In view of the long list of right hon. and hon. Members who have written in already, apart from those who will rise without having indicated that they wish to speak, I hope that hon. Members will not come to the Chair to seek to advance their cases. It is an impossible task to call every hon. Member. I can only do my best to ensure a fair debate.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Everyone in the House appreciates that the Chair has an enormously difficult job in every debate. Today's debate presents an even more difficult problem. It is on an issue in respect of which the normal custom of the Chair, calling a Member on one side followed by a Member on the other, does not apply. The Chair of necessity does not know whether the potential speakers are for or against. May I suggest that those who wish to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, should advise the Chair whether they will speak for or against, so that the Chair may, in its usual way, show its impartiality and call one speaker who is for the motion followed by another who is against?
That is a good point of order.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) has been here a long time. I much appreciate his helpful advice. However, I propose to follow the normal custom of calling alternately Members from either side of the House. I should get into terrible difficulty, and so would the House, if I sought to know the views of hon. Members before I called them. As far as possible, I shall do my best to ensure that those in favour and those against get a fair hearing.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. When you are conducting the debate, will you pay some attention—I know that you try—to those Members of Parliament who stay to listen to other Members' speeches? Sometimes we notice the phenomenon of Members who float into the Chamber and make speeches but do not wait to hear anyone else's contribution. Could preference be given to those people who listen to the speeches of others?
The hon. Member is serving in his first Parliament. However, he has drawn our attention to what has been a growing discourtesy in the House. If anyone takes part in a debate, it is a matter of courtesy to the House that he listens to what others have to say.
I beg to move,
That this House believes that the sentence of capital punishment should again be available to the courts.
In recent years this House has been much concerned with issues of life and death—the abortion of unborn children, the rescue of the boat people condemned to drown in the sea and the ending of the wars in Rhodesia and Nicaragua. However, I doubt whether any of those three great issues has gripped the attention of the people whom we represent so much as has this debate today. The reason is not far to seek.
Britain is still a relatively non-violent country, and long may it remain so. The levels of killings by criminal gunmen and terrorists in recent years have risen to a point where the public, on whose behalf we speak, are coming to the conclusion that our present methods of combating those attacks on our civilised society are not working, or are not working well enough.
I shall mostly avoid statistics. In this matter they convey very little. However, I remind the House of just two. Over the past 10 years more than 2,000 of our fellow citizens have been done to death in Northern Ireland and something close to 20,000 have been severely injured, many of whom would have died if it had not been for the advances of medical science. Meanwhile, here in the mainland the murder rate has increased.
I avoid statistics because we are in a situation where every year the number of corpses increases but where the numbers of people charged with murder no longer increase. I state just one simple fact. Seldom does a week go by without two, and sometimes three, of our fellow citizens on the mainland being killed in circumstances that 10 years ago would have been regarded as murder. Some of those murders are domestic. No legislation that could he supported by my right hon. and hon. Friends or myself could ever be applied to those cases. Some of those murders are the product of people who are emotionally or mentally deranged. Once again I say that no legislation imposing the death sentence could possibly be applied to those. Indeed, I hope that the House would never agree to the death sentence being applied in any cases where the circumstances were extenuating. My main concern—and, I think, that of the public—is the massive recent increase in the deliberate killings by criminals and terrorists. I seek to deal with those.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for so quickly fulfilling the promise that she gave in the election campaign that this House would have an early opportunity to debate and vote on this difficult matter. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for enabling the debate to take place on a motion that is designed not to expose the details of the legislation that will be required—if the House is minded to accent it—but simply to deal with the principle, which I define at the outset in the form of two basic questions. The first is practical. Can the capital sentence deter, or help to deter, those evil men who, in cold blood, plan and carry out the malicious killing of our fellow citizens? In short, can it offer to the innocent and to those on whom we place the main burden of defending us any greater protection than they receive today? That is the practical question.
The second question is moral. Is our civilised State entitled, under any circumstances, consciously to take the life of any of its citizens? No matter how terrible the crimes a man may already have perpetrated, no matter how grave the threat his existence, even in gaol, may pose to our society, should we none the less take the view that never should our courts have the power to sentence him to the fate that he imposed, without due process of law, on the people we repre- sent and for whose safety the House is responsible? That is the moral question.
Like all Members of Parliament, I have pondered long and painfully over those questions. If I may speak personally, I hate the whole terrible subject. I have been very close to the administration of the death sentence in California and Colorado. Like all Members of Parliament, I love life in all its forms. I know that the killing of any one man diminishes all other men. I therefore reached my conclusions and answers to the practical and moral questions of the capital sentence not by gut reaction, not by statistics, not even in response to the views of and what I deemed to be the wishes of the majority of the British people, but on experience, conscience and judgment. Therefore, I make it plain at the outset that I am opposed to a referendum.
I recognise the force of public feeling. I see the dangers of Parliament perhaps giving the impression that it is insensitive to popular opinion, which on this matter, unlike most others, has remained pretty clear and consistent over the years. But I cannot support a referendum, because, although it might help my cause, its only practical effect would be to pressure some hon. Members into voting in an opposite sense to what their judgment and their conscience have led them to believe is right, and that would make a mockery of this Parliament.
Perhaps I should make clear, in case of misconceptions outside or even inside the House, that the step that I am asking the House to undertake tonight is a long way from the reintroduction of the death sentence. What we are asking—indeed, all that we can ask—is that the House, by agreeing to the motion, should advise the Government to set in train the preparation of a Bill that would fall to be considered in very much greater detail at a later stage.
Hon. Members who are opposed to capital punishment root and branch will hardly let that stop them from voting against the motion, and from their point of view they will be right. Those who favour the capital sentence will, by the same taken, no doubt support the motion. But to what I conceive, after about 15 years in this House, to be a majority of hon. Members—those who have doubts, those who think that there is something to be said for the capital sentence but who want first to be assured about how it would work in practice—I feel entitled to make this plea. We cannot decide today the types of murder, terrorist or otherwise, that might be eligible for the death sentence. We cannot decide today the difficult question of majority verdicts, to which I would be opposed. We cannot settle, outside of a detailed Committee stage of legislation in this House, such difficult issues as who would be responsible for recommending the prerogative of mercy, for dealing with the position in Northern Ireland, or, indeed, the method of execution—and I am bound to say that I do not like hanging.
All these are crucial matters, but one thing at least is certain. If the motion is lost tonight, none of the detailed questions that I know trouble many of my hon. Friends will ever be able to be answered, at least in this Parliament, because the Government will have no need even to try to answer them. If, on the other hand, the House accepts the motion, there will be plenty of time for the Government, for it will then become a matter for the Government to undertake consultations with all the interested parties, notably the judiciary, the legal profession, the police, the social services and the civil liberties organisations, for the purpose of drafting a Bill, which we cannot consider today and the contents of which would need to command the widest possible measure of support in the House. We cannot settle those matters today. We can deal today only with the issue of principle.
It is, of course, for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to answer on that matter, but perhaps I may say this. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the courtesy of writing to me. He said:
If the motion is carried, one of the matters that will have to be decided is whether effect should be given to that decision by a Govern-
ment Bill or whether it should be, as were successive abolition Bills, a Private Member's Bill.
My right hon. Friend went on to say:
In the latter case the Government would, of course, provide drafting assistance and parliamentary time.
I say to the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden)—and, indeed, to the House—that I would not even consider accepting a Whip on a matter of this kind. I would vote as a free Member. I am certain that my right hon. Friend and the whole of the Government Front Bench would not even contemplate bringing to the House on this matter a Bill that carried with it a three-line Whip.
The paradox is that there is only one way in which any hon. Member who feels that the death penalty may have some value, for example in dealing with terrorism, but who cannot bring himself to support it in other cases can possibly hope in this Parliament to have those doubts properly considered, and conclusions, either for or against, laid before this House, and that is by voting for the motion tonight.
I come now to the substantial issues which the House must consider. I say at once that there is no proof—certainly no conclusive proof—either that abolition has led to an increase or that restoration could bring about a decrease in the number of murders. In addition, there is no conclusive proof that abolition has not encouraged a substantial increase in killings or that restoration would not have the effect of deterring such killings in the future. The truth is that, on the basis of the statistics, none of us can say for certain that capital punishment would or would not save lives. I suspect that it would. Other hon. Members believe that it would not. But none of us knows for certain. We therefore have no choice but to look elsewhere than in the statistics for the guidance that we need.
In my view, one of the best sources of such guidance is the working experience of those who, more than anyone else, come into the closest contact with murderers and terrorists, and who daily risk their lives in the fight to save innocent people. I refer, of course, to the police service, and in particular to the CID, to the Special Branch, to the regional crime squads and to the anti-terrorist squad.
Their verdict is practically unanimous. The police want this motion to be passed.
I hope that Labour Members, who rightly support the interests of members of the trade unions of this country, will not think it wrong for me to expose the views of 99·7 per cent. of those who serve in the police service. As to the question of a declaration, the House knows well where I stand. The position of chief police officers, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) knows, is very varied. Some approve, some do not. It is an open question.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am a sponsored member of a trade union, and I understand the position to be that one declares an interest in matters in which one is representing the views of an organisation. Can the hon. Gentleman be requested by the Chair to say whether he has a paid interest in this matter?
May I make clear once and for all. Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I advise the Police Federation, just as many other hon. Members advise other asso- ciations. If I agree with the Police Federation, I support its case. If I disagree, I tell it, and I do not support its case. My responsibility is to my constituents and to the national interest. [Interruption.] I hope that there will be no more of this barracking in the House. In the interests of allowing many more hon. Members to speak, perhaps I might be allowed to press on. There will then be more opportunity for hon. Members to make their views known.
Speaking for the police, I say simply that their verdict is almost unanimous. They want this motion to be accepted. When the House first decided to abolish the capital sentence, the Police Federation gave a carefully documented warning. It said then that abolition would lead to a rapid increase in the use of guns by criminals. Can anyone doubt that that has happened? Its warning was based on experience—on the hard personal experience of those who knew that in the days of the capital sentence the older members of many criminal gangs in London would regularly frisk the younger men to make sure that they were not carrying guns. The older gang members did this because, in the criminal vernacular of the times:
You kill a cop, and we are all topped ".
It is not like that any more. Today, as the police warned, it has become the norm, not the exception, for the professional criminal to go out on the job with a gun, and he uses that gun for three reasons—first, to menace, and that menace has grown stronger now that those who are threatened with a gun know that the cost to a criminal of killing them is no longer the capital sentence; secondly, to eliminate witnesses and, thirdly, to assist in the getaway.
All those are among the reasons why the numbers or armed crimes have increased. I give just one example. In 1963, the year before the House passed the abolition legislation, firearms were used in 43 robberies in London—rather less than one every week. This year the total will be well over 1,000—an increase of 21 times. No less important is the far greater increase in the number of armed criminals who get clean away with their crimes. I shall tell the House why that is happening. Ten years ago unarmed policemen seldom hesitated to tackle armed robbers. They did so in the belief that very few cornered criminals would shoot to kill a police officer on duty. They would not do so because those criminals knew, or at least had reason to fear, that to murder a police officer on duty was virtually to sign one's own death warrant.
But no longer is that so. Today—I state it as a fact—very few policemen are willing to take the risk of tackling a cornered gunman unless they themselves are armed. The new situation is that in that split second of timing when the policeman must decide whether to tackle the armed man, and the criminal to decide whether to pull the trigger, the loss of the capital sentence has changed the odds in favour of the gunman and heavily against the police.
The crucial factor is that at the point at which he decides whether or not to tackle the gunman, perhaps one who has already killed, the police officer today risks his life. But the criminal does not risk his life. When he comes to decide whether to shoot or not to shoot, his only risk is between a life sentence for using firearms in the course of a robbery or a life sentence for killing in the process. The practical difference, depending on his record and previous convictions, may be something like four or five years in prison for carrying the firearm in the commission of a theft, and about 10 to 12 years, with remission, for killing a police officer. It may be more, or less, but often it comes out at that. That differential is no longer enough to persuade the average police officer to run risks with his own life.
Of course I know that. That was why I conceded right at the beginning that domestic murders cannot be included. The anxiety relates to where the increase is occurring, and it is in this area. It is precisely for the reason that I have given that the police themselves have been forced to take to guns. They did not want that, and they warned the House against it, but that is what has happened.
At the time of the Silverman Bill the only policemen who ever carried arms in this country were those who were bodyguards to the Royal Family and, perhaps, to the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister. At that time police armouries were a joke. They consisted of a few old Lee-Enfields, sourvenirs of the First World War. But today thousands of policemen are thoroughly trained and skilled marksmen. More and more they are carrying and using firearms to handle incidents that are created by armed thugs and terrorists.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if one excludes terrorist offences the number of police officers killed has varied between nil and two since 1957, with the exception of 1966, when three were killed, and that only one prison officer has been killed?
I am not sure why the hon. Gentleman excludes terrorism, because 140 police officers have been killed in Northern Ireland. [Interruption.] Are they any the less police officers?
As the police have become armed, more deaths have inevitably occurred. Within the past year three people have been shot dead by the English police, and the result has been public unease. The question that is asked is " If the police must shoot, can they not shoot to disable the criminal and not to kill him? " The police answer is always " No ", for the excellent reason that a wounded armed man is dangerous so long as he can fire his weapon.
However, there is no escaping one fact. We did not succeed in abolishing the death penalty in this country. Executions have continued by armed robbers and terrorists, to whom I shall turn in a moment, and the danger is that more and more of our police find themselves acting as the surrogate executioners of armed criminals without due process of law. Despite the fact that Parliament has decreed that even after trial the State may not take life, our police are in a position where they are performing executions. That is something that they detest. It is something from which, if we can, we must seek to save them.
The police may be wrong in their settled and consistent belief that the capital sentence would help to save innocent lives, including the lives of the police, but I hope—indeed, I beg—that no hon. Member will lightly brush aside the views of the best and most experienced police force in the world, whatever his conscience may tell him. Which hon. Member can say with enough certainty to take the responsibility possibly of sending more of our police to their deaths that in this matter he is wiser and more experienced than they are? Can we, each one of us, say with enough moral authority to be willing to risk the lives of more innocent people that not one professional robber or drug runner who sets out to commit a crime would never be deterred, by the fear of capital punishment, from taking a firearm with him and killing an innocent person?
I am aware of that, and I am pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman speaking for the bosses' union.
Turning to the terrorist problem, 14 years ago these islands were untouched by the scourge of urban terrorism. In the past 10 years, however, more than 2,000 of our fellow citizens have been killed by terrorists. Here on the mainland we have had the bombing of the Army coach, the slaughter of young people in the pubs of Birmingham and Guildford, the assassination of Ross McWhirter and my colleague Airey Neave, explosions at the homes of prominent statesmen and others, letter bombs and incendiary devices, and the shooting up of restaurants that led to the Balcombe Street siege and the murder of the Tube driver who helped to foil a bomb plot. Nor has London been immune from international terrorism. There have been hijackings, the attack on the El-Al bus, murders of foreign politicians and killings involving rival factions in the Arab maelstrom. Not once has the perpetrator of any of these countless killings faced the risk of losing his life by judicial execution. At worst, he faces a long prison sentence.
In no way do I underestimate the horrors of a long prison sentence. However, a man may wait in prison for eventual release. That can come in a number of ways—by the seizing of hostages, by some future political amnesty or by parole when memories and the sense of outrage have faded. Meanwhile, his status as a hero among like-minded people is assured—and no doubt in many cases such a terrorist may prefer to be a hero than a martyr.
I do not for one moment underestimate the difficulties of defining terrorism. What, for example, does one do if someone kills an East German border guard? He is a terrorist in East Berlin but a hero in West Berlin. There are the gravest difficulties in defining terrorism. Nor do I underestimate the terrible problem of deciding what to do about the 14-year-old boy. If he is liable to the death penalty, why should not terrorists make use of the 12-year-old boy? Of course I do not underestimate the difficulties.
Nor do I believe—and I state it plainly —that the death sentence could possibly deter the ideological fanatic. It would not. As often as not such a killer kills for a cause that, however revolting it may be to us, to him or her is a mission where the end justifies the means. There is, too, the problem of martyrdom, to which the right hon. Gentleman the former Home Secretary and no doubt my right hon. Friend will wish to draw the attention of the House. I believe, however, that if the IRA wishes to find martyrs it can already do so. There will not be some sudden accession of martyrs in Northern Ireland if the House passes the motion tonight. However, I in no way underestimate these problems.
Is there not a further risk, and one involving innocent lives? That is the risk from ideologically motivated killers that hostages will be taken and that their lives will be at risk if the capital sentence can be invoked.
Indeed there is, but there is nothing to prevent hostages from being taken to revenge the IRA for the killing of young men by the British Army or the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the current street fighting. There will be no sudden accession of new powers and new abilities in the IRA if the House passes the motion tonight. The IRA is at war with us, and the situation would be no worse or better.
Not all terrorists are fanatics. We need to distinguish carefully between at least three types of terrorists that the police in many countries, not only this, have been able to identify in recent years. One group is the fanatics, and they would never be deterred. A second group is those who are motivated by a ragbag of emotions and ideals—braggadocio, worship of a fanatic leader, personal exhibitionism or self-drama. These are the weaker characters who frequently plant terrorist bombs but who, the police advise me, although not always, can sometimes be put off, even at the last moment, by the fear of execution.
It is the third type with whom I am mainly concerned, and that is the hired professional assassin. These men are the jackals. They are the men who hire themselves out from one terrorist group and criminal gang to another. Above all, they are calculators. They calculate the odds. The calculation that weighs most with them is that they themselves shall live to enjoy, if that is the word, the fruits of their terrible labour. The police tell me that where such a calculating professional hired assassin has to take into account the possibility that he too may die, his price goes up and his availability goes down. The cash nexus starts to work and terrorist organisations find that the death penalty substantially increases the cost of hiring those assassins. It is a cold-blooded calculation, but, in the eyes of the police and security men with whom I have discussed it, anything that makes it harder and more expensive for terrorist organisations to hire professionals is a gain to their potential victims.
Only last week the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland told the House in guarded terms that there is evidence that terrorism in that part of our country is benefiting from assistance from outside groups. I suspect that behind his careful words is evidence known to the police that more and more hired professional hit men are being trained and hired out from one terrorist group to another. It is these men to whom the existence of the death sentence can act as a disincentive. When we come to vote tonight, I hope that we shall not ignore that fact.
What we shall not be deciding tonight is to reintroduce the death sentence. We shall not be deciding on the scope or structure of a Bill to reintroduce the capital sentence in this country. That would be for the Second Reading of any Bill that would need to be drafted, and it would need to be based on the widest consultation in order to reach the widest possible agreement. There can be no decision on that matter here tonight.
We shall not be deciding any of the details tonight. I offer as my opinion, based on previous experience with legislation, that the best way to proceed must not be by the 1955 route. It must be the route whereby the House agrees to a general proposition—in this case that the capital sentence should be available—and then proceeds, clause by clause, to exclude from its ambit a whole series of particular classes. For example, I believe that murder committed in domestic circumstances and murders committed by juveniles and mentally and emotionally enraged people should be excluded. But these are matters for legislation which cannot be decided tonight.
What we are deciding tonight is the issue of principle. Does the House believe that the capital sentence has no part to play, in any circumstances, in deterring violence and protecting innocent lives? Those who believe that must vote against the motion. Those who believe the opposite must vote for it. There is a larger number of hon. Members on both sides who believe that just possibly the capital sentence may have some role to play but who first need an assurance about how it will work in practice. The right and honourable course for them to follow is to vote for the motion. That will act as an instruction to the Government to undertake the consultations and to bring back to the House, where every hon. Member may vote as he pleases, a Bill that will set out a possible way of proceeding with the capital sentence.
I have listened with great interest to the case of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). He made three important points. First, he said that tonight's vote would only be a step, albeit a major one, towards the introduction of the death penalty. Obviously there would be a long way to go, and a Bill would be necessary. He sought the assistance of the Government in the consultations on and drafting of the Bill. I hope very much that we shall have an assurance tonight that if this motion is regrettably and unhappily passed, apart from drafting and consultations there will be no suggestion of any Government help on a subject which has been a matter for a free vote and private Members' legislation for many years.
