Gavin Barwell's Mental Health Discrimination Bill Reaches Next Stage In The Commons

Cross Party Unity Sees Mental Health Bill Clear Critical Commons Stage

A Bill which would outlaw MPs being disqualified from parliament if they are sectioned under the Mental Health Act has cleared a critical stage of the House of Commons after both the government and Labour front benches gave their support to it.

Tory backbencher Gavin Barwell is seeking to have the law changed in his Mental Heath (Discrimination) Bill, which would also get rid of powers which potentially block people with mental health problems from serving as jurors or company directors. On Friday lunchtime the Bill was given second reading in the Commons without the need for a division.

MPs on all sides of the Commons praised the Bill for going some way towards breaking down the stigma which still surrounds mental illness. During the debates in the Commons MPs have revealed that they have suffered from mental health problems in the past. Tory MP Charles Walker revealed he had suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder for the last 31 years, and the Labour MP Kevan Jones also opened up about his own battle against depression.

Walker said he was "simply delighted" at what was happening, adding the Bill would "provide so much hope, so much reassurance to many millions of people out there".

He added he had not been prepared for the "tsunami of interest" created by speaking out on mental health earlier this year.

He said: "What was totally overwhelming actually was the fact that when you're sitting in a studio waiting to be interviewed you'd have the people doing the make-up say, my husband, my son, my father, suffers from mental health problems, thank you.

"And then you'd go through to the next level and meet the producer and the producer would quietly say I've suffered from mental health problems for a number of years, thank you for giving me a voice."

Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, who spoke in June about her battle with post-natal depression, said: "This bill sends the message that if you had a previous experience of a mental health problem, that does not make you unpredictable or dangerous and there should be no barrier to you taking a full part in public life."

The Bill will now go forward to committee stage before coming back to the Commons for a final vote, expected early next year.


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