Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con)
My Lords, at Second Reading we had a first in your Lordships’ House: proceedings were signed for the first time. As the Lord Speaker has pointed out, there is another first for your Lordships’ House today: signing is available for the benefit of Members and all others in the Chamber this afternoon.
The British Sign Language Bill takes a ministerial commitment in a Statement in 2003 and puts it on a statutory basis: to recognise British Sign Language as a language in England, Scotland and Wales—enabling, empowering, including. What does this mean in practice? Take, for example, hospital appointments. The news may or may not be good but, whether good or bad, it will always be personal, perhaps the most personal interaction we have with the state. As a result of this Bill, BSL signers will be able to have such appointments and/or communications with the state in an inclusive manner, rather than having to rely on parents, spouses, siblings or children to communicate such news.
I pay particular thanks to Rosie Cooper MP, who perfectly piloted this Bill through the Commons; she joins us at the Bar of your Lordships’ House today. I thank the ministerial team, my honourable friend Chloe Smith in another place, and my noble friends Lady Stedman-Scott and Lady Scott in your Lordships’ House.
I pay tribute to the Bill team and to all the officials at DWP who have worked tirelessly to get the Bill to this stage. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I pay tribute to all those individuals and organisations who have campaigned for this change for so many years: the BDA, the RNID and David Buxton, a man who has done as much as most in this area, and who rightly joins us in the Gallery of your Lordships’ House for this historic moment.
My Lords, the British Sign Language Bill: enabling, empowering and including BSL signers, and benefiting us all.