that have been reduced over the years to culpable homicide and the number of people who have appealed. One must inevitably say, therefore, that not only should we not have the five-year period so sacred to some but even the figures for the fourth year will blur the 999 statistics because they have not been processed. Only when the figures have been completely finalised will that year's figures not merely confuse the figures for the preceding years.
Secondly, we must not forget that the battle to get capital punishment abolished has been raging for many years in this country. The arguments have been rehearsed time and again and I need not repeat them. However—I do not want to be thought to be assuming an arrogant posture, particularly in respect of the speeches that will be made in tomorrow's debate-I suggest in reality that the number of floating voters on this issue is now strictly limited.
I cannot accept that the hon. Member for Yeovil was astonished to find himself faced with a decision, which he must have known was pending for a long time and which, in any event, would have had to come early in the new year. I can only assume that, for some reason, he is entirely immune to the realities of Press speculation. Inexperienced though I am in matters of this House and the machinery of politics I have been extremely well warned that this issue was bound to come up in the immediate future.
§ Mr. Peyton
The hon. Gentleman is making a number of general assumptions. For example, he assumes that all his political opponents habitually speak with their tongues in their cheeks. He makes this assumption so frequently that one wonders if it is not true of himself.
§ Mr. Dewar
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was entirely honourable and honest when he said that he would vote for abolition tomorrow. I got the impression, however, that, being a good party servant, he was making spurious and thin arguments in his efforts to belabour the Government.
We must not lose sight of the important charge that the Government have brought this matter forward with untimely haste. The Conservative Motion is based on the premise that this whole question can be decided on the figures; in other words, that if one plays the numbers game with sufficient pertinacity and persistence one will come up with absolute answers on which to base a true decision.
I do not believe that this is so. In the figures that have been published over 1000 a long period one may see, perhaps, a general trend, but I do not believe that the addition of another year's figures can significantly influence the general shape of the argument.
If that is not so, we are getting into a particularly difficult situation. If 1969 is so important, why not 1970? One hon. Member has asked for figures for seven years. So we can put off a decision ad infinitum, perhaps ending up with a kind of quinquennial review in which the House will look interminably at these difficult complexities in order to decide whether to retain or abolish the death penalty at that particular period.
The real issue is not what one year's statistics will produce. I submit in all seriousness that it does argue a disservice to concentrate constantly on this kind of arid statistical analysis because, if we are honest, we all know that figures are open to so many interpretations that an hon. Member taking any standpoint can find comfort in this red booklet on which all argument is based. The addition of the 1969 figures will not greatly alter anyones point of view.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) made, if I may say so, an impressive and obviously deeply sincere speech. He referred to the rising tide of violence and to the great jump that there has been in England, I am informed, in what have been called normal capital murders. I can argue from the Scottish point of view—and there are those in this House, though I think it a crazy suggestion, who want a separate decision for Scotland—and quote the fact that in Scotland since 1957 it is non-capital murders which have risen threefold—exactly (the types of murder which could not have been deterred by the death penalty because those committing them would not have been subject to capital punishment under the 1957 Act. The big increase in absolute murder figures was in 1963–64 in Scotland before abolition when the number of victims rose from 15 to 27. That illustrates how narrow are the margins on which we are working, and how large is the possibility of error.
The right hon. Gentleman also said, and he is probably quite correct, that the general rise in organised crime in England was reflected in murder statistics by the 1001 increased number of shootings. In Scotland, shootings have not gone up, but the surprising thing is the increased number of murders by strangulation. One sees this tremendous variation as between England and Scotland. The statistics from Scotland show that, broadening the scope to crimes of violence, Glasgow's record improved marginally last year, and I gather that this will happen again this year. But I cannot argue from this that, suddenly, the whole case for capital punishment has callapsed. To say so would be arrogant, and would be deemed to be ridiculous.
We cannot do that: we cannot make these horrific over-simplifications—crime has risen: the death penalty must return. We cannot take absolute totals from scattered random years and on them argue that the death penalty is the only solution. Comparative international experience illustrates exactly the same point. It is no good trying to argue that another year's statistics will make a significant difference in helping people to make up their minds. New Zealand abolished the death penalty, then brought it back, and then abolished it again because the situation remained the same. In American States contiguous to each other, where one has abolished capital punishment and the other has retained it, the pattern has remained constant, whether it be in Michigan and Ohio, or Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Everything points in the same direction. One can pick and choose from a great mass of evidence and come up with the answer that suits one.
Figures, of course, are important in the sense that they can give an impression or which one can base a final decision, but it is quite wrong to say that without the 1969 figures, which admittedly would not be accurate, the House is not competent to judge the question; and that their lack vitiates any decision we may take.
The real argument does not rest just on figures produced by the Home Office or by any other body, but on moral and social questions, and the moral question will and must continue to play a large part, whatever may be the 1969 picture.
References have been made to human error and judicial fallibility. That, too, must be taken into consideration tomorrow, and will not be altered or cor- 1002 rected by whatever figures we may have for 1969. Members must look to their general attitude to institutionalised murder. We all know the masses of facts; but there is also the obsession of the popular Press with the machinery of death; the crowds that collect to read the notice of execution; the inevitable concentration this brings on retribution, which has no place in a court of law. All this must be encouraged, and is bound to be encouraged, by retention of the death penalty.
These are a few of the real factors. The fallible statistics alone are not enough, and I hope that no Conservative hon. Members will be obsessed by this wish for one more year's figures, which in any case will tell them very little.
We have so far heard much about opinion in the constituencies, where each of us is under pressure. I live dangerously in Aberdeen, South, where I have a majority of only 1,800, and I am not too confident that my advocacy of the abolition of the death penalty will improve my chances there. At the same time I do not understand the logic of the arguments used today. Some hon. Members have told us that we must not rush because our constituents must be consulted, and others have told us that we must not rush because our constituents are dead against it. We cannot have it both ways.
This is a subject awesome in its complexities, awesome and awful in its responsibilities—responsibilities which some are inclined all too easily and readily to shrug off on to the shoulders of the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for Scotland.
This is not a matter on which it is easy for any of us to come to a decision, but I certainly do not think that pettifogging procedural points, and the addition of one year's figures to the already mammoth mass of statistics, both British and international, will help me to make up my mind. I am conscious of the dangers of letting this question drag on. I am conscious of the danger—I have seen it in my constituency, of its being kicked round in a General Election to blow up emotions in what is already an over-emotional situation.
The Government are right. I hope that we will get the right decision tomorrow. I am not arrogant enough to 1003 be absolutely sure that my decision is that decision, but the facts are there, and the facts are sufficient to allow me to make up my mind, and that I shall do tomorrow.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip-North-wood)
I shall detain the House for only a very short time. What we are concerned with in this debate is figures. Why have we been given only eight days' notice of a matter of such importance? I think that I can supply the answer. The greatest capacity of the human brain, any doctor can tell us, is to forget.
I can almost hear the conversation going on between the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary with other Ministers, "Christmas is coming. What can we sweep under the carpet and have forgotten by the time the New Year comes? Capital punishment. What about that?" Then someone would say, "It was the wish of the House of Commons that there should be a matter of five years, but that takes us into July and it could come during the General Election period."
Then someone would say, "Let us face it, they may be right or wrong, but the majority of people in the country, according to the Gallup Poll, are against abolition. Why not sweep the thing under the carpet before Christmas, get rid of it, give the House of Commons eight days' notice, have a two-day debate and it will be forgotten?" That is exactly what the Government are doing, and it is the reason for this debate.
I want to say a few words about figures. Here I might also be said to be speaking in a sense on the Government side, because, unfortunately, the figures do not tell the truth. I was talking to a medical officer in Brixton the other day. He told me, "The number of people who, over the last four or five years, I have been able to save with modern drugs—penicillin, antibiotics and the like—who otherwise would have died, is enormous." Cases which today are of unlawful wounding, wounding with intent, or 1004 grievous bodily harm, years ago would have been cases of murder.
Probably, I have defended more murderers than anyone else in the House at present. One goes to the Old Bailey now on a case of murder in a sort of holiday atmosphere. Before one gets into court very often one's opponent says, "What about a plea of manslaughter? It is worth considering." The discussion goes on and it is agreed, so one tells the client to plead guilty to manslaughter. Then the prosecution says, "In all the circumstances of the case we feel that the ends of justice would be met if we accepted a plea of manslaughter." Then it ceases to be a case of murder.
There are only two sets of figures which I should be interested to know about. I should like to know, if the Home Secretary can tell us tonight or tomorrow, how many police officers have been shot at and missed or wounded. That is a very important point, because sometimes someone tries to murder a person but he is not a good shot and he misses.
Another thing I should be interested to know is how many instances there are where people have died as a result of acts of violence which have been committed. One can reduce a case of murder to diminished responsibility as quickly as that. One can produce a couple of doctors—it takes only 10 minutes—and call only one doctor to produce a certificate from the other doctor. That is why the statistics of numbers of murders in the country do not mean a great deal. That is why I ask for time, so that this matter may be gone into with the greatest care.
It is not only murder with which we are concerned when we come to the hideous decision about the death penalty. It all flows out from violence. There was a time, I can assure the House, when the old lags would not go out on a job with men with guns. They were not going to risk being "topped" as they called it, but they will go now because there is no risk, nothing to worry about. Life imprisonment. What does that mean? Everyone knows that it is nine or 10 years because a man becomes institutionalised after that.
Years ago I was defending a man at London Sessions, when I was only a young man at the Bar. He got drunk 1005 and smashed in a shop window. I said, "There is no answer. You will have to plead guilty". He said, "I know that, guv'nor". He was a mild little man—he might have been the Prime Minister—a delightful person. I asked him, "Any previous convictions?" He said, "No; I just got drunk". I said, "Are you quite sure you have no previous convictions?" He said, "Well, yes. A long time ago there was one". I asked him, "What was that?" He said, "It was 12 years ago". I said, "Tell me what it was, drunk, or something of the sort?" He said, "No, murder". He had murdered his wife in the kitchen with a carving knife. He was reprieved.
That was the kind of person who should have been reprieved. It was a crime passionnelle, of which we now take notice. That is the sort of problem one is up against when we consider these questions and statistics. Or we have to consider whether it is a ghastly case such as the Moors case, or another in which I was concerned, where it is right that a man should be hanged because of the deterrent value of hanging.
It is no good people saying that there is no deterrence in hanging. Many of m would have had the opportunity of winning the Victoria Cross during the last war if we had charged German machine gun posts instead of going round the back. Of course it is a deterrent. A man will not go on a job if he knows that a man with him has got a gun and that he may be "topped". We have put a premium on murder. Although there has been a change recently, in certain cases there is life imprisonment and that is the end of the story. We all know what life imprisonment is. Sometimes the judge will make a recommendation which does not necessarily carry any weight. He will still have to give life imprisonment and he can recommend that it shall be 20, 25, or 30 years. We all know that there is a third remission for good behaviour.
No doubt the Home Secretary will deal with this when he speaks. There have been a number of cases during the last three years where very heavy sentences were imposed, as in the great train robbery. I will bet my bottom dollar that those men do not serve 20 years, because we know they will become utterly useless 1006 and institutionalised after they have served 10 or 11 years. The Home Office will be able to let them out quietly. No one will remember and no one will mind. It is good publicity in the Press, but I am certain that those train robbers, with their third remission, will not serve 20 years. I am quite certain that with the humanity there is in the Home Office they will be out after they have served 11, 12, or 13 years. It is an absolute fraud on the public to impose such sentences. Those are the sort of problems we are having to face today.
I am not an abolitionist. I have defended only one man who was hanged, and he was quite wrongly hanged. I went to see the Home Secretary. All that the man had done was to tie the feet of a man together with a piece of string. The man with him struck the man on the jaw and broke it. The man struggled to his feet and fell and struck his knees against the serving bar. He had a napkin round his mouth, fell beck, and the blood got into his throat and he died. That was 12 years ago. It was a case of grievous bodily harm, but the man was convicted and hanged. The two men were 22 and 23 years of age respectively. It upset me a great deal. I almost became an abolitionist as a result.
