When we adjourned last week I was speaking of the peculiar difficulties confronting the Home Secretary in respect of this Amendment. This arises because of his special responsibility for the police, and his special responsibility for law and order. I am not going to prolong my remarks, but before I finish there are a couple of things that I must add to what I have already said.
Under the Bill we would substitute a tern of imprisonment for hanging as a deterrent to murder. How far that can generally be made effective is of course disputed. That is what the principal argument on the Bill is about. I think the Committee ought to realise that this proposed alternative as a deterrent is weaker in respect of the police than perhaps for anyone else. When a policeman encounters a man with a gun, the chances are that the man is in course of a crime which will in any event involve a prison sentence. The chances are that for that man the deterrent has become not the so-called life sentence, but the life sentence less the sentence which he would in any case suffer. There will be hon. Members who will suggest that no such calculation is made by the criminal, but Members must consider for themselves whether that is right or wrong.
What I think is true is that very few, if any, set out to kill a policeman in cold blood. If they kill a policeman, it is much more likely to be hot-handed, as it were, caught in the act. Thus, quite apart from the nature of a policeman"s profession which makes it more likely for him to encounter an armed criminal than the rest of us, it means that he is also marginally more likely to be killed. In his case—this is the single point that I want to make—the alternative deterrent is weakest, and thus this Amendment, perhaps more than any other, goes to the heart of the dilemma which the Committee has to resolve.
It is really a conflict between what penology can do and what a deterrent ought to do. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) touched on this in the course of his remarks on an earlier Amendment. I am not sure whether every Member of the Committee has firmly grasped this point. I know that many Members on both sides have come to decide that hanging is wrong, and it must go, confident, or if not confident, at least hopeful, that the Home Secretary will provide an alternative.
On what it should be, opinions differ. Some are realistic. They know the limitations that are imposed not only by sound penology but also by what is humane, and they accept what the Home Secretary has said in earlier Amendments about the limits of the alternatives. The Home Secretary has been very fair and frank about the alternative that he has in mind. I do not think that any hon. Member can suggest that the Home Secretary has misled him. Nevertheless, many are less realistic and believe that if hanging is abolished it is possible to settle upon some less Draconian punishment—20 or 25 years, or even life itself.
It is important to realise in connection with the Amendment that the second school of thought is wrong, and we know it is wrong. It is important that the Committee should shed any illusions about an alternative before it leaves the Amendment. We must now decide whether what penology will decree will itself be an adequate alternative for this particularly vulnerable category of people, the police.
Let us consider the case of a young man of 18 or 20 years of age who is caught in crime and murders a policeman. He is not necessarily a permanent menace to society—to use the Home Secretary"s words—and not necessarily an irredeemable villain. What is the deterrent? On the basis of what we have been told it would be not unreasonable to suggest 10 or 12 years behind the bars. But I cannot bring myself to accept that this is enough to save a policeman"s life. Hon. Members must decide whether or not we can accept it.
That is why I stress the immense obligation that lies upon the Home Secretary coolly to weigh the merits of the Amendment. Part of the agony—and I use that word deliberately—of a Home Secretary"s position is that his private convictions often come into conflict with his public duty.
He may not as unvalued persons do, carve for himself: for on his choice depends
The safety and the health of the whole state.
In my experience—and I should think that this applies to every hon. Member—no Home Secretary of any party has been unwilling, in such circumstances, to take the hardest decision, and I am sure that every hon. Member has absolute confidence in the right hon. and learned Gentleman to do the same.
It is not to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) or to his friends that I address this appeal to shift their ground. They have other motives, which I appreciate. My appeal is addressed to the Home Secretary. I ask him to weigh the Amendment strictly on its merits.
In following the cogent argument of my right hon. Friend I want to say a few words about Scotland. I am glad to see the Minister of State here because he knows, as I do, that feeling in Scotland is very strong on this point, and that nowhere is it stronger than among the police themselves, who are so vitally affected.
There may be just a chance that the Committee has not made up its mind inevitably on the point. I know that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) is quite firm in his views, but I am not sure whether the Home Secretary is, and I do not know what the Minister of State for Scotland is thinking at this moment. I want to put forward my arguments as moderately as I can. Their whole basis is the question of deterrence. We want to deter criminals from murdering policemen. We must also deter them from being tempted to do so in hot blood. That can easily happen without deliberate design.
It would seem that the first thing to do is to prevent the criminal, when he is going out to commit a crime, from deciding to carry a weapon. I give credit to the Home Secretary for endeavouring to meet this case by the Firearms Bill, but it would be asking too much to expect that that Bill will deprive all the criminals in the United Kingdom of the opportunity of getting hold of firearms. It will not. Furthermore, other weapons than firearms can be used. I want to deter criminals who are planning an important crime, such as a mail robbery. I want the older and wiser members of a gang to insist that the younger and more hot-headed members do not take weapons with them and thereby do not place themselves in a position to be charged with the murder of a policeman.
Why do I feel that the Committee should pay special attention to the murder of a policeman? It is horrible that anyone should be murdered. But surely we are responsible—and the Home Secretary is specially responsible—for the safety of the police force. We are asking it to do dangerous work. I have no hesitation in asking people to do dangerous work, provided that so far as it lies within our power we take every precaution to reduce the danger of that work to a minimum. If we were to look through the door into the Lobby and saw a desperate man endeavouring to attack and possibly kill an hon. Member we would expect the policeman on duty there to run any risk in order to tackle that man, but in expecting a policeman to run that risk we must make sure that the risk is as small as possible. That is what the police ask us to do for them.
Although it has been quoted before during the debate I make no apology for quoting once again from the memorandum on capital punishment and the police which has been sent to us by the Police Federation. It says:
We firmly request the retention of capital punishment for the murder of a police officer acting in the execution of his duty or any person coming to his
I want to meet a point put by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) about the experiences of foreign countries. Our police are unarmed, whereas in many foreign countries they are armed. Furthermore, in many cases our police carry out their duties alone, whereas in many foreign countries they act in pairs.
I should have thought that hon. Members were more or Less agreed that the police ought not to be armed. What we want to do is prevent criminals being armed and being tempted to kill policemen. The memorandum also says:
It is also a fact that policemen and policewomen feel that the special provision for the death penalty which is retained in the Homicide Act serves as an effective protection, and so do their wives and families.
That is the opinion of the Police Federation.
I now turn to Scottish opinion. The other day I asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he had received—and in what sense—from the chief constables of Scotland about the retention of the death penalty for a man convicted of murdering a policeman. The right hon. Gentleman replied:
I have received representations from the Chief Constables" (Scotland) Association supporting the view of the Scottish Police Federation that the death penalty should be retained for the murder of a police officer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1965; Vol. 710, c. 27–28.]
That is quite definite too.
Lastly, I quote the Chief Constable of The Lothians and Peebles, a man for whom I have the highest regard. Speaking on this subject a week ago, he said:
Our fear about the proposal to abolish hanging is that where a single police officer gets in the way of a man who is committing a serious offence the man will take the opportunity of disposing of that policeman.
And so disposing, of course, of a very tangible witness.
There we have representatives of the police asking us to take action to make their job more tolerable and a little less dangerous, and I think that the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland would take a great risk if they ignored the appeal of chief constables who are trying to do their best for the safety and welfare of their men—
Yes, I am well aware of that and, arguing the larger case, I might well cite that in support of my views, but we are now discussing this one Amendment so I restrict myself to their views with regard to the killing of policemen—
I hesitate to interrupt, because the argument has been a little repeated, but I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman this question. I know that he does not accept the view that the death penalty is not a deterrent. He thinks that it is. Suppose he accepted the view that it was not a deterrent for murderers generally, what case would there be for saying that it is a deterrent in the case of policemen?
Dr. King, I have sat in the Chair long enough to know that hypothetical questions are not very good ones to answer. I believe in general that the death penalty is a deterrent, but I am now arguing in regard to the death penalty for the murderer who kills a policeman.
