The Mental Health Bill could be mired in a “prolonged wrangle” involving MPs and peers, the official in charge of its implementation told the conference.
David Lye said peers could force amendments on to the bill in the House of Lords, which the government majority in the Commons would reject.
The result could be political “ping-pong”, with MPs unable to force through the legislation because it originated in the upper house.
“It’s anybody’s guess what the final bill will look like and when we will get a conclusion,” Lye said. The government hoped to implement the bill by April 2008, he added.
Mental health service user and academic Peter Beresford described the bill as the Iraq war of social policy, saying it was hanging over the sector and undermining other developments.
Like the war, the bill had been pursued without “halt or proper reflection, in spite of all the evidence against it”, Beresford said.