The hon. Member should have made it even clearer that any such Bill would have a very long way to go in this House. I cannot conceive of such a Bill passing in this House without a guillotine. I hope that the Government will assure us that there will he no question of terminating discussions in this House on a Bill about which there are so many deeply and widely held views. In those circumstances, I cannot see it passing through the House.
The hon. Member's second point was that there was no proof that abolition had or had not led to an increase in the number of murders. In saying that, he eroded the whole of his case. On the basis of statistics, he admitted that none of us could say that capital punishment could save lives. He said that he believed it could, but none of us knows that for sure. I believe that that admission eclipses almost totally his whole argument, because he is asking us to step into the unknown when none of us knows whether this would lead to any decrease in the number of murders. Therefore, what is left of the debate?
As the argument has been presented on the basis of whether or not capital punishment would diminish the number of murders, it is important that we should ask ourselves whether bringing in State strangulation for terrorism would inevitably mean an increase in the number of murders. That is an issue that has not been dealt with by the sponsor of the motion.
I shall turn to the question of terrorism later in my speech. I am sure that those who have been concerned with administration in Northern Ireland will want to put their views on this matter to the House.
The third point that the hon. Member made was in seeking once again to repeat the history of the past by trying to categorise murder into domestic and non-domestic classes. We all know that in the past attempts at any degree of categorisation failed.
Whenever the death penalty is mentioned many, if not most, of us react instinctively. Our response—and there is no need to apologise for this—is the result of a gut feeling rather than logic. There are deeply held, conscientious views both for and against on this issue. In some cases it is because of a conviction against the taking of all human life. I suspect that that is a minority view. An even narrower view is that judicial murders are wrong. But many of us—perhaps most—are revolted by the techniques of those executions. On the other hand, I can see that there are deeply held views also and we have heard the hon. Member put his case this afternoon. He claims —and I dispute this—that society has a right to protect itself to the extent of being able to demand the forfeiture of human life, in that a Person has so conducted himself that he is denied the right to live. Perhaps that was the most significant aspect of the remarks made by the hon. Member. His major point, to which I return, was that all the statistics, arguments and logic tend to contradict one another and that there is no clear proof one way or the other.
That brings me to my second point, that we are not arguing about the abolition of hanging for murder. That has been abolished by this House. That is not the issue. The issue that we are deciding tonight is whether hanging should be restored. Therefore, the onus of proof is on those who seek to restore hanging and not on those who wish to abolish it. This is where the hon. Member, in the absence of statistics, was not able to satisfy us that he was right in his arguments.
Does the right hon. and learned Member agree that we are not debating the reintroduction of hanging? We are discussing the reintroduction of capital punishment. As the Royal Commission on capital punishment recognised in the 1950s, there are many ways in which capital punishment can be carried out.
We all know that we are talking about capital punishment and its restoration, not its abolition. That is why it is incumbent upon the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds to satisfy the House. If we were not arguing about restoration, I should be prepared to deal with the argument for abolition in itself, because I find the whole doctrine of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth hardly suitable for a developed, civilised society. Retribution is hardly an appropriate factor in the criminal calendar and in criminal punishment, whether it be for murder or any other offence. I thought that the State had advanced from that kind of philosophy.
The argument put forward by the hon. Gentleman involves the right of the State to demand the supreme penalty, solemnly pronounced and executed as humanely as possible, for murder. We all know that, unhappily, our legal system is not infallible. Innocent men have been hanged, and there can never be a guarantee that only the guilty will hang.
With respect to the hon. Lady, I have already given way twice and there are many other hon. Members who wish to take part in this debate. I wish to conclude my remarks as rapidly as possible.
A Royal pardon is wholly academic when a mistake of that kind is made. I do not believe that the State has a right to demand this penalty for one of its own citizens for murder in peacetime. It is for the State to prove its right to do so and not for the individual to establish his right to live.
On the issue of the restoration of the death penalty, I suspect that many of its proponents avidly believe that we should walk hand in hand with our colleagues in Europe. Indeed, some would follow every harmonisation within the EEC to the end of the road. But if we restore the death penalty we shall be out of line, in a legal or de facto sense, with every EEC country, except France and Ireland. I am told that there has been one execution in France since 1976 and that the last execution that took place in Ireland was in 1954.
We take pride in the way in which our legal system, with all its faults, has developed over the years. We have exported our common law and our system of justice over the centuries. There has been respect for the need to protect individuals, and that principle, too, has been exported to many corners of the world. Given what has happened in the rest of the world and also the position in Europe, I must ask what makes us so confident that we should act in a contrary sense to our closest colleagues and partners in the world? Why should we seek to put the clock back? Why should we be right and they be wrong?
I return to the issue of deterrents and statistics. As the hon. Gentleman said in introducing the motion, these factors do not prove very much. Does the fear of the rope make a potential murderer so rationalise his position that he will change his mind? Many murderers are not rational beings. Usually, about a third of all murder suspects commit suicide or are subsequently found to be mentally ill. On average, over half the number of convicted murderers committed their crimes while in a state of anger, extreme jealousy, quarrelling, fighting or drunk. That leaves us with only the cold-blooded, calculating murderer who, potentially, could be deterred, and there is no evidence on that account.
The hon. Gentleman dealt with the issue of terrorism. I shall not go in detail into the matter of escalation of terrorism, hostages, and the problems involved by trials in Northern Ireland because I am sure that many other hon. Members will deal with those topics. When one tries to categorise murder, one should never forget the experience in 1957, when the use of the gun was regarded as capital murder, whereas the use of the knife was not. Surely no credible advocate of restoration would now wish to restore any such absurd distinction, whether in regard to the method of murder, the motivation or geographical considerations. This is exactly what the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds was seeking to do today by putting forward that issue in that way. Because of the deep concern about terrorism in one part of the kingdom, he sought to raise emotions.
As a point of correction, may I inform the right hon. and learned Gentleman that my proposition was that it would be best to proceed, as often happens in this House, by enacting a general proposition, namely, that the death sentence should apply and then, clause by clause, we could except various categories. That is quite different from the right hon. and learned Gentleman's version.
I do not wish to go over the ground again because I do not wish to weary the House. However, that is exactly what the hon. Gentleman sought to do, both at the beginning and at the conclusion of his speech. He tried to set up categories. We have had categories in the past, and they just do not work.
Murder is overwhelmingly a domestic crime. More than half the persons indicted for murder each year have a familiar relationship with the victim, and up to two-thirds have had a personal relationship of some intensity. Only about a quarter of the victims have been total strangers to their killers. These proportions have hardly varied in a period of 20 years. That was the evidence of Mr. Blom-Cooper and Professor Morris, who carried out extensive researches. Therefore, we can dismiss that category immediately because it has no deterrent influence.
What of the minority of cases which the hon. Gentleman, despite his protestations, seeks to categorise? As manna from heaven, we have had the statistics produced by Professor Ehrlich in the United States. Those figures were seized upon by retentionists, and they were embraced by the hon. Gentleman. However, today he sought to wash his hands of them. He said in the Daily Express, embracing the views of the professor:
An additional execution per year over the period in question could have resulted in seven or eight fewer murders.
However, the professor did not claim anything conclusive in his findings. His views have been torn apart by other studies and academics, both in regard to his statistical methods and the time scale used. It has been said that if another time scale is chosen a different result will emerge.
The hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) said in an intervention that we were not dealing specifically with hanging. Hon. Members quake at the sheer barbarity of such a practice. The Guardian reminded us yesterday of the views of the Royal Commission, whose members had examined the electric chair, the gas chamber and injections. They found that hanging was the least objectionable of all the methods that had been examined and canvassed. It is no good hon. Members who wish to vote for the motion washing their hands of the Commission's view that hanging is the least barbaric method of execution.
Those who support the motion are not the only people who are concerned. I and many others are concerned about the increasing level of violence, mugging and armed robberies, right down to crimes of vandalism. The figures have increased alarmingly, and the police should be given every support to deal with those offences. But I cannot conclude, and there is no evidence for doing so, that the death penalty would in any way affect or diminish the amount of mugging, robbery or vandalism.
The statistics show that murder in the course of other serious crimes remains a constant and fractional element of the homicide scene, irrespective of the penalty prescribed for the crime at any one time. I do not believe that the restoration of the death penalty will help us in any way to maintain the standards of a civilised society. I believe firmly that it is an uncivilised and brutal form of judicial retribution which detracts from our hopes of advancing into a more civilised society. It has been rejected by so many countries right across the world, particularly in Europe. It is rejected by so many of us as individuals. The House of Commons continues to give a lead to our people. If we are ahead of public opinion on the issue, so be it. It is a matter of time.
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) that many of the matters about which we are talking are repugnant to us. However, what I believe should be most repugnant to the House is the suffering from brutal violence.
I propose to speak briefly on the question of terrorism or political violence. In the general spectrum of violence, it is a particularly bloodstained and brutal form. Reference has been made to books on the subject that were written some time ago. There is no question but that the levels of political violence around the world are rising. We have only to look at Northern Ireland, where the most tragic problem exists. Home Secretaries often make foolish remarks. I can remember none more foolish than that of Mr. Roy Jenkins when he was Home Secretary. On 11 December 1974 he declared that the situation was improving. If he were to compare Ulster with Europe in terms of terrorism and violence, he would discover that the European population over the last 10 years has suffered 250,000 deaths and 2 million injuries from terrorist activity.
Terrorism is a growing problem. The past history of terrorism was frequently a matter of justifiable regicide or tyrannicide. Nowadays, there are new movements inside the State that wish to subvert altogether the order of civilised society. We should pay particular attention to our efforts against those groups. One of the problems is that politicians and commentators have failed to draw the distinction between the killing of innocent, powerless and uninvolved individuals and the political overtones attached thereto. One of the greatest errors committed by the House was to declare that the Irish terrorists were political prisoners. That has done untold damage.
The men from the BBC say that we have to show up these terrorists as though they were not murderers in order to achieve a balance of political wisdom in the country. One can imagine the present governor of the BBC allowing Dr. Goebbels 10 minutes air time every two years during the Second World War. Such is the confusion that flows from those who try to lead the country. What is clear is that the murderer or the terrorist should be destroyed.
I shall be brutal and frank. The threat of the terrorist is to society. The modern terrorist realises full well that the basis of society is that society must have the monopoly of public violence. That is what the State is about. Take away from the State the power of life or death and hand it to individual terrorists, let them seize the power to imprison—as they did in Italy—let them seize the power to kill —as they have done in Northern Ireland—and the power to subvert, and the civilised State, or any State, is endangered. When that happens, the rule of law is endangered. Policemen throughout the world do not shoot to wound; they shoot to kill. They take the law into their hands. That is what will continue to happen unless the House alerts itself to the threatened danger.
Let us not pretend that terrorism is a limited attack on the State or that it is an attack by fringe political groups only. In Europe we have seen some of the more dangerous political parties become involved in terrorism. We should not pretend that we are about to enter a glorious period of rising expectations for the mass of our people. We should face the fact that we may be entering a period that will be almost as harsh as the 1930s.
We should remember that it is not impossible that the Communist Party, which, hitherto, has always been opposed to terrorism outside its own country—regarding it as bourgeois, adventurist and dangerous—may lend its support to the terrorist. The wretched German Communist Party was let down and destroyed by the Nazis in the 1930s, because Moscow would not raise a finger to help it, but we should remember that terrorism could well become an instrument not of political but of military policy.
Because of the general animadversions which I have endeavoured to make on the state of the world, particularly because of the terrible troubles in Northern Ireland, where the liberal progressive approach has failed in the most disastrous fashion, I believe that the House should turn itself seriously towards supporting the motion.
The House should be grateful to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) for the lucid and candid way in which he introduced this debate. I found his arguments clear and easy to follow. It is a very difficult subject to bring forward to the House without being wholly emotional about it.
I believe, too, that the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) was right to say that the burden of proof in this matter rested on those supporting the motion. However, I believe it for slightly different reasons from those that the right hon. and learned Gentleman advanced.
The first is that the concept of judicial murder is objectionable. The second is that, in my view, the State should not render evil for evil but, rather, that a civilised democracy should bring the collective power of the State to show that it is superior to the mindlessness of terrorism and murder. The third is that mistakes cannot be reversed, as we saw in the case of Timothy John Evans and, more recently, of Paddy Meehan, who would have been hanged but was able to be freed from a prison sentence.
Despite these basic objections to capital punishment, however, I and many other hon. Members who share those objections also feel that we have a duty as Members of Parliament to set aside our own views, convictions and, perhaps, prejudices if we feel that by setting them aside we are assisting the protection of the society that we are sent here to protect. That is why the burden of proof rests on the other side.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds gave his case away, but rightly gave it away, when he admitted that he had no statistics to call in aid, because the experience of this country and others does not lead us to conclude that we can offer from this House any substantial protection to our society simply by bringing back capital punishment.
The hon. Member also accepted—this is very important, because it is a view that public opinion, which supports capital punishment, probably does not accept—the argument advanced by the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon that many murders take place for which capital punishment could not possibly be the answer. Of course, public opinion is greatly excited by cases such as the present case of the Yorkshire Ripper, which would come under the category that the right hon. and learned Member advanced as probably not being appropriate for capital punishment. I say " probably " because we do not know the full facts of that case.
That is probably one of the reasons why there is this big difference between the emotional reaction of public opinion and the studied reaction of Members of Parliament in the successive votes that we have taken on the question in this House.
Nevertheless, the basic argument advanced by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, which we have just heard supported by the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser), is that there are some murders for which we ought to allow the courts to impose the sentence of capital punishment.
I, too, have been concerned, even though an abolitionist and one who voted for abolition very soon after becoming a Member of this House, about the development of terrorism. But this is an international phenomenon. It is not peculiar to this country, and I find it difficult to believe that it would be right for us in Britain to take the backward step of attempting to combat international terrorism by the use of capital punishment.
Moreover, terrorism thrives on its fanatics. Even though people other than fanatics may be used by terrorists, terrorism is fanatical, and I do not believe that fanatics will be put off by the fear of capital punishment. The scope for martyrdom, for reprisals, for the taking of hostages and for kidnappings is substantial. What is more, in Ireland many terrorists have run the risk of being blown up—some have been blown up—by their own bombs. People who are prepared to take that risk are not likely to be deterred by the more remote risk of capital punishment.
There is the further argument that if we assume that capital punishment is to apply only to those over 18, there is every incentive to make use of younger people for acts of terrorism. That is one of the tragedies of Northern Ireland. Younger people are already being recruited into terrorism. Would not that be a greater incentive?
Then there are others, as the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds pointed out—I find this aspect the most difficult to answer—who feel that capital punishment would be a deterrent in a small minority of cases where hardened criminals carry guns and are prepared to shoot their way out of tight corners.
That is probably the most difficult argument to answer. The only answer that I can give is that the minute we start down that road we are on a road that this House rejected after the experience between 1957 and 1965, when we had the Homicide Act, with different categories of murder.
Do we impose the death sentence if a policeman is shot? If the answer is " Yes ", do we impose the death sentence if a policeman is shot when he is not in uniform? Do we impose the sentence if a policeman is shot when he is off duty? Do we impose the sentence of capital punishment if the shooting involves an employee of one of the many private security firms guarding public buildings, banks and other properties?
We get into the most appalling difficulties, which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds was fair enough to admit he was not able to tackle in this debate. We reopen the anomalies of the Craig and Bentley case. We reawaken public opinion against the hanging of Ruth Ellis because she was a woman.
I do not believe that it is possible to categorise murder in any way between capital and non-capital, and I do not think that it would be right for this House to take refuge, as the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds and the editorial in The Daily Telegraph this morning invited us to do, in the very vagueness of the motion by saying that those in doubt can keep more options open by voting for it than by voting against it. That cannot be an acceptable proposition.
I have two additional arguments against the motion. The first is that I regret to say—this is a strong motivation for Members of Parliament when we read the contents of our mailbags—that voting for this motion is a substitute for real action against crime. To put it crudely, bringing back hanging would not put a strain on the public expenditure programme of this or any other Government. In a sense, it is the soft option for the House.
We all know that the real deterrent to crime of all kinds is to increase the certainty of being caught. That must mean making our police force more effective than it has been. It must mean trying to get away from the tendency to cut expenditure by centralising police forces and, instead, getting the police back into the community. That is more expensive. We cannot escape that fact. We know that it must mean spending more on our miserable prison service. It means relieving prison officers of the duties of trying to look after both those who should be not in prison but in more appropriate institutions and hardened criminals in overcrowded and impossible buildings.
These are difficult decisions for any House of Commons to take. They involve detailed consideration and considerable expenditure. Capital punishment is the easy way out, because if we reintroduced it we could tell our constituents that we were doing something to combat the rising tide of crime. I do not think that that is an option that we ought to take.
My final argument is that the difference between the Member of Parliament taking this decision and the member of the public answering an opinion poll that is to be published in a newspaper is that we in this House have to carry the responsibility for the decision. In my view, the case has not been made out for the return of capital punishment as a means to protect our society. If it has not been made out, we who have the power to decide have to ask ourselves whether we should be prepared personally to carry out the process of execution. I can only answer that question for myself. I should not be. Therefore, I am not prepared to cast my vote to instruct others to carry it out.
I hope that the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) will forgive me if I do not immediately take up his arguments. I feel that I have a special role to perform in this debate. It is to put before the House some of the issues as I see them as Home Secretary. I cannot conceivably—and it would be absurd to pretend that I could —divorce myself as Home Secretary completely from myself as a person and my own personal views. I cannot do that. But I shall make the best effort that I can to put some of the implications before the House on that basis.
The House will need no words from me to underline the significance of public opinion on this issue. It lies behind the undertaking given by the present Government in our election manifesto to enable this debate to take place. There is no gainsaying the strongly held views of many people in the country that capital punishment should be reintroduced for at least certain forms of murder. The proportion favouring it probably would vary from one category of murder to another and in the light of particular events.
As Home Secretary, I appreciate my responsibility for certain groups of public servants who are especially concerned about or affected by our decision on capital punishment and my duty to remind the House of the views of those of their representative bodies which have communicated them to me. Last month, wide publicity was given to a letter sent to me setting out the views of the Police Federation, the body which represents ranks in the police service below the rank of superintendent. The Police Federation presses for the reintroduction of capital punishment. It is especially concerned about terrorist killings, which it considers have introduced a new dimension into the debate and one which points to the need for the capital penalty. The police are, in a real sense, in the front line in relation to terrorism and, indeed, all forms of violent crime. The House must give due weight to their views.
It would not be right, however, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) recognised this, to leave the House with the impression that the police service is unanimous in wishing to see capital punishment reintroduced. I understand that opinions among more senior police officers are divided, and I am sure that the House would not wish to underrate the views of experienced police officers.
I am also conscious of my responsibilities towards prison staff. The Prison Officers' Association has, in the past, expressed anxiety about the position of its members watching over an increasing number of violent prisoners serving life sentences who, it is said, rightly or wrongly, have nothing to lose as a consequence of further violence. Public opinion and the attitude and anxieties of particular groups at risk must be given due weight as we consider the various issues that make up the capital punishment question.
The role of the Government in the debate is a limited one. However, the Home Secretary of the day has a function to perform in presenting to the House the implications of what is described as a decision in principle to reintroduce capital punishment. He must also, I think, put frankly, fairly and squarely to the House some of the plain questions that have to be answered, to their own satisfaction, by those who decide to vote for the motion. I do not believe that one can escape from looking at the details when deciding on such a motion. One has to consider some of the detailed implications and to be satisfied in answering to oneself before voting for the motion.
In embarking on that task, I realise that to two groups of opinion the debate has little, if any, persuasive power. The first group consists of those who believe that the death penalty for the unlawful and deliberate taking of life is inherently right as an expression of society's revulsion at such crimes or that it is manifestly justified by the unique deterrent effect of the death penalty, directly as regards murder and indirectly as regards other crime.
The second group consists of those who believe, from deeply held religious or moral conviction, that the judicial taking of human life by the agencies of the State is, in all circumstances, wrong. Nothing said in today's debate is likely to sway those who are deeply committed to either of those points of view.
