I start by congratulating my right hon. Friend Dr Fox. It has been a pleasure to work with him, the Bill Committee and all the other teams. He has done outstanding work in introducing the Bill and navigating it through its Commons stages. I personally have learned a lot from him.
This is truly a groundbreaking Bill that will make a real difference to the lives of people with Down syndrome across the country. It highlights the hugely important role of private Members’ Bills and what can be achieved when MPs from across all parties work together. I extend my personal thanks to the Bill’s sponsors, all Members who have been instrumental in getting us this far and everybody who has spoken today and brought to life why this matters. It has been wonderful to hear the stories of Mark, Rhys and his mum Alice, the Shakin’ Stevens fan and Asher and the beginning of his journey. Hopefully this Bill will help Asher’s parents to avoid some of the struggles that other families have been through. It is so positive to see such unanimous support for this Bill, which has been a joy throughout its passage.
I thank all the members of the all-party parliamentary group on Down syndrome, of which the hon. Members for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) and for Enfield North (Feryal Clark) are the chair and vice-chair. They have campaigned for equal access and service provision for people with Down syndrome, and they have supported the Bill’s passage.
I especially thank the people with Down syndrome, many of whom are in the Public Gallery with their families, and the representative organisations that have campaigned tirelessly on improved support for the 47,000 people across the UK with Down syndrome. I also thank my constituents who have written to me and the many families I have met at the Apuldram centre and at Aldingbourne in my Chichester constituency. It has been great to share their journeys and hear their stories.
I feel really fortunate to be the responsible Minister when this Bill is before Parliament. I support the Bill wholeheartedly. It will be instrumental in improving the lives of people with Down syndrome by tackling inequalities in access to services. It is not right that such disparities exist, and I have seen at first hand in my own family the challenges that people with Down syndrome can face in accessing the support they need.
On Second Reading and in Committee, I spoke about my family’s experience. Although my nephew Joseph Gibson is thriving, and his school, St John’s School in Chigwell, is helping him to thrive, there is no doubt that there have been challenges along the way. I have watched my sister-in-law, Sara Gibson—I know she is watching me now—and my brother Marcus Gibson battle for the support that Joseph needs.
I want everyone to get the right support at the right time and in a way that works for them. That is why this Bill, for the first time, will require the Government to publish guidance on how authorities should meet the specific needs of people with Down syndrome.