Boris Johnson's minority government today pledged to introduce a new Mental Health Bill within the next twelve months as parliament reopened for a new term.
A reformed Mental Health Act featured among 26 legal bills set out by the Queen at Parliament's State Opening.
The Mental Health Act governs the circumstances in which individuals experiencing mental illness – or a learning disability or autism – can be detained for treatment against their will, if considered a threat to themselves or others.
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The government promised to publish a White Paper – a formal policy to be voted upon by MPs and peers – by the end of this year. It will represent a long-awaited detailed response to the most recent independent review of existing legislation, led by psychiatrist Sir Simon Wessely in 2018.
Mr Johnson inherited a pledge from Theresa May's administration to empower crisis care choice and autonomy through enabling patients to set out binding preferences around treatment in advance.
This was today reaffirmed, along with the commitment to providing patients with greater powers to challenge detention.
"We commissioned the independent review of the Mental Health Act to look at: rising rates of detention; the disproportionate number of people from black and minority ethnic groups detained under the Act; and processes that are out of step with a modern mental health care system," the government said in a briefing document issued today.
"The findings made clear that we need to modernise the Mental Health Act to ensure that patients’ views are respected, and that patients are not detained any more than is absolutely necessary."
Sir Wessely said it was "good news" the reformed Mental Health Act was included within the Queen's Speech.
Government opponents expressed scepticism new legislation would come to pass under Mr Johnson's leadership, with divisions over the withdrawal of the European Union set to come to a head over the next fortnight.
"There has never been such a farce as a government with a majority of -45 and a 100% record of defeat in the House of Commons setting out a legislative agenda they know can not be delivered in this parliament," said Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party.