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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 22nd October 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Jolly Baroness Jolly Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Health) 9:30 pm, 22nd October 2018

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 87, 93 and 94 and address the amendments tabled in the name of my noble friend Lady Tyler and the noble Lord, Lord Touhig. Amendments 93 and 94 are simply enabling provisions.

Amendments 86 and 87 would require that, before the implementation date of this legislation, the Secretary of State should lay before both Houses of Parliament a copy of the updated code of practice giving guidance as well as a response to the review of the Mental Health Act that Sir Simon Wessely is carrying out. We have been half guessing in our discussions what might or might not be in it.

The Bill is not particularly easy to read and it is certainly not a guide for practice, and the ensuing Act will not be easy to read either—unlike the Care Act. The code of practice is absolutely critical to take professionals through what the legislation will entail and what they will have to implement in their practice. To that end, I have a little list. I wonder whether the Minister can indicate or confirm whether these issues will be covered in the code: the basis for detention and when the “necessary and proportionate” test applies; the role of IMCAs and appropriate persons; the professional qualifications and training of those undertaking pre-authorisation reviews; when an AMCP referral should be made; and obligations to provide information to the person and their family about the authorisation. The Minister may not have the answers on his person or from the Dispatch Box right now, but perhaps he could write to me and make that clear.

To make this happen, we would need subsection (2)(a) of the new clause proposed by Amendment 86 and a year’s wait. Many noble Lords have spoken both on and off and in Committee about the Mental Health Act. In our previous debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, referred to the work of Sir Simon in reviewing that Act along with the Act we are trying to amend now. Between them, the two Acts define, among other things, the care and rights of the most vulnerable—those with mental health conditions and those lacking capacity—who are unable to make decisions about their care. Sometimes, but not always, there may be an overlap. It would not be prudent for the Bill to end its passage through Parliament without us learning the findings of the Wessely review and determining whether it is necessary to amend the Bill further—hence the need for subsection (2)(b) of the new clause proposed by Amendment 86. Earlier today, the Minister spoke about pushing ahead. I understand the need for urgency, but I fear that if we pass the Bill in haste, we may end up repenting or regretting at leisure. That is just me being slightly cautious.

Amendment 87 calls for the Secretary of State to,

“lay a copy of the report before both Houses”.

He or she—who knows who it will be by then—is being asked to look at how the Act is working and whether they are confident that there is an improvement in the process surrounding the deprivation of liberty. We have all discussed this issue; the Minister will have detected the Committee’s concern about this area of the Bill. Basically, I am calling for the Secretary of State to report back on the impact of the Act and ensure that the code is well and truly in place before we start to use the Act in earnest.

I added my name in support of my noble friend Lady Tyler’s amendment, which seeks to ensure that regulations are scrutinised and debated in both Houses. It would also ensure that consultation takes place outside Parliament, which is critical. It is fine for us to debate these issues here—clearly, some people have more experience and understanding than others—but I get many letters from not just individuals who are, or would be, affected by the Bill but the sector, saying, “Keep the Government’s feet to the fire. Make sure we get the very best Bill we can”. I do not doubt at all the Minister’s intention to achieve that end, but the devil is in the detail and there is a lot of it. We must make sure that we get this right through primary legislation. As I said, there is much expertise but we all welcome the opportunity to look at the detail of regulations, both accompanying primary legislation and in any future proposed changes.

Under DoLS, a number of important things were set out in regulations, particularly: who best interests assessors were and how they were to discharge their duties; the timeframe for carrying out assessments; the type of information that would need to be collected; and details of how disputes might be resolved. As my noble friend Lady Tyler will highlight, this is not just about ensuring that regulations are debated; it is about how those in the sector—families and vulnerable people themselves, I would suggest—are consulted and involved in getting the detail right in both initial regulations and any subsequent changes down the line.

To bring this matter into sharper focus, I wonder if the Minister might be able to confirm what he thinks might go into regulation? I hope he would also confirm that regulations laid accompanying this Bill, and any amendments down the line, are subject to the fullest scrutiny both in this House and in the sector. This will mean a decent time gap will have to be found between the laying of the regulations and the debates in both Houses.

I welcome Amendment 92, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, which would see another two independent reports commissioned by the Government. They would be laid within two and four years of implementation, to provide a valuable update as to how implementation was proceeding and highlight areas for improvement. We will need to monitor the implementation of the Act, however it may end up, really closely. We are dealing with the most vulnerable in our society.

These amendments are based on the PIP independent reviews, which have proven successful in highlighting problems. While I am sure many in this House would agree that there are still things to improve in terms of personal independence payments, the oversight provided by the independent reviews has been invaluable in terms of recommending important changes aiding implementation. There are many important issues to review: best interests decisions—ensuring that they are just that, and not based on commercial or other considerations; a monitor of advocacy offered and its uptake; the involvement of P—the cared-for person—and not just professionals, but also those who care for P, and the families of P. I am happy to support those particular amendments, and beg to move.