I believe that the solution is to bring back the old law, bring back the death penalty, have a court of appeal in regard to the sentence of death and impose it only very rarely. Hon. Members will know of at least two cases during the last three years where, I think, they would not have dissented from the death penalty being imposed. I think that everyone knows what those two cases were. I was concerned in one of them. If there is a deterrent factor, and I am quite certain that there is, keep the shadow there. There will always be that uncertainty.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
The hon. and learned Member has referred to two murders in the last few years. I take it that one was the Moors murder. Does he not recollect that one of the murderers in that case was committed for trial on the day after the last man was executed for murder in this country?
§ Mr. Crowder
I do not say that it will always be a deterrent. If we can retain 1007 the death penalty and impose it only very occasionally, it will act as a deterrent in some cases of murder. It will certainly act as a deterrent in many cases of violence. It now pays a criminal to shoot his way out of a tight spot. If he goes out on a bank robbery with a pick handle, a mask, a gun—the lot—and gets caught, he can rest assured that if £100,000 or £150,000 are involved the sentence will be enormous. It will be 20 or 25 years. What is the difference between that and life? There is nothing in it, so he might just as well, if the police come round the corner, make a fight of it, shoot his way out, and kill.
§ Mr. Crowder
Only a few years ago I sought to introduce, under the Ten-Minute Rule, a Bill which would have provided that the killer of a policeman should receive a sentence of 30 years so that people would know what the premium was. That Bill was voted down by the present Government. I do not think that they meant to vote it down. They did not know what they were voting on. They thought that it was something else.
Not only do we have a duty to the killer. We also have a duty to protect the public and the police.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
This is a curious debate, in that most of those who have spoken from the benches opposite are declared abolitionists. If they were fervent abolitionists, as they have claimed, they would not want to continue the present unsatisfactory situation, because we have not yet totally abolished the barbarous practice of capital punishment.
The hon. and learned Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder) has added a new ingredient, but has not detracted from the mystification of the debate nor blunted the fact that the Opposition seek to censure the Government. I am not a lawyer. I have never had the experience of defending a murderer, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has many times. He came very near to being an abolitionist in describing one harrowing experience culled from 1008 his legal practice when his arm had nearly been twisted. I have some reason to hope that, when the real debate takes place tomorrow, as we are all open to conviction, and as this is what parliamentary debate is all about, the hon. and learned Gentleman will become an abolitionist.
Tomorrow we discuss the main issue under a free vote, which is the most democratic process that can be mustered in the House. I support the Government's decision to submit the main issue for the decision of the House tomorrow. I do this on the merits of the matter, because I am not a blind supporter of the Government on all domestic and international matters.
I regret to say that I did not have the pleasure of hearing the speech of my hon. Friend the Minister of State, although I heard the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone(Mr.Hogg). I have detected from the tone of the debate that the Government have not said in forthright terms that they wish, not necessarily to remove this issue from the arena of the general election, but at least to dampen it down and to put it into proper proportion.
I do not suppose this point has been argued, but I am not afraid of adducing such an argument. What occurs in this Chamber is national news. The Press conveys it to the public, and the public must make up their mind upon it. At this stage of events we cannot know what effect our forthcoming discussion will have on public opinion. People are divided on this issue, even families are divided on it. My own family is to a large extent divided. It is difficult to judge whether the Government are correct in their timing in having this matter decided at this juncture without also considering the much wider issues.
The argument of the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) was contradictory, because he described capital punishment as an obscenity. Even if he did not use that word, others criticising the Government have used it. The hon. Gentleman said that we are bound by a decision made in the last Parliament. I do not believe that I must be hidebound by that decision. I came into the House at the 1966 General Election. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) is correct 1009 in saying that Parliament has the right and the duty to review matters as frequently as it wishes. It is to review this matter tomorrow. The procedures of the House are relevant only to the life of a Parliament. Many of our procedures are relevant to one Session only. No hon. Member who came here in 1966, and no hon. Members who will come here for the next Parliament, can be bound by any wishes of a previous Parliament.
If we can strip the issue bare of party considerations and the thought that there is some kudos to be won from this, it is permissible to state a personal view. I am not a pacifist. My view is that in some circumstances it is valid to take human life. If we were living in conditions in which there was mass looting, rape and murder—if we were living in a revolutionary situation, for example; if we were living in circumstances of war—I should have an open mind as to the way in which mad dogs had to be treated.
I should never think that the best method1 would be to hang them at the gallows. I do not think I should be a supporter of that method of disposing of human life. I have that continuous open-mindedness. I therefore think that it would be difficult for the Government to take this action if the public in general were passionately opposed to them.
May I make this analogous point. I find that people are totally opposed to immigration, until one gets down to specific cases. When one asks "Do you want to keep a child or somebody's wife or husband out of this country?" people then say "No". One then finds that their first proposition is not what they really have in mind.
As hon. Members have said, the public opinion polls are supposed to reveal an 85 per cent, view that hanging is right. But I very much doubt whether that is so. It depends upon the manner in which the questions are posed. If one is involved in discussing murder in the small family circle one finds that people are opposed to capital punishment because of the anxieties which are felt by the people in that circle. One of them might even know the alleged murderer. Therefore, one becomes a total abolitionist, as the hon. and learned Member for Ruislip-Northwood said he nearly became, as a result of his experiences.
1010 Never in the British Parliament, either in timing its business or in a free vote, must we be guided by public opinion polls, although we certainly have them very much in mind. I have never had representations on this matter from any constituent since the last General Election, although I concede that I might do so as a result of my speech tonight. This is only one of a wide range of matters in which the electorate have to concern themselves. Therefore, whatever the motives of the Government when they decided to have tomorrow's debate, I shall thoroughly support them.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
It is almost exactly five years to the day since I stood where I stand now and had the honour of making my maiden speech. I did so on the subject of the abolition of capital punishment and I spoke in support of the Second Reading of the Bill.
I declared myself to be an abolitionist. I said that I found the taking of life by the State to be abhorrent and I did not believe that capital punishment was a unique deterrent. I said on that occasion that only if it could be shown that the death penalty was a unique deterrent, and more so than any other form of punishment, would we be justified in retaining capital punishment in this country.
I still hold the same views, and I would only add this. Like the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell), I believe that the burden on those who wish to restore capital punishment in this country is extremely heavy, and they have yet to prove their case before one can consider its restoration at this time. It is because I believed that my views were right, that capital punishment was not the great deterrent and that the views I was expressing would be justified, that I for one was content that that view should be tested and I voted as I did during the passage of the Bill.
In spite of what the hon. Lady the Minister of State may have said today, when she said that the words "five years" were not written into the Bill, there is no doubt that it was the intention of Parliament at that time—and this can be found in the opening words of the then Secretary of State—that Parliament should have the opportunity of reconsidering five years later the decision that was then 1011 taken. I was content to be judged on the views that I expressed and I supported the Amendment.
I welcomed and supported that Amendment for another reason. Because what I said on that occasion and the way that I voted on that occasion did not accord with the views of the vast majority of the people who are represented, I believed it was vitally important that when the time came—as I believe it has now come—for taking a decision whether to abolish capital punishment for ever—for, in effect, that is what we shall be voting on tomorrow—we should be seen to do so in the light of the maximum amount of knowledge available to this House and, as some of my hon. Friends have said, in the light of full public debate on what the figures show.
As I say, I remain an abolitionist. I do not believe that the figures that we have seen published prove that capital punishment is a unique deterrent. I do not believe they prove the case for a return to capital punishment. Therefore if, as is likely, I have to decide tomorrow, I shall go into the Lobby in favour of the Government's Motion. I shall vote for abolition.
But I am bound to say that I still regret the way in which the Home Secretary has brought the matter before the House at this time. I believe it can only be said that the Home Secretary is trying to push through this issue in the week before Christmas in the hope that the position and views of individual Members will get lost in the various pre-Christmas activities. It would have been better had we delayed this decision until all the figures that could be made available are produced.
I accept that the vast majority of the public are opposed to the decision that we shall take tomorrow, and I think it is important that they know that when we take that decision we do so on the widest available evidence. To do it in this way and at this time is, I believe, a cowardly exercise for this House. The political correspondents are obviously right. There is no doubt that the Motion will be carried tomorrow evening. If one were to take a poll only of those who have spoken in this debate, it is clear that the Motion will be substantially carried. But I have no doubt 1012 that the public opinion polls to which the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier) referred, equally accurately display the views of the country outside this House. I have no doubt that at least 80 per cent, of the country are opposed to the permanent abolition of capital punishment.
I am not suggesting for a moment that we should be guided by public feeling on any issue. I am certainly not suggesting that we are bound to follow public opinion, but I do suggest that it is something we must consider and that we should remember that we are here as representatives of the public. If we choose, as we do, to give a lead in a way which is contrary to the views of the vast majority of the people in the country, it is vital that we do it after the fullest possible debate and in the fullest glare of publicity.
Otherwise, I fear that we shall give the impression that we are anxious to brush the whole matter aside, ignoring the views of the public, and to get rid of it because it is convenient to us to do so, in the hope that people will soon forget how any particular Member voted on this issue. I believe there are strong grounds for waiting till the 1969 figures are available. I believe the hon. Lady herself in effect conceded that this point was arguable when she said that the criminal statistics were available only on 9th June last year. I do not see why we could not have waited to have this debate in July next year. I thought that her argument about the shortage of time in the parliamentary calendar was somewhat weak.
The ground I put forward as worthy of consideration is that we have to accept, abolitionist or not, that we are going through a period of violence. On the figures so far published, to date in 1969 crimes of violence have risen by over 18 per cent, compared with 1968. The public are entitled to know, before Parliament makes its decision on this matter, what effect that increase in violence is having on the murder rate. I believe that it has very little. As I have said, I am unlikely to change my mind on the issue, but the public are at least entitled to know that these sort of figures have been taken into account.
Since I reject the hon. Lady's argument about shortage of time, I find it 1013 difficult to see what the reasons are that justify the Government in bringing forward their Motion tomorrow. It has been said on the benches opposite that it is not political. I have no doubt that the only possible basis of bringing forward the matter for decision tomorrow instead of waiting until next spring is to try to keep the issue as far as possible from election year.
§ Mr. Carlisle
Why should we advance the time when a decision is to be taken merely in an effort to keep it further away from the next General Election? I do not believe that it is an honest argument to say that one wishes to keep this out of the arena of party politics, because I hope what I and my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) have said shows that this is not a party political matter. But it is an intensely political matter. It is a matter on which people feel very strongly, and I have no hesitation in saying that I believe the electorate have a right to question and requestion candidates on their views of the matter. It is a matter which they are entitled to ask about and to which they are entitled to an answer in deciding their whole view on whether to support a particular candidate.
Although it is not a party political matter, it is certainly one which we should not be afraid of facing in an election year. The electorate are entitled to know our views before they vote for us on this issue as well as on any other. I, as an abolitionist, am prepared to defend and have defended my position in my constituency and elsewhere, and I believe that all of us who are abolitionists should be prepared to defend our position.
§ Mr. Rose
Will the hon. Gentleman, nevertheless, agree with me that it would be utterly wrong if, during a General Election, this were to be made almost the sole issue of a campaign to decide the Government of the country for the next five years? Is he aware that this is what happened in one area of the North-West and is why I made my speech in the rather strong terms I used?
§ Mr. Carlisle
I heard the hon. Gentleman's speech and had I spoken earlier would have commented on it. Of course 1014 I accept that it would be unhealthy if the issue wholly governed the election. But I think the hon. Gentleman answered himself when he tried to say that certain Conservative candidates sought to make this a major plank in their platforms. They were, in fact, not very successful, I would remind him, and if he studies the figures I think he will find that they came out no better than those who were for abolition. This is not a party issue, but it is a political issue and one which must be faced in an election year if the decision of Parliament that it should be reviewed before July, 1970, comes to fruition in an election year.
