Saturday, 12 September 2015

Defeat of the Marris Assisted Dying Bill – some reflections on how MPs voted

The Assisted Dying (No 2) Bill of Labour MP Rob Marris was the eleventh attempt in twelve years to legalise assisted suicide through British Parliaments.

But its overwhelming defeat yesterday (11 September 2015) by a margin of 212 votes (330 to 118) should settle this matter for a decade.

It is striking (and indeed fitting) that this happened the very day after World Suicide Prevention Day. The bill now cannot proceed further. It is dead.

There is clearly no chance at all of a similar bill passing through the Commons in the current parliament and even in the (now) unlikely event of a Labour victory in 2020 it is virtually inconceivable that the views of MPs will change enough to make it likely in the next parliament either.

MPs dealt the bill a resounding defeat largely driven by concerns about the risks it posed to vulnerable people who would have felt under pressure to end their lives so as not to be a burden to family, relatives, caregivers or a society short of resources. Six in ten who die under a similar law in Washington State US give this reason.

Overall 74% of MPs voted against the bill, a proportion almost identical to the 72% who opposed the last bill of its kind in the House of Commons in 1997. So there has been essentially no shift in parliamentary opinion in the last 20 years.

Rob Marris conceded in a BBC interview after the debate that he did not foresee another attempt in the Commons in this parliament and in fact called on the government to invest more in palliative care, a move which I would strongly support. Patients whose symptoms are properly controlled do not generally want help to kill themselves. 

You can read the full four hour parliamentary debate on Hansard and see reaction to the result on you tube along with my comments on what it means.

The Daily Mail has also given a full list of how MPs voted by party which I have reproduced below.

Overall out of 650 MPs, a total of 448 took part in the vote.

118 MPs supported the bill (27 Conservative, 72 Labour, 14 SNP, 3 Lib Dem and 1 Green).

330 voted against it (210 Conservative, 91 Labour, 11 SNP, 3 Lib Dem, 1 UKIP, 8 DUP, 3 SDLP, 1 Independent).

Here are some preliminary quick reflections on how people voted.

1. This was a huge (almost unprecedented) turnout considering this was a private member’s bill debate on a Friday when most MPs would be expected to be in their local constituencies. It is a measure of how important they considered the issue to be. 

2. Over half of all MPs (330) voted against it meaning that it would have been defeated even if all 650 MPs had been present.

3. More Labour MPs (91) voted against the bill than supported it (72) and the SNP and Lib Dems were more or less evenly split. This is hugely significant as it signals that assisted suicide is not a simple left/right political issue. In fact suicide prevention and protection of vulnerable people from exploitation and abuse resonate strongly with left wing politicians.

4. Most party leaders did not vote. Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) was not present. Nor was Tim Farron (Lib Dem), Angus Robertson (SNP) or Jeremy Corbyn (Labour). However all four had previously signalled their opposition to the bill.

5. Former Labour leaders and Blairites generally supported the bill. These included former Labour leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Leader (and recently acting Leader) Harriet Harman.

6. Medically qualified MPs were generally strongly opposed, notably former cabinet minister Liam Fox (Conservative), Sarah Woollaston (Conservative) and SNP health spokesperson Philippa Whitford.

7. Many current cabinet ministers opposed the Bill including Theresa May (Home Secretary), Michael Fallon (Defence), Michael Gove (Lord Chancellor), Iain Duncan Smith (Work and Pensions), Jeremy Hunt (Health), Chris Grayling (Leader of the House of Commons), Justine Greening (International Development), Patrick McLoughlin (Transport), Theresa Villiers (Northern Ireland), Stephen Crabb (Wales), Oliver Letwin (Duchy of Lancaster), David Mundell (Scotland), Robert Halfon (without portfolio), Greg Hands (Treasury),  Mark Harper (Chief Whip) and Jeremy Wright (Attorney General).

