You are right that the British Sign Language Private Members’ Bill had its Second Reading on 28 January. I am glad that this important legislation passed with the full support of the House and the backing of the Government, and I would like to pay tribute to all those campaigners who have contributed to the success of this Bill. The Bill will now continue its progress through the House and, hopefully, into law.
Like many people across the country, I found the success of Rose Ayling-Ellis on Strictly Come Dancing inspirational, and I am deeply moved by her passionate and successful efforts to bring attention to this issue. Since the autumn, searches for information about sign language have risen by almost 500 per cent and the BSL Courses website reported an increase of almost 3,000 per cent in sign-ups for its free training programmes – a truly remarkable uptake.
It is vital we ensure neither deafness nor being hard of hearing is a barrier to participating in society and, therefore, I welcome the Government’s commitment to recognising BSL as a language of Great Britain with the goal of increasing access to BSL interpretation. This will be delivered by the Government’s support of the British Sign Language Private Members Bill, tabled by Rosie Cooper MP and currently moving through the Parliament.
This Bill will place a duty on Ministerial departments to report on their use and facilitation of BSL at least every three years as well as a requirement on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to issue guidance to departments on the promotion and facilitation of BSL.
Further, the Bill will establish a non-statutory advisory board of BSL users to advise the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on BSL guidance, examine how to increase the number of British Sign Language interpreters, and review the Access to Work scheme, which funds workplace.