'Historic' Down Syndrome bill set to become law

Dr Liam Fox and Fionn Crombie Angus.

Dr Liam Fox and Fionn Crombie Angus. - Credit: Roger Harris Photography

A bill focused on improving the lives of those living with Down Syndrome is expected to clear its first Commons hurdle today (Friday) after the Government announced it will support it to become law.

The Down Syndrome Bill has been introduced as North Somerset's MP Dr Liam Fox’s private members' bill.

Dr Fox was selected, for the first time in his 30 years as an MP, in the private members’ ballot to bring forward a bill of his own choosing for this Parliamentary session – only 20 MPs each parliamentary session are drawn at random in the ballot.

The bill is co-sponsored by cross-party MPs and politicians from across the political divide attended an event with Dr Fox in Parliament earlier this week in support of the bill.

The Down Syndrome Bill would mean the establishment of a Down Syndrome Act and will be the first of its kind in the world. The act would improve the provision and outcomes for all those living with Down Syndrome in England.

This will encompass, amongst other areas, maternity care, education, health & social care and employment.

Campaigners are calling for the bill to receive Royal Assent before World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, 2022.

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TV personalities have also shown their support for the bill, including: CBeebies presenter and self-advocate George Webster; BBC’s Line of Duty actor Tommy Jessop; writer and creator of Call the Midwife Heidi Thomas; and the actress Sally Phillips.

The National Down Syndrome Policy Group (NDSPG) has launched a campaign in support for the bill.

The Stand Up for Down Syndrome campaign includes a Change.org petition which has attracted the signatures of 30,400 people with Down Syndrome, their families and supporters.

Thousands of constituents have written to their MPs as part of the campaign urging them to support the Bill.

Many of those taking part in the campaign have shared photos of their children with Down syndrome on social media to help send a strong message about the importance of the Bill.

The NDSPG have organised a gathering outside Parliament today at 1.30pm so that those in the Down Syndrome community can publicly demonstrate their support of Dr Fox’s Bill on the day of its second reading in the House of Commons.

Dr Liam Fox MP, a former NHS Doctor and GP, said: “I am thrilled to bring forward a Bill to deal with the issues faced by those with Down Syndrome.

"My aim is to deal with three main areas. The first is to de-stigmatise Down syndrome.

"The second is to ensure that current provision of services is improved. The third is to look ahead and deal with future issues, such as long-term care, in an era where, for the first time, many of those with Down syndrome will outlive their parents.”

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