HL Deb 02 November 2001 vol 627 c186WA
Lord Ashley of Stoke

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will officially recognise British Sign Language; and [HL763]

Whether they will seek to include British Sign Language in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. [HL764]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham)

The Government have received many representations on recognition of British Sign Language (BSL) particularly since we announced our intention to ratify the Council of Europe's Charter for Regional Minority Languages. A number of meetings have been held with organisations of and for deaf people and advice was requested from the Disability Rights Commission (DRC). One of the DRC's recommendations was that the Government should recognise BSL through inclusion in the Council of Europe's Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, if necessary through post ratification. The UK ratified the Council of Europe's charter for Regional or Minority Languages on 27 March 2001.

The UK member was elected to the charter's Committee of Experts on 4 October. Committee experts act in an independent capacity and the Government are not in a position to give instructions to the UK member about indigenous sign languages being covered by the charter. However, members of the committee may wish to consider representations from organisations of and for deaf people and others on this issue.