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Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I thought that I had already explained and made perfectly clear at Report stage that I wished to abolish capital punishment for treason in time of peace or war. It was offences against military law in time of war that I excepted.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I entirely accept what the noble and learned Lord has said and I have no quibble with it. I believe that it is right for my noble friend to table this amendment because the understanding of many noble Lords was that the noble and learned Lord was trying to remove capital punishment in time of peace. As a result of this debate--it is unnecessary for the noble and learned Lord, dare I say it, to intervene--the noble and learned Lord has quite rightly made it clear to the House exactly what he means. That was not quite as clear at Report stage. Many noble Lords were left with the impression that he was simply trying to remove it in all cases in time of peace. There is no need for the noble and learned Lord to intervene.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. At the risk of being tiresome, I said expressly virtually in words of one syllable--and certainly in the English language--that I proposed to abolish capital punishment for treason whether in time of peace or war. What was ambiguous about that?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I must look carefully at what the noble and learned Lord said. However, some

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noble Lords remained under a misapprehension. We have devoted 31 minutes to this subject, which is quite a long time in what is a fairly busy Third Reading. I believe that it is perfectly legitimate for my noble friend to bring this matter back on this occasion. We have had a useful discussion on it which has clarified some points. What my noble friend does with his amendment is a matter for him and him alone.

I believe that I have made clear my personal views on capital punishment. I believe that it is right, fair and proper to debate this amendment, but that does not imply any form of criticism of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer. If anything, it is probably a criticism of myself if I misunderstood the position on that occasion. I shall look carefully at the precise words used by the noble and learned Lord. However, some noble Lords understood the noble and learned Lord as I did.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, when the amendment of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer was carried he made it plain that he wanted to abolish the death penalty for treason and piracy with violence. It made no provision for offences committed in times of war, and that is what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, addresses here. Certainly, the international conventions allow for the death penalty in times of war. As far as I could detect there was virtual unanimity on the last occasion when my noble and learned friend Lord Archer moved his amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, is quite right: it is a matter for individual conscience. If this is put to the vote I shall vote against it.

It may be of interest that the Treachery Act 1940 was passed specifically to provide the death penalty for treacherous acts committed during the Second World War, but it applied only to that period of emergency. It is possible that similar legislation may be sought in future. I would not vote for it, but I simply put that as an alternative that may satisfy the troubles that have been expressed by the noble Lords, Lord Renton and Lord Waddington. The current Armed Forces legislation allows for the death penalty in certain circumstances. That is presently under review, but it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on that.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I am grateful to all who have spoken in this debate. This is a very important matter. In the sense that we should be changing our opinion as to what needs to be done to protect our sovereign and country it is a turning point in our history.

I am quite old but I shall not be 90 until August. I have lived through both world wars. My father served in the Army as a surgeon in the First World War from August 1914. I served as a territorial throughout the Second World War. When I was at Oxford in the late 1920s the talk was that another war would be unthinkable. There was a good deal of talk about disarmament not only in this country but elsewhere. In the Oxford Union in 1932 a majority voted in favour of declining to serve their King and country. Very soon after that Hitler came to power.

Fifty-three years have elapsed since the end of the Second World War. Admittedly, we have had some very tragic wars in between but they have not been on the

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same scale. I am concerned about the complacency that has recurred in the past few years in this country. It was there in the 1920s and the early 1930s between the First and Second World Wars. That is not my only motive. I felt that it was right to air this matter.

I should like to comment on just one or two of the contributions to the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, made the powerful point that sometimes miscarriages of justice occurred. But we have a very thorough method of appeal in this country. I do not believe that anyone in this century who has been convicted of treason--there have been only a few such cases--has suffered a miscarriage of justice. No one can say that. As for William Joyce, he was the last of those to be hanged for treason but he was not the only one, as has been said by my noble friend Lord Onslow. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Waddington. He put the point clearly and forcefully.

I was a little surprised by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, for whom all noble Lords have respect, about attitudes during and since the last war. It was a terrible war and it was the longest in what could be termed modern history. There was great loss of life all over the world. There was a determination everywhere except in the Soviet Union to try to attain peace. Now the Soviet Union has broken up through the resistance of the United States and ourselves. Let us never be complacent. One does not go as far as the Romans, who said that if one wanted peace one should prepare for war. I think that that may be going too far even today. However, we should be vigilant and prepared.

