Rosie Winterton to defy lords as MPs debate Mental Health Bill

MPs will debate the government’s controversial Mental Health Bill  for the first time today as it moves from the Lords to the Commons.

Health minister Rosie Winterton has vowed to overturn several significant changes to the legislation  made by peers earlier in the year, accusing them of undermining public and patient safety.

The House of Lords amended the bill  to ensure compulsory community treatment would be restricted to patients who would otherwise be in and out of hospital and prevent people being sectioned unless their ability to make decisions about their treatment was impaired.

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats will back the peers’ amendments but their survival rests on the votes of potential Labour rebels. 46 Labour MPs, enough to defeat the government, last year signed an early day motion  opposing a previous incarnation of the bill, but turning those signatures into votes under the pressure of government whips is likely to prove difficult.

The government used new figures showing a fall in the rate of suicide to justify introducing the compulsory community treatment measures  in the bill. But Mind described the claim as “misleading”  saying the problem was about access to scarce resources for people who wanted treatment rather than compulsion.

The National Autistic Society also warned today that proposed changes to the bill would discriminate against people with autism and lead to the “inappropriate” detention of people with the disability in mental health units.

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