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4.24 pm

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North): I trust that the House will not feel that there is a lack of compassion on any side of the argument about such a dreadful and painful subject. Many of us have had experiences similar to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), either directly in our own families or on the periphery of decisions to turn off life-sustaining machines. Therefore, no one should be seen as lacking compassion.

I find it strange that, having explained the present position in law, my hon. Friend suggested that legislation was required. Even in the case that he cited, the House of Lords has made the position quite clear. If a doctor administers medicine to alleviate pain and suffering and that results in the shortening of a person's life--although that does not necessarily happen--it is not euthanasia or murder. Much depends on the intent of the person administering the medicine.

If one considers the argument from a religious point of view, different people will have different attitudes. I understand that a practising Christian will not convince an agnostic or an atheist, but what is the role of the state? How do we govern ourselves and our society?

We have already outlawed capital punishment and said that it is wrong. It is now being proposed that the state should regulate a death industry in another way by passing such legislation. I immediately concede that the motive is entirely different, but we would be legislating on how people should die, and that is a dangerous thing to do. [Interruption.] Hon. Friends around me say that we have a right to die, but I am not sure whether I accept that argument, because rights normally assume duties. What is the duty incumbent on the right to die?

I accept that we shall all face death at one time or another, but have we the right to ask other people to help us die? Have people a duty to help others to die? If there is no such duty--and no one would argue that there is--has an individual the right to say, "Although I do not have a duty to do so, I volunteer to help you to die"? What is the position of a doctor--or anyone else such as an uncle, an aunt or a cousin--volunteering to help someone to die? That right would not relate to a person's status--it would be inherent.

It is significant that the British Medical Association and all the medical societies say that it would be quite wrong for a doctor to seek to assist a person to die. I believe

10 Dec 1997 : Column 1028

that they have taken the right attitude. However, there are other arguments. Such debates usually mention the Dutch experiment, which is often portrayed as humane, interesting and special--something that could be adopted if we were properly liberal. Yet in 1990, when the Dutch Attorney-General had an inquiry, he found that of the 3,300 registered deaths by euthanasia, more than 1,000--nearly a third--had not been requested by the patient.

That is the real danger that we enter when people take upon themselves the right to decide for others whether they will live or die. There is a slippery slope and sadly, it concerns not only people who are terminally ill but people who are mentally and physically disabled, and even old people. It also concerns questions such as: who will benefit from auntie's will? Those are the real dangers in such legislation.

Finally, I think that my hon. Friend has missed the developments in palliative care that have taken place. Nowadays there is no need for anybody to die in agony. Developments in medical care have shown that to be the case. The proportion of 5 per cent. has been referred to. That 5 per cent., too, need not die in pain. The evidence is there.

When we listen to my hon. Friend's case, we must put aside our religious and other standpoints and ask ourselves whether we really want the state to decide who will live and who will die--a death industry to decide. Do we want to start on the slippery slope that makes the right to live dependent on the often selfish ideas and indulgences of other individuals? Do we really think it better for people to be put in a position in which they may be under pressure to want to die?

I do not think that we want that sort of society. It is a denial of our human dignity and our ability to face problems and overcome them rather than taking what some would regard as a coward's way out and saying, "Let's put an end to it all." Instead, let us look at ways of ending people's fear.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 23 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):--

The House divided: Ayes 89, Noes 234.

Division No. 111
[4.32 pm


Allen, Graham
Austin, John
Baker, Norman
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Bennett, Andrew F
Berry, Roger
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Burden, Richard
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Cann, Jamie
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Colman, Tony
Colvin, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Dismore, Andrew
Donohoe, Brian H
Drown, Ms Julia
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fitzpatrick, Jim
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godsiff, Roger
Gorrie, Donald
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Harris, Dr Evan
Healey, John
Heppell, John
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Illsley, Eric
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Khabra, Piara S
Kingham, Ms Tess
Livingstone, Ken
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lock, David
McAllion, John
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McDonnell, John
McWalter, Tony
Mallaber, Judy
Maxton, John
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Mullin, Chris
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Plaskitt, James
Powell, Sir Raymond
Rammell, Bill
Rendel, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Soley, Clive
Steinberg, Gerry
Temple-Morris, Peter
Townend, John
Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Joe Ashton and
Dr. Jenny Tonge.


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Arbuthnot, James
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benton, Joe
Bercow, John
Bermingham, Gerald
Best, Harold
Blackman, Liz
Boateng, Paul
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brand, Dr Peter
Brazier, Julian
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Browne, Desmond
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Casale, Roger
Cash, William
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chaytor, David
Church, Ms Judith
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Collins, Tim
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Crausby, David
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Dawson, Hilton
Day, Stephen
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Drew, David
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Evans, Nigel
Fallon, Michael
Fearn, Ronnie
Flight, Howard
Forsythe, Clifford
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Fox, Dr Liam
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Garnier, Edward
Gill, Christopher
Goggins, Paul
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Grieve, Dominic
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hepburn, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Ingram, Adam
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keetch, Paul
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Key, Robert
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Livsey, Richard
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
McAvoy, Thomas
McCartney, Robert (N Down)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Maclean, Rt Hon David
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McLoughlin, Patrick
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Madel, Sir David
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Meale, Alan
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moran, Ms Margaret
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Nicholls, Patrick
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paisley, Rev Ian
Pendry, Tom
Pickles, Eric
Pike, Peter L
Pollard, Kerry
Pound, Stephen
Prior, David
Randall, John
Rapson, Syd
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rogers, Allan
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
St Aubyn, Nick
Salmond, Alex
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Soames, Nicholas
Spellar, John
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spring, Richard
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Swayne, Desmond
Swinney, John
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thompson, William
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don
Trend, Michael
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tyler, Paul
Vaz, Keith
Viggers, Peter
Wallace, James
Walter, Robert
Wareing, Robert N
Waterson, Nigel
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
Wells, Bowen
Welsh, Andrew
Whittingdale, John
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun

Tellers for the Noes:

Miss Ann Widdecombe and
Mr. Jim Dobbin.

Question accordingly negatived.

10 Dec 1997 : Column 1030

10 Dec 1997 : Column 1031

Points of Order

4.43 pm

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance and assistance. Last night in the Aye Lobby the roof began to leak. It leaked through the electric lighting apparatus, thus causing the common risk found in industrial premises where electricity is mixed with water: the risk of fire. Anyone who knows anything about industrial safety knows how dangerous that is.

I have experienced that in a building, so I know what the smell, the flash and the fear are like; the incident has lived with me ever since it occurred 20 years ago. Last night in the Lobby, that began to happen and we began to smell burning rubber. The doors were locked, and there was no way in which the Department of the Serjeant at Arms could conduct the necessary investigation or take the necessary steps.

Would not it be a good idea, in such instances, if the procedures of the House allowed for a short break in proceedings so that the safety, fire and other authorities could make proper investigations?

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