Press release

Government supports scrapping antiquated mental health laws

The Deputy Prime Minister announced that the government is backing the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Government today threw its support behind legislation in the House of Commons that will remove antiquated rules that currently ban people with mental health issues from taking part in public life.

The Deputy Prime Minister announced that the government is backing the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill brought forward by Gavin Barwell MP, which receives Second Reading in the House of Commons today.

The Bill repeals section 141 of the Mental Health Act, which sets out that an MP automatically loses their seat if detained under the Act for more than six months. It also amends similar discriminatory provisions in legislation concerning jurors and company directors.

Gavin Barwell’s Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill builds on the work of Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, who launched a similar Bill in the House of Lords in the previous session.

The Deputy Prime Minister said:

One in four of us will suffer from mental health issues during our lifetime. We can’t know or predict who will be affected or when.

The Government is doing a huge amount to try and remove some of the stigma surrounding mental illness, and I am delighted to be able to support this Private Member’s Bill, which addresses a problem in the House of Commons - my own workplace. It’s ludicrous in this day and age that a person can’t contribute to public life if they’ve had issues with their mental health.

Discrimination like this has no place in modern society and it is right that these rules are repealed. These long overdue reforms will send out a positive message that the stigmatisation of people who have mental health problems should not be tolerated.

Chloe Smith, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, said:

I would like to congratulate Gavin Barwell, Lord Stevenson and everyone who has worked so hard to get this important Bill to this stage. It is great to see colleagues of all political persuasions taking up the baton and getting behind the Government’s drive to stop the stigma surrounding mental health.

I hope everyone in both Houses of Parliament will support this Bill and ensure it gets onto the statute book as quickly as possible.

Published 14 September 2012