POLITICS
14/04/2021 13:28 BST

Labour MP Uses Sign Language To Pressure PM Over Lack Of Interpreter At Press Briefings

Vicky Foxcroft challenges Boris Johnson to imagine how people with hearing difficulties feel during No.10 press conferences.

A Labour MP used sign language to challenge Boris Johnson over his failure to have an interpreter at his side for Downing Street briefings.

The government has spent £2.6m of public cash on a new press studio, but while some broadcasters include a service for people with hearing difficulties, Downing Street does not directly employ anyone. 

Shadow minister for disabled people Vicky Foxcroft said as a result many are excluded from public briefings on the Covid pandemic, which communicate vital public health information to the nation. 

At prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, she used British sign language to communicate her question, and then said: “If the prime minister doesn’t understand: imagine how those who rely on BSL feel at his press briefings. 

″£2.5m spent on the new press room, yet still no interpreter. What message does he think this sends to disabled people? 

Stefan RousseauPA
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Monday April 5, 2021.

It is not known how many people use BSL, but estimates of the number of Deaf signers who use it as their first language range from 30,000 to 70,000.

The prime minister suggested he would look at the issue.

He told Foxcroft he was “grateful for the way she has set out her question”, and said: “I will revert to her as soon as I can.” 

Foxcroft has said: “The prime minister has been asked several times why his press conferences continue to exclude disabled people who rely on BSL. His continued failure to answer is completely unacceptable.

“The Conservatives have failed at making essential communication inclusive, despite spending £2.6 million of public money on a new press room.

 “Why no interpreter in room briefings, why is this not sorted?”