All 1 Baroness Stowell of Beeston contributions to the Down Syndrome Act 2022

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Fri 18th Mar 2022
Down Syndrome Bill
Lords Chamber

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Down Syndrome Bill

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Excerpts
Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
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My Lords, I am sorry—my speakers’ list has me at the end, but I am happy to speak now. I am ready, if noble Lords are.

I say first how impressive the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, was in introducing the Bill today. I cannot possibly do justice to this matter, particularly following her, but I will try because I support the Bill and I want to make just a short contribution. I have no direct experience of living with, or even being close friends with someone who has Down’s syndrome, but of course I have huge respect for the battles they encounter with officialdom—indeed, for all parents who have children with learning disabilities and how they have to navigate bureaucracy.

It is hard to explain, therefore, my particular admiration for people with Down’s syndrome. It may be something special about them that elicits a smile and fondness among all of us. Certainly my connection is very tangential, and it is this: my mum had a younger brother called Stuart, who was born in 1945 with Down’s syndrome. It was not called that then, but that is what he had. He also had lots of health complications and did not live much beyond a year or 18 months. Because he was born into a family of eight other children and they were desperately poor, my nana, who was a widow at the time, considered Stuart’s passing a blessing and she encouraged the rest of the family to accept that and move on, but my mum has never forgotten him, and she has always made sure that I know that he was one of her seven brothers.

Thankfully, the world is a different place. Not only can people in situations like that of my nana rely on support not available in the past, but people with Down’s syndrome live longer and we are now seeing their potential to achieve and succeed in lots of different arenas. That brings me back to this Private Member’s Bill. I am delighted to support my right honourable friend in the other place in this endeavour. I have known Dr Liam Fox for 30 years and I know that getting the Bill as far as this stage, with unanimous support in the other place, including that of the Government, is a result of him using all his professional and political skills—and probably a dose of impish charm along the way.

What is critical about the Bill for me is that it will inform a new strategic approach to supporting people with Down’s syndrome before we encounter the situation that my nana could not have conceived of 80 years ago: a person with Down’s syndrome can not only survive and thrive, but they are living longer and, as we have already heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, are now outliving their parents. It is vital that the future we anticipate now for people with Down’s syndrome is a positive one, so I commend the noble Baroness for all that she does in the field of health and support for people with disabilities. I support her in seeing this Bill through your Lordships’ House.