But that leaves a number, probably a substantial number, of hon. Members who are capable of being persuaded either way by the balance—perhaps the shifting balance—of argument. To that group I particularly address my remarks, and I am qualified to make them at least by virtue of belonging to it myself.
It is often suggested to those whose minds are open to persuasion either way that the question whether capital punishment has a unique deterrent effect can be settled, or at least illuminated, by a study of the available research and statistical information. I must say to the House, as others have said, that this is a confidence which I do not share. It appears to me that, while the statistics can be, and indeed are, called in aid—too often, selectively—to support either side of the argument, the only sensible conclusion to reach is that their evidence is inconclusive. It is right that I should make that point.
It is a fact that in England and Wales there are more victims of homicide and more convictions for murder in the 1970s than there were in earlier periods when capital punishment was a penalty either for all murder or for some murder. But the average rate of increase in offences of homicide has been less than the average rate of increase in other crimes of serious violence.
What cannot be established from the figures is that there is a causal connection between the increase in the homicide figures and the abolition of capital punishment—or that there is no such connection. That has been the finding of many studies. I do not think that I can do better than offer hon. Members a quotation from the recent report of the important panel of the American National Academy of Sciences which reviewed research on the effects of criminal sanctions on crime rates. That panel considered that
research on the deterrent effects of capital sanctions is not likely to provide results that will or should have much influence on policy makers
Nor do I propose to say much about the situation in other countries. It is, I think, well known that of our Western European partners, all are abolitionist, either by law or in practice, with the exception of France, where the issue continues to be debated. Thus, other European countries where terrorism is at least as much a preoccupation as it is in Great Britain appear to be settled in an abolitionist policy.
The situation in the United States is, of course, a different one, varying from state to state and complicated by decisions of the Supreme Court, with, if anything, a trend towards the retention of capital punishment.
My conclusion, therefore, is that statistical evidence, and evidence of overseas practice, is of limited value in helping the undecided to come to a conclusion on this question.
I turn to the very practical question of what crimes should be made capital. The object of today's debate is a decision in broad principle, but in approaching it we need to look beyond to the specific legislative provision that would flow from a decision in principle to restore capital punishment. Any legislation-making provision for capital punishment would need to define, with the utmost precision, the class of case in which it was to be the penalty, and whether it was to be the only penalty or simply the maximum penalty available to the judge. The motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds is in wholly general terms:
that the sentence of capital punishment should again be available to the courts ".
I doubt whether a proposition that the death penalty should be available for lesser crimes than murder would command much support.
But how much support would there be for a return to the position that obtained up to 1957, when capital punishment was the penalty for all murder, including the large proportion of murders that are committed under domestic stress or otherwise in circumstances far removed from the callous, premeditated killing carried out by the terrorist or professional criminal?
It was concern about capital punishment on such a wide extent, with many sentences respited through the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, which led to the debate in the late 1940s, to the establishment of a Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Sir Ernest Gowers which reported in 1953, to the renewed debates in the mid-1950s, and eventually to the short-lived Homicide Act of 1957.
The Homicide Act represents another possible basis for capital punishment, but not, as experience proved, a satisfactory one. The Gowers Commission had examined the possibility of establishing capital and non-capital degrees or categories of murder, and had concluded that there was no satisfactory way of drawing such a distinction. The Homicide Act nevertheless attempted it, as a compromise between seemingly irreconcilable views in Parliament and the country on the capital punishment issue—and on that basis I supported it.
In its eight years of life the Act was found not to distinguish satisfactorily the more heinous from the less heinous murder, or the professional killer from others. Killings of equal callousness were capital or non-capital according to whether the murder weapon was or was not a gun. Premeditated murder by poisoning was not capital. The concept of murder
in the course or furtherance of theft
presented the courts with difficult problems of interpretation and gave rise to anomalous and controversial decisions.
It may, of course, be said that a fresh attempt would be more successful in defining a category of capital murder. But can we be confident that it would be possible to solve problems which eluded solution in the Homicide Act, and to which the Gowers Commission, after an exhaustive study, had found there was no satisfactory solution?
One of the categories of murder that remained capital under the Homicide Act 1957 was the murder of a police or prison officer
acting in the execution of his duty ".
It is often suggested that, whatever the difficulties of reintroducing the death penalty for the other Homicide Act categories, this one at least is clear-cut, and, naturally, in the circumstances, it has a considerable appeal on the surface to many people. But I do not think that it is so simple.
If we reintroduced the capital penalty for that category, we should also reintroduce the risk of anomalies, as the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles made extremely clear, and also, as I think he said, the problem of distinguishing between the police officer and the bank guard or night watchman murdered in similar circumstances.
Another possibility of which a good deal has been heard, and much more will be heard, is that capital punishment should be limited to what is described as terrorist murder. Several amendments on the Order Paper speak of making terrorist murder alone a capital offence.
The first point that I make is that defining terrorist acts with the precision that capital punishment legislation demands presents enormous problems. There is a definition of terrorism in section 14 of the
Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976:
Terrorism means the use of violence for political ends, and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public or any section of the public in fear ".
The object of that definition is to provide a basis for special powers principally of arrest, detention and exclusion, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) and I know particularly well. I must express grave doubt whether it would be an adequate formula to distinguish a capital from a non-capital crime. Surely, it would give rise to long arguments during a trial about the presence or absence of a political motive.
I recognise the counter-argument that, if a broad definition of terrorist murder were adopted. anomalies could be smoothed out either by the courts or by the Home Secretary in recommending the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. However, I am convinced that any law singling out terrorist murder for the capital penalty could not rest on that uncertain basis but must identify with precision the class of case to which it applies. I question also how far there would be public support for a law that prescribed capital punishment for the killing, say, of a bank clerk in a terrorist incident but not in the course of a violent robbery for purely financial gain.
There are other weighty questions about the effect of introducing capital punishment for terrorist murder which the House should address tonight. What assessment should be made of the deterrent effect? It may well be that on the fringe of terrorist organisations there are those who will be deterred by the risk of incurring the capital penalty who would not be deterred by the risk of long prison sentences. It is more difficult to believe that the risk of the capital penalty will affect the committed terrorist when one reflects on the enormous risks that he already runs, including the risk of death at his own hands or those of the security forces.
Another concern to be weighed is that the introduction of capital punishment for acts of terrorism would reinforce an existing trend to recruit into terrorist organisations ever younger and younger members. Before abolition no one under 18 could be executed, and I doubt that the House, if it legislated to reintroduce the death penalty, would wish to set a lower age limit than that.
The other anxiety of many who oppose capital punishment for terrorist acts is the risk of reprisals. It cannot be assumed that any terrorist organisation would stand idly by while one of its members was tried and convicted of a capital offence. The taking of hostages, their use as bargaining counters, the threat of reprisals against them—all these things, we know, are the stock-in-trade of the terrorist organisation. During the period of the trial, and after conviction leading up to an execution, all those concerned with the trial and execution—judge, jury, police and prison officers—would surely be at particular risk.
The pressures which those risks, and hostage-takings if they occurred, would place upon the authorities in deciding whether the capital penalty should take effect would be very serious indeed. It would be no basis on which to decide whether the law should be allowed to take its course.
Against that risk, I readily acknowledge, must be weighed the continuing risk of hostage-taking and other reprisals created by the presence in the prisons of increasing numbers of those serving long sentences for terrorist crimes. There is also the very real question of how best to deal with those dangerous men for whom a life sentence may need to mean detention for the rest of their lives. We have to consider whether keeping a man in prison without hope may not seriously affect his attitude to prison staff and other prisoners and so create additional problems for our already over-burdened prisons.
We have also to consider whether in such cases it might not be more humane and sensible to end life quickly rather than condemn such men to a permanent prison existence.
It would not only be necessary to be precise about the classes of case to which capital punishment would apply. Another question of scope which would need to be answered is a geographical one. Here, my view, shared by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and, indeed, the Government as a whole, is quite clear and categorical.
So long as Parliament here at Westminster is responsible for enacting criminal law for the whole of the United Kingdom, the law on a matter as fundamental as the capital penalty must be uniform throughout the United Kingdom. It is obvious that that includes Northern Ireland.
In any event, since much of the thrust for the reintroduction of capital punishment derives from concern about terrorist killings, it would be paradoxical to introduce capital punishment for such killings in Great Britain where the risk is less, and not in Northern Ireland where the risk is much greater. That point was, I think, underlined both by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds when he referred to the tragic number of men of the RUC who have been killed.
There is much that can be said about whether it would be right to bring back capital punishment, whether for terrorist killings or for a wider range of murders, in Northern Ireland in present circumstances. On this my own views will be clear from the position that I took in 1973, and I do not feel that I need go over the ground in detail now.
I have spoken already of the risk of hostage-taking and other reprisals. But there is one point that I need to bring out. In present circumstances, nearly all serious crime, and certainly all serious crime involving terrorism, is dealt with in Northern Ireland by special courts without a jury.
Those advocating the return of capital punishment must ask themselves whether it would be tolerable for the execution of a capital penalty to flow from a conviction reached not by a jury but by a judge alone. Whether or not the judges would accept it, I would venture the view that public opinion would not rest content with a system under which a man's life depended on the judgment of one other human being. But there is evidence enough in Northern Ireland to show that intimidation by terrorists of potential jurors would make it impossible at present to return to the normal practice of trial by jury. There would thus be posed a difficult problem with no easy or obvious solution but one which nevertheless must be faced by the House. There is an important point of more general application to be made about juries. Since the abolition of capital punishment in England and Wales, we have seen the introduction, in the Criminal Justice Act 1967, of the majority verdict procedure. This was an innovation about which some had misgivings at the time, but it has settled down to become an accepted and valuable part of our criminal procedure.
Under it, a jury, subject to certain safeguards, may be authorised by the judge to bring in a finding of guilt by a majority of 11 to 1 or 10 to 2. Could the passing and execution of a capital sentence, based on a majority verdict, be justified? Could we justify the execution of someone about whose guilt two jurymen, or even one, were not persuaded? Would this not be a recipe for endless speculation thereafter about whether the accused was truly guilty, and, in the face of any remaining uncertainty, however slight, could the final penalty be justified?
But what other solution is there? To abandon the majority verdict procedure in all cases of a capital charge would mean depriving the system of criminal justice of a valuable protection against abuse.
It will be remembered that it was argued, in the days before abolition of the death penalty, that its existence led juries to acquit in cases in which, but for the death penalty, they would have convicted. But, then, could we legislate to the effect that, in a capital case, the capital sentence required a unanimous verdict while a majority verdict led to a lesser sentence?
Those who are disposed to answer " Yes " to that question should first consider the nature of the burden that it would place upon individual members of a jury. So, here, there is another difficult question of procedure which would need to be answered if the capital penalty were to be reintroduced.
I come now to a question which would directly concern me as Home Secretary and my Department—making provision for giving effect to capital sentences. No doubt, if Parliament decided that capital sentences should be exacted, the means of giving effect to the will of Parliament could and would be made available. But we should pause to consider what that would mean to the prison staff who would be involved, directly or indirectly, in executions, and for the prison establishments in which executions would take place and for their other inmates.
Of course, executions took place in the past and were endured, if not always accepted, by those whose duty it was. But the prisons have been without executions for 15 years. Meanwhile, they have become more crowded and more restive. Society outside the prisons, and inside, has become less ready to accept calmly what it disapproves of and readier to take direct action to give expression to its disapproval. We should take full account, at this point, of a new factor, namely, the emotional impact of television and the effect on the public of having sustained, and perhaps violent, protests brought into every home.
In uttering these warnings I have execution by hanging at the back of my mind. A humane execution by means of hanging was, I understand, a skilled operation. Building up those skills, after this long interval, and equipping the prisons physically for this task once again would not be a negligible commitment. But it is a frequent protestation of the advocates of capital punishment that it need not mean hanging, and, moreover, that some would-be supporters of capital punishment hold back because of their disapproval of hanging as a method. Should we then carry out a survey of alternative methods?
The Gowers Commission suveyed methods in some detail 25 years ago, at a time when there was more information ready to hand than there is now. It looked at such methods as electrocution, gas and lethal injections. The relevant section of its report should be compulsory reading for anyone who supposes that there is some clean and easy manner of carrying out an execution.
The Royal Commission's conclusion was that of the possible methods hanging was the one to be preferred, except that the practicability of using lethal injections would repay examination in the light of progress made in the science of anaesthetics. No such further examination of course took place, in the light of other developments in relation to the use of capital punishment.
Should tonight's vote go in favour of the reintroduction of capital punishment, there could be, as I have already told my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds, a re-examination to see whether any other method of execution could be found that was more acceptable than hanging.
I have referred more than once in this speech to the position of the Home Secretary in advising whether a capital sentence should take its course or whether there should be a reprieve. In this I have been assuming that the practice would be as it was before abolition. At the least, it seems clear that there must be some machinery for considering whether or not the law should take its course.
I am aware that there are those who have argued that this is too great a burden to place upon any one pair of shoulders. While I have some sympathy for that view, what is the alternative? I doubt very much whether it would be practicable or acceptable to place a discretion, as between a death sentence and some lesser sentence, on either the jury or the trial judge. As regards placing a discretion on the jury, I simply remind the House of what I said earlier about the position in Northern Ireland, about majority verdicts and about the risk of reprisals.
The idea of entrusting the task of deciding whether the law should take its course to some commission or committee, whether of Ministers or other experts, does not appeal to me. It would surely be found to operate against the taking of the firm decisions which are inseparable from the administration of a capital punishment law. Unpalatable though it may seem, I believe there is no substitute for a return to the old procedure under which this responsibility fell to the Home Secretary.
On one reading of the motion we are debating, the right to decide whether or not there should be capital punishment would rest with the trial judge. If it did, and it was confirmed on appeal by the Court of Appeal, would the Home Secretary not agree with me that, under our present convention about the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, the Home Secretary would have no power to intervene?
That would be for this House to decide when it came to consider the legislation. It would be one of the difficult questions that the House would have to decide in such circumstances.
In my judgment, the Home Secretary of the day must be willing to shoulder this responsibility, and to discharge it in the manner contemplated by Parliament. But no one should doubt the heaviness of that burden—a burden which must, moreover, be carried in the knowledge that no system of trial and appeal can offer infallible guarantees against wrongful convictions.
In conclusion, I want to look ahead, to the rest of this debate and beyond. If, by its vote tonight, the House declared itself in principle in favour of a return to capital punishment, it would be for consideration whether effect should be given to that decision by a Government Bill or by a Bill presented, as were successive abolition Bills, by a Private Member, with Government assistance as regards drafting and parliamentary time. It would also be for consideration whether there might not need to be some further parliamentary discussion, in some form or other, in order to determine the exact basis on which the death penalty was to be reintroduced.
I have been asked about the question of a free vote being granted by the Government in such an eventuality. Yes, I have the authority of the Government to say that this would be so. I do not believe that it would be easy to carry out. A certain number of members of the Government, with a part in preparing the legislation, could not conceivably have such a free vote. That would have to be accepted. Whatever their views, they would have to stand for the legislation that they had introduced or resign. This would create problems.
The problems inside the whole of Parliament, in seeking to move forward on this legislation, must not be underestimated by anyone who is putting the idea forward, particularly the problem of commanding majorities in Parliament for many of the provisions which would come forward. On a free vote, there could be no guarantee of that, in any circumstances, at any time. How a Bill, on that basis, would get through Parliament and what it would look like at the end is a matter that this House must seriously consider when coming to a decision tonight.
However that may be, there is one personal factor that I must mention. In this debate I have tried to speak as Home Secretary. I do not believe that my personal judgment on the issue should be a central factor. My position is the same as that of any other hon. Member—my right to speak and vote is no more and no less. I think it right, however, to make it clear that, having considered all the arguments and all aspects of the issue once again since becoming Home Secretary, I have decided on balance that I must adhere to my previous position. That is to say, before abolition I was in favour of keeping the death penalty: since abolition I have always been against its reintroduction. I shall, therefore, cast my vote against tonight's motion.
In reaching that decision I recognise that I am going against the wishes probably of a majority of my own constituents and of people in the country as a whole. Of course, I regret that. However, I must say that after some 25 years in public life I have learned one thing. There are occasions when, whether as a Minister or as an hon. Member, one has to have the courage of one's inner personal convictions.
It is right that I should add, in conclusion, that if the motion is carried I shall see it as my duty to work closely and constructively on any legislation that may need to be prepared to give effect to the will of the House, and of course to play whatever part may be required of the Home Secretary in administering such legislation.
The whole House owes a debt of gratitude to the Home Secretary for his final words. In a moment of emotion such as this, when all of us know that popular feeling is strongly poised in one direction, it takes courage to stand against the popular will. However, I do not believe, any more than the Home Secretary does, that we should be doing our duty merely by echoing the popular opinion of the moment if we have come to the decided conclusion, on the evidence, that popular opinion is wrong. If we were to do that, I think that we should be doing less than our duty to our constituents. It is no duty to them to lead in a direction that we know personally to be wrong.
The issue therefore comes back to us to decide, on the evidence, whether the proposition in the motion is right. The proposition seeks to take us back to the position before 1957. In the period of 12 years after the war up to that year there were 4,200 homicides in this country, of which 1,689 were decided by juries to be murder. In that time 160 men were hanged, and apparently it had no effect upon the figures for murder. Murders continued without diminution.
In the 12 years since capital punishment was abolished, in 1966, there were 4,762 homicides, of which 1,013 were classed by juries to be murder. The result of the figures is that the balance of homicides before or after the abolition of capital punishment is roughly the same. The figures for murder have gone down, although I readily accept that the definition of murder is different now from what it was before 1957.
Unlike the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), I do not simply shrug off the figures and rely upon subjective assumptions about the way that people react. The figures tend to give us some kind of pattern. That pattern tends to suggest that there has been no substantial increase in the rate of murder since the abolition of the death penalty, and that if we were to reinstate that penalty there would be no diminution in the incidence of murder.
But the figures do not indicate, by the standards of traffic accidents, a substantial number of individuals. All of us regret the loss of human life, whether it is of the victim or the murderer, but at any time a debate such as this is a significant pointer to the way in which this country reacts in administering a penalty upon its criminals, and therefore says something about the nature of our society. It has wider implications than merely what is the appropriate penalty for murder.
I hope that that argument will not be pressed too hard in the debate, because there are those who have not yet spoken but who may sneak in the debate, and who certainly speak outside, who tend to suggest that the restoration of capital punishment will somehow bring moral fibre back to a society that has become increasingly irresponsible. They tend to suggest that in a more defined way its restoration will have some kind of repercussive effect upon the incidence of crimes other than murder, and even of crimes other than crimes of violence.
I suggest that there is no such pattern. Capital punishment has to be decided upon in the light of what we think is the appropriate sentence for murder. Its implications for any other kind of offence, or for society at large, and least of all as some kind of sop to a society that has been failing morally and economically, are irrelevant to our consideration today.
We must return to the facts; we cannot shrug them off. They indicate that in 1967 there were 354 homicides. In 1977 there were 432, a rise of about 25 per cent. But in an increasingly violent society it is inevitable that there will be an increase in the murder rate. The greatest significance of the figures is that, as a percentage of violent crime, murder has fallen—not increased—since 1957 from 3·4 per cent. to 0·7 per cent. last year.
Of course, that indicates that there has been a considerable increase in violent crime, and some hon. Members try to equate the two. But, again, it has to be stressed that murder is almost sui generis in our criminal calendar. There, 75 per cent. of those offences relate to domestic incidents between people who know each other. The number of people who are killed in the course of the kind of crime that was itemised by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds is very small. It was small before the abolition of capital punishment and it was small afterwards.
The hon. Member spoke for the police force. I have no objection to any hon. Member speaking for the police force. I wish that the person who introduced our debate upon this vital subject had not been a paid lobbyist for the police force. The point of view of the police has to be put, and we must consider it, but I regret that it should have been the police lobbyist who put it here today. Most of the argument that he used was a subjective assessment of their attitudes and the evidence that the police had adduced in favour of those attitudes.
Before 1967, eight police officers were killed in the course of their duty. Since that year there have been seven such deaths. The abolition of the death penalty has laid no significant burden upon the police in carrying out their duties.
