BUSINESS QUESTION – MENTAL HEALTH – 8 June 2006

Dr Julian Lewis: May we have a statement from the Leader of the House, preferably within the next couple of minutes, on the opportunity afforded by Business Questions for hon. Members to raise issues on behalf of vulnerable members of society and for the Leader to give non-partisan replies, as he did to the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Sally Keeble) earlier today? That would allow him to revisit the answer he gave me on 25 May when I raised the question of the closure of the emergency walk-in clinic at the Maudsley Hospital. He said:

“I am sure that the arrangements being made in respect of the Maudsley hospital are more than adequate to meet the needs of those patients.” [Official Report, 25 May 2006; Vol. 446, c. 1646.]

If that were so, Marjorie Wallace of SANE would not have said that there was

“nowhere for people to find refuge in crisis and emergency”,

and Teresa Priest of Southwark Mind would not have said that it was a matter of “life and death” for people with mental health problems. The situation is very serious, so I would be grateful if he reconsidered his response.

[Jack Straw: I do, where appropriate, try to deal with non-partisan questions in a non-partisan way. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I occasionally find it necessary to mention the increase in the number of doctors and nurses in different constituencies. I understand the hon. Gentleman's concerns and I know of his profound interest in the matter, which I shall continue to pursue with the Health Secretary.]