The Department of Health is reported to have said that Mrs Soubry's comments, and similar comments by Norman Lamb MP, another health minister, were personal views not government policy, and that the issue of assisted suicide was not one for the Department of Health. The Department of Justice is reported to have said that the government has no plans to change the law and that assisted suicide law reform was a matter for Parliament.
Paul Tully, SPUC Pro-Life's general secretary, told the media this evening:
"The Government's statements are disingenuous and not credible. Governments often claim that they have no plan to change law - but very soon those same governments make or otherwise back such a plan. It is often left unclear whether responses by ministers in the Houses of Parliament are the government's position or their own opinion.Comments on this blog? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, when (for example) the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes comments about Britain's economy in newspaper interviews, no one believes that his comments are his personal opinions only, with no influence on government policy. Assisted suicide is a health issue and Department of Health ministers will have influence alongside Justice ministers and others on the government's approach to new legislation, such as that proposed by Lord Falconer.
Anna Soubry has also been disingenuous. Before the general election, she failed to respond to constituents wanting to know where she stood on assisted suicide and other pro-life issues. Now that she has been elected to Parliament and appointed as a health minister, she feels free to tell a national newspaper instead. The duplicity thus shown by Mrs Soubry to her constituents does not inspire trust in the government's disclaimers. We fear strongly that she will work behind the scenes to weaken legal protections for disabled people.
Suicide-prevention is the humane response to suicidal people - and it's the usual response across the NHS, the justice system, education and so on. But when a person with a disability or degenerative condition is suicidal, MPs, lawyers and media-pundits start talking about the 'right to die'."
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