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Summary

  1. Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill - second reading in the House of Lords

Live Reporting

By Kristiina Cooper

All times stated are UK

Goodbye

And that concludes the debate on the Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill.

We'll be back again on Monday afternoon when Parliament resumes.

The last word...

House of Lords

Parliament

The promoter of the bill, Baroness O'Loan gets the last word of the debate. She rejects assertions by some peers that her legislation would lead to the withdrawal of some services.

She insists her bill would not deny anyone the right to have end-of-life care withdrawn.

It is about ensuring that providing care is the responsibility of the health service and not individuals working within it.

The bill, as is customary in the House of Lords at second reading, goes through to the next stage without a vote.

House of Lords

Parliament

Speaking for the government, Baroness Chisholm sets out the current provisions on conscientious objection covering abortion and fertilisation treatments.

As for end of life interventions, she says that if all suitable treatments fail "they may ethically be withheld or withdrawn", allowing healthcare workers to focus on the relief of symptoms.

She cites General Medical Council guidance which says doctors can withdraw from such action on the grounds of conscientious objection.

The guidance also says arrangements must be made for another doctor to take over.

Baroness Chisholm says the government had heard and noted the views expressed and want to reflect on them.

'A wolf in sheep's clothing'

House of Lords

Parliament

Baroness Thornton
HoL

Speaking for Labour, Baroness Thornton calls the bill a "wolf in sheep's clothing".

She says Labour will not oppose the bill at second reading but only because that's the "custom and practice" of the House of Lords.

She goes on to say that the bill would restrict rights to abortion by expanding the scope for conscientious objection.

'A deeply, deeply pernicious bill'

House of Lords

Parliament

Baroness Barker, a Liberal Democrat, is strongly opposed to the bill, warning that "conscience is used as a proxy measure to undermine the law".

She rejects the argument that the bill is about clarifying the law on conscientious objection.

She says it's an extension of the rights of people to opt out of laws that have been carefully considered and agreed in democratic institutions.

"This is a deeply, deeply, pernicious bill," she concludes.

Lord Alton: an 'act of coercion'

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Alton, a prominent anti-abortion campaigner, thinks most of the arguments against the bill "simply do not stand up to scrutiny".

He says the 1967 Abortion Act limits the scope of conscientious objection.

He says "the denial of conscience is a hallmark of an illiberal society, an act of coercion."

Conscientious objection court case

Several peers hark back to a court case in 2014 in which two midwives argued that they should not have to supervise nurses who are involved in abortions.

The midwives lost their case in the High Court.

Lord Shinkwin: 'I almost died'

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Shinkwin
HoL

There's a striking remark from Lord Shinkwin: "Twenty-two years ago I almost died."

He recalls: "My neurosurgeon could not give me odds on surviving but I'm still here acutely aware that it coud so easily have been very different."

He says the treatment he received sustained his life while withdrawing it would have ended it.

His experience informs his view that no medical practitioner should be under any duty to participate in life-ending activities.

Expressing his support for the bill, the Conservative peer agrees there's a need to clarify the law.

'My family paid a high price' for doctor's conscience

House of Lords

Parliament

Baroness Richardson
HoL

There is moving personal testimony from Baroness Richardson of Calow, a crossbench peer, who opposes the bill.

She recounts how her husband, at 42, was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

A consultant attempted "aggressive surgery" at the end of which the tumour had been removed but there had been extensive damage to the left frontal lobe of her husband's brain and he had suffered a stroke.

The consultant told her that her husband was unlikely to live through the night and it was not in his best interests to do so. He was placed on an open ward so family members could say their goodbyes.

Baroness Richardson recalls how that evening her husband was "failing"

"The on-duty registrar was called and he insisted that my husband, despite my pleas, should be put on life support. He had a duty, he said, to preserve his life."

Her husband survived but there was eight and half months of attempted rehabilitation and 14 years of residential care before he died at the age 69.

"My family paid a high price for that doctor to have a clear conscience," she says.

Bill covers abortion and fertility treatment

The House of Lords Library has produced a briefing on the Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill

It says the legislation seeks to CLARIFY "the extent to which a medical practitioner with a conscientious objection may refrain from participating in certain medical activities".

Those activities are: the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment; fertility treatment; and abortions.

Protections already exist for abortions. The Abortion Act 1967 exempts individuals who have a conscientious objection to participate in abortions.

