But Labour MP Lynne Jones believes
ministers may need to accept some amendments tabled by the House
of Lords if a controversial mental health bill is to be given the
nod by wavering Labour backbench MPs.
Peers in the House of Lords this
week voted by a majority of 106 that mental health patients should
have an impairment of decision-making ability before being compulsory
treated. The bill does not include such a condition.
Jones, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, last year tabled an early day
motion expressing “misgivings” over the bill.
although 27 backbench Labour MPs have put their signatures to the
motion, if these were turned to opposition votes they would not
be enough to overturn the Labour majority in the House of Commons.
"I do not think there will
be a major rebellion [by Labour backbenchers]” Ms Jones told
"Although I do think this depends
upon the government accepting some of the House of Lords amendments.
I hope they will.”
In March last year the government
dropped its original bill, first tabled in 2002 and revised in 2004,
after a parliamentary select committee slammed it for being “fundamentally
In its place ministers last year
published a third bill - a series of amendments to the Mental Health
The government argues the new law
for England and Wales would both improve care for patients and protect
the public by preventing some of the 50-60 annual homicides committed
by those diagnosed with a mental illness.
But critics have attacked the bill
for lacking detail, threatening civil liberties and would lead to
people being detained without therapeutic benefit. Some psychiatrists
fear becoming jailers
One key concern over the bill is
that, even if a person objects rationally to treatment, psychiatrists
can still treat them with force. This is because, unlike present
law and in Scotland, the bill contains no condition for detention
that a person’s decision-making ability is impaired.
For Dr Tony Zigmond of the Royal
College of Psychiatrists, not having a condition of impaired decision-making
would be a blatant discrimination against people with mental health
problems. People with physical health problems, such as cancer,
have the right to refuse treatment.
"People suffering from mental
illness should not fundamentally be treated differently from people
with physical illness,” he says. “This difference would
be exacerbated by this [new] law.”
The bill also contains proposals
for community treatment orders (CTOs) whereby patients detained
in hospital may be ordered to take their medication while living
in the community.
But the government was accused on
Wednesday of sitting on a report showing that CTOs neither improve
care nor reduce risks to the public.
In the House of Commons shadow health
minister Tim Loughton called on mental health minister Rosie Winterton
to publish the findings of a Department of Health-commissioned study
of how CTOs have worked in 50 countries.
Loughton said the report had been delivered to the Department of
Health in the autumn.
He said it concluded that CTOs “have
no clear effect on patient outcomes or risk reduction, and that
these psychiatric ASBOs have been described as discriminatory by
many patient groups, not least those representing black and minority
Winterton said the report was being
peer-reviewed and would be published in due course.
The Black Mental Health UK group
has written to the Commission for Racial Equality claiming the new
bill - if brought to the statute books - will break race relations