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We have also had five very thoughtful speeches from Back-Benchers. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) welcomed the Bill and he spoke extremely forcefully and effectively and
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from great knowledge of the mesothelioma clauses in the Bill, and I pay tribute to his work and the campaign that he has mounted on the issue, which is in part why the Government are having to respond and make these welcome changes in respect of sufferers from that terrible disease.

I am pleased to note that the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) welcomed the improvements. He rightly acknowledged that there are still too many failures in the existing system from which many of our constituents are suffering. He welcomed the income disregards and the greater emphasis that will be placed on private arrangements. I appreciate his comments.

We heard a thoughtful contribution from my neighbour, the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Jeremy Wright), who wanted more voluntary agreements and rightly pointed out that at the same time we have to safeguard children’s interests. He said that separating parents need advice and support—as he knows, we are taking measures in the Bill to ensure that that happens—and rightly observed that that advice and support needs to be held at arm’s length from the state. He will see, as these services evolve, that that is very much in accordance with our thinking.

The hon. Gentleman also raised the apparent difference between our approach to orders in respect of passports and to those in respect of driving licences, and suggested that there was an inconsistency. In fact, there are good reasons for doing it in different ways. Removing a driving licence, which we already have powers to do via the courts, has a direct impact on the livelihood of the person concerned, potentially on their employment and certainly on their mobility. Those significant consequences, bearing heavily on day-to-day life, make it legitimate to seek that power through the courts. The removal of travel documents relates rather more to discretionary activity—the drive to go on holiday, for example—and it is appropriate that such powers can be handled administratively.

Jeremy Wright: No doubt this is a matter to which we can return in Committee, but will the Minister at least accept at this stage that it is worth considering it again, given that for some individuals the ability to travel abroad is integral to their working lives as well as their recreation?

Mr. Plaskitt: We have already given that matter careful consideration and I have tried to explain to the hon. Gentleman why the differences are there, but we can certainly discuss it again in Committee.

The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams) also made a thoughtful speech and I appreciate his comments. He asked about the advice service in rural areas. That is an important point. We envisage that the advice service might be largely phone-based or available via internet sites, and therefore accessible from wherever. He mentioned constituents of his whose income fluctuates dramatically during the course of the year because of the nature of their employment in such an area. The assessments will now be based on annual income, so anyone will know what their assessment will be throughout the subsequent year and can plan and budget accordingly. That should smooth out the fluctuations in income that he described.

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I am grateful to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) for his contribution. He rightly drew attention to the IT system. As I have tried to explain, we are already introducing phased releases of improvements to ensure that the IT platform that is in place by the time that the CMEC assumes its powers is up to the job. Or course, that is very important.

The establishment of the new commission will mark a clear break with the past. Lessons from the systemic failures of the CSA have been learned and applied. The Bill introduces a radical new approach to delivering child maintenance that is based on three core values. First, it is integral to our ambition to eradicate child poverty and central to our support for families. Secondly, it enshrines a clear set of rights and responsibilities—the right of parents to choose how best to support their children and responsibilities that make it clear that if people fail to fulfil their duties as parents they will be held to account. Thirdly, it creates a simpler, more transparent system to the advantage of parents and of our hard-working staff. The Bill represents a radical change in our approach to securing support for children when relationships between their parents have broken down. This reform is built centrally around the needs of children, but it also approaches the adults involved, supporting those who are trying to do the right thing by their children but pursuing with relentless determination those who would try to evade their responsibilities. For all those reasons, I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 83A (Programme motions),

Question agreed to.

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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 80A(1) (Carry-over of bills),

Question agreed to.

Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill [ money]

Queen’s recommendation having been signified——

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills),

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills),

Question agreed to.

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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 83A (Programme motions),

Question agreed to.

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Mental Health Bill [ Lords]

Lords message considered.

Clause 10

The fundamental principles

Lords amendment: No. 1A.