Perhaps I may go further with this deterrent point. One of the best deterrents we have, not only to murder but to crime in general, is an adequate police force, fully up to strength. That is what we do not have in many places today, and I believe that this unnecessary danger to which we are hazarding our policemen is in itself acting as a deterrent to people joining the force. I am sure that that is true. I do not disparage the courage of the young men of this generation by any means—there is no obligation, except in war, on a young man to go into a particularly dangerous career—but suppose a mother reads in the Sunday newspapers, as she might have done last week or the week before, of someone being accused of having murdered a policeman. She knows that little Johnny thinks of joining the police. As a result of what she reads she may say, "Johnny, I do not think that you should do that; you should go into a different trade". Little Johnny may accept her advice, and the police force will have been deprived of a recruit.
The Minister of State for Scotland should not contemplate with equanimity the passing of any Act that would make it more difficult to recruit policemen in Scotland—he must be well aware that the Glasgow Police Force is well below what is wanted. And, coming back to the Home Secretary, the London police are far below strength. That is the experience in many places, yet here we are being encouraged to introduce legislation which can only have the effect of deterring young men from joining the police and, in some cases, encouraging married officers to leave the police, because their wives would grumble. A wife with one or two children thinks of what will happen if her husband is killed. Details of police being brutally murdered may be published in the Press. She may read of it, and it may tip the scale in getting her husband to resign—
Since there is no evidence that the retention of capital punishment would be a deterrent to the murdering of policemen, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that in this respect the whole question of recruitment to the police force is a matter of the confidence of police and public? Surely, therefore, it is our duty as legislators not to lay emphasis at all on things that cannot be confirmed or corroborated and thereby destroy the confidence of young men in joining the police. It is up to us to inculcate in them the confidence we think they should have.
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman"s view at all. I believe that capital punishment is a deterrent. I have read quotations to show that the police at large equally believe that capital punishment is a deterrent. If we were to abolish capital punishment for those who murder policemen I am sure that it would have a discouraging effect on police recruitment, and a discouraging effect throughout the whole of the force, because its members would feel, and rightly so, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman to whom they are entitled to look for fair play and protection would be failing in his duty. I invite him not to fail in that respect.
We are discussing an Amendment that would retain the death penalty for the murder of a policeman acting in the execution of his duty, and with it an Amendment which would extend this punishment to include the murder of a person assisting the policeman in the execution of his duty. I endorse everything that has been said about the courage of the police. They perform their duties in extremely difficult circumstances, and we cannot speak too highly of their devotion to duty. At times, it is true, their morale has been low, but in recent weeks they have received a tremendous boost because the members of the public have demonstrated that they are with them in their fight against crime.
Nobody who believes in the abolition of capital punishment would deny the special position of the policeman in dealing with crime, but the question which faces us today is: should the death penalty be retained for this one type of murder—that is, for the murder of a policeman, or the murder of someone helping him? I believe that the fact that there is a second Amendment shows how difficult it is to draw a line once an exception has been made. The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) referred to the police as public servants, and said that they are in a special position because of that. They are, of course, but, to a lesser degree—and I emphasise that it is to a lesser degree—there are other public servants in a special position with regard to criminals.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray) has mentioned the train robbery. There, public servants were in danger, but on that occasion the public servants who were in danger were railway workers and post office workers. I am not saying that, in general, they come into contact with criminals as much as do the police, but I am saying that if an exception is made with respect to the police then a case could be made out—perhaps not quite as strong a case—for including other people, such as those who work in banks, night watchmen and others.
The right hon. Member for Ashford asked for the information which we had about the views of the police. All hon. Members have received a document from the Police Federation of England and Wales in which the police put their views very moderately, in which they admitted that there were many policemen who, as individuals were in favour of the abolition of the death penalty but in which they stressed that as an organisation they were against abolition. My right hon. Friend and I and others at the Home Office received a deputation from the Police Federation, and we had a very amicable discussion about this when they put their views, again very moderately. I understand from my hon. Friend the Minister of State at the Scottish Office that the Secretary of State for Scotland met the representatives of the Police Federation for Scotland, who put their views in a similar way.
I was asked about the other police federations. The inspectors of constabulary and the Commissioners of Police for the Metropolis have not formally been asked for their views, but we understand that the Association of Chief Police Officers in England and Wales decided not to make any representations to my right hon. Friend, although it is true that the chief constables in Scotland made representations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland against the abolition of the death penalty. We have received no representations from the superintendents' association in England and Wales. Those are the views of the various police associations as far as I can state them.
Nobody has been invited to give any views, but I am certain that if any body had any views to make it would have made them in the same way as did the Scottish chief constables and as did the Police Federation for England and Wales. Although we have not received a formal letter we understand from the Association of Chief Police Officers that in its case it was a decision not to make any representations. I am stating the position as fairly as I can, because I want to give the Committee the exact position.
May we take it from what the hon. Lady said that no police organisation—chief constables, superintendents or rank and file—has ever made representations urging the abolition of the death penalty?
Yes, I believe that that is true. On the other hand, as I said, we understand that the chief constables' association decided not to make any representations.
In his speech on 31st March the hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) talked about removing the death penalty and said:
It is proposed to remove that fear. It is all very well to say that we can do this with safety. Those who claim it must prove it. It is not for those who say that the protection should be maintained to prove that it is necessary. The onus lies upon those who say that we can do away with it. Let us see the evidence that it can be done away with in safety.— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1965; Vol. 709, c. 1609.]
The hon. and learned Member said that it was up to us to produce evidence. As he knows, it is very difficult to prove what will happen in the future. We can quote figures for the past, but it is understandable that when figures are quoted from the past in this country those who are in favour of the retention of the death penalty say that the figures are useless; they say that they are low because there has been the death penalty in the past. I agree that they have an argument there. But when in previous sittings we have quoted from other countries, we have been told that the evidence of other countries does not apply because they are different from this country. It is therefore very difficult indeed to know the evidence which the hon. and learned Gentleman would like.
I have, however, done a little research during the past week and I have found that a few years ago research was made in different States in the United States. At the end of 1954 Professor Sellin of the University of Pennsylvania carried out a survey of a large number of American cities to establish whether the existence of the death penalty made any difference in the number of criminals prepared to use lethal weapons against the police. The result of this survey was published in a book called "The Death Penalty" by Professor Sellin, published by the American Law Institute in Philadelphia in 1959.
Professor Sellin wrote to the police departments in 593 cities in the United States with populations of more than 10,000. He asked for information about the killing of police officers by criminals during the period from 1919 to 1954. Altogether, 274 replies were received, of which 266 were found to be good enough for statistical purposes. One of these, Chicago, which had retained the death penalty, had had 168 policemen killed, which was more than in all the other 265 cities put together. The 265 which I have just mentioned were in 11 States which had retained the death penalty and six in which it had been abolished. In the cities in the six abolitionist States there had been 1·2 fatal attacks on policemen per 100,000 of the population and in the 11 death penalty States the rate was 1·3 per 100,000 of the population.
I am quoting from many other American cities. If we take all the American cities, the conclusion was that in the cities in the six abolitionist States there had been 1·2 fatal attacks on policemen per 100,000 of the population and in the 11 death penalty States the rate had been 1·3. Professor Sellin said that it is obvious from an inspection of the data that it is impossible to conclude that the States which had no death penalty had thereby made the policeman's lot more hazardous. The difference between 1·2 and 1·3 was negligible. What came out of the figures was that there were in some States much higher figures than in others, and what was shown in this survey was that the number of policemen killed in any city went up and down as the number of general murders went up and down. That is the only conclusion which should be drawn from this survey. I have quoted this at length because we have gone to some pains to try to give some of the proof. I know that hon. Members opposite have said that the figures we have quoted in the past for this country are not much use, and that we are not like other countries. I have tried to equate as far as I can comparable cities in the United States of America.
Would the hon. Lady agree that Professor Sellin, in that book and in articles, states categorically that it was the belief that abolition of the death penalty had led to increased danger for American policemen that led a number of States which had abolished the death penalty to restore it?
I am not aware of that, though perhaps the hon. Gentleman is. I have read out the conclusion of Professor Sellin and I have here a good deal more of his article.
As the hon. and learned Member for Billericay knows, it is very difficult to produce absolute proof of anything which will happen in the future. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is impossible."] I am on very good terms with the Police Federation and in our discussions we discussed this matter fully. I wonder if they, on reflection, would like the death penalty retained just for the murder of policemen, when we would be taking away the death penalty for every other kind of murder. I know that there are some hon. Gentlemen in the Committee who would support all the exceptions which are on the Order Paper, because they voted against the Second Reading of the Bill. They would like to see the death penalty retained for many murders.
