A committee of MPs and peers that scrutinised the draft Mental Health Bill is set to reconvene unofficially to consider the government’s new proposals.
In an unprecedented move that could embarrass the government, the remaining members of the bill’s scrutiny committee plan to pass their judgment on the proposed amendments to the 1983 Mental Health Act.
The scrutiny committee published a critical report on the draft bill in March 2005 but the government rejected many of its proposals. The government abandoned the draft bill in March this year and announced plans to bring in a bill to amend the 1983 act instead.
The government also decided it did not need more scrutiny of its proposals, which are expected to be tabled before the end of this parliamentary session in November.
But scrutiny committee member Angela Browning said she had contacted several fellow committee members, from all parties, and a “body of opinion” was forming in support of a joint response.
She said a scrutiny committee had not reconvened in such circumstances before but members were likely to disapprove of elements of the government’s proposals.
She added: “What concerns me is that they are going to introduce a bill which hasn’t been out to consultation, very late in the session. I hope there isn’t going to be any question of guillotining it through.”
The committee’s former chair, Lord Carlile, also said it was “very likely” that the members of the committee who are still in parliament would want to meet to discuss the proposed amendments.
Mental Health Alliance spokesperson Andy Bell said: “The opportunity to have a group of MPs and peers who really understand the issue to take a look at the bill is a really exciting one. It will be another good opportunity to have a proper look at it.”
He said the government still had the opportunity to set up its own consultation.
But a Department of Health spokesperson said there had already been seven years of consultation on various versions of the bill and it was now time to make it legislation.