Sir Charles urges the Government to let the elderly make their own decisions.
In these debates, we talk about elderly people as if they are not in the room. We talk over their heads. We patronise them. We say to them, “This is being done in your name to keep you safe and, really, your view is of little interest to us.” I have been contacted by many grandparents and parents who say, “Charles, not in my name. I do not want to see my children’s future destroyed or my grandchildren’s business destroyed. I do not want to see my son and daughter worrying about losing their home and their livelihood. I do not want to see my grandchildren arrested on the streets of London for daring to raise their voice in protest at the removal of their liberties.” Old people—the people we patronise—have a view, and we should listen to it. Of course, it is not a universal view, but it is a view that is held by many.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster asked on Saturday, “How could we protect every old person?” The answer is obvious to everyone in this place: we could not protect every old person, but we could provide them with the information to make informed choices about their own safety because, funnily enough, you do not get old by being that stupid. There is a degree of wisdom in older people, and I hope to achieve that wisdom one day myself.
There is a serious point here: no Government can abolish death. It is impossible. Every year, 615,000 people die in this country, and not every death is a tragedy. It is so distressing when I hear leaders of political parties, leaders of communities and leaders in this place say that every death was a tragedy. A tragedy is when a child dies. A tragedy is when some young woman or young man dies, or when someone is cut down in their middle years. When we say it is a tragedy that someone at 80 or 90 has met their mortality, we diminish that life so well lived. We diminish the love. We diminish the way that that person was cherished and valued. Please can we change the narrative when we talk about death? Not all deaths are equal—there is the same outcome, but to compare the death of someone of 90 with the death of someone of 19 is not right.
Of course, there has been tragedy attached to the death of elderly people, and that tragedy is that in their final days and months, they have been denied the touch of the people they love. We have kept families apart for the good of an old person who is desperate to see their child and desperate to be cared for by their daughter in their final weeks and months. My plea to this place is: please can we involve older people in this discussion? They love their children and grandchildren and want to see them prosper. They want to see them have the same chances and opportunities that they had in their life.