11 DECEMBER 1964, Page 8

Spectator's Notebook

NEXT week's second read- ing debate on the Bill to abolish capital punishment will certainly see a large (and probably a very large) majority of the House of Commons voting for aboli- tion. There are, it seems to me, two main reasons why we should be done with capital punishment.

First, because although Home Secretaries in these matters are invariably conscientious and usually humane, they are not infallible. It is surely time now that we admitted that in at least one fairly recent case justice was not done. Timothy Evans's body lies amouldering in the lime innocent at least of the charge for which he was executed. Second, the obscene paraphernalia of capital punishment creates a morbid excitement which is itself evil. Nor do I believe that the argument of the deterrent has any substantial support from the experience of other countries, or even different States within the US.

The debate will take place on a Private Mem- ber's Bill. In reality, it is a Government Bill. It is in the Queen's Speech, and government time is being found. But as I pointed out in the Spectator of June 26, it would be held out of the Socialist manifesto because they feared (and they were right) that they could not secure a mandate for it. So we are to legislate behind the backs of the electorate. It may be the only way, but it is hard to find much satisfaction in it.