I listened with close attention to what the hon. Gentleman said about the few seconds when a police officer is faced with a criminal with a gun. No one can be sure what the significance of those seconds is. I do not accept that the incidence of detection of violent crime has fallen as a result of the abolition of the death penalty. In recent years the incidence of detection has increased. I stress that the real deterrent to crime, including murder, is the certainty of being caught rather than the type of punishment that may be administered once one is caught.
The argument in favour of capital punishment for the murder of prison officers is even worse. Only one prison officer has been murdered in the last 20 years. That person was murdered at a time when the death penalty was in operation.
The evidence indicates that there has been an increase in the number of shotgun murders. Nine people have been killed by shotguns in the course of theft since the death penalty was abolished; none was killed in that way before. There has been an increase in the number of criminals carrying shotguns, but there is no correlation between the carrying of shotguns and actual deaths. Experience with criminals in the courts and the figures tend to indicate that the criminal carries a shotgun to frighten those whom he intends to rob, and that he has no intention of using it, whether or not there is a death penalty. The death penalty is completely irrelevant to the increase in shotgun murders.
I accept the hon. Gentleman's understanding of the shotgun lobby in Britain. My point remains valid, whatever the weapon. There has been an increase in terrorism recently, due mainly to the problems in Northern Ireland that have spilled over into this country. The figures are significant, because even with the increased terrorism in Northern Ireland there have been only three incidents in England and Wales. They occurred between 1976 and 1977. Those three incidents account for most of the deaths from terrorism. I do not accept the argument that in terms of his decision to carry out an operation a terrorist will be affected by the knowledge that the death penalty exists for that kind of murder.
The difficulty arises in defining the type of murder for which the death penalty might be appropriate. On the last occasion when this subject was debated it served only to persuade Lord Chief Justice Parker—who until then had been in favour of hanging—that it was impossible to strike an acceptable line between the categories. As I have indicated, those categories are few.
Some hon. Members will argue that whatever the significance of the figures in the argument about deterrents, it is none the less justifiable to support the death penalty from the premise of retribution. I reject that argument. It has been suggested that there is something fitting about taking the life of a murderer, but the House must consider the possibility of mistakes. I stress that partly because I feel it intensely and partly because I have direct evidence, gained from my experience as a Minister at the Home Office, that mistakes occur in convictions for murder and other offences.
I remember the Confait case. It was extremely difficult for the Home Secretary to intervene, yet I was reasonably sure that there had been a miscarriage of justice. When that case went back to the Court of Appeal, the court decided that there had been an error in the conviction. If the death penalty had been in existence, a mentally deformed man of 19 with a mental age of 5 would have been convicted. He was not executed, but we do not know what might have resulted had capital punishment existed at that time. Of the 160 people who were executed before 1957, at least three were innocent.
One cannot argue that death is a fitting penalty, because it is irreversible. It is bad enough to put a man such as Virag in prison for five years before discovering that he should never have been there at all; it is difficult to know how to compensate him for those lost years. What can be done if an innocent man has been hanged? The death penalty is not an appropriate sentence to pass on any human being.
When I was a Minister, two Conservative Members came to me with a case involving a chauffeur who was alleged to have murdered his wife. The employer was deeply distressed, believing that his chauffeur was innocent and that there had been a mistake. He persuaded the two hon. Members that a mistake had occurred. I considered the case carefully and concluded that if I had been on the jury I could not have decided whether the man was guilty. I would probably have acquitted him. However, I could not intervene, for the reasons that I gave during my intervention in the Home Secretary's speech.
The Home Secretary's right to intervene in the Royal Prerogative is limited by convention to cases where the original court did not have certain evidence before it. The Home Secretary can intervene only when new evidence comes to light. I agree with the Home Secretary that if a trial judge decides that the death penalty is appropriate, and that is confirmed on appeal by three judges at the Court of Appeal, it is extremely difficult for the Home Secretary to take upon himself the right to criticise that judgment.
Whatever the outcome tonight, that is not the way in which to proceed in any Bill. We cannot leave the decision to the judges. If the resolution is passed we must decide upon appropriate categories. For that reason it is impossible to say that there is a choice between capital punishment for all types of murder and capital punishment for some types of murder. The difficulty involved in defining categories has been exemplified many times before. The House cannot rid itself of its responsibility by placing that burden upon the backs of the judges.
I conclude that we must vote against the motion, whatever public opinion may be. In 1964, in his closing words, Sydney Silverman said that what we were then doing was to light a little candle. Since that time there have been so many assaults upon our social values that we are under threat even by the standards of 1964. If we put out that little candle tonight, our society will slip back a considerable way and we shall be further from the civilised standards that we should try to attain. I therefore ask the House to reject the motion.
I have always had a great admiration for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and before he leaves the Chamber, which he is about to do, I wish to pay a sincere tribute to one of the best speeches that my right hon. Friend has contributed to the House. It was a sincere, dedicated and influential speech to which many of us were proud to listen. If I may say so, it was Willie's finest hour. I know that that is not parliamentary language, but if my right hon. Friend will forgive my saying so, he has enhanced his value in the minds of many of us who have sat not for the first time through a debate of this sort.
Five years ago, in my maiden speech, I expressed the hope that we had seen the last of that obscene public servant, the hangman. Call him the executioner or whatever one wishes, but that is my view. The success of the motion would dash that hope. It is one shared by many citizens of all political persuasions, who totally recoil from the prospect that the killing of offenders might once again become a part of our penal system.
It is interesting to reflect that of the many hundreds of letters that we all receive on varying matters, I in my constituency have had far more letters against the motion than in favour of it. For the first time since 1964, prison governors and prison officers would be required to participate in arranging the deaths of some of their charges, guarding them before their execution and finally escorting them to the gallows.
I have had over 25 years' experience of the after-care side of the prison service and of penal reform. I am aware of the degrading conditions that exist in our prisons for both men and women. I know that there are many in the prison service who would leave rather than take part in the macabre and devastating effect of reintroducing executions, even though there may be only few within our prison walls each year.
It was interesting to read the autobiography of Albert Pierrepoint, the last hangman. It is significant that he wrote:
I now sincerely hope that no man is ever called upon to carry out another execution in my country. I have come to the conclusion that executions solve nothing. Capital punishment is said to be a deterrent. I cannot agree.
It would be in my view utterly wrong to ask public servants to carry out such duties without the most conclusive evidence that the death penalty is a unique deterrent against murder, and so far I have failed to hear any such evidence.
It is true that in the few years following the abolition of capital punishment in 1965 there was an increase in murders estimated as capital. However, that increase began before abolition. Secondly, there was a corresponding increase in non-capital murder, for which there was no change in the penalties. Secondly, there was a corresponding increase in crimes of violence generally, for which again there was no change in the penalties. Finally, we must remember that changes in figures for murders classified as capital are not very reliable. I am told—this has been confirmed by my right hon. Friend—that juries were more reluctant to convict defendants of capital murder while capital punishment was in force.
Professor Morris and Louis Blom-Cooper concluded in their recent analysis of murder figures since 1957 that
nothing in the data begins to suggest that abolition has had any significant impact, or indeed any effect upon the phenomenon of homicide.
That view is reinforced by the research of Professor Walter Reckless, who considered the situation in the United States, an especially interesting country to study as the states vary so widely in their penalties for murder. The professor compared the homicide rates in abolitionist and neighbouring retentionist states. He considered the incidence of murder in states which abolished and later restored capital punishment. He considered the number of murders shortly before and shortly after the death sentence was carried out. He even compared the killings of policemen in cities of abolitionist and retentionist states and the number of fatal assaults in prisons. The professor concluded that none of these sources contained any evidence that the absence of the death penalty increases murder.
In short, there is no real evidence that capital punishment is a greater deterrent to murder than long prison sentences. Indeed, because it is widely acknowledged that most murders are matters of emotion and impulse very largely within families or between former lovers, most advocates of capital punishment favour restricting it to particular types of murder thought to be more suspectible to deterrence.
The Homicide Act 1957 attempted to make such distinctions but with disastrous and morally indefensible results. For example, poisoning and strangling are not notably morally better than shooting, but under the Homicide Act the latter merited the death penalty while the former did not. Murder in the course of furtherance of theft was capital, but murder of a relative for an insurance policy or an inheritance was not. In 1965 the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Parker, stated publicly that he and all the judges were disgusted with the effects of the Act under which equally blameworthy persons were frequently treated so differently. Yet the intractable problems of making such distinctions between capital and non-capital murder would inevitably recur if hanging were brought back.
No one in the debate today has been able to offer any satisfactory solution. There have, of course, been suggestions that capital punishment should be reintroduced specifically for terrorist offences. I fully share the feelings of intense revulsion aroused by terrorist bombings. There may be a logic that some would use to justify such happenings, but it is one hidden from ordinary reason and totally foreign to all feelings of common humanity. Indeed, some terrorist crimes are so appalling that the only proper response even for a long-convinced abolitionist such as myself must be to stop and reconsider whether the death penalty may be justified in these extreme circumstances.
As the cry for total retribution goes up not only in the streets of Britain but in the Lobbies of Westminster, we must realise that such a decision by Parliament would bring appalling perils, not only for the community but for law and order itself. After deep reflection, I am more than ever convinced that capital punishment will make the fight against terrorism even more difficult than it is now.
I shall not give way. I do not get up very often, so I shall not sit down now.
For example, it is quite conceivable that IRA terrorists would deliberately—this was mentioned by three hon. Members—train teenagers to kill on their behalf, knowing that they would be too young to be executed.
On a different point, the last time that British firing squads shot the murderers of the Irish republican movement was in the wake of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. The result of those shootings was a massive shift of Irish sympathies that led directly to the establishment of the era of the partition of Ireland. Today the IRA would welcome a fresh crop of martyrs to renew the faith of its supporters. It is significant that most senior Army officers in Ireland, and many senior police officers in both Ireland and this country, are opposed to the death penalty, believing that it would hinder rather than help the fight against terrorists. They appreciate more than anyone that the defeat of terrorism involves driving a wedge between the terrorist group and the section of the community which supports it. That would be far more difficult if capital punishment were to create a new generation of martyrs.
In Northern Ireland itself capital punishment was rightly abolished by a Conservative Government in 1973 as a considered act of policy in the middle of a terrorist campaign. It would he a tragedy if this new Parliament were to reintroduce hanging for the mainland. I recognise that in saying so I am running counter to a strong body of opinion both in the country and in the House. I fear that while we are all debating hotly the pros and cons of capital punishment, we shall forget that the most effective deterrent for murder—and indeed all other crimes—is the certainty of being caught. We shall do more to preserve innocent lives by strengthening our police forces and encouraging ordinary citizens to support the police than we shall ever achieve by bringing back the hangman's noose.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not almost unprecedented—and at least extremely discourteous—that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), who moved the motion, should have absented himself from the House for so long a period of time, more particularly as he has the right of reply? He missed the speech of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Is that not a matter that should concern the House?
Like the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving), who has just concluded a most impressive speech, I, too, should like to begin by congratulating the Home Secretary on a clear, comprehensive and, indeed, courageous review of the events which have attended the long history of this matter and the considerations which the House must have in mind when reaching its decision. I intend to emphasise only one or two of the points that he made.
When, in 1964 and 1965, we debated Sydney Silverman's Bill and passed it into law, we did two things. First, we suspended for five years—later we renewed it—the operation of the death penalty for murder. Secondly, we made a judgment on the experiment of the 1957 Act, which introduced the concept of categories of wickedness.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to raise a point of procedure, as I did at the commencement of the debate. I know that it will not get anywhere. Nevertheless, I want to raise it. There have been seven speakers so far, including the mover of the motion, a Back Bencher speaker, and five speeches by Privy Councillors. We know the purpose of Privy Councillors. However, a liberty is being taken with Back Benchers. I know that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, cannot do anything. I leave the House, having made my protest.
I was saying, speaking as a voluntary Back Bencher, that, in addition to suspending the death sentence, the 1965 Bill enabled the House to form its judgment on the categorisation of murders into the more wicked and the less wicked, the executable and non-executable, as it were, that had been tried in 1957. That is not merely theoretical.
Those of us who took part in the debates on the Sydney Silverman Bill will recall that many amendments sought to exempt from the abolition of capital punishment specific classes of murder—murders of policemen and prison officers—to try to retain this categorisation, even if in a much less pronounced form than under the 1957 Act. All those amendments failed because both Houses of Parliament were clearly of the view, which has been expressed tonight and was by the judges at that time, that there was no acceptable way of categorising between the more wicked and the less wicked in a manner which the courts could operate. This motion asks the House to express its belief that
the sentence of capital punishment should again be available to the courts.
It seems to me that that is not sufficient. If the mover is to carry the House with him, he should have said precisely in what conditions a sentence of death should be executed.
The 1965 Bill became law. We had our debate on its renewal five years later. We have had many debates since then, each of which has gone against the restoration of capital punishment. The most significant of all those debates was the one that took place in 1973 on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill, when the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland introduced on Report a new clause abolishing the death penalty for Northern Ireland.
The reason why it was most significant was that in that Bill we were introducing detention without trial for terrorists. We were depriving terrorists of the right to a jury trial in many cases. We were giving the Attorney-General a function that I had to undertake for five years—the unfettered right to decide whether a defendant should have a jury trial. We were withdrawing many of the safeguards that had been accepted over the years against the introduction, for example, of confessions in circumstances which the courts regarded as unfair. All those things were done because at that time we had in Northern Ireland a situation in which murder, bombing, explosions and the breakdown of civil law had reached a point at which it was felt that measures less than those were insufficient to deal with the gravity of the position.
It was in those conditons that the right hon. Gentleman at that time—I believe very courageously—introduced his amendment to abolish the death penalty in Northern Ireland, and this House and the other place agreed to it. The significance of that is surely this: if it could be said that the death penalty is a unique deterrent to the terrorist and the militant, to the person who is an enemy, or regards himself as an enemy, of established society, there could not have been a worse time at which to abolish the death penalty in Northern Ireland, because it was at the very time when the terror was at its height. If the argument for restoration were a proper one, the House would be bearing and would have borne a heavy responsibility indeed, in that at that very time it was removing this unique deterrent, this potent weapon, against the murders, the bombings and the explosions that were taking place. We can only judge, of course, by results, but the results are there to be seen. There has not been, as a result of that action, at any time a marked increase in the murders, the explosions and the bombings in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the tendency has been very much the reverse.
If we are to ask ourselves what there is about terrorism to justify us in reintroducing the death penalty—for which the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) argued in his powerful speech, which was confined almost entirely to terrorism—let us ask ourselves why Parliament took that step in 1973. Was it wrong to take that step? As a result of taking that step in 1973, for the loss of how many lives are we responsible? I suggest to the House that the answer is that we were not wrong; we were absolutely right.
Many of the reasons have been given. We know that terrorists are people who have a particular attitude towards society. They are people who regard the forces of law and order, the Establishment, as their enemies. They are not likely to be deterred by being made martyrs by being hanged or otherwise done to death by the people whom they regard as their enemies. Indeed, the reaction to capital punishment might well be that the terrorists would seek to take hostages or to indulge in kidnapping. Worst of all, there might be retaliation, so that every time a terrorist was hanged or put to death judicially, a number of representatives of the security forces, or innocent citizens, would be put to death by the terrorists.
I should like to refer to one further point which springs to mind from my own experience. One of the most difficult and painful tasks that I had to perform—fortunately rarely—was to assist in the decisions of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland. I was asked to play a part in consultation on whether we should proceed with murder charges against soldiers, members of the security forces, who had killed sometimes perfectly innocent people in the belief that they were terrorists.
Those were the most painful decisions that one had to make. They were painful because one knew the conditions in which young soldiers were having to do their duty in Northern Ireland. There was not only the tension but the knowledge that their comrades had been killed. One knew of all the other terrible conditions that they had to endure. Yet one came across cases where the evidence for the prosecution appeared to be so strong that one would have been failing in one's public duty if one had not agreed to prosecution taking place. Fortunately—I say it with much relief—in each of the cases that came to light the men were eventually acquitted. But, of course, the time might come when a member of the security forces might be convicted of such a charge.
I am not suggesting that anything flowing from this debate would be likely to cause a position to arise in which such a soldier, doing his duty but doing it wrongly, and committing in the course of that duty the murder of an innocent person, would be hanged or otherwise executed. I am sure that that could not possibly happen, but the very fact that it would not happen would be an added argument enabling the enemies of society to say that there was discrimination against them and that their comrades had been hanged when members of the security forces had not been dealt with similarly for the same sort of crime. That seems to me to be an added reason for saying that the reintroduction of capital punishment for terrorists would be counterproductive in its effect.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that there was no evidence to establish that the position in Northern Ireland might have improved had capital punishment been in force. I draw his attention to a letter in the Belfast Telegraph of 23 February 1978 under the heading
A convicted killer's call to Mason: Death penalty only way to stop them ".
In the letter the writer claims—and this is not just his own personal view—that in the cell in a compound in which 15 other convicted prisoners joined him, every one of them would not have carried out the act of murder had the rope been at the end of it.
The hon. Member has made his brief speech, and I hope that he will not expect me to comment upon it.
I should like to refer to what I said in concluding a speech that I made 14 or more years ago during the Second Reading of Sydney Silverman's Bill. I passionately believe that in matters of this kind the State must set an example to the community. If the State declares that it is legitimate and right to take human life, whether as a penalty for some wrongful act or otherwise, it cannot expect that its citizens will do other than say " This is the standard which is set by the State ". Equally, if the State sets a standard by saying that however wicked or heinous the crime of murder, whether we are talking about the Christies, the Bradys or the terrorists in Northern Ireland—and I find it hard to distinguish between these classes—it is wrong for the State to take life in retribution, I believe that there is some chance that the citizen will follow that example.
I promise the House that I do not intend to speak for long, because much of what I wished to say has already been said, and I do not believe that there is any advantage in repeating it.
I start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) on introducing this debate. He introduced it with lucidity, and in common with other hon. Members who have spoken I congratulate him very much indeed. What he did was to express in an extremely clear way what is felt by the majority of the public today. At the same time, he also expressed—as, indeed, one would expect him to do—the views of the Police Federation, which he represents in this House. When there is this strong public opinion in the country, it is only right that the House should have the opportunity of debating this important issue. That is only right, because many newspapers have suggested that the House should consider public opinion very carefully in regard to this important matter.
I begin by mentioning that fact. There is no doubt that, in the main, public opinion would wish the House to pass the motion. Personally, I have no hesitation at all in voting against it. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend say that he did not believe in a referendum. He also did not believe that an individual Member of this House should operate other than in accordance with his judgment and conscience. Therefore, public opinion is important and must be considered very carefully by us as representatives of the public. We owe the public great respect. But we also owe the public our judgment, and that judgment must be exercised in accordance with our conscience.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving) about the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. It was a speech that has given the House enormous help in its consideration of this important question. I do not intend to repeat much of what my right hon. Friend said, but no hon. Member who heard his contribution can be other than helped when considering which way he or she should vote.
For many years—for well over 20 years, ever since the first debate on capital punishment in the 1950s—I have always voted for the abolition of capital punishment. I have never tried to hide that from anyone. My constituents know about it in both the constituencies that I have represented. During the last election, when questions were asked of me at public meetings, I unequivocally said where I stood. I have held that view for many years, not because I have any moral feeling about it—there is no question of the sanctity of life or that sort of thing—because that is not the paramount consideration. To my mind, the paramount consideration has always been the reality of the situation. It has also been the protection of the public and the public interest. The most important consideration is that the State must protect society, and, looking at the matter from as intellectual point of view as I could, I have had no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that I am an abolitionist.
In civilised society, the taking of human life by the State is justified only when there is the clearest evidence of need. If that evidence is not there, one cannot justify the taking of life by the State. Of course, one could go into great detail. It is now 16 years since there has been an execution in England and Wales. The whole of Western Europe, with the exception of France and Eire, has abolished capital punishment. I think that it is right to say that the last execution in France took place about three years ago.
