Mental Health Act Reform

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:33 pm on 13th January 2021.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 2:33 pm, 13th January 2021

I thank the shadow Minister for her thoughtful approach. I agree with the way that she described the challenge, and with her insistence that we must not just improve the legislation—and we will—but improve and continue to strengthen service provision, in particular community service provision, as an alternative to admission. That is how we turn legislation from dry words on a page into real action on the ground.

The shadow Minister is absolutely right, too, that service users must be at the heart of framing the legislation. If I may link that point to her question about the timeframe, the challenge of the timeframe is to ensure that we move fast enough to help people and get the new legislation on the statute book as quickly as reasonably possible, but at the same time continue with the consensus-based approach that we have taken.

I am very grateful, as I said, for the work of Sir Simon and the NHS team, and I am grateful that we have managed to develop this White Paper with broad consensus among those who provide mental health services and service users, and politically across the House. I think that is an important consensus to keep, and I want to try to keep it by ensuring that we take as open an approach as possible to the legislation. I am absolutely open to joint prelegislative scrutiny, and I am absolutely open to the publication of a draft Bill. Let us get the details right, and let us work together on this and keep it as consensual as possible.

I also agree with the hon. Member’s point about the need to tackle broader health inequalities, and covid has laid bare some of those. That is a core part of our levelling-up agenda, and it is an important consideration for both physical and mental health. I am glad to say that this landmark White Paper, which will lead to a once-in-a-generation Bill, is proceeding with the support of the Opposition. I am really pleased about that, because this is for everyone. It is to make sure that some of the most vulnerable people in our country get the support they need and deserve.