HC Deb 06 June 1995 vol 261 cc30-4

4.8 pm

Mr. Warren Hawksley (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to re-introduce corporal punishment for crimes of violence by youngsters. I am grateful for the opportunity to ask leave of the House to introduce the Bill. I think we all agree that law and order is an important issue. We also agree that our constituents are very interested in and concerned about it. Twice previously, in 1982 and 1987, when I was the hon. Member for The Wrekin, I moved amendments to Criminal Justice Bills to try to bring back corporal punishment, which I believe would be a deterrent. I hope that today it will be third time lucky.

Last year, I tabled an amendment, on Report, to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, but you, Madam Speaker, chose the debate on capital punishment rather than corporal punishment. The House has not been given an opportunity to debate corporal punishment in the present Parliament.

Unlike in my two previous attempts to bring back corporal punishment, I do not intend to discuss the detail of the method—whether one uses a cane or a birch—or the age of people on which the punishment might be used. In the Isle of Man, the legislation used to relate to people aged 10 to 18, and I accept that as adequate for the purpose of the Bill, although I know that some of my hon. Friends ask, "Why 18? Why not have it for older people?" I have no objection to their opinions on that subject.

I wish to argue the case for the reintroduction of corporal punishment as a principle. I am disappointed that the payroll vote will not be able to support the motion. It is sad that we do not necessarily discover all the opinions of the House on a ten-minute Bill.

My arguments are fairly simple. I and my electorate believe that there is too much crime, and especially too many crimes of violence by youngsters. I emphasise that I propose that an extra power be given to the judiciary to sentence young offenders; it would not be a substitute for the powers that they already have.

The most recent public opinion poll that I read suggested that the public genuinely supported the motion; about 70 per cent. of the public wanted corporal punishment to be brought back. We should listen to what our electorate are saying.

I believe that the public are right, and that we should listen to their anxiety about the increase in crime and their feeling and belief that corporal punishment would be a deterrent.

In the year that corporal punishment was abolished, there were 5,183 cases of violence against the person in this country. When I first, in the Criminal Justice Bill 1982, moved an amendment to bring back corporal punishment, there were 100,200 cases. Yesterday I checked the latest figures, which had just been announced—for last year—and discovered that that 100,000 had increased to 219,000. That increase shows the need for action.

I shall mention two cases regarding which Conservative Members would probably mainly agree that corporal punishment would be a deterrent. There was a case in Leicester last week. A lad swore at a 76-year-old lady in the street. She reprimanded him and said that that was not the sort of language that she wanted to hear. What did he do? He fired a gun at her face between the eyes. She is still suffering from the pellets that injured her.

What was the result of the court appearance? Twelve hours at an attendance centre. How much better it would be if someone like that were given six or 12 strokes of the cane. I believe that that would he indeed be a deterrent. If there are Members who are worried that that will be degrading to the poor 13-year-old, I suggest that they think about the lady who suffered the attack.

The second example was also reported last week, in the Birmingham Evening Mail, a paper that covers the Birmingham area. Two yobbos aged, according to the press, about 12—I regret that, as yet, they have not been caught—were prepared to set about a lady of 41, who was less than 5 ft tall, and to break her nose and two of her teeth to steal a hamburger worth £1.50. That is the type of case in which a deterrent dose of corporal punishment would be used.

I know that some people will oppose the Bill on the grounds that the European Court of Human Rights is not happy about corporal punishment. However, in the Isle of Man case, the British judge ruled in our favour and the whole court ruled in our favour on two out of the three complaints. It agreed that corporal punishment was not inhumane treatment or a method of torture and that it was only degrading. I believe that the court has made some odd decisions in the past and I would certainly not be concerned if we were no longer a signatory to the European convention on human rights. I would be prepared to take that step in order to see corporal punishment reintroduced in this country.

I shall give two examples which I believe show the benefits of corporal punishment as a deterrent. Hon. Members may remember that last year an American youngster received corporal punishment in Asia. Do hon. Members remember the pictures of him taken at the airport when he was returning home? He appeared rather contrite; he was not at all happy. That is very different from the young thugs who leave our courts laughing at our judicial system and at their victims. I suggest that that young American learned his lesson.

I heard about the second example when I visited the Isle of Man shortly after corporal punishment had been suspended on that island. I talked to the chief constable on the Isle of Man who told me that many fans travelled from Manchester and Liverpool to watch football matches on the island. When the fans disembarked from the ships in Douglas they would invariably approach a policeman and ask, "Is it true that you still have corporal punishment on the statute book?" When the policeman confirmed that that was the case, the fans would say, "Don't worry, guv, we won't cause any trouble".

Corporal punishment had a deterrent effect and there were hardly any problems on the Isle of Man, even when large crowds gathered to watch football matches.

I believe that the reintroduction of corporal punishment would act as a deterrent. I believe that the frightening increase in the number of crimes of violence warrants such serious action and I hope that today I will be given leave to introduce a Bill to reintroduce corporal punishment.

