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10.37 p.m.

Lord Rowallan: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I wish also to thank Dr. Julian Lewis, Member of Parliament in another

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place, and Dr. Martin Deahl, who have been present throughout the debate, for the great help they have given me in producing the Bill.

Perhaps I may say this to noble Lords on the other side of the House, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury of Turville. I am happy to look at the broader picture. As I have stated--when noble Lords read Hansard they will see that I have stated it again and again--this is a starter for 10. The main point of the exercise was to have serious debate on the problems that the mentally ill face. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, for the detail she has given the House in her reply.

Three points worry me. First, she referred to mental health as being one of the six medium term priorities in 1999. She referred to the aim to reduce deaths from suicide by a sixth by 2010. I appreciate that nothing happens today. But I feel that that is a long time to make the mentally ill wait for mental health services. I offered to put this Government's thoughts into my Bill. The offer remains. I hope that we shall be able to discuss it further at Committee.

It was nice to have the support of noble Lords on this side of the Chamber. My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth gave us a marvellous red herring. Nevertheless, it indicated how many problems are associated with mental health. My noble friend Lord Swinfen spoke from the heart on similar subjects. It was nice to hear the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone. I thought that she was an expert on the RSPB. I am most impressed. She is a lady of many talents. I trust that we shall be able to debate her thoughts at great length in Committee.

But the biggest praise goes to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, who is in the front line in mental health. I agreed with every word that the noble Lord said. He had no notes. He simply gave us a wealth of personal knowledge, straight from the heart. None of us can

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afford to ignore his remarks. It is one of the wonderful freedoms enjoyed by this House that your Lordships are able to introduce Private Members' Bills and have them debated by Members with a huge range of knowledge, as we have witnessed.

The National Schizophrenia Fellowship says

    "The rhetoric is all in place, however, what has always been missing, and is still to be delivered on, is the resources".

Tessa Jowell, the Minister for Public Health, stated:

    "Mentally ill people still live in the margins of our society. For too long our concern and the public resources it represents have been as marginal".

The Health Service Journal states that the outmoded Mental Health Act 1983 is inadequate and needs replacing. Paul Boateng, the Under-Secretary of State, said:

    "Mentally ill people must be cared for in safety and security. We must rebuild public trust and confidence in the mental health services".

SANE says:

    "In our view all too often, usually as a result of bed shortages, people are all placed together in a psychiatric ward regardless of the nature or severity of their condition. Sane believes this bill will ensure Health Authorities increase in-patient provision--thereby lessening the pressure on beds and reestablishing the true sanctuary aspect of psychiatric care. It is clear the measures contained in this bill envisage an entitlement to a bed for anyone who requires it, and to anyone a section 12 doctor decides needs in-patient care, thereby enlarging access to a group of patients who in the absence of these measures might otherwise have been sent away to cope at home".

As I said in my opening remarks, in an ideal world we should have a new mental health Act. Sadly, we do not live in an ideal world. But we can, and should, make a start now. Sadly, I have not heard a commitment from the Government that there will be, in the short term, any move towards a new mental health Act. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

        House adjourned at eighteen minutes before eleven o'clock.

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