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The British Sign Language Act 2022 received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022. It originated as a Private Members’ Bill, introduced to the House of Commons on 16 June 2021 by Rosie Cooper MP.

The Bill was introduced following the ballot process. At the start of a new parliamentary year, backbench MPs are invited to enter their names into a ballot and 20 names are drawn. Each MP whose name is drawn may present a bill of their choosing. Only the top seven ballot bills are guaranteed any debate.

Whilst Rosie Cooper came in 20th place in the ballot, the British Sign Language Bill swiftly attracted cross-party and, crucially, government support. This was attributed partly to awareness of BSL raised by Rose Ayling-Ellis, a deaf actress and BSL user who won the television dance competition, Strictly Come Dancing, in 2021.

During the Bill’s second reading debate Rosie Cooper told MPs:

I want to finally recognise BSL in statute—not just a gesture but a law that requires positive action from the Government, with real progress to put deaf people on an equal footing with those of us who hear.

[…] this recognition will be clear and a message that their language is equal and should be treated as equal.

The British Sign Language Act 2022 achieved this, and provided legal recognition of BSL as a language of England, Wales and Scotland (the relevant law is devolved in Northern Ireland). It also created a duty for the government to report on progress towards greater promotion and use of BSL in government communication with the public.

This debate pack outlines the provisions of the British Sign Language Act 2022, the government’s progress in implementing it, and the findings of the first BSL report, published on 31 July 2023, together with a collection of relevant further reading.

Documents to download

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