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Estimates, 2010-11 (Navy) Vote A


Estimates, 2010-11, (Army) Vote A


Estimates, 2010-11 (Air) Vote A


10 Mar 2010 : Column 398

Estimates, Excesses, 2008-09


Supplementary Estimates, 2009-10


Ordered, That a Bill be brought in upon the foregoing Resolutions relating to Supplementary Estimates, 2009-10, and Estimates, Excesses, 2008-09 and the Resolution of 10 December relating to Supplementary Estimates and New Estimates, 2009-10;

That the Chairman of Ways and Means, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Liam Byrne, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Ian Pearson and Stephen Timms introduce the Bill.

Consolidated Fund Bill

Presentation and First Reading

Mr. Stephen Timms accordingly presented a Bill to authorise the use of resources for the service of the years ending with 31 March 2009 and 31 March 2010 and to apply certain sums out of the Consolidated Fund to the service of the year ending with 31 March 2010; and to appropriate the supply authorised in this Session of Parliament for the service of the years ending with 31 March 2009 and 31 March 2010.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow; and to printed (Bill 74 ).

Business without Debate

Business of the House

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 15) ,

Question agreed to.

Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Bill [ Lords]

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Orders Nos. 59(3) and 90(5), That the Bill be now read a Second time. - ( Mark Tami.)

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).

10 Mar 2010 : Column 399

Delegated Legislation

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 10 to 15 together.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118 (6)),

National Health Service

Social Security

Employment and Training


Question agreed to.

European Union Documents

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 119 (11)),

Question agreed to.

10 Mar 2010 : Column 400


Energy Costs (Highlands and Islands)

7.3 pm

Danny Alexander (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (LD): I have the honour of presenting a petition of concerned energy users in the highlands and islands that has been signed by several hundred of my constituents, whose signatures were collected alongside a similar petition, which will be presented by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr. Kennedy). The petition concerns the problems faced by people who use heating oil and liquefied petroleum gas as their principal source of heat, because there is no access to the main gas grid, and the associated problems of fuel poverty and the lack of support for energy efficiency that affect these people.

The petition states:


Energy Costs (Highlands and Islands)

7.5 pm

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD): I wish to present a petition framed in similar terms to that presented by my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Danny Alexander), which, too, has been signed by a significant number of my constituents. In so doing, I would like to underscore the point that he made about the deep unfairnesses and practical injustices-not least this winter, of all winters-that have been experienced by both sets of constituents and by many thousands of others besides, in the highlands of Scotland generally and in Scotland as a whole.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of concerned energy users in the Highlands and Islands,

Declares that the below Petitioners are concerned about the energy costs faced by households without access to the gas main, and the large rise in numbers facing acute fuel poverty this winter.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to target emergency financial help at those who rely on heating oil, LPG or solid fuel to match the support currently provided through the six biggest gas and electricity providers.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.]


10 Mar 2010 : Column 401

Law on Assisted Suicide

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. -(David Wright.)

7.6 pm

Ms Patricia Hewitt (Leicester, West) (Lab): Thank you for giving me the opportunity to raise this important and sensitive issue in the House this evening, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

When I served as Health Secretary a few years ago, I became increasingly concerned about the plight of individuals who were seeking an assisted death and who desperately wanted the support of their families, friends and medical practitioners, but who could not-and cannot-get that help legally, here in their own country. I was also clear, however, that the issue was not one on which Ministers in general, or the Health Secretary in particular, should seek to initiate a change in the law. As the House will remember, I already had quite enough controversies to deal with when I was at the Department of Health. I decided instead to pursue the issue once I had returned to the Back Benches, which I am now doing as a patron of Dignity in Dying, an admirable organisation dedicated to ensuring that patients can make well-informed choices about the care and treatment that they receive at the end of their lives. If I am ever faced with the diagnosis of a terminal illness, I do not know what choice I would make for myself, but I do know that I want that choice.

I want to begin by warmly welcoming the publication of the Government's "End of life" strategy. In my constituency I have seen the wonderful work done over many years by staff and volunteers at our local hospice run by LOROS-the Leicestershire and Rutland Organisation for the Relief of Suffering-and, similarly, the work of the Leicestershire-based children's hospice, Rainbow. We all want palliative care of that quality to be available in every part of the country, not just within the NHS but funded by the NHS. The Government's strategy, if and when it is fully implemented, will do much to achieve that goal.

But palliative care, however good, is not the answer for everyone. Professor Baroness Finlay, to whose work in palliative care I readily pay tribute, is a staunch opponent of any change in the law on assisted dying, yet even she has testified that palliative care is not a blanket panacea. For patients who are terminally ill, whose distress cannot be alleviated by palliative care, and who want to end their lives, what is the choice? Given the present state of our law, there is no good answer.

For some people-more than 100 Britons since 2002-the answer lies in a visit to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. Some 700 of our fellow citizens are members of that organisation. For others, help might come from their doctor-sometimes, but not always, acting within the present law. Professor Clive Seale, who has researched this issue in great detail, found that around one in 500 deaths in the United Kingdom-more than 1,000 a year-were the result of voluntary euthanasia, involving a criminal act. Even more-over 1,500 deaths a year-involved non-voluntary euthanasia. Other desperate people find that they have to refuse food and water-a wretched process-in order to exercise some control over when and how they die. And each year, a number of terminally ill people-it is impossible to say how many-resort in desperation to violent, lonely and often botched suicides.

10 Mar 2010 : Column 402

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris)-on this issue, I shall call him my hon. Friend-made the point in his excellent speech in the Westminster Hall debate last November that on the one hand, our society and the law recognise and fully respect the right of a mentally competent person to refuse life-saving treatment, and thus to die. He pointed out that that applies even in the case of a 13-year-old girl. On the other hand, however, we refuse to recognise the right of a mentally competent adult who is terminally ill to seek help to die when they want to. That debate in Westminster Hall was the first on this subject in the House in the past 10 years-and an excellent debate it was, too.

The House has a long and honourable tradition of debating and then changing the law on controversial issues that, very properly, belong to free votes rather than to party manifestos. The other place, to its credit, has held a number of serious and thoughtful debates in recent years, as well as conducting its own review of this issue. When the great majority of people say that they want a law to permit assisted dying, and when there is such an urgent need to re-establish the reputation of this House, we should have the courage to tackle controversial issues rather than run away from them. In the absence of parliamentary action, however, it has been left to individuals and the courts to force the pace of change.

Last year I was approached by a constituent-a woman with a severe progressive condition, from which she will never recover, who had already suffered years of distress. She wants to go to Switzerland to die, but she does not want to go alone. She asked whether I could help her by giving her, and above all her family, the reassurance that they would not be prosecuted if they accompanied her to Dignitas. At that point, I could not. I told her that no one had been prosecuted for many years, but that several people had been interviewed by the police, and not known for months whether they would be prosecuted or not.

That situation at least has now changed, because of one courageous and determined woman, Debbie Purdy, who wanted to know whether her husband would be prosecuted if he went with her to Dignitas. After years of legal battles, Miss Purdy finally won her case. In his judgment, Lord Brown said:

As a result of that decision, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, issued new prosecuting guidelines last month. This final policy, unlike the interim guidelines, was broadly welcomed by supporters and opponents of a change in the law, which I believe is testament to a difficult job very well done.

At their heart, the new prosecuting guidelines distinguish between compassionate assistance given to someone who has reached

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