The other thing which worries me is the even worse possible reason, if it is not a political one—that the Home Secretary is doing this because he is trying to cover up something. People ask whether it is because he is so unhappy with the case for abolition—he having said that he is a firm abolitionist—that he wants to get it out of the way before any more figures are available. I do not myself think that this is true, but it is the impression that one can give to the retentionists by bringing the matter forward for decision before there has been an opportunity for public debate on the full figures.
I spoke in favour of the abolition of capital punishment when I first came to this House, and I voted for it. I shall vote for it tomorrow, but I would have done so with a good deal more willingness if there had been no need for this debate today and the decision could have been postponed until the time when we could have shown the public that we had taken into account all the possible material to hand which should have been taken into account.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I apologise to my hon. Friend the Minister of State for not having heard her speech. It is sometimes a wise precaution, when one is supporting the Government, not to listen to the Ministerial speech on their behalf, but in her case that could never be so. She is one of the most persuasive speakers in the House of Commons and in the country. I am sorry that I did not hear her speech, but I shall read it tomorrow, if only to confirm the prejudice I have on her behalf.
1015 The hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) based his argument on the suggestion that this is not the proper time for the House to decide the matter. He seemed to suggest that we should not do it so shortly before Christmas, as if there is a kind of parliamentary close season for discussing serious matters. I do not think that that can be so. We cannot discriminate between one week and another in the parliamentary calendar on that basis. Indeed, most of the arguments he put, and which many other hon. Members opposite have put, were really based on the claim that the Government are mismanaging parliamentary business, that they should be arranging the timetable in a different way. That is not a very serious charge. It has been hurled against every Leader of the House within my knowledge.
The right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), when he was Leader of the House, was bitterly attacked week after week for the way in which he ordered parliamentary business—and with some justice, because more guillotine Motions were introduced by him than in any other period in parliamentary history. That seemed to justify some of the charges against him. So when hon. Members opposite say that the Government must be convicted of having disorganised the parliamentary timetable so that we cannot discuss these important matters at the proper time, my reply is that it is never the proper time to discuss some matters and, of course, it is the normal game of parliamentary opposition to say that a matter under discussion should be discussed more appropriately some other time.
But the Opposition can only claim that in this case if they can prove or show or illustrate that the House and the country are not in a fit and proper state to settle the question. I do not think that that can be argued. Probably no other subject has been more debated over the past 30 or 40 years than capital punishment. Most hon. Members will remember debating it at school. It is the most familiar topic of argument in the country. So much has been canvassed in recent months, and so much has it been prophesied that a debate would take place, that retentionists have even been 1016 able to organise a petition. That was not all done in the past eight days. The petition has been organised over many months. The newspapers have discussed the matter for many months.
I do not believe that any hon. Member can honestly say that the House is not in a position to make a judgment on the matter. I agree that it is very important that the House should always consider its relations with the public outside. I agree that our debates should be arranged to synchronise with the general possibilities of debate in the country. If the Government were trying to settle this matter in a way which prohibited public debate, I would be thoroughly opposed to such a timetable.
But that is not the case. The absence of any signs of fury on the benches opposite during this debate on a supposed Motion of censure is proof of what I am saying. It is the most flippant Motion of censure which I can remember all the time that I have been a Member. It has no spirit and no fire. The Opposition know1 that they do not have much general support. I do not attribute motives to those who have chosen this subject for debate, but the evidence which we have had today shows that there is very little sincere passion among the Opposition about this question.
One of the reasons why the country and the House of Commons are in such difficulty is the new Clause passed four years ago. Some of us opposed it. What occurs in Parliament over the next few days may prove that those who opposed the Clause were correct. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) has departed from the Chamber. He participated in the discussion on the Clause of Lord Brooke of Cumnor, as he now is, introducing the so-called five-year duration period.
The right hon. Member for Ashford said:Although I am a retentionist, I take the view that the House of Commons ought now to make up its mind finally one way or the other. This argument has gone on for a long time, and, without going all the way with the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich in his concluding remarks about the doubts which society might cast on whether Parliament knew its own mind, which I do not share, I consider that society has a right now to know exactly where it stands on this matter, and we should put it beyond doubt. Second, I cannot resist the feeling—I hope 1017 that it is without foundation—that this proposal might be seen not so much to offer safeguards as to mollify such opinion as remained hostile to abolition.Later, he said:We cannot play Hamlet over this; we must make up our minds."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1965; Vol. 713, cc. 547 and 549.]That was the right hon. Gentleman's view lour years ago. Unfortunately, it was not accepted at the time. The Home Office, through Lord Stow Hill, as he now is, recommended to the House, no doubt with all the knowledge of the Home Office behind it, that it would be better to reject the new Clause. He said that that method of procedure would prove unworkable.
The then Member for Nelson and Colne, Mr. Sydney Silverman, who had introduced the Bill, accepted the new Clause, and did not seek to remove it on Report, only because he was assured that it was unworkable. We are now faced with an extremely delicate constitutional position, and those words may be proved to have been correct, because the Motion could be carried in this House tomorrow and defeated in another place. What the precise constitutional position would be in those circumstances, I am not sure. But it would be a very dangerous situation. The new Clause should never have been inserted in the Bill.
What we are dealing with is a constitutional abortion, because if the Government had not proposed the Motion the Act would have collapsed and we would have returned to the situation which obtained under the 1957 Act which almost every Member, whatever his view about capital punishment, believes to be absolutely intolerable and unjust. Yet the decision was made by that new Clause that the Parliament should be put in this extremely difficult situation. The Government have got out of it by the only way they could. In the light of that provision, hateful and disagreeable as it was, they had to bring forward some sort of proposal.
Hon. Members opposite say that they should have waited until next summer, until the eve of a General Election. That is their main case. Not merely would it have been a matter of deciding the question of capital punishment just before a General Election, whether right or wrong; there would have been a constitutional question perhaps two, before the election.
1018 I do not know whether the House thinks that that would be such a good idea—that is, to have this constitutional botch of the House of Commons voting one way and the House of Lords voting another way, which may well occur in this instance. Hon. Members opposite argue that it would have been a good thing for the country that in the midst of or just prior to a General Election that kind of confusion should have arisen. It would be a confusion which, as far as I know—and I should be glad to have an answer from the Government on this —could have been cleared up only by the introduction of another Measure.
Therefore, what hon. Members opposite are arguing is that the matter should have been postponed until next summer, that we should have run the risk of a division of opinion between the two Houses and then force the Government to introduce a Bill dealing with capital punishment between the time when it was thrown out by another place and the General Election. Therefore, just prior to the election, not merely would these proposals be debated, but there would be a new Bill to be dealt with. That is what the Opposition are recommending. I do not know whether they think it is a serious proposition. The Government are wise to have avoided such appalling confusion, but hon. Members opposite must recognise that that is exactly what they are recommending.
When the Bill to remedy the confusion of the House of Lords having disagreed with the House of Commons was going through, perhaps next summer, there might be people convicted of murder. Emotions would be inflamed if nobody knew what the law was about murder. Whatever right hon. and hon. Members may think about this matter, it is surely one on which there should be certainty and clarity. What is most invidious and most calculated to raise disagreeable emotions in the country is not the question of it being a matter of Parliamentary debate, but its being raised at a time when the execution of a man might depend on a vote taken in the House. We have seen emotional scenes in the House before. Some of us think that they have been disgraceful. That is one of the many reasons why we wanted this horrific business to be done away with.
1019 I was horrified to hear an hon. Member opposite describing how he had seen an innocent man hanged. It had rather upset him, but it had not altered his view about the death penalty. It was a most horrifying confession to be made by a Member of Parliament. That is the kind of situation which hon. Members who wish a decision to be postponed want to be sustained month after month, year after year.
I do not mind if this question enters into a General Election. People are entitled to put and argue the question in an election. They are entitled to raise any question at the time of General Elections. But hon. Members opposite should consider, before the end of this debate, whether a constitutional crisis between the two Houses is advisable on the implementation of a law which deals with men's lives and the State's right to take men's lives. It is a very strange prelude to a General Election for the Conservative Party to recommend with all the solemnity of a vote of censure, even if it is presented in well-nigh farcical terms.
People have the right to raise any issue at General Elections. I do not wish to prohibit them in any way by suggesting that there is something indecent in it. But Members of Parliament who believe in representative democracy have to stand for these principles and present their respective cases. I do not believe in Government by plebiscite or by referendum. Certainly, I do not believe in Government by Gallup Poll, especially when deciding on instruments for dealing with men's lives. Members of Parliament have to face the electorate and ask it to send them back as its representatives.
The electorate must be told that there will be many tests and that Members of Parliament will return to their constituencies an dargue the case. The electorate must be told also that, if it likes to throw out its Members at the next election, it can. But if hon. Members believe in representative democracy, they must defend the right of an individual hon. Member to use his vote in this place. If we deny that right, we destroy the basis on which we are all here.
Sydney Silverman never shirked that duty. At the last election, he was returned to this House on the basis of not 1020 merely standing up for his views on this issue. He fought the election partly on it. The people of his constituency showed great wisdom and understanding of our democratic process by returning him with a fine majority, and I believe that the people of this country understand better than many of their representatives among right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite how our representative system works.
I have no inhibitions in voting down this Motion of censure. It is one of which any party which claims to be in favour of representative democracy should be thoroughly ashamed. We believe that this issue has been debated fairly and at length. We believe that it is proper for people to hold different views, but the House of Commons will make up its mind on the matter, and we hope that our decision will be accepted. Many thought that right hon. and hon. Members opposite should have been prepared to accept the decision four years ago. I hope that they will accept it tomorrow and not resort to the shabby device of pretending to the people that the decision has been made unfairly.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
We have listened, as always, to a very powerful speech from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). Whatever subject he talks about, he is always worth listening to, even when one does not agree with him.
The hon. Gentleman is one of the few speakers in the debate to have discussed the subject of today's debate and not that of tomorrow's. I will try to follow his example.
Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides have tended to speak from entrenched positions. There is always the danger that when we are thinking, we are simply rearranging our prejudices, and that is what many hon. Members have done today.
I want to come back to a simple point, and it is the reason why I have been trying to intervene in the debate. When we discussed the present Act in 1965, some hon. Members were persuaded to vote for it because of the insertion of the Clause providing for, they thought, a five-year experimental period during 1021 which it could be seen whether the abolition of capital punishment worked. It seems that we are breaking faith with those whom we promised that there would be a five year experimental period.
I will not argue about the figures, because they can be made to prove anything. The increases which have been shown in the figures so far published do not necessarily indicate that the abolition of capital punishment has led to an increase in murder. However, I feel that it was the duty of the Home Secretary to present such figures as were available some time before he tabled the Motion which we shall be discussing tomorrow.
It was also his duty to present to the House and the country the results of any investigation which had taken place with a view to interpreting the trend, not only in murders but in crimes of violence. Has any connection been seen between the abolition of capital punishment and the rising trend of violence, not all of which of course leads to murder.
If we are not careful, the general public will begin more and more to think that the Government take no notice of people's views and wishes. Already, there is a general cynical attitude towards politicians. Every hon. Member has heard constituents say that Members of Parliament are out of touch with what goes on and take no account of what people believe. People feel that hon. Members live in an artificial glasshouse making laws which have no relevance to the realities of life.
Instead of the Government putting a Motion before the House in this sudden manner, was it not their duty at least to try to carry the country with them? Although they would not convince 80 per cent, of the people who are retentionists that the abolition of capital punishment should be continued, they might have gone a long way to convincing a great many of them. The Government could have explained what Parliament was trying to do in going on with the abolition of capital punishment and have given people the impression that we were trying to do it reasonably, taking into account their views.
The Government have tabled their Motion, and we are to debate it tomorrow, but we have been given very little time to consider the views of our 1022 constituents. I understand that we are to have a delegation of police coming tomorrow. I do not know their views, but I understand that they are for the retention of capital punishment. There is no time in which to consider their views but they would seem to provide a weighty argument against the Government's Motion.
Let me express my point of view and the reason I am speaking now. At the time of the original debate, I was a retentionist. I came to that view after searching my conscience. Like most people, I was horrified at the way in which capital punishment was carried out. I realised that there were mistakes which could not be undone. At that time, however, I thought that we were not ready for the abolition of capital punishment because we had nothing else to put in its place which would act as a deterrent, and it could not be proved that it would not lead to a considerable rise in crimes of violence. Over the years since then, I have tried to follow the consequences of our action. I have tried to understand what has been happening and to see whether we were right.
A number of hon. Members have said that we have had many years of debate on the subject. That is true. However, there has been only one short period when we have not had capital punishment and when it could be seen whether it was likely to lead to any increase in crime.
I wish only that the Government had been prepared to continue the experiment until we had figures for the full five-year period which could then have been analysed and presented to the House. That would have meant not only delaying this decision until next year, which many assume will be the run-up to the next General Election. It would have meant also delaying it for the next Government to decide after we have had the experience of the full five-year period on which to base our decision.
I do not think that it lies in the mouths of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to accuse us of some form of political chicanery in presenting this Motion. There are many similar accusations which could be levelled against the Government. I do not want to suggest that there are ulterior motives on the part of the Home Secretary in trying to 1023 present his Motion to the House before Christmas.
However, I want hon. Members to appreciate that there are many who are genuinely concerned about this matter, and I would like evidence which would prove to me conclusively that it would be right to support the Government tomorrow. I have not been given that evidence, nor have I been given sufficient time in the short period during which capital punishment has been abolished to make up my mind.
§ Mr. Woodburn rose—
§ Mr. Woodburn indicated assent.
§ Mr. Hall
We all know what happens once a final act of decision is taken. When an Act is on the Statute Book it is more difficult to find time to come back to make a change than if there is an experimental period with a definite ending on which the House can come to a decision.
This is one reason why I do not accept the suggestion that we should support the Government's Motion and let the abolition of capital punishment become an established fact and then the next Government can introduce a Bill to change it. It is less likely to happen that way than if we had an experimental period continue. That is why I want the Government to give more time and to honour the undertaking freely given and decided by this House that we should have an experimental period of five years so that not only we in this House but the country can consider the results of abolishing capital punishment.
There is a tendency in the House to consider that we are the fountainhead of all wisdom and that it does not matter that the majority in the country have an opposite view. We seem to think that because we are in a specially privileged position, with access to information, and so on, it is possible for us to arrive at the right conclusions whereas the opinions of the vast majority outside are wrong.
In the 80 per cent., or whatever the figure is, of people who are opposed to 1024 the abolition of capital punishment there are men and women of considerable intelligence and attainments in the country. They are not people who have not given some thought to this matter, but people who have given considerable thought to it and have long experience of various walks of life. They may be wrong. They may not have the specialised experience which enables them to arrive at a conclusion about it. But we should not be so arrogant as to assume that we know best and that the majority of people do not know the right answer. We should avoid giving that impression. If we continue to give that impression, after a time people will take no notice of Parliament because it no long reflects what the people either think or want.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
There was a time when a censure Motion in the House of Commons was a matter of great moment. It was an occasion when the Opposition, seething with indignation at something that the Government were doing or were proposing to do, set down this final instrument of condemnation and the benches opposite were crowded as emotion ran high. Look at the Opposition benches now. How many hon. Gentlemen have we here seething with indignation, as the newspapers stated over the weekend, about the manoeuvres of the Home Secretary to back up then Front Bench on this censure Motion. There are eight hon. Members of the Opposition who feel so strongly—
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West) rose—
§ Mr. Lyon
—about this matter waiting for their turn to speak.
This is the most pathetic censure Motion which has ever been moved by an Opposition noted for pathetic censure Motions. They put down a series of censure Motions against my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was Home Secretary. They were well and truly trounced, so they desisted for a while; but they seem to be returning to their old unfortunate ways. So today we have a censure Motion which the Opposition have tried to support from most curious stances. Many hon. Gentlemen have come here and said either that they have been lifelong abolitionists or that they have been driven into the abolitionist lobby, but they feel on this 1025 occasion that the Government are acting precipitately in bringing forward their Motion at this time.
The hon. and learned Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder) even got to the stage of telling us why they were so vexed. They were vexed because it would be impossible in the General Election to continue to smear the Government by saying, "This is the Government which is opposed to the popular will". As some hon. Gentlemen have pointed out, the impression which will be created in the popular mind will not be whether they voted for or against capital punishment, but that the Labour Government was in favour of abolition and that the Conservative Opposition forced a party division. That is why we are having a debate today instead of tomorrow. That is why the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) will now be able to go to the next Tory Party conference and say, "As a party we tried to put your point of view before the Government, but they resisted".
Let us look at the case being put forward. There is only one possibility of supporting this censure Motion; that is, that in the discussion of this subject the 1969 figures are so crucial for a significant number of hon. Members that we ought to wait for them. That would be an acceptable position if, looking over the figures that have been reproduced in this Home Office Research Study on Murder from 1957 to 1968, it could be shown that in any one year there was a significant change or that the change indicated a new pattern emerging in the form of murder. There is no such year between 1957 and 1968. There are years when, by comparison with other figures, there are significant jumps up; but there are years following when there are significant jumps down.
The one thing about murder is that, by and large, the figures remain fairly stable whether or not there is capital punishment. There are two figures, to which I will come in a moment, which might be significant, but we must remind ourselves that the figures for murder in this country, mercifully, are incredibly small. By comparison with the American situation they are almost infinitesimal. The figures show that whereas in 1957 the rats of murder was about three per million of the whole population in 1026 England and Wales, in 1968 it was also about 3 per million. In the meantime it had been down to 2.5 and it went up in 1967 to 3.2, but it is incredibly small. When three policemen were killed in one incident about two years ago, the percentage jumped up incredibly.
But we cannot draw any long-term conclusions from that. The House will recollect the agitation to bring back capital punishment created in the country by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) after that incident. He was not for waiting five years; he wanted it back there and then because, he said, the police were in danger. In fact, that year was wholly exceptional. Happily, no policemen have been killed in the intervening years. The number of policemen killed since 1957 is happily very small. I would say to the Police Federation that nothing in the figures indicates that the death penalty is a deterrent which assists them in their work.
What is clear about murder, as distinct from other forms of crime, is that there is a high detection rate. The figures indicated in this pamphlet are surprising. It is surprising how few murders there are known to the police where someone is not brought to book or at least the mystery solved because someone commits suicide. The real deterrent to murder is not capital punishment or any other form of punishment, but the fact that in a case of murder one is more likely to be found out.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
Is not one of the most important factors not just the number of murders but the number of attempted murders? Are not those the figures we need so desperately to make a value judgment?
§ Mr. Lyon
Whether one takes the figures for murder, attempted murder, crimes of violence, shooting, and the general rise in the figures for serious crime, I doubt whether one can find anything in them to give a clear indication one way or another that capital punishment is a unique deterrent. All the evidence seems at best to be equivocal and at worst tends to indicate that it is not a unique deterrent.
The hon. Gentleman will see from the document the figures for indictable offences. The hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) said that perhaps the reason 1027 we were rushing this debate was that the Home Secretary had some figures to indicate that the crimes of violence against the person had risen by 18 per cent. this year and therefore they would be unprecedentedly high. In fact between 1962 and 1963 they went up by 20 per cent., between 1963 and 1964 by another 20 per cent., at a time when the 1957 Act covering capital murder was in full operation.
The fact is that crimes of violence are also on the increase but mercifully have not reached anything like the proportions of such crimes in the United States.
§ Captain W. Elliot
I do not wish to get involved in tomorrow's debate, but would the hon. Gentleman turn to Table 9 of the document and read out the figures of capital murders from 1961 to 1968, taking the end of 1964 as the last period for which capital punishment was in existence?
§ Mr. Lyon
Very well, taking Table No. 9, the number of capital murders committed in 1957 was 25; the number committed in 1964, immediately preceding the introduction of the Act which we are discussing today, was 17, a somewhat low figure; in 1965, it was 30; in 1966, 36; in 1967, 46; in 1968, it went down to 42. In comparison with the general increase in serious crime and crimes of violence against the person, and also in view of the increase in population, the situation statistically is not very significant.
§ Mr. Lyon
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) is absolutely right, as I can testify from my own experience. In addition one must recognise that the authors of the 1028 document indicate that in trying to assess whether a murder is capital they were not assisted by the verdict of the jury. That was the situation before 1965. Therefore, they make clear in the document that they err in favour of the assumption that it was capital murder and that the person concerned would have been so convicted.
§ Captain W. Elliot
As I read the table, it does not give convictions but offences of capital murder.
§ Mr. Lyon
If the hon. Gentleman would read the text of the document instead of merely looking at only part of the table, he will see that the authors indicate that they have taken out those murders which clearly seem to be manslaughter under Section 2 and have then tried to eliminate non-capital offences. The reservoir which they have left is the element of capital murder.
The authors explain that they worked in that way to give the greatest significance to the figures. Therefore, those figures are not very significant. They are clearly wrong if one recognises that a good many of the people in those circumstances, firstly, would not have been convicted, and, secondly, might well have had the defence provided by Section 2 of the 1957 Act.
One recognises that in the capital figures are included a number of offences for which the person was not brought to book. Therefore, one does not know whether such a person would have had a defence under Section 2. It is not even known whether he would have had a defence of accident or of manslaughter by reason of some other defence known to the law.
I submit that that table, even if the hon. Gentleman wishes to rely upon it, does not help at all. This whole argument, which has been somewhat protracted, indicates that it is clearly impossible to rely on yet one more year's figures. It will add nothing to the sum of human knowledge about a subject which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) rightly pointed out, is the most discussed in the country.
There can be few of us who by this time have not made up our minds about this matter. It is said that we should leave the matter until next year so that 1029 the electorate should be allowed to express its views. Which hon. Member in this House who has to use his vote tomorrow is not conscious of the fact that, as is shown by the public opinion polls, the majority of people in the country are opposed to the abolition of capital punishment. We take that into consideration in reaching our decision.
It is a matter to weigh in the balance, but I hope that it will not be suggested that we are obliged to vote against the abolition of capital punishment. I hope that my constituents did not send me to this House so that I should simply look at the Gallup Poll and exercise my vote in accordance with its findings. I take it that the electors put me here because they trusted my judgment. If they do not want me, they have the opportunity at the next General Election to throw me out.
§ Mr. Lyon
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Maryle-bone (Mr. Hogg) vents his pleasure at the prospect of my leaving every time I afford him the opportunity to do so. What is being said by those who suggest that we should listen to the public is that if, having viewed this matter and weighed it in the balance, with all the other factors, we come to the conclusion that public opinion on this issue is wrong, we are to do what we believe to be wrong because the majority want us to do it. If we ever ran politics on that basis there would be no future for politics at all. If we could never choose to do what we thought to be right if it happened to be the minority opinion, how could we ever lead public opinion into more enlightened ways?
§ Mr. Woodburn
What has the view of the general public, as expressed in Gallup Polls, to do with the issue that will be before us tomorrow, which is whether to go back to the Tory Act of 1957?
