HC Deb 24 February 1956 vol 549 cc762-92

2.10 p.m.

The Rev. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)

I beg to move, That this House views with concern the present inadequate provision of sheltered employment for disabled workers, the present restrictions on Remploy factories and the paucity of alternative employment, especially in mining areas, and calls upon the Government to take practical steps to secure that no disabled person in a period of full employment shall be deprived of the opportunity of suitable employment. I believe that there is a remarkable continuity between the general theme of the Motion which has just been debated in this House, the Private Member's Bill which, regrettably and unfortunately, was rejected by the House last Friday, and the Motion which is now being debated.

We have just been discussing the importance of stepping up productivity, collating new ideas and generally bringing a greater measure of enlightened progress into our industrial relationships in this country. Surely one other factor must be acknowledged by hon. Members on both sides of the House: that in order to achieve that very desirable end it is vitally important that workers who are victims of accidents in the various industries of this country should have at all times the assurance that they will receive generous benefits when these accidents occur; that there should be provisions for industrial rehabilitation courses, and, also, if it is discovered that the victims are unable to return to their former occupations, that there should be available to them opportunities of suitable employment.

It is surely a terrible feeling for any workman who has suffered an accident or some other disability as a result of his employment to know that he will never be able to return to his own job, which he has probably been doing for many years and in which he has gained considerable skill. There is a real link, I suggest to the House, between what we are about to debate now—greater provision of employment for disabled workers—the Bill which was, unfortunately, rejected by the House last Friday, and the debate which preceded this one.

It must have been a very great day in this House in December, 1943, when the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act received its Second Reading. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), who took part in the debate on that occasion, said that it was not a debate but a demonstration by both sides of the House. With one exception, hon. Members universally acclaimed the largeness of the vision embodied in the practical proposals of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act.

That Bill, which was introduced by that warm-hearted and much lamented former Member of this House, the late George Tomlinson, was largely based on the Report of the Tomlinson Committee which had been set up during the war. I find the justification for moving this Motion this afternoon in paragraph 9 of that Report, which reads as follows: In a highly industrialised country such as Britain the number of separate occupations is so large and their demand on physical activity is so varied that it is possible to find occupations within the physical capacity of all save a small minority of the disabled. That is the charter, so far as Britain is concerned, of the disabled persons.

Since that Bill became an Act, in 1944, we have been much encouraged by the far-reaching work accomplished by the Ministry of Labour in its rehabilitation schemes, in the vocational centres which have been set up in many parts of the country and, indeed, in the multifarious activities of the Ministry as affecting disabled persons.

All Members on both sides of the House will rejoice in a perusal of the figures, because they have been encouraging in the decrease—the perceptible decrease—they have shown in the number of disabled workers now registered in the various Ministry of Labour Exchanges. At one time, the number was over 900,000. On the last date on which a count was taken, 17th October, 1955, the figure of registered disabled workers was 818,587. Of that figure 37,686 were registered as unemployed and of that figure 17,249 served in Her Majesty's Forces, while the others amounted to 20,437. Of this figure there is a total of 33,857 who are suitable for ordinary employment, and of these, ex-Service men numbered 15,961 while the others total 17,896.

We all rejoice in the decrease in the numbers of registered disabled workers, as we rejoice, of course, in the decrease in the numbers of disabled workers who are unemployed. The justification for this debate today is the fact that there is no room for satisfaction. No society conscious of its responsibilities to the disabled and the handicapped in life can possibly rest content even with these figures.

We urge the Government proceed with vigour to bring these figures down again appreciably, until we really are satisfied that the heart of this problem has been dealt with, and that we have no longer in this country people who are unable to enjoy the facilities which were envisaged in the rehabilitation and safeguarding of employment as laid down in the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, 1944.

We also have people classified is severely disabled persons—sometimes referred to as the Section 2 category—who are unable to return to open industry. These people are unlikely to obtain employment other than under special conditions. The total of severely disabled persons is 3,829. Of this number, 1,288 are ex-Service men. It gladdens my heart to know that the figure which in 1946 was as high as 12,800 has been so greatly reduced. It is a very eloquent testimony to the tremendous work done in returning to open employment so many severely disabled and handicapped people. I shall be dealing with these people later in my speech.