I know that there are those who are genuinely in favour of the Bill as a whole, but believe that the one exception should be for policemen. I do not think that. We have to help the police in their fight against crime. Since assuming office, my right hon. and learned Friend has given priority to this very matter. We need more police, they need to be better equipped and more efficient and they need to be relieved of the duties that can be performed by others. Above all, they need a much higher status in our society and the goodwill of the public.
May I remind the hon. Lady that I moved this Amendment? She has referred to what I think is the fundamental question. What advice does the Home Secretary give to a policeman when he is caught in a corner with a man with a gun and the criminal says to him, "What have I got to lose?" What does the Home Secretary tell the police to tell that criminal?
I am not aware that my right hon. and learned Friend has given any advice on that point. The right hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian said that this was stopping recruitment. I honestly do not believe that the abolition of the death penalty is stopping recruitment to the police force. I would agree with him that it is sometimes the wives of policemen who try to get their husbands to leave the police force, but that is not because of the abolition of the death penalty; it is rather because of the erratic duties which policemen have to undertake in the present-day police force.
I believe, above all, that the policeman needs the good will of the public. I hope that this Amendment will not be carried. When, on the Second Reading debate, the House decided by an overwhelming majority to give the Bill its Second Reading, I believe they did it because they wanted the abolition of the death penalty and they did not want to retain it. This is one exception. If we make this exception, we should have to make other exceptions. I and my right hon. and learned Friend would rather have the Bill as it is than with these exceptions.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) invited the particular attention of the Home Secretary and the Ministers of State for the Home Office and the Scottish Office to this Amendment. He said that he was addressing his appeal to the Ministers at the Home Office and the Scottish Office much more than to the promoters of the Bill, and for good reason.
We have just heard a speech from the hon. Lady the Minister of State to the Home Office which she knows will be a great disappointment to a great many people. As was said, for instance, by my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton)—a sincere abolitionist, who voted for the Bill and against the Amendment in the Division last time—one of our difficulties is that we believe that this Bill should be in the hands of the Government of the day.
This is particularly important on this Amendment, for which, I should have thought, every hon. Member in the Committee must have a considerable feeling of responsibility. Exactly what are the views of the police force? If this had been a Government Bill, would it not have been the duty and obligation of the Home Secretary to tell us what the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police had given him in the way of advice? It is surely only right that we should know—whether it suits one body of opinion or the other, the abolitionists or the retentionists—what are the views of the senior police officers.
I put down a Question to the right hon. and learned Gentleman last year, asking whether he would seek the opinion of the chief constables. If they were not prepared to give it—then we should not insist upon it—so be it. At least we should have sought it, so that when we debated the Second Reading, every hon. Member would have had this information. But that was not the position. We have now heard that the Secretary of State for Scotland has obtained the advice of the chief constables in Scotland.
Then I cannot give him as much credit as I would have given him. It would have been his duty to put before us, whether it suited his own views or not, what were the views of these experienced officers.
My hon. Friend has just said what the views are. We have had representations from the Police Federation. These representations have been supported by the chief constables.
I can understand that, but I cannot give him the credit which I would have done, because I thought that he had gone out and sought this information, as he ought to have done. He got it because they gave it. Nevertheless, it is very useful to have it.
I should like to know what the view is of the Commissioner at Scotland Yard. In the Metropolis, the crime rate is enormous and is introducing a different degree of crime into the country. I shall refer to the figures which the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave me about indictable offences involving the carrying of firearms. It is of the greatest importance that we should have it before us. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will intervene in the debate and will tell us the Commissioner's view. The Home Secretary may be perfectly entitled to his own personal view, and he may feel that he cannot accept the advice of these senior officers because he is determined to rid the Statute Book of this penalty. If that is so, at any rate we would know that and it is right that we should know it. I hope that we will.
I do not know whether it would assist the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson)—and it is obviously not a formal piece of advice—but I heard the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police tell an audience of lawyers and law students which I attended that he did not desire that any exception from the principle of abolishing the death penalty should be made in favour of the police.
We have now had—it shows the difficulties into which this Committee is getting—from the promoter of the Bill the report of a view which was expressed, apparently, by the Commissioner. I now ask directly of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary: will he, before we decide on the Amendment, furnish the Committee with the views of the Commissioner? If the Home Secretary would answer that question now it would assist the Committee. Will he, at some time, give us the views of the Commissioner? The right hon. and learned Gentleman is there—
Surely, while the views of the Commissioner and of the Police Federation and of officers should be taken into consideration, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not saying that because they may express a particular point of view it should be adopted by the Government or by this Committee?
Of course not. Every hon. Member will make up his own mind on his own judgment. But is not it right for sensible hon. Members to have the opinions of these people before them? Is not it right that they should be given such information? The Home Secretary is the police authority for the Metropolis. Is not he, at some time, going to tell us what are those views? It might confirm what has been said by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman). It may be that it might not. I know not. I think we should have that opinion before us and I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be prepared to give it.
I am prepared to answer the question. It seemed to me the appropriate course for me as Home Secretary is to receive representations from those persons who wish to make representations to me. That is the appropriate course on a matter of this sort, which is a matter, as it seems to me, on which each person must judge according to his own judgment and his own conscience. The Police Federation thought it right—I accept that it was—to make official representations to me. I listened to those representations very carefully and, of course, bore them in mind, and I should have been very ready to listen to any other representations from any other associations, but it seems to me that I should wait to see which associations wished to approach me.
I regret that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has taken that view. He is the police authority. He has direct responsibility for law and order. Is not it right that he should seek out and tell the Committee the views of those persons, instead of just sitting and waiting to receive representations? This is something on which we have to make a judgment. Some people have made their judgment, as we know only too well. There are others who, perhaps, have not made a final judgment on this issue, on this Amendment, and who would have been interested to hear that view.
We have heard from the promoter of the Bill what, as it were, he heard the Commissioner say—we do not know at what time or when. I ask the Home Secretary once again, while this debate is continuing, whether he will put before us that view before we come to a decision. The views of the Federation have been cited to the Committee. I should have thought that the Committee is well aware of public opinion in the matter. What professional opinion we have received, professional police opinion, seems to be in favour of the Amendment, and we have been able to obtain the opinion of the public.
Those who have sought it have found the public in favour of this Amendment. Therefore, we say that the onus is with the promoters of the Bill and with the Home Office with whom, as it were, the promoters are in alliance. It is not sufficient to come to the Committee and just say that they feel in their hearts so much revulsion for this death penalty that notwithstanding that opinion and notwithstanding that advice nevertheless they are not going to recommend the Committee to allow this Amendment to the Bill.
The Home Secretary knows only too well of the mounting volume of crime which is the background to the discussion on the Amendment. He knows the enormous wastage in police recruitment. What is it, nine out of 11—I cannot recollect the exact figure—of police officers recruited who leave the police forces? Of course, the Minister of State is right when she says that this single element is not what creates the whole of the wastage and I accept that. But the police will be looking to us, to the Executive and the Home Office, to the Minister of State and to hon. Members as legislators, to see whether we do more than pay lip service to the police.
It is all very well to use fine words when we talk about the police. The House of Commons is only too keen to take up any matter of criticism relating to the police when there has been any misbehaviour, and rightly so, because of our insistence on respect for the liberty of the subject. The House of Commons is only too keen to pounce on any police officer who has misbehaved in any way. But when it comes to action in support of the police in a view which they have expressed what will this Committee do? What advice has the Committee received? So far, the advice received from the Minister of State is that she would not recommend the Committee to accept the Amendment.
I am not unsympathetic to the police. I think that to give them confidence is very important, but I have been impressed by what my hon. Friend has pointed out, that this exemption could not be given to the police without extending it to porters in factories and to bank clerks and householders. Can the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson), say how this exemption could be admitted logically without extending it to the whole of the population?
The police have particular duties and responsibilities. We demand that they, much more than the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) or myself, should come into contact with danger, with criminals who will commit violence in the execution of their plans. We say that we give this duty to the police, and we should be the first to censure the police if they failed in that duty. That being the case, it is right to say that these people run particular risks. They have a particular contact with criminal violence. Is it right then to say, because of that risk, that there should be particular penalties attaching to people who murder policemen while they are carrying out their dangerous task?
