Orders of the Day — Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st December 1964.

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Photo of Brigadier Terence Clarke Brigadier Terence Clarke , Portsmouth West 12:00 am, 21st December 1964

I beg to move, to leave out "now and at the end of the Question to add" upon this day six months".

I understand that this is the parliamentary way of saying, "Tear the Bill up and let us hear no more of it". That is what I should like to do.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) will forgive me if I do not follow him throughout his argument, but I gathered from the style of his speech that he inferred that most murderers try to commit suicide. I found the same thing at Luneberg Heath during the war when all the Germans who had committed all sorts of crimes had to have stomach pumps and all the rest put on them in order to keep them alive so that others, many from the other side of the Chamber, could try them and hang them up at a later date. If murderers want to commit suicide, I would not stop them. It would save a lot of bother later on. I thought that to be the only point of interest the hon. Member made.

I believe that this House has no mandate at all to discuss this matter. We have just had a General Election. If any party had wanted to abolish capital punishment it could well have mentioned it, but I did not read a word of it in any party manifesto during the election period, and I had not seen anything of it until it appeared in the Queen's Speech. Then the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) was lucky enough to be able to table this Measure as a Private Member's Bill.

I say at once that this is not in any case suitable matter for a Private Member's Bill, and I am surprised, when the country has an economic crisis that should be worrying the Government, and when we have a defence crisis to worry them, that once more we have to drag up this question of letting the murderer go free. This should certainly be put to the British public, and it should be for them to say what they think about it.

I took the trouble to write a letter to my local paper to ask people who had strong views on this subject to let me know what they thought this House ought to do about it. I received over 200 replies by last Saturday saying, "Hang the murderers". Many of them said, "If you can hang the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne as well, we will be delighted".