14/06/2012 12:29 BST | Updated 14/06/2012 15:58 BST

Gavin Barwell MP To Launch Bill To Scrap 'Archaic' Discriminatory Mental Health Laws

"Archaic" laws which forbid mentally ill people running companies, becoming school governors and undertaking jury service could be scrapped under a private members bill proposed by a Conservative MP.

Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, will address "outdated" ways of thinking, including a rule which forces MPs to lose their seats if they are sectioned for more than six months.

He told MPs that "the law says if you have a mental health problem your contribution to society is not welcome, and this has to change."

The bill was announced during a debate in which four MPs, Andrea Leadsom, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Charles Walker and Kevan Jones, said they had experienced mental health problems, in a move described as historic by mental health anti-stigma campaign Time to Change.

Walker said he had OCD and Labour shadow defence minister Jones said he had depression whereas both Andrea Leadsom and Dr Sarah Wollaston discussed their experiences with post-natal depression.

Time to Change's Sue Baker said it was "great to see politicians making a stand."

"This will go down in the history books as we have never before seen our political leaders and parliamentarians feel able to discuss their mental health problems openly without fear of discrimination. We want people from all walks of life to be able to do the same and it's great to see politicians making a stand."

Jones said during the debate it was time "to talk about mental health": "I think in politics we are designed to think that somehow that if you admit fault or frailty you are going to be looked on in a disparaging way both by the electorate but also by your peers as well.

"Actually admitting that sometimes you need help is not a sign of weakness."

Barwell said in a statement that his introduction of the bill, during a debate in the House of Commons of mental health, would send a "very clear message" that mental illness is not something to be ashamed of."

“The idea that people with mental health problems can never recover and cannot be trusted to participate in social, political or economic life is from a bygone era and must be challenged at the highest level," he said.

“This is the last form of legalised discrimination. Barriers to equality such as this need to be eradicated once and for all which is why I’m proud to play my part by using my Private Members’ Bill to steer this to the Government statute book.”

The private members bill is supported both by the government and by the opposition in principle and will be read in September.

His bill was welcomed by the CEO of the charity , Rethink Mental Illnes Paul Jenkins who said it was "absurd" intelligent and capable people were prevented from key aspects of citizenship" because of their illnesses.

"Many people who have mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, manage their condition and hold down very successful jobs, it’s a disgrace that they cannot sit on a jury, or become a school governor. People with physical illness are not automatically banned in this way. These archaic rules have no place in a modern, enlightened society.”

Jenkins also welcommed Jones' and Walkers' comments mental health issues in the debate, saying it showed these illnesses affected "people everywhere in Britain: in schools, shops, offices and even on the floor of the House of Commons."