Lancashire MP's bill to make British Sign Language official passes final reading in Parliament

  • Lord Holmes who introduced the British Sign Language Bill 2022 in the House of Lords called it a "historic moment".

A bill that recognises British Sign Language (BSL) as an official language in England, Scotland and Wales has passed its final reading in the House of Lords.

The move places responsibility on the Government to provide improved guidance to public services and government departments on the use of BSL.

It would also see the launch of an advisory board of BSL users to offer guidance to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on how and when to use it and examine how to increase the number of BSL interpreters.

  • Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper explains why it is so important British Sign Language is recognised as an official language.

The government's promise follows a campaign spearheaded by Labour MP Rosie Cooper, to raise awareness of the difficulties that deaf people face. Both of her parents are deaf.

She said: "My Bill aims to help put deaf BSL users on a more equal playing field with everyone else, to require the Government to work with deaf people to develop guidance on how public bodies should enable the use of BSL across their services."

A school girl takes part in a rally in support of British Sign Language becoming a recognised language. Credit: PA images

She added that actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, who made history as the first deaf contestant in Strictly Come Dancing, had raised the profile for the need for BSL.

"As the daughter of profoundly deaf parents, I grew up with BSL as my first language, so to see it being used every weekend on Strictly was phenomenal", she said.

"So many people are signing up to learn BSL and have a much clearer understanding of what BSL is and why it essential that we recognise it as an official language."

  • ITV Granada Reports' journalist Andy Bonner visits Knotty Ash Primary School to see what the BSL Bill will mean to them.

There are around 90,000 deaf people in the UK that rely on BSL.

Although British Sign Language (BSL) was recognised as a language in its own right by the government in 2003, it currently has no legal protection.

It means services do not need to provide an interpreter, which leaves many unable to access medical appointments or vital services.

Rose Ayling-Ellis made history as the first deaf contestant on Strictly Come Dancing. She went on to win with partner Giovanni Pernice. Credit: PA

Speaking about what this final reading means to people in the Deaf community, David Buxton, Chair of the British Deaf Association, said: “We are extremely pleased to see the UK Parliament finally vote to recognise British Sign Language as a language of Great Britain in law today, after 19 long years of campaigning.

“Today is a historic day for the Deaf community in the UK, and an inspiration for other countries around the world where the national sign language has not yet been recognised in law.

“While today is a day to celebrate, we are aware that this marks the first step on a long path towards providing truly equal access to public services, information and opportunities for Deaf BSL users in Great Britain.”

Speaking after the proposed bill passed its 'second reading', in January 2022, Rosie said: “I am delighted that the Bill has passed this huge hurdle.

"It has been at least 230 years since BSL was first introduced, so this will be a very emotional day for every Deaf person who has been waiting for the legal recognition of their language.

“The success we now enjoy lies on the shoulders of all the deaf people, including my dad, who over the years fought for recognition and equality! That goal is now squarely in sight.''