Criminal Justice Bill: Capital Punishment

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Criminal Justice Bill: Capital Punishment

Criminal Justice Bill: Capital Punishment.

C.E. 

Extremes not likely to be swayed by argument. Hope we can arrange to settle by vote on Floor.  Even if we tried to keep Whip on, we cdn't make these vote.

P.M. 

Govt. must advise on effects on law & order.

C.E. 

Realm of prophecy.  Effects foretold when death penalty to be abolished for  e.g. sheep stealing.  Foreign countries - no evce of increase.
Don't think a case has bn. made out tht. risks wd. be increased.

P.M. 

You must have a view as Minister i/c Bill.

C.E. 

I wd. say no suff. reason qua effects to vote v. abolition. If Private Member I  wd. vote for abolition.

P.M. 

Then what shd. Ministers do?

A.W. 

Can we advise H/C. there is no risk in abolition.

C.E. 

No statistics to show tht. abolition in f. countries has led to increase in crimes. Traditional view of police & "experts" has always bn. wrong.

A.W.               

        a) Murder is peculiar.
        b) Norway & Sweden can't be cpd. with Glasgow or Ldn. Gangster crime.  What of U.S.A.?

P.M. 

I assume a diffce of opinion in Cab. Only ques:  what line shd. Cabinet take?

A.B. 

Leave it free to Ministers - but Ministers not to take part in debate.

H.M. 

Diffy:  criticism tht. Govt. shd. advise H/C. - either on merits or on timing  of the change.  Cd. keep clear of merits on basis tht. this is no time to do it -  because of post-war circs. & unknown state of public opinion. Not imposs.  then to allow free Vote.  But Govt. wd. give some advice.

P.M. 

Responsibility of Govt. to the country - to give advice.

H.M. 

Must watch public opinion - not convinced tht. it wants this change.

A.W. 

Danger of too many abstentions.  Wd. be grave if abolished by a v. small  vote of H/C.

E.B. 

Trial & error.  Why not suspend for 5 years?

C.E. 

That is prob. what amendment will propose.

E.B. 

Don't want suspension before 1950 because of post-war unsettlemt. Shd.  you do it now?  Try it in a year's time.

T.W. 

Free Vote.  But ask C.E. to advise p'ponement for 2 years on grounds of no  mandate.  [Genl. view against using mandate argument.]

A.B. 

Why shdn't H/C. express a view?  Why shd. Govt. dragoon it? Our concern  is merely to avoid having this decided by H/C. in a way which brings Govt.  into disrepute. Let C.E. put pros & cons objectively.  Ministers free:  but not  to speak.

G.T. 

Party angle. We are Govt. Tories will exploit differences in Cab. Public  opinion:  have found no-one who thinks it right to abolish now. Recommend  therefore "this is not the time."

J. 

Support that view.  Increase of violent crime. Home Secy. can do this by  universal reprieve. Leave open the ques. of doing this in future.

R.S.C. 

I cdn't vote in favour of prolonging it.  Wd. want liberty to vote for  abolition. Agree Ministers shdn't speak.

A. 

Wdn't H.M.'s line meet you?  Govt. advice to p'pone. We shd. give that advice to H/C.

P.M. 

Govt. can advise H/C. to p'pone:  but say we aren't putting on Whips.

H.M. 

Consequentials - Colonies, Germany, mil. offences & espionage.

A.B. 

That raises basis of objn.   I don't mind c.p. in more primitive civilisations.

N.B. 

Rising standards re sanctity of human life.  We haven't now got that rising  standard. This therefore is not the time. Diff. to abolish in Colonies.  Abolitionists in H/C. will want it abolished there.  Also Germany.

C.J. 

No demand for any change in law in Colonies. Ques. wd. arise only in limited no. of Colonies - for no action cd. be taken w'out consent of Legve Councils. Support point about social background. Col. wd. have to be regarded as special case.

H. 

Strong Service view.  Wd. involve some alteration - for civil offences. But we shd. want death reserved for mil. offences. Shinwell agrees.  We press tht. this be kept a separate issue.

P.M. 

View:  10 : 5 in favour of "Time not opportune." Give that advice.  But allow free Vote of H/C. Ministers shd. not speak against Govt. view. Shd. they abstain from voting?

A.B. 

Must we sacrifice everything?

E.B. 

If I felt strongly I shd. claim right to vote.

R.S.C. 

Think we shd. have the right to vote.

H.M. 

Constitutionally wrong to register divided views. Abstention shd. be enough.

A.B. 

That is right.  Was wrong to impose original decision on us. But we can't divide in diff. Lobbies.

R.S.C. 

Ministers must then be free to resign.

P.M. 

Labour Party have already given much latitude on matters of conscience.

C.E. 

Diff. to force junior Ministers to abstain.

P.M. 

Are we prepared to drive Ministers out of office on an issue like this?

G.A.I. 

Duty to constituents?

E.B. 

If H/C. has a free vote, why not Ministers.

C.E. 

I shall have to vote in acc. with my statement.  That will be v. my  conscience.  Other Ministers who favour abolition will abstain & it will be noticed. Is that any better than allowg. them to vote v. Govt. line.

A.B. 

Unity of Cab. isn't really imperilled by dividing votes on this.

A.W. 

Why haven't you objected to death sentences carried out since 1945?

J. 

Diff. to allow Ministers to vote v. the advice given by C.E. on behalf  of Govt.

P.M. 

Precedent: 

1931.  Bill for Sunday opening. }   Ministers voting

1932.                                          }   against.

A. 

Not a ques. of Party politics.  No objn to Ministers voting freely. Divn in S.  Entertainments Bills didn't upset Cab. solidarity.

N.B. 

Junior Ministers wd. be in a hopeless posn.

A.V.A.

Agree. Shd. have bn. happier to vote together.  But in these circs. I believe we shd. allow a vote.

A.V.A. 

Serv. Dpts. shd. consider effects on death penalty for mil. offences.

Taken from C.M. 89(47)(5) - Meeting held on 18 November 1947