What UK Government is thinking

Government to consider repealing “discriminatory” mental health law

Ministers are to consider overturning law which bans people who have been sectioned under mental health law from being an MP.

Common law originating from the 16th century bars anyone who has been detained in psychiatric hospital from standing for parliament, even if they have made a recovery.

An all-party parliamentary group on mental health said the law – which also bars “idiots” or “lunatics” from becoming MPs – is discriminatory.

A spokesman for the government’s Ministry of Justice today confirmed that ministers are to re-examine such laws.

“The government will consider with stakeholders whether old rules in common law should be removed which may prevent a person who has experienced mental health problems from standing or remaining as a member of parliament,” he said

Idiots are defined as those “incapable of gaining reason” and lunatics as people only “capable of periods of lucidity”.

Common law bans such “lunatics” from standing as MPs in “their non lucid intervals”.

This month a Mind survey of 94 MPs, 100 Lords and 151 parliamentary staff found 27% had experienced a mental health problem. But one in three said stigma had stopped them being open about it.

Charity Rethink’s chief executive Paul Jenkins claimed Mind’s findings represented an “affront to democracy”

“MPs and peers need to be free to bring their personal experiences to their vital democratic role.

“Instead they are being gagged by the prejudice, ignorance and fear surrounding mental illness,” he said.

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