§ Mr. Lyon
If my right hon. Friend had waited I would have dealt with that point. It. was the second part of my argument. All I say on that point is that the Amendment moved by Mr. Henry Brooke, as he then was, on 26th May, 1965, reads as follows:This Act shall continue in force until the 31st day of July, 1970, and shall then expire 1030 unless Parliament by affirmative resolutions of both Houses otherwise determines.The first point to notice about that is that both Houses must determine it by way of affirmative Resolution. If the constitutional quagmire referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale materialises over the next week we shall have a situation in which one House has refused to pass that affirmative Resolution and therefore, according to the terms of the Amendment, we go back to the 1957 Act, because it continues:and upon the expiration of this Act the law existing immediately prior to the passing of this Act shall, so far as it is repealed or amended by this Act, again operate as though this Act had not been passed, and the said repeals and Amendments had not been enacted.I therefore tell hon. Members opposite who are encouraging the Lords to take a different view for party advantage that they are opening up the country to a situation in which we shall again decide the question of murder in accordance with the 1957 Act, with all its anomalies. Which of us would want to face that?
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
Why go back to the 1957 Act? Why not pass a one-Clause Bill extending the time?
§ Mr. Lyon
The hon. Member wants us to extend the time still further. I should have thought that the history of this matter over the last few years, and particularly this week, would have persuaded him that one of the most senseless things that Parliament can do is to put a time limit upon Amendments to the law. There is always the possibility of change. We passed a law about abortion only 18 months ago and there are already proposals that we should change it. If the House so wished we could have changed it. Indeed, when one hon. Member produced a Ten Minute Rule Bill there was a strong vote by hon. Members opposite in favour of introducing it.
In these circumstances the House is never fettered. We can always change our minds if circumstances so dictate. If we found that there was a serious increase in crimes of violence and shooting and, as a result, the murder rate was rising rapidly, the House could quickly pass legislation to amend the Act. But if we impose a time limit—if we set a limit for the House's consideration—we have a build-up of emotional opinion for weeks 1031 and months beforehand. People have been collecting signatures for this petition for a long time. They have been trying to inflame the prison officers and the police officers. No coherent decision could be taken about this issue in the light of this Motion.
All that we need to do in the future if we pass these Resolutions in this House and the Upper House is to pay heed to the pattern of events that take place. If, in two, three or four years' time, we wish to change our minds again we can change them. In those circumstances I suggest that this is a complete nonsense of a censure Motion. We ought to make a decision immediately. We ought to get it out of the way before the General Election, when we shall have to consider the broad spectrum of policies and not just this one isolated incident. We should make up our minds tomorrow.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
I cannot agree with the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), that all has been said and thought about this matter. I cannot agree that we do not need more time. Like many hon. Members I am not happy either with the present situation, the situation in the immediate past or the situation before that. Maybe we have not used the last four years as well as we could have in studying this problem, but it would not be wrong to say that we have had many other things to study too. I do not regard the petitions that have been signed as evidence of sufficient discussion and debate.
I feel that I have been taken unawares by the Home Secretary's precipitate action. Apart from a leak to the Press a few days ago I had no idea that, before Christmas, we would have to consider this matter in depth. Now we are forced to debate this subject when we are not fully prepared. I had thought that I should get more facts and figures. I agree with what has been said, that perhaps not everything depends on the final year's figures, that we should be getting and are now to be denied.
Many hon. Members have already taken up their position on one side or the other and are able to rest happily on their consciences. There are still some 1032 more who are not happy about the decision they have to make. There are still some who are concerned about facing their constituents and explaining how they made this great decision. This is not a small matter—it is a matter of life and death. Those who come down on the side of abolition may feel happier to reach a decision in a more permanent way than those like myself who come down marginally as retentionists, but most unhappily so.
Having considered the facts and figures and thought about the problem for a long time and discussed it, I have come down marginally, and explained myself so to my constituents, on the side of the retentionists. The Home Secretary has failed to understand as he normally understands, with his sympathetic understanding, that some of us wanted this extra time and even believed that was what was decided four years ago.
For the second time in the last few months the Home Secretary has been insensitive to the feelings of hon. Members. In the previous debate about the Boundaries Commission I said some unkind things about him. Hon. Members know that it is not my habit to fling abuse about the Floor of this House and it is not my intention to do so now. It is my intention to say that I feel he has abused his position in this House by forgetting that this is a sensitive matter on which hon. Members felt that they would be entitled to have the full length of time necessary to get the figures. This subject requires debate and I do not agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) or the hon. Member for York that the debate has been sufficient.
The Government's correct course of action, as we approach a General Election, is, of course, to keep the subject out of the election arena, but we ought to have an opportunity for further debate both in the House and in the country. By that I mean the type of debate which is developing about the Common Market, in which many facts and figures are being put before the public in the Press and on television, in debate and discussion. All the means of good communication are being used in that case to inform the public of the problems facing the country and of the decision which hon. Members will have to take. 1033 The same effort is necessary in this great question of abolition or retention of capital punishment.
The Government are not giving sufficient attention to the great moral decision which we have to take and on which we must consult our consciences. Apparently they assume that we have already had enough information and have made up our minds and that we have already communicated sufficiently with our constituents. Above all, the Home Secretary is making a mistake in appearing to demonstrate that he is willing to ignore public opinion in this matter. I do not want to see Government by referendum, plebiscite or Gallup Poll, and I agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale in his description of the failure of democratic process which that would represent.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
Can the hon. Member assure the House that the figures for the past year, whatever they may be, will make the slightest difference to his opinion as a retentionist?
§ Mr. Crouch
I have already said that I do not expect one year's figures to be dramatically different from those of any other year. I am arguing that the Home Secretary has failed to meet the problem which Parliament faces—that Parliament must show itself sensitive to public opinion. That does not mean that Parliament must necessarily line up behind 85 per cent, of public opinion, but it means that Parliament must show that it is prepared to get in touch with public opinion and, perhaps, bring public opinion into line with the opinion of Parliament. We are not being given sufficient time to do that.
Are we on this side of the House wrong to ask the Home Secretary not to rush us in this matter? He has rushed us before We are not wrong to remind him and the country that it is not right for Parliament to be pushed around in this way. Parliament has a duty to show that it can listen to the debate and to the views of the people. If it feels that it is out of touch with those views, it must strain itself, must almost fall over backwards, to show that it is capable of collecting the opinions of people and taking note of those opinions. If the Government and Parliament feel that they 1034 are at odds with the majority of public opinion on an issue, it is their duty to do everything in their power to explain their views. In particular, they should do everything possible to explain the two points of view in this great question.
The public want to be sure that Parliament makes the right decision. It is up to us to ensure that the public are not afraid and do not have doubts in their minds. We must show that we are allowing plenty of time so that their views may be heard, examined and discussed.
Many people are disturbed by the fact that the Home Office Report shows in Table III, under the heading "Violence Against the Person", that the number of indictable offences has risen by 6,300 since 1965. Such a rise in the number of crimes of violence against the person— that figure does not necessarily include murders—is bound to cause people to be worried.
Perhaps the public are over-worried and over-emotional. Nevertheless, the people look to Parliament to stand for law and order and create confidence and security. The public, without necessarily demanding retribution against the criminal, want to feel that we are making the right decision, for, like us, the public generally have a conscience. This awful issue demands compassion, and if compassion lies hidden it must be brought out. I should like the Home Secretary to conduct a campaign to give the true facts about the numbers of crimes of violence and murder so that people may see exactly what has been happening.
There is also an understanding in people's minds of what capital punishment means. It was vividly described by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid). That understanding can be seen, felt and revealed, and we should allow time for it to be manifested.
An hon. Member said earlier that this was a delicate issue that was so important that we should proceed with care. I am merely asking for more time so that Parliament may show that, while it is not prepared to put off a decision for ever, it wants the public to feel that their views will be studied, explained, listened to and discussed, both here and elsewhere.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Is not too much publicity given to crimes of violence? I 1035 understand that more young people attend evening classes than dance halls. Crime is news and I fear that if too much publicity is given to it, certain crimes will be imitated by would-be criminals. Unfortunately, not enough publicity is given to the activities of decent people.
§ Mr. Crouch
I will not be tempted into debating that whole sphere. As for the present attitude towards violence generally, many things are happening which perhaps make violence seem a way of behaviour, and I deprecate it very much. I want, above all, this extra time for Parliament to show that it is not out of touch, because I believe that we must not allow Parliament to appear to disregard the public, as I fear the Home Secretary has done by his action in bringing forward this matter so precipitately.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)
I share the disillusionment expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon). I, too, had thought that a debate on a censure Motion was one of the great events in the Parliamentary timetable; that on such an occasion the House would be crowded with angry and vituperative hon. Members of the Opposition wishing to assail the Government Front Bench for an act of political enormity.
My hon. Friend said that when he spoke there were only eight hon. Members opposite. I see that I am in a slightly more fortunate position—I am addressing 10 of them. I would not be so arrogant as to suggest that this was a reflection of our respective appeal as crowd pleasers. I am quite used to speaking to a comparatively empty House—I do not know why; it has just happened that way.
In what is supposed to be a debate on a censure Motion, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), who is always well worth listening to, spoke to very sparse benches. I am a great admirer of the right hon. and learned Gentleman—indeed, I have sat in Committees opposite him and he has frequently done that rare thing—make me change my mind about voting—but I did not think that today he made one of his best speeches.
1036 I have no doubt that tomorrow, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman opens for the Opposition on whether there should be capital punishment, he will make a very good speech, because he feels passionately and sincerely on the subject, but today he did not make a very good speech—certainly not by the very high standards he normally sets— and I think that the reason was that he had no heart in this very spurious and squalid Motion.
What interests hon. Members opposite is not what is actually said from that side of the Chamber, but what the public will think has been said. In other words, the Opposition are not concerned about what the debate is about, but about what they think the public will think it is about. What they hope the public will think is that the Opposition are saying or implying that they are in favour of capital punishment without their having the inconvenience of having to stand up and say so; and that the Government are somehow in favour of immediate abolition of capital punishment.
On the Opposition side will be many right hon. and hon. Members, and honourable in the best sense of the word, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and many who have spoken today and who will exercise their consciences, as will hon. Members on this side, and vote for abolition.
This debate is about a very limited question of time and figures. Hon. Members have argued forcibly that if we had more figures that would help them to make up their minds, but practically everyone—certainly the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) and the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) has said that the figures would not influence him in making his decision. I have been waiting with model patience for an hon. Member opposite to say that he is so much in doubt that he cannot come to a decision without having these figures. If hon. Members opposite said so, I have sufficient faith in their forensic ability to make those figures prove anything they would like them to prove.
§ Mr. Costain
Does the hon. Member not appreciate that because of shortage of time a number of Conservative Members are now in Committee rooms trying to get figures for tomorrow?
§ Mr. Davidson
I have no doubt that Conservative hon. Members are extremely diligent, but I should have thought that a Motion of censure, with the name of the Leader of the Opposition at the head of the names attached to it, would have had at least 100 hon. Members supporting it, yet there has not been that number throughout the debate. The argument has been about figures, but practically everyone who has spoken has admitted that his mind is already made up and that the figures are unlikely to influence his decision. That seems to make the censure Motion even more regrettable and squalid.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier), in a sporting phrase, said that the Opposition were trying to back each way. I have frequently made each-way bets, which, I think, is a sensible form of backing, but it is a very timid punter who backs each way in a two horse race. The Opposition have tried to take up a posture of opposition to abolition while leaving options open. Theirs has been a very pathetic and timid performance. There has been much argument about what the figures prove. I have read the latest figures. One interesting statistic shows that murders committed in the cause of gain have actually decreased over the past year. I wonder whether, if the figures repeated themselves at the beginning of next year, any hon. Member would change his mind and switch from being a retentionist to an abolitionist.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
The hon. Gentleman says that the figures prove nothing, but has he studied the Scottish figures?
§ Mr. Davidson
I cannot say that the Scottish figures have been one of my obsessions during the past fortnight. Had I at any stage attempted to intervene in a Scottish debate I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would have been the first to have castigated me for my impertinence.
Anyone with a moderately analytical mind can make figures, especially a small 1038 set of figures, prove anything that he wants them to prove and can certainly make them prove his own case.