8. Other prominent MPs who opposed the bill included former London Mayor Boris Johnson, former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, former Conservative cabinet ministers Eric Pickles and Peter Bottomley and former Labour Cabinet ministers Alan Johnson and David Lammy.

9. Former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer, now a Labour MP, voted in favour of the bill. Perhaps this explains his apparent reluctance to prosecute people whilst in office. It will certainly raise further discussion about whether or not his published prosecution criteria amounted to stealth legalisation.

How did you MP vote? Full list of the politicians who took part

Out of 650 MPs, a total of 448 took part in the free vote on assisted dying. It was a free vote, which meant they could support either side or none, without being told to toe a party line. This is how they voted.


Conservatives (27)

Lucy Allan (Telford), Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central), Andrew Bingham (High Peak), Crispin Blunt (Reigate), Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells), Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford), Lucy Frazer (Cambridgeshire South East), Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis & Littlehampton), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park), Peter Heaton-Jones (Devon North), Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk & Malton), Robert Jenrick (Newark), Joseph Johnson (Orpington), Kit Malthouse (Hampshire North West), Scott Mann (Cornwall North), Tania Mathias (Twickenham), Huw Merriman (Bexhill & Battle), Nigel Mills (Amber Valley), Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield), Guy Opperman (Hexham), Claire Perry (Devizes), Chris Philp (Croydon South), Paul Scully (Sutton & Cheam), Chloe Smith (Norwich North), Anna Soubry (Broxtowe), Mel Stride (Devon Central) and Matt Warman (Boston & Skegness).

Labour (72)

Graham Allen (Nottingham North), Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West), Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), Hilary Benn (Leeds Central), Clive Betts (Sheffield South East), Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central), Nick Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne East), Karen Buck (Westminster North), Richard Burden (Birmingham Northfield), Ruth Cadbury (Brentford & Isleworth), Sarah Champion (Rotherham), Ann Coffey (Stockport), Jo Cox (Batley & Spen), Stella Creasy (Walthamstow), Wayne David (Caerphilly), Geraint Davies (Swansea West), Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Maria Eagle (Garston & Halewood), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar & Limehouse), Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Paul Flynn (Newport West), Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham Deptford), Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green), Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland), Kate Green (Stretford & Urmston), Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South), Louise Haigh (Sheffield Heeley), Harriet Harman (Camberwell & Peckham), Carolyn Harris (Swansea East), Margaret Hodge (Barking), Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North), George Howarth (Knowsley), Liz Kendall (Leicester West), Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon), Dr Peter Kyle (Hove), Clive Lewis (Norwich South), Holly Lynch (Halifax), Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East), Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East), John Mann (Bassetlaw), Rob Marris (Wolverhampton South West), Ed Miliband (Doncaster North), Madeleine Moon (Bridgend), Ian Murray (Edinburgh South), Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby), Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich & Woolwich), Jess Phillips (Birmingham Yardley), Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) Jamie Reed (Copeland), Christina Rees (Neath), Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East), Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West), Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury), Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead & Kilburn), Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith), Cat Smith (Lancaster & Fleetwood), Jeff Smith (Manchester Withington), Owen Smith (Pontypridd), Karin Smyth (Bristol South), Keir Starmer (Holborn & St Pancras), Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central), Wes Streeting (Ilford North), Anna Turley (Redcar), Karl Turner (Hull East), Stephen Twigg (Liverpool West Derby), Chuka Umunna (Streatham), Catherine West (Hornsey & Wood Green), Phil Wilson (Sedgefield), David Winnick (Walsall North), Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central), Iain Wright (Hartlepool) and Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge).

Scottish National Party (14)

Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North), Alan Brown (Kilmarnock & Loudoun), Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde), Stuart Donaldson (Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine), George Kerevan (East Lothian), Calum Kerr (Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk), Chris Law (Dundee West), Callum McCaig (Aberdeen South), Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South), Dr Paul Monaghan (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross), Roger Mullin (Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath), John Nicolson (Dunbartonshire East), Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) and Corri Wilson (Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock).

