- Does the House of Commons have a procedure where a person elected as an MP who is incapable of speech by way of disability can take the Oath of Allegiance and take their seat? For example, could a deaf person take the oath using sign language?
- Is it the case that only a person who is capable of speaking the oath out loud be an MP?
After Members have been elected, the House service contacts newly elected Members from the Friday after the election and over the weekend. One of the key questions asked is:
Do you require any adjustments or have any particular requirements for your arrival at Parliament?—If yes, what are these?
This is intended to alert the House service to any adjustments that a new Member might need. If a Member was deaf and informed the House service that he or she communicated using sign language the House service would contact a sign language translator for the purposes of swearing in. We would imagine that, similar to court practice, the Clerk would administer the Oath/Affirmation and communicate with the Member through the signer and the Member would communicate with the Clerk through the signer.
Section 3 of the Parliamentary Oaths Act 1866 states that:
The oath hereby appointed shall in every Parliament be solemnly and publicly made and subscribed by every member of the House of Peers at the table in the middle of the said House before he takes his place in the said House, and whilst a full House of Peers is there with their Speaker in his place, and by every member of the House of Commons at the table in the middle of the said House, and whilst a full House of Commons is there duly sitting, with their Speaker in his chair, at such hours and according to such regulations as each House may by its standing orders direct.
Taking the oath using sign language would appear to satisfy the requirement of “solemnly and publicly” taking the Oath/making the affirmation so far as the House authorities are concerned. In the unlikely event of that being challenged in the courts, it would ultimately be a matter for a court to decide on the exact interpretation of the words of the statute.