4.16 pm
Mr. David Hanson (Delyn)

I had not intended to speak against the Bill, but none of my colleagues proposes to do so and I believe that the right-wing nonsense that we have heard from the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Hawksley) deserves a reply.

The hon. Gentleman has taken a totally simplistic approach to the problem of crime, based on the barbaric theory that would-be offenders would be deterred by the threat of caning or some other form of corporal punishment. It ill behoves any Conservative Member to come to the Chamber, after 16 years in government, to complain about the increase in crime and introduce a simplistic solution such as the one that we are discussing today.

The European Court of Human Rights opposes corporal punishment and it has taken a strong stand against the Isle of Man in that regard. This country would be a laughing stock if we gave the hon. Gentleman leave to introduce a Bill to reintroduce corporal punishment. The hon. Gentleman should examine the causes of crime and the issues of poverty and lawlessness in this country. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. We will have a little discipline now—hopefully without the aid of corporal punishment.

Mr. Hanson

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I note that you did not need to resort to corporal punishment to bring the House to order. After 16 years of Conservative government, I hoped that the hon. Gentleman would bring forward some positive solutions to the problem of crime. We must look at ways of supporting young people in our community and we should not inflict upon them the indignity of corporal punishment, which would degrade both those to whom it is administered and those who must administer it. I oppose the Bill and I hope that my hon. Friends will join me in doing so.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 58, Noes 153.

Division No. 157] [4.18 pm
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Gale, Roger
Bendall, Vivian Gardiner, Sir George
Booth, Hartley Gill, Christopher
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brazier, Julian Hannam, Sir John
Butterfill, John Hargreaves, Andrew
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hawkins, Nick
Colvin, Michael Hawksley, Warren
Congdon, David Jenkin, Bernard
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Jessel, Toby
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Devlin, Tim Leigh, Edward
Dicks, Terry Marlow, Tony
Dover, Den Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Duncan, Alan Mills, Iain
Duncan-Smith, Iain Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Dunn, Bob Neubert, Sir Michael
Elletson, Harold Nicholls, Patrick
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Pawsey, James
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Riddick, Graham
Fry, Sir Peter Robathan, Andrew
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Sykes, John
Shaw, David (Dover) Thurnham, Peter
Shersby, Michael Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Smyth, The Reverend Martin Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Spink, Dr Robert Tellers for the Ayes:
Spring, Richard Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock and
Sweeney, Walter Mr. John Carlisle.
Ainger, Nick Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Alton, David Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Denham, John
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Dewar, Donald
Ashton, Joe Dixon, Don
Barnes, Harry Donohoe, Brian H
Barron, Kevin Dowd, Jim
Battle, John Dunnachie, Jimmy
Bayley, Hugh Eastham, Ken
Beith, Rt Hon A J Enright, Derek
Bell, Stuart Etherington, Bill
Bennett, Andrew F Fatchett, Derek
Benton, Joe Foster, Don (Bath)
Berry, Roger Foulkes, George
Betts, Clive Galbraith, Sam
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Garrett, John
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) George, Bruce
Burden, Richard Gerrard, Neil
Byers, Stephen Godman, Dr Norman A
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Gordon, Mildred
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell-Savours, D N Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Chidgey, David Grocott, Bruce
Chisholm, Malcolm Gunnell, John
Clapham, Michael Hanson, David
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hardy, Peter
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Harvey, Nick
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hayes, Jerry
Cohen, Harry Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hinchliffe, David
Corston, Jean Home Robertson, John
Cummings, John Hood, Jimmy
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Hoon, Geoffrey
Dafis, Cynog Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Hoyle, Doug
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) O'Hara, Edward
Hutton, John Olner, Bill
Illsley, Eric O'Neill, Martin
Ingram, Adam Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Patchett, Terry
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Pickthall, Colin
Jamieson, David Pike, Peter L
Janner, Greville Pope, Greg
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Purchase, Ken
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Raynsford, Nick
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Reid, Dr John
Jowell, Tessa Rendel, David
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Khabra, Piara S Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Rowlands, Ted
Liddell, Mrs Helen Ruddock, Joan
Livingstone, Ken Sedgemore, Brian
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Sheerman, Barry
McAvoy, Thomas Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McFall, John Simpson, Alan
McKelvey, William Skinner, Dennis
Mackinlay, Andrew Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McMaster, Gordon Soley, Clive
MacShane, Denis Spearing, Nigel
Madden, Max Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Maddock, Diana Tipping, Paddy
Mahon, Alice Touhig, Don
Marek, Dr John Turner, Dennis
Tyler, Paul
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Martin, Michael J (Springburn) Wicks, Malcolm
Martlew, Eric Wigley, Dafydd
Meale, Alan Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Michael, Alun Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Wilson, Brian
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Winnick, David
Miller, Andrew
Mullin, Chris Tellers for the Noes:
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Mr. Mike Hall and
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Mr. Terry Lewis.

Question accordingly negatived.