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Mr. Deputy Speaker:
Order. The Minister really must obey the Chair. When Members stand in the House and ask the Minister to give way, it is helpful to the Chair if he indicates whether he intends to do so. Hon. Members are asking him whether he will give way, and he must indicate yes or no as he is speaking; otherwise, we will
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have Members standing up all over the House and we will not make the progress that the House wants to make.
As a result of the discussions in Committee and outside the House, the Government tabled amendments Nos. 4 and 5, which enhance the best interests clause and deal with the points that were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas) to ensure that someone does not substitute
They will ensure that someone does not substitute their own decision for that of the patient. I hope that hon. Members will read amendments Nos. 4 and 5, which will ensure that the provision is more objective.
On the purpose clause and on palliative care, it is importantI say this particularly to the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Greenthat others proposed an amendment that would rule out any decision made with the purpose of causing death. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we have looked hard at that amendment, and we have continued to work on it, particularly with the Catholic Church, but the problem with it centres on the issues of palliative care and of purpose, in that the definition, as framed, includes artificial hydration and nutrition. That would contradict Bland. The right hon. Gentleman has been clear that he is against the Bland decision, but the vast majority of people, including the archbishop himself, have sought not to overturn it.
The other key aspect of the amendment addresses the issue of offering pain relief to someone at the last stages of life, such as an elderly person with cancer who is given morphine where that may well hasten death but that is not the intention.
Mr. Boswell: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have just sent messengers out to the Vote Office, which has indeed circulated further texts of the letter to the Lord Chancellor from the archbishop. Apparently, however, it does not anticipate the receipt of any text of a letter from the Lord Chancellor to the archbishop.
In these circumstances, and given that there are 12 minutes left for debate, the Ministerif I can concede a point to himwill have some difficulty, however hard he tries, in explaining this without a text. All this has arisen because we are under a tight programme motion. I believe that it would be open to Government Front
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Benchers now to move an emergency modification to it. Will they reflect on that, because at least it would give us a little thinking time to try to get the matter resolved?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is a matter mainly for debate, although I have to say that it would be much simpler had the letter been before the House before the debate started. I am loth to get involved in the proceedings from the Chair, but I do think that the Minister should direct his remarks to the questions that are being asked about the letter that seems to have played such a great part in our affairs this afternoon.
Mr. Lammy: I am attempting to do that and, in so doing, explain the discussion that has been going on between us and others, including the Catholic Church, on the amendments. Offering pain relief to someone with cancer would not be covered by "burdensome" and other issues.
Mrs. Helen Liddell (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and I hope to give him an opportunity to cut to the chase. The letter that we have received this afternoon from His Grace Archbishop Smith clearly responds to several commitments that the Lord Chancellor has made. It would greatly assist those of us who are in some doubt about whether to support new clauses 1 and 2 if my hon. Friend gave us the gist of the Lord Chancellor's commitments and read the comments of Archbishop Smith into the record. We could then end the debate harmoniously.
Mr. Lammy: That is exactly what I intend to do. I want to explain that we have been seeking agreement and that discussion has, quite properly, taken place about such important subjects. Provisions arose out of the Bland decision and the 36 cases that followed.
That letter should be in the public domain. We are asking for that and the Under-Secretary should make it available. He has made available a copy of the letter to the Lord Chancellor but what about the letter from the Lord Chancellor?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: It is clearly the Government's duty and that of Ministers to make available to the House all official Government papers that are necessary for the House to debate such serious matters properly and reach the right decisions.
Mr. Frank Field:
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Do not you feel that there is an element of farce
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in the proceedings, given that we are insisting that advance directives should be clearly stated, understood and witnessed, yet we are about to vote on a crucial aspect of the Bill without seeing the documents?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: From the Chair, I am doing my best to make sense of the proceedings this afternoon. I have said more than once to the Under-Secretary that it is clear that all hon. Members believe that the precise[Interruption.] Order. We are considering serious matters and people outside will not take kindly to our not being more orderly. The letter that hon. Members mention is clearly crucial; its precise terms are crucial. Hon. Members are entitled to expect[Interruption.] Order. I hope that the Under-Secretary will deal precisely with the contents, which have now become central to the debate.
Mr. Duncan Smith: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are about to vote on the new clause. I suspect that the Government have circulated the archbishop's letter in the hope that many Labour Members will not vote. It is therefore critical that the Under-Secretary now reads into the record the undertakings that the Lord Chancellor has given to the archbishop. Surely the Under-Secretary must give a guarantee that the undertakings will form a substantive element of the Bill when it goes to the other place.
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