Consultant psychiatrist Dr Tony Zigmond, who gave evidence to the Speakers Conference Committee, said:
“We are delighted that the Speaker’s Conference has so firmly supported the need to repeal section 141 of the Mental Health Act. Taking this action would ensure that there is no place for discrimination against mental health in Parliament and demonstrate that someone with a mental health problem can recover and lead an active role in political life.”
Currently, under Section 141 of the Mental Health Act 1983, an MP automatically loses their seat in Parliament if detained under the Act for a period of six months or more. In contrast, there are no provisions to remove MPs suffering from physical illnesses which stop them from carrying out their duties and responsibilities for the same length of time.
In July 2008 a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and other mental health organisations, showed that one in five MPs have some personal experience of a mental health problem. But one in 3 said work-based stigma and the expectation of a hostile reaction from the media and public prevented them from being open about mental health issues. The report, Mental Health in Parliament, called for the removal of Section 141 – a change which was backed by the majority of MPs surveyed.
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Note to editors:
The recommendation that Members should not be disqualified from sitting in the House of Commons on the grounds of mental illness is one of a series of recommendations made in a new report published by the Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Representation on 11 January 2010.