I agree, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not replied to my point. My hon. Friend instanced bank clerks who seemed to come much more into contact with criminals with revolvers—
Order. If the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) did answer the question beyond the way in which he has answered it, he would bring in matter which is not germane to the Amendment.
Thank you, Dr. King. I am glad that my interpretation of the rules of order was correct.
Figures given to me recently by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in an Answer to a Question, show that in 1961 there were 552 indictable offences involving firearms. As he knows, in 1964 that figure had risen to 731 which is an increase of 179, or more than three more indictable offences a week involving firearms. This is the background against which we are considering the Amendment.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has introduced the Firearms Bill which, we hope, will prove successful in limiting the carrying of firearms and a deterrent, and that is the background against which he gives his advice on this Amendment. The pattern and development of crime in this country, as is apparent to many people, including I believe the right hon. and learned Gentleman, indicates a tendency for professional criminals to change in their use of firearms. There is an alteration now in the risks they are prepared to take and these risks involve the carrying and use of firearms. It is police officers who will be in the front firing line, as is known only too well.
Does the Home Secretary believe that the Bill, unamended, will improve the morale of the police? Does he think that the police are pleased? Does he argue that the Bill, without this Amendment, will be welcomed by police officers and their families? Does he think that the
We as Members of the House of Commons have a very grave responsibility here. We have a grave responsibility—those of us who are here, and those of us who are not here—not to defy public opinion. I know that it is said that elected representatives should be the leaders of public opinion and perhaps go ahead of opinion in certain respects, but is it right in such circumstances at this time to do what I suggest is defying public opinion, because of beliefs most conscientiously held, held with the greatest of passion by some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, not only right hon. and hon. Members opposite, but some of those who are my closest political colleagues and personal friends who hold passionate views on this subject?
Are we to let passion, because of this terrible distaste for this terrible penalty, sway our judgment when it comes to a decision on this matter? I hope that the Home Secretary, who has done us the courtesy of listening to the debate, will listen to the rest of it and, at the end, consider very gravely whether he should not say, "Above and beyond my personal inclination, and my personal distaste comes my responsibility for law and order." I believe that if the Home Secretary does that he will advise the Committee that the Amendment should be accepted.
|Division No. 86.]||AYES||[11.32 a.m.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Coleman, Donald||Dunn, James A.|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Edelman, Maurice|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Crawshaw, Richard||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)|
|Barnett, Joel||Crosland, Anthony||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Bence, Cyril||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||English, Michael|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Dalyell, Tam||Ennals, David|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Darling, George||Ensor, David|
|Boston, T. G.||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S.W.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Fernyhough, E.|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Diamond, John||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Dodds, Norman||Floud, Bernard|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Doig, Peter||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)|
|Chapman, Donald||Duffy, A. E. P.||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Freeson, Reginald||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Ginsburg, David||MacMillan, Malcolm||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Gourlay, Harry||MacPherson, Malcolm||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Grey, Charles||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Small, William|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Snow, Julian|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Solomons, Henry|
|Hale, Leslie||Manuel, Archie||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mapp, Charles||Steel, David|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mason, Roy||Steele, Thomas|
|Hannan, William||Mikardo, Ian||Stonehouse, John|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Millan, Bruce||Stones, William|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Swain, Thomas|
|Hattersley, Roy||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Hazell, Bert||Monslow, Walter||Symonds, J. B.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Taverne, Dick|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Howie, W.||Murray, Albert||Thornton, Ernest|
|Hoy, James||Newens, Stan||Tinn, James|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Ogden, Eric||Varley, Eric G.|
|Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||O'Malley, Brian||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartfurd)||Orbach, Maurice||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Jackson, Colin||Oswald, Thomas||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Pargiter, G. A.||Wallace, George|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S. E.)||Warbey, William|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Watkins, Tudor|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pentland, Norman||Wells, William (Waisall, N.)|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Prentice, R. E.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Kirk, Peter||Probert, Arthur||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Lawson, George||Rees, Merlyn||Williams, Albert (Abertillery)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Reynolds, G. W.||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Woof, Robert|
|Loughlin, Charles||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Sheldon, Robert|
|McCann, J.||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|MacDermot, Niall||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne,C.)||Mr. Stanley Orme and|
|McInnes, James||Silkin, John (Deptford)||Mr. R. T. Paget.|
|Arstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Glover, Sir Douglas||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Astor, John||Glyn, Sir Richard||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Batsford, Brian||Goodhew, Victor||Peel, John|
|Bessell, Peter||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Percival, Ian|
|Bossom, Hn. Clive||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Peyton, John|
|Box, Donald||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Hamilton, M. (Salisbury)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bromley-Davenport. Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Buck, Antony||Hastings, Stephen||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hiley, Joseph||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Buxton, R. C.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Chnnnon, H. P. G.||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P.||Roots, William|
|Cooke, Robert||Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)||Royle, Anthony|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hunt, John (Bromley)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Costain, A. P.||Jopling, Michael||Stodart, Anthony|
|Cousins, Rt. Hn. Frank||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Currie G. B. H.||Lagden, Godfrey||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Dance, James||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)||Longden, Gilbert||Temple, John M.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)|
|Dean, Paul||MacArthur, Ian||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Drayson, G. B.||McNair-Wilson, Patrick||Webster David|
|Eden, Sir John||Maginnis, John E.||Whitelaw, William|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Maitland, Sir John||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Emery, Peter||Maude, Angus||Wise, A. R.|
|Farr, John||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Fell, Anthony||Mawby, Ray||Wood Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Younger, Hn. George|
|Forrest, George||Mitchell, David|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Monro, Hector||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gammans, Lady||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Mr. Richard Sharples and|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee.|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Division No. 87.]||AYES||[11.42 p.m.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Glyn, Sir Richard||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Peel, John|
|Batsford, Brian||Goodhew, Victor||Percival, Ian|
|Bessell, Peter||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth|
|Bossom, Hn. Clive||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Box, Donald||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||Pym, Francis|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Hamilton, M. (Salisbury)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd)||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin|
|Buck, Antony||Hastings, Stephen||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hiley, Joseph||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Buxton, R. C.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Robson-Brown, Sir William|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Roots, William|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt, Hn. Dame P.||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Cooke, Robert||Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hunt, John (Bromley)||Stodart, Anthony|
|Costain, A. P.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Lagden, Godfrey||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Dance, James||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)||MacArthur, Ian||Temple, John M.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon. S.)|
|Dean, Paul||McNair-Wilson, Patrick||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Maginnis, John E.||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maitland, Sir John||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Eden, Sir John||Maudling Rt. Hn. Reginald||Webster, David|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Mawby, Ray||Whitelaw, William|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Emery, Peter||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Wise, A. R.|
|Farr, John||Mitchell, David||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||Monro, Hector||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Forrest, George||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Younger, Hn. George|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Murton, Oscar|
|Gammans, Lady||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Ogden, Eric||Mr. Richard Sharples and|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Onslow, Cranley||Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee.|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||English, Michael||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Barnett, Joel||Ennals, David||Jackson, Colin|
|Bence, Cyril||Ensor, David||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Johnston Smith, G. (East Grinstead)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Boston T. G.||Fernyhough, E.||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S.W.)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Floud, Bernard||Jopling, Michael|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Kirk, Peter|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Lawson, George|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Freeson, Reginald||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Chapman, Donald||George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Lipton, Marcus|
|Chataway, Christopher||Ginsburg, David||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Coleman, Donald||Gourlay, Harry||Longbottom, Charles|
|Cousins, Rt. Hn. Frank||Grey, Charles||Loughlin, Charles|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickton|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||McCann, J.|
|Crosland, Anthony||Hale, Leslie||MacDermot, Niall|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Darling, George||Hannan, William||Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||MacMillan, Malcolm|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hart, Mrs. Judith||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hattersley, Roy||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Hazell, Bert||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Diamond, John||Heffer, Eric S.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Dodds, Norman||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Manuel, Archie|
|Doig, Peter||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Mapp, Charles|
|Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||Howie, W.||Mason, Roy|
|Dunn, James A.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Edelman, Maurice||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Millan, Bruce|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Monslow, Walter||Sheldon, Robert||Thornton, Ernest|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Tinn, James|
|Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Silkin, John (Deptford)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Murray, Albert||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Newens, Stan||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Noel-Baker, Francls (Swindon)||Skeffington, Arthur||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|O'Malley, Brian||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Wallace, George|
|Orbach, Maurice||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Warbey, William|
|Oswald, Thomas||Small, William||Watkins, Tudor|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Snow, Julian||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S. E.)||Solomons, Henry||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Pentland, Norman||Steel, David||Williams, Albert (Abertillery)|
|Prentice, R. E.||Stonehouse, John||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stones, William||Woof, Robert|
|Probert, Arthur||Swain, Thomas||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Rees, Merlyn||Swingler, Stephen|
|Reynolds, G. W.||Symonds, J. B.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Taverne, Dick||Mr. Stanley Orme and|
|Mr. R. T. Paget.|
May I seek your guidance, Dr. King? The House voted that the Committee stage of the Bill should be taken on the Floor of the House so that we could have a much wider representation. My name was down to the Amendment which has just been disposed of. I have been here the whole time, trying to get called. What protection can we have in this difficulty when, as I have said, we voted for the Committee stage of the Bill to be taken on the Floor of the House so that there could be wider representation?
