POLITICS

Priti Patel Refuses To Say If She Wants To Bring Back The Death Penalty

13/05/2015 11:10 BST | Updated 13/05/2015 15:59 BST

Newly promoted employment minister Priti Patel has refused to reveal whether or not she still supports the death penalty.

In 2011, the then backbench Conservative MP told BBC Question Time she believed capital punishment should be re-introduced. Appearing on Sky News this morning, Patel was challenged over whether it remained her position. "Is that something you are happy to stand by now?" she was asked by presenter Jayne Secker. However Patel repeatedly refused to answer.

Priti Patel: "I made a comment a long time ago and said it would only be appropriate, back then so not now, back then, when we have had the most horrendous and heinous crimes. This is not something that is relevant to today's political debate or discourse at all. I am very much focused on my job as employment minister.

Jayne Secker: "But you might not think its appropriate to ask it, but it is appropriate to ask whether or not you still believe it?

Patel: "I have told you already exactly when that comment was made a long time ago."

Secker: "It wasn't that long ago, it was on Question Time."

Patel: "I'll say it again, it was made a long time ago and it is not relevant to today's debate at all."

Secker: "But do you still believe it? What do you believe now?"

Patel: "It is not relevant to today's political debate and the subject that I am here to discuss with you."

Secker: "But why aren't you willing to say whether or not you believe something?"

In 2011, Patel told BBC Question Time that she supported the death penalty. "I have said this before and I'll say it again, I do actually think when we have a criminal justice system that continuously fails in this country and we have seen murderers, rapists and people who have committed the most abhorrent crimes in society go into prison and then are released from prison to go out in to the community and reoffend and do the kind of crimes they have committed again and again," she said.

"I think that's appalling. On that basis alone I would support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent."

Asked by the Mail on Sunday in 2006 whether she favoured hanging or the electric chair for executions, Patel said: "I haven't thought through all the details."

Patel, the MP for Witham who was a Treasury minister in Cameron's last government, replaces Esther McVey, who lost her seat in last week's election. Patel will attend Cabinet but will hold the rank of minister of state.

Michael Gove - the new justice secretary - also once advocated bringing back hanging. Writing in The Times in the 90s when he was a columnist, said he would return the noose out of "respect for democracy".

He wrote: "Hanging may seem barbarous, but the greater barbarity lies in the slow abandonment of our common law traditions. Were I ever alone in the dock I would not want to be arraigned before our flawed tribunals, knowing my freedom could be forfeit as a result of political pressures. I would prefer a fair trial, under the shadow of the noose."