House of Lords
10 May 2006


During the past 24 hours an email sent out by Lord Joffe has inferred that there is some irregularity or breach of convention in calling a vote at second reading of the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill.

We have checked this suggestion with the House Authorities and with senior colleagues. It is incorrect. Provided that notice is given (as has been done by the tabling of the motion) it is perfectly proper and with precedent for such a vote to take place. Further, one should bear in mind that last session Lord Joffe was given an unopposed second reading, something which many believe should only occur once if there is genuine opposition to a Bill.

The Select Committee which reported on the previous version of the Bill recommended that the Bill in front of them should go to committee of the whole House and made a number of recommendations for significant changes. The Select Committee recommendation does not bind the House. The Bill in front of the House is very different to that considered by the Select Committee, and Lord Joffe himself has decided in the current Bill to ignore many of the very important recommendations for changes in the Bill by the Select Committee on which he sat.

If the Bill is given an unopposed second reading on this second occasion, it will be taken as approval of the principle of the Bill. We and many others are convinced that it is right and proper that Lords procedure should be used to test the opinion of the House on such an unusual and highly controversial Bill at the earliest appropriate stage.

Yours ever,

Lord Carlile of Berriew
Lord Carter
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff
Lord McColl of Dulwich