Down Syndrome Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:06 pm on 4th February 2022.

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Photo of Siobhan Baillie Siobhan Baillie Conservative, Stroud 1:06 pm, 4th February 2022

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I congratulate my right hon. Friend Dr Fox on all of the work that he has done. I see that team Freddie and a number of friends are in the Public Gallery providing their support.

This Bill means a lot to thousands and thousands of campaigners. There are 47,000 people with Down syndrome and their families around the country. I give particular credit to the families from Stroud and Gloucestershire who have reached out to me to express their delight that this Bill has been introduced and also to explain their experiences and why it is so important. This is actually a spectacular use of a private Member’s Bill. I am also thrilled that the Minister for Care and Mental Health, my hon. Friend Gillian Keegan, is at the Dispatch Box. We have discussed Down syndrome for many, many years, because we are both blessed with nephews with Down syndrome. Those boys give us great joy, particularly as a distraction from this mad job.

The Bill proposes, for the first time, a duty on the Secretary of State to give guidance on housing, education, youth offending and national health authorities. It also imposes a similar duty on the relevant authorities, which is very important. The guidance will set out the steps required to meet the needs of people with Down syndrome, and I sincerely believe that it will be the start—and it is the start—of many other areas of policy and work to undo some of the problems that people with Down syndrome face in their daily lives.

My nephew, Rhys, is now 19 years old. He is the light of every room he enters. He works for the Thames Valley Cleaning company at the Select Car Leasing Stadium for the Reading Royals. He is right royally unimpressed with me—I am not cool, particularly when I am in a suit on the telly, so I hope he is not watching now. Let me relate part of Rhys’s story—[Interruption.] I am sorry if I get upset. It is not just because I am pregnant; I once tried to talk about Rhys in Camden Council many years ago and cried then as well—