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The Down Syndrome Bill is a private member’s bill from the House of Commons sponsored by Liam Fox (Conservative MP for North Somerset). It is being sponsored in the House of Lords by Baroness Hollins (Crossbench). The Government supports the bill and the Department of Health and Social Care has written the bill’s explanatory notes. The bill has cross-party support.

Down syndrome is sometimes also written as Down’s syndrome. This briefing follows the form used in the bill and so uses Down syndrome. It is a genetic condition in which a person has an extra copy of chromosome 21. People with Down syndrome often have some degree of learning disability and about half are born with heart problems. It is also characterised by other issues, such as a susceptibility to infections.

The bill would require the secretary of state to give guidance to ‘relevant authorities’ on steps that would be appropriate for them to take to meet the needs of people with Down syndrome when the authority was exercising its ‘relevant functions’. Those authorities would have to have “due regard” to the guidance in the exercise of these functions. The secretary of state would have to consult such persons as they considered appropriate and the guidance would have to be published and laid before Parliament.

Liam Fox has said that the bill is “about people who deserve the same ability to demand the best health, education and care as the rest of our society”.

The bill has received positive responses from many organisations, but some of these have expressed concern that the bill does not address other conditions too.

The bill had its first reading in the House of Lords on 7 February 2022. It is scheduled to have its second reading on 18 March 2022.

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