I have every sympathy with the hon. Gentleman. I have been a back-bencher myself and have felt indignant at times when the Closure was moved, but, when the House decided that the Bill should go before a Committee of the whole House, it did not intend that every Amendment should have unlimited debate. The question of the Closure is in the hands of the Chair. The Chair has the right to decide whether to accept the Closure Motion. The Chair's decision is not challengeable except by a Motion put on the Order Paper, and the hon. Gentleman has that recourse if he thinks it justified.
Further to that point, Dr. King. If I may say so, you are the very last occupant of the Chair whom I should ever care to criticise even if it were in order so to do, but, with great respect, may I ask you to consider the position on these very important Amendments? As the Committee probably knows, I am an abolitionist, but I think it right that such an important matter as we have been discussing on the last Amendment should receive very full discussion. I understand that it was not reached in the Standing Committee.
I recognise that the Chair is put in a difficult position by the sponsors of the Bill in moving Closure Motions, but I ask that some guidance be given about what is to be the policy in the future both as regards the Chair accepting these Motions and as regards the moving of them by those responsible for the Bill.
I have to tell the Committee that, for the first time during the passage of the Bill thus far, I did not go into the abolitionist Lobby on a question of substance, as opposed to Closure. If this is the way the sponsors of the Bill intend to conduct themselves, I must tell them that they will lose a good deal of support.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the tone in which he made his observations. I can only assure him that I am aware of all the factors which he has mentioned, and all those factors are in my mind when, from time to time, I have to make the decisions I am called upon to make. I am not prepared to rule in advance at what stage I would accept a Motion for Closure on any debate in the future. However, I should like to say, from the Chair, that I hope that we may continue our proceedings on the Bill with a certain amount of good will on both sides. I think that it would be a great pity if the Committee's debates on subsequent Amendments were always to end in the Closure — [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Wait a moment—but that demands good will on both sides.
I was not seeking to do that, Dr. King, but, in view of your final observations, I wished to say that, as far as the promoters are concerned, if anyone would like to discuss what would be a reasonable time which would make it possible for us to deal with the many remaining Amendments, we should be only too happy.
I appreciate that, Dr. King. On a point of order, I am simply asking, in view of the circumstances and the fact that the Closure was put on the Amendment after 2½ hours of debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Two hours."]—that an indication might be given whether we are to have accelerated progress as a result of the Closure being moved and accepted throughout our proceedings.
I rise to an entirely different point of order, Dr. King. It concerns the whole proceedings of the House of Commons this morning. The House is sitting in Committee on the Floor at this moment and there is also Standing Committee C sitting upstairs. I have moved in that Committee that we should meet on Monday mornings instead of Wednesday mornings because it is so inconvenient for my hon. Friends who are interested in this Committee also to exercise their responsibilities in the Standing Committee as well. I do not wish to debate that. I hope that an opportunity to debate it will be given by the Leader of the House in due course—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"]—but this is the point which I wish to put to you, Dr. King, in asking for your guidance.
While I was here, attending to my duties in connection with matters on which very strong feelings are entertained by many people in my constituency, I found that there was a Division in the Standing Committee upstairs, and several of my hon. Friends were absent from the Standing Committee because of their interest in this Bill. As a result, something has happened in the Standing Committee—I know not what—and legislation may have gone through which the Committee, if it had been able properly to attend to its duties, would have wished to express an opinion on.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. It is an interesting point, but we are here meeting in Committee of the whole House at a very unusual time, and difficulties do arise because of that. I am not responsible for the matter he raises and the Chair can do nothing about the problem which faces the hon. Gentleman if a Division takes place in the Standing Committee upstairs.
Order. I can answer the hon. Gentleman at once. He has pointed out that a number of hon. Members wishing to take part in our various debates have not been able to do so. I am quite aware of that. I endeavour to call as many hon. Members as I can. I am endeavouring, also, to call hon. Members who did not take part in the discussions when the Bill was before a Standing Committee, but, if the Closure is moved, hon. Members suffer, and the hon. Member who has just raised the point is one who has so suffered. I shall bear what he has raised in mind.
Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams). I know that this is not exactly within your province, Dr. King, but, in fact, the House has been let down on the promise given by the Leader of the House when the decision to take the Committee stage of the Bill on Wednesday mornings was made. The right hon. Gentleman said that it would be only on Wednesday mornings when no other Committees were sitting.
Further to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter, Dr. King, may I ask, through you, that the Home Secretary, who is the senior Minister present, make representations to the Leader of the House on behalf of all hon. Members who have been greatly inconvenienced and embarrassed by the fact that two Divisions were taking place at the same time. This is not the way to treat the House of Commons, and I ask, through you, Dr. King, with the greatest respect—you are very helpful on all these occasions—that the Home Secretary give us an assurance that what has happened this morning will not be repeated on another occasion.
Order. The Home Secretary cannot give that assurance. This is one of the difficulties raised by the holding of a sitting of a Committee of the whole House on a Wednesday morning when there are Standing Committees in progress upstairs. There is no way in which one could synchronise, or desynchronise, Divisions as between Committees. I hope that we can get on. It is ironic that hon. Members should complain of not being called in the debates when they are making debate impossible by raising all kinds of points of order and near-points of order. I want to get on if we can.
That is a point which the hon. Member must raise with the Committee upstairs. Obviously, note will be taken of the remarks which he has made.
On a point of order. If, as my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams) said, the bells upstairs failed, does not that mean that Members who had a right to come and vote here have not done so and that means that the Division is null and void? According to precedent, where there has been a failure of this kind before a second Division has been called.
Order. I hope that hon. Members will let us get on with the serious deliberations of the Committee. If I may make a general observation, I am worried about the growth not only of bogus but near-bogus points of order, both in Committee and in the House, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen will co-operate with the Chair as much as they can. Mr. Rees-Davies.
On a point of order. This is the first point of order I have ever raised on the Floor of the Chamber and I should like to have your guidance, Dr. King. I understand that two Amendments were discussed together. Will it be your intention, at the appropriate time, to call a Division on Amendment No. 7?
On a point of order. I believe that this is not a bogus one in any sense. In view of the three facts we have heard—the failure of the Division bells, the wish of hon. Members upstairs to vote here, thus missing their own Division upstairs, and the confusion which, at the moment, exists, and your quite understandable inability to deal with the matter because it is not in your sphere, but in that of the Leader of the House, woudl you, Dr. King, accept a Motion to report Progress?
There is no confusion in my mind. Any confusion which the hon. Member has mentioned is probably in his own mind. There is no reason why I should accept a Motion to report Progress.
I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 5, after "murder", to insert:
except a prisoner who murders a prison officer acting in the execution of his duty".
This is the last of three in a group of Amendments standing in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends. I hope that it will not have escaped the attention of the Committee that each hon. Member who moved one of these Amendments, and many of the hon. Members who spoke to them, were not on the Standing Committee. I was not on the Standing Committee, nor was my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), who moved the Amendment relating to police officers, or my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins), who moved the first of these Amendments, the one relating to murdering again. This has been quite deliberate on our part, for a number of reasons.
I must freely admit that I did not seek to serve on the Standing Committee, although I do not think that that applies to my hon. Friends whose names are on the Amendment. It is true, however, that a substantial number of hon. Members were not given an opportunity to participate in matters which affected them in a Bill of this nature and to which this Amendment is precisely relevant. They were not given the opportunity because it would not have been suitable that they should serve during the complete Committee stage of the Bill when, as in this case and in some others, they were concerned only with a particular part of the Bill and with one Amendment.
