Dan Parton (14/05/2012) wonders why so many discrimination laws still need to overturned in 2012:   

This week sees the return to the House of Lords of a Bill seeking to repeal or amend some laws that discriminate against people with mental health issues. But why has it taken until 2012 to get this far?

As the new session of Parliament is now underway, it is good to see the return of the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill, which seeks to repeal/amend four laws that discriminate against people with mental health issues:

  • Repeal section 141 of the Mental Health Act 1983, under which a member of the House of Commons, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly automatically loses their seat if they are sectioned under the Mental Health Act for more than sixmonths
  • Amend the Juries Act 1974 to remove the blanket ban on "mentally disordered persons" undertaking jury service
  • Amend the Companies (Model Articles) Regulations 2008 which states that a person might cease to be a director of a public or private company "by reason of their mental health"
  • Amend the School Governance (Constitution) (England)Regulations 2007 so that a person who has been detained under the Mental Health Act is no longer prevented from being a school governor.

The Bill, developed by Lord Stevenson - a former chair of HBOS who has experienced depression - and Charles Walker MP, had its first reading in the Lords in April 2011, but there wasn't enough time then for it to get a reading in both houses. But this time it should make it through to law, given that there is now the time for it and, crucially, it has Governmental support. This is welcome news as all four laws are clearly discriminatory and have no place in our society. But why has it taken until 2012 to get these repealed? They should have disappeared years ago. That some of the legislation is relatively modern surprises me too - and demonstrates how pervasive mental health stigma has been. And howlittle a priority mental health has been that no bill has tried to remove these laws before.

Nevertheless, this strikes another blow in the on-going drive to combat mental health stigma. Nobody should be prevented from takingany public office due to mental health issues they may be - or may have in the past - experienced. There is no evidence to suggest that people with experience of mental health problems are less ablethan anyone else to hold public office and now the law is finally catching up.