There are also protections for healthworkers who do not wish to participate in fertility treatment under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

You can read the full report here.

State should 'respect conscience'

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord McColl
HoL

Next up is a supporter of the bill, the Conservative Lord McColl, former head surgeon at Guy's Hospital in London.

He says it is "not the state's role to coerce people into acting against their conscience" and believes the state should "err on the side of respecting conscience" rather than placing medical staff in a position of chosing between vocation and conscience.

Comparison to World War One

Baroness O'Loan offers a full explanation of her bill in an article for Politics Home.

She draws parallels with individuals who refused to serve in World War One.

"Quakers, radical socialists, and other pacifists were subject to ridicule for refusing to fight," she writes, "but were allowed to assist the war effort in alternative ways".

"Some served bravely as stretcher-bearers and ambulance drivers, dodging bullets as they took wounded soldiers off the battlefield.

"The moral authenticity of some, however, was not believed by military tribunals, leading to especially punitive imprisonment (hard labour) on top of the stigma they received."

Bill is 'unnecessary and potentially dangerous'

House of Lords

Parliament

Baroness Young
HoL

Baroness Young, a Labour peer, is critical of the bill, saying that existing provisions to object to medical procedures on the grounds of conscience already exist.

She says: "The bill is unnecessary and potentially dangerous" and suggests that it could enable health workers to undermine certain treatments.

Protection from 'moral injury'

Baroness O'Loan
HoL

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill is being proposed by Baroness Nuala O'Loan, an independent - 'crossbench' - peer.

She says the bill would protect healthcare workers who do not agree with withdrawing life-sustaining treatment from patients.

She said medical workers who think it's wrong to end human life do so for a variety of reasons, not just on religious grounds, and it was right protect them from "moral injury".

And she stressed: "This is not about reducing access to or withdrawing life sustaining treatment."

Good morning

House of Lords

Parliament

The Commons isn't sitting today but the House of Lords is debating the Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill.

It aims to enable doctors to opt out of participating in activities that they believe involve the taking of human life.

Goodbye

The Lords and the Commons have finished for the day so we're wrapping up too.

SUMMARY

Tessa Jowell gave a moving and powerful speech in the House of Lords, prompting a standing ovation from colleagues.

Baroness Jowell, who has been diagnosed with a severe form of brain cancer, called for cancer patients to be given greater access to a new model of drug trial where several different treatments can be tried at the same time.

Turning to her personal experience, she told peers that last May she had two powerful seizures and was taken to hospital. A week later she had brain surgery and a tumour was removed before she began radio and chemotherapy.

In the Commons, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced a new defence review - called the defence modernisation programme - to be completed by the summer.

Baroness Jowell: 'real progress' made

Innovative cancer treatments debate

House of Lords

Parliament

In a short summing up Baroness Jowell says she believes today's debate has "made real progress" and says she is "delighted and grateful to everybody who has contributed" and thanks the minister for his response to the debate.

Minister: Tessa Jowell 'raises our sights'

Innovative cancer treatments debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord O'Shaughnessy
HoL

Health Minister Lord O'Shaughnessy says the debate has been a "rich and very moving discussion" and it is "very daunting" to follow Baroness Jowell's speech.

He says that "historically we have lagged behind the best countries in Europe" on cancer survival but "things are getting better" and cites initiatives like the Cancer Drugs Fund, which he says means there are 7,000 people alive who wouldn't otherwise have been.

The minister talks about government plans for prevention, with action against smoking and obesity, as well as new standards for early diagnosis. He also says the drug licensing regime is being changed to speed up the availability of new treatments.

He says he's visited some experimental trials in the UK and having met patients there he "absolutely" understands the "importance of giving people choice about whether to take risks when the prize is extra months with the people that they love".

Closing he says the the NHS "more than anything" provides hope, and the Baroness Jowell has done the same thing today. She "raises our sights" and has set a challenge he "is willing to accept on behalf of the government".

Ovation an 'extraordinary moment'

Innovative cancer treatments debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Lib Dem spokesperson Baroness Walmsley says that she agrees with Baroness Jowell that "patients should have a lot more say in the risks they are prepared to take" in their treatment.

Labour spokesperson Baroness Thornton says the standing ovation for Tessa Jowell's speech is one of the most "extraordinary moments" she's seen in Parliament. She says she's learned that Baroness Jowell has been "proved to be correct time and again" and that the government should "take what she's saying very seriously indeed".

