Skip to main content

Abolition of the Death Penalty

Volume 606: debated on Tuesday 23 February 2016

We oppose the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and advocate global abolition. The Government support a number of programmes around the world to promote both abolition and a moratorium on executions in those countries where the death penalty is still on the statute book.

I thank the Minister for his response. Will he present a new strategy for the abolition of the death penalty, following on from the 2010 to 2015 strategy? Will that new strategy include Saudi Arabia?

We oppose the death penalty in every country in the world, including Saudi Arabia, where it is still part of the criminal law. The abolition of the death penalty remains integral to all the human rights work that my Department does.

I welcome the fact that the long-term trend is for reducing the number of executions and also the number of states carrying out executions. Will the Minister join me in expressing concern about areas of the world where that is not the case? Does he agree that if it is wrong to take a life, it is wrong for the state to take a life in revenge?

That is certainly my view, and the Government’s position is to oppose capital punishment. We need also to bear in mind the fact that while capital punishment exists, it is potentially a risk for a British citizen, anywhere in the world, who might be found guilty of a criminal offence.

Does the Minister share my horror that the United States remains in the top five countries for executing people, despite a reduction in the number of executions last year? When did he last speak to his American counterpart about the US record on executing people?

As I am sure the right hon. Lady knows, in the United States this is largely a matter for a state legislatures and state governments, rather than for the federal Government. We do take up cases with the relevant authorities, as appropriate, and when the lawyers and British citizens ask us to do so.

Belarus is the only country in Europe that still executes its citizens. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that in the past three months two of its citizens have been sentenced to death? If Belarus wants to become a full member of the Council of Europe, should it not abide by international norms and the European regulations?

I very much agree with what my hon. Friend says. In all our dealings with the Belarusian Government, we do make clear the need for them not only to move to international and European standards on capital punishment, but to take action to improve what remains a dismal human rights record in that country.

Further to the Minister’s answer to the question from the right hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), is he aware of the concerns of Reprieve that drugs manufactured by UK company Hikma Pharmaceuticals were exported last year to the state of Arkansas for use in lethal injections? Hikma has told me in correspondence that it does not export for this purpose but that

“any sales to these entities usually occur through the use of distributors”.

This seems such an obvious loophole, so why is nobody closing it?

I am happy to look into the case that the right hon. Gentleman describes and to write to him in due course.