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Mr. Leigh : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are listening to an interesting speech, but we have less than 12 minutes to hear from the Minister. Can we get on to the Minister's speech as quickly as possible?

Mr. Speaker: I am sure that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) appreciates the time.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: I apologise to the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh); I was not looking at the clock and I did not note when the debate was due to end. However, the hon. Gentleman is right that it is essential to hear from the Minister before reaching a decision. I shall therefore sit down, but I hope that the Government take account of the fact that people feel very uneasy at this stage of the debate.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. David Lammy): When we considered the Bill on Report, concerns were expressed about attorneys and deputies and people who would seek to harm those at the end of their lives. Along with my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, I undertook to continue dialogue with the Catholic Church and specifically Archbishop Peter Smith. Much has been said in his name tonight and I want to assure hon. Members that amendment No. 4, which proposes a new subsection (5) to clause 4, goes to the heart of the points that he made. He was quoted in Committee in the other place on 25 January 2005 and also said in a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Jim Dobbin) that proposed new subsection (5),

Jim Dobbin: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Lammy: In a moment. The concerns that have been expressed in the debate today relate not to the best interests aspect of the Bill but to advance decisions. That is all that is left for the House to determine. We should remember that it is possible to make an advance decision now—that fact was lost in some parts of the discussion. An advance decision does not mean electing for suicide. The Government stand firm on suicide and have continually made that clear. We did that in relation to clause 58 and best interests and in the context of advance decisions.

Mr. Boswell: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Lammy: Let me finish. One can make an advance decision now. The House has to decide whether to vote for the additional safeguards on advance decisions for which the Bill provides or to retain the current position, with no safeguards. Let me list those safeguards because it is important to set them out. First, importantly, under
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this Bill, if a doctor is not satisfied, he can decide that he will not accept the advance decision as valid and applicable. We therefore either vote to give the doctor that right, or we leave it, and doctors will not have that security.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab): I am listening carefully to what my hon. Friend has said, and I accept his view that this Bill has been much improved in the House of Lords. Will he address, however, the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Jim Dobbin) in relation to ensuring that we prevent advance directives containing suicidal intentions from being carried out? If, as the Minister said, that is the Government's intention—I accept his honest view on that—what is wrong with accepting the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton?

Mr. Lammy: The Bill—

Jim Dobbin: I just want to follow up with the rest of the letter. The archbishop goes on to say:

Mr. Lammy: As I was saying, doctors cannot now be forced to accept advance decisions, because, under the Bill, if they are not satisfied, they do not have to do so. On the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones), the Bill states specifically that someone must have capacity and be able to weigh information. Someone who is suicidally motivated cannot legally do those things—

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I really hope that this is a point of order.

Mr. Cash: It is indeed. The Minister has just been referring to issues that he claims have been raised by the Archbishop of Cardiff, which is not the case. He is using that as evidence against a professor of law—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I really knew that that was not a point of order.

Mr. Lammy: In addition, there are provisions under clauses 25(5) and (6) of the Bill in relation to the person who elects to have an advance decision. Let us be clear that the Government are not saying that people must have an advance decision; we are accepting that there are those in our community who want to make advance decisions and refuse certain types of treatment. We are accepting that Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists and all sorts of people want to make that decision. That is why the Bill is supported by the Alzheimer's Society, Age Concern, Mencap and the mental health community, who have written to all Members of the House to argue for the Bill. They have said that it is necessary.
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Mr. Duncan Smith: I realise that we are short of time. Let me make sure that the Minister clearly understands the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Jim Dobbin). If the Minister says that the Government's determination and intention is that advance decisions should not represent suicidal intentions, all that he has to do is amend the provision as follows:

the amendment says—

Why is that so hard to do if, as he says, that is the Government's intention?

Mr. Lammy: I would have thought that that was patently obvious. The reason is that that would force people to stay and die in hospital—[Interruption.] It would mean that people cannot elect to die at home. That would be the consequence—

Mr. Duncan Smith: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman has had a good say in this debate. He must allow the Minister to speak without interruption.

Mr. Lammy: There will always be a difficult balance between personal autonomy—the person's right to say, "No, thanks, not for me"—and having the right safeguards governing that, to allow doctors to say, "I am not satisfied", and to ensure that someone has all their mental faculties and is capable of making their decision.

Mr. Leigh rose—

Mr. George Howarth rose—

Mr. Lammy: Our further amendment today says that where someone recognises that the risk is to their life, they must make a further statement that is written and witnessed.

8.15 pm

On all those counts, while the law makes it clear that we do not support assisted suicide—Members will remember the Diane Pretty case, which went to the European Court of Human Rights and was effectively thrown out—I urge Members who are concerned about advance decisions and would not choose to make such decisions themselves, but who want to ensure that safeguards exist, to vote for the Bill. They will be ensuring that doctors can make the decision, and that it is in writing that people can make an advance decision only when they are capacitated. On that basis, I commend a Bill for which we have waited 15 years, and for which outside organisations are campaigning.

Question put, That the amendment to the Lords amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 98, Noes 240.
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