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Second Reading

Part of Assisted Dying Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 12:16 pm on 18th July 2014.

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Photo of Lord Alli Lord Alli Labour 12:16 pm, 18th July 2014

My Lords, this is a difficult and incredibly moving issue, as evidenced by the previous 28 speakers. I am no stranger to difficult moral issues in this place, but I have always had the certainty that what I believe is right and my opponents were always wrong. I do not have those certainties here today, and I do not believe that anyone in this House is entirely right or, indeed, entirely wrong. One thing that we learn in this place is that there are very few moral absolutes.

The Bill challenges so much of what we hold dear. It takes a big principle that life is precious, God-given and should be preserved and challenges it. The Bill says, “In some circumstances we, the state, should help you to terminate your life”. It is like an act of war on a personal scale—justified, perhaps in the extreme, but nobody wants to do it.

I have thought long and hard about the Bill, and the easy option was not to participate in this debate today; with more than 125 speakers, that was probably the wiser option too. But to go with the crowd and hope not to be noticed would feel like a dereliction of duty and, like everyone here today, I think that that is not the way that this House operates.

With limited time, let me set out what I believe—not what a court believes, not what a judge believes but what I believe. I believe that I am the guardian of my own life; I believe that my behaviour is my responsibility; and I believe that, in the end, I should have the right to decide whether I wish to bring my life to an early close. I also see the dangers of that position: the dangers to the vulnerable; the dangers to a moment in time; the dangers of abuse and, yes, of unintended consequences.

The Bill, in these specific circumstances, lays down some measures to protect the vulnerable and limit the potential for abuse, but we have to think about that much more carefully. However, I add my support to it today. I fully understand that it could open up a broader debate, as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, said, about how we end our lives, but we in this House should not be afraid of that debate or of passing the Bill because, for me, it is not about a future position. Equally, I am confident that this House and the other place are competent to deal with the future as it presents itself. I say to my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton, thank you very much for introducing the Bill. I admire you greatly for doing so, as I do every Member who has spoken in this debate or put their name down to speak.