Liberal Democrats 

Tom Brake (Carshalton & Wallington), Alistair Carmichael (Orkney & Shetland), Norman Lamb (Norfolk North)


Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion)


Conservatives (210)

MPs were: Peter Aldous (Waveney), Sir David Amess (Southend West), Stuart Andrew (Pudsey), Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne), Edward Argar (Charnwood), Richard Bacon (Norfolk South), Steven Baker (Wycombe), Harriett Baldwin (Worcestershire West), Stephen Barclay (Cambridgeshire North East), Guto Bebb (Aberconwy), Henry Bellingham (Norfolk North West), Richard Benyon (Newbury), Jake Berry (Rossendale & Darwen), James Berry (Kingston & Surbiton), Bob Blackman (Harrow East), Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West & Abingdon), Peter Bone (Wellingborough), Victoria Borwick (Kensington), Peter Bottomley (Worthing West), Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands), Graham Brady (Altrincham & Sale West), Julian Brazier (Canterbury), Andrew Bridgen (Leicestershire North West), Steve Brine (Winchester), James Brokenshire (Old Bexley & Sidcup), Fiona Bruce (Congleton), Robert Buckland (Swindon South), Conor Burns (Bournemouth West), Simon Burns (Chelmsford), David Burrowes (Enfield Southgate), Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan), Neil Carmichael (Stroud), James Cartlidge (Suffolk South), Bill Cash (Stone), Maria Caulfield (Lewes), Alex Chalk (Cheltenham), Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), Jo Churchill (Bury St Edmunds), Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe), James Cleverly (Braintree), Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswolds, The), Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal), Oliver Colvile (Plymouth Sutton & Devonport), Alberto Costa (Leicestershire South), Geoffrey Cox (Devon West & Torridge), Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire), Byron Davies (Gower), Chris Davies (Brecon & Radnorshire), David Davies (Monmouth), Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire), James Davies (Vale of Clwyd), Mims Davies (Eastleigh), Philip Davies (Shipley), Michelle Donelan (Chippenham), Nadine Dorries (Bedfordshire Mid), Stephen Double (St Austell & Newquay), Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock), Flick Drummond (Portsmouth South), Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford & Woodford Green), Michael Ellis (Northampton North), Jane Ellison (Battersea), Charlie Elphicke (Dover), George Eustice (Camborne & Redruth), Graham Evans (Weaver Vale), Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley), David Evennett (Bexleyheath & Crayford), Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks), Suella Fernandes (Fareham), Mark Field (Cities of London & Westminster), Kevin Foster (Torbay), Dr Liam Fox (Somerset North), Mark Francois (Rayleigh & Wickford), George Freeman (Norfolk Mid), Richard Fuller (Bedford), Marcus Fysh (Yeovil), Roger Gale (Thanet North), Edward Garnier (Harborough), Cheryl Gillan (Chesham & Amersham), John Glen (Salisbury), Robert Goodwill (Scarborough & Whitby), Michael Gove (Surrey Heath), James Gray (Wiltshire North), Chris Grayling (Epsom & Ewell), Chris Green (Bolton West), Damian Green (Ashford), Justine Greening (Putney), Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield), Andrew Griffiths (Burton), Ben Gummer (Ipswich), Sam Gyimah (Surrey East), Robert Halfon (Harlow), Luke Hall (Thornbury & Yate), Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon), Greg Hands (Chelsea & Fulham), Mark Harper (Forest of Dean), Sir Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden), John Hayes (South Holland & The Deepings), Sir Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire North East), James Heappey (Wells), Nick Herbert (Arundel & South Downs), Damian Hinds (Hampshire East), Simon Hoare (Dorset North), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), Adam Holloway (Gravesham), Kris Hopkins (Keighley), Ben Howlett (Bath), Jeremy Hunt (Surrey South West), Stewart Jackson (Peterborough), Margot James (Stourbridge), Ranil Jayawardena (Hampshire North East), Bernard Jenkin (Harwich & Essex North), Andrea Jenkyns (Morley & Outwood), Boris Johnson (Uxbridge & Ruislip South), Gareth Johnson (Dartford), Andrew Jones (Harrogate & Knaresborough), David Jones (Clwyd West), Marcus Jones (Nuneaton), Seema Kennedy (South Ribble), Simon Kirby (Brighton Kemptown), Greg Knight (Yorkshire East), Julian Knight (Solihull), Mark Lancaster (Milton Keynes North), Andrea Leadsom (Northamptonshire South), Phillip Lee (Bracknell), Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford), Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough), Oliver Letwin (Dorset West), Julian Lewis (New Forest East), David Lidington (Aylesbury), Tim Loughton (Worthing East & Shoreham), Karl McCartney (Lincoln), David Mackintosh (Northampton South), Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire Dales), Stephen McPartland (Stevenage), Anne Main (St Albans), Alan Mak (Havant), Theresa May (Maidenhead), Paul Maynard (Blackpool North & Cleveleys), Mark Menzies (Fylde), Johnny Mercer (Plymouth Moor View), Stephen Metcalfe (Basildon South & Thurrock East), Maria Miller (Basingstoke), Amanda Milling (Cannock Chase), Anne Milton (Guildford), James Morris (Halesowen & Rowley Regis), Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills), David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale), Sarah Newton (Truro & Falmouth), Caroline Nokes (Romsey & Southampton North), David Nuttall (Bury North), Matthew Offord (Hendon), Neil Parish (Tiverton & Honiton), Owen Paterson (Shropshire North), Mark Pawsey (Rugby), Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead), Andrew Percy (Brigg & Goole), Stephen Phillips (Sleaford & North Hykeham), Eric Pickles (Brentwood & Ongar), Christopher Pincher (Tamworth), Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane), Victoria Prentis (Banbury), Mark Prisk (Hertford & Stortford), Tom Pursglove (Corby), Jeremy Quin (Horsham), Will Quince (Colchester), John Redwood (Wokingham), Jacob Rees-Mogg (Somerset North East), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), Mary Robinson (Cheadle), David Rutley (Macclesfield), Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury), Andrew Selous (Bedfordshire South West), Alok Sharma (Reading West), Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet & Rothwell), Keith Simpson (Broadland), Julian Smith (Skipton & Ripon), Royston Smith (Southampton Itchen), Nicholas Soames (Sussex Mid), Amanda Solloway (Derby North), Caroline Spelman (Meriden), Bob Stewart (Beckenham), Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South), Gary Streeter (Devon South West), Desmond Swayne (New Forest West), Robert Syms (Poole), Derek Thomas (St Ives), Maggie Throup (Erewash), Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester & Strood), Michael Tomlinson (Dorset Mid & Poole North), Craig Tracey (Warwickshire North), Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Thomas Tugendhat (Tonbridge & Malling), Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight), Ed Vaizey (Wantage), Shailesh Vara (Cambridgeshire North West), Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes), Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet), Robin Walker (Worcester), Ben Wallace (Wyre & Preston North), David Warburton (Somerton & Frome), James Wharton (Stockton South), Helen Whately (Faversham & Kent Mid), Craig Williams (Cardiff North), Gavin Williamson (Staffordshire South), Rob Wilson (Reading East), Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes), Mike Wood (Dudley South), William Wragg (Hazel Grove) and Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth & Southam)

Labour (91)