MPs pass non-binding motion for a total ban on Hezbollah

Proscription of Hezbollah

House of Commons

Parliament

Ben Wallace
BBC

Back in the Commons, a little earlier, Home Office Minister Ben Wallace replied to the Hezbollah debate, saying "this government is proud to be a friend to Israel" and is opposed to terrorism.

He said ministers followed "the recommendations made to us" by law enforcement and security services, both in the UK and internationally, on proscribing organisations.

Mr Wallace insisted that "the best way to weaken Hezbollah is a strong state of Lebanon" with "a multi-faith democracy" - adding that the USA's total ban on Hezbollah has not prevented the growth of the organisation.

Mr Wallace urges the Crown Prosecution Service and the police to use "the range of powers" available to them to act against incitement.

Challenged on this by Labour's Louise Ellman, he recalls serving as a soldier in Belfast and "watching paramilitary flags go past". They took the decision that it was less provocative not to intervene, despite having the powers to do so.

Despite the opposition of the Conservative and Labour front benches, the motion calling for UK ban on "Hezbollah in its entirety" passes without a vote. However, as a backbench motion not debated in government time, it is not binding on the government.

'Cultural transformation' needed in NHS

Innovative cancer treatments debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Baroness Finn speaks to the house
HoL

Conservative Baroness Finn pays tribute to Tessa Jowell, saying her campaign is "typical of her selfless determination...that she is still fighting to ensure that everyone receives the best care".

She says that we need to "transform the culture of the NHS, which can be resistant to innovation" and that there needs to be a "wider debate" on funding. She says supports calls for a "standalone funding stream" for the NHS similar to national insurance.

'Innovation does not have to be expensive'

Innovative cancer treatments debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour's Baroness Rebuck is talking about her late husband, the political consultant Philip Gould, who died of esophageal cancer in 2011. She says innovative treatments extended his life but "our marvellous NHS is overwehelmed" and struggling to transition to a future of "personalised" cancer care.

Crossbencher Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now, says "it's time to do the really difficult stuff...time is short and speed is of the essence". She says because of the needs of budgets and safety "the system takes its time" but "we are being left behind" other countries and "the system needs to change". "Innovation does not have to be expensive", she adds.

'I have never seen the public gallery so full'

Innovative cancer treatments debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Falconer of Thoroton
BBC

"There is a lot of sculduggery in politics," says Labour peer Lord Falconer of Thoroton.

To laughter, he says he sees "every Labour peer I've ever met and a number of Labour peers I've never met".

He adds that "I have never seen the public gallery so full" and every one of them is "a friend of Tessa Jowell".

Set aside the bureaucracy - Blunkett

Innovative cancer treatments debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Blunkett
BBC

Labour peer Lord Blunkett says there is "a need to set aside the bureaucracy" in the search for the experimentation that people want.

He says he agrees with "my friend Tessa" that the latest breakthroughs in treatment "should be available whoever you know, whoever you are".

Lord Blunkett adds that peers were "privileged" to hear Baroness Jowell speak.

'Life is not just about how it is lived, but how it draws to a close'

Innovative cancer treatments debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Baroness Jowell says she wants a research system that involves "sharing knowledge at every level" and that if the cancer research system can do so it can "go a long way to cracking GBM [Glioblastoma] and other cancers".

Rounding off her speech she quotes the poet Seamus Heaney's last words, sent in a text message to his wife; "do not be afraid".

She says "I am not afraid but I am fearful that this new approach may be put into the too difficult box...but I have such hope".

She says that cancer patients "support each other every day" and "create a community of love" for each other. She says "all we ask is that doctors and health systems do the same".

She says a life is "not just about how it is lived but how it draws to a close...I hope this debate will give hope to other cancer patients like me, so we can live well together with cancer, not just dying of it...all of us for longer".

As she sits down she receives a lengthy standing ovation from her fellow peers.

Standing ovation in the Lords
HoL
Tessa Jowell
HoL

Brain cancer diagnosis 'too slow'

Innovative cancer treatments debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Baroness Jowell
HoL

Baroness Jowell says her speech today is "not about politics but about patients".

She tells peers that less than 2% of cancer research funding is spent on brain tumors, and no new drugs have been developed in the last 50 years and that surgery is the only way brain tumors can be effectively fought.

Talking about the NHS she says the UK has the "worst [brain cancer] survival rate in Western Europe, partly because diagnosis is too slow".

