Report on mental health legislation in Wales

30 October 2009

The National Assembly for Wales should have additional powers to introduce laws relating to mental health, say MPs in a report published today.

The Welsh Affairs Committee agrees that there is a clear need for the proposed Legislative Competence Order (LCO) on mental health and that using the LCO process is the most appropriate legislative route.

The LCO process is a means whereby the National Assembly for Wales can bring forward proposals which would extend the Assembly’s lawmaking powers.

The proposed LCO would entitle people who appear to be suffering from mental disorder but do not yet have a firm diagnosis of mental disorder to obtain early assessment, treatment and access to advocacy services.

The Committee says this is consistent with the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment to making mental health a key priority. The UK Government’s current view is that it does not wish to introduce statutory powers in this area.

The Committee heard concerns during evidence sessions that the Explanatory Memorandum accompanying the LCO is unclear regarding the duty towards people already or previously diagnosed with mental health needs. It also heard evidence that, as currently drafted, the LCO would allow the National Assembly to disapply in Wales the right to an Independent Mental Health Advocate.

In both cases, the Committee acknowledges that it was not the intention in the LCO drafting to exclude certain groups or to disapply the right to an IMHA, but it recommends clearer drafting to avoid possible unintended consequences.

The Chairman of the Committee, Dr Hywel Francis MP, said:

"The evidence we received about this LCO demonstrates wide support for additional powers in relation to mental health to be passed to the National Assembly, and we agree.

"I am pleased that in this first instance of a non-Government Assembly Member, Jonathan Morgan AM, laying an Order before Parliament there was a high level of cooperation between Mr Morgan, the Minister for Health and Social Services and the Welsh Assembly Government, and the Wales Office which enabled the LCO to get to this stage."

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