Westminster Column - Assisted Dying

11th September 2015

Today – Friday - unusually I will not be back in Royal Sutton Coldfield but will be in the House of Commons listening to and voting on the issue of Assisted Suicide, which will be starting its passage through Parliament today. This is not a party political issue but an issue of conscience. It is up to all Members of Parliament to consult their constituents before reaching a conclusion on the right way to vote.

It is an extremely sensitive issue. As I know from many of my constituents, coping with terminal illness is distressing and difficult, both for the patient and their families. Some of the cases I have been involved in during the last fifteen years as Sutton’s MP have been truly moving and I have seem families grappling with extraordinary compassion and emotion.

While judges and the DPP have decided on individual cases and indeed issued guidelines, they have not changed the law. That can only be done by Parliament and it is wrong that these important matters should be decided by anyone other than those elected to make the law and consider changes in it. It is neither a matter for the Government to decide, nor the judiciary. It is ultimately a matter for Parliament to decide on a free vote.

Over the last year I have received hundreds of letters from constituents, many of them deeply moving, expressing views on both sides of this argument, though the larger number of views have been expressed by those against changing the law. Indeed in my own family there are very different views.

I have decided after considering carefully all the views expressed by Royal Suttonians and in particular the views of Sutton's clergy and faith groups, that I will support this Bill at Second Reading, which is a vote in principle to ensure these matters are fully discussed in detail in Committee in the House of Commons, where the provisions of the Bill can be gone through line by line.

I think this will ensure a public debate which we would not have if the Bill is defeated this Friday. That would in my view be a mistake; not least because this is not an issue which is likely to go away before it has been thoroughly discussed and debated, and all the various issues thrashed out. Once the Bill has been fully examined at Committee and Report stage (if it gets that far) we would then have a chance at Third Reading to decide whether the law should be changed.

Whether at that stage I would vote for the Bill or against it will depend on the discussions that have taken place around it and the final shape of the bill once these discussions have been concluded.

I have to say as your Member of Parliament I have found this one of the most difficult and troubling issues upon which to make a decision. I am immensely grateful to the large number of Royal Suttonians who have taken the trouble to write to me with their views and opinions.