British House of Lords to vote on assisted suicide, May 19, 2009.
Peers are to be given a chance to vote to legalise euthanasia next month.
Ministers have confirmed that the House of Lords will get a free vote over whether or not to allow people to assist with suicide - including helping relatives travel to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to be killed.
The opportunity to introduce an assisted suicide law will come as the Government's Coroners and Justice Bill goes through its committee stage.
Peers who favour assisted dying, led by former Labour minister Baroness Jay, are likely to put down an amendment to legalise help for suicide.
The last time the Lords voted on assisted suicide, over Lord Joffe's private member's bill three years ago, the proposal was heavily defeated.
A clause in the Government's Coroners and Justice Bill amends assisted suicide law, but only to extend the existing law to ban attempts to encourage suicide over the internet.
Justice Minister Lord Bach told peers that the Government does not think the Bill is a proper vehicle for legalising assisted suicide and that supporters of liberalising the law should bring in a fresh private member's bill.
But he added: 'We heard many passionate speeches on assisted suicide, either for a change in the law or for maintaining the law as it is. I was asked whether there would be a free vote on the Government’s side. The answer is yes.
'There will be a free vote on an amendment of the kind that my noble friend Lady Jay proposed. However, I must repeat the observation that I made many hours ago in my opening speech; namely, that we do not think this Bill is the appropriate vehicle in which to pursue a change in the law on this sensitive issue.'