Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill [HL] - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 22nd October 2018.

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Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 9:15 pm, 22nd October 2018

I am grateful to the noble Baronesses for leading this debate. Obviously, the bulk of the debate focused on Amendment 87C, which would exclude people residing in domestic settings, and we have discussed the merits of that approach. The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, gave a thorough exploration of alternatives to the LPS system in a domestic setting. The noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, gave a passionate defence of the role of families in caring, which was perhaps accentuated by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, talking about the need to avoid overzealous application of any new provision of deprivation of liberty safeguards. My noble friend Lady Barran talked particularly about the group of people who lack a care plan and their interaction with the care system if they go temporarily into a care home. For me, all that brought home that we have further work to do on the appropriate system that applies in a domestic setting, to put it shortly.

It was helpful that the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, told us the story about the vulnerable person. We all agree that something needs to happen in that case to check the actions of the family or help the family to do better. They may just not know what to do or be at their wits’ end—who knows? We can imagine how easy it is to fall into those situations not out of intention but out of pressure and circumstance. That debate highlighted how important it is to get that right. I absolutely want to avoid intrusion where it is not necessary, but equally we need to ensure that those people deprived of their liberty receive the proper protections due to them under Article 5 of the ECHR. This is an issue that clearly needs more work. The amendment was not designed to perfect the solution but rather to start the conversation, and it is absolutely one that we will take through with noble Lords.

I turn briefly to Amendment 83B, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, which seeks to introduce a legal presumption that a person should give evidence in all Court of Protection proceedings. Obviously I agree with her about the importance of this issue. She called it a reasonable point and I think it more than reasonable. It is essential that in any court proceedings a person’s rights are protected and that the cared-for person has the opportunity to give evidence to the court in any case concerning the deprivation of liberty. I am happy to be able to confirm that this is already reflected in the Court of Protection rules. The court’s overriding objective under the rules is to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost. They expressly include ensuring that the person’s interests and position are properly considered and that the parties are on an equal footing. A new set of rules was introduced less than a year ago. They include changes to ensure that a person is able to participate in proceedings. Specifically, rule 1.2 requires the court to consider in every case how best to secure the cared-for person’s participation. It sets out a range of options including the cared-for person addressing the court directly, indirectly or with support from a representative, a litigation friend or an accredited legal representative. I hope that that provides the noble Baroness with the clarification that she was looking for and that she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.