Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Speaker: That is correct, if all these matters can be discussed in the hour available. However, if the whole hour is devoted to his amendment, that will be the only one to be voted on, unless a Minister of the Crown were prepared to facilitate otherwise.

Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab/Co-op): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek clarification in respect of my amendment. Are you saying that there will not be a separate vote on that?

Mr. Speaker: That is correct, unless we dispose of other amendments in the hour at our disposal and are thus able to get to your amendment.

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek clarification on this matter. There will be a Division on the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan
5 Apr 2005 : Column 1366
Smith), and I believe that there may be a subsequent vote on the lead amendment in the group. However, will the House have an opportunity to express its opinion on the remaining amendments in the group and on the amendments in the other two groups? If not, will the votes on the remaining amendments in the first group and on the amendments in the other two groups be taken separately?

Mr. Speaker: That would be the scenario, if we take the full hour on the first group. It is then a case of the knife coming down and everything else falling.

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that when the Bill was last debated in the House, letters exchanged between the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and the Archbishop of Cardiff were circulated to hon. Members. Has it been indicated to you whether further correspondence has taken place, and whether the Archbishop of Cardiff has made a statement following the proceedings in the other place?

Mr. Speaker: That is information that the right hon. Gentleman can draw out in the course of the debate.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. For guidance, can you clarify that what you are saying to us essentially is that the House now has a choice between debating these important issues or voting on them? The Government's timetable has forced that on us, and here in the House of Commons we can have neither a proper debate nor the votes that we need to tease out these important issues. Is that the position?

Mr. Speaker: The right hon. Gentleman is using a point of order to express an opinion, which he is entitled to do from time to time, but I will not be drawn into whether I agree with that opinion or not.
5 Apr 2005 : Column 1365

5 Apr 2005 : Column 1367

Mental Capacity Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Clause 2

People who lack capacity

Lords amendment: No. 1.

Mr. Speaker: With this we may consider amendment (a) thereto, Lords amendment No. 2, Lords amendment No. 3 and amendment (a) thereto, Lords amendment No. 4 and amendments (a) to (e) thereto, Lords amendments Nos. 5 and 6, Lords amendment No. 7 and amendment (a) thereto, Lords amendments Nos. 14, 17 to 19, 22 and 23, Lords amendment No. 24 and amendment (b) thereto, and Lords amendments Nos. 71, 74 and 93.

7.16 pm

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con): I beg to move amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 1.

I draw the attention of the House to other amendments that I have tabled in the first group: amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 3, amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 4, amendments (b) to (e) to Lords amendment No. 4, amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 7, and amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 11. I have also signed amendment (b) to Lords amendment No. 24 and others.

I shall not go through the amendments in detail. As has already been made clear, we have only one hour and I know that many other hon. Members wish to get in. Each of the amendments was designed to demonstrate that, during the passage of the Bill through the House and another place, the Government have not met many of the major concerns of those who made representations to the Government during the consultation period and subsequently. There are many serious flaws in the Bill.

On the point about the correspondence between the Archbishop and the Government, I know it is on the record in the other place, but the Archbishop has expressed his deep unhappiness with the fact that the Government, having given undertakings in the House, have not met them during the Bill's passage through the Lords. At the time of that rather messy conclusion to the debate in the House, a letter was circulated on the Government Benches which purported to suggest that there had been tacit agreement between the Government and, at that stage, Archbishop Smith about which amendments would be acceptable in the Lords. That was not circulated in all parts of the House. The Archbishop has said that the spirit and wording of that letter have not been met.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): Is my right hon. Friend saying that the Government circulated a letter among chosen Members of the House, that that letter was not revealed to the House, and that it now turns out that the promises contained in the letter were not carried through in the debates in the other House?

Mr. Duncan Smith: That is pretty much the case. If my right hon. Friend reads Hansard, he will see clearly that
5 Apr 2005 : Column 1368
most of that messy conclusion is fully recorded and that the Minister finally had to read out the letter so that everyone understood what was in it.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Duncan Smith: I shall give way only once more, because other hon. Members want to speak.

Mr. Leigh: Does my right hon. Friend agree that this week we have shown that there are limits to moral relativism and that not only does the Bill reek of moral relativism, but the way in which it has been conducted reeks of moral relativism? At the end of this hour surely we must have opportunities to state that there are absolute truths, such as the right to life.

Mr. Duncan Smith: I agree. The Bill contains a number of problems, but most importantly I am reminded that we have delayed business in this House because of the death of the Pope. Everyone celebrates his belief, but tonight we are discussing a Bill that cuts across that belief.

Many hon. Members have faith and many do not. I do not want to speak on behalf of anyone, but the Government have a great opportunity to stand by their commitment in this House and the other place and say that they are against euthanasia in all its forms. They know very well that that is still not clear enough in the Bill and that it will be possible for someone who might otherwise live to have life-sustaining treatment withdrawn because someone who was appointed as attorney believes that it is the right thing to do. The Government's problem is that the language used to modify the provision is still not strong enough. It still refers to motive, but the key word that should have been used throughout is "purpose". The Bill should state that if someone acting as an attorney and making a decision can be demonstrated to have the purpose of ending someone's life, that decision should be null and void. That lies at the heart of all our debates.

Many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House hold strong opinions about the matter. They have behaved impeccably, with great honour, and have consulted across the Floor of the House to ensure that we have compromised enough and that the amendments are right. Throughout the passage of the Bill amendments tabled by Back Benchers have offered the Government a solution. They have not always been perfect, but they have been available to ensure that the Bill shuts the door on euthanasia by omission. That is the problem. We now have the prospect of a Bill being railroaded through the House when the Government know full well that they do not have the backing of the vast majority of Members of this House. Labour Members who are not prepared to be dragooned by threats or promises have chosen to oppose it honourably. I simply do not understand how the Minister responsible for the matter or his colleagues in the other place can put their hands on their hearts and genuinely say that they believe that the Bill is now strong enough to exclude the possibility of euthanasia by omission. Someone charged as an attorney could make a decision with the purpose of ending life. That is in the Bill.
5 Apr 2005 : Column 1369

Next Section IndexHome Page