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Wednesday, 20 May, 1998, 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK
MPs block death penalty attempts
Michael O'Brien MP
Minister Michael O'Brien's advice was rejected by MPs
MPs have voted by a majority of 158 in favour of a move which effectively blocks any future attempts to bring back the death penalty in Britain.

During the committee stage of the Human Rights Bill, they supported a call by the Labour member, Kevin McNamara, to adopt two clauses of a European protocol which would put a constitutional bar on capital punishment.

The move was carried by 294 votes to 136 in a free vote.

Mr McNamara said Parliament's criticism of capital punishment in other countries while maintaining its own right to vote for a return of the death penalty was "inconsistent".

"We urge other countries to ratify the death-penalty protocol. We call for the universal abolition of the death penalty, but refuse to accede to the death-penalty protocol itself so that Parliament can reintroduce the death penalty," he said.

But Tory Dominic Grieve, the MP for Beaconsfield, insisted that banning capital punishment through the Bill would deprive the public of debate on the issue.

"The matter remains in this country one of intense public debate. We are usurping the right of the citizens of this country to pronounce on this issue and we are doing it for no good reason."

The vote also went against the advice of junior Home Office Minister Michael O'Brien. He stressed the fact that, while he personally was opposed to the death penalty, there was no need at this time to prevent the Commons from debating the issue in the future.

Jack Straw
The Home Secretary said the government would honour the House's decision
"We do not want to restrict the current minority of MPs who support the death penalty to debate the matter in the future." he said.

However, after the debate, Home Secretary Jack Straw said the government would bow to the wishes of the Commons and adopt the European Protocol on the death penalty.

What the Bill will do

The Human Rights Bill incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law.

The ECHR was drawn up after World War II in response to wartime atrocities and the UK was one of the first countries to ratify the convention.

However, because it was felt that compliance could be achieved without incorporation, successive governments have refused to incorporate the EHCR into UK law.

BBC News
Home Office minister Michael O'Brien explains government objections to ratification of Protocol 6 (4'52")
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