Mental Health Bill [HL]

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

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Photo of The Bishop of Coventry The Bishop of Coventry Bishop 3:30 pm, 19th February 2007

My Lords, I support the amendment which, as I understand it, places these principles not only in the Bill but, by extension, in the 1983 Act.

I welcome the amendment for three reasons; the first is to do with transparency and clarity, a point that has already been made. I speak as a mere layman in matters of law, but it seems that clarity and transparency are essential not simply for the sake of those who are called upon to make judgments in these matters but for the general purpose of the public, who need to understand what this is all about.

Secondly, I, too, believe that there needs to be consistency with other Acts, particularly the Mental Capacity Act. The principles would provide a parallel with those set out in that and other legislation.

Thirdly, the principles are entirely consistent with the Judaeo-Christian understanding of the dignity of human beings. However, it is not simply the Judaeo-Christian understanding but one with which people of a humanist or secularist bent would be perfectly happy to identify. It is difficult to see how the principles of maximising patient participation, taking account of patients' feelings and wishes, the avoidance of discrimination and of least or minimum restriction could ever be thought outdated or irrelevant.

I believe that the amendment will provide useful guidance and constraints on treatment and go some way to meeting the remaining anxieties about the effect of the powers in the Bill on people with mental health problems.