Deaf News: Deaf leaders look to the future as 30% of eligible MPs back Early Day Motion calling for action on BSL

Posted on April 29, 2013

edmpie1The closing date to sign Early Day Motion (EDM) 1167 passed on Friday with 122 MPs from across the political spectrum showing their support for government action on BSL.

The EDM was tabled by Sir Malcolm Bruce MP on the tenth anniversary of the official recognition of BSL (British Sign Language) with the support of the BDA (British Deaf association), RAD (Royal Association of Deaf People) and Signature.

The EDM calls on the government to do more for people who use British Sign Language by producing a cross-governmental report detailing what its various departments are doing for BSL users.

The pressure on MPs to sign the EDM was supported by the efforts of the ‘Spit the Dummy and Campaign for BSL Act’ Facebook Group which has grown to over 11,000 members. The members of the group have posted hundreds of videos in response to a call from prominent deaf figures in the deaf community to share the problems they face on a daily basis. They also got behind the BDA’s call for MPs to sign the EDM by sending letters, emails and by meeting their local MPs.

On average, three MPs signed the EDM every day since it was tabled (adjusted for Easter recess) and it was the fifteenth best supported EDM of the year 2012-13. It was almost certainly the most successful in terms of how quickly it gained support and it was almost in the top 1% best supported EDM’s of the year.


The Conservative party showed the least support with under 9% of their eligible MPs adding their weight to the campaign. Many that didn’t sign, rather than being in disagreement with the motion, claimed that EDMs were not an effective way of campaigning and pledged to support in other ways, such as writing to the Minister for Disabled People.

Almost half of all Labour MPs, who do not hold shadow ministerial portfolios, managed to sign up as well as almost two-thirds of the eligible 34 Liberal Democrat MPs. In total, 30% of the MP’s that are allowed to sign an EDM, signed EDM 1167. Over 230 MPs are not allowed to sign EDMs due to holding government or shadow government positions, being part of the Speakers team or from Sinn Fein who do not attend Parliament.

David Buxton, Chief Executive of the BDA said: ” The BDA asked Sir Malcolm Bruce MP, the Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness, to table EDM 1167 to strengthen our request to the government for a cross-departmental report on what is being done to support BSL users. It was great to have Spit the Dummy’s help in getting so many MPs to sign it.

 “The EDM is only the start of the story. We will continue to press in Parliament and behind the scenes for the government to deal with our concerns. We also need to create change on the ground – in schools, at the GP, in shops and at work. This will mean mobilising and training more local Deaf and BSL campaigners.”

John Smith, BSL comedian and leading figure in the ‘Spit the Dummy and Campaign for BSL Act’ Facebook group said: “I’ll work with BDA, RAD and Signature on the next steps and update the group soon.

“I just want to say to the thousands of deaf people who worked hard writing to their MPs – thank you and I’m proud of you all. We know deaf people have poor access everywhere but we can feel good about our efforts and stronger for it.”

By Andy Palmer, The Limping Chicken’s Editor-at-Large.

Andy volunteers for the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society on their website, deaf football coaching and other events as well as working for a hearing loss charity. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP (all views expressed are his own).

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Posted in: Andy Palmer