Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 1 August 2014


Just before the House rose for the summer, the Lords debated a private members bill on assisted dying. It is currently a criminal offence to help someone end their own life. Lord Falconer has brought forward a bill to provide that in very limited circumstances and with safeguards it would be lawful to do so if someone was terminally ill and requested it.

The bill was given a second reading without a vote in the Lords, which is their tradition. If ever you wanted to reassure yourself about the format of our Parliament and in particular whether an unelected chamber is appropriate, take a look at the Hansard recording of this debate. It was the House of Lords at its best, full of wise and experienced people articulating their views in thoughtful manner. The debate was evenly decided with strong opinions being expressed on either side of the argument.

It is possible that this matter will come to the Commons before our general election next May, but highly unlikely that it will be anything other than a debate. It certainly will not have the time to become law in the few months that remain even if it were to gather enough support which I doubt. 

I recognise that there are arguments in favour of changing the law. It must be heart-breaking to see loved ones in great painbegging to be allowed to die, and frustrating that people have to take their loved ones to countries that allow this procedure in order to alleviate their suffering. Of course, there is an unwritten understanding that in circumstances of genuine compassion, the prosecuting authorities would probably turn a blind eye if someone's painful passing was eased.

Despite all of this, I am not in favour of changing the law. I would be concerned that if this important principle was breached, it would quickly descend down a slippery slope. In 1967 the Abortion Act was passed, full of good intention and safeguards to stamp out back street abortions. For many years now we have had abortion on demand in this country,effectively another form of contraception. A very rapid slippery slope indeed. I believe that assisted dying, once approved, would go the same way. Come on granny, time to go. 

I am not usually in favour of messy compromises, but sometimes they are the least worst option. I would continue to allow the authorities to exercise common sense in individual cases. 


posted by Gary @ 14:26