We on this side have been attacked. It has been suggested that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has deliberately brought forward this debate to keep the question of capital punishment out of the arena of the General Election. All those who have made that charge have also said, "I agree that it should not be a General Election issue". I do not understand how they can have it both ways, but obviously they seek to do so.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) pointed out with his usual clarity that, if we were to wait for the final figures, not only would there be an inconclusive argument in which probably no one would vote in the slighest way differently from the way they will vote tomorrow, but there might well be a constitutional crisis as a result of the other place taking a different decision. Not only would there be a constitutional crisis immediately before a General Election, but the limited issue of capital punishment—not the issue of the economy nor regional development, nor the social services—would be the main plank in the political platform.
Can hon. Members visualise a General Election campaign fought on the issue of capital punishment at a time when the front page of every newspaper carried reports of some disgusting sex murder? How could any voter reach a rational decision on capital punishment in such an emotive atmosphere?
I shall have no hesitation in supporting my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in the Lobby tonight. Without doubt this has been a very poor debate on the Opposition side, though there has been a fair amount of brilliance on this side. It has also been one of the most squalid and petty little manoeuvres ever thought up by a party leader.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
One of the paragraphs underlined in the Government's brief this afternoon must have been, "Attack the Opposition for political motives in tabling this Motion of censure". I can only imagine that 1039 the Government are acting on the principle of "Attack is the best form of defence". I was delighted that the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) was on a far higher plane than that.
I do not think that the Government will cavil when I say that one of their main arguments is that any further figures or information would make no difference to any decision to which the House comes. Hon. Members on both sides have said that they have been abolitionists for a number of years and nothing will change their minds. I do not complain of that. However, it was arrogant of some hon. Members opposite to allege that some of us on this side have made up our minds and then to say that the argument is spurious.
I confess that I envy those hon. Members who have made up their minds and who see no further difficulties in meeting this problem. I say quite sincerely that I have not made up my mind. I have great difficulty in so doing, just as I had great difficulty in making up my mind when I voted for retention. This time I find it even more difficult because to vote for the reintroduction of capital punishment is a very different matter from voting for its retention. I have not made up my mind and I do not want to do so until I have got to.
I do not think that anybody can deny that we are being rushed into taking a decision. We have known the Government's intentions for only eight days, and even they were made known first in what appeared to be a newspaper article. We have fresh figures and fresh arguments. We may have more figures. Already a new discussion is boiling up. Why should it not continue? Why must the Government cut it short?
I find this particularly frustrating, because, with respect to those hon. Members on both sides of the House who think otherwise, I do not think that a decision on capital punishment is necessarily a matter of conscience. What makes it a matter of conscience? It is not the taking of life, surely. For some people that, and that alone, is enough. We have our conscientious objectors, but for the great majority of people I do not think that is the case.
1040 Perhaps most hon. Gentlemen will accept the taking of life in wartime. What about peacetime? I understand from the newspapers that the Archbishop of Canterbury is to speak in a similar debate in another place in a day or two. I hope that he does not rely on his conscience for his arguments. In a letter in The Times two or three years ago he called for support from the people if the Government found it necessary to use force against Rhodesia. The use of force means killing. We are providing arms to Nigeria. That means killing people as well, and I presume that we all know the consequences of our actions.
Does conscience arise as a result of death through judicial processes? Perhaps it does, but to me it is a queer sort of conscience that can accept violent and bloody death in Biafra and not a judicial death. The solemn procedure, I agree, must be very chilling, but, then, so is murder. Therefore, I do not judge the issue on conscience. I want to judge it on all the facts and not only on the figures.
There are other considerations, too. I strongly resent being rushed in this matter. Why are the Government doing it? Without impugning their motives in any way, I say that the reason is to get the issue out of the way before the General Election. This is a mistake. We have heard a great deal from hon. Members about making it an election issue. One hon. Member pointed out the sort of campaign that he had at the last election. As he said, it makes very little difference to the voting intentions of the electorate. It may make a difference to a few; but if one holds an opinion honestly, I believe people accept it. I do not believe that this would be a serious issue, from the voting point of view, at a General Election.
I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone that the reverse will happen. It will be made an issue not by the politicians, but by the people, precisely because of the action which the Government are taking. I believe that there would be a good chance next year to settle the issue of capital punishment once and for all, without another outcry. The Government, by their action, and their lack of judgment, have thrown this 1041 chance: away, and for that reason I shall be glad to censure them tonight.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Edwin Brooks (Bebington)
Many of my hon. Friends have commented that during today's debate, which has ostensibly been on a Motion of censure on the Government, a Motion which is customarily taken so seriously by the practice of the House that the Government must necessarily find immediate time for debate on it, there has been only a pitiful handful of Opposition Members present. They have sat there looking rather like—as they were once described by one of their own colleagues—extinct volcanos, a lunar landscape from which a little gas has escaped from time to time, telling us how much they resent being rushed into an important and vital decision.
If it be such an important and vital matter, I am surprised that only now are other places in this Palace decanting their numbers and allowing them to come into the Chamber. Where have hon. Members opposite been all day when this grave and vital matter has been discussed, a matter which, they say, the whole country is watching with bated breath, but on which hardly any hon. Members opposite have even had the courtesy to listen to their hon. Friends' speeches?
On this admittedly grave and serious issue, there has been more than a fair share of hypocrisy and cant today. As my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson) said, the tactics of the Opposition have been not to make speeches of consequence and moment, but to create in the country the impression that they are the hanging party. If they want to be the hanging party, so be it. But I say to abolitionists among them—and there are many who sincerely and honestly hold that view— that they may have done their own cause great discredit by going along with those tactics.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said, we may be faced with a constitutional crisis in a few days with the other place taking a decision which will mean, in effect, that this whole matter will go through the spring and summer unresolved, creating greater difficulty, tension in the country, and pressures upon all of us from a 1042 variety of sources. I am not sure that the abolitionists on the benches opposite have done their cause any good by conniving in the tactic of tabling a Motion of censure which will persuade all sorts of backwoodsmen to flock to the other place later this week, presumably in an effort to destroy the Government's Motion.
I speak in this debate with some difficulty because, unlike, perhaps, the great majority of my hon. Friends, I have never found it easy to come to a considered, rational judgment on the matter. When Bentley was hanged, I was emotionally an abolitionist. When I went to Auschwitz, I was emotionally a retentionist, because on that occasion I felt that there were certain crimes, certain obscenities, which can be committed by people in our modern world which, in effect, mean that they forfeited their right to live. Between those two emotional poles, one tries, perhaps vainly, to find arguments which will somehow, once and for all, tell one decisively which way to vote. I only wish that we could find such arguments.
I have looked into the figures in the documents which have been presented to us. All of us have attempted to study the documents and interpret them. It is said that we have not had information given to us. But we have had information in abundance. We have had a more precise, careful and scientific evaluation of what has happened in recent years on this matter than upon any other issue on which we have been asked to make a judgment.
What else do hon. Members want? They say that they want one more year's figures. They suggest that this will make all the difference, that it will enable them to settle the crisis of confusion and to withstand the emotional pressures upon them from all directions. I do not believe it for a moment. Not one hon. Member opposite who has spoken while I have been present has said, "Yes. I am so undecided, after all my years in politics, as an adult and as a family man, and having had to face these arguments in pub and street and party meeting, that I want to wait for one more statistic to enable me to say, 'I know now'."
I do not believe this. I know that hon. Members opposite know that we know that it is not true. This has been a 1043 subterfuge, a sham of a debate. I believe that, on this issue, we shall probably never come to a decision which all of us know unequivocally to be the right one. I have looked at the figures and I do not know what they mean. It is possible, as hon. Members opposite have said, to say that there has been an increase in what are called, perhaps rather euphemistically, "normal" murders. This perhaps is more an index of the extent to which the death penalty might be a deterrent than is any study of "abnormal" murders. But when we probe these "normal" murders, and try to decide what to include as "capital" murders after 1966, we immediately have to build in qualifications which can invalidate the statistics themselves.
For example, if it is true that juries are convicting men for categories of murder, who previously they would not have convicted because of the death penalty, we are not comparing like with like. Another year's figures will not make any difference. We do not know what determines the minds of jurymen in the secret recesses of the jury room. We cannot know the answers to such questions. What hon. Members are really looking for tonight is yet another excuse to put off the day of judgment on this issue.
I am not an abolitionist and, therefore, I speak on this issue for once not in the Pantheon of progressive grace where I would normally like to live. But I know that nothing in the statistics of merely the next few months could possibly alter my considered views on this matter, and I know there is not an hon. Member who could put his hand on his heart and say that they would alter his views, either.
Let us be done with this nonsense. Let us go on to the debate tomorrow and discuss the matter on its merits. Let us have a public debate in the country— [Interruption.]. Yes! What makes hon. Members opposite think that people are not going to ask us questions in the General Election campaign simply because we are to take a decision tomorrow? [HON. MEMBERS: "It will be too late."] It is never too late. As my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) pointed out, in this House we have a practice of bringing in fresh legislation from year to year. Any 1044 future Government, particularly if the facts seem to warrant it, could alter any decision we take here in the course of this week.
Of course, the debate is a continuing debate. How can we stop it? Why should we? Let us not pretend that we can salve our own consciences by some sort of pious hope that, somewhere, lurking in the spring, there are figures which will enable us to avoid the damnably difficult decision which we have to take tomorrow.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
The hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) ruined his case in his last few remarks. My views on this matter are known, because I moved the first Amendment to make it still a capital offence for anybody to murder a prison warder or policeman. I hate death and I hate killing, but the people for whose lives we in Parliament are responsible are normal citizens. I do not want to take an immediate decision because I want to know what will be the effects of the new legislation.
I interrupted the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) to point out that the most important fact is not necessarily the cold statistic of how good a shot a man was with a revolver. What matters following the new Act is whether armed robbery has increased. It is no good saying that one thing which the statistics show is how good a marksman a man is. That is not the point. We find a decision of this sort so repulsive because we have not had sufficient time to understand the facts.
We had to make a heart-rending decision previously, but I was delighted that we were given five years in which to see whether we were right or wrong, in the hope that the figures would show that there was no need for capital punishment in a civilised society. However, I know the real concern among my constituents. They fear that they cannot trust the Government to look after them. The reason for the demonstrations and marches which are happening is that the public do not feel that Parliament is properly representing them. We have a genuine duty to explain the facts to our constituents. We on this side feel that because of the lack of time we have not had the opportunity to do that. We have 1045 not the facts. For that reason, we cannot make a proper and firm decision.
§ Mrs. Kerr rose—
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod (Enfield, West)
Tomorrow, those who speak in the debate will probably speak as either abolitionists or retentionists, some perhaps as people who have not made up their mind. But today it is important that we should speak as parliamentarians. I speak as a former Leader of the House. I intend first briefly to state my own view about this matter and then to try to follow the logic of it, including the logic of why somebody who takes as extreme a view as I do still believes it right not to take this decision until we must in the first few months of next year.
I am unmoved by many of the arguments which are tossed across the Floor of the House and to which I have listened so often. I have read as widely as I can and thought as deeply as I can on this issue over many years. My position quite simply is this: I think that capital punishment is an obscenity, and I will have none of it. That has always been my position. I wish to follow out the logic of it.
The Minister of State said that she could not see the point of waiting. She was immediately answered by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Christopher Ward), whom I congratulate on an admirable maiden speech, excellently brief, which made a most important point. He, one of the newest Members of the House, said that he was inclined to the abolitionist view but that he wanted the figures.
That is, in part, the direct answer to the Minister of State. It so happens that, speaking in my hon. Friend's support at the Swindon by-election, I was asked, as hon. Members on both sides of the House will have been asked so often, "What is your party's attitude and what is your own attitude towards capital punishment?" I gave the reply that I always give: "The Tory Party as such, like the 1046 Labour Party, has no views. It has always been left to the individual consciences of its members. If you want my own view, I am an abolitionist. I always have been, and I always will be."