So far, we have been dealing with statistics. One of the provisions of the Disabled Persons (Standard Percentage) Order, 1946, was that every employer of more than twenty people was statutorily obliged to employ 3 per cent. of registered disabled workers. In many instances, employers have been honourable in their attitude towards disabled workers. For instance, I know that in 1953 thirteen firms in Wales were employing 9.4 per cent. of disabled workers out of a total labour force of 7,378. That 9.4 per cent. included 308 men suffering from pneumoconiosis.

All credit to those industrialists. When employers show such a sympathetic outlook towards people who have suffered in the rough and tumble of industrial life—and industry always carries its quota of accidents—we can feel very content. Of course, there are other industrialists who are not so inspired, and whilst, of course, the order compels employers of more than twenty persons to employ 3 per cent. of disabled workmen, we should prefer a much more generous and liberal interpretation of the requirement.

I do not know whether the Government themselves feel particularly satisfied with their example in this regard. On the surface, the figures are seemingly quite satisfactory. On 1st October, 1955, there was an employed staff of 626,881 non-industrial and 415,411 industrial employees. Of the former figure, 35,457 were registered disabled persons and of the latter 19,651 were so registered. The percentage of disabled persons in the employed staff worked out at 5.7 per cent. in the first case and at 4.7 per cent. in the second case.

Once again we are confronted with the Welsh proverb which says, Nid da lle gellir gwell," and which means, "Nothing is good if it can be better." I am sure that if those percentages could be increased we who support this Motion would be very happy, and the disabled workers now unemployed would have cause to indulge in real joy.

So much for this business of the percentage. I come now to the third point with regard to disabled persons. Under the 1944 Act, provision was made for what is called "designated employment." Two types of employment were mentioned—electric passenger-lift attendant and car-park attendant. Those two types of employment were designated, where circumstances permitted, as the expected employment of disabled persons.

I wish to ask the Minister whether it is not possible to add to these two types of employment. Many things have happened since 1944. The pattern of industry has been somewhat diversified and variegated since then. With 37,686 unemployed disabled workers, it is surely not asking too much of the Government to add to these two types of employment. I have a very strong reason for emphasising this. I represent the Abertillery division where, I am certain, there is no electric lift. Indeed, I do not think that there is a lift at all. Even when we climb the mountains we have to do so like mountaineers. There is no car park in Abertillery so that these provisions, understandably helpful in towns and cities for the employment of disabled workers, have no relevance to a community such as the one which I represent.

What is true of Abertillery is also true of many other mining townships in South Wales. There is a larger percentage of disabled workers in the valleys of South Wales than in any other part of the country, as I will prove very shortly. I have been trying to work out some percentages, and I find that the percentage of unemployed disabled workers in the rest of Great Britain is roughly about 4 per cent. In Wales, it is 8 per cent.

This brings me immediately to the question of alternative employment which is referred to in the Motion. In this respect we in the mining valleys are very hampered and circumscribed. There are geographical difficulties, owing to the narrowness of the valleys, and other difficulties caused by mining subsidence. In the community in which I live, and which I represent, the predominant industry is mining. I cannot give the figures, but I doubt whether there is a more predominantly mining constituency than Abertillery in the whole of Britain. The fact that the two special designated employments mean nothing to us presents us with a great difficulty, and it is also very difficult to find alternative employment.

I have already said that the percentage of unemployed disabled workers is higher in Wales than in the rest of Britain, although I am glad to say that the figures are decreasing. In April, 1952, there were 58,367 registered disabled workers, of whom 7,173 were unemployed. In 1953, the figures went down to 55,704 and 7,210 respectively; in 1954, they were 53,704 and 5,035; in 1955, they were 51,887 and 4,445, and the latest figures. for January, 1956, are 50,585 and 4,459. Hon. Members who represent these communities are very concerned about the human tragedy involved in these figures. We know many of these people personally. Surely nothing can be more heartbreaking, in a time of full employment and increasing wages, than to find oneself almost condemned to the end of one's days to live in misery and frustration. It must be an agonising experience, especially to those who are unemployed.

