Mental Health Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 19th February 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Patel of Bradford Lord Patel of Bradford Crossbench 3:30 pm, 19th February 2007

My Lords, I should like to make a short contribution to the debate. The Minister has argued that we cannot have principles in the Bill for practical reasons as it may lead to a "lack of clarity" and a "lack of understanding" by practitioners. It would seem that this conflict arises only in the current Bill because the Government previously accepted the value of including principles in the 2004 Bill and, as many noble Lords have pointed out, they included guiding principles in the Mental Capacity Act 2005. But, leaving that aside, I shall address the one area which the Minister did not address—non-discrimination. I wish to say something about just one aspect of it in respect of race equality.

First, I have a real problem with the idea that practitioners would be confused by a principle of non-discrimination. Having looked through the current Act, I cannot find mention anywhere of the idea of discriminating on the basis of ethnicity, race or any other area; so I fail to see where conflict would arise. Secondly, we have all spoken at great length about the inequalities faced by certain ethnic groups in our mental health system. Regrettably, we are still failing to do enough to rectify or alleviate the situation. The principle of non-discrimination regarding race equality in this Bill would be, I would argue, only one small step towards reassuring the black and minority ethnic communities and those delivering services that we are serious about addressing these failings in our mental health provision.

Finally, if it is true, as the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, stated in her opening comments when we first debated the Bill, that this is actually a Home Office Bill masquerading as a health Bill, and it is the Home Office which is really opposed to having principles on the face of the Bill—I urge the Minister to remind his colleagues that more than a quarter of the prison population are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, that stop and search figures for black and Asian young people continue to rise, and that disproportionate numbers of black people are referred to mental health services via the criminal justice system rather than primary care services—perhaps the Home Office should have principles on the face of its own legislation.