On 16th March 2022, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Health and Care Bill at the report stage. The Bishop of Durham spoke in the debate, stating his opposition to an amendment that would require parliament to consider a bill permitting assisted dying:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I agree with those who have already spoken opposing the amendment. First, the amendment is not appropriate as a use of the legislative process accompanying this Bill through your Lordships’ House. There is a question of purpose. If opportunity for debate is the goal, we must underestimate neither the significance of the Bill of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, in October and the thorough, careful and considered debate, nor the possibilities of calling for Committee. I would also support that time being given in this House. There are important constitutional questions which arise if the amendment enacted by this House does in fact instruct the Secretary of State in the other place to propose and introduce a draft Bill—as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has just outlined. If that is not the case—and if the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, is not advocating for this draft to be introduced—what is the purpose of the amendment?
Secondly, I am aware that the language of the amendment has some real problems. One example is “terminally ill”. We debated the importance of language at Second Reading of the Assisted Dying Bill. The phrase “terminally ill” is understood in a whole range of different ways in different parts of the world.
Is there any guidance offered on the definition or scope behind the language in the draft Bill attached to the Secretary of State’s instruction?
The complexity of the issue in question is so great—and the lives of the people who are facing a personal debate of this kind, and feel that they would be particularly impacted, are so important—that this cannot be how we legislate on their behalf. We are on Report, so I was disturbed that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, intervened when he did.