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Lord Russell-Johnston: My Lords, I shall come to that. Noble Lords might like to know that those opposing the report put down 50 amendments about two days beforehand as a blocking measure, the like of which had never been seen before. I am quoting from Erik Jurgens, who said:

How can anybody be against such a thing? I now understand a bit better. In the view of many religious people, it is simply a sin; it is wrong, and we cannot discuss the pros and cons of that which is fundamentally wrong. I do not believe that faith concepts should be imposed on those who do not share them. That was epitomised by the circular letter from leaders, which has already been referred to. Erik also made an important second point:

I had a letter that I intended to read to the House, but somehow I mislaid it. It was from a young woman in her late twenties. I hope that perhaps she will read this and write to me again. It was such a sad letter. She suffers pain, misery and indignity, and there is no cure or palliative.

Erik Jurgens, my socialist friend, asked the Christians to show compassion. Muslims have signed the letter too; perhaps they should direct their attention to the practice of honour killing, which kills thousands of young, healthy women all over the world. According to the Metropolitan Police, it killed about 100 in London last year. They are people who want to live and find happiness.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, on his initiative in raising this question. I assure him that, if in time he introduces a Bill—I hope that he does—I will certainly support it.

4.10 pm

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I had the privilege of being a member of the Select Committee and, with other members, I put on record my gratitude, particularly to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who chaired us with remarkable and judicious fairness and wise good
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humour. As a committee, we were all agreed about one thing—that no one should suffer unbearably. We all recognised that, in circumstances where someone is suffering unbearably towards the end of their life, we would want medicine to intervene. But it was at that point that some of us parted company.

I cannot go so far as the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, and the Bill would wish. Why not? Because I believe that the philosophical basis for the legislation is profoundly flawed. It is based on the notion that the exercise of personal autonomy is the highest moral good. However, a moment's thought will reveal that the exercise of personal choice is not what gives life value. What gives life the highest value is being in a relationship of love with another person, and one's family, children, grandchildren, friends and neighbours. All those songs about love through the centuries, from the Song of Songs to the winsome songs of Kylie Minogue, exist because they are a celebration of what life is all about. Apart from Frank Sinatra's "My Way", and nothing could be more kitsch or self-centred, when did you last hear a song or read a poem about the joys and importance of personal autonomy?

What is the personal autonomy demanded in the debate? It runs in a very curious syllogistic form: "One—medicine exists to cure illness and relieve suffering. Two—I am ill and suffering, and have personal rights. Three—therefore, I demand the right to demand that purveyors of medicine kill me". But that argument has very serious holes in it. First, you can give the patient that right only by then infringing the rights of doctors. As we have already heard, it is no answer to say that any law would contain a conscience clause whereby physicians would opt out; just mention the Abortion Act 1967. Yes, a minority of doctors would be prepared to carry out euthanasia, but the great majority—especially those actively involved in care of the dying—do not want it foisted on them. Imagine, if the Bill went through, that you were terminally ill and in hospital. The first caller comes round with a little sheet and says, "Do you want cornflakes or porridge?". The next caller is your physician, who would be required, if logic has anything to do with it, to offer you a series of options—palliative care, euthanasia or assisted suicide. Just thinking about it is chilling. To call that a therapeutic option, as some proponents have done, is to see language and values twisted out of all recognition.

Secondly, there are the rights of other terminally ill people to be considered. It is simply na-ve to suggest that, because any law would allow assisted suicide or euthanasia for volunteers only, that is what would happen in practice. In those circumstances, who is a volunteer? The figures from Holland really should give us considerable pause. We need to think, therefore, of the autonomous rights of those who do not wish to go down that route. Perhaps I may, en passant, deal with this public opinion argument. I have not noticed that Parliament is rushing to fulfil public opinion's desire
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that capital punishment should be back on the statute book. If not that, why this? It seems to be special pleading.

Thirdly, whose autonomy would be exercised here? If you imagine someone, as we leave this Chamber, about to jump off Westminster Bridge, would we not all automatically seek to prevent them doing so? Then we would all be intervening, and rightly so. But what about the patient who wants to commit suicide and we agree to that? Surely, we are making a value judgment between two people who are suicidal. We are saying to the person who wants to jump off the bridge, "Your life is of enormous value", but to the one that does not, "Actually, we agree with you". The minute you say that, you are then influencing their autonomous decision.

