MPs prepare for renewed struggle in Commons over peers’ amendments

The Mental Health Bill completed its passage through the House of Lords last week with peers defeating the government on six key areas of the legislation (see Six Key changes made to the bill by peers).

Now the focus moves to the Commons, where health minister Rosie Winterton has vowed to overturn the amendments, claiming peers had “seriously weakened” the government’s plans to protect patients and the public.

Although the opposition parties said they would back the peers’ changes it may prove difficult to garner enough rebel Labour MPs to block the government.

Mental Health Alliance chair Andy Bell said he hoped enough Labour MPs would see it as an “issue of conscience not party politics”.

Shadow health minister Tim Loughton said: “The battle is hotting up and we will be going full pelt to make sure the amendments from the lords prevail.”

The government is expected to offer several compromises in the Commons, such as including principles protecting people’s rights in the bill’s code of practice and improving access to advocates for detained patients.

Winterton’s criticisms of the Lords amendments drew a sharp response from Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile, who chaired the scrutiny committee that reviewed the 2004 draft Mental Health Bill.

He said: “If she had listened to the debates, she would have heard evidence from cross-party peers, with wide-ranging professional expertise, that nothing in the bill will lead to the prevention of a single murder.”

Six key changes made to the bill by peers (back)

● Compulsory community treatment would be restricted to patients who would otherwise be in and out of hospital, rather than anyone who had been sectioned.
● Detained children would be placed in age-appropriate accommodation.
● A person could only be detained if the treatment would be “likely to alleviate or prevent a deterioration in his condition”, rather than when “appropriate treatment” was available, as the government proposed.
● People could not be sectioned solely on the basis of their substance misuse, sexual orientation or cultural beliefs.
● A detention renewal must be agreed by a medical practitioner and a responsible clinician, rather than just a responsible clinician, such as a nurse.
● People could not be sectioned unless they had impaired ability to make decisions about their treatment.

Further information
Mental Health

Related articles
Lords amend Mental Health Bill

Peers’ amendments to bill likely to force government to compromise

Lords defeat government over therapeutic community treatment

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   Simeon Brody



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