Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill [HL] - Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 26th February 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 4:00 pm, 26th February 2019

My Lords, I thank all those who have contributed to this debate on the first group of amendments. As your Lordships have so thoughtfully said, we are wrestling with this definition because, as my noble and learned friend Lord McKay put it so eloquently, this is a very challenging task indeed.

In my opening speech, I explained the Government’s amendment and the reasons for our opposition to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, so I will try to answer a couple of questions that have been raised. The first came from the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, who asked why the amendment introducing the definition was tabled in the first place, given that it was such a difficult task and the Law Commission did not recommend that definition. There were calls for a definition from the JCHR, noble Lords and many stakeholders. It was an attempt to meet those calls, and we have done our best to collaborate and respond. She also raised the issue of valid consent and the three pillars. All references in the Bill to the deprivation of liberty only apply to people who lack capacity, and the amendment implies that people who lack capacity can give consent. That would not be correct in law but that is the way it could be read, so it needs to be clarified before it could be accepted.

I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for his comments. In his broad experience, the Government’s definition is in line with the reading of Strasbourg’s decisions so far. As he rightly understands, our intention is to anchor the definition in Article 5 and Cheshire West and to allow for evolving case law so that those who are awaiting decisions do not have to go back to court again and again. The purpose of this definition in the primary legislation is exactly as my noble friend Lord O’Shaughnessy put it: it is for the use of lawyers, whereas we are determined to bring forward robust and clear statutory guidance for stakeholders and those who will be affected by the definitions, so that they can be assured that they understand exactly the effect of this definition. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, feels able to withdraw her amendment.