From one of our newest Members, we had part of the answer. The other part came in the admirable speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), who spoke on the Sydney Silverman Amendment in 1948, long before most of us were Members of this House. He has been an abolitionist all these years, and he is an abolitionist today. He said that he, too, wanted the figures and that he thought that there was just a chance—perhaps no more—that they might change his mind.
We have there the two extremes, the newest Member and one of the most senior Members, one inclined to the abolitionist view, the other a lifelong abolitionist, both believing that we should not take this decision at this time. When must we vote? Some time before 31st July of next year, or about the time, normally, that we go into recess.
There is the argument about the figures. I do not spend much time on it. I do not believe that any hon. Member feels that the argument that the figures cannot be produced is a valid one. It is true that they cannot be produced in their final form, but that is normal. It is not abnormal amongst the figures which are presented to this honourable House. At the moment, I spend most of my time debating economic matters. Every series of figures that we are given is subject to revision. Some of them are revised out of all recognition within a very short time.
We quite understand that we cannot have final figures, but crude figures must be available. If the Home Secretary insists that we must debate this issue tomorrow, can he produce for tomorrow crude figures up to, say, today? I am certain that he has them, and I am certain that they can be refined later. It would be a great service if he undertook to provide those figures, however rough, so that the House might have them available for tomorrow.
I intend tomorrow night to vote abolitionist. What is it that I am saying to my constituents? For the sake of 1047 argument, let us assume that 84 per cent, of the country feels, one way or another, that the retentionist case is strong. What I am saying is: "In the last resort, the judgment must be mine because I am your Member of Parliament. I cannot surrender that responsibility to you. I can only look into my own heart and study the evidence available. Then it is my right to decide."
That is what I say to them. But they have an equal right to say back to me— and this was the heart of the speech which we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton)—"Yes, you have a right, in the Edmund Burke sense, to put your view, if necessary, against, beyond and above those of your constituents. But at least we have a right to ask you to fulfil the bargain that you have made with us. At least we have a right to ask that you do not make up your mind on an issue of this enormous importance until you must. At least we have a right to ask that you do not make up your mind until the fullest information is in front of you."
That, to me, is the heart of the Motion that we are debating. I genuinely see it as a breach of faith with our constituents and with the country. If the House of Commons intends to do something—and I hope that it will—that we know is deeply out of touch with public opinion, it is all the more important that this House goes to the limit to show that it has given the fullest consideration before we cast those votes tomorrow.
Many hon. Members—I hope this does not sound patronising—mostly fairly recent Members of this House, have complained that this censure Motion lacks the fire and anger that they express. But this is a matter on which all of us on both sides of the House feel intensely and very deeply. It does not lend itself to angry words, but I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite not to believe that, just because they have not witnessed angry scenes and bitter taunts flung across the Dispatch Boxes, the feeling on this side of the House is any less deep on that account.
Why are we doing this? We all know that the reason in one way or another— and it can be a reputable reason or not, as we look at it—is to get it as an issue out of the way. We have read in the 1048 papers that, with so many other things that we are discussing this week, it is to be got out of the way before Christmas. That may be the truth. Hon. Members on both sides can make up their own minds about that.
I address myself, without any charges of ill-faith or anything of that kind, to the Home Secretary in the concluding moments of the time that I want to occupy the House. The right hon. Gentleman knows that for 10 years he and I have debated a whole variety of matters with, I like to think, mutual respect. I put this point to him. When the definitive decision is taken—I take the point made by the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), definitive only as far as today and this year is concerned, because any Parliament can undo the work of another, but definitive for our time and, I hope, for all time— the Home Secretary and I will be in the same Lobby. But I do not want to take that vote now.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to take this matter out of politics. I wish that I thought he had gone the right way about it. I only fear that it may have exactly the opposite effect. I do not mean amongst the parties. The parties will not make this an issue and, above all, the abolitionist M.P.s will surely not make this an issue. But we will be asked questions, as we have all been asked questions—and that is fair enough—as the General Election comes round.
I feel that if the Home Secretary did not take this decision now the abolitionist vote that he would get, say, in four months' time would be even higher than I hope it will be tomorrow, because many hon. Members—and their speeches have made it plain—genuinely do not want to take this decision until, as they see it, the period which in 1965 Parliament bargained with the people has elapsed. The figures will not be in their final absolute refined form—that, we understand—but we should not take this decision now.
I have said how I shall vote tomorrow night, if we are forced to vote. But I believe that it would be vastly better if we waited until we had shown the country that we were prepared to go to the limit in giving consideration to its views. I beg 1049 the Home Secretary not to allow matters which essentially involve the convenience of the Executive to override what must be his true duty to Parliament and to the country.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)
First, I must apologise to the House for not being here this afternoon when the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) spoke. I gave him advance intimation that I found it impossible to be here, and I am grateful to him for his understanding.
Secondly, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Christopher Ward) on his maiden speech. It was delivered with an enviable ease and fluency without, so far as I could see, the over-copious notes which, as he progresses in the House, he will find himself coming to more and more. I assure him that it is much easier to make a brilliant speech in Parliament when one is young than when one gets older.
We are told that the hon. Member will have a brilliant career, and I think that that is true. He has certainly made a remarkable start. But I suspect that if he does it will not be at Swindon. I trust that, wherever he finds his place to sojourn, it will be as remarkable a career as he has promised this afternoon.
The right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) said that this kind of debate does not lend itself to a display of anger, but that, nevertheless, feeling is deep. It may have been deep. But there was nobody here to show it. We have had an exhibition of empty benches this afternoon such as I have never seen. This is not the Government's Motion of censure. It is the Opposition's. There has been nobody here to prosecute it. It is certainly the duty of the Opposition, when the House debates a Motion of censure, to turn up and support it.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this probably is not the occasion for harsh words and angry taunts. In that case, why choose a Motion of censure? The Opposition have had plenty of time to debate this matter. I will come to the matter of time a little later, but they have had a Motion of their own on the Order Paper for three weeks and the hon. Gentle- 1050 man who has not yet had time to go to the Library could have taken the opportunity to discuss this matter.
The Opposition have had Supply days since they put down their Motion. They have decided to debate this subject. This is a Motion at the head of which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has put his name. They have had all the opportunities in the world to debate this matter without a Motion of censure. As they have been good enough to give up one of their Supply days today for the purpose of this debate, if this were not an occasion for angry taunts, for a great swirl of debate, they could, had they wished, have offered it as a Supply day to turn the debate into a two-day debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "This is not a Supply day."] If it is in the Government's time, in that case we have given the day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Very well, I withdraw.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is always absolutely correct on the smallest, most pedantic points. [Interruption.] There are more signs of life in the last couple of minutes than we have seen in the House since ten past four this afternoon. I am glad that I have been able to stir up some of the dying embers and to bring a little life into the debate. We have seen nothing of it today.
This is great Motion of censure. It is supposed to be the issue on which the Opposition are challenging the whole Government. The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone was indignant when my hon. Friend the Minister of State referred to his Motion of censure as an irrelevancy. "Bringing party politics into it", he said. He has a wonderfully genuine capacity. He really believes what he is saying at the moment he says it—and at that moment he really believed that it was improper to bring party politics into a Motion of censure.
§ Mr. Callaghan
On the contrary. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is not only a Jekyll and Hyde—he also forgets. I happened to be sitting here when he interrupted my hon. Friend's speech.
1051 The plain truth is that this is an artificial Motion of censure. I do not particularly want to rub it in, but on many occasions when hon. Members opposite have been divided—and I fully accept that they are not taking a party line in this case—they have said, "We cannot agree about policy, but for goodness' sake let us agree on procedure. Let us have a procedural Motion. We might not all be able wholly to disagree with the Government's policy, but let us say that we do not like the way they are doing it, the time they are doing it, or the arguments that they are deploying". I have seen that happen on many occasions.
That is what the Opposition are doing this afternoon, because the party opposite embraces sincere abolitionists and sincere believers in capital punishment. I do not despise the views of either group. Because they feel that they must in some circumstances try to put up a case to convince the country—of what, I do not know; perhaps they can tell me what they are trying to convince the country of—they hide behind a procedural Motion.
Whether it was their failure to vote either on Biafra or Vietnam last week which has led them to put down this Motion, so that they can all go into the Lobby together, I do not know, but I believe that we are merely witnessing— [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman has not offered much leadership recently. It is about time he did on some of these issues. What we are witnessing tonight is an attempt to paper over broad differences which cannot be papered over by any procedural Motion. Those differences are bound to be revealed even though hon. Members opposite can persuade themselves to go into the same Lobby tonight.
The right hon. Member for Enfield, West said that we must vote before 31st July. That is true. As I am advised, the position is that if a Motion such as that on the Order Paper is not carried in both Houses by 31st July we revert to the 1957 Homicide Act, which has been condemned by everyone who has studied it. To that extent we are in agreement.
The right hon. Gentleman told me that he does not believe the argument that the figures cannot be produced before 1052 next June or July. He has said that crude figures must be available, and that I should have them—and will I produce them? I must contest his view that figures on a basis comparable with previous years can be made available before July. It must be clear that in the end it is the speed with which the courts move to dispose of these cases that decides whether or not it is murder that we are talking about. If we are talking about murder in the context of capital punishment we can use the figures only of those which the courts have found guilty of murder.
Therefore, it follows that it is impossible to produce figures earlier than July, according to the best advice that I can get, of what will be the figures for murder for this year that would be comparable with with those of 1968 and earlier years.
§ Mr. Callaghan
No I will not, because I have not finished my point. I will give way when I have finished the point.
What is available, and what I think the right hon. Gentleman is referring to, is the number of cases alleged, many of which have still to be tried by the courts. This would be a figure that could clearly be produced. There is always a running total for any given year of cases which have been disposed of by the courts and cases which have not been disposed of. That makes what must be a crude figure, because the courts have not yet decided a great many of the cases.
If it would help the right hon. Gentleman and the House I can certainly provide those crude figures and will give them tomorrow. They can be produced quite easily. I would warn the House strongly against drawing too many conclusions from these figures. They will not be comparable with any figures that we have had in this document "Murder."
§ Mr. Sandys (Streatham) rose—
§ Mr. Callaghan
Let me finish this point. It is important. I was asked a question and, with respect, neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the hon. Gentleman has been here very much today.
If it will help the right hon. Gentleman I will certainly produce those figures 1053 tomorrow and he can make the comparison. Before I produce them I do warn the House against drawing any profound conclusions from them, except that they will show only what are the crude figures up to 15th December this year and how they compare with the crude figures up to 31st December last year. They will show no more and no less than that. If the right hon. Gentleman would like that, I would be glad to produce them when I open the debate tomorrow afternoon.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that for each of the last two months of May he has given me in that month an unqualified answer dealing with the statistics applying to the previous years?
§ Sir Richard Glyn indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I wish that the hon. Gentleman would not shake his head.
In May of each year cases have not been disposed of by the courts. I speak without checking the figures, but I am almost certain that I am right when I say that when I gave the hon. Member figures this year there were still five cases that had not been decided by the courts. Considering the small movement in murder, considering the great deductions that are drawn from tiny movements in the figures, it is very important that we should get this absolutely right. Some people make a great deal of an increase or decrease of five in the number of murders.
I do not believe that the statistics, because they move within such a narrow field, are singularly important in this matter. I know that some hon. Gentlemen, it is what a great deal of the argument has been about today, attach a great deal of importance to these figures. It is, therefore, vital that we should have them right. I will produce these figures tomorrow, if the hon. Gentleman would like them.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
We take the right hon. Gentleman's warning about reading too much into these figures. Do I understand that he will make available the 1054 crude figures up to 15th December on a comparative basis with the crude figures for a year ago?
§ Mr. Callaghan
Yes. I know now, but I will not give them to the House if the House will forgive me, the crude figures up to 31st December, 1968. These are well known. I can produce by tomorrow afternoon the crude figures up to 14th or 15th December and it can be seen how they are moving.