This is the first time that I have spoken in Committee of the whole House, or in the House, on matters relating to the death penalty since I moved a large number of Amendments in 1956 to the Death Penalty (Abolition) Bill. The purpose of those Amendments was to secure substantial changes in the law of murder, and it is true that the law of murder, as a result largely of the debates on those Amendments, was very substantially altered.
That is perfectly true, but I do not think the hon. Member heard exactly what I said. I said that the Amendments which were proposed in 1956, when I was debating them, as indeed were many of my colleagues, gave us our vehicle for altering the law of murder. The hon. Member will remember that he just beat me to it. He introduced his Bill on the Floor of the House in December 1955, and it was almost contemporaneous with that that my hon. Friends prepared a pamphlet called "Law of Murder" in which a number of radical proposals for altering the law of murder were made. It was the hon. Member's Bill that gave us the chance to bring about a vehicle which led to radical alteration in the law of murder.
I concede that one of the hon. Member's strongest arguments then was that murder had not been altered at all and that the death penalty had to prevail in each case. The Amendment which I now move relates entirely to the murder of a prison officer. There are many of us here who are neither in the abolition camp nor in the retention camp. I am in the retention camp. I have not changed the views which I expressed as long ago as 1956, although to a large degree I have have moved much closer to the views of the abolitionists than I was in 1956; but in this climate of the war against crime I am certainly not prepared to venture the risk of the abolition of the death penalty. This is particularly true in relation to the Amendment. I quite agree that the Home Secretary or the Minister of State, if she is called upon to reply—
As I was saying, the fundamental problem—and this has led to sharp reaction in the country, quite regardless of abolitionist or retentionist views—is the widely held view that this is a singularly inopportune moment for the abolition of the death penalty. I know that it can be argued that it is always inopportune. Nevertheless, it is certainly a relevant argument in relation to the murder of policemen, prison officers, fellow prisoners and people of that kind. Serious and violent crime has reached an all-time high, and I forecast that it will reach even higher records within the next 12 months. This is a time when there is a new class of criminals who will require to be maintained in circumstances of maximum security after conviction.
There are certain criminals who, while not insane, are of such pathological temperament that they are incapable of not turning to violent and vicious attacks when they have the opportunity. I want the Home Secretary to tell us how many attacks there have been in the past 12 months upon prison officers. How many attacks have there been by prisoners upon other prisoners? By "attacks" I mean cases in which some physical injury was inflicted.
These figures are important, because there is only a limited number of maximum security prisons and arrangements are being made for rather more prisoners to be accommodated in circumstances of greater security at a time when, quite rightly, the system is also moving towards more and more open prisons for those who are not of violent propensity or dangerous criminals.
But the Amendment pinpoints the fact that there is no other way of dealing with the prisoner who murders a prison officer in the execution of his duty than the death penalty. I concede that this is a narrow point. I know what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) will say, but the purpose of this Amendment is to pinpoint the dangers of the abolition of the death penalty. It makes clear that in such cases there is no true and proper alternative to the death penalty. Later we shall debate alternatives in some detail, and I have some important Amendments on the Order Paper on that subject. But this Amendment pinpoints the inescapable conclusion that there is nothing one can do to this class of case as an alternative to the death penalty.
Let me quote an example, and I will make it as close to a statement of fact as I can. Supposing a protection racketeer in London engages in a piece of such racketeering in Hackney. He goes to a garage and demands a substantial sum of money. As a result of not getting the money he shoots the garage proprietor in the knee with a sawn-off shotgun.
It is completely related to the Amendment, Sir Samuel. I must take the case in sequence. You will see its relationship to the Amendment soon. I promise you that. I am not given to being out of order, at least on this subject.
The racketeer, who is a man of violent propensity and is well known for his character, is in due course arrested, and, fortunately for society, someone is willing to come forward and give evidence. As a result, he is convicted.
Having been convicted, this man of violent and pathological propensity is sent to prison for 14 years—not an excessive sentence for such a crime. He is sent to a place of maximum security, for it is known that he will try to escape through his confederates and associates in the gang in which he has operated. In such a place of maximum security, he makes a violent attack in order to get out of the way any prison officer barring his escape. He attacks him not intending perhaps to kill, but certainly to knock out. In trying to secure his escape, however, he murders the officer. What, other than the death penalty, is left in such circumstances?
I want to develop this. There is practically no one else on the benches opposite, so the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) will be able to make a speech.
In such circumstances, there is no other penalty than the death penalty. It is said that any remission for good conduct can be withdrawn and the man brought back to the Old Bailey on a charge of murder, when he will be sentenced to life imprisonment. But the life imprisonment would be only nine or ten years, and he has already been sentenced to 14 years. What happens then? The Home Secretary then, in the exercise of his discretion, refuses to release that man in any circumstances under licence under the 1952 Act and keeps him in prison. But medical opinion states that after a period of some 17 years in prison a man's mind deteriorates and he becomes an idiot. Is it not far better that a criminal of vicious propensity should suffer the death penalty than be retained in prison for the rest of his natural life?
I cannot accept the argument, which is put forward by some of my colleagues, that the alternative is that a person who has committed murder should be retained in prison for the rest of his natural life, until he do die. I would rather have the death penalty, and I am sure that on this matter I take the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne with me and that he would agree that it would be preferable to have the death penalty rather than people should rot in prison for the rest of their lives.
That being so, I take the view that in this class of case, when we are dealing with dangerous criminals already in prison, it is better for the criminal, certainly for the prison officer and better for the public that we should retain the death penalty. This case is directly analogous in all three Amendments dealing with the person who murders again, the person who murders a policeman in the execution of his duty and the prisoner who murders a prison warder. I have not dealt with the case of a fellow prisoner. I have kept the argument narrower than that.
We have specifically arranged that these Amendments should be debated by those who were not in the Standing Committee in order to show beyond peradventure that not merely those who were on the Standing Committee are interested in the various and ever-ranging arguments about this subject. I say quite frankly that I had a good innings in 1956 and that it is no mere chance that I have not intervened and taken up the cudgels against the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne again until this morning.
I do not wish in any way to filibuster the Bill. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) took a great deal of trouble to prepare a speech on the last Amendment, a speech which he was unable to deliver. I draw attention to the fact that several of those whose names were attached to the two earlier Amendments did not seek to speak on them, and there is no suggestion that we should have extensive debates. I am seeking to draw the attention of the public to a class of case about which we have to think.
It is true that an attack on a prison officer, resulting in his death, even in a prison of high security, is not likely to happen more than once or twice at most over the years, but the debate shows to the public at large beyond peradventure that until the House of Commons can apply itself to the consideration, not of the abolition of the death penalty, but to the proper alternatives which may be applied to deal with a wide variety of criminals, we shall have to have this debate again and—
Would not my hon. Friend agree that while only two or three prison officers have been murdered by prisoners in this century, many of them have been clobbered and beaten senseless? Would he not agree that an effective deterrent would prevent these men from being attacked, and probably having their brains injured, to the extent to which that has occurred?
I have asked the Home Secretary to be good enough to let us have the figures over the last year or couple of years of attacks on prison officers and warders and of cases of prisoner versus prisoner.
In the back of my mind I thought that that was so. I know that the hon. Lady has been extremely good about supplying these figures and figures on related matters. I shall turn them up with interest.
It is unfortunate but true that the reason why we go on debating the subject of the death penalty is that it has so many facets and angles appealing to the minds, the logic and emotions of different individuals. That is what makes it such a difficult subject. The choice of these Amendments is to pinpoint three features. The first is the great increase of violent crime and of recidivist criminals of violent propensity. The second is to draw attention to the fact that there is no alternative whatever, except the death penalty, for a person who perpetrates the sort of murder mentioned in the Amendments. The third is that there is growing evidence to show that the very reason why gangs and other criminals are increasingly carrying weapons is that they think that the death penalty will never again be meted out to them in this country.
If that is so, it is equally true that the man in prison will be able to say, "If I attack a prison officer and get away, I may get my freedom. I am doing fourteen or twenty, or even thirty years. If in the course of that attack I happen to murder him, and it is easy to choke him to death, I shall be in no different position from now". We must recognise that.
We must also take into account the fact that prison officers as well as the Police Federation happen to be in favour of the retention of the death penalty. One is entitled to say, as was said in the Army, that one cannot expect a man in the force, a policeman or a prison officer, to be put into a position which one is not prepared to be in oneself. If I were a prison warder, I would not like there to be no effective deterrent against an attack from men known to be pathologically dangerous and who, if they murdered, would merely remain in the same prison, perhaps for rather longer —which would make it even more likely that they would try yet another murder, with the result only that they would continue to remain in the prison.
Argument after argument can be produced on these and related matters. I forecast that it is an argument which will go on and on, not only in the House of Commons on Wednesday mornings, for many, many weeks to come.
Oh, yes. For many weeks to come. There are hundreds of other Amendments which the ingenuity of myself and my colleagues will be able to put forward and which will be within order, if need be.
I tell the hon. Gentleman, I am sure with the support of many abolitionists, that if he finds the answer to the alternative, he may be able to get his Bill. If he fails to find the answer—and the abolitionists so far have made no contribution in this direction—we will not give them the Bill. We will fight them line by line and tooth for tooth for as long as it may take in the next year.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has moved the Amendment, as he always does, in perfectly reasonable terms. I hope that he will not mind if I say that, in spite of that, I did not find it any more convincing or persuasive than when he put forward a similar proposal in 1956 in the course of the Bill to which he has referred. He will remember that on that occasion he failed to persuade a majority of hon. Members to accept his view, and, although his view was subsequently accepted in the Homicide Act, 1958, he will also remember that that was adopted by the very same Parliament which had rejected all exceptions in my Bill and was accepted in different circumstances when there was no free vote of the House, when the Government proposed it as a Government Measure and put on the Government Whips in support of it.
I agree that the result of a debate or a Division may decide what the House of Commons is prepared to enact but that it does not dispose of the argument. I am the last Member to suppose that majorities are always right. They are not. They are frequently wrong.
But I do not think that a majority of the House was wrong in 1956 or that what I hope will be a majority of the House will be wrong now, eight years later.
I hope that the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet will not object if I say that he made a very plausible argument. He said that a man might be serving a sentence of 14 years and that if he committed a murder, however inadvertently or however deliberately, only a few years would be added to that and that unless we keep the death penalty for murders of this kind there is no effective punishment and, therefore, no effective deterrent. That was his argument. There may or may not be force in it as applied to a prisoner serving a sentence of 14 years.
But the Amendment would apply not only to prisoners serving a sentence of 14 years but to prisoners serving a sentence of 14 days. They are still prisoners, and they would still be covered by the Amendment. A man may be in prison for contempt of court. He may be in prison for some argument with the police during a political demonstration. He may be in prison for debt. He may be in prison for failing to pay a trivial fine. The Amendment would apply to all such prisoners. It would surely be very strange for a Committee of the House of Commons to decide to hang an otherwise law-abiding citizen who was in gaol for a few days for some accidental offence if he murders a fellow prisoner or warder when we have already decided not to do that in the case of prisoners who have committed murder before.
We did decide that. We decided to reject an Amendment which provided that if a man, serving a life sentence on a conviction for murder, committed another murder, that, too, should not be a capital murder. How ridiculous we would make ourselves if, having decided that, we decided to hang a person who was in gaol for having failed to pay a £5 fine. We are dealing with matters of life and death. This is not a chess board. We are not making moves for and against one another. We are not scoring debating points against one another. We are deciding whether there are circumstances in which the State should deliberately set out to take a life. There may be such cases. But to say that such a case as the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet described affords a reasonable exception to the principle of abolishing the death penalty when we have decided not to do so for murder of policemen or for second murders would surely be quite absurd.
That is not right, is it, because a murder of a policeman would be external, and so would double murder? We are talking about a narrower case still. We are dealing with a person in respect of whom there is no other penalty. It is that point to which I invite the hon. Gentleman's attention. What penalty should be imposed in those circumstances?
I do not want to be too long, but I am pointing out to the hon. Gentleman—I am sure that he understood me the first time—that his Amendment would not only apply to cases in which it could be plausibly argued that there was no alternative. It would apply to an enormous number—probably the majority—of prisoners in our gaols to whom that argument does not apply. This makes the Amendment of itself so ridiculous as to be entirely unacceptable to any rational mind.
I come to my second point. On Monday this week, the Court of Criminal Appeal quashed a conviction for murder. It concerned a murder committed in prison. It was riot the murder of a prison officer, so that, under the Amendment, it would not have been a capital murder and was not a capital murder under the Homicide Act. But under Amendment No. 8, which we are also discussing, a fellow prisoner—
I am much obliged, Sir Samuel. That may shorten my speech by two or three sentences. If the murder in respect of which the Court of Criminal Appeal quashed the conviction only this week had been the murder of a prison officer instead of another prisoner, it would have been caught by the Amendment and by Section 5 of the Homicide Act, 1958.
What was the man's defence? It was that he had nothing whatever to do with it, that he was locked in his cell at the time when the murder, if it were a murder, was committed, and had no connection with it of any sort. Moreover, he said that there was another prisoner to whom lie shouted at the time and whom he asked to find a prison officer to come and let him out because he ought not to have been in. A warder was not found. The prisoner had been released. The police made every effort to find the prisoner. They failed to do so. He had spent days or weeks walking the roads, but, fortunately for the convicted man, he was eventually found in a Scottish hospital. His evidence was taken and given to the police. It was accepted at once by the prosecution, and the conviction was quashed.
The man may never have been found at all. He may have been found a week, a month, six months or a year later, in which case the conviction would never have been quashed and the man would have been hanged and we should again have had on our records the conviction of an utterly innocent man. The hon. Gentleman knows well—I am sure that to a great extent he accepts it—that one of the principal arguments against the death penalty is its ineluctability—one can never put it right if one makes a mistake.
One would have thought that in the case of a murder committed in a prison there could be no question of finding the wrong man. Why did they not know that he was in the cell at the time? Why did the warder whose attention had been drawn to it at the time fail to remember and fail to come forward? What the case proves is that mistakes, fundamentally unalterable, irremediable mistakes, can just as well be made in this case as in others.
Finally, I make what I think is the main point in all these cases. I concede at once that hon. Members who genuinely believe that the fear of the death penalty is a unique deterrent, a deterrent in the sense that no other penalty can be—hon. Members who believe that, and lost eight years ago over the wide range of cases —are still entitled to go on fighting for their point of view, as the hon. Gentleman said that he was going to do. I am the last person to object to that. Their attitude is that if they cannot keep this unique deterrent for all murders, they will keep it for those murders where they can keep it—second murders, murders of policemen and prison warders and anything else they can get—in order to make some inroad into a principle which they do not accept and which they would not like to see enacted at all. That is all very well. I do not object to such hon. Members taking this action. They are perfectly entitled to do it.
But nobody who does not accept that case is really entitled consistently or in logic or in conscience to vote for any of the Amendments unless he can show—I submit that it is impossible to show—that in any particular case what is not a deterrent for men and women in general, what is not a deterrent for the whole run of murders, is nevertheless a deterrent in these particular cases.
The hon. Gentleman sought to do that. This is his point about the limited classes of prisoner who might have nothing to lose. We debated all this on second murders. The same argument was used in the case of people who had already shown that they were capable of murder. We did not accept it for them, and if we did not accept it for them, how can we accept that it would be a deterrent in prison where it is not a deterrent outside prison? It is not a case which anyone could entertain seriously for a moment who does not believe in the unique deterrent quality of the death penalty. If hon. Members accept that it is a unique deterrent, then let them vote for the Amendment by all means. If hon. Members do not accept it, then for heaven's sake let us get rid of the shadow of the gallows from this country even for murders committed inside a prison as well as for those outside.
We entirely respect the motives, principles and strongly held beliefs of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman). However, I for one find his logic less impeccable. He said that it was impossible for anyone to vote for the Amendment if he accepted the principle of the abolition of the death penalty. I must now ask him again what I have previously asked him. If he really believes that, why did he put himself in the astonishingly anomalous position of introducing a Bill to abolish capital punishment for some offences and not for others.