A story in the scriptures has shaped the civilisation of our country ever since it was first heard. It is the story of Cain and Abel. As your Lordships will know, after Cain killed Abel, the Lord asked Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?". Cain replied, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?". I do not want that question to be swept aside as describing only those who take "a minority religious view", because that is not just. The answer to that question has shaped our society and it challenges every generation. Because we have recognised the authentic moral force of that question, we have answered it with a resounding, "Yes, I am my brother's keeper". If we allow this Bill to proceed, we shall overturn one of the most cherished and profound values by which we as individuals and a society have lived and ought to live in the future.


4. 15 pm

Lord Drayson: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about our operations in Iraq.

"First, let me express my sincere condolences to the families of those UK forces personnel most recently killed in Iraq—on 5 September, Fusilier Donal Anthony Mead and Fusilier Stephen Robert Manning, both from C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers; and on 11 September, Major Matthew Bacon of the Intelligence Corps, who was serving as a staff officer with the Headquarters of the Multi-National Division (South East).

"Let us remind ourselves of our objective in Iraq. It is to work with the rest of the international community and the UN, now under UNSCR 1546, to assist the Iraqi people and their elected representatives: first, to establish their own democratic government and institutions; secondly, to build their own security forces to safeguard that democracy; and thirdly, to develop their economy and civil society.
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"We are helping the Iraqis to build all three. The terrorists want to impede and destroy all three. That is the battleground.

"I can put this no better than President Talibani did in the Times this morning:

"And that means, as Prime Minister Jafaari said when I met him recently,

"The UK is in Iraq for as long as we are needed and as long as we need to be there, and no longer.

"The political process in Iraq continues to be on track. Following the elections in January and the establishment of the Constitutional Commission, the Iraqis have now produced a draft constitution that will be the subject of an historic national referendum later this week. Few people thought that we would get to this point. Preparations are also under way for full, democratic national elections in December. These are enormous strides in any context and have been made in spite of the efforts of terrorists to derail Iraq's progress towards a peaceful and democratic future.

"Against this political backdrop, the coalition's top priority is working with the Iraqis to improve the security environment and build the capability of the Iraqi security forces so that they are increasingly able to take responsibility for delivering law and order. In this, we are working not alone but with 27 other nations and under the UNSCR and the UN.

"We are beginning to see real results. More than 190,000 Iraqi security forces have now been trained, and the number of Iraqi units capable of conducting effective counter-insurgency operations is increasing steadily. This means that there are now more Iraqi security forces than there are multinational forces. But, as everyone involved in the process recognises, there are no quick fixes, and building the Iraqi leadership, command and control, logistics and support structures will take more time.

"We have always said that our handover to the Iraqis will be conditional upon their developing their own security capabilities and that we will see the job through until those conditions have been met.

"The conditions that will permit the transfer of security responsibility to the Iraqi security forces have been defined by the Joint Committee to Transfer Security Responsibility, which, as the House may recall, was formed by the Iraqi Prime Minister over the summer. The basic principles for transfer of security to the Iraqi authorities are based on four broad categories: an assessment of the insurgents' threat level; Iraqi security forces' ability to take on the security task themselves; the capacity of provincial bodies to cope with the changed security environment; and the posture and support available from coalition forces. We expect the
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committee's criteria to be confirmed soon. Thereafter, assessments will be made by the Iraqis themselves to determine which areas of Iraq are ready to transfer to Iraqi control.

"We therefore stand by the strategy that we have maintained up to now, which sets out the conditions under which we will hand security to the Iraqis and begin to draw down our own forces. I want to emphasise again that we will stay in Iraq until the job is done and that we will not make significant changes to the UK's force posture in Iraq until the coalition partners and, in particular, the Iraqis are confident that the conditions are right. That was, is and will remain our position.

"The biggest obstacle to our leaving Iraq is now the actions of the terrorists themselves. Terrorist activity only delays our leaving; it does not hasten our leaving Iraq.

