Fears that draft mental health bill could be dropped

Opposition politicians and campaigners say the Mental Health Bill will not be introduced this parliamentary session, and could be dropped altogether in favour of a reform of the 1983 Act.

Their claims follow a parliamentary answer last week in which minister Rosie Winterton declined to affirm that the legislation would be introduced this session, which ends this November.

Promises of further consultation with black and minority ethnic groups before the bill’s publication are also yet to be met.

Responding to a direct question from shadow health and children’s minister Tim Loughton about whether the bill would be introduced this session, health minister Winterton merely said it would be tabled “when the legislative timetable permits”.

A Department of Health spokesperson said that the position on the bill had not changed and the government still hoped to introduce it this session.

However, Loughton said he understood there were difficulties getting the bill agreed by the cabinet because of all the other contentious legislation in the pipeline. He suggested it would be “quietly dropped”.

Liberal Democrat peer and chair of the joint committee on the draft Mental Health Bill Lord Carlile recently told a meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on mental health it was unlikely legislation would be introduced this session.

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