Labour MPs’ opposition means bill could fall if put to Commons vote

Backbench opposition to the Mental Health Bill could force a House of Commons defeat for the government, it emerged this week.

An early day motion condemning the proposed bill has been signed by 77 MPs, including 36 Labour backbenchers.

Opposition parties have already come out against the bill and the Labour signatories would be enough to overturn the government’s 65-strong majority if all the signatures were turned into votes.

Opposition politicians and campaigners said last week the government was unlikely to introduce the bill this session and was instead considering amending the 1983 act  (Bill could be dropped and 1983 act reformed, says shadow minister, 16 February).

Ministers are believed to be concerned about getting the bill through parliament, given all the other contentious legislation in the pipeline, and campaigners are now seeking a meeting with Department of Health officials to clarify the position.

Paul Farmer, chair of the Mental Health Alliance, a coalition campaigning against the bill, said the extent of opposition in parliament was now becoming clear.

He said: “It’s very encouraging that MPs are signing up to the early day motion; we’ve been doing a lot of work with parliamentarians. If the bill did get into parliament then it would be subject to extremely rigorous scrutiny.”

Shadow health and children’s minister Tim Loughton said the motion was significant but not surprising.

He said: “This is why they haven’t come out with a new version of the bill. There will be a strong backlash if they try to bulldoze it through the Commons.”

Further uncertainty about the bill was created last week by comments from Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart, who is responsible for mental health legislation. Answering a parliamentary question on mental health and the criminal justice system, she referred to “proposals to amend mental health legislation” rather than introduce a new law.

But Loughton and Farmer warned against reading too much into the comment. The DH maintains that the bill will be introduced when parliamentary time allows.

  • Paul Farmer has been appointed as the new chief executive of Mind. He is currently director of public affairs at Rethink.
  • More from Community Care

    Comments are closed.