Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment Report on the Mental Health (Discrimination) (No. 2) Bill Legislative Consent Motion (LCM)

Revoking Parts of Companies (Model Articles) Regulations 2008

Background

1. The Mental Health (Discrimination) (No.2) Bill (Appendix 1) was introduced in the House of Commons on 20 June 2012.

2. The LCM, included at Appendix 2 seeks the agreement of the Assembly to the Westminster Parliament considering provision of the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill dealing with the devolved matters to remove the requirements that a company director’s appointment should automatically terminate if his or her rights of powers have been restricted by a court order on mental health grounds.

3. The Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Investment wrote on the 27 August 2012 (Appendix 3)  to inform the Committee of her intention to seek an LCM to enable the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to legislate to:

  • Revoke those parts of the Companies (Model Articles) Regulations 2008 which require that a person should case to be a director of a company when by reason of that person’s mental health, a court order is made preventing that person from exercising some or all of their powers and rights, or on the written opinion of a medical practitioner, that the person will not be capable of acting as a company director for three months or more.

4. The Legislative Consent Memorandum was laid in the Business Office on Monday 24th September 2012.

Committee Consideration

5. The Department informed the Committee the relevant provisions of the UK Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill (No 2) will amend the Companies Act 2006 and hence company law as it applies in Northern Ireland.  As company law is a transferred matter, an LCM from the Northern Ireland Assembly is required.

6. The Committee received oral evidence from departmental officials on the Legislative Consent Motion at is meeting on 4th October 2012.  The key issues discussed included the main objectives of the UK Bill, the purpose of including these provisions in an LCM, the removal of the potential of a discriminatory barrier to people with mental illness and consideration of reasonable adjustments. A copy of the Hansard transcript is included at Appendix 4).

7. The Department reported the UK Bill forms a part of the UK Government's commitment to improving life for people with mental health problems and it is supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and various mental health charities such as Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. 

8. The main objects of the UK Bill are threefold.  The repeal of section 141 of the Mental Health Act 1983, which states that a Member of Parliament, or of the devolved Administrations, automatically loses his seat if he is detained under the Act for six months or more.  It also amends the Juries Act 1974, by redefining the categories of those who are ineligible for jury service.  Thirdly, it amends the Companies (Model Article) Regulations 2008, so that one no longer ceases to be a company director purely because of a decline in his mental health.

It is the third objective of the Bill within the remit of DETI.  The Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) is dealing with the first two aspects.

9. The provision removes the automatic disqualification for people who are affected by that court order. There is still a facility to have somebody removed on the grounds of medical advice.  Additionally, the other issue that the Department is looking at is that article 12 of the UN convention relating to persons with disabilities relates to equality issues.

10. The Department is looking at updating legislation and practices to ensure that those who are suffering from mental illness and who still hold their position on the board of directors have all reasonable adjustments made to allow them to continue that role.  If a registered medical practitioner treating that person gives written opinion to the company stating that that person has become physically or mentally incapable of acting as a director and may remain so for more than three months, then the Act allows for the termination of that appointment.

11. The Department along with Cabinet Office and OFMDFM, have had exploratory talks about what reasonable adjustments may need to be made, and to determine whether there is anything that can be done to help facilitate those with mental health problems to stay in their position as director.

12. Having considered the evidence, the Committee agreed to support DETI in seeking the Assembly’s agreement to the UK Parliament considering provisions of the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill dealing with the devolved matters to remove the requirement that a company director’s appointment should automatically terminate if his or her rights or powers have been restricted by a court order on mental health grounds.

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