Debates between Baroness Mallalieu and Baroness Davidson of Lundin Links during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 16th Mar 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard _ Part 1 & Report stage: _ Part 1

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Baroness Mallalieu and Baroness Davidson of Lundin Links
Lords Hansard _ Part 1 & Report stage
Wednesday 16th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Care Act 2022 View all Health and Care Act 2022 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 114-IV Marshalled List for Report - (14 Mar 2022)
Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, this amendment surely goes to something of importance to all of us in this House, whether we support assisted dying or not, because it is about the role of Parliament and the proper exercise of the duties of an elected Government. The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that Parliament, and not the courts, should consider whether in some circumstances assisted dying should be legal. But so far, this Government have fought shy of doing so either of their own volition or by giving Private Members’ Bills time. There is now clear evidence that the public opinion has changed and wants Parliament to face up to this question and express its will. Yet the door is effectively being shut in the face of that opinion.

Dying is surely an issue of general public importance as it concerns every single one of us. Yet this subject is consistently and currently being starved of the oxygen of time in Parliament in order for the Government to avoid a controversial topic. This amendment does not require the Government to take sides or promote a Bill themselves; it merely requires them to prepare and lay a draft to enable Parliament to consider any possible change properly. I shall support this amendment, and I would hope that noble Lords, whatever their views on assisted dying, do the same, because this amendment is essentially about democracy.

Baroness Davidson of Lundin Links Portrait Baroness Davidson of Lundin Links (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Forsyth. I do not do so lightly, because in 10 years of parliamentary politics, despite sometimes being seen as a bit of a rebel or trouble-maker, I have never actually broken a Whip before, that I can remember. It does help that I was a party leader for eight years and wrote the Whip, but it is still quite a big step for me. But for me here tonight, I have to, because I cannot believe, or understand why, the Government have whipped this in the first place, particularly when the amendment from my noble friend Lady Sugg, which is equally an issue of conscience, tonight is not whipped.

The reason I cannot believe this has been whipped is the reason that has been given—that of neutrality. I am absolutely content for the Government to be neutral on the issue of assisted dying. That is not just defendable but completely understandable, but not allowing time for discussion is not a neutral act. When contentious Private Members’ Bills attract clear tactics from oppositional Members to affix a deluge of wrecking amendments to slow progress through the House, denying such discussion time is not neutral. This is a convention that previous Governments have understood, and they have acted. The decriminalisation of homosexuality, the repeal of the death penalty, the legalisation of abortion: none of these measures would have passed without the Government of the day allocating suitable parliamentary time for their debate and discussion. To deny that time here is not a neutral act. It is to guarantee that this issue is killed by procedure and killed by practice. It is a de facto opposition to change.

For these reasons, I will break the Conservative Whip this evening. I encourage all people, no matter which side of the argument they happen to be on, who want us to have the deep, broad and considered debate we need on an issue as important as this to do exactly the same. I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and I urge him to press it.