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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:00 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 10:00 pm, 22nd October 2018

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have tabled amendments in this group. We have had a wide-ranging debate on areas where they would like to see various enactments, changes, reports and so on, before commencement and following implementation. I will attempt to deal with them thematically.

Amendment 86 requires that before commencement the Government must publish the code of practice and our response to the Mental Health Act review. Amendments 93 and 94 update Clause 5 to reflect this. I am happy to confirm that the Government will have published both of these before the new system commences.

Amendment 87 requires that the effectiveness of the Act is reviewed and a report laid in Parliament within a year of the Bill coming into force. As the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, just pointed out, Amendment 92 requires the Secretary of State to commission two independent reports on the operation of the new liberty protection safeguards scheme two and four years after the new system comes into force. Again, I am happy to assure noble Lords that the Government routinely conduct post-legislative scrutiny for all new Acts. The relevant guide says that within three to five years of Royal Assent the Government will be required to submit a memorandum to the relevant departmental select committee with a preliminary assessment of how the Act has worked in practice. I am happy to confirm that the Bill will receive such scrutiny and the Health Select Committee will be informed.

Amendment 87A, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, details requirements regarding a number of topics. As he pointed out, a number of these have already been addressed in our debates, including unsound mind, issues around advance consent, the availability of non-means-tested legal aid, and others. We have had a debate on the rules and guidance around IMCAs, which we are clearly going to take forward. He focused on tribunals. The Government are reviewing the courts and tribunals system but that review has not concluded. We are not proposing to change the position on the Court of Protection hearing challenges to liberty protection safeguards in the Bill precisely because there is not yet an opinion or a policy change from the Government with regard to a proposed new system. He also asked about the cost implications, which are outlined in our impact assessment, as he will know.

The noble Lord’s second amendment, Amendment 87B, seeks to make the CQC the regulator for the liberty protection safeguards. The Bill allows for bodies to be prescribed to report and monitor the scheme and it is absolutely our intention that the CQC takes on this role in England. It clearly has an important role in oversight of the new system, although we are concerned that his amendment would introduce additional layers of regulation. It should also be pointed out that the CQC is an England-only organisation; in Wales, the overseeing regulators are expected to be Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and Care Inspectorate Wales, which will both take on this role.

Amendment 87D was tabled by my noble friend Lady Barran and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. It would require responsible bodies to consider criteria to be published by the Secretary of State around best interests and the least restrictive option before authorisations are approved under the liberty protection safeguards. These are of course absolutely key principles of the Mental Capacity Act, and responsible bodies will have to consider them as part of any authorisation. As I have set out in previous debates, these factors already form part of the necessary and proportionate assessments, as well as other factors such as considering the wishes and feelings of the person. We will explain in the code how this assessment should be carried out and the factors that assessors should have regard to. I am grateful to my noble friend for some suggestions in that regard and I have just confirmed that the code would be published before commencement of the new scheme.

Amendment 87F, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, would remove the power of the Court of Protection to call for reports from local authorities and NHS bodies in cases relating to a cared-for person under the schedule. We think it is important, as I am sure she does, that the Court of Protection has access to such information but I heard the story that she told about an undue burden. I am certainly happy to commit to her that I will speak to colleagues in the Ministry of Justice to see whether there is any way that this process can be improved without removing the ability of the court to access the information it needs to make proper determinations.

Amendment 92A, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, seeks to ensure that the liberty protection safeguards do not apply to any existing or pending DoLS authorisations. I can confirm that existing DoLS authorisations can continue until they are due for renewal or review. Clearly, depending on the final outcome of the Bill, the frequency with which those are renewed or reviewed will mean that there will be a steady stream of DoLS authorisations coming under the liberty protection safeguards in future, for those that are rolled over. Careful work will clearly need to be done with the sector to ensure that a tsunami of new authorisations does not happen but allowing for authorisations to continue under the previous system, until they can reach review or renewal, should go some way toward mitigating that risk.

Finally, Amendment 88, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, states that regulations should be subject to the affirmative parliamentary procedure and a consultation requirement. We have of course asked the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its opinion on the regulation-making powers within the Bill and it has accepted that the negative procedure provides appropriate parliamentary oversight. As the Committee knows, we go against the DPRRC’s recommendations at our peril.

I apologise for detaining the Committee for six or seven minutes but I wanted to be thorough. I hope that I have been able to give the reassurances that noble Lords were looking for about the safeguards that we will put in place before commencement and the reviews of effectiveness to ensure that the system is working as intended. I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw or not move their amendments.