- 8 in 10 want Government to guarantee debate takes place before next election
- New research revealed ahead of Lord Forsyth’s assisted dying amendment debate in House of Lords
Three-quarters (74%) of Brits want their own MP to vote in favour of legalising assisted dying, with eight in 10 (79%) believing the Government should ensure a debate takes place before the next general election, a new poll finds today. This comes as the House of Lords prepares to debate a proposal which aims to secure a parliamentary debate on assisted dying – a move spearheaded by senior Conservative Peer Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, who recently revealed his change of mind on the issue.
In a YouGov survey published today, 74% said they would want their own MP to vote in favour of a change in the law on assisted dying, and 79% thought the Government should allocate parliamentary time for debate on assisted dying before the next general election. Calls to ensure time and resource for a full parliamentary debate have been echoed by senior Parliamentarians such as Lord Forsyth and by the public, with a petition on the topic nearing 50,000 signatures.
Former Scottish Secretary Lord Forsyth has tabled an amendment to the Health and Care Bill, due to be debated at Report Stage in the House of Lords on the 16th of March, which would require the Government to present a draft assisted dying bill to parliament within a year. The amendment states that it would enable both Houses to properly consider the issue and that it should be a matter of individual conscience.
In October 2021, a Private Member’s Bill on Assisted Dying brought by Baroness Meacher (crossbench Peer and Chair of Dignity in Dying) passed unopposed at Second Reading in the House of Lords. It would legalise assisted dying as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults, subject to strict safeguards and alongside access to high quality palliative care. Such a change is supported by 84% of the public (Populus, 2019). However, it is unlikely that enough time will be allocated to fully debate the almost 200 amendments that have been tabled, and the Bill is therefore unlikely to progress beyond Committee Stage.
During a debate on Lord Forsyth’s amendment last month, he referred to the clear process for reform in the Scottish Parliament, which allows Private Members Bill time and assistance to proceed. In Scotland an Assisted Dying Bill proposal has recently been the subject of a popular public consultation. Responses are being analysed before legislation is drafted and scrutinised by a Parliament Committee.
Lord Forsyth said:
“My amendment is absolutely not about the merits of the case for legalising assisted dying. It is about ensuring this Parliament is given the opportunity to properly debate this issue. The [Lords] private members bill procedure results in our inability to discuss the merits and demerits and the protections that are needed.
“This amendment does not commit the Government to support legislation, but would allow Members of the Commons and this House to express their views. It is not a neutral position to persist in a position where no Bill is allowed to progress. This amendment enables the Government to say ‘we will as a Government not promote or oppose assisted dying but give Parliament the opportunity to do so.”
Progress is also underway in the States of Jersey, where legislation is due to be drafted after its Parliament approved assisted dying in principle and a citizen’s jury strongly recommended change, and in Ireland’s Oireachtas, where a Special Committee is set to examine the issue this year.
Lord Forsyth’s amendment is formally supported by Baroness Meacher, former Education Secretary Lord Baker of Dorking and former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer of Thoroton. Several Peers from all parties spoke in its favour at Committee Stage last month (26 February), with many noting they were sharing views with colleagues on opposite sides of the House for the first time.
Speakers included former Health Minister Lord Bethell, who referred to progress around the world, the shifting views among medics and the consistently high levels of public support for change. He concurred with Lord Forsyth and several speakers that private members bills are not a satisfactory mechanism for change. Quoting TS Eliot, Lord Bethell said “Hurry up please. It is time” for the Government to tackle this debate.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,725 adults in GB. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th – 18th February 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
For further information and interviews with parliamentarians, Dignity and Dying spokespeople and case studies please contact Molly Pike, Media & Campaigns Officer at Dignity in Dying on 07929731181 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org