Mental Health Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 19th February 2007.

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Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative 3:45 pm, 19th February 2007

My Lords, I am sorry that the amendment is not as detailed as the one we discussed in Committee. I thought that the Government's argument against that amendment was extremely weak. We were told that because of the way in which the Bill amends the 1983 Act, it was very difficult for the draftsman to know whether all the principles would be in the list. That was a pathetic argument. If the draftsman could not ensure that we should not be pursuing this legislation. But now we have a much simpler amendment which, from the way people have been talking, is less satisfactory than the previous amendment but better than nothing.

I was not sure about the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Soley, that because four other Acts are mentioned in the amendment it might make practitioners more liable to prosecution under those Acts. But such law exists and if for some reason people went astray they could be prosecuted under those Acts anyway. So it would not make any difference; it is just a way of identifying principles of discrimination.

The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, about the principles on the face of the Scottish Act is very important. Should we be legislating in the United Kingdom about the liberty of people with mental illness on grounds of different principles on different sides of the Border? I shall say something later about what the Minister said when he described the differences in another aspect of the Bill as one of the beauties of devolution. It is not a beauty of devolution if one's liberty is threatened on different grounds on two sides of a border in the same nation. That is a very unfortunate aspect of the Bill.

However, the Government seem determined to do this. I detect from the debate that they prefer this amendment to the one in Committee and perhaps they will see their way clear to putting principles, which according to their lights are appropriate, in the Bill. I support my noble friend.