Section 141 of the Mental Health Act to be abolished

Parliament3 February 2011

A law that automatically expel MPs from Parliament if they have a serious mental health condition is to be abolished.

The law, contained in Section 141 of the Mental Health Act 1983, states an MP must be automatically removed from their seat once they have been detained under mental health legislation for more than six months. In contrast, no such laws apply to MPs suffering from a purely physical illness, such as a stroke or coma, that prevents them from fulfilling their duties.

Mark Harper, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, said:

This law is out of date. It sends out entirely the wrong message that if you have mental health problems your contribution is not welcome in public life. This should not be the case.

“The long overdue repeal of Section 141 will send out a clear signal from Government that the stigmatisation of people who have mental health problems should not be tolerated.

Speaker’s Conference report published in January 2010 recommended that Section 141 should be repealed, saying that it was "unnecessary and damaging".

The Government’s intention to repeal Section 141 was announced today in a written ministerial statement. Legislation will be brought forward later this year.

Notes to editors

The provisions in Section 141 of the Mental Health Act 1983 replaced provisions in the Mental Health Act 1959 which itself replaced provisions in the Lunacy (Vacating of Seats) Act 1886. Section 141 itself has never been used, but in 1916 Dr Charles Leach MP was removed from his seat using the provisions in the Lunacy (Vacating of Seats) Act after a protracted illness.

Detention under the Mental Health Act applies if an individual is suffering from mental disorder which requires hospital treatment and it is necessary for the health or safety of the patient or the protection of other persons that he or she should receive such treatment under detention.

For any further media enquiries, please contact Katherine Pateman at the Cabinet Office Press Office on 020 7276 0516.

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