Down Syndrome Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:54 pm on 4th February 2022.

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Photo of Gagan Mohindra Gagan Mohindra Conservative, South West Hertfordshire 12:54 pm, 4th February 2022

That returns me to my hon. Friend’s own earlier comment. The skills required in certain industries may not necessarily be academic. I suffer from dyslexia and have always regarded that as a superpower, although I am sure that if I had been diagnosed at an earlier age, others might have regarded it as a disability. The ability to think differently, to be a disruptor and to question the status quo, which conditions of this type may typically entail, benefits us as a society, and—here I allude to the previous role of my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset in defence—it makes our country even more secure than it might otherwise have been.

My right hon. Friend is an astute and successful legislator, and I am personally reassured that his Bill will have a lasting impact, but as others have said, this is the start of a process and not the end. Today we are focusing on Down syndrome, but I think it would be easy to replicate this model for the purpose of other conditions. I believe that these measures should be adopted as soon as possible, and I look forward to the fulfilment of the ambition of my right hon. Friend to complete the Bill’s passage before World Down Syndrome Day in March. I hope that the Government can provide us with some confidence that that will be the case.

The role of politicians at whatever level, whether in local or in national government, frequently involves signposting. The provision of a named individual in the integrated care system will be a game changer for the families and loved ones who may not understand the bureaucracy of whatever public service they are having to deal with. The ability of a Member of Parliament to direct a constituent to a named individual with an email or other correspondence address can only help the system and make it smoother. Our role as politicians is to reduce the barrier, to make life as easy as possible for our constituents. The Government have a proud history in this regard, given the work we have done to date. We spent £2.6 billion over the 2021 spending review period on new school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities in England, and will more than triple the current capital funding levels to over £900 million by 2024-25.

I was not going to mention this, but I will, because I think it important. I read an article in the media today about a lady called Beth Matthews. She is a young lady of 22 who has achieved in her life: her story is important because she is now a model and she also happens to have Down syndrome. For me, that is an irrelevance, but people feel the need to show her as a leading light. Similarly, there is Tommy Jessop, an actor in “Line of Duty”. It is good that we normalise people with a condition, whether hidden or obvious. I look forward to the day when they are getting named not for their disabilities but for their ability and the fact that they are a master of their art.