The government has again failed to indicate when it plans to
take its next steps to update mental health legislation.
Speaking at mental health charity Mind’s annual
conference, the health minister with responsibility for mental
health, Rosie Winterton, avoided giving any details about the
government’s schedule for action, saying it was “difficult”
to do so.
Following the mental health bill’s absence for the second
year running from the Queen’s speech in November, the
government promised it would reintroduce a bill for pre-legislative
scrutiny as soon as possible. This had been expected earlier this
year but no date has yet been set.
Although Winterton gave no hint as to when the process would
begin, she said the process would give parliament and those in the
mental health sector the chance to look at proposals before a final
But shadow health minister Tim Loughton accused the government
of playing for time. He criticised the lack of information on when
the scrutiny would start, who would be on the committee and whether
it would have any power to make amendments.
He described the government’s timetable as “completely
unclear” and warned that if mental health reform was pushed any
further into the parliamentary long grass, it could be “vulnerable
to interruption by a general election”.
He said his party remained fiercely opposed to the bill, and
would join any partners “to strangle that bill at birth if it
eventually comes before parliament in anything like its current
He added: “We don’t like this bill and we will rewrite
it,” he said. He pledged the Conservative party’s commitment
to reforming the Mental Health Act 1983 sooner rather than later,
saying: “If we are elected and we haven’t had the bill it
will be in the next term of a Conservative government.”
Loughton was also highly critical of the government’s
failure to publish responses to the consultation on the draft