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Lord Henley: My Lords, if the amendments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, which have gone through were not outside the scope of the Bill, why is the second part of Amendment No. 105 necessary when the noble Lord says that it is merely consequential? Either it was necessary or it was not. If the noble Lord includes it, it implies that it was necessary, which implies that the amendments were outside the scope of the Bill at the time we discussed them.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it was a consequential amendment; it was not necessary to make the amendments within the scope of the Bill. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, could move his amendments successfully.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 30 [Abolition of death penalty for treason and piracy, etc.]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 24, line 5, at beginning insert--
("(A1) In section I of the Treason Act (Ireland) 1537 (practising any harm etc. to, or slandering, the King, Queen or heirs apparent punishable as high treason), for the words "have and suffer such pains of death and" there shall be substituted the words "be liable to imprisonment for life and to such".
(A2) In the following enactments, namely--
(a) section II of the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 (occasioning disturbance etc. to the crown of Ireland punishable as high treason);
(b) section XII of the Act of Supremacy (Ireland) 1560 (penalties for maintaining or defending foreign authority);
(c) section 3 of the Treason Act 1702 (endeavouring to hinder the succession to the Crown etc. punishable as high treason);
(d) section I of the Treason Act (Ireland) 1703 (which makes corresponding provision),
for the words "suffer pains of death" there shall be substituted the words "be liable to imprisonment for life".
(A3) The following enactments shall cease to have effect, namely--
(a) the Treason Act 1790;
(b) the Treason Act 1795.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we come now to the matters to which the noble Lord, Lord Henley, referred a moment ago. As your Lordships will remember, I undertook to do any further necessary work consequent on the overwhelming adoption by your Lordships of the amendments put forward in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell. There are a number of amendments in this group, which I may perhaps summarise briefly by way of explanation.

The Treason Act (Ireland) 1537, Crown of Ireland Act 1542, Act of Supremacy (Ireland) 1560, Treason Act 1702 and Treason Act (Ireland) 1703 all need to be amended to insert a maximum penalty of life imprisonment because they provide for the death penalty

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for treason-like offences. Clause 103 is to be amended to provide for the extension of these provisions to Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The repeal of the Treason Act 1817 and Section 2 of the Treason Felony Act 1848 are consequential to the repeal of the Treason Act 1795 in Clause 30. The Treason Act 1790 and Treason by Women Act 1796 are repealed because they do no more than provide for the death penalty for women convicted of treason. The Sentence of Death (Expectant Mothers) Act 1931 and Sections 32 and 33 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 which provide that pregnant women may be imprisoned for life rather than executed are repealed because the death penalty will no longer be available.

I hope that that brief summary of the researches nobly carried out by the officials will be of assistance. I beg to move.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, this is the most glorious piece of information one could possibly come across. It has been worth waiting 30 years in your Lordships' House to know that slandering the sovereign in Ireland is still a hanging offence. When was anybody last prosecuted under the Treason Act (Ireland) 1537, the Crown of Ireland Act 1542--introduced, incidentally, by King Henry VIII, who probably had about as much control over the House of Commons as does the present First Lord of the Treasury--or the Act of Supremacy (Ireland) 1560? Surely we should not have Acts of Parliament on the statute book which are never used and which contain vast and draconian penalties? It is fun to laugh at them, but it is a serious matter to have Acts on the statute book with this level of punishment which no one in their right mind would dream of using.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I wholly agree with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. I cannot answer his question; I can only say that this exercise was precisely in order to remove from the statute book Acts with draconian penalties which were never used. What he said we should be doing, we have done, at least in this regard.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, we have left in life imprisonment.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I see. The noble Earl wants to take me further than I was prepared to go, because I prefer to go one step at a time. I do not believe there is anything between us. It may be that he and I can hatch a plot together to implement his suggestion.

I wish to thank my noble friend Lord Williams for perfecting that which was already good. I should place on record his generous help throughout this exercise in enabling your Lordships to take an effective decision. I would not seek to improve either on his draft or on what he said in introducing it. He stationed the Government firmly on the side of the angels, and I am

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most grateful. I add only that I apologise for the deficiencies in my own research which made some of his researches necessary.

Lord Renton: My Lords, for the sake of clarity, may I say that I too welcome these amendments. I believe it is right to point out that the law of treason is not only ancient and confusing but contains a certain amount of nonsense as well. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, has eliminated not all but a great deal of that nonsense. I am fully in favour of abolishing the death penalty for acts of treason in time of peace; but, as I shall say when we come to Amendment No. 30, for two serious reasons I believe it should be retained in time of war.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister can help me with regard to which of these Acts relate to Scotland. It has been widely trailed that in the Scotland Bill one of the matters to be devolved to the Scottish parliament will be the death penalty. At the same time, we know that treason will not be devolved but will be a reserved subject. Since the Scottish parliament could presumably have dealt with the death penalty for piracy if devolution had already taken place, I wonder whether, if these amendments are accepted, it will be possible to devolve the death sentence to the Scottish parliament.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, perhaps I might invite the Minister to consider whether there needs to be a redefinition of treason. That exercise is currently taking place in Hong Kong. The Provisional Legislative Council has wisely not grasped that nettle but it is a matter outstanding under the basic law and one which will shortly be addressed by the elected legislative council which will come into being after 4th May. As your Lordships can well understand, there are considerable difficulties in Hong Kong in defining what treason is, having regard to the handover of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China. There are people in Hong Kong who are concerned about what treason is in today's terms. I invite the Minister not to stop at this point but to bring forward a modern, up-to-date definition of treason.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, is an interesting one. We shall take note of it and consider it.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, before my noble friend leaves that point, he may recollect that in 1977 the Law Commission published a working paper on reform of the law of treason. I wonder whether it will be possible to invite them to take up this work again? I think a great deal of the work may already have been done.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, as always, I am most grateful for the helpful suggestion put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, and will similarly consider that.

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In respect of the questions asked by the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, I anticipated that he might ask them and I am able to say with total authority that by Amendment No. 81 the 1790 and 1795 Acts are repealed in Scotland. The 1814 and 1837 Acts, as amended by Clause 30, do extend to Scotland. Happily, I am able to tell your Lordships that I shall have no part in the impending consideration in your Lordships' House of the Government of Scotland Bill; I intend to have a day off. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate will be more than happy to correspond vigorously and energetically with the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, on that matter.

I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, who is, as always, generous.

In respect of what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, it is almost as though the whole of my life has been a preparation for this moment. To have been able to make him happy, after 30 years in your Lordships' House, is a pleasure indeed and a treat that falls to very few. What I would suggest, in the spirit of amity which always informs our discussions across the Floor of your Lordships' House, is that he should not go precipitately for any further reforms because he is bound to have a significant second income by winning questions at Trivial Pursuit. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

7 p.m.

Lord Renton moved Amendment No. 12:

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