Setback for mental health bill

The government’s controversial mental health bill has suffered one of its biggest setbacks after 36 backbench Labour MPs signed an early day motion against the bill.

Such backbench opposition to the bill could force a House of Commons defeat for the government.

Seventy seven MPs, including the 36 Labour backbenchers, have, in total, signed the motion condemning the bill which
critics argue will increase powers to compulsory detain people under mental health law.

Ministers argue the bill is a suitable balance between patient rights and public safety.

The Labour signatories would be sufficient to overturn the government’s 65-strong majority if all the signatures were turned into votes.

The Tory shadow health and children’s minister Tim Loughton claimed last month that the government was unlikely to introduce the bill this parliamentary session and that ministers were instead considering amending the mental health act of 1983..

However, anti-bill campaigners are now seeking a meeting with Department of Health officials to clarify the position.

Paul Farmer, chair of the Mental Health Alliance, a coalition campaigning against the bill, said: “It’s very encouraging that MPs are signing up to the early day motion, we’ve been doing a lot of work with parliamentarians. If the bill did get into parliament then it would be subject to extremely rigorous scrutiny.”

The motion was tabled by Diane Abbot, Labour MP for Hackney North, in December last year.

The motion states new mental health law based on the draft bill “will seriously restrict the rights, choices and well being of people with mental distress and force too many people into compulsory treatment”

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