5.21 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Ivan Lewis): I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): With this we may discuss Lords amendments Nos. 4A, 32A, 32B, 41A, 41B, 41C and 41D.

Mr. Lewis: Before speaking about the substance of the amendments, I would like to say a brief word about the Bill generally. As all hon. Members know, my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton), who was formerly Minister of State for Health, has until now represented the Government on the Bill. I pay tribute to the magnificent way in which she secured advances, which will, over time be acknowledged as historic and in the best interests of people with mental health problems. I am sorry that she has not had the pleasure of seeing the Bill through to the end, but I am pleased to have the honour of speaking about the amendments today. I also pay tribute to Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who did a tremendous job in piloting the Bill through the other place.

I am also pleased to assume lead responsibility for mental health in the Department and I look forward to working with all stakeholders. Whenever possible, I shall try to build a consensus that tackles the stigma that people with mental health problems and their families experience all too frequently.

There is no doubt that the Bill has been contentious from the time when work began on it in 1998, and throughout its passage. There is also no doubt that the Bill has benefited from vigorous debate. We may not always agree about the exact nature of the provisions, but the debate has enabled us all to understand the wide range of perspectives on the important issues that the Bill covers, and I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central explained fully the reasons why the Government could not agree to some of the amendments that were tabled.

The Government have however agreed to many amendments. To name but a few, they include: requirements around age-appropriate services for under 18s; making explicit the purpose of medical treatment for mental disorder; the introduction of statutory advocacy; including on the face of the Bill a list of issues that must be addressed in a statement of principles in the codes of practice; making it explicit that the conditions for supervised community treatment must be linked to a person’s treatment or the need to protect them or others from harm; new safeguards for the use of electroconvulsive therapy, and new safeguards for those who are deprived of their liberty in their own best interests but who do not have Mental Health Act 1983 safeguards.

On Monday, the other place considered the Commons amendments to the Bill and agreed several further amendments which, in the Government’s view,
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represent a sensible way ahead on the outstanding issues, and I have no hesitation in commending them to the House.

First, let me deal with the proposed list of new exclusions to the definition of mental disorder that were agreed in the other place but rejected by this House. The reasons for their rejection have been fully debated, and I will not go through them again. Although we could not agree to the proposed new exclusions, the Government fully understood the concern expressed by many to ensure that mental health legislation should never be used to exercise social control, and that reassurance needed to be given to people—especially those in certain black and minority ethnic communities—who fear that the measure may be misused to their detriment, or to the detriment of their families and communities.

That is why the Government were pleased to support the amendment tabled by the noble Lady Baroness Barker, which added respect for diversity to the matters to be addressed in the statement of principles. Respect for diversity is already covered in the draft illustrative code for England, but following wide-ranging debates in both Houses, we intend to look again at the draft and seek ideas on how to improve it. The codes for both England and Wales will, of course, be subject to formal consultation. We believe that it would be helpful to have built into the amended legislation respect for diversity, which should be included, as I said, in the list of issues to be addressed in the statement of principles.

Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) (Con): Does the Minister agree that embodying this issue in the principles, albeit within the structure proposed in the Bill, is very important? In an extreme case—though I do not anticipate one—of a frankly delinquent public authority, those matters could at least be taken to judicial review on grounds of non-compliance with the essential principle. In our view, securing compliance is extremely important.

Mr. Lewis: As usual, the hon. Gentleman makes a constructive and sensible point. There are concerns among black and ethnic minority communities about the disproportionate numbers within them who for one reason or another receive mental health services, and I believe that it is important to be sensitive to such concerns. This is probably the best way to achieve the outcomes that I suspect are shared on both sides of the House.

I would like to deal now with doctor involvement in key decisions and the modernisation of professional roles. The House reversed the Lords amendments that would have allowed the responsible clinician’s decision to be overridden by a doctor who may not even be involved in the patient’s care. That would have undermined the new ways of working initiative and would have stood in the way of efforts to ensure that professional skills are recognised and focused where they are needed, to the benefit of patients and an efficient work force.

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