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Assisted Dying Bill: two more massive wins in the Lords, but achingly slow progress

January 21, 2015 5:34 PM

Last Friday, 16th January 2015, the House of Lords held its latest debate on the Assisted Dying Bill, which would allow terminally ill people in England and Wales with less than six months' life expectancy to ask for assistance in ending their lives at a time of their choosing.

The bad news is that their Lordships didn't make much progress on the second day of the bill's Committee stage. They spent nearly two hours debating whether to change the title of the bill from "Assisted Dying" to Assisted Suicide". Then another three hours on whether to require than anyone requesting an assisted death must have been registered for at least the previous six months with one of the two doctors signing off on their request. Then their Lordships' five hours were up and the bill now has to wait until a third day of debate has been scheduled.

It's pretty clear, as we knew already, that opponents of the Assisted Dying Bill are determined to keep the process going for as long as possible, to prevent the bill from ever getting out of the House of Lords.

After two days of debate, they're still on the 2nd clause of the bill, out of 13 clauses.

However, it's also becoming clear that this is the only way in which they can stop the bill from being approved by the Lords, because both votes were overwhelmingly won by the supporters of the bill - by almost two to one, which nicely reflects public levels of support for the bill.

The actual votes against the two amendments were 179 to 106, and then 119 to 61.

More good news: support among Liberal Democrat peers was even more overwhelming: 33 to 7 against the first amendment, and 18 to 4 against the second.

It's worth remembering that party policy is to support the bill, but with a free vote - so our peers were not whipped: they supported the bill by a massive margin of almost five to one because they believe in it.

The strongest Liberal Democrat contribution in support of the bill came from Sal Brinton, who noted that the second amendment would make it impossible for many people to get their request approved, simply because they had changed doctors in the previous six months. They might have moved home to be with their family, or, as in her mother's case, because they had to move from their own home to a nursing home, and then to a hospice, as their illness progressed.

It was perfectly clear that the second amendment was designed with exactly that purpose, although Sal was far too polite to suggest this. Unfortunately, the proposer of that amendment was fellow Liberal Democrat Alex Carlile (Lord Carlile of Berriew).

You can read the whole of the debate at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldhansrd/text/150116-0001.htm, or you can watch it at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=16956