Did only 11 MPs turn up to a debate on adolescent mental health?

19 June 2019
What was claimed

A debate in parliament about teenage mental health was attended by only 11 MPs.

Our verdict

The sparsely-attended debate was an adjournment debate. These are not usually attended by many MPs as they do not involve voting and occur at the end of the day.

An image of a TV screen showing a debate in the House of Commons in April 2019 claims to show a small number of MPs gathered to discuss mental health support for young people. It has been shared thousands of times on Facebook and has attracted anger from people who believe it shows politicians’ lack of interest in young people’s mental health problems.

It is true that a debate took place on 9 April 2019 about mental health support for young people. Video footage of that debate suggests it is the same one shown in the screenshot.

However, the debate in question was an adjournment debate, a short debate that takes place at the end of the day. It allows a backbench MP to raise an issue and receive a response from the appropriate government minister. Unlike during a normal debate, MPs do not vote or take any decisions during these debates. Many MPs do not stay for these debates as they are the last business of the day and are not intended to lead to MPs making a decision on an issue. Other clips of adjournment debates also show low turnout.

The screenshot has been shared with similar captions multiple times since April 2019 and has spread across social media.

MPs have held 15 debates of some kind this year in which mental health appeared in the title. These tended to be direct questions put by MPs to government ministers and had varying levels of turnout.

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