Therefore, the question we must ask ourselves is whether capital punishment is right on the basis of what my hon. Friend has said. He talked in terms of the anxieties that exist in this country, anxieties that have been born out of the growth in violence that has taken place in society over the last few years. Those anxieties mean that people are asking " Is there a method left which can help us and give us the greater security that we need? " Is it right that those undoubted worries that exist can be allayed to good effect by the reintroduction of capital punishment? The question is whether it is imperative—that is probably the right word—that we should change now.
There are two grounds for imposing punishment, in particular capital punishment. One ground is retribution, and the other is deterrence. We have heard a lot about deterrence during the debate. Of course, retribution should contain no element of vengeance, and I do not believe that any right hon. or hon. Member would suggest that it should. Retribution is society marking its abhorrence of a particular crime and, therefore, exacting a penalty on the person who committed that crime, which clearly indicates the abhorrence of society. That is what retribution is.
I can remember when the right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin) first came to this House. I think that he made his maiden speech on this very subject. At that time, I can remember him talking about the paradox that if one abhors the taking of human life—as, indeed, many people do—and considers that it is so evil that there must be just retribution to demonstrate the abhorrence that one feels, one marks it by doing precisely the same. One therefore has that paradox when dealing with capital punishment.
We could examine the unique deterrent argument in detail, but my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham assisted the House greatly with the figures that he gave, and I do not intend to repeat what was said. I think it is agreed that few murderers are acting rationally at the time of their crime. Although it is possible that capital punishment may deter those who are coldly calculating a murder, it is also known that there are certain mentally disturbed people for whom capital punishment has a strange attraction. I do not think we are in a position to balance the various arguments effectively.
I am absolutely satisfied that capital punishment would not he a deterrent to terrorist activity. Certain individuals may be deterred, but terrorist activity generally would in no way be prevented.
My right hon. and learned Friend knows how much I respect his experience and judgment, but in so far as some terrorist murders are committed by hired professional international killers who do it for money, is he disposing of the notion that it would be more expensive for terrorist organisations to hire those men if they knew that one of the calculations they must make is that they too will die?
I am sure of one thing. The death penalty does not deter the professional hired man. The international hit man risks the death penalty in various countries and is not at all deterred. He does not exepect to be caught, and the only thing that would deter him is the possibility of being caught or arrested. Although I do not believe it is a great argument in favour of my hon. Friend's motion, I agree that if we were to have capital punishment, the hit man who charges for his services would probably up the ante and expect to be paid a little more. I have not worked out how that would assist society, and I do not believe that it is one of the most impressive arguments in my hon. Friend's armoury.
I said that I would be brief and I do not intend to rehearse all the arguments. It is right that the House should consider the question of mistakes. In the many years that I have been at the Bar, I have longed to be able to say that British justice is not only the finest in the world but is truly infallible. I am afraid that I cannot, and where there is fallibility and a mistake is made, if the setence is capital punishment, it is dreadfully final.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend comment on the fact that in about 15 minutes in the Library this afternoon I found no fewer than nine cases where convicted murderers had been sent to prison, let out and they killed again? In two cases they had not been let out of prison but killed other prisoners.
Can my right hon. and learned Friend guarantee that killers will not be let out in future who will kill again if we do not reintroduce capital punishment and finalise the matter?
My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) knows well that I cannot give the guarantee for which he asks. I am not in a position to do so. I hope, however, that those in authority will ensure that people are kept in custody for the requisite amount of time. I do not like to talk of my personal experience, but I have been in many murder cases over the past few years. In most of those cases the judge recommended that the guilty man should not be released for a certain number of years, and I hope that that is kept to.
The time between arrest and judicial punishment is an important consideration. It inevitably takes a long time. There are committal proceedings, the hearing before the Crown court and probably an appeal. The inevitable points of law in a terrorist murder might even involve going to the Lords. The long delay between arrest and judicial punishment makes the whole idea of that punishment anathema to the public generally. At present the public are frightened and long to think that the Government will take positive action to cope with the mounting violence.
I hope that people do not get the impression from listening to such speeches as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds that murder is rife in the United Kingdom—and I am talking of England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland is at present in a totally different position. Murder is comparatively rare. A few days ago in a newspaper I saw a report of something that Sir Robert Mark said. That article pointed out that in this country of 50 million people, in the course of a year there are fewer than 500 homicides. The United States of America, with four and a half times our population, has something like 19,000 murders a year.
In the last decade the number of indictable offences in this country has increased five times, and the biggest increase has been in crimes of violence. We do not know why that is so, but a more affluent and permissive society may have produced a change in the pattern of behaviour. Despite that enormous increase, however, murder has not increased proportionately. If we exclude terrorist crimes, it remains at a comparatively low level. The number of people convicted for murder rarely reaches 100 a year. The House should not get the impression that murder is rife in this country.
I shall vote against the motion tonight because I believe it would be ineffective to reintroduce capital punishment. It would be a sad and sorry step backwards in the civilisation of our country.
Most right hon. and hon. Members would understand if I based my comments to-night on the Northern Ireland situation, but I shall resist the temptation, for two reasons. First, I am in favour of a return to capital punishment not just for terrorism but for murder per se. Secondly, I speak as a member of the legislature of the United Kingdom as a whole. While I may borrow from tragic events in Ulster, I shall address my remarks to the motion before the House.
The right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), who was a Minister at the Northern Ireland Office, has said that capital punishment did not work in the Province and that it was responsible for some of the terrorist problems that we have. That is not true. The last terrorists who received the death penalty in Northern Ireland were sentenced during the war.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary was expected to encounter the terrorists and become judge, jury and executioner all in one. That, in part, helped to alienate the RUC from a certain section of the community in Northern Ireland. That was the task that we imposed upon the RUC, and the same sort of problem will emerge in this part of the kingdom unless capital punishment is restored.
In countries such as the United States of America, Japan and Spain terrorism is endemic. In this country we shall experience more and more naked terrorism and violence because of the absence of capital punishment. Then we shall place the police in this country in the same situation as the RUC. That will be a dreadful negation of duty on the part of this House.
Whatever other difficulties there may be in Northern Ireland, the hon. Member must face up to one specific difficulty—the fact that at the moment it is not possible to empanel a jury for terrorist offences in the Province. If we had capital punishment, how would it be possible to ensure that a jury could be empanelled, protected and not intimidated?
I shall try to respond to that honestly. On two occasions Northern Ireland has been prepared to adopt policies that inflict hurt on the Province, such is its abhorrence of terrorism and determination to stamp it out. Hon. Members must remember that there is not one family in Northern Ireland that has not been affected by terrorism, death and murder in some way. The Northern Ireland community does not expect its Members of Parliament merely to say that they abhor terrorism and want to see ruthless and unrelenting steps taken to deal with it; they are prepared to back up their Members by serving on juries. I would not be happy about the conviction of a terrorist without a jury trial, but I know that people in Northern Ireland would be prepared to serve on a jury.
Is the hon. Member aware that upstairs in Committee when the decision was taken to abolish juries in Northern Ireland the official Opposition voted against that abolition? In fact, the opposition to it was led by the right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin).
I am grateful to the hon. Member for that pertinent comment.
I move to the point made by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving), who said that the application of capital punishment caused the great furore in the South of Ireland in 1916. That is not so. After 1916 a constitution was put to that part of the island and on two occasions it accepted the constitutional proposals, but these were overthrown by the gunmen, the bombers and others who perpetrated violence.
I return to the all-important point that violence and murder are liberty divorced from authority, because liberty divorced from authority becomes licence.
I move to another point that has not been raised today—
I will not give way, because time is short and I am coming to the main burden of my speech. I care not at the end of the day whether capital punishment is proved a deterrent or not. I believe that this House must accept the point that a civilised society cannot proceed without a developed concept of punishment. I am not talking about vengence or revenge—
No, I am not. I am talking about what a very eminent writer called " deserts ". I quote his words:
According to the Humanitarian theory, to punish a man because be deserves it, and as
much as he deserves, is mere revenge, and therefore, barbarous and immoral. It is maintained that the only legitimate motives for punishing are the desire to deter others by example or to mend the criminal. When this theory is combined, as frequently happens, with the belief that all crime is more or less pathological, the idea of mending tails off into that of healing or curing and punishment becomes therapeutic. Thus it appears at first sight that we have passed through the harsh and self-righteous notion of giving the wicked their deserts to the charitable and enlightened one of tending the psychologically sick. What could be more amiable?
One little point which is taken for granted in this theory needs, however, to be made explicit. The things done to the criminal, even it they are called cures, will be just as compulsory as they were in the old days, when they were called punishments. If a tendency to steal can be cured by psychotherapy, the thief will no doubt be forced to undergo the treatment. Otherwise, society cannot continue … Thus, when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him and deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether; instead of a person, a subject of rights, we now have a mere object, a patient, a ' case ' ".
That is a telling argument for the acceptance of the concept of punishment in any civilised society. The writer is C. S. Lewis, who may not commend himself to other hon. Members who sit on the Opposition Benches.
The corollary of the argument of the necessity for punishment is that punishment must be commensurate with the crime. Again, it is not a question of violent vengeance or revenge; it is a question of the premium that one places on human life. If the premium is low, one invites violence, murder and destruction. If the premium placed on human life is high, that in itself becomes a deterrent of sorts.
I wish to move on to deal with the question of deterrence, and I make one small point in passing. Whomsoever is not deterred by capital punishment? The person who is hanged for murder most certainly is deterred. We heard from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) that some people after release from prison have murdered again. The death penalty certainly deters in that respect.
Will the hon. Gentleman put the other side of the equation? What effect will such a situation have on the other members of a terrorist organisation in terms of recruitment, morale and all the rest of it? Many terrorist leaders are alive today—many of them are high-ranking politicians and leaders in certain countries—and if the hon. Gentleman speaks to them they will point to the other side of the equation.
I shall come to that point in the final passages of my speech.
I wish now to deal with the subject of hostages. That argument has been frequently employed today, but it has been used to a nonsensical degree. What kind of society would we become—indeed, what sort of legislature would this place be—if we took action only on the basis of the reaction on criminals, murderers and terrorists? I believe that we would disgrace those who sent us here if we took action only in the light of possible terrorist reaction.
Mention has been made of the terrorists taking hostages and shooting policemen and prison officers. But terrorists need no excuse to do such terrible things. They already take such action. They are shooting policemen and prison officers almost with impunity within the Province. They do not need excuses and they do not need to wait until we give them the opportunity to take hostages. If the taking of hostages advanced their jaundiced objectives, hostages would have become part of their policy a long time ago.
I turn to the subject of inadequacy of prison sentencing patterns for crimes of violence and murder. I shall not speculate because what I say is not mere conjecture. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Mansfield will bear out what I am about to say. In 1978 in Northern Ireland 19 people who committed murder were released, as also were 65 people who caused explosions, 84 persons who were guilty of firearms offences and 105 persons who were guilty of armed robbery. In this year of 1979 a total of 237 people in all those categories, including murder, will be released. In 1980, 150 people in all those categories, including murder, will be released. In 1981, 101 persons in all those categories, including murder, will find themselves on the streets again. After 1981, 64 murderers will be released to stalk the streets of Northern Ireland. A total of 168 in all those categories, including murder, will be released. What kind of confidence can the Province have in sentencing patterns of that sort? If there is no attempt to deal with murderers, the Province is in for a very difficult time indeed.
Some people say that the great object is to catch the criminals. All these men were caught and sentenced, but they will be found in the same huts and bars plotting the same kind of murders. They will put society at a disadvantage and create more widows and orphans. Yet we sit here, in the obscurity of pleasant England, as if there were no problem involving life and death in Northern Ireland. We must appreciate that the Province of Northern Ireland and, indeed, the United Kingdom as a whole looks to this Chamber for some leadership and guidance.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to mislead the House in quoting figures. He should have made it clear that those people were put through the courts and sentenced. Will he now say how many of the people who were given life sentences in Northern Ireland for terrorist offences are out on the streets, or will be let out on the streets? When I was in the Northern Ireland Office I received letters from correspondents who hoped that I would put a terminal date on life prison sentences, but we have never imposed a terminal date in respect of a man who has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
I understand that about 270 people have been sentenced to life imprisonment and have not been let out on the streets. But we are talking about hundreds of prisoners who are let out on the streets. [HON. MEMBERS: " No."] Yes, we are still talking of those who committed murder in the past and who are capable of becoming murderers again. I believe that this House should do its utmost to obviate that threat to society.
I wish now to deal with the points that have been made about the IRA's view of the death penalty. We are told that we should not pay too much attention to what the IRA says because its members seek only to mislead us. It is interesting that the IRA has said that any Member of Parliament from Northern Ireland who speaks in favour of the death penalty or votes for it will be a target for the IRA. I am inclined not to take such threats lightly. I certainly do not think that statement by IRA members can be treated lightly. I believe that the IRA means what it says.
It should be emphasised that the IRA itself employs tactics of capital punishment. Only last month two of its members were executed because they contravened the discipline of the organisation and put it under threat. Therefore, IRA members fear capital punishment, because they certainly believe that it is a deterrent within their own organisation. I am sure that they would regard it as a deterrent if such a motion were passed in this House.
A document compiled by the security forces of the United Kingdom—a document that, unfortunately, was found by the IRA—observed that the IRA leaders did not want to become implicated in actual violence; they wanted to hide behind a great deal of the violence because their great fear was of detection. The sooner that we are in a position to involve such people in a conspiracy to murder and put them to death, the sooner the Province of Northern Ireland will be rid of the IRA.
For obvious reasons of brevity, I shall not take up time in commenting on earlier speeches, but I was very impressed by certain comments which have been made by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford).
It seems to be a prerequisite that one must declare one's attitude to capital punishment in general at the beginning of one's speech. I became an abolitionist long before I entered politics, as a result of talking to my godfather, the late Lord Justice du Parcq, who died many years ago. I remember him making the very valid point that the death penalty as a deterrent was only a small factor in the mind of murderers. He said that in all the murders he had tried, 90 per cent. of the murderers had not known when they shaved in the morning that by that evening they would have committed the crime of murder. I have always remembered that fact.
However, there is an important qualification. In the debate we have referred to domestic murders. Today there have been several testimonies to the late Sydney Silverman. I was one of the original supporters of his abolition Bill at a time when it was not popular among Conservatives to take that attitude. My important qualification is that under no circumstances do I agree with the ultimate withdrawal of the right of the State to exact capital punishment in cases of treason when an attempt has been made to use terror or killing in order to subvert the State. I said that at the time. I interrupted Sydney Silverman in his speech and he said that he accepted fully that attitude. It is on the record of many years ago—I cannot recall exactly when it was.
Since that time, when I have supported the case for abolition, I have always held my belief in that qualification, when the security and safety of the State and its citizens are threatened. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) made one factual mistake today. He said that that sanction of the State no longer existed. It does. If he cares to study the Treason Acts he will discover that a number of terrorist crimes that have been referred to in the debate could well have been tried in our courts if the Attorney-General of the day had decided to invoke the Treason Acts. It is not a matter of moral argument, it is a matter of fact.
If the House of Commons wants the ultimate sanction of the State in times of peace not to include the ultimate sanction of the death penalty, we should have the honesty to repeal or amend the Treason Acts to that end. I have said that year after year and I repeat it tonight. Otherwise, we are being smug and hypocritical in saying that we are against capital punishment but that we would like the Treason Acts to remain on the books in case we decide to use them.
I wholly agree with my hon. Friend, but does he recognise that in that disgraceful episode of the interview on the " box " we would have been in a position to prosecute that person for treason for the murder of Airey Neave? The IRA are levying war against the country. Once that is established, it is treason and it means that such a man can be executed and his fellow conspirators with him. If that is right, does my hon. Friend believe that the death penalty should be kept for that sort of case even if the death penalty does not apply for ordinary murder?
I do not wish to be drawn into arguments on a specific case. The former Attorney-General, the right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin), knows perfectly well that I wrote to him on the same matter years ago. The only purpose of my intervention tonight is to remind the House that the State possesses the ultimate penalty in the case of terrorist killings for a political end that amounts to treason.
If we wish to pursue that end, what is needed is not a change in the law but the observance of the present law. If the Law Officers of the day believe that they have a good case within the existing Treason Acts there should be the right to try a person for treason. If they do not take that attitude, the Treason Acts should be amended. There is no third answer, whatever people's points of view may be.
I have always been an abolitionist and I remain so for what has been referred to as domestic murder. It is a lighthearted phrase to use about domestic life but I know that hon. Members understand what I mean. However, the death penalty should apply to such cases as that in which children were bombed in Birmingham in order to try to terrorise the British Government into changing their policy on Ulster. I do not doubt that the persons concerned could and would have been found guilty by a jury in this country of treason.
It has occasionally been said to me that it is no good bringing up old Acts from 1351 because they are out of date and no longer relevant and that the job of Parliament is to repeal, amend or bring up to date those Acts, not to keep them in cold storage to be brought up when convenient. At the end of the last war there were trials for treason and people were executed. It was not said at that time that the Acts were out of date. They were used in order to impose justice. Nobody said that the Acts were irrelevant because they were several hundred years out of date.
I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. He said that he would speak for 5 minutes but he spoke for 17 minutes and bored me to death.
We should decide whether we wish capital punishment to remain the ultimate sanction of the State. The effect on terrorists of the death penalty has been mentioned. One of the curious things about post-war history, particularly in the period of the British dismantling of Empire, is that when we gave long sentences for terrorist activities those who were convicted laughed because they knew that independence was around the corner, that there would be an amnesty and that they would be freed. Many Irish terrorists who have been sentenced to 40 years believe—they may be wrong—that they will never serve the full sentence. They believe that if their terrorism mounts sufficiently the Government of the day will give way, as has been the case in many other parts of the world, and an amnesty will be part of the deal that ensues.
It has been said that the imposition of the death penalty will affect the position of hostages. I have done some research in the Library and I have discovered that in 90 per cent. of all kidnappings of hostages in this country and elsewhere, the demand to the Government of the day has been that they should release convicted terrorists who are already serving long sentences. If those terrorists were not serving long sentences, those demands could not be made. They would be dead.
Every day the newspapers carry stories of demands for sums of money accompanied by a demand for sanctuary for convicted terrorists to fly to Libya or elsewhere. Hon. Members should take that fact into account when deciding upon the general deterrent effect of the death penalty.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds has raised a matter that requires deeper consideration and deeper debate. For that reason, although I do not like his motion and I have tabled an amendment to it, I shall vote to keep the subject open in order to provide the opportunity for the matter that I have raised to be considered further.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) on putting down the motion and opening the debate. I profoundly disagree with most of his remarks, and I shall vote against him tonight, but the subject is an important one which exercises the minds of all our constituents. Therefore, it is important that it should be debated in the House at an early opportunity, particularly after the election of a new Parliament. I welcome the opportunity to debate the issue.
Many hon. Members on both sides of the House, perhaps not surprisingly in the context in which we debate this matter, have referred to the alleged deterrent effect of capital punishment for terrorism. By definition, however, terrorists are fanatics. They are true believers. They are wedded to a romantic ideal, and they are not likely to be susceptible to the deterrent effect which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds and others of his hon. Friends mentioned. To have capital punishment available for acts of terrorism would simply feed the terrorists' zealotry. It would enhance their status because it would increase the risk they took in pursuit of their aims.
If capital punishment is such a great deterrent to the would-be terrorist, why was it not a deterrent in Spain, in Cyprus and in Palestine? No hon. Member who has put forward the proposition that capital punishment would deter terrorists from acts of terrorism has been able to substantiate that argument. In fact, the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds blew his case wide open and threw it away when he acknowledged quite fairly and properly that the deterrent argument was not conducive to the making of one side of the case or the other. In those circumstances, one has to ask what the reasons are which can be advanced by those who wish to bring back capital punishment.
We have to take account of the consequences for an increase in terrorism of any potential reintroduction of capital punishment, because, if it could be demonstrated to me, as a convinced abolitionist, that the reintroduction of capital punishment would save lives, I should have to reconsider my position very seriously. That has not been shown in any of the speeches supporting this motion. Not only have hon. Members on that side of the argument been unable to prove that the reintroduction of capital punishment would save lives; they have intimated or at least implied that far more lives would be lost, especially in the context of Northern Ireland, if we reintroduced capital punishment. Clearly we would be creating a new series of martyrs who would be sanctified and glorified in all the mythology of terrorism.
