Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Barwell wins bill battle against mental health discrimination

Gavin Barwell’s bill to end discrimination against those suffering from mental illnesses received its third reading in the House of Lords this afternoon, which means it is just a small hop, skip and jump from becoming an Act of Parliament. The legislation will end automatic blocks on those receiving regular treatment for any mental health disorder from sitting on a jury and from continuing to work as a company director, as well as repealing the section of the Mental Health Act 1983 which automatically removes an MP from their seat if they have been sectioned for more than six months.

That Barwell managed to gain the support of not just the government but some of his backbench colleagues who tend to spend their Fridays wrecking private members’ bills is an achievement in itself, and that this Bill comes from a Tory MP shows that compassionate Conservatism continues to thrive on the party’s green benches.

But Barwell doesn’t see this as the end of the fight against discrimination on the grounds of mental illness. He says:

‘I’m very proud that my Bill will soon become law, but in truth this is only the beginning. As a society we still have a long way to go to tackle the forms of discrimination and the inequalities that people with mental illness face. The Bill will soon drag the law of this land into the 21st century, ending the last form of legalised discrimination. Now is the time for us all to realise that having a mental health condition is nothing to be ashamed of or to keep a secret and that mental health should be treated on a par with physical health. Only when that happens will the discrimination truly be over.’

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