Yesterday I contributed to a 3-hour Westminster Hall debate on assisted dying: this was extremely well attended and a very thoughtful discussion.
Coping with terminal illness is distressing and difficult both for the patient and their families. These cases are truly moving and evoke the highest degree of compassion and emotion.
Many people obviously have strong views on both sides of the debate on this highly sensitive issue. The Government considers assisted dying to be a matter of conscience and therefore a free vote issue. A free vote in Parliament is one in which MPs are not put under pressure to vote a certain way by party leaders.
We all experience the death of people we care about and, wherever one stands on the issue, we all want dignity and compassion for those in their final phase of life.
The public's position does seem to have shifted on assisted dying. Polling featured in an article in The Times yesterday found that nearly three quarters of the British public support a parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying. Research by YouGov found that 74 per cent were in favour of examining the impact of the law as it stands and potential changes to legislation.
As I have said before, I am personally inclined to favour a change in the law, but I think a Government-backed public inquiry into the issue would be a sensible first step. An inquiry would allow us to learn more about the subject, hear from people with first-hand experience of the scenarios we have been discussing and look at the data from the countries that have legalised assisted dying to get greater insight into how it is working.
You can read the text of my speech and the context of the whole debate, in which there were very moving, powerful and high-quality contributions from both sides of the issue, here.