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Friday, 15 June 2018

Tory MPs use parliamentary tactics to frustrate mental health restraint reforms

Written by Richard Wheeler and Dan O'Donoghue

Reforms to mental health units have stalled after a Tory MP delivered one of the Commons' longest speeches in recent years.

Cries of "shame" were heard in the chamber as the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill was blocked due to the efforts of Philip Davies (Shipley) and former minister Sir Christopher Chope.

Mr Davies (pictured) addressed more than 100 amendments put to the Bill during report stage by MPs during an address which lasted almost two-and-a-half hours.

The Bill's aims include ensuring the use of force in relation to patients in the units is better governed and requiring police to wear body cameras while carrying out restraint unless there are legitimate operational reasons for not doing so.

Mr Davies clashed frequently with his frontbench over the need for some of his amendments, and forced two votes after his 148-minute speech - which took further time out of the debate.

The Bill was left with nine minutes to clear its final Commons stage, third reading, but Sir Christopher was still on his feet speaking when the clock struck 2.30pm - the cut-off time for the day.

Debate is expected to resume on July 6 where MPs, including the Government, will hope it clears the Commons and moves to the Lords.

Mr Davies argued the Government should accept changes to improve the state of the proposed legislation brought forward by Labour MP Steve Reed (Croydon North).

He has developed a reputation for speaking at length on Friday sittings when time for debate on draft legislation developed by backbench MPs is limited.

Mr Davies has argued his motive is to ensure Bills which sound well-meaning but are badly drafted do not get waved through without proper scrutiny,

He has previously spoken for 77 minutes against proposals designed to help end violence against women and used a speech of more than 50 minutes to help kill off a move to make first aid education compulsory at secondary schools.

Mr Reed's Bill has been inspired by the case of Olaseni Lewis, who was known as Seni to friends and family.

The 23-year-old from South Norwood died in September 2010, days after he fell unconscious while being restrained by 11 Metropolitan Police officers at Bethlem Royal Hospital in south-east London.

As Mr Davies's speech hit the two-hour mark, Liberal Democrat former health minister Normand Lamb said: "I have a very real concern - and I don't think it's his intention, but I hope it isn't - that we could end up this being talked out today, and the risk then that this Bill is lost.

"That would be a tragedy if that happened."

Mr Davies insisted the Bill would not be lost, and would progress on a future Friday sitting in a "better state" once the Government has looked at amendments.

He pushed for two specific changes to be accepted by ministers, including outlining the roles, responsibilities and procedure in the event of police involvement as part of training offered to staff working in mental health units.

He said of his proposed changes: "They go to the very heart at what happened to Mr Lewis on that terrible occasion, which would actually give the training to staff to make sure those things couldn't happen again."

Mr Davies added: "If (the Bill) doesn't pass through today, it won't be my fault."

He said the Government had had plenty of chances to accept his amendments, adding if more time is needed then so be it.

Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price, intervening, said Mr Davies had "mis-characterised" the Government's position.

She noted: "The Government's position is that these amendments are not necessary.

"On the specifics on the role and responsibility of police officers on these occasions, as I've already outlined, these are subject to a memorandum of understanding that is being led on by the College of Policing."

Ms Doyle-Price, speaking later in the debate, said: "This is a very important reform which will significantly enhance the rights of patients in mental health settings and be a real force for justice.

"We've had numerous references to the inspiration behind this bill and I really must pay tribute to the very dignified and determined way that Olaseni Lewis' family have pursued this important reform.

"This will really deliver material improvements to the treatment of patients."

Debate on Friday sittings starts at 9.33am and finishes at 2.30pm.

Calls have been made to reform the rules governing the sittings to prevent parliamentary tactics being used to frustrate backbench proposals.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.