Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:14 pm on 18th December 2018.

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Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 6:14 pm, 18th December 2018

The hon. Gentleman has made a good point about the support for the Bill. Some Opposition Members have suggested that there is not much support for it, but it is, in fact, widely supported. Yes, there are concerns, with which I shall deal shortly, but, as the hon. Gentleman has said, there is widespread support for improvements in the current system. Those improvements include simplification—less bureaucracy and fewer administrative burdens—and the critically important representation of individuals through the independent mental capacity advocates, which will give them a voice. The frequency of assessments will become more appropriate; as my hon. Friend Anne-Marie Trevelyan said earlier, timings can be inappropriate and excessively burdensome. There is a better choice of language: the Bill removes the term “unsound mind”, which is very stigmatising and completely unnecessary. I am also pleased that the Government have listened to the concerns expressed by some of my constituents about, for instance, potential conflicts of interests for care home owners when a financial interest may be involved.

However, I have three outstanding concerns. First, there is the question of how the amended Act will work for people with severe mental illnesses. The Bill clearly focuses on those who lack capacity because of, for instance, dementia, learning difficulties, autism or brain injuries, but, if I understand it correctly, it could be applied to people with severe mental illnesses. Figures suggest that the current Act is applied to a significant number of people in such circumstances. We know that such illnesses—bipolar disorders, for example—are likely to fluctuate, and that as a result people’s capacity may also fluctuate. That could cause them to be detained and deprived of their liberty when, in fact, they have regained capacity. The Minister in the Lords, Lord O’ Shaughnessy, gave a commitment that that would be addressed in the code of practice, but may I press this Minister to ensure that there are sufficient safeguards in the Bill?