Mental Health Act 1983

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:07 pm on 11th July 2017.

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Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 7:07 pm, 11th July 2017

I thank my hon. Friend for his contribution. The point I was trying to make is that a range of health professionals are working alongside the police in different settings to make sure that their response is appropriate. Sometimes it is mental health nurses who will be on the beat with police officers. My hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley said that the police were called because somebody was in a very aggravated and stressful situation and they might have been prepared to take their own life. A call handler at the emergency centre would triage that situation, understand its severity and send the appropriately qualified medical professional so that they can make those decisions.

I think we are largely in agreement on the progress we have made. I want to focus on my hon. Friend’s key point, which is that he does not think that the police have sufficient powers to act quickly in relation to people in private homes who are mentally distressed. I have read through his previous contributions and I am sympathetic to his point. I appreciate how utterly frustrating it must be for police officers who find themselves in a situation where they feel helpless to take action in a reasonable amount of time when they would have those powers if they were in a public place. Having read previous debates and contributions, however, I think it is right that we consider somebody’s home differently from a public place. For most people, their home is their refuge. It is a special place. We allow people to do all sorts of things in their homes that we do not allow them to do in a public place. We have to reflect carefully before taking more powers on the state to allow us to intervene in people’s private space. We seek to strike the right balance so that we can intervene to keep people safe and ensure that they get access to services without violating their privacy. We have consulted quite widely on the matter, and we considered it when we were looking at a review of the legislation. There was a lot of discussion about it, and the view was that we had struck the right balance and did not need to take the extra step that my hon. Friend wants us to take.

New powers have been introduced, as I mentioned, in the Policing and Crime Act 2017, and we are monitoring how they are working. I reassure my hon. Friend that if that monitoring suggests that we can or should do more, we will take further action. We expect to see a lot more data from the police this autumn about how sections 135 and 136 are implemented on the ground. We will be analysing the results of a new annual data return to establish whether there are any new trends or patterns that need further response. We will have the opportunity to consider the whole issue in the round as we look, as promised, at the Mental Health Act.

I am happy to meet my hon. Friend and any other colleagues who have a close interest in this policy area, along with Professor Rix and officials from the Department of Health and the Home Office, to make sure that we have this absolutely right. We want to join up mental health professionals and police professionals appropriately to prevent the sorts of situations that we have heard about this evening. I look forward to building on the good progress that we have made, and I will continue to work well with my hon. Friend to make sure that that happens.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.