One could go on and attempt to answer the various points that have been made. I hope that noble Lords accept that this debate has been useful and that their views on this vital matter should be aired. I should like to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 13 and 14:

Page 24, line 9, leave out subsections (2) and (3).
Page 24, line 16, leave out subsection (5) and insert--
("(5) The following enactments shall cease to have effect, namely--
(a) the Sentence of Death (Expectant Mothers) Act 1931; and
(b) sections 32 and 33 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 (which make corresponding provision).").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 15 not moved.]

Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 16:

After Clause 30, insert the following new clause--

Intercourse with girl under 16

(". In paragraph 10 of Schedule 2 to the Sexual Offences Act 1956 (penalty for offence committed under section 6 (intercourse with girl under sixteen)), for the words "Two years", in both places in which they occur, substitute "Four years, or to a fine, or to both".").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to these amendments at what seems a long time ago. I invite those noble Lords who wish to express their views to do so now. I beg to move.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 17 and 79 which I have tabled are grouped with the English amendments of similar hue. If we are to have an age limit designed to protect young girls, that age limit should be well marked out as one which can be punished by a substantial period of imprisonment.

This measure is aimed at two groups: first, it draws the matter to the attention of those individuals who do not believe that the legal age of consent matters; and, secondly, to those who are contemplating the commission of a second or repeat offence.

I presume that the current maximum of two years is given out only to mature adults and not to 16 year-old boys offending with compliant 15 year-old girls, or vice versa, and that that practice will continue. There is of course a case for not imprisoning offenders whose sustained relationship has led to the birth of a child. The conflict of interests between punishing the parent and keeping the embryonic family together has somewhat crystallised this part of the debate. However, the amendment would be a useful one to the Scottish criminal law.

Lord Meston: My Lords, my name is to these amendments. On Report we had a debate which suggested that, whether or not the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, were acceptable in any form, the whole problem of child prostitution now requires fuller and wider scrutiny. I understood from the Minister's reply on Report that the Government are looking at that matter.

It was common ground that there are children who are especially vulnerable: those who run away from home and those who are in care. The Minister suggested that there was a serious risk that, if the noble Lord's amendments were carried at that stage, there would be an increase in child prostitution.

It was suggested that, whereas at present some men are deterred by the existing illegality of intercourse with a child under 16, they and others would take advantage of the removal of the criminal deterrent operating against a child. The main concern, which I believe all noble Lords shared and still share, is that the user and exploiter of child prostitutes should be punished, and that, wherever possible, the child concerned should be protected rather than penalised.

The Children Act machinery is already there. As the Children's Society has said in a valuable briefing, the provisions of the Children Act are a good reason for changing the law, and for looking again at the way in which, perhaps unfortunately, there is this link between consideration of the age of consent for sexual intercourse and the wider issuer of child prostitution. If nothing else, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, despite the procedural difficulties which he has undoubtedly experienced, will continue the debate beyond the Bill's ambit.

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7.45 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I was especially grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for raising this subject. When we last discussed the matter there were difficulties, which I pointed out to your Lordships, which the noble Lord may well have accepted, in the form of his then amendments.

The only amendments that fall to be considered now--unless I have misunderstood the noble Lord's position--are his Amendment No. 16 and the parallel proposal from the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, relating to jurisdiction in Scotland. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Meston, I should say that I said to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, in last week's debate, that we will be issuing new guidance which will draw on the outcome of consultation. The Department of Health has issued a consultation paper entitled Working Together to Safeguard Children; New Government Proposals for inter-agency Co-operation.

There will be new guidelines about how to deal with young girls who have been drawn into prostitution. The guidance--I hope that this will be of some comfort to the noble Lord, Lord Meston--will be joint Home Office/Department of Health guidance--I believe that to be important--for the police and social service departments. We hope and aim to publish that guidance in the autumn.

On the particular proposals, I am sympathetic to the amendments because, in effect, they double the term of imprisonment from two years to four years. We have to ensure that we have a penalty framework for sexual offences which is as coherent as we can make it. There are undoubtedly some existing anomalies. We believe that the proposals would create even more anomalies. We should consider penalties for other comparable offences to ensure that relative gravity is properly reflected.

We need to look at other consensual sexual offences such as sexual intercourse with boys under the age of consent. We do not want to increase this penalty in isolation. At a very late stage in the Bill's passage--this is not a reproach--it is difficult to look at all the complex interrelating offences. We should look at the matter in the round rather than merely wishing to send a signal--the signal that we all want to send--which is not the way to do it. On the basis of that explanation of the Government's position, and, in particular, the fuller news upon the guidelines that I was able to give, I hope that on this occasion the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

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