Tessa Jowell to lead debate on innovative cancer treatments

House of Lords

Parliament

The former cabinet minister and Labour peer Baroness Jowell will lead a debate on making innovative cancer treatments available on the NHS.

She is speaking in the House for the first time since her brain cancer diagnosis in May 2017.

Earlier this week she spoke to the Today Programme's Nick Robinson about the effect cancer is having on her life.

Shadow minister opposes ban on Hezbollah's political wing

Proscription of Hezbollah

House of Commons

Parliament

Nick Thomas-Symonds
BBC

"It is the case today that Hezbollah forms part of the parliament and the government of Lebanon," says shadow Home Office minister Nick Thomas-Symonds.

"I don't for a moment underplay terrible, violent acts," the shadow minister says, but he urges the maintenance of "engagement with the government of Lebanon".

Mr Thomas-Symonds adds that the Labour front bench supports the ban on Hezbollah's military wing.

Winter 'always challenging' for the NHS

NHS debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour spokesperson Lord Hunt of Kings Heath says he wishes the government would be open about what's happening in the NHS because denial "makes it very difficult to debate with them and have any meaningful discussion about the way forward".

Minister Lord O'Shaughnessy says problems for the NHS stem from Britain's aging society, a problem he says exists worldwide.

He says "winter is always challenging for the NHS", and that preparations for this winter began "earlier than ever before". He cites £337m of extra funding for winter found in the Budget, and denies claims the money appeared "too late".

Lord O'Shaughnessy
HoL

SNP spokesman 'sympathetic' to the case set out

Proscription of Hezbollah

House of Commons

Parliament

The SNP's Stuart McDonald says MPs have made it clear that Hezbollah "has engaged in atrocious terrorist activities".

He says the UK government has justified only banning movement's military wing as the political wing has a "social, political and humanitarian role" in Lebanon.

Ministers have also pointed out that the movement "forms part of the government of Lebanon".

Mr McDonald says Australia makes the difference between what it sees as "a pragmatic" political entity and "a branch" that co-ordinates terrorist attacks - and proscribes that branch.

But he adds that he is "sympathetic to the case" that MPs have made and has not heard "a coherent counter-argument".

MPs describe seeing Hezbollah flags in London

Proscription of Hezbollah debate

House of Commons

Parliament

Iranian students holding a Hezbollah flag in Tehran in 2011
Getty Images
Iranian students holding a Hezbollah flag in Tehran in 2011

Labour MP Louise Ellman, who put her name to the motion, says she has seen the Hezbollah flag flown at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London.

She says demonstrators also display signs saying "I support the political wing of Hezbollah" to give them legal protection.

"This is a farce," she tells the House. "The flags indicate military might."

Conservative MP Matthew Offord says he attended the Al Quds march last year (named after the Arabic name for Jerusalem) and saw the Hezbollah flag "being waved with impunity on our streets".

Tory MP Bob Stewart suggests it is possible that Hezbollah's political wing is not banned because "our security services...are advising the minister that it's better to keep them where we can see them rather than send them underground".

Mr Offord replies that he is not generally "in favour of banning things" but claims the march causes "hurt, resentment, agitation and general disruption".

Peers debate NHS pressures

NHS debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Sign outside an NHS Hospital in central London
EPA

Peers are taking part in a debate on the delivery of NHS services over the winter, and the impact of the government's plans for the NHS on social care.

This winter has seen the biggest flu outbreak since 2010-11, which health officials say may be peaking.

Around 4,000 people were hospitalised with flu symptoms last week, while bed occupancy is at 94.8%, well above the 85% level considered "safe".

Crossbencher Lord Kerslake says "we do not simply have a winter crisis, we have a funding crisis that has been brought into sharp relief" by the winter. It is "systemic and not seasonal", he adds.

Profile: Lebanon's Hezbollah movement

15 March 2016

Supporters of Lebanon"s Hezbollah protest in Beirut"s southern suburbs
Reuters
Hezbollah is enduringly popular within Lebanon's large Shia population

Hezbollah - the Party of God - is a Shia Islamist political, military and social organisation that wields considerable power in Lebanon.

It emerged with the help of Iran during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s, though its ideological roots stretch back to the Shia Islamic revival in Lebanon in the 1960s and '70s.

After Israel withdrew in 2000, Hezbollah resisted pressure to disarm and continued to strengthen its military wing, the Islamic Resistance. In some ways, its capabilities now exceed those of the Lebanese army, its considerable firepower used against Israel in the 2006 war.