Let me bring the problem down to the focus of one constituency. In Abertillery, fifty-two disabled workers are unemployed, and the disablement resettlement officers are very concerned because they cannot change the figure; it is solid. It is a hard core, or a nucleous. Year after year this unemployed figure seems to remain the same. Many of these people are pneumoconiotics, and many suffer from pulmonary diseases. It is no use telling them, "If you go to the other valley or down to the towns you will get employment," because many of these people are absolutely unsuited for long travelling to the place of their employment.

This problem has been with us since I became a Member of this House. There is no doubt that many miners are concerned about their more unfortunate brothers who have fallen by the wayside owing to the hazards of the industry. They must surely ask themselves, "What if that were to happen to me?" If I may revert for a moment to the previous debate we have had today, I suggest that here we have a very real psychological problem in industrial relations.

I want to put forward one or two suggestions. This country has a unique institution called Remploy, set up by the provisions of the wonderful Act of 1944—the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. The Remploy factory at Abertillery has a waiting list of twenty-five people; people who need sheltered employment and just cannot enter the open market for ordinary industrial jobs. Of the eighty-four people who are working there, fifteen are over sixty years of age, but not one person has been taken into that factory since January, 1954—over two years ago. The twenty-five people of whom I have spoken have been on the list all the time. Remploy has brought light, happiness and real hope to the eighty-four who are working there in a way which cannot be described, but I am concerned about the other twenty-five, who are still waiting to be taken in.

I notice that the Ministry of Labour say that one trade group in the Remploy Association has been able to adopt schemes for home-bound people, who have to work in their homes. The figures are fairly encouraging, but they refer to only one trade group. There are unique problems to be solved in the mining valleys of South Wales, which have such a high rate of accidents in mining and such a large percentage of pneumoconiotics, who cannot be expected to travel long distances to work. Until a few years ago as great a proportion as 80 per cent. of those who suffer from pneumoconiosis in the whole of Britain came from Wales, although the Welsh coalfields employ only one-seventh of the total number of British miners. Surely something can be done to provide employment in the homes of these men through the medium and under the aegis of Remploy.

I have one other question to put to the Minister, who has been very much overworked in these last few days. I thank him for his friendliness and helpfulness. What about the Piercy Committee, which was set up in March, 1953, to inquire into the rehabilitation of disabled workers? I know that the Committee meets regularly and is composed of very fine people who can make a useful contribution, but is it not time that we knew something about its progress?

Let me conclude my speech by quoting two memorable sentences from the great debate which took place here in December, 1943. One was by that great industrial and political leader, the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, who wound up the debate and spoke from the point of view of the nation. He said: This country will not be able for the next fifty years to afford an unemployed man or to allow a man to be kept away from industry because he is unfit or injured. The other quotation is from the speech of the late Mr. George Tomlinson. In these words, that great human saw the problem from the point of view of the individual disabled worker, who, as a result of accident or illness. has been unable to keep up with the rest. I quote his words: In other words, to rehabilitate, is to bring back into the human circle, those whom disability has placed outside, and enable them to live a full, free and happy life."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1943: Vol. 395, c. 1349 and 1263.]

2.42 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)

I beg to second the Motion.

I do so with great pleasure. My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) has spoken with great restraint, and I admire that very much. This is a subject which, naturally, invites emotion of the strongest kind. If I betray my emotions rather than my reason in the few brief moments in which I propose to speak, it will because I feel very strongly on the matter.

The Motion calls for the provision of sheltered employment for disabled workers, and points out the concern over the present restrictions in Remploy factories and the paucity of alternative employment, especially in mining areas. It is insufficient for the Government to point out that the provision for sheltered workers is covered by existing legislation. We all know that. We are asking that the practical provision to meet that need should be supplied. That is the whole kernel of the Motion.