But let us consider what the hon. Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) said about hostages. Terrorists take hostages in all parts of the world for a variety of reasons. But it is not the case, as he suggested, that there would be no point in their taking hostages if the convicted terrorists had been killed. A long legal process has to be gone through before a man is sent to the gallows or to whatever other form of capital punishment is finally exacted. There is the process of remand before trial. There is the process of trial. There is the process of appeal against conviction or sentence. Does any hon. Member believe that in circumstances of that kind the IRA or any of the other scum who involve themselves in terrorism would not take hostages and demand the release of a prisoner convicted of murder who had been condemned to capital punishment? The immediate result would be a whole classroom of schoolchildren taken hostage and the demand that the convicted terrorist or murderer should be released.
I say categorically to the House that I would not be a party to any Government acceding to such a demand in any circumstances. But nor would I like it on my conscience to have voted for a motion which brought about those circumstances.
The hon. Member is not being quite fair to me. I said that 90 per cent. of all such demands included the release of convicted terrorists. That demand cannot arise if the convicted terrorists are no longer alive.
I accept that, but the hon. Gentleman must recognise that the motivation to take hostages in order to demand the release of a prisoner would be even greater if the prisoner concerned was likely to suffer the consequences of capital punishment. That is self-evident, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would do the same if he were a member of a terrorist organisation, whether or not we condone it.
If we are to impose capital punishment for terrorism, are we seriously to do it and hang the convicted man or use whatever other means are available without a jury? That is the position in Northern Ireland at the moment, and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford), who is no longer in the Chamber, was not able adequately to answer my question to him. If we cannot empanel juries in Northern Ireland because we are afraid that they will be intimidated or that individual jurors will need permanent police protection, how can we ask the ordinary citizen in Northern Ireland to act as a juror if he is likely to have to convict a man and sentence him, in effect, to death by hanging? It is a tremendously precarious position in which to put any juror.
Yet would we in this House be prepared to hang a man or a woman who had not been tried and convicted by a jury? If we are prepared to do that in Northern Ireland, are we prepared to allow lesser offences for which convicted prisoners might lose their lives not to be tried by jurors? There are tremendous complications here which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds and those who support him have barely acknowledged. I do not dispute their motives. I accept their sincerity, as I hope they will accept mine. But they have not demonstrated that the enormous difficulties that exist and the anomalies that would have to be overcome have been dealt with adequately in what they have said.
If it could be demonstrated clearly that innocent lives would be saved by the restoration of capital punishment, I should have to reconsider my decision very seriously, even if only in the context of terrorism and Northern Ireland. But that has not been demonstrated by any supporter of the motion so far.
I turn to other types of murder. The hon. Member for Torbay referred to " domestic" murders. The hon Member for Bury St. Edmunds deliberately left this matter open. However, if we pass this motion we have to ask whether it is to be only terrorists who are to be subjected to capital punishment or whether we are to include the perpetrators of all the other types of murder which take place.
We know as a matter of fact that a significant proportion of murders in this country are family oriented. They take place in some kind of family context. A person who commits such a murder is not likely to go out and commit another in cold blood. We know that a substantial proportion of murders in the United Kingdom are committed by people who are mentally unbalanced or subnormal. We also know that more than a third of those who commit murder commit suicide almost immediately afterwards. To none of those three categories would capital punishment be an effective deterrent. It is not an adequate deterrent. As the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds admitted, the case has not been proved.
What else is there? What other motive can there be for supporting the motion? If we are not saying that we could save lives, if we are not able to prove objectively that capital punishment would act as a deterrent, what other justifications can there be for reintroducing such a barbaric penalty? The only one is revenge.
Revenge is a perfectly normal human response, but it is not one of which this House should take cognisance. This House should not be motivated by an emotion which is both distasteful and unnecessary. It demeans and degrades the society in which we live and the civilisation by which we stand if we embark upon a terrible act of this kind that cannot be shown to have any positive consequences when the only motive for it is so-called retribution but which by most people is meant to be revenge. The arguments against are compelling and overwhelming. We all know that mistakes have been made in the past. If we reintroduce capital punishment, we know that other mistakes will be made in the future.
Other hon. Members have mentioned one person who was released from prison this year who would otherwise have suffered capital punishment. There is also the case of Albert Taylor, who was reprieved from a life sentence but who would be in his grave now had we had capital punishment. The three boys in the Maxwell Confait case in 1975 would probably have been subject to capital punishment. We accepted that a mistake had been made by the courts.
The distaste that is felt even by those who propose the return of capital punishment is indicated very clearly by their search for alternative methods of imposing the death penalty, whether it be garotting, inoculation, the gas chamber, the electric chair or whatever. Their distaste of actually using capital punishment is evident in that search.
I do not believe that it is right, proper or appropriate for an act of violence on the part of the State to be taken judicially in cold blood. For the State cold-bloodedly to take a life is something which I find reprehensible. It brings us down to the level of those whom we despise, whether they be murderers, IRA or other terrorist organisations. Why should we be forced to stoop to their level, or even to stoop to the level of degradation that would be involved in bringing back capital punishment, simply in order to take care of what the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds actually came down to—the hit man? In the end, all his arguments were swept away and he said that he wanted capital punishment in order to take care of the professional hit man—the one who does it for a price.
We all accept that if capital punishment existed the price of the hit would rise—but that price would be paid. Make no mistake about that. The IRA and other terrorist organisations would find the money. They would find the money by other crimes, such as bank robberies, in which innocent lives would be lost. Even in that case the argument of the hon. Gentleman does not hold water.
I make a final point. Only a couple of months ago every hon. Member was presumably asked about his position on this issue. I accept the force of public opinion and that the majority of the general public would favour the return of capital punishment. I acknowledge that probably the overwhelming majority of my constituents would warmly endorse a vote in favour of the return of capital punishment.
However, the House has to use reason, not passion. The House has to exercise its judgment, not its prejudices. The House has to lead, not to follow. It is not the purpose or the function of the House to allow passion and emotion to sway its views. We are representatives, not delegates. Let us always remember that fact, and always act as representatives and not as delegates.
When we surrender our convictions, our conscience and our judgment to anyone else—whoever it may be, for whatever reason, on whatever occasion—we lose the right to be here and we are not adequately performing our duty by our constituents. We have no right to be here unless we are prepared to exercise our conscience and our judgment on behalf of our constituents, and to take the consequences from them in general elections.
All of us, on both sides of the argument, must stand by our conviction of what is morally right and our judgment of what is in the interests of the people of Britain. I believe that both those considerations will be served by voting against the motion.
The House will be aware that a short time ago I made my first speech on the subject now before it. For that reason it would be inappropriate for me to take up the time of the House in simply repeating the sentiments that I expressed then. Therefore, my contribution will be deliberately short. I will content myself with picking out one or two matters that, to my mind, have received inadequate consideration in the public debate that is taking place in this country.
First, when we talk of terrorist murders we are not speaking of killings that take place in the heat of passion, the fenzy of anger, or under the influence of jealousy or lust. It is true to say that the threat of death might not deter malefactors in any of these categories. Nor are we talking about the type of killing that is carried out by a man suffering from such a degree of emotional or mental instability that no civilised society would ask him to forfeit his life. No. We are dealing with a gang of men, fully aware of what they are doing, who coldly and calculatedly plan, in every dastardly detail, to rob another human being of his existence. Unlike those acting in the throes of passion, they can foresee the possible consequences of their actions and be deterred by them.
Again, we hear it said " Are we not inviting a situation in which terrorists will hold hostages and threaten to kill them if an execution takes place? " I am ashamed to say that this is an argument in common currency at the present time. Let the House just think of its significance. It means two things. First, it means that we as a community are confessing our inability to enforce our own laws, and not because those laws are unacceptable to the generality of people, which would be understandable. Secondly, it means that we are prepared to be blackmailed by the threats, or possible threats, of a bunch of murdering thugs. Are we prepared to confess our inability to govern to that extent?
We in Northern Ireland know that hon. Members here at Westminster are unable to govern because they are unable to provide personal security for our citizens. I just want them to understand that the necessary implication of the argument with which I am now dealing is that they are now admitting it.
Then there is the martyr theory. I do not propose to waste words on this or on those so bereft of a sense of reality as to espouse it. The House can take it from me—and I know my country—that in the present climate of opinion in Northern Ireland the hanged man would be a martyr to nobody except to a few of his fellow thugs. That I will exchange any day for the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children. So let us hear no more of that theoretical rubbish.
It is said that hanging is ghoulish. Then shoot the murderers, or use whatever ingenuity people still possess to devise a more acceptable form of capital punishment.
Finally, are hon. Members seeing the problem as we do? To us, killing is a daily occurrence. We do not know where it will strike next, but we know that it will strike. We are fighting for our lives, both personal and commercial. Hon. Members here can afford to see terrorism as something that in a greatly diluted form irritates them once in a while. Incidentally, I wish that hon. Members could see the waves of bitter amusement and contempt that sweep over our people when they see the fuss and to-do that the public organs make of some relatively trivial incident that takes place in England.
I hope that when hon. Members cast their vote tonight they will be thinking not just of their peaceful English hamlets but of our bomb-ridden villages and towns. I hope, too, that the intelligence and moral courage that they bring to bear on the problem is rather more than that of the present Home Secretary, who, on his own admission, made disastrous mistakes when fuddling with our affairs. I can think of nobody less fitted to make a pronouncement on terrorism or its cures than he. I pray that the House can do better.
I hesitated to speak in this debate, and I shall try to confine myself to a short speech in view of the wish of others to take part.
I am well aware that all of us approach our task on these occasions with a mixture of personal conviction and personal experience. I am one of the two or three Members of the House upon whose life an assassination attempt has been made. Fortunately for me, I was not in my car at the time, but my family were. I leave the House to imagine the horror of those moments when, after attending a reception at No. 10 Downing Street, I returned to my flat, turned on the television, and, before I saw a picture, heard the announcer say " I can confirm that the bomb which has gone off in Birmingham was at the home of the Minister for Sport."
I had a lot of time, as I travelled the 120 miles back up the motorway, wondering what I would find when I arrived, to contemplate the deep human and theological questions involved in the motion before the House. Shortly afterwards, when the Birmingham bombs exploded, one got a taste of the terrible horror that colleagues representing Ulster constituencies have talked about. One had time again to contemplate the moral questions.
There are two ways to approach these matters. One is the moral justification for the punishments that the State wishes to exact. Secondly, there is the question of their appropriateness and their effectiveness. On the second question, I join those who have paid tribute to the speech by the Home Secretary. It was overwhelming in its conviction and logic.
What has surprised me most about the debate, even after the intervention of a reverend gentleman from Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford), is the complete lack of any attempt by people who support the motion to justify the proposition from the point of view of morality or from the point of view of theology. The reverend gentleman himself took recourse to quoting Lewis. It would have been more appropriate had he quoted the Bible. I should have thought the Bible a greater source of reference for him.
At the times when one considers these matters, such as the occasion when they were borne upon me, I have to confess that one thinks of one's position as a Christian or in whatever ethical stand one takes. One would have thought that the injunction " Thou shalt not kill " or the injunction
Vengeance is mine … saith the Lord
was overriding in an ethical approach to this subject. I agree with those hon. Members who say that it may be easier for those who approach this subject from that standpoint than it is for those who do not. In spite of the experience of my own family and the great distress that it caused, I did not believe that I should change my mind because of that personal experience.
I should like to discuss the effectiveness of the punishment. When I contemplated the result of the explosion at my home, when I saw what happened in the Birmingham bombings three weeks later in which 21 people died—six of them my constituents whose families I visited trying inadequately to give what support I could—and when I visited hospitals where 120 people lay maimed and injured, it was inconceivable to me that the evil men who perpetrated those dastardly crimes were concerned at all by the punishment they were to receive. It was inconceivable that the result of their trial and their punishment would have affected their attitude and their determination to kill and to maim. It was, it seemed to me, in a sense, an irrelevancy.
I agree very much with the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) who said that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths)—who, I regret, is not in his place and has not been there for some time—and those like him seek to present the country and this House with a soft option. Seeing in hospital those savagely injured people, who had lost limbs and who had been permanently disabled, I could not believe that it was right for society, meting out punishment, to think that it should differentiate between those who had been killed and those who had been seriously injured and maimed for life as a result of the bombings. The conclusion that I arrived at as a result of all this is that violence itself is the great obscenity and that we ought not to do anything, such as providing for a variable death penalty, to detract from violence, whether that violence results in the death of one of our citizens or his or her permanent injury.
I share the concern of so many people—this point was put by the right hon. and learned Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas)—but there are a great many people in our society who believe that if we try to distinguish between the results of violent action we shall in a most macabre way be detracting from the sole purpose that we all should have in mind, which is to eliminate violence from our society. I have felt that on many occasions, not just on the issue before us but on issues as insignificant, some hon. Member may feel, as football hooliganism which, I regret to say, has resulted in deaths, as I know from previous ministerial experience.
The only relevant question in the debate is whether evil men would carry out these gigantic crimes, which are beyond most people's comprehension, if the sentence that were to be passed upon them were different. I cannot believe that they would not and I cannot believe that it is right for the State to resort to judicial violence or judicial killing. By so doing, it unfortunately would underline to some people the righteousness of their evil causes. We have to condemn all violence and killings, and that includes violence, killings and obscenities by the State as well as by organisations determined to destroy the State.
I agree entirely with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) about the need to justify with reason the point of view that one may hold about the way in which the vote on this motion should go. It is a matter of personal conscience, experience and judgment as well as of national importance.
I have three reasons for wishing to see the reintroduction of capital punishment for certain kinds of murder. The first is that the alternative sentence available for murder is in many cases hopelessly and dangerously inadequate. The second is one that I believe to be held in common by the greater part of the British public. I have the liveliest fear that without capital punishment the appalling rise in the use of guns by professional criminals will not stop but will continue. Thirdly, without capital punishment the need for an armed police force in Britain will be inevitable.
Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that without capital punishment we shall see not only an increase in the use of firearms by criminals but an increase in the use of firearms by the police? That form of capital punishment might replace the judicial form that so many people dislike.
That is a danger that recognise. Few hon. Members would dissent from the proposition that murder is the gravest of all crimes. As such, murder deserves the gravest of all punishments. I do not accept any opposition to the proposition that the gravest of all punishments is the death penalty. If that punishment is removed—as indeed we have removed it—the only punishment left to discourage the armed criminal, the only barrier of fear against murder, is what is called life imprisonment. That term is wholly deceptive. It does not mean, nor is it intended to mean, what it says.
If a person is described as having been sent to prison for life, most people say that that entails only nine years inside and that the remainder of the time is spent on licence. In England and Wales between 1969 and 1978 most of those released from prison after a sentence of life imprisonment were released on or before the ninth year of their term.
I seriously submit—removing from that submission any element of emotion—that the prospect of release from so-called life imprisonment for all types of murder can only give hope, if not encouragement, to the ruthless killer.
There is a more serious anomaly about life imprisonment as a punishment for murder. If a defendant pleads guilty to murder, he may remain in prison for as long as someone who pleads guilty to manslaughter. In the case of life imprisonment it is a mandatory sentence. It can mean that the person may be released after a short period. However, in the case of manslaughter the sentence is determined at the discretion of the trial judge and a person may remain in prison for the total period specified by him.
As the Home Secretary and other hon. Members have said, statistics are not of much assistance. If the Devil can cite the scriptures for his purpose, I hope that others with better intentions may cite statistics.
There are no statistics dealing with what happens in the mind of a man when he considers murdering someone. No one can say how many people today are alive because there was capital punishment in the past; nor can anyone say how many people have died, or are likely to die, because there is no capital punishment now. However, I submit that there is no possibility of doubt that there are now more criminals carrying guns in the course of their crimes than ever before.
A gun that was fired in the streets of London in the 1950s would have been a rare and sensational happening. In 1976 and 1977 guns were fired in London streets on about 96 occasions. The police expressed a determination to meet firearms with firearms. It is believed that we now have one in 10 policemen in the county areas and one in five policemen in the metropolitan areas trained to use guns. Nor is there any doubt that, within the comparatively slow rise in the total of serious crimes, crimes of violence against the person have been escalating. In 1969 it was 37·8 per 1,000 and last year it was 82·2 per 1,000
I know that I shall carry the House in the belief that the highest function of the criminal law is to ensure that people are protected from crime. I want to ensure that they receive the maximum protection, and I believe that the reintroduction of capital punishment will give them that. I want to ensure the maximum discourage- ment to the criminal who carries a gun. Again, I believe that the introduction of capital punishment will achieve that.
I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Gentleman is arguing for a reintroduction of the categorisation of murder that we saw in the Homicide Act 1957, which was a colossal failure because of the enormous difficulty of drawing a distinction between various graduations of heinous crimes, or whether he is arguing for capital punishment to extend over the whole calendar of murder. The hon. and learned Gentleman owes a duty to the House to let us know what he thinks.
I am seeking to persuade the House that the broad terms of the motion, namely, that capital punishment should be reintroduced and be made available to the courts as a punishment, should be considered as a principle. There are difficulties. The hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Davis) throws up his hands. He asked the question, and perhaps he would like to listen to the answer. My answer is that this is an important principle. I concede that there are formidable difficulties that will follow upon the acceptance of the principle, but that is no reason for rejecting the principle. This is not merely a personal conviction. The figures are available. When we had capital punishment, we did not have gunmen on our streets. When we had capital punishment, we could boast of an unarmed police force.
Now that there is no capital punishment, there must be an importance nexus. In the absence of capital punishment, we must admit that unless we find a solution shortly we shall have to accept an armed police force. The solution to the problem lies in the reintroduction of capital punishment. For that reason I support the motion and ask that the House should also support it.
I shall devote my remarks to the subject of terrorism.
When I was 17 I found myself in Palestine. From there I went to Jordan and Cyprus. I was involved in the Arab-Israeli struggles. I even took a trip to Vietnam when it was difficult to find out who were the terrorists there. I have been involved in Northern Ireland from 1968 onwards. I was a Minister in Northern Ireland over the past five years.
I have come to my conclusion after listening to people discussing terrorism. I refer to the history of Ireland. This is where my mind goes back to 1916 and 1922. There was what one might term capital punishment—assassination, a bullet in the back of the head, and judicial hanging. If capital punishment were a deterrent, Ireland today would be the Shangri-La of the West. We know that it is not. It is entirely the opposite. Northern Ireland is a hard, uncompromising place, containing many hard, uncompromising people. I say that as my experience of Northern Ireland has been within the political framework.
I refer to the speech by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford). As a result of the figures that he produced and what he said, I thought that he was dangerously misleading or not being quite truthful with the House. He purported to say that murderers were being turned loose on the streets of Northern Ireland. He carefully concealed the fact that those people had been sentenced in the courts and had completed their sentences. I do not know whether his view was that we should return to detention, which is considered by all to be a mistake.
Before I left Northern Ireland I had responsibility for the prison service. Not one of all those who had been sentenced to life imprisonment in Northern Ireland had received a terminal date at that time, in spite of petitions to myself and various Secretaries of State.
My point was that some people who were sentenced for murder in Northern Ireland have been, or will be, released. Therefore, given the record of some who have perpetrated murders after their release, capital punishment is an argument for ultimately deterring all who are guilty of murder.
The hon. Gentleman is close to saying that murderers have been turned out on the streets. The judiciary sentenced such people, but he is not saying what the Executive should do when their sentences are finished. Does he say that we should go back to detention? He carefully avoided that.
I was in Northern Ireland for five years. I have been very close to some of the terrible atrocities that have taken place in Northern Ireland. I have also been involved in the matters of internment, emergency powers, special category prisoners, and the fall of the Executive and the Convention.
I became directly involved with the terrorists when my right hon. Friend invited me to take over the prison service. He asked me, in effect, to set up a completely new prison service, with a new prison officers' association and everything else that went with it. I ask those who are speaking in favour of capital punishment for terrorists to consider whether they would start in the conditions prevailing in Northern Ireland. I had to make regular visits to the prisons. If hon. Members are speaking of capital punishment for terrorists, I ask them to remember that terrorists do not start at 18, or even at 17 or 16 years of age.
