Peers defy Government over detention plans for vulnerable people in care
Peers have set the scene for a showdown with the Government over plans relating to the detention of vulnerable people in care homes or hospitals.
The House of Lords voted by 232 to 223, majority nine, to reject a definition approved by MPs for the “deprivation of liberty” and back an alternative.
The defeat on the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill paves the way for parliamentary ping pong, where the draft legislation is passed between the two Houses.
The Bill aims to replace the current deprivation of liberty safeguards scheme with a new simpler system.
But critics argued that the meaning of deprivation of liberty, proposed by ministers in response to demands by peers, was “too convoluted” and not easily understood.
However, Health Minister Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford argued the alternative proposal risked “creating confusion and uncertainty” “and not really having a workable system”.
Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Tyler of Enfield, proposing her amendment, believed there were “serious problems” with the statutory definition put forward by the Government.
She said: “My overriding concern is that the definition as it currently stands only states when a person is not being deprived of their liberty.
“A definition based on someone not having their liberty restricted does not allow for a clear assessment of whether a cared for person is currently being deprived of their liberty.
“The whole of the definition is couched in the negative.”
Independent crossbencher Lord Hope of Craighead, a former deputy president of the UK Supreme Court, felt the Government’s approach “was a safer one to adopt”.
Tory former health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said: “It provides an operable definition that will be useful to those who have to grapple with it every day.”
But backing the alternative amendment, opposition frontbencher Baroness Thornton said: “It provides a definition for practitioners and families and the cared-for person.”
She added: “We haven’t yet got a satisfactory definition on the face of the Bill and one of the reasons that we will be supporting this amendment is that we would like the Government to have another go.”
Lady Blackwood said: “The reason we are wrestling with this definition is because… this is a very challenging task indeed.”
Lady Tyler said: “I am not a lawyer… I have looked at this in a very simple way.
“I have a very strong view that there is a need for plain English in statutes.
“I think there is a need for the citizens in this country who are subject to those statutes to understand what they say.”
Later the Government suffered a further defeat on the Bill over giving the person being looked after and their representatives an explicit right to upfront information about the process.
Peers voted by 229 to 215, majority 14, to ensure records of decisions are kept and passed on.
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire.