Mental Health Alliance welcomes House of Lords votes on Mental Health Bill

19 February 2007

The House of Lords has made a huge improvement to the Government’s Mental Health Bill, campaigners from the Mental Health Alliance said today.

Welcoming this evening’s votes to exclude people who do not have genuine mental health problems from the scope of the Act and to ensure that no one is detained unless they could benefit from treatment, the 78-member Alliance said:

"People should not be at risk of being subjected to the Mental Health Act if they have no hope of benefiting from treatment given without their consent.

"The Mental Health Act is one of the few ways a person can be deprived of their liberty without committing a crime. It should never be invoked where it simply involves detaining someone without hope that the treatment on offer will help them. As the Bill was written, this was a real, if unintended, danger. We cannot risk such powers being used in ways that are unintended at any time in the future."

Mental Health Alliance vice-chair Rowena Daw explained: "The current Mental Health Act has a number of exclusions, such as ‘sexual deviancy’. These need to be updated for the new century but not removed entirely, as the original Bill proposed.

"In the absence of exclusions, there is a real risk that the Act could be misused. People should never be detained under mental health law because they hold extreme political or religious beliefs or have a socially unacceptable sexual orientation. Yet we know that historically this has happened across the world. We cannot leave any possibility of that happening here."

Notes to Editors

The Mental Health Bill is now at Report stage in the House of Lords.

The House this evening voted (by 216 to 128) in favour of the amendment to bring in exclusions to the definition of mental disorder (Clause 3) in the Bill. This amendment was tabled by the Earl Howe (Con) with support from Baroness Barker (LD) and Baroness Murphy (CB). It states that people should not be sectioned solely on the basis of:

The House then voted (by 185 to 116) in favour of the amendment to a person should only be detained for treatment if treatment is available that ‘is likely to alleviate, or prevent a deterioration in his condition’. This amendment was tabled by Lord Carlile of Berriew (LD) and supported by Earl Howe, Baroness Meacher (CB) and Baroness Murphy.

The House also voted to amend the Government’s proposals for the renewal of detention, placing extra safeguards on how decisions are made and in response to debate, the Government pledged to introduce a further amendment to the Bill to ensure professionals pay regard to the principles in the Code of Practice.