I remember going into the young offenders' centre in the Crumlin Road prison, where there were 20 or 30 boys in a classroom. They were sitting there, scrubbed clean, behind their desks. I had forcibly to remind myself why they were there. Some of them were there for the most heinous crimes of murder and bombing. They were terrorists. Are hon. Members arguing that they should be hanged at 14, 15 or 16 years of age? Of course not.
I also visited Armagh prison on a regular basis. Most hon. Members probably know of Armagh prison only because of the Price sisters. The Price sisters, when they were on hunger strike, were very close to death. What would have happened if we had sentenced them to death, or even if we had tried to carry out that sentence? But we are not concerned only with the Price sisters, because there were many other people in that prison.
It has been suggested tonight that Northern Ireland's problem is the IRA, and to a great extent it is, but there are other terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland. I need only mention the romper room girls. Some of them were very young. What would hon. Members suggest should be done about them? It has to be remembered that not all of those who are in the Crumlin Road prison or in the Maze prison for committing dastardly crimes are IRA members. Hon. Members will also recall the recent case of the Shankill butchers, a group of men who were carrying out dastardly murders. These are the problems that continually face Ministers in Northern Ireland.
I was very pleased to hear the speech of the Home Secretary tonight, because the one thing that he does not lack is courage. I have been very pleased to have his backing in some of the fights in which I have been engaged in trying to end special category status in Northern Ireland. His remarks have been very helpful to me. I know that he had to swallow a lot of pride, but he did it with the courage that I would have expected of him. I thank him very much for that.
I referred earlier to my experiences in Palestine as a lad of 17. I served there before the mandate and well after the mandate. I would never have imagined that my experiences in Palestine would have stood me in such good stead. I have been able, in the light of those experiences, to go back to Israel and to talk to the political leaders there, just as I have been able to talk to President Makarios in Cyprus.
When I met Prime Minister Begin I pointed out to him that when I was in Palestine I and the other members of the British forces there would probably have shot him if we could have got him in our sights. I was able to ask him about the events of those days. I purposely asked him what used to happen when we picked up terrorists, tried them, sentenced them to death and carried out the punishment. I know what happened on the streets to the ordinary British soldier at that time. We were turned out in force, armed to the teeth, but that did not stop the retribution that came our way from the terrorists. Many of us were willing to take that risk, and had to take that risk. I asked Mr. Begin " What happened to the terrorist organisations? " and he said " It galvanised them. It got us the recruits that we wanted, and made us more efficient and dedicated to the cause ". In his final phrase he said " Then, again, you were not sentencing our terrorists to death, you were sentencing a lot of your own people, and we decided how many."
I hope that no hon. Member goes into the Lobbies tonight hoping that the motion will be defeated. I hope that hon. Members go into the various Lobbies on their own convictions. I know of the pressures that are put on Members of Parliament from the various associations. Some of us have had this fight with our associations. We know what public feeling is on this matter, but sometimes we must be leaders.
I sincerely hope that hon. Members who go into the Aye Lobby will not do so hoping that they will be on the losing side. They should be honest with themselves, come clean and show the courage of the Home Secretary. One may get the thanks of one's constituency chairman and others, but such praise and thanks will be nothing compared with the praise and thanks that one will get from the money-raisers, the godfathers, and the planners and recruiters of the various terrorist organisations. Such people would love to see the shadow of the gallows return to the context of the situation in Northern Ireland. They would be absolutely delighted if the motion were carried tonight. Of course, I do not speak only of the IRA. I am talking of INLA, the UVF, the UDA and the Red Hand commandos. We ought not to forget that.
In rising to make my maiden speech, I am filled with a profound sense of honour, excitement and humility. What man or woman can fail to feel a great sense of honour at speaking for the first time in this historic Chamber—the very mother of Parliaments, and a Parliament about which I am still learning to find my way, both politically and physically?
I have been reoriented and guided on many occasions by kind hon. Members on both sides of the House. I have often thought back to the story of the schoolgirl who was asked by one of her mistresses " Where are elephants found? " Shrewd and logical, as all girls are, she replied " Elephants are large and intelligent animals, and as such are rarely if ever lost ".
It is also a great honour to have taken over the mantle of Winchester from Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles, whose name you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have often called with such dignity and, if I may say so, Mr. Speaker has also called with a certain Welsh melody. In echo, I am sorry that I am able to give only the English version.
In talking to hon. Members from all sides of the House, I am convinced that the read-admiral was loved. He really was much loved by this House. I was given dramatic proof of that the other night when, sitting in the Strangers' Gallery next to him, I noticed the nods, winks and waves coming from all parts of the Floor, like salutes to a gallant and trusted comrade. He was also much loved in Winchester, and will be sadly missed. Perhaps I can best illustrate this by quoting what I was told by a constituent just before the general election, who said to me " John, I cannot imagine Winchester without the admiral. It will be like losing the cathedral." He has always been a good friend and adviser to me, and I hope that with God's help I shall be able to wear the mantle of Winchester with half the distinction of Admiral Morgan-Giles.
It goes without saying that I feel it to be the greatest honour and privilege of my life to be chosen to represent the people of Winchester. It is the ancient Saxon capital of Wessex and of England, and the place where for at least 13 centuries people have been aware of the presence of God. The present cathedral, the third to stand on the site, is 900 years of age. It celebrated its anniversary only last weekend. It is one of the most ancient and majestic cathedrals in the world, with the longest nave in Christendom. It is not only a beautiful standing monument of stone but the focal point of today's entire community in Winchester.
Winchester is a major centre of the Church, education, law and local government. Twenty per cent. of us are involved in agriculture. We have many small businesses, many people are self-employed, there are many light industries and some divisions of major international companies. There are many people serving in the Armed Forces and many retired people living on fixed incomes who, like our housewives, will be watching keenly to see whether the Government's monetary policies are effective in curbing inflation.
Despite the beauty of Winchester, we have in the constituency all the normal problems of today's life. We have unemployment but are lucky in that tourism tends to absorb many of the unskilled. We have redevelopment problems and a major housing problem in north Andover, where poorly-built London overspill housing is breaking down and causing tremendous suffering to the occupants. However, the people of Winchester look to the Government with hope and confidence that a new dawn of freedom and enterprise is breaking over our country.
I thank you, sincerely, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in a Back Benchers' debate, and I speak with a due sense of humility. Speaking in this House that both gives and expects such tremendously high standards of knowledge, political skill and eloquence makes me feel humble, particularly when I know that on many issues I shall be fighting tooth and nail with talented and hardworking right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I take some small comfort in the fact that we are all fellow countrymen, British at least. On some points we may even agree.
I also feel humble in approaching a judgment on the dreadful, crucial and most difficult subject of the death penalty. It is one that arouses strong feelings and deep emotions on all sides, and feelings for which I have great sympathy and understanding. We are talking about taking life in cold blood. I have no individual divine knowledge on the subject. My instinct, however, is that if execution is to be used either for punishment or revenge, I am against the death penalty. If, on the other hand, it is to be a deterrent, I am for it. I feel that it is the Government's prime duty to protect the citizens of this country from both external and internal attack. If the Government fail in their duty, people will begin to take the law into their own hands and civilisation will have taken a major step backwards.
In 1965 an experiment began to determine whether the withdrawal of the death penalty could be achieved without putting the lives of our people at risk unnecessarily. Fourteen years have passed and events now suggest that the death penalty should be reinstated as a deterrent. The key question is that of deterrence. I agree that the statistics are at best inconclusive, but there is evidence in this country of an enormous groundswell of public opinion indicating that the majority feel that the death penalty is a deterrent. I also believe very strongly that it is a deterrent.
Many people will argue that the death penalty will not deter fanatics. I agree, but at least it will limit their activities. The most conclusive evidence was that stated in opening the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) when he compared the money paid to professional killers in those countries which had the death penalty and in those which did not. There was a considerable differential. That is a calculation based not on being caught but on being caught and killed, and it is conclusive evidence.
It is also interesting to note the strong evidence that fear of certain death acts as a deterrent not only to individuals but to nations. Take the example of the super-Powers. The nuclear deterrent has given us 30 years of relative peace, despite enormous tensions and provocations.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) said that people had not discussed the moral issues. We should not be hypocritical in looking at this question. The majority of people in our society accept that the death penalty still exists on the statute book for treason. We accept abortion and we accept the taking of one's own life. Attempted suicide is no longer a criminal offence. We still demand that our Armed Forces take life and the soldier may kill his enemy when the man's only apparent crime is that he wears a different uniform. I am convinced that the death penalty is a deterrent to certain cases of killing and other crimes of violence.
As our society already accepts the taking of life in certain circumstances, and the present experiment of abolition has proved inconclusive and has put innocent lives at risk, we should now reconsider the matter. Of course the Secretary of State is right when he says that the death penalty would be extremely difficult to operate. I accept that, but it is the function of leadership to overcome those difficulties. The British people are now crying out to their leaders for protection. If this House continues to ignore these cries, it will do so at great risk of ordinary people taking the law into their own hands. If that happens, this House will be acting neither in the interests nor according to the will of our people.
I hope therefore that right hon. and hon. Members will not only search their own consciences on this matter but will do so in the light of today's appalling crime rates, in the light of our duty to protect our citizens' lives and the cries of the British people for an end to this period of abolition. Innocent lives are at stake not only from premeditated killings but from other crimes of violence. It falls to us to protect our citizens with positive action.
The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) has chosen a fine evening on which to make his maiden speceh—an occasion when we are untrammelled by the normal whipping arrangements.
The hon. Gentleman spoke warmly of his predecessor, he dealt knowledgeably with his constituency, and he told the House that he spoke with humility, as indeed he did. When he came to deal with the subject that is now before the House, he did not speak with that same humility, but he did put his views with clarity and certainty, which perhaps is not true of everybody who speaks in this House. I am sure that we shall hear the hon. Member again. I imagine that it will be some time before we hear him again on the same subject, but one never knows.
This debate is taking place because of a commitment given during the general election campaign, and I do not quarrel with that. I am glad—and the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), who introduced the debate, agreed with this view—that no commitment was given to hold a referendum on capital punishment. This House must decide the matter on the realities and facts of the situation. It is on that aspect that I most disagree with the hon. Gentleman.
There are two reasons—indeed, there may be more—for the continuing discussion and concern about capital punishment. The first is the feeling that, whatever the direct arguments about a return to capital punishment or its abolition, all that has happened since in terms of the crime rate and other effects flows uniquely from the removal of the death penalty. In other words, it is said that the effect is far greater in terms of society than the effect on those who commit murder.
I shall return to that aspect a little later, but I believe that, despite the fall in the crime rate last year and, indeed, the year before—and I understand that just before I ceased to occupy the office of Home Secretary the quarterly figures still showed a fall—there has been an uneven rate of incidence of different crimes.
In the last year, possibly because of the run-up to the general election, there have been many misconceptions about the crime rate, but in the vote which faces the House tonight we must deal with the realities of the matter and not with the position as it was considered to be before May.
In the last seven or eight years we have seen the development of terrorism stemming from Northern Ireland. However, before dealing with that matter and other aspects. I believe that we should examine the purpose of this debate.
The motion reads:
That this House believes that the sentence of capital punishment should again be available to the courts.
I say frankly to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds that I do not like that method of proceeding. We both agree that we do not want a referendum to be voted upon by the people of the United Kingdom, but the motion leads one to believe that the hon. Gentleman is asking Members of Parliament to vote as if we are conducting a referendum in this House. He is asking us to express a view about capital punishment without thinking of the consequences. He is saying " Vote for the motion tonight and we can work out the consequences afterwards." He believes that he and other hon. Members can then put forward all the various divisions of punishment, involving all the problems of juries and other considerations.
Many people outside the House have written to me and discussed this subject. Some of them believe that if we vote in favour of this motion tonight, hanging will begin tomorrow morning. They believe that by some alchemy we shall sweep away the last 10 years and that our decision will change things tomorrow. I believe that, irrespective of the merits or demerits of the arguments, that is not the way in which this House should proceed. The matter is not as easy as the motion would lead us to believe.
We cannot escape from reality. We do not have to wait for reports to put us right in the next month or even a year ahead. It will not be easy. The matter cannot be left until later—it will be too late. Before we vote tonight we should consider the reality of the position, not what we would like it to be. We should not vote for the motion because many outside this place are worried about the matter and want a change. Our duty is to consider the facts first. To his credit, that is what the Home Secretary, as most of us would expect, has done tonight.
I turn to the matter of the return of the death penalty for the non-terrorist crime. Morally, I am against the return of the death penalty, and that is a strong part of my argument. It may be that the non-personal part of my argument is more important in the role that I play tonight. However, I place on record my personal point of view, as a former Home Secretary who might, but for the vagaries of the matter, be on the Government Bench tonight. The penalty for the crime of murder has no discernible influence upon the rate at which murder is committed. Whatever the arguments are about statistics, nothing that has been put to me shows that the death penalty for the crime of murder has a discernible influence.
Murder is a crime apart. Crimes of violence have risen in all the Western world, whether there is a death penalty or not, but murder has risen much less. That is not an objective valuation but a comparison. The incidence of murder fluctuates in an inexplicable way. Recently the newspapers and others have called in aid the work of an American economist turned criminologist called Ehrlich. His arguments have been called upon to prove one matter or another. What interested me about some of his research, which showed the economic influence on his mind, was that he said that a 1 per cent. change in per capita income upwards or a chan
An impression has been formed that the increase in the number of murders is due to killings by shooting. That is not borne out by the evidence. The incidence of killing by shooting and the penalty for that crime are unrelated. An equation has been made about the growth in the use of guns. I no longer have access to the figures, but it is worth considering whether the growth in the use of guns had begun before the abolition of capital punishment. The point is not as simple as the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds would like to believe.
I have obtained some statistics in regard to policemen. I have a special concern for policemen. Some of their number still live in my house and they will do for some time to come. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds referred to the sentences on murderers of policemen. Eleven people who are in prison have been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of policemen. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds said that the sentence for such a crime was nine or 10 years. In 1965 there was one murder of a policeman, in 1966 there were three; in 1970, one; in 1971, three; in 1972, one; in 1975, one; and in 1977 there was one such murder. In five cases the judge recommended a minimum detention of 30 years, in one case the recommendation was 25 years, in two cases it was 20 years and in one case the recommendation was for detention for the whole of the natural life. It would be a brave Home Secretary, although it would be within his or her control, who would overthrow those recommendations. Therefore, the impression that the murderer of a policeman serves nine or 10 years and is then released is not the case.
A prisoner who is sentenced to life cannot be released without consultation between the Lord Chief Justice, the Home Secretary and the judge who tried the case if he is available—he often is not available because of the lapse of time. A favourable recommendation from the Parole Board is also required. When the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) talks about the average time served by a prisoner sentenced to life, he does not need a look at the facts of the case—
In that case, I definitely disagree with the hon. and learned Gentleman, because I was taking it as the median figure. I suggest that the hon. and learned Gentleman gets the facts straight about that, although, as has been said more than once today, statistics will get us nowhere in this argument. I imagine that, like the rest of us, the hon. and learned Gentleman will vote independently of what is shown in the statistics.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, of course, has a role with the Police Federation, but what he said is not the case. When I have been round those prisons where prisoners are serving life sentences, I have not found the conditions there to be easy. The atmosphere is not easy. Some of us think the lifetime of a Parliament—a mere five years—to be a long time. I assure right hon. and hon. Members that a 30-year sentence is a very long time. In my view it is a deterrent because the message gets out that it is not all colour television and skittles. Indeed, I have heard it described as inhumane. There we move to a different argument. Is a life sentence more humane than the death penalty?
If I had been in the shoes of the Home Secretary, I should have argued that there was a constancy about the state of murder in England and Wales irrespective of the penalties imposed. Nothing in the data put before me indicated that abolition had any effect on the phenomenon of murder, and this is also true when one considers the breakdown between capital and non-capital murders. But that is not surprising. It is not, as I heard someone say sotto voce earlier today, because of briefs from civil servants in the Home Office. It is not surprising that the present Home Secretary, Lord Carr, Mr. Jenkins, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Butler, Lord Brooke and I, because of the logic of living with the situation on a day-to-day basis and not because we were brainwashed, know where we stand on the argument about capital punishment which has been with us for some years now. We know that we are against it. We are no different from any other Member of either House, but I hope that the views which we have garnered by experience will be taken into account.
Like the Home Secretary, I believe that if this motion were passed there would be tremendous problems with juries both as to their size and composition and as to their ability to differentiate between different types of murder. We have been through it all before. Any Bill would require very lengthy consideration in Parliament before we arrived at workable legislation.
I cannot fault the Home Secretary in making clear that acceptance of this motion does not mean the reintroduction of capital punishment tomorrow. I know where I stand. I shall vote against the motion. However, a great change has occurred since I first came into this House and listened to the arguments about the abolition of capital punishment advanced by Sydney Silverman and others. We are talking in a different environment because of the development of terrorism, and it is on the aspect of terrorism that I wish to spend the last few minutes of my speech.
I understand when the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. McQuade) says that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, that 2,000 people have been killed, and that understandably people are concerned. They are concerned from a family point of view. But it is important to recognise that we have to identify the nature of the terrorism that this country faces. It is not the middle-class Bader Meinhoff of Germany. It is not the curiously named Croce Rossa of Italy. It is not the PLO. Ours is Irish terrorism, and in a general sense we have lived with it for centuries. The anniversary of the Metropolitan Police is being celebrated this year. Sir Robert Peel set it up in the image of the Royal Irish Constabulary which he had set up 10 years before.
Suppression of the Irish defence of the Protestant religion were two main reasons for the existence of the first Regular Army in this country. The problem is not new, but it shows itself in a different way in that divided part of the United Kingdom. The hon. Members for Belfast, North and Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) may not like what I say, but Northern Ireland is a divided Province, where conscription could not be undertaken in the Second World War because one-third of the population did not support this country. The problem is different, even though it has been with us for a long time.
We are faced with murders and bombings, the Provisional IRA, the Official IRA, the Irish Republican Socialist Party and various para-military groups. I found when I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that some curious people associate with para-military groups. When there is trouble, the paramilitary groups on both sides do not represent only a small part of each community. They touch a raw nerve. There is a yawning gap between the two sides. When I was in Northern Ireland I learnt that a number of Catholics vote Unionist. I did not believe it previously, but it must be true. However, it is a divided community.
When talking about stopping terrorism, we must realise that it is not Left-wing politics which are involved but Rightwing politics. The terrorists get their money from bank robberies and from the United States. One way to stop terrorism in Northern Ireland would be to stop the flow of money from Boston, New York and Chicago. That would be far more important than would making the mistake of returning to capital punishment
I have had work done on the statistics, and they provide an answer to the hon. Member for Belfast, North, who assumed that the violence had been taking place in Northern Ireland only since the United Kingdom took over the governance of the Province. In a population of 1½ million, the number of murders in 1971 was 123. In 1972 the figure was 376. The British Government had not then taken over the governance of the Province in the sense that they have now.
The murders, bombings and killings were taking place before the present Home Secretary took over as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. There were 200 murders in Northern Ireland in 1973, when capital punishment still existed. It was on the statute book and had not been abolished in Northern Ireland. Its presence did not prevent murders on the scale that I have outlined. [HON. MEMBERS: " It was not used."] It was not used by a Unionist Government.
When the present Home Secretary introduced legislation after taking over as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, he left capital punishment in his first Bill. Later, a Protestant killed a British soldier, and if that man had been hanged the Army would not have been able to hold East Belfast and parts of West Belfast that evening. The right hon. Gentleman was then faced with the case of a Catholic who had killed a soldier. When the right hon. Gentleman realised that because of what would happen in the Province he could not allow those men to be hanged, capital punishment in Northern Ireland was abolished.
We do not have to look to the future. We do not have to wait to consider the problems of Northern Ireland in this respect. It is no good arguing that the House should pass the motion and consider later what to do about Northern Ireland. I know that, the Home Secretary knows that, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) knows that, other hon. Members know that and the people of Northern Ireland know that. The death penalty is not the answer to the problems of murder in Northern Ireland.