Reading through the debate on Remploy factories, last July, I could not but be impressed by the good intentions of all concerned, but good intentions are not enough. A Government supporter, during the debate on the previous Motion, referred to clichés; it is a cliché but nevertheless a truth to say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The provision of sheltered employment must expand until every disabled worker is provided for. That is the object. It is no use having legislation unless that object is achieved.

Figures are being produced all the time to show that we are moving towards that end. It really depends upon which end of the telescope one is using. If that telescope is provided by the Treasury then the Minister will sit down quite satisfied, with the feeling that everything in the garden is lovely. For myself, I see in Wales 4,445 disabled persons still unemployed. That was the figure on 18th April, 1955. For the country as a whole, the number registered on 19th December, 1955, was 37,686.

My figures are different from those which my hon. Friend has given; therefore I will quote them. The figure in December, 1953, was 49,814. In December, 1954, there was a considerable drop to 44,534 and on 19th December, 1955, there was again a considerable drop to 36,198. At the end of December, 1955, the figure had gone up to 37,686.

Is that a desirable state of affairs? What about the fine speeches about the Government's aims that we have heard from the Government benches during that Remploy debate? We want to see that figure at zero, because, as Mr. Bevin pointed out, we cannot afford to have unemployed, even disabled unemployed. It seems a general inference from the debate of last July that we were keeping to the so-called "magical" figure of 6,000 employed in Remploy factories, because a study was being made of the present set-up. As it was the previous Minister of Labour who made that statement, the report of that study ought to be forthcoming so that the Ministry can decide upon the exact framework, the balance, in the Remploy factories, of disabled to other persons, the number of administrative staff, etc.

Knowing that, as I am sure it must, the Ministry should go ahead quickly and absorb what my hon. Friend has rightly described, and I also describe in other words, as the pitiful cases who are living in an unbearable world of hopelessness and uselessness. On both sides of the House, we know that most of them can be shown how to play a useful part in society, and to work alongside their more fortunate brethren.

Much has been said about the number of registered persons. We all know that many persons will not register because they fear that they will not then get a job. That fact is surely an indictment of the present inadequate facilities. Compulsory registration, suggested in the previous debate to which I have referred, is not enough. Adequate provision for work is surely the answer.

I will not repeat figures to show that industrial injuries in South Wales are high—they are high in mining areas throughout the country—because my hon. Friend pointed that out quite effectively; but I am interested in the proportion of disabled to unemployed in Wales. In June, 1955, there were 14,942 unemployed, and of these 4,445 were disabled. I respectfully suggest that that is an alarming figure—actually, 30 per cent. of the whole. That in itself is sufficient to cause us deep, concern about disablement in the mining areas.

I should like here to touch upon a more pleasant subject, with which my hon. Friend has dealt, but on which I have some rather interesting figures to support the case which he presented. I have felt exceedingly grateful to the industrialists in my area. They have always been ready to absorb to their utmost capacity the disabled workers, and I have felt so grateful to them that I was tempted, when seconding my hon. Friend's Motion, to give the names of the firms concerned, but that is not really desirable. I should, however, like to quote some figures.

One of these firms employs 6 per cent., another 7 per cent., another 8 per cent., another 10 per cent. and yet another 13 per cent. of disabled workers. Those percentages are remarkable, particularly the last one, which is really more than four times the statutory obligation of 3 per cent. This is a fine and humane record, and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will pay due regard to the way in which those industrialists have faced up to the problem in an area such as that which I represent.

Quite frankly, however, that is the wrong way to deal with the matter. I do not want the House to misunderstand me, but I believe that disabled workers must take their places in normal industry. That is the purpose of Remploy and of the other means now provided for the employment of disabled workers. Is it fair, especially in these days of harsh competition, that the onus of finding employment for the disabled should be placed upon the industrialists in those areas? Of course it is not. The Minister must inquire into this matter to see whether he can give some real incentives to these firms who employ more than the statutory obligation of 3 per cent. of disabled men. Here is a field of inquiry which must be considered.

