Clegg sets out opposition to assisted dying

Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez visit Castlehill Primary School in Glasgow, to promote the Liberal Democrats free school meals and childcare policies
Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez visit Castlehill Primary School in Glasgow, to promote the Liberal Democrats free school meals and childcare policies
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NICk Clegg has said he could not back an assisted dying law that let the state intervene in end of life decisions.

The deputy prime minister has admitted he is at odds with many in his party after revealing he had concerns at how the process works in places such as the Netherlands.

Mr Clegg said he would allow a free vote on the matter if it got to parliament, even as his own care minister said legislation is not a question of if but when.

Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb told delegates at the party’s Glasgow conference that he had changed his mind on assisted dying to support it.

He told delegates: “There was an editorial in the Church Times after I said what I said, saying I was unfit to be care minister because of holding this view.

“Then a former archbishop of Canterbury came out and said the same thing and I don’t know whether they thought he was unfit for (the role) of archbishop of Canterbury.

“I think lots of people’s attitudes are changing and I don’t think it’s going to happen before the next general election, I have to say.

“There’s the Falconer Bill, it’s in the House of Lords, we don’t know what the outcome will be in the House of Lords - whether it will secure support - it would then have to come to the House of Commons and I think time will just run out, even if it gets through the House of Lords.

“I think it will happen at some point, it’s just a question of when rather than if. That’s my own personal view.”

Mr Clegg though has reiterated his unease over the issue.

He said: “This is something of such profound personal conscience and personally I am not persuaded it is sensible for the state to seek to capture in legislation decisions which - and I have some, because of my own family, I have seen how it works in other countries like the Netherlands - I’m personally quite sceptical about the ability to capture what is a very, very difficult decision about when you endorse under the law the taking of someone’s life.

“I can understand, totally understand, why campaigners feel this is something which should be done and I suspect most people in this room believe something should be done, but I’m saying quite openly my own view is, while I understand the motivation, I am quite sceptical.

“I’m not persuaded but I totally accept this is something which does need to be debated, calmly and sincerely.”

Mr Clegg was speaking at a party question and answer session in which he attacked the Tories and Labour for having no real support for English devolution, saying there was “absolutely no interest at all in wholesale coherent constitutional reform”.

“They will pick off the things they think are of narrow political advantage. But anything which threatens ... their vested interest in the political system and they are absolutely ruthless in blocking it,” he said.

He also pointed to the English Votes issues as another way the Conservatives were , he said, more interested in party gain.

“Actually if you listen to them they aren’t really interested in English votes for English matters, they are interested in Tory votes for English matters,” he said.

The Lib Dem leader said he would not allow the Conservatives to “run roughshod” over the rest of Westminster when they only had a 38% share of the vote at the last general election.

However, he said there was a “perfectly legitimate issue” over how laws affecting only English voters were forged

And he said that - unlike Conservatives - Liberal Democrats would be ready to borrow for capital investment in infrastructure projects once the UK’s structural deficit has been eliminated.

“We’ve said, unlike George Osborne, that after 2017/18, when we’ve wiped the slate clean, we’ve dealt with the structural deficit, we will prudently and responsibly borrow money for productive investment in our infrastructure,” said Mr Clegg.

“That’s the way business people are telling us we can raise economic performance,” the party leader added.