§ Mr. Callaghan
If it is a Scottish point I cannot undertake to do that on behalf of Scotland. I undertake to do it on behalf of England and Wales, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will have heard what has been said.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) made, as the right hon. Member for Enfield, West said, an outstanding speech. But at one point he suggested that the Motion could be delayed until July. Much of the argument today has been about time—and whether we have enough information and whether we should take more time. I believe that it would be wrong to leave this issue until July. That is my conclusion after I have thought about the matter. Indeed, I believe that a number of the arguments adduced this afternoon would be adduced in July in relation to these figures, because, as the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East clearly saw, the debate then would follow within a matter of days of our producing the final figures.
What have been the arguments this afternoon? They have been that we have had no time to study the figures, that we are rushing a decision and that hon. Members must have more time to consult their constituents. I believe that it would be imprudent of the House and of me to allow this issue to drag on until the summer of 1970 if there is any doubt about our going back to the 1957 Act. If it is the desire of Parliament—and I trust to God that it is not—to go back to the 1957 Act, we must know that well in advance, because many preparations will have to be made and much will have to be done.
1055 I am profoundly convinced that we should take this decision at an early date. If I am asked, why December rather than January?—I cannot answer that question, except that the decision should be taken round about now if there is any danger at all of our going back to the 1957 Act.
I do not believe that those who are retentionists would be very satisfied if I put out the figures in June or July and then stated that we should have the debate within a matter of days or within a fortnight of their production. That would lead to exactly the same argument as that which we have heard this afternoon.
What is the situation today? The 1968 figures were published not a few days ago, but in May or in June. The final figures, I believe, were published in July of this year, which means that the House has had the 1968 figures for several months. In addition, the issue was discussed by the Leader of the Opposition at his party conference, at which he took the line that he would not make it a party issue. It was in the forefront of his party conference.
Because of information given from the Home Office that we were preparing a document called "Murder", which would be an up-to-date analysis of all the statistics, the newspapers were well aware of the situation. They were aware that the document would be available in the autumn; and the document, in fact, became available at the beginning of November. The House has not only had time; it has had more information, more statistics, a better break-down of figures and more analyses by sex, age, and kind of weapon used than it has ever had before when it has been reaching a conclusion on this issue.
The only argument left has been that hon. Members should have one more year's figures. When the House sees the crude figures tomorrow hon. Members may draw whatever deductions they wish. I shall draw very few deductions, because there will be so many undecided cases. But I do not believe that anybody, whether the most convinced abolitionist or the most ardent retentionist, will be able to draw any great deductions from those figures when they appear.
1056 If that is so—and I ask the House to believe me that it is so—the whole of the argument falls to the ground. There has been time. The Opposition have had a Motion on the Order Paper. The figures have been published and the analysis has been made. The debate has been going on not only in former Parliaments, but in this Parliament. Bills have been introduced and decided upon by the House in the past. I believe that we shall have no difficulty in deciding the issue again.
The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) told me that Parliament was becoming the creature of the Executive—although he was not thinking particularly of this Government, because he also said it about his own Government. But tomorrow there is a free vote. Tomorrow Parliament can decide what it chooses. How, then, can it be the puppet of the Executive? If the House chooses, it may throw out the Motion—I shall fight it as hard as I can—and there will, I understand, not be a Whip on either side. Thus, I cannot see how the House can be the puppet of the Executive in this matter; or, I trust, in another place.
Tomorrow will be an occasion when the House must search its conscience; but it must do more than that. This is not just a question of emotion. During the two years while I have been at the Home Office I have had to see a number of these men, study their cases and review them. I am personally much more strongly convinced—I am not unique in this—of the abolitionist case now than I was when I first went to the Home Office.
Everybody I know who comes closely in touch with this problem at the Home Office—Ministers, former Permanent Secretaries; I noticed a recent essay by Sir Charles Cunningham in which he said this—comes out a stronger abolitionist than he was when he went in.
This is not an experience to be cast aside and I hope that when, tomorrow, the House debates the substantive issue, it will decide that this Parliament will put an end to the death penalty. But, as has been said, we cannot settle the issue for future Parliaments. We cannot settle the debate in the country.
1057 If the debate in the country is to go on, then let it go on. Hon. Members will have to argue the case according to their convictions and beliefs. They must do that because that is their job. There is no reason why we should not do it, but let Parliament make up its mind.
Maybe the country will disagree with us, and perhaps then, if it wishes, the country will deal with us. Or another party may deal with the matter or be dealt with by the country. There will be no difficulty if, at a future date, another Parliament wishes to turn its back on what we have done.
I believe that we have debated this issue enough and that it is time for us to come to a decision. While paying due respect to hon. Gentlemen opposite who ask for more time, I suggest that we do not need more time, because we have had all these arguments for long enough. Every hon. Member is, in my judgment, capable of making up his mind now. For this reason there is no case for saying that we are rushing the matter.
As for more information and statistics, it seems to me that nothing that could be said—no single figure that could be added—would alter by one jot or tittle the opinion of the majority of hon. Members, on whichever side of the House they may sit and whatever point of view they may take on this issue.
I trust that this strange Motion of censure will be defeated and that we can go forward to our debate tomorrow supported by the House, enabling us to take
§ a decision at that time in accordance with the convictions of hon. Members.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary owes it to the House to explain what has happened since the suspension of the death penalty that dictates the House going back on the assurance that was given at the time.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I am certain that every hon. Member who was in the House at that time will regard the Home Secretary's statement as totally unjustified and misleading.
I have not liked the subject of this debate one bit, but what has been done and said tonight makes me absolutely convinced that there is only one thing to do, and that is to vote for the Motion.
That this House, whilst recognising that the decision on the future of capital punishment must be a matter for individual Members, deplores Her Majesty's Government's action in asking Parliament to reach a conclusion on the question of the continuance of the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 at an unnecessarily early stage, in disregard of the will and intention of Parliament as declared in that Act, and declines to come to a decision on it until after the publication of all available and relevant statistics covering the full year 1969:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 241, Noes 303.1061
|Division No. 38.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Costain, A. P.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Brewis, John||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Crouch, David|
|Astor, John||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Crowder, F. P.|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Cunningham, Sir Knox|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Awdry, Daniel||Bryan, Paul||Dance, James|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N&M)||d' Avigdor-Goidsmid, Sir Henry|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Dean, Paul|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Bullus, Sir Eric||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)|
|Batsford, Brian||Burden, F. A.||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Dodds-Parker, Douglas|
|Bell, Ronald||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Drayson, G. B.|
|Bennett, sir Frederic (Torquay)||Carlisle, Mark||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Eden, Sir John|
|Berry, Hr. Anthony||Cary, Sir Robert||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Channon, H. P. G.||Emery, Peter|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Chataway, Christopher||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Chichester-Clark, R.||Farr, John|
|Blaker, Peter||Clegg, Walter||Fisher, Nigel|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Cooke, Robert||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Body, Richard||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Fortescue, Tim|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Cordle, John||Foster, Sir John|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Corfield, F. v.||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(St'fford & Stone)|
|Fry, Peter||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Longden, Gilbert||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||McAddcn, Sir Stephen||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Goodhart, Philip||MacArthur, Ian||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Royle, Anthony|
|Gower, Raymond||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Grant, Anthony||McMaster, Stanley||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New forest)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Gurden, Harold||Maddan, Martin||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Sharples, Richard|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Marten, Neil||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Maude, Angus||Silvester, Frederick|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mawby, Ray||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Speed, Keith|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Stainton, Keith|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Miscampbell, Norman||Stodart, Anthony|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Hastings, Stephen||Monro, Hector||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Hawkins, Paul||Montgomery, Fergus||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hay, John||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Temple, John M.|
|Heseltine, Michael||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Tilney, John|
|Hiley, Joseph||Murton, Oscar||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Hill, J. E. B.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Neave, Airey||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Hordern, Peter||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Waddington, David|
|Hornby, Richard||Nott, John||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Onslow, Cranley||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Hunt, John||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Wall, Patrick|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Walters, Dennis|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Osborn, John (Hallam)||ward, Christopher (Swindon)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Page, John (Harrow. W.)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Peel, John||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Percival, Ian||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Jopling, Michael||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Pink, R. Bonner||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Pounder, Rafton||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Kimball, Marcus||Prior, J. M. L.||Wright, Esmond|
|Kirk, Peter||Pym, Francis||Wylie, N. R.|
|Kitson, Timothy||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Younger, Hn. George|
|Lambton, Viscount||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lane, David||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Mr. Jasper More.|
|Abse, Leo||Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Coe, Denis|
|Albu, Austen||Booth, Albert||Coleman, Donald|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Boston, Terence||Concannon, J. D.|
|Alldritt, Walter||Bottomley, Rt Hn. Arthur||Conlan, Bernard|
|Allen, Scholefield||Boyden, James||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Bradley, Tom||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Ashley, Jack||Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Cronin, John|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Brooks, Edwin||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Broughton, Sir Alfred||Dalyell, Tam|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Darling, Rt. Hn. George|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Barnes, Michael||Buchan, Norman||Davies, E. Hudson (Conway)|
|Barnett, Joel||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)|
|Beaney, Alan||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)|
|Bence, Cyril||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Bennett, James. (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Cant, R. B.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Carmichael, Neil||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey|
|Binns, John||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Delargy, H. J.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Dell, Edmund|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Chapman, Donald||Dempsey, James|
|Dewar, Donald||Jeger, Mrs. Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Dickens, James||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Pardoe, John|
|Doig, Peter||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Park, Trevor|
|Driberg, Tom||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Dunn, James A.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Jones,Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn(W. Ham, S.)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Kelley, Richard||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Eadie, Alex||Kenyon, Clifford||Pentland, Norman|
|Edelman, Maurice||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|English, Michael||Latham, Arthur||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Ennals, David||Lawson, George||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Ensor, David||Leadbitter, Ted||Probert, Arthur|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Ledger, Ron||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Randall, Harry|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Rankin, John|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Lee, John (Reading)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Faulds, Andrew||Lestor, Miss Joan||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)||Richard, Ivor|
|Finch, Harold||Lomas, Kenneth||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)||Loughlin, Charles||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Luard, Evan||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth(St.P'c'as)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lubbock, Eric||Roebuck, Roy|
|Foley, Maurice||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Rose, Paul|
|Ford, Ben||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Forrester, John||McBride, Neil||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Fowler, Gerry||McCann, John||Sheldon, Robert|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||MacColl, James||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Freeson, Reginald||MacDermot, Niall||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Macdonald, A. H.||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Gardner, Tony||McElhone, Frank||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Garrett, W. E.||McGuire, Michael||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Ginsburg, David||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Golding, John||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Silverman, Julius|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mackie, John||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Mackintosh, John P.||Slater, Joseph|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Maclennan, Robert||Small, William|
|Gregory, Arnold||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Snow, Julian|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Swain, Thomas|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Manuel, Archie||Taverne, Dick|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Marks, Kenneth||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Hamling, William||Marquand, David||Thornton, Ernest|
|Hannan, William||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Tinn, James|
|Harper, Joseph||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Urwin, T. W.|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mayhew, Christopher||Varley, Eric G.|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Haseldine, Norman||Mendelson, John||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Hattersley, Roy||Mikardo, Ian||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Hazell, Bert||Millan, Bruce||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Wallace, George|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Hilton, W. S.||Molloy, William||Weitzman, David|
|Hobden, Dennis||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hooley, Frank||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Horner, John||Morris, John (Aberavon)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Moyle, Roland||Whitlock, William|
|Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Murray, Albert||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Howie, W.||Newens, Stan||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Oakes, Gordon||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Ogden, Eric||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||O'Halloran, Michael||Winnick, David|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Oram, Albert E.||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Hunter, Adam||Orbach, Maurice||Woof, Robert|
|Hynd, John||Orme, Stanley||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Mr. R. F. H. Dobson and|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Mr. Alan Fitch.|