Parliament Opposes Reinstatement of Death Penalty
Jun. 08, 1988
LONDON (AP) _ The House of Commons has voted by a wide margin against restoring the death penalty, which was officially abolished in Britain in 1969.
By a 341 to 218 vote Tuesday night, lawmakers defeated a resolution that would have empowered juries to recommend capital punishment for any crime.
It was the eighth failure to reinstate the death penalty in 19 years. Most previous attempts have called for execution for specific crimes, including murder.
All parties in the 650-member Commons allowed their members a free vote, and loud cheers filled the packed chamber when the result was announced after a 4 1/2 -hour debate.
Roger Gale, a member of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's governing Conservative Party who launched this bid to restore the death penalty, argued that it would deter would-be murderers.
If the proposed measure ''were to have saved one life, that would be worth the risk,'' Gale said. ''I do not seek vengeance. I do not seek punishment. I seek solely a deterrent.''
But Home Secretary Douglas Hurd criticized death penalty advocates who ''take a remarkably broad brush approach to a power of life and death.''
''The way to deal with violent crime is by strengthening the police, stiffening sentences, building prisons and, equally important, by reinforcing the self-confidence of all those who influence, or should influence, the young in this country away from violence,'' he said.
Mrs. Thatcher voted in favor of the measure.
The drive to reinstate the death penalty received momentum from a February newspaper survey showing that 43 of the 53 Conservative members of Parliament elected for the first time one year ago favor the return of hanging, the traditional British form of execution, for premeditated murder.