Monday, June 18, 2007

Mental Health Bill (Monday)

Two remaining days in the Commons for the Mental Health Bill and I am going to try and watch as much of today's proceedings as I can.

The Government have made significant concessions as indicated in an earlier post and in several cases these are about making explicit (on the face of the Bill as parliamentarians are wont to say....) what was already the case and helping to dispel some of the myths as well as legitimate fears people may have that the powers of the Bill were too far reaching.

More compromises may be in order to stave off a lenthy ping pong session, but some of the things the opposition is asking for are contrary to the policy of the democratically elected government and on those issues - provided there is a Commons majority behind them - the Lords should not persist in their opposition.

The latest press release from the Mental Health Alliance does give recognition to the Government for the changes the Government has introduced and seems more conciliatory in tone.


The Government introduced new clauses on independent advocacy, as well as indicating support for specialist advocacy services for Black and Minority Ethnic service users, age appropriate services for people under 18, improvements to safeguards in relation to consent and improvements (campaigned for by UNISON and the newly formed Mental Health Coalition) to the proposed Community Treatment Orders to ensure that they are not misused so as to place restrictions on people's lifestyles.

The Government also responded to lobbying by the Mental Health Coalition on the Nearest Relative issue (the Bill already allows you to seek a change in the NR where the current NR is unsuitable, with a patient being able to identify any other person so long as they are suitable) the Government has clearly stated that the NR is not the Next of Kin, and recognised you can choose who your Next of Kin is, agreeing to strengthen guidance in this area in the Code of Practice.

The Government won all of its votes today with majorities varying between 59 and 66.

Tomorrow is the final day of debate in the Commons.

The Department of Health website has latest documents including helpful correspondence with and reports from the Joint Committe on Human Rights (otherwise known as the Liberal Democrats at prayer).

In particular you can see the Government's response to some of the Joint Committee's rather incoherent (though no doubt well meaning) arguments on some aspects of the Bill, for instance on the need for 'exclusions'. I must say I find Rosie Winterton's argument to be particularly robust and succinct when speaking on the proposal to exclude sexual orientation, religious and cultural beleifs from the definition of mental disorder:

[...] They are not recognised mental disorders. It would be legally redundant to exclude them from the definition of mental disorder for the purposes of the Act. Indeed to do so might appear to suggest, quite wrongly, that they were mental disorders for other purposes - which would be particularly inappropriate in the case of sexual orientation. Moreover, to include any exclusions which are of no legal effect risks them being misunderstood or misinterpreted to have a substantive effect, which they would not in fact, have.

Which I think is a good paraphrase of the case I made out against such exclusions in my submissions to the Government over the Bill - nice to see they listened......

No comments:

Post a Comment