MP’s bill would scrap mental health laws that ‘shame’ UK


An MP has introduced a bill that aims to scrap laws that discriminate against people with mental health conditions in business and public life.

The mental health (discrimination) bill would overturn discriminatory mental health legislation affecting MPs, school governors, company directors and would-be jury members.

The bill was introduced this week into the Commons as a private member’s bill by the Conservative MP Gavin Barwell, but is not expected to be debated in the Commons until 14 September.

Its introduction today (Thursday) came less than a week after four other MPs – Labour MP Kevan Jones, and Conservative MPs Charles Walker, Dr Sarah Wollaston and Andrea Leadsom – described during a Commons debate their own experiences of mental health distress.

Barwell told MPs during last week’s debate that his bill would “remove the last significant form of discrimination in law in our society”.

He said: “To our shame… the law still discriminates against those with a mental health condition.

“An MP or a company director can be removed from their job as a result of a mental health condition, even if they go on to make a full recovery.

“Many people who are perfectly capable of performing jury service are disbarred from doing so.

“If my private member’s bill is approved by the House, we will look back in a few years’ time and be amazed that the nonsense I have described was on the statute book in 2012.”

His bill would mean MPs would no longer automatically lose their seat if they were detained under the Mental Health Act for longer than six months, while people with mental health conditions would no longer be disqualified from serving as school governors if they had been detained under the act.

The bill would also mean that anyone with a mental health condition would no longer be automatically ineligible for jury service, or to act as a company director.

The government has already dealt with the school governor ban by changing regulations, and last year it pledged to introduce legislation to scrap the automatic ban on MPs who have been sectioned for at least six months.

Barwell said: “A school may have a pupil with a mental health condition; in a court case, the accused’s state of mind may be a key issue. How much better will that school be if a governor has experience? How much better will that court case be if there is a juror with the necessary experience?

“The bill will directly help a relatively small number of people, but it also sends a clear message that discrimination is wrong: people have a right to be judged as individuals, not labelled or stereotyped.”

A similar bill has been introduced in the Lords by the crossbench peer Lord [Dennis] Stevenson.

21 June 2012


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