Extent, commencement and short title

Part of Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 22nd January 2019.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Mental Health and Social Care) 2:30 pm, 22nd January 2019

Indeed. It is salutary to use the following quotation again:

“Whatever the weight given to the Code by section 42 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, it does not create an obligation as a matter of law to apply to court in every case.”

We have wanted to know what is in the code of practice. We think knowing what is in it is important in deciding our position on what is in the Bill. The Government have declined to put too many aspects in the Bill and have instead favoured the code of practice. When legislation and codes of practice exist together, they are drawn up together and published together. That has not happened in this case and it is the wrong approach. We cannot leave crucial details about how a new system of protections would work, including what resources will be given to it, to a code of practice that has not been drawn up yet, but that is what the Government have done.

On the first day of this Committee the Minister said that she would supply Committee Members with a list of what should be contained in the code of practice, and I thank her for doing so last night. Unfortunately, that does not answer many of our concerns. For instance, we raised concerns about the length of authorisations. It is welcome that there will be guidance in the code of practice, but we still do not know what it will say. Similarly, the Minister’s letter says that the code of practice will contain

“guidance on the necessary separation and operation independence from any independent hospital an AMCP is conducting a review in”.

Again, I am glad that there will be guidance, but we still do not know what it will be. Nothing prohibits any of the relationships we are concerned about and have discussed at length: it simply says that some relationships may be prohibited. That is simply not good enough at this stage. As such, the Minister’s letter does not answer the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Slough. We remain worried that there will not be proper oversight of this code of practice. Without seeing the full code, we cannot be certain that its contents are sufficient or appropriate.

Overall, the Government’s approach of constantly mentioning the code of practice as being the place where whatever is not in the Bill will be plays fast and loose with the rights and liberties of cared-for people. It further reinforces the mess that the Government have made of the Bill by rushing it through Parliament. Had they done the sensible thing and paused the process, they would have had time to draw up a draft code of practice so that we could consider it alongside the Bill, as is commonly the case. They have given reassurances that many of the concerns can be addressed in subsequent regulations and the code of practice, but that is simply unacceptable to those of us on the Opposition Benches. To that end, we have tabled the amendment to ensure that the Bill cannot be enacted until a code of practice has been published and approved by votes in both Houses, rather than just published.