I set up an inquiry, so let us not have another. Let not the Secretary of State have to do it today. I have the Gardiner report here, and I shall read a short passage from it. If some hon. Members are not enamoured of the liberal image of Lord Gardiner, let them note who else was on the committee. This is what that inquiry reported to me:
We are only concerned with the position in Northern Ireland. Experience in all parts of Ireland has shown that the use of capital punishment tends to lead sections of the public to regard those executed as martrys.
One can still buy long-playing records in Belfast, round about the university, lauding those who were " topped " by the British in the 1870s and 1880s. Their names live on even to today.
The report continued:
We believe that the reintroduction of capital punishment would be likely to cost the lives of soldiers, police and civilians.
The hon. Gentleman says " Try it." May I say to him that that is a typical English remark and it illustrates the problems that have been there for hundreds of years. We are not in this place to " try it ". We are in this place to face the reality of the situation, and the reality is that a return to the death penalty in Northern Ireland would be a grave error of judgment.
The Home Secretary spoke about the Diplock courts, and I wish to say a word about that. He will remember that in 1972–73 he was good enough to consult me, then in Opposition, about the changes then taking place—not on the basis of any decision by me but about what was going on. He will remember the long talks with lawyers and others about the setting up of the Diplock courts and the ending of the Special Powers Act. I had discussions with the parties in this House about what should be done.
There is no way in Northern Ireland by which anybody could be sentenced to death by a non-jury court, and, in a typically Irish fashion, there is no way by which anybody would accept the decision of a jury in Northern Ireland on this matter. The division in the community is such that no appeal court—no appeal court in the world, if the matter could go there—would accept a decision of a jury in Northern Ireland on this matter.
It might therefore be said that we are in some sense lumbered. There is a sense in which that is the right word. But turning to what is proposed in the motion cannot be the way forward in Northern Ireland. The way forward lies in the strengthening of the police methods, which is being done, through the courts and through appropriate sentences. I noted what was said on this matter by the hon. Member for Belfast, South. I have no time to go into that now, but I must say that he did not understand the nature of the sentencing, and if he has a word with my right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) he will know about those who will remain in prison for a very long time yet, without political status.
When I look back on my time, I believe that the ending of detention was the most sensible thing that I did, but if there was one thing that went with it it was the ending of political status. I know about these things because I had two meetings when I was in Opposition, and when I was Secretary of State I had reports and information in other ways. The truth is that the IRA would vote for a return to capital punishment tonight. The men of the IRA hate the imprisonment. All they ever talk about are amnesties and the certainty that their boys will get out, but they will not. They will serve the sentences which the courts have imposed upon them.
One hon. Member talked almost as though he wanted a return to internment. I shall tell the House what the situation was. We had about 1,000 people interned, and if we had not had a rotation system we could have had 10,000 interned. The more one interns, the more one has to intern others. The only way is through the courts.
I spoke first of capital punishment in the general sense. I say that it would be an error of judgment to go back to capital punishment. In Northern Ireland it would not be just an error of judgment from which we could return in a year or two when we had learnt the error of our ways. In my view, if we turn to capital punishment in Northern Ireland we can forget the political development, poor as it has been over these seven or eight years. It will be the end, and just as 1916 took us in a direction that nobody believed possible, so, if we do it tonight, the political direction in Northern Ireland will go in a way which none of us should contemplate.
It is with some humility that I rise to close the debate on this subject after the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), who was so recently Home Secretary. This is a debate on a Back-Bench motion. It is therefore appropriate that one of the sponsors of the motion should try to reply to some of the points that have been raised. I am happy to associate myself entirely with the compliments paid by the right hon. Member for Leeds, South to my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) on his maiden speech. As my hon. Friend began speaking, a certain vision appeared before my eyes of what Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles's contribution to this debate might have been. Apart from such conjecture, the admiral, if he had been in the Gallery, would certainly have been proud of the maiden contribution of his successor.
If this debate has established one thing, it is that neither side of this argument can claim to have a monopoly of truth or a monopoly of moral concern. The right hon. Member for Leeds, South says that he does not like the method that has been adopted for debating the issue on this occasion. I do not know what other method he would have liked to see us use. Since no hon. Member coming high in the ballot for Private Members' Bills chose this as his subject, it was only appropriate that the Government should provide time for a debate, as promised in the Conservative election manifesto. It was only appropriate also that the motion should have arisen from the Back Benches.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) went to some trouble to explain why we have sought a form of words that defines the principle at stake. There is no point in getting bogged down in the detail or in discussing amendments relating to detail unless there is a majority in the House of Commons in favour, in principle, of proceeding further on this matter. The discussion has rightly concentrated on those who have suffered death at the hands of others, who set about their crimes, frequently robbery, armed with guns, and those who have been the victims of terrorists.
Some common ground has been established in the course of the debate. No one has been arguing for the death sentence for crimes of passion. References that were made to Ruth Ellis are utterly irrelevant to the debate. I would remind my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving) and the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) that this is not necessarily a debate or a vote on the question of hanging. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for making it clear in his remarks that should it be the wish of the House to carry this motion and to see some legislation, he would be willing to use the intervening period to examine further alternative forms of execution.
The debate has not concentrated very much on—indeed, it has barely featured—what might be called the retributive argument in favour of the death penalty, although the argument is frequently put by the population at large. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas) mentioned it but was certainly not advocating it. The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) dealt with the concept of punishment in society which, again, is a different concept from retribution itself.
But far more of the arguments, and certainly those from the hon. Members who accept or agree with the motion that I am advocating, have concentrated on the question of deterrence. Our argument on that score is not weakened in the least by the lack of tidy statistics. The excellent background paper prepared by the House of Commons Library research division includes at the start the sentence warning us:
It is hoped that the statistics that are included will be helpful both to Members arguing for and to Members arguing against the restoration of capital punishment in this country.
That is an apt comment on the use of statistics.
However, some statistics have not been refuted. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds reminded the House how, before the abolition of capital punishment, 43 armed robberies were committed in London in the year 1963. In 1977 that figure increased to 935, and in the current year it is almost certain to exceed 1,000.
Is it credible to argue that all those criminals would have gone out armed if the death penalty had not been abolished? Is it credible to argue that none of their victims would have been affected in any way if the law on this had been different? That argument flies in the face of all logic and common sense, and we on this side are totally unable to accept it.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) raised the question of morality in this issue. I was very moved by the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Some years ago moral arguments were frequently employed in this Chamber. That happens far less often now, and perhaps there is a certain shame or reticence on the part of many in seeking to offer moral justification for the argument that they are putting.
I shall try to answer the right hon. Gentleman's question by answering another that was asked by the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) and others, and which is frequently put. It is " What do you say to the danger that mistakes might be made? " We know that in the past some mistakes have been made and that some innocent men were hanged. Yes, there was the Timothy Evans case, but in our approach to the subject that is a life that has to be put in one side of the scales when we are evaluating this question—[HON. MEMBERS: " Oh."] I am trying to put a moral point and I should be most grateful if Labour Members were prepared to hear me out. Timothy Evans has to be put on one side of the scales, but there are lives that we are convinced have to be put on the other side as well if we are to reach a judgment.
We ask ourselves how many other innocent people, who found themselves the victims of killers, lost their lives because there was insufficient deterrent to those who took them. Those victims are innocent, too, and we must consider them. That is the moral question and the moral balance that many of us find ourselves having to strike.
I greatly envy the certainty of those hon. Members such as the right hon. Member for Leeds, South who seem able to assert that the existence of capital punishment would not have saved even one life. I wish that I could assert that with equal certainty or that I could assert with certainty that lives would have been saved if the death sentence were still with us.
On the statistics offered by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds, I am convinced that several men and women and at least one child died largely as a result of the removal of that deterrent.
When the life of Timothy Evans is mentioned, I accept the moral argument. On the other side of the scale I claim the right to mention the life of Carl Bridgewater, the newspaper boy who was murdered when he surprised burglars in the commission of their crime.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, South quoted figures and sought to extol the virtue of the 30-year sentence. He used that argument to counter the public apprehension about the early release of many killers from gaol. I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the official figures which show that between 1969 and 1978 a total of 213 murderers were released from gaol, having served nine years or less, and 348 were released after serving 12 years or less.
The right hon. Gentleman made much of terrorist killings. It is incumbent upon us to answer the argument which has been put by many hon. Members—that by reintroducing capital punishment we would make martyrs of terrorists. There is scope for martyrdom now. Why are martyrs not made of those who lose their lives in gun battles with the security forces in Ulster? [HON. MEMBERS: " They are."] We authorise those security forces to shoot in the street and to shoot to kill. Let us not say that there is no killing which is authorised by the State in society today.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. McQuade) posed a question eloquently. He asked what kind of martyr will be created as a result of a trial which shows that a person went up to a front door, knocked on it, brought a father to it and then shot him down in front of his family. What sort of a martyr will such a man be made? How on earth can the mantle of marytrdom settle on such shoulders?
The lesson that we learn from Northern Ireland and from our experience on the mainland is that terrorists, unless they become involved in a shooting match with the security forces, are the only ones whose lives are not at risk.
We have been guilty in the debate of crediting the IRA with more heroism than that movement possesses. The report " Northern Ireland—Future Terrorist Trends " prepared by Major Glover, the director of the intelligence service, was issued by the Ministry of Defence last November. Paragraph 44 of that document states:
The principle that the terrorist must have a safe method of escape is the dominant feature of Provisional IRA tactics. The Provisional IRA very seldom plan operations that involve high risk. If in doubt they abort the mission. Shooting tactics are mainly conducted on the shoot and scoot principle.
In conclusion paragraph 72 states:
The desire to save their own skins dominates Provisional IRA tactics.
Let us have less talk of the eagerness of these people to seek martyrdom.
The debate has raised the question of our role as Members of Parliament, as representatives, and of how our own feelings and judgment relate to the views of those whom we represent. The view has been expressed that we should be leading opinion. That view was advanced 14 years ago. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) quoted Sydney Silverman extremely effectively—his hope that by abolishing capital punishment he was lighting a small candle. That lead was given 14 years ago, but the fact is that public opinion most certainly has not followed. If anything, it has moved in the opposite direction.
When I am asked by Labour Members how I justify the motion, they claim that the onus of proof is upon those who advocate change. I submit that the onus of proof is on them to justify how the House can vote contrary to the views of about 80 per cent. of the population. Theirs is the onus, not ours.
Repeated opinion polls have revealed that about 80 per cent. of our population want the return of the death penalty. Those polls have not necessarily been taken in the aftermath of an outrage. Whatever the outcome of the Division in a few minutes' time, this issue will not go away. It will not go away so long as 70 per cent. or 80 per cent. of the populace believe that capital punishment should be restored.
I recognise that many hon. Members feel that they are on something of a dilemma. On the one hand there is their own distaste for or proclaimed objection to capital punishment, and on the other hand there is their recognition of the overwhelming view of either their own constituents or the nation generally. Such hon. Members must be asking themselves, " What is the honourable course to take?" I submit that the honourable course for hon. Members who are torn in that way is to abstain. I shall explain why.
If the motion is carried, its effect will be to permit the introduction of a Bill and a full debate on it. I listened with great interest to the most eloquent speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He pointed to all the difficulties and anomalies that could arise. However, difficulties and anomalies arise from all legislation that is presented to the House. It is our job to weigh the difficulties, to sort them out and to devise definitions to ensure that anomalies do not arise.
There is no doubt about the wish of the overwhelming majority of the citi- zees of Great Britain. They are surrounded by increasing violence and threatened by the growing indifference to human life that is shown at almost every level of criminal society. They have concluded over a period that restoring the death penalty would give them added protection. That majority view of the people is no less sincere and no less valid than our own. Tonight they look to us in Parliament to speak for them and at least to allow a Bill to be introduced whose provisions can be tested in debate. Let
|Division No. 70]||AYES||[10.00 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Fairbairn, Nicholas||Luce, Richard|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Faith, Mrs Sheila||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Alexander, Richard||Farr, John||McCrindle, Robert|
|Ancram, Michael||Fell, Anthony||McCusker, H.|
|Arnold, Tom||Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Finsberg, Geoffrey||MacGregor, John|
|Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Mackay, John (Argyll)|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Fookes, Miss Janet||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)|
|Banks, Robert||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||McQuade, John|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Fox, Marcus||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Bell, Ronald||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Marland, Paul|
|Bendall, Vivian||Fry, Peter||Marlow, Antony|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Marten, Neil (Banbury)|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Mates, Michael|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)||Mather, Carol|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Goodhart, Philip||Maude, Rt Hon Angus|
|Blackburn, John||Goodhew, Victor||Mawby, Ray|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Gorst, John||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Bowden, Andrew||Gower, Sir Raymond||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Bradford, Rev. R.||Grieve, Percy||Mellor, David|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Bright, Graham||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)|
|Brinton, Timothy||Grylls, Michael||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)||Mills, Peter (West Devon)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)||Hannam, John||Moate, Roger|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Hastings, Stephen||Molyneaux, James|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Monro, Hector|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hawkins, Paul||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hawksley, Warren||Moore, John|
|Burden, F. A.||Heddle, John||Morgan, Geraint|
|Butcher, John||Henderson, Barry||Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Hicks, Robert||Mudd, David|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Hill, James||Murphy, Christopher|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)||Myles, David|
|Chapman, Sydney||Holland, Philip (Carlton)||Neale, Gerrard|
|Churchill, W.S.||Hooson, Tom||Neubert, Michael|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Hordern, Peter||Normanton, Tom|
|Clark, William (Croydon South)||Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)||Nott, Rt Hon John|
|Clegg, Walter||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Osborn, John|
|Colvin, Michael||Jessel, Toby||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Cope, John||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Corrie, John||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Costain, A. P.||Kershaw, Anthony||Parris, Matthew|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Kilfedder, James A.||Pawsey, James|
|Critchley, Julian||Kimball, Marcus||Percival, Sir Ian|
|Crouch, David||King, Rt Hon Tom||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Pollock, Alexander|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Knight, Mrs Jill||Porter, George|
|Dover, Denshore||Lang, Ian||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Dunlop, John||Latham, Michael||Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Lawrence, Ivan||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lee, John||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Durant, Tony||Le Merchant, Spencer||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Eggar, Timothy||Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Emery, Peter||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Robinson, Peter (Belfast East)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Loveridge, John||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)||Stanbrook, Ivor||Wakeham, John|
|Rost, Peter||Stanley, John||Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Stevens, Martin||Wall, Patrick|
|Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)||Waller, Gary|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Ward, John|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)||Stokes, John||Watson, John|
|Shersby, Michael||Tebbit, Norman||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Silvester, Fred||Temple-Morris, Peter||Wells, P. Bowen (Hert'rd&Stev'nage)|
|Sims, Roger||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Whitney, Raymond|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Thompson, Donald||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)||Wilkinson, John|
|Smith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)||Thornton, George||Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)|
|Speed, Keith||Townend, John (Bridlington)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Speller, Tony||Trippier, David||Wolfson, Mark|
|Spence, John||Trotter, Neville||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Viggers, Peter||Dr. Alan Glyn and|
|Sproat, Ian||Waddington, David||Sir Nicholas Bonsor.|
|Abse, Leo||Cowans, Harry||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Adams, Allen||Cox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting)||Freud, Clement|
|Alison, Michael||Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill)||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Allaun, Frank||Crowther, J. S.||Garrett, John (Norwich S)|
|Alton, David||Cryer, Bob||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Cunliffe, Lawrence||George, Bruce|
|Anderson, Donald||Cunningham, George (Islington S)||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven)||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dalyell, Tam||Ginsburg, David|
|Ashton, Joe||Davidson, Arthur||Golding, John|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Atkins, Robert (Preston North)||Davies, E. Hudson (Caerphilly)||Gourley, Harry|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Gow, Ian|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central)||Graham, Ted|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Deakins, Eric||Grant, John (Islington C)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Grimond, Rt Hon J.|
|Beith, A. J.||Dempsey, James||Grist, Ian|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Dewar, Donald||Gummer, John [...]elwyn|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Dixon, Donald||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)||Dobson, Frank||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Best, Keith||Dormand, J. D.||Hardy, Peter|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Dorrell, Stephen||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Body, Richard||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Dubs, Alfred||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)||Duffy, A.E. P.||Haynes, David|
|Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)||Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Bradley, Tom||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Dykes, Hugh||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Britten, Leon||Ead[...]e, Alex||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Eastham, Ken||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)||Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)|
|Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S)||Elliott, Sir William||Home Robertson, John|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)||Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)||Homewood, William|
|Buchan, Norman||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Hooley, Frank|
|Buchanan-Smith, Hon Alick||English, Michael||Horam, John|
|Buck, Antony||Ennals, Rt Hon David||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Budgen, Nick||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Evans, John (Newton)||Howells, Geraint|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Ewing, Harry||Huckfield, Les|
|Campbell, Ian||Fairgrieve, Russell||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Faulds, Andrew||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Field, Frank||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Cant, R. B.||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Fitch, Alan||Hurd, Hon Douglas|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)||Fitt, Gerard||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Flannery, Martin||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Cartwright, John||Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston)||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Channon, Paul||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||John, Brynmor|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Ford, Ben||Johnson, Walter (Derby South)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Forman, Nigel||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Cohen, Stanley||Forrester, John||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Coleman, Donald||Foster, Derek||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Foulkes, George||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Cook, Robin F.||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Newens, Stanley||Soley, Clive|
|Kerr, Russell||Newton, Tony||Spearing, Nigel|
|Kinnock, Neil||Oakes, Gordon||Squire, Robin|
|Knox, David||Ogden, Eric||Stallard, A. W.|
|Lambie, David||O'Halloran, Michael||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Lamborn, Harry||O'Neill, Martin||Steen, Anthony|
|Lamond, James||Onslow, Cranley||Stoddart, David|
|Lamont, Norman||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Stott, Roger|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Leighton, Ronald||Palmer, Arthur||Strang, Gavin|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Park, George||Straw, Jack|
|Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Parker, John||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Parry, Robert||Tapsell, Peter|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)||Patten, Christopher (Bath)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Patten, John (Oxford)||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Pavitt, Laurie||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Pendry, Tom||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)||Penhaligon, David||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)|
|Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)|
|McCartney, Hugh||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Tilley, John|
|McElhone, Frank||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Tinn, James|
|McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Prescott, John||Torney, Tom|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)|
|McKelvey, William||Prior, Rt Hon James||Urwin, Rt Hon Tom|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Maclennan, Robert||Race, Reg||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Radice, Giles||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)||Raison, Timothy||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|McNally, Thomas||Rathbone, Tim||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)||Walker, Rt Hon Peter (Worcester)|
|McWilliam, John||Renton, Tim||Walters, Dennis|
|Madel, David||Rhodes James, Robert||Watkins, David|
|Magee, Bryan||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Weetch, Ken|
|Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh)||Richardson, Miss Jo||Wellbeloved, James|
|Major, John||Rifkind, Malcolm||Welsh, Michael|
|Marks, Kenneth||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)||Wheeler, John|
|Marshall, David (Gl'sgow,Shettles'n)||Roberts, Gwllym (Cannock)||White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Robertson, George||White, James (Glasgow, Poliok)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)||Rodgers, Rt Hon William||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Rooker, J. W.||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)||Roper, John||Whitlock, William|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)||Wickenden, Keith|
|Maxton, John||Rossi, Hugh||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Rowlands, Ted||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Meacher, Michael||Royle, Sir Anthony||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Mikardo, Ian||St. John Stevas, Rt Hon Norman||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee East)|
|Milian, Rt Hon Bruce||Sandelson, Neville||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Scott, Nicholas||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)||Sever, John||Winnick, David|
|Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, Itchen)||Sheerman, Barry||Woodall, Alec|
|Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)||Woolmer, Kenneth|
|Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Short, Mrs Renée||Wright, Miss Sheila|
|Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Young, David (Bolton East)|
|Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Morton, George||Silverman, Julius|
|Moyle, Rt Hon Roland||Skinner, Dennis||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)||Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk and|
|Nelson, Anthony||Snape, Peter||Mr. Peter Lloyd.|
|Question accordingly negatived.|