Exclusive: “We’ve may have reached a turning point” says Sir Malcolm Bruce after Parliament meeting of deaf groups

Posted on September 5, 2013

Sir Malcolm Bruce MP hopes the deaf community may have reached a turning point following Tuesday’s meeting with the UK’s leading deaf organisations and groups.

Sir Malcom told the Limping Chicken that a consensus was reached about the contents of the Bill he is introducing in Parliament about the communication rights of deaf people – and that the various groups involved had put their differences aside.

Having previously expressed his disappointment at the lack of success of previous campaigns by deaf organisations, Sir Malcolm was left upbeat by the outcome of the meeting on Tuesday at Portcullis House in London.

“I felt the meeting was constructive,” he said.

“They [the groups and charities involved] prioritised what was important because not everything can go in to the Bill and we also got some useful steers to improve its drafting and lots of information to reinforce the case”.

“I had to explain the process and be clear that the chances of this Bill passing or even being debated are almost nil, but the publication of the Bill can be used as a priority list and will be put in front of ministers as deaf people want it. The Bill can be a credible campaigning vehicle and set out a process of action across government.”

The Bill, which calls for the establishment of a body to make recommendations to Government about communication for deaf people, is extremely unlikely to make progress into law but there is an appetite among deaf organisations, and from Sir Malcolm, to use this opportunity to campaign together for the common good. Meetings with ministers are planned and deaf people’s issues could be debated in Parliament soon.

“The next steps for me are that I will take it up with Esther McVey (Minister for Disabled People). She’s enthusiastic and has made the effort to learn some sign language. She has been keen to meet me and I have colleagues in Government that I need to speak to and I hope I can get cabinet member and cross-party support. We need cross-government support because this bill can effect health, education and disabled people so we have to do it in a way that makes it clear what we want.”

“I’m pushing for a debate on the floor of the House of Commons before Christmas but it won’t just be about this issue, the debate will be a wider debate about all the issues faced by deaf people.”

The groups present at the meeting included Action on Hearing Loss, BDA, Signature, NADP, Deaf Ex-Mainstreamers and the Spit the Dummy and the Pardon? groups, both Facebook based.

“I realised that there would be some disagreement and I commend them all for parking their disagreements and moving on. The key issues picked up had widespread agreement. As well as the groups involved, I want to thank Alexandra Hernandez from my office who has worked hard on the issue, taken a real interest and also learned sign language.”

“I hope that this is a turning point. There will be disagreements in the group but I think there is a recognition that the big issues need to be short-listed and the need for people to campaign together.”

The second reading of the bill will be on October 25th if time allows. Sir Malcolm’s name was drawn 14th in an annual ballot of MPs invited to introduce a Private Member’s Bill. Usually only the first six to eight bills end up being debated due to time constraints. Nonetheless, the opportunity is being used to draw attention to the issues faced by deaf people and influence decision makers with a view to making progress further down the line.

By Andy Palmer, The Limping Chicken’s Deputy Editor.

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 (views expressed are his own).

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