The hon. Member has to face the fact that if the Bill is passed in its entirety there are some offences for which capital punishment remains. I appreciate that I must not go too far on this, or I might be out of order. The Bill, if passed unamended, will create far greater anomalies than would the acceptance of the Amendment.
The hon. Gentleman has made this point before and it has been answered before. I would beg him now to accept the answer, whether he believes in it or not. He reproaches me because this is a Bill to abolish the death penalty for murder, but it does not abolish the death penalty for treason or cowardice or desertion in time of war. He invites the Committee to infer from that that I therefore believe it is a deterrent in those cases, but not a deterrent for murder.
This is a false inference. I do not believe any such thing. I do not believe in the death penalty at all for anything. The reason why treason and Army Act offences are not in the Bill is that the argument is a different one and is better argued on its own merits in separate legislation. It would have been quite inappropriate to mix the argument about treason with the argument about murder in one Bill. This is the only reason. There is no inconsistency in my mind about it. I hate the one as much as I hate the other. I hope to see them all go while I remain a Member of the House of Commons.
The hon. Gentleman does not seem to appreciate the problem which he is creating. This is true of a great number of supporters of the Bill and, I must honestly say, of the Home Office. I do not think that the Home Office, or the Cabinet, which is involved, have considered the effect of the Bill if it were to go through. If it were to be passed without Amendment, and a group of prisoners escaped from a civil prison with the aid of colleagues outside and were to kill a warder, or two, five or six warders, they would not be in danger of capital punishment. But if men in the Services were to use violence against an N.C.O. while resisting a lawful order they would all be liable to capital punishment under the Mutiny Act.
The hon. Gentleman has taken out capital punishment for murder under Section 70 of the Army Act and out of the appropriate provisions of the comparable legislation relating to the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and he has left it in for mutiny, which can be a less serious offence. It does not follow that everyone committing mutiny will be hanged. The penalty there is death or such less penalty as may be imposed.
The hon. Gentleman argued that if the Amendment were passed, and if a person who was put in prison for 14 days killed a warder he would have to hang. That is not so. All it means is that if the Amendment is accepted, the Home Office would retain the right to execute prisoners who are convicted of the murder of warders in these circumstances, just as the Army Department and the other Service Departments retain the right to execute the mutineer who may have committed an offence far less serious in ordinary eyes than murder. Rejecting this amendment would create the biggest anomaly that could be imagined.
The Cabinet decided to put the Bill into the Queen's Speech, and the Government put the Whips on. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne commented about a previous Act which was supported by the then Government Whips. That is true. But he will not deny that his Bill has had marked assistance from the present Government's Whips. It is their action we are here today discussing, and I think the hon. Member should face this fact, and I think that he and the Government who support him must face the fact that this Bill, if it is not amended, will create far greater anomalies over the whole course of our law than would be created if we accepted this Amendment. There are the strongest possible reasons why this Amendment, of all the Amendments, should be accepted.
It is absolutely right that there are many people, a larger proportion in this Committee, I think, than outside it, who are resolved to abolish capital punishment for murder. Some of them think that this Bill will abolish it altogether. When I debated this matter with the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), a Liberal, he was quite unaware of the fact that this Bill did not entirely abolish capital punishment, and he had the frankness to say so publicly in the B.B.C. debate. The fact is that there are a great number of people who are resolved to support this Bill, come what may. There are others who will oppose it. Between those two lots of people there are a number of persons, both within the Committee and outside it, who are prepared to examine each Amendment reasonably on its merits, to see whether or not it should be carried, and I do submit that this Amendment is one for whose acceptance there is the strongest possible argument, and I am only disappointed that the Government, who are responsible for what is going on today, have not decided to accept it.
Of course, the Homicide Act has been unpopular. It has not worked perfectly. I myself would not suggest that it has worked perfectly, and I myself wish to see it changed in some regards, but I do suggest that, for anyone who examines the evidence objectively, it is this part of the Homicide Act which has worked admirably, worked to admiration, and whose working could not be improved.
We have heard a great deal of statistics, and I shall say a little more about them in a moment, but it is admitted, I think on both sides of the Committee, that for some 50 years—I think I am right—no prison officer has been murdered. I believe one borstal officer was, though I am not sure whether that was over 50 years ago or not. But for 50 years this part of the law has worked as well as anyone could wish the law to act. Whether that may seem a little anomalous to some, purists in theory, in practice it has worked, and has protected prison officers even from the most violent prisoners.
It was very noticeable the other day, that when a group of desperate men succeeded in extracting—if that is the right word—a long-term prisoner from prison—an astonishingly daring act which, according to some stories, had even been rehearsed the day before—they knew that they had to silence a guard, and they expected to have to do so, and they were prepared to do so, but they took very great care only to knock him unconscious.
This is under the law as it stands today, but prison officers are being attacked—and I shall say a little more about this in a moment—to a degree which I think any reasonable Member would deplore, and I do not pretend to be satisfied with that aspect of the position, but they are not being murdered, and because no prison officers are being killed by prisoners in prisons there is, of course, by the same token, no execution of prisoners for killing them.
The hon. Member will have noticed that the Amendment only affects the murder of prison officers and not of fellow prisoners. Would he address his mind to the question why the death penalty would be a deterrent against the murder of prison officers, but not a deterrent against the murder of a fellow prisoner?
On a point of order, Sir Samuel. I wonder whether a point of order may now be raised about my Amendment No. 8, in page 1, line 5, after "murder" to insert:
except for any murder of a prison officer or fellow prisoner by a person who was a prisoner at the time when he did or was a party to the murder"?
I think that you did say earlier that it was not selected because it was out of order. I am not clear why it is out of order.
Further to that point of order. The purpose of the Bill is to abolish the death penalty. Subsection (1) says, simply and plainly:
No person shall suffer death for murder…
We have, however, since the beginning of the proceedings, been discussing Amendments to that proposition which is the purpose of the Bill. The purpose of all the Amendments we have discussed so far is to limit the total operation of subsection (1).
I am not clear how, in these circumstances, Amendment No. 8 is not within the purpose of the Bill, while all the other Amendments which so far have been selected and discussed have been in order.
Further to that point of order. I know, Sir Samuel, that it is not the custom of the Chair to give reasons for saying that an Amendment is in order or is out of order, but is it not the fact that Amendment No. 8 would create a new category of capital murder, a category which has not been capital murder and, therefore, would extend the principle outside the Title of the Bill?
I think that the full explanation is that the Homicide Act, 1957, abolished the death penalty for murder, with certain exceptions; and that this Bill proposes to abolish those exceptions. So it is in order to move to retain any of those exceptions, but not to go further.
After that little intervention, followed by your decision, Sir Samuel, it now appears, of course, that a very great deal of what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne said in what was, perhaps, the most effective part of his speech, had no relevance whatever to the Amendment we are now discussing. Therefore, I hope that any hon. Members who may have been affected by his speech will not allow the effect of it to weigh with them when they decide how they will vote on the Amendment which we are, in fact, discussing, and which relates simply to the murder of prison officers.
I would go back again for a moment to the deterrent point which, I think, is really the most important. We were all affected by what the Home Secretary said last week. I studied his speech with great care. I have a regard for him as a man and as a lawyer, but I am bound to say that my regard for him as Home Secretary is not quite what it was before this Bill came to be considered, because he accepts that we have a duty to protect the public, that Parliament has a duty to protect the public. I would suggest that we have a particular duty to protect public servants, such as prison officers, who are exposed to particular dangers, and when they are in charge of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself described as "vicious, violent men" who will "slay for their own ends", to use his own words, surely these prison officers are particularly in need of the protection of a powerful and unique deterrent. I think that this must be so.
Consider a long-term prisoner, such as the one whose aided escape I have already referred to, a prisoner who was sentenced to 30 years. I submit that he has absolutely nothing to lose in murdering any number of prison officers if that facilitates his escape. If the Bill were to go through unamended—
I should be completely out of order if I were to do so. It is not for me to discuss that, for it has nothing to do with this Amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to asylum attendants on two occasions already. I think that the Committee is seized of his deep interest in it. We can only await his putting down himself an Amendment in relation to asylum attendants which would, perhaps, help put the matter right.
To return to my point, if this Amendment is not accepted, and if the Bill goes through unamended, a long-term prisoner, serving 30 years, has absolutely nothing at all to lose by murdering one or more prison officers, if, by so doing, he facilitates his own escape.