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Live Reporting

Kristiina Cooper

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodbye

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

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

  2. The last word...

    House of Lords


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    She insists her bill would not deny anyone the right to have end-of-life care withdrawn.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

  3. Post update

    House of Lords


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    As for end of life interventions, she says that if all suitable treatments fail "they may ethically be withheld or withdrawn", allowing healthcare workers to focus on the relief of symptoms.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

  4. 'A wolf in sheep's clothing'

    House of Lords


    Baroness Thornton

    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.

  5. 'A deeply, deeply pernicious bill'

    House of Lords


    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.

  6. Lord Alton: an 'act of coercion'

    House of Lords


    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."

  7. 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.

  8. Lord Shinkwin: 'I almost died'

    House of Lords


    Lord Shinkwin

    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.

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

    House of Lords


    Baroness Richardson

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. State should 'respect conscience'

    House of Lords


    Lord McColl

    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.

  12. 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."

  13. Bill is 'unnecessary and potentially dangerous'

    House of Lords


    Baroness Young

    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.

  14. Protection from 'moral injury'

    Baroness O'Loan

    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."

  15. Good morning

    House of Lords


    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.

  16. Goodbye

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


    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.

  17. Baroness Jowell: 'real progress' made

    Innovative cancer treatments debate

    House of Lords


    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.

  18. Minister: Tessa Jowell 'raises our sights'

    Innovative cancer treatments debate

    House of Lords


    Lord O'Shaughnessy

    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".

  19. Ovation an 'extraordinary moment'

    Innovative cancer treatments debate

    House of Lords


    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".

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

    Proscription of Hezbollah

    House of Commons


    Ben Wallace

    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.