HC Deb 21 November 1973 vol 864 cc1331-2
23. Mr. Edward Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has completed his consideration of the Report on Penalties for Murder by the Emslie Committee; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My right hon. Friend is not yet in a position to make a statement on this matter.

Mr. Taylor

Did my hon. Friend study carefully the answer which he gave to me yesterday showing that the number of convictions for murder last year was more than four times the total for the year before abolition of capital punishment? Bearing in mind the seriousness of the problem and the clear pledges which we gave to the electors of Scotland at the last election, does not my hon. Friend think that the Government are treating the matter with an abysmal lack of urgency? When will a decision be arrived at?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I ask my hon. Friend to be careful in the statistics which he uses and not necessarily to take years of murder statistics which are the most serious. I share with my hon. Friend his concern at the number of murders. I am even more concerned about the general level of violence overall, which is a much more realistic figure that the figure for murders alone. I assure my hon. Friend that I take the matter extremely seriously, and we hope to come to a decision shortly.

Mr. Ronald King Murray

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a need for urgency here? As it is possible that a difference in view north and south of the border may be holding things up, will he tell us whether any efforts have been made to reconcile that difference in view?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am grateful for the hon. and learned Gentleman's concern. Of course there is general public concern in these matters, and rightly so. The hon. and learned Gentleman is correct. There is a difference of opinion north and south of the border on this matter. I can assure him that consultations have taken place.