Mental Health Act 1983 — [Ms Karen Buck in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:20 pm on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 3:20 pm, 25th July 2019

This is as probably as well informed and good a debate as I have ever had to respond to. I hope I can do justice to all the good points that have been made, because we have covered all the key issues relating to how we better support people will mental ill health.

I associate myself with the comments about the personal speech of Neil Coyle, which he made in such a dignified way that I was incredibly moved by his story. What struck me about the experiences that he detailed was that they were his normal, which brought it into stark relief that we are talking about the real day-to-day lives of human beings. It is incredible to hear what people have to cope with on a daily basis. He reminded us that the 1980s had the best pop music, and I was reminded of the “Karma Chameleon” lyric:

“Every day is like survival”.

When we are talking about people with severe mental ill health, every day is like survival, so I thank him for that.

The hon. Gentleman’s speech covered everything that we need to tackle and I do not disagree with anything he said. Obviously, some of the charges that he levelled at me are challenging and I do not want to duck them. Everybody is impatient that we are perhaps not doing as well as we would like in helping people with mental ill health. I share that impatience, but I will not promise that it can be sorted overnight. We are rolling out a significant increase in services and in the workforce to deliver them, which takes longer than anyone would wish.

I will try to address the points that have been made. It was a great pleasure to hear from Mr Reed and to support him in delivering Seni’s law. In connection with that law, he has reminded us that when deaths happen to people who are detained by the state, we absolutely owe it to their loved ones, and to the person who died, to be open with them. The truth is often anything but, because the associated institutions of the state collude to protect themselves. Other Ministers and I are determined that we are the servants of the people, and those institutions that are there to deliver services for the people should remember that and should engage in a spirit of openness.

I have met Seni’s parents and I could not admire them more for the dignity with which they have borne their experience and the good use that they have put it to. I genuinely feel guilty, however, that we have let them down. Hon. Members will be pleased to know that we have a ministerial board that investigates deaths in custody and what can be learned from them, but I emphasise that we—including colleagues in the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice who, along with me, sit on those boards—are becoming rather concerned that not enough progress has been made. I am glad to be in continued engagement with Inquest, which does a fantastic job advocating on behalf of bereaved families. We need to do more to learn from events when they go wrong.