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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

College 'delighted' by decision to end disqualification of MPs on grounds of mental illness

Embargoed until 02 February 2011

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced that the Government will repeal Section 141 of the Mental Health Act - a law which forces an MP to stand down from their seat if they are sectioned for more than six months.

Commenting on the decision, Professor Dinesh Bhugra, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "We are absolutely delighted that the Government has decided to scrap this out-dated and discriminatory law. The College, together with other mental health charities, has campaigned long and hard for change. Today’s decision will ensure that there is no place for discrimination on the grounds of mental ill-health in Parliament, and demonstrate that someone with a mental health problem can recover and lead an active role in political life."

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has lobbied for a repeal of the law for several years. Currently, under Section 141 of the Mental Health Act, 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.

Find out more about the College's work on this issue here.


For further information, please contact:
Kathy Oxtoby or Deborah Hart in the Communications Department.

Telephone: 0203 701 2544 or 0203 701 2538

 

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