Down Syndrome Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:40 pm on 4th February 2022.

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Photo of Selaine Saxby Selaine Saxby Conservative, North Devon 12:40 pm, 4th February 2022

I congratulate my right hon. Friend Dr Fox on introducing this Bill.

It is always a pleasure to speak on a Friday, when, Ruth Jones is right, we have an opportunity to get things done. We come together as one. As her fallen colleague, Jo Cox, said in her maiden speech, we have

“far more in common than that which divides us.”—[Official Report, 3 June 2015; Vol. 596, c. 675.]

Today, many colleagues have referenced our fallen colleague, Sir David Amess, which is so timely the morning after the election of his successor for the city of Southend; we all look forward to welcoming her to the House next week. We hoped it would usher in an era of kinder politics and I just hope that will be mentioned to the people who wrote the emails in my inbox today.

It is a great delight to have the opportunity to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset speak with such compassion on such an important issue, and to have the opportunity to speak today. I share a friend with him in Annabel Tall, the mother of George, Freddie and Samuel. Freddie has Down syndrome. I believe Samuel is waving at us from the Public Gallery and is here to see the Bill go through, and I think Annabel is watching on television.

This is a big moment. As my right hon. Friend said,

“this Bill is not about a condition, but about people—people who have a particular condition, their families, and the people who care for them.”––[Official Report, Down Syndrome Public Bill Committee, 26 January 2022; c. 10.]

Annabel wrote to me earlier this week to explain why the Bill is so important to her family. She finds it

“disheartening to see new parents and carers having to fight exactly the same battles we were 20 years ago.”

She describes it as a

“spectrum of different difficulties and abilities with common themes. I have lost count of the number of times I have had to explain Down syndrome to professionals who should know, let alone friends and family who still largely base their Down syndrome stereotype on the last person with Down syndrome they met.”

I was very fortunate as a teenager. Despite not having the same family experiences, I helped at a Down syndrome support group with a large number of Down syndrome infants, from tiny weans and right the way through. They had marvellous day trips. I was not even a woman at the time and, as a young girl, it impressed on my mind how important this is.

I very much hope the Bill is the start of a journey for people with other conditions as we move into the integrated care system, so that we are able to do exactly what my right hon. Friend intends. The Bill aims to improve services and life outcomes for people with Down syndrome, but hopefully we will be able to help and assist people with so many more conditions.

I will keep my remarks brief, as I know many colleagues wish to speak. I thank my right hon. Friend for all his work in this area. It is a privilege to speak today.