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East & Saddleworth), Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green & Bow), David Anderson (Blaydon), Jon Ashworth (Leicester South), Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East), Lyn Brown (West Ham), Chris Bryant (Rhondda), Richard Burgon (Leeds East), Dawn Butler (Brent Central), Alan Campbell (Tynemouth), Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley), Rosie Cooper (Lancashire West), Neil Coyle (Bermondsey & Old Southwark), David Crausby (Bolton North East), Mary Creagh (Wakefield), Jon Cruddas (Dagenham & Rainham), Judith Cummins (Bradford South), Jim Cunningham (Coventry South), Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South & Penarth), Jim Dowd (Lewisham West & Penge), Peter Dowd (Bootle), Clive Efford (Eltham), Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central), Bill Esterson (Sefton Central), Chris Evans (Islwyn), Frank Field (Birkenhead), Rob Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South), Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East), Barry Gardiner (Brent North), Pat Glass (Durham North West), Mary Glindon (Tyneside North), Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West), Nia Griffith (Llanelli), David Hanson (Delyn), Helen Hayes (Dulwich & West Norwood), Sue Hayman (Workington), Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow), Meg Hillier (Hackney South & Shoreditch), Sharon Hodgson (Washington & Sunderland West), Kate Hoey (Vauxhall), Imran Hussain (Bradford East), Alan Johnson (Hull West & Hessle), Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney), Helen Jones (Warrington North), Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South), Mike Kane (Wythenshawe & Sale East), Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Gorton), Barbara Keeley (Worsley & Eccles South), David Lammy (Tottenham), Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields), Ivan Lewis (Bury South), Ian Lucas (Wrexham), Rebecca Long-Bailey (Salford), Steve McCabe (Birmingham Selly Oak), Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham & Morden), Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough), Conor McGinn (St Helens North), Liz McInnes (Heywood & Middleton), Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North), Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port & Neston), Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham Ladywood), Seema Malhotra (Feltham & Heston), Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South), Rachael Maskell (York Central), Chris Matheson (Chester, City of), Grahame Morris (Easington), Albert Owen (Ynys Mon), Teresa Pearce (Erith & Thamesmead), Toby Perkins (Chesterfield), Bridget Phillipson (Houghton & Sunderland South), Stephen Pound (Ealing North), Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East), Kate Osamor (Edmonton), Angela Rayner (Ashton Under Lyne), Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge & Hyde), Marie Rimmer (St Helens South & Whiston), Virendra Sharma (Ealing Southall), Barry Sheerman(Huddersfield), Dennis Skinner (Bolsover), Gavin Shuker (Luton South), Andrew Smith (Oxford East), John Spellar (Warley), Graham Stringer (Blackley & Broughton), Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston), Mark Tami (Alyn & Deeside), Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen), Stephen Timms (East Ham), Derek Twigg (Halton), Keith Vaz (Leicester East), Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) and John Woodcock (Barrow & Furness).

Scottish National Party (11)

Richard Arkless (Dumfries & Galloway),Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye & Lochaber), Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow), Marion Fellows (Motherwell & Wishaw), Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen & Hamilton West), Patrick Grady (Glasgow North), Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West), Gavin Newlands (Paisley & Renfrewshire North), Brendan O'Hara (Argyll & Bute), Christopher Stephens (Glasgow South West) and Dr Philippa Whitford (Ayrshire Central).

Liberal Democrats (3)

Nick Clegg (Sheffield Hallam), John Pugh (Southport) and Mark Williams (Ceredigion).


Ukip MP Douglas Carswell

Democratic Unionist Party (8)

Gregory Campbell (Londonderry East), Nigel Dodds (Belfast North), Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley), Ian Paisley (Antrim North), Gavin Robinson (Belfast East), Jim Shannon (Strangford), David Simpson (Upper Bann) and Sammy Wilson (Antrim East).

SDLP (3)

Mark Durkan (Foyle), Dr Alasdair McDonnell (Belfast South) and Margaret Ritchie (Down South), one from the UUP, Tom Elliott (Fermanagh & South Tyrone)


Lady Syvia Hermon (Down North). 

Labour's Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) is excluded after voting in both lobbies.  

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