House of Commons unable to provide BSL interpretation for new ‘hybrid’ Parliament

As MPs took part in the first day of a ‘hybrid’ Parliament following the outbreak of coronavirus on Wednesday, Prime Minister’s Questions came without British Sign Language interpretation for the first time since the provision was initially trialled in February.

Alongside PMQs, the House of Commons provided BSL support for statements on the coronavirus, while briefings from Downing Street continue to be broadcast without an in-person interpreter.

Speaking earlier this year when the pilot was announced, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, said: “Everyone deserves to be able to follow our flagship event of the week – so I am delighted that we will have sign language interpreters to make this a reality for deaf people.

“This initiative chimes with my commitment to make our parliamentary proceedings accessible and as clear as possible to everyone.”

However, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to shape UK politics, the House of Commons has confirmed that sessions in the new digital Parliament – including PMQs – are yet to come with British Sign Language interpretation.

A Commons spokesperson said: “This hybrid model was developed at speed and chosen as an achievable first step towards a virtual Parliament. At this stage we are unable to offer BSL interpretation of proceedings in the House of Commons Chamber but this is something the House is working to deliver as the hybrid model develops over the coming days.

“We recognise the disappointment this will cause, however it is something we are expecting to provide as soon as possible.”

Photo: House of Commons Press.

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