Hezbollah has been accused of carrying out a string of bombings and plots against Jewish and Israeli targets and is designated a terrorist organisation by Western states, Israel, Gulf Arab countries and the Arab League.

Read more.

Hezbollah and the Terrorism Act

Proscription of Hezbollah debate

House of Commons

Parliament

The backbench motion calls on the government to "include Hezbollah in its entirety on the list of proscribed organisations" rather than just proscribing the military wing, as at present.

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the home secretary may proscribe an organisation if she believes it is "concerned in terrorism".

For the purposes of the law, this means an organisation:

  • commits or participates in acts of terrorism
  • prepares for terrorism
  • promotes or encourages terrorism (including the unlawful glorification of terrorism)
  • is otherwise concerned in terrorism

Joan Ryan says there is a "bogus distinction" between Hezbollah's political and military wings.

The movement is involved "glorification of terrorism" and meets the criteria of the Terrorism Act, she adds.

'Hezbollah should be banned in its entirety'

Proscription of Hezbollah debate

House of Commons

Parliament

Joan Ryan
BBC

Labour MP Joan Ryan opens the next debate, on a motion calling on the UK government to ban the political wing of the Lebanon-based Islamist movement Hezbollah.

At present, only the organisation's military wing is proscribed in the UK.

"Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation, driven by anti-Semitic ideology," says Ms Ryan, who chairs the Labour Friends of Israel.

She tells the House that the movement seeks the destruction of Israel, supports the Assad regime in Syria and has aided Iran's "expansionist agenda" in the Middle East.

"It makes no distinction between its political and military wings and neither should the British government," she argues.

She agrees with her Labour colleague, Mike Gapes, who says: "Hezbollah should be banned in its entirety".

'We're not going to stop here' - Labour MP

Joint enterprise debate

House of Commons

Parliament

Lucy Powell
HoC

"This has been a historic debate," says Labour's Lucy Powell, declaring that she and other MPs will continue to campaign on the issue.

"We're not going to stop here," she tells her fellow MPs.

MPs pass the motion without a vote.

The motion calls on the government to review the use of the joint enterprise law and bring forward legislation to "clarify" it.

Minister: 'It is for the courts to interpret the law'

Joint enterprise debate

House of Commons

Parliament

Lucy Frazer
HoC

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer says that this afternoon's motion states that the number of cases involving joint enterprise has been unchanged since the Supreme Court's ruling.

However, the minister adds, there are no statistics to confirm or refute this.

The Court of Appeal uses a "long-applied test" to determine the threshold for appeals, Ms Frazer tells the House.

There are some noises of disappointment or anger when says: "it would not be appropriate to bring in legislation" as the Supreme Court judges said "it was the responsibility of the court to put the law right".

She calls on MPs to reject the motion.

Labour call for reworking of joint enterprise guidelines

Joint enterprise debate

House of Commons

Parliament

Yasmin Qureshi
HoC

Winding up the debate for Labour, Shadow justice minister Yasmin Qureshi says reopening all joint enterprise cases would "deny closure" to victim's families, but she says it's also vital that victims of miscarriages of justice can have their cases looked at.

She adds that black men are disproportionately represented among those serving sentences under joint enterprise.

There are 11 times more black men in prison on joint enterprise convictions than their proportion of the general population would suggest, she tells MPs.

She says that "people must be tried on the basis of evidence of their actions, not their associations" and calls for the government to rework current joint enterprise guidelines.

Joint enterprise a 'stain on the British legal system'

Joint enterprise debate

House of Commons

Parliament

Stephen Pound
HoC

Labour's Stephen Pound says that joint enterprise law means "40 seconds can lead to 12 years" for "someone who just happens to be part of a group of people".

He says "Parliament is at its worst when it's unanimous, but this is an exception to that rule" and calls joint enterprise a "stain on the British legal system".

"This stinks, this is wrong" he says, urging MPs to consign the current definition of joint enterprise to the "dustbin of history".

Ruling 'not being implemented correctly'

Joint enterprise debate

House of Commons

Parliament

Labour MP Julie Elliott says her sympathies are primarily with the victims of crime but argues that the Supreme Court's judgement on joint enterprise is not being "implemented correctly".

She says that at present, someone must "prove their conviction had a substantial injustice" in order to appeal successfully.