"Turning to the security situation in Multinational Division (South East), honourable Members will have seen the graphic television pictures of events in Basra on 19 September. Two soldiers in MND(SE) were arrested by the Iraqi police service and held at an Iraqi police station in Basra. We agreed with the Governor of Basra and with the Chief of Police to collect the personnel from the police station but, as we prepared to do so, it became clear that the two soldiers had been handed to local militia.

"The decision to mount an operation to enter the police station was then taken. That was a decision I fully supported at the time and still do.

"I am pleased to be able to tell the House that, while only one of the soldiers injured on that day is still receiving medical treatment, the others have returned to their units. They all have my thanks and admiration for a job well done, as I believe they have that of the whole House.

"The fact that we were able to mount an extremely complex operation in defence of our own soldiers which led to the successful rescue of two soldiers held hostage by militiamen, without firing a single shot, is a credit to our forces. I can also confirm to the House that the Iraqis have themselves withdrawn the warrants that they issued later that week for the arrest of the two British soldiers concerned.

"I would not wish to downplay the challenges which remain. The arrest of 12 suspects last week, for instance, demonstrates our determination to deal robustly with those implicated in improvised explosive device attacks—bomb attacks, to the layman—against UK forces. I can confirm that weapons, and other equipment, were found in these raids.

"Nevertheless, serious as they were, we need to keep these events in perspective: the rest of Multinational Division (South East) was unaffected. Basra has remained largely calm since the incident, and we have been working hard to
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restore relations with Basra council so that we can again work together for the good of the people in Basra.

"Turning to troop roulement in Iraq, I very much regret the speculative and often wildly misleading reports about troop increments which have appeared in the press since we last met here. Let me therefore turn to the details of the next routine troop rotation of UK Forces in Multinational Division (South East), which begins this month. The lead UK formation in Iraq, currently 12 Mechanised Brigade, will be replaced by 7th Armoured Brigade, which will take over command of UK forces in early November.

"In addition to 7th Armoured Brigade's Headquarters and Signals squadron, the following major units will be deployed to replace those currently in Iraq: 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, 1st Battalion The Highlanders, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, 9th and 12th Royal Lancers, 1st Battalion The Kings Own Royal Border Regiment, the Scots Dragoon Guards, 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, the 32nd Engineer Regiment and the 2nd Logistics Support Regiment. The Territorial Army units involved in this roulement are a single company from the 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, and a composite company from the West Midlands Regiment and the Royal Welch Regiment.

"During what will be a very busy period of troop deployments, I have also decided to deploy one company from the Cyprus-based theatre reserve force to relieve the rotating troops of some routine security tasks—static security or guard duty. A company of 1st Battalion The Royal Highland Fusiliers will deploy for a few weeks while the rotation lasts.

"The total number of troops in Iraq following the deployment of 7th Armoured Brigade will be around 8,000. This is about 500 fewer than at present, reflecting the closure of two small bases in Basra, the transfer of some training tasks to the Iraqi security forces and structural differences between the two brigades. These are relatively minor adjustments, however, and will not affect activities being carried out by UK forces.

"We will continue to build Iraqi security capability, and will continue to keep the security situation under review during the referendum and through the elections later this year. The Iraqi security forces themselves will lead on security for the referendum, with our support. In MND (South East) we have been assisting the Iraqi Army's 10th Division to ensure they are prepared for this task. Earlier this year, I visited 10th Division itself.

"This summer has seen much positive progress in Iraq, despite the worst intentions of the terrorists. The production of an Iraqi constitution written by democratically elected Iraqi politicians on behalf of their own people is a huge step forward. We have no intention of undermining this historic achievement
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by abandoning Iraq before it is ready to stand on its own two feet, or before its democratically elected politicians tell us this is the case. Of course we are sure to encounter more obstacles, particularly in the run-up to the elections in December, when a minority of terrorists, and some from outside Iraq, will almost certainly seek to disrupt Iraq's progress towards security and democracy.

"The recent discovery and recovery of more than 160 bodies from a mass grave in the Al Muthanna province in MND (South East) is a sober reminder of the horrors that the Iraqi people have had to face in the past, and the reasons why we must continue our efforts to support them in building a better future, embracing democracy and free from tyranny. And so, while we do not want to be in Iraq any longer than absolutely necessary, we will not be deflected from our task. We have made a commitment to the Iraqi people, and it is important that we honour that commitment and see our task through. That is what we will do".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.31 pm

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