On 16th March 2022, the House of Lords debated the Health and Care Bill 2022. The Bishop of Durham spoke in opposition to an opposition to an amendment tabled by Baroness Sugg that wouldmaintain the option of at-home early medical abortion that had initially been permitted due to the COVID-19 Pandemic:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I begin by paying tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, for her tireless work on gender equality and areas of international development. We have often been collaborators on such matters. I also apologise to the noble Baroness if she has personally received any hurtful comments on this; some of the things I have seen were shameful. She should not have been abused in this way. Nevertheless, I will oppose her amendment; I hope she understands that this in no way lessens the way in which I honour her for her work.
I declare at the outset that the Church of England’s position on abortion is principled opposition, with a recognition that there are strictly limited conditions under which it may be preferable to any available alternative. My opposition to the amendment is based on that in part but also because I believe that the amendment is functionally inadequate in providing the necessary protections. This was a temporary measure introduced during the pandemic to allow continued access to abortion services, simply to meet a need in extraordinary circumstances. I support the Government’s decision to return to the pre-pandemic system for early medical abortions from August, which was supported by many in the public consultation response.
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?
On 7th March 2022, the House of Lords debated the Health and Care Bill in the third day of the report stage. The Bishop of Durham, on behalf of the Lord Bishop of London, spoke in support of amendment 114, tabled by Lord Howarth of Newport, that would introduce a new clause on creative health into the bill:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 114 in the absence of my right reverend friend the Bishop of London, who is having to self-isolate due to having tested positive for Covid—which seems to be a bit of a theme of the first two amendments.
Members of the House will know that my noble friend is very involved, and was very involved in Committee, in speaking about health inequalities. Today, we want to share and highlight the strength of social prescribing and especially the role of faith organisations in helping to deliver this. There is evidence from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing and the National Academy for Social Prescribing. But everyone who sits on these Benches would be able to tell you stories of where faith communities and local charities aid and assist with health improvements through activities which happen through them. Through cultural, creative, art, nature—all sorts of—interventions, people find health relief and are moved forward in improving their health.
On 1st March 2022, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Health and Care Bill in the first day of the report stage. The Bishop of London spoke in favour of an amendment regarding palliative care, and urged that this care should be delivered with consistency:
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I declare my interests in the register. I join in thanking the Government for having listened in Committee. I hope that this will make a difference not just to the lives of those whose lives are shorter but also their families, so it is very welcome. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, but also to my friend, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle, who put his name to Amendment 17.
On 26th January 2022, the House of Lords debated the Health and Care Bill in committee. The Bishop of Carlisle spoke on issues of assisted dying contained in amendments to the bill:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I recognise and respect the integrity and passion that underlie Amendment 297. However, I rise to agree wholeheartedly and briefly with those noble Lords and noble and learned Lords who have already expressed their significant reservations about it.
There are two problems in particular with that amendment. The first has to do with the many contentious arguments for and against any legislation permitting assisted dying, some of which have already been mentioned. Tempting though it is to rehearse some more of those, I am conscious not only of the time but of the fact that they have already been presented recently and at length, as we have been reminded by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, at Second Reading of the Assisted Dying Bill here in your Lordships’ House. The ongoing process of that Bill, however slow it may be, should not be undermined. We have also been assured that this is not primarily what Amendment 297 is all about. I might add that the terminology of that amendment is unhelpfully vague. “Vague” is a word that has already been used more than once in the debate today. For instance, we might ask exactly what is meant by “terminally ill” or “medical assistance”.
On 18th January 2022, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Health and Care Bill. The Bishop of Carlisle spoke in the debate, supporting amendments tabled by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff that would require specialist palliative care units to be set up in the UK:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Patel. I am pleased to give my wholehearted support to Amendment 47 and to Amendment 52, to which I have added my name, which compellingly requires the commissioning of specialist palliative care services in every part of England. Throughout my life and work I have often had the privilege of being present with families and communities, supporting people of all ages through the final chapter of their life, so I have seen at first hand the enormous difference that high-quality palliative care can make to their experience of dying, death and bereavement.
However, as the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Masham, pointed out, 90% of people might need such care, but as things stand at present only about half of them will receive it. What is more, it is all too often those in our most deprived communities who are dying without the help and dignity they deserve.
To that end, a compelling body of evidence has been provided by Marie Curie, the end-of-life charity, which has been mentioned several times already in this debate. Building on that evidence, this amendment will not only prevent many people with a terminal illness dying in pain but deliver significant cost savings to the NHS by reducing unnecessary hospital admissions.
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