MPs and lords call on government to introduce new incapacity legislation

The government has been urged to press ahead with mental incapacity
legislation, despite it not appearing in last week’s Queen’s

MPs and lords said that they would be “extremely disappointed” if
the government did not give the draft mental incapacity bill
priority. The people it is intended to help “have waited long
enough for the benefits it should bring them”.

The report of the joint parliamentary committee states that while
it did not want to see the bill delayed unnecessarily, it should
not be introduced to parliament until the draft codes of practice
are ready. The bill should also shape any new mental health

The Making Decisions Alliance, a group of voluntary organisations,
backed the joint committee’s hope for the bill to be brought before
parliament soon, while the Royal College of Psychiatrists urged the
government to find time in the current parliamentary session for
“this very necessary legislation”.

Overall the committee gave a “cautious welcome” to the draft bill,
supporting its basic principles that decisions must be made in a
person’s best interests and that it must be assumed that everyone
can make decisions unless proved otherwise.

But it claims that the scope of the proposed general authority,
which would allow everyday and emergency decisions to be made on
behalf of a person unable to make their own decisions, remained

It also recommends that the bill be renamed the mental capacity
bill. The test of mental capacity, not incapacity, is central to
the draft bill, and changing the name could help improve public
attitudes. Witnesses who gave evidence to the committee suggested
that the title of the bill had negative connotations.

The committee supports the draft bill’s plans to permit people to
make advance decisions to refuse medical treatment. It recommends
that these should be made in writing and independently witnessed by
people who have no financial interest. Alternatively, if made
during medical treatment, advance decisions should be recorded by
the doctor in the patient’s notes and independently witnessed.

It is satisfied there is nothing in the bill to permit

It goes on to criticise the government’s failure to provide an
assessment of the resources required.

– Report of the Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity

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