Thu. Sep 21st, 2023

The House of Lords has seen the first live use of British Sign Language interpretation as peers backed a Bill giving the language legal recognition across Britain.

Lord McFall of Alcluith, the Speaker in the House of Lords, marked this moment for BSL interpretation in the upper chamber, and also used the BSL sign for ‘thank you’ in the chamber.

Peers also heard that the Government has started drawing up plans for a GCSE in the language, with more likely to be revealed about the proposals later this year.

Before peers started the second reading debate of the British Sign Language Bill, which would give BSL legal recognition in England, Wales and Scotland, Lord McFall said: “I would like to point out that a British Sign Language interpretation of proceedings is available to watch on

“I am delighted to mark this first occasion of the live use of BSL interpretation in the House of Lords.”

As he ended his remarks, Lord McFall made the BSL sign for ‘thank you’.

Crossbench peer Baroness Grey-Thompson said Rose Ayling-Ellis, seen here winning Strictly Come Dancing 2021 with Giovanni Pernice, was’amazing’ (BBC/PA)

Conservative peer Lord Holmes of Richmond, who is sponsoring the Bill, opened the debate by saying: “The purpose of the Bill, in many ways, incredibly straightforward. Simply this: to include BSL signers.

“One example to make the point: imagine you are a BSL signer and you go to a hospital or a GP appointment. The news might not be good, it may be, but whether good or bad, it’s certainly personal.

“Perhaps some of the most personal interaction you may have with the state. In no circumstances it seems wholly appropriate that a BSL signer should not have to rely on a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling to enable that encounter to be accessible and inclusive.”

He added: “In the British Sign Language private members’ bill, the honourable lady Rosie Cooper (the Labour MP for West Lancashire) has given us a barrel of a Bill. A barrel of a Bill from which can flow forth the finest brew of all: inclusion.”

Crossbench peer Baroness Grey-Thompson described the live interpretation of the Lords debate as “truly a landmark moment”.

Lady Grey-Thompson also paid tribute to Strictly Come Dancing for its part in raising awareness about BSL, adding: “What we have seen in recent months is the power of television. The power of Strictly to educate is possibly more than we ever thought it might be.

“Rose Ayling-Ellis was amazing, and it is wonderful to hear …….


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