Before I finish my observations on Remploy, I would point out that the Ministry has, in my view, been acting rather unfairly towards one of the local authorities in my own constituency, because we have not got Remploy operating in my constituency, which is predominantly a mining area. I think the Minister has been unfair to the Mountain Ash Urban District Council. I am not suggesting that he should give me an answer in this debate, but I think he should provide an answer at a later date to the point that I am going to put to him. I warned the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour that I intended to raise this matter, and I therefore make no apology for doing so.

Since April, 1954, when the council agreed to sell a piece of land to Remploy Limited, it has not received any answer from the Ministry of Labour other than that the Ministry is interested in the matter. This urban council knows, as I do myself, and as do other hon. Members who represent mining areas, the need for Remploy in such a constituency as mine, and it has deliberately sterilised this land, at a time when it is in desperate need of land for housing purposes and particularly, for houses for old people.

It must be pointed out, though I think it is well understood, that there is no financial gain to the local authority in this matter, and that it is acting from the highest possible motives. Therefore, I should like to ask the Minister if he could say something final on the matter, so that we shall not need to tell the authority that it would be justified in forgetting the whole thing.

Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)

Could my hon. Friend tell us how long the local authority concerned has been waiting for a decision from the Ministry on this matter?

Mr. Probert

The Ministry was first informed at the commencement of 1954, and there has been considerable correspondence since then.

Let me assure the Minister in this connection that, according to the latest figures, there are 41 Class II disabled in that area, and, in addition, there are 25 travelling to Merthyr Tydvil, a total of 66. That figure is about the average number employed per factory. I think the figures show that there are 90 factories and 6,000 workers. There has been an indication in some of my correspondence that the distance from Mountain Ash or Aberdare to Merthyr Tydvil is not regarded as great, but many of my hon. Friends here are aware of the topographical features of my valley and the neighbourhood of Merthyr.

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

If they were birds, it would be easy.

Mr. Probed

Yes, indeed, if they could fly it would be easy.

To have to travel from Mountain Ash to Merthyr twice a day over the mountains is a particularly arduous task even for a fit person, and I should like to tell the officials who advise the Minister that merely to look at geographical miles and think of the journey as being one of only seven miles is not enough. I should like these officials to go down to my constituency and walk from Mountain Ash or Aberdare to Merthyr Tydvil either on a cold or wet day or even on a summer's day, because they would then obtain a really useful idea of what the travelling involves.

I wish now to say a few words about other facilities which are provided for disabled workers, and I want to refer to the remarkable and wonderful voluntary work which is being done by the National Spastics Society. I read with interest the "National Spastic Society News," which is published by that body, and from it I find that there is some ray of light—and I say this quite sincerely—for these people from that voluntary work which is being done in these days of atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, and so forth.

I want also to refer to the welfare work which is the obligation of the local authorities. As we know, permissive powers exist for the establishment of sheltered workshops, subject to Ministerial approval. I wonder how many local authorities have been able to implement that provision. From my own knowledge, I can say that it has been very difficult for local authorities to do so. I should like to know further if there are any grants-in-aid for local authorities to assist them to that end, and if so to what extent.

On this question, I feel that a drain upon the local rates for a concern of this kind is quite out of the question, because this is a national obligation and not a local one. I believe that some kind of inquiry should be made to see how the provisions are working out, because I feel that at the moment we are only touching the fringe of the problem.

I should like to conclude by making certain proposals to the Minister, though they are more or less of an investigating character. First, I feel—and I quite agree with what the Parliamentary Secretary said when speaking in the previous debate about coordinating committees—that such a com- mittee fills a useful purpose, and in this case I certainly think one might be set up, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Bidgood) in such an excellent maiden speech in July, 1955, on the question of Remploy. The job of that co-ordinating committee would be to study the whole subject of the provision of sheltered employment.

Secondly, there should be an investigation to see what incentives could be offered to industrialists to employ more than the statutory 3 per cent. of disabled workers. I respectfully suggest that it is no use merely raising that proportion to 4 or 5 per cent. because I understand that in the Midlands, and even in the London area, even the 3 per cent. cannot be absorbed. Thirdly, greater financial encouragement should be given to local authorities to extend their welfare work for handicapped persons.

3.1 p.m.

Mr. Martin Maddan (Hitchin)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: notes with satisfaction that the number of severely disabled workers unemployed in 1955 was lower than at any time during the last 10 years; that some 12,000 such workers are in employment under sheltered conditions, and that a considerable number have been found work in outside industry; and calls upon the Government to continue its efforts to ensure that progress is maintained. I hope that the House will accept the Amendment, because the point I wish to emphasise is that the movement, the tendency, the momentum of what is going on now, in continuation of what has gone on during the last ten years should lead to a solution of this problem, which relates to the disabled people for whom work must be provided, not only that we may have the results of their labours but that they themselves may have the satisfaction of working, and of feeling that they are contributing to the wellbeing of the community.

We have had a surfeit of figures, with which I do not intend to deal in detail. They do show, however, that though we cannot be satisfied with the way things are at present it would be wrong if we were now suddenly to indulge in some special, more or less panic measures. I am reminded that in 1949 the then Minister of Labour felt it neces- sary to say that it would jeopardise the development of these schemes—particularly Remploy—if they were to be over-hastily developed, and I think that that applies even now.

The unemployment figures of Section I disabled—those not too severely disabled—have halved since 1948. It was 64,000 then, and in 1955 it was 32,000. In Section II, the figures have also fallen very considerably—from 7,000 in October, 1951, to 4,000 now. That represents a fall of 40 per cent. since the present Government took office. Of those 4,000, it was said in the summer by several hon. Members—including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)—that between 2,000 and 3,000 might perhaps be absorbed into Remploy, but that, for various reasons, Remploy would not be able to absorb the remainder.

The general momentum and the trends of which I have been speaking are clearly demonstrated by the fact that since 1946 the number of people available for absorption into Remploy has diminished by two-thirds. It is now only one-third of what it was ten years ago; but the number of people in Remploy has gone up twelve times. If we imagine those two lines continuing, they will, of course, converge before very long.

Remploy is by no means the only, nor is it necessarily the best, way of absorbing disabled men into work and in that way into full life in the community. The local authorities run various workshops—mainly for the blind, it is true—at present employing over 4,000 people. Various voluntary organisations, some of which are supported by local authorities, are employing nearly 1,000. Remploy itself employs 6,000, of whom 150 are actually working at home. Local authorities also have schemes for home workers, again mainly blind people, and over 1,000 are accounted for in this way. That adds up to about 12,300. The Ministry of Labour under the 1944 Act can support the local authorities and the voluntary organisations in this way, and I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will give us more details of what is happening.

There is one figure in particular which I would like to draw to the attention of the House. I think it is most important and, indeed, perhaps the most significant of all the figures that one can cull from all the sources. In the last twelve months 2,000 disabled people have graduated from sheltered employment to open employment. That figure is really the true measure of the success in this field.

Remploy factories themselves were originally intended to provide work for 13,000 people. The figure now is 6,000. At one time it reached 6,500. The figure has risen by about 1,000 under the administration of the present Government. As was said in the debate during the summer, there were various re-organisational measures following the different reports which made it desirable to hold up the expansion for a little while. The then Minister of Labour made it quite clear that there was no intention whatever of cutting back and that, indeed, there was every intention of examining the situation to see how best we could go forward. The same sort of situation arose in 1949, when again there had to be a temporary cessation of further expansion of the Remploy factories.

It is my firm view that the best thing we can do for disabled people is to rehabilitate them completely into the community, and that means that they should graduate into open employment. There are at present nearly one million people disabled in one way or another, who are working in ordinary employment in this country. That is a very large figure. It is an appalling figure in one sense. It shows how many disabled people there are and how much disablement occurs, but the fact that there are one million in open employment is encouraging.

In the course of the debate on Remploy, last July, the hon. Member for Shore-ditch and Finsbury (Mr. Collins) said how much more efficient private industry was in using disabled people. I thought that that was very significant. The hon. Member was speaking about blind people and people with sight, and he said that in private industry the ratio of output by blind people compared to sighted people was one to three, but sighted people did six times as well as the blind in Remploy. He made the point that that was really not good enough. I am not criticising Remploy. I am merely saying how important it is that people should be fully absorbed in ordinary life.

The hon. Member also said that people in his own factory who were so crippled that they had virtually only a body and hardly any limbs at all, were able to earn as much as the 100 per cent. fit. I thought that that was a great credit to the hon. Member. That is the target which should be aimed at, whether by Remploy or by private employers, by local authorities or in the workshops of voluntary organisations.

During the debate in July, I was most impressed by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) who is particularly qualified, as the House knows, to speak on the problems of the blind. I should like to quote one thing of special significance in view of the attention which has been rightly given in this debate to the problem of the mining areas in Wales.

My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale was making the same point as I am making—that we should try to absorb people into ordinary employment. He said: I would say to the mining industry, 'Do not assume that you can escape your responsibility if a man is hurt in the mines by sending him off to the State to employ him in Remploy. What you should do is to use all the ability and ingenuity in your union and all the good will of the Coal Board to find him a job in the surroundings to which he is accustomed, amongst the people whom he knows and amongst the companions of his life's work.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th July, 1955; Vol. 544, c. 311.]

Mr. Probert

In giving those figures, I respectfully suggest that the hon. Member is completely ignoring the figure given in the Monthly Digest of Statistics, which shows the number that the mining industry absorbs back into the industry from miners disabled by pneumoconiosis and other diseases. It is a fallacy to suggest otherwise.

Mr. Maddan

I cannot follow the hon. Member. I did not quote figures to suggest that the mining industry did or did not employ these people. I quoted the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale in July to show how important it was that people should be absorbed back into the kind of work and surroundings to which they were accustomed and among their old companions.

Mr. D. Jones

Does the hon. Member appreciate that heavy industries, like mining and heavy engineering, are con- centrated in certain parts of the country and that the figure for disability sustained by employees in those industries is higher than that for other industries? Let the hon. Member consider how many jobs there are in the steel industry which could be given to the disabled. He should also realise that the bulk of industrial injuries are sustained in heavy industry and that where those industries are situated there are usually no light industries to absorb the disabled.

Mr. Maddan

I am obliged to the hon. Member. I in no way wish to cast any reflection on what is already done, but to emphasise how important it is to consider what we should be doing. If it is impossible to re-employ a disabled man in steel works or a coal mine in the same surroundings as he formerly had, we should do something else, but the primary object should be to reinstate him and re-employ him in his own surroundings.

It was also interesting to note that of the blind, whilst more than 4,000 are employed in workshops in this country, there are half as many again in outside employment. I do not want to go on giving more figures, but I wanted to mention those figures in order to focus our eyes on what I think should be the real target—full rehabilitation—and to regard these other measures, such as Remploy, however necessary—and they are—as a halfway house.

A lot has been said about Wales. I am afraid I made an assumption when preparing my notes that we would be talking about the South Wales Development Area, whereas other hon. Members have given figures for the whole of Wales. Therefore, I do not want to give a lot more figures for a particular geographical area, as that would make the matter more confused. There is, however, one figure where nothing comparable has not been mentioned. The hon. Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) said that the unemployment of disabled people in Wales was twice as great as elsewhere, 8 per cent. in Wales and 4 per cent. elsewhere. I think it is good to note that the number of people in sheltered employment in the South Wales Development Area is more than 1,000 today. There are 984 in twelve Remploy factories and another twenty in the workshop of a voluntary organisation. The severely disabled in that Development Area who are unemployed has been nearly halved since 1951. It was then 1,025 and now it is 562.

I do not want to be self-satisfied, but I want to point out that there has been progress. We should maintain that progress, and I would rather do that than go off on some new tack which might not be quite so successful. Of course, as hon. Members have rightly said, prospects for employing disabled people are specially difficult in the mining valleys as there is so little diversity of industry. I want to give one more figure because it gives hope—faith, hope and charity are all important and, with disabled people, hope is the most important element. The unemployed on Section I of the Disabled Register—that is, the less severely disabled—in January, 1951, were 7,600 and in January, 1956, 2,700. The figure is now about one-third of what it was in 1951. and that again is progress.

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us if there is any news with regard to possible new Remploy factories in South Wales, and Glasgow, Tyneside and Merseyside, where I believe there are sufficient pockets of men who could be passed on via Remploy to open industry. What progress has been made by the new board of Remploy in its consideration of the Treasury O. & M. Report, which began several months ago? I am also interested to know what can be done, or is being done, to get local authorities to increase their work to help disabled people. I think that is very important.

Our motto should be to maintain with vigour and determination the course we have been following. Just because we are getting towards the end of that course is no reason to slack off. It will be the last core of the disabled people which will be the greatest challenge to us, and it is in that spirit that I hope the House will accept the Amendment.

3.20 p.m.

Mr. Peter Kirk (Gravesend)

I beg to second the Amendment.

The hour is late, and we all want to hear the reply of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, so I will be brief. I do not think that the Amendment conflicts with the spirit of the Motion. It is merely that my hon. Friends and I thought that in the matter of rehabilitation of disabled people, in which Britain leads the world, it is better to stress the positive achievement as well as the necessity for maintaining progress rather than merely to stress the necessity for maintaining progress.

For that reason we have put down our Amendment, which, while it calls on the Government to continue their efforts, notes the very real achievements which have been made, not only under the present Government, but under previous Governments also.

3.21 p.m.

Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)

I appreciate the observations of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk), but at the same time I desire to support the Motion which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (The Rev. LI. Williams), who has done a great service in calling the attention of the House to the position of the unemployed disabled men and women.

Not only have my hon. Friends the Member for Abertillery and the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) put forward criticism, but they have made proposals and suggestions. As one who has been connected with trade unions for many years, I have always believed that it is not sufficient merely to criticise. It is necessary to put forward proposals and suggestions, to this or to any other Government, concerning what we think should be done in certain circumstances. I compliment my hon. Friends on their proposals as well as their criticisms.

I fully appreciate that a great deal has been done during the last ten years to find employment for unemployed disabled men and women. When comparing the figures over that period, and particularly the figures for South Wales ten years ago, we see that there has indeed been a vast improvement. That is why, as the hon. Member for Gravesend said, there is probably little dividing the two sides of the House. At the same time, although we have had this vast improvement, there is still, as my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery rightly said, a hard core of unemployed disabled men, especially in South Wales.

South Wales is the worst feature of the whole situation, mainly because of the large number of men who are continually being certified as suffering from pneumoconiosis. The register of industrial disabled workers shows that the biggest headache of the Ministry of Labour, going back to 1946 and 1948, was the mass of unemployed men who were suffering from pneumoconiosis, numbering not merely hundreds, but thousands. They had to leave the mining industry because they were suffering from this disease.

There were debates in this House in 1946 and 1947 drawing attention to the serious position. We remember the setting up of the Grenfell factories and the assistance that it was suggested should be given to employers to encourage the employment of disabled men in industry. That brings me to the point about what the mining industry has done. We say that it is right for employers to do all they possibly can to find suitable work for their own employees and at once I submit that the mining industry has a great example to set to other employers in this respect. Not only the nationalised industry; I will go so far as to say that the former coal owners, in the last days before nationalisation, did a great deal to assist men to get back into employment.

The mining industry has a great record in the employment of its disabled. The extent to which the industry takes many of its own disabled can be illustrated by the fact that today there are approximately 30,000 registered disabled men absorbed into the industry and that, in addition. 18,000 have been absorbed who are not registered, but who are well-known to be disabled. That is an excellent record.

The Miners' Welfare Association, set up by coal owners, and the miners' unions established seven rehabilitation centres to treat men disabled in the industry. I want to take this opportunity of complimenting people like Sir Reginald Watson-Jones who advised and greatly assisted in setting up these rehