HL Deb 26 June 1989 vol 509 cc531-3

5.50 p.m.

Read a third time; an amendment (privilege) made.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. I am most grateful to the many noble Lords who have supported the Bill; it does two things. It emphasises the pressing need for organised after-care for all persons who have received medical treatment in hospital for schizophrenia and it sets out procedures for how such after-care should be organised. Much thought went into the procedures which have been modified by amendment to meet the views expressed by noble Lords during the Bill's passage through the House.

Some noble Lords would have liked to widen the Bill's scope, but that was not possible because of its nature. It is said that the Government have not thought fit to support the Bill so as to give themselves the benefit of a pilot study of after-care procedures which could in due course be applied more widely. Although they have not done so, I hope that the Bill will have encouraged the Government to accelerate legislation to deal with after-care as promptly as possible.

As has been said, the condition of many schizophrenic patients is disastrous. Without legislation such as I propose they escape the after-care which is available to them. In many cases the amount of after-care required has never been properly assessed. The whole purpose of the Bill is to give some basis for that to be achieved.

I should like to express my grateful thanks to those noble Lords who have supported the Bill from these Benches and from the opposite side of the House. I thank them not only for speaking but also for attending debates and, in some cases, writing to me because they were unable to attend. I hope that the Bill will have some chance of being debated in another place. Because of its procedures, that is extremely unlikely. However, there is an outside chance, and I trust that it will be given to the Bill.

In any event it is my hope that an Act resulting from this Bill or some successor which embodies it and meets the needs of schizophrenics will come about before long.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Mottistone.)

Lord Prys-Davies

My Lords, I am standing in for my noble friend Lord Ennals who is unfortunatey unable to be here as he is keeping a conference engagement abroad which was arranged a long time ago. My noble friend would have fully supported the Bill.

I should like to express appreciation from these Benches for the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, in bringing this important Bill before the House and congratulate him on the skill with which he has conducted its passage. He explained on Second Reading that the Bill is based on the proposals of the Schizophrenia Fellowship which has immense knowledge and experience of sufferers from schizophrenia and their families. I should like to take the opportunity also to express our profound respect for its contribution.

The Bill is supported by a number of voluntary organisations which have considerable experience of the defects of care within the community. Care in the community, as it is presently called, for persons suffering from schizophrenia, is often totally unsatisfactory. In some districts it is a shambles or non-existent. The Bill will be a huge step in the right direction. It has completed its passage in your Lordships' House in just under 11 weeks. At this eleventh hour, as it were, we enter a strong plea that the Government facilitate its speedy passage in another place.

Lord Henley

My Lords, I think that it would be of assistance to your Lordships if I summarised the Government's attitude towards my noble friend's Bill, as I have during the Bill's passage through the House.

The Government are very sympathetic to the problems faced by sufferers of schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses and also by their carers. We could not fail to be aware that there are many who feel concern about the adequacy or otherwise of services currently provided in the community for mentally ill people. Indeed, we are determined to see improvements in those services and the ways they are provided, and we have been looking at them carefully in the context of our active consideration of the Griffiths Report to which the Government will be responding very soon now.

In view of the initiatives currently being explored, the Government do not believe that this legislation is the right answer. In particular, we do not think it valid to single out one type of mental illness and legislate for its treatment on a preferential basis. Nevertheless, during its passage through the House the Bill has provided a vehicle for enabling a wide range of noble Lords to offer their views on the needs of the seriously mentally ill. Ministers have followed these proceedings with keen interest and, I hope will shortly be responding to the concerns expressed in an effective and practical way.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.