Ex-Labour MP Frank Field reveals he is close to death

22 October 2021, 20:53

Frank Field pictured in Westminster in 2019
Frank Field pictured in Westminster in 2019. Picture: Getty

By James Morris

Former Labour MP Frank Field has said he is terminally ill and is close to death.

Lord Field revealed his illness in the House of Lords today in a statement read out by a fellow peer, as he was too unwell to attend in person.

It came during a debate about the Assisted Dying Bill. The proposed legislation, tabled by independent peer Baroness Meacher, would give patients of sound mind, with six months or less left to live, the right to die by taking life-ending medication.

It was Lady Meacher who read out Lord Field’s statement, saying: "Our colleague Lord Field of Birkenhead, who is dying, asked me to read out a short statement."

Frank Field with the Duchess of Sussex during a visit to Birkenhead in 2019
Frank Field with the Duchess of Sussex during a visit to Birkenhead in 2019. Picture: Getty

Peers heard Lord Field supports the bill, with his statement reading: "I've just spent a short period in a hospice and I'm not well enough to participate in today's debate. If I had been, I'd have spoken strongly in favour of the second reading.

"I changed my mind on assisted dying when an MP friend dying of cancer wanted to die early before the full horror effects set in, but was denied this opportunity.

"A major argument against the bill is unfounded. It is thought by some the culture would change and that people would be pressured into ending their lives.

"The number of assisted deaths in the US and Australia remains very low, under 1%, and a former supreme court judge of Victoria, Australia, about pressure from relatives, said it just hasn't been an issue. I hope the House will today vote for the Assisted Dying Bill."

Lord Field was Labour MP for Birkenhead for 39 years up to 2018, when he resigned from the party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party.

He remained MP as an independent until the 2019 general election, when he lost his seat. He was given a peerage in October last year.

Today, the Assisted Dying Bill was at its second reading, the second of 11 stages in Parliament it must go through before it can become law.

The bill received an unopposed second reading, as is convention for private members' bills in the Lords, and will undergo further scrutiny at a later stage.

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Campaigners say a change in the law would give those at the end of their lives greater control over how and when they die.

Opponents, including many religious leaders, say it could leave vulnerable people exposed to unwanted pressure.

Downing Street has said the government continues to regard the issue of assisted dying as a matter of conscience for individual MPs and peers.

"This is obviously a very emotional issue," a spokesman said today.

"The government's position on assisted dying has not changed. This is a matter for individual conscience. Any change in the law is for Parliament to decide rather than government policy."