British Sign Language

Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 28th June 2021.

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Photo of Sarah Olney Sarah Olney Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport)

What recent assessment she has made of the potential merits of bringing forward legislative proposals to provide British Sign Language with full legal status.

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

On 18 March 2003, the UK Government formally recognised that British Sign Language is a language in its own right. Provision for accessing services by users of BSL are already covered by the Equality Act 2010 and the public sector equality duty.

Photo of Sarah Olney Sarah Olney Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport)

My constituent Feras Al-Moubayed is engaged in a dispute with a high street bank but has been unsuccessful in his attempts to secure time with a BSL interpreter to sort through and categorise evidence documents for his case. As a result, he has missed several Financial Ombudsman Service deadlines, which has caused considerable stress and anxiety. If the Minister will not commit to bringing forward legislative proposals to provide BSL with a full legal status, will he commit to making more provision available to support people such as Mr Al-Moubayed in my constituency in the interim?

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I thank the hon. Member for raising that matter; I encourage her also to raise it with our Treasury colleagues, because it sounds like additional support is needed. On the broad principle, I welcome the fact that Rosie Cooper, who has a great deal of personal experience in this area, is looking at a potential private Member’s Bill, for which I have offered my full support by hosting a roundtable with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, stakeholders and cross-Government officials to look at how the public sector equality duty and the Equality Act 2010 are or are not providing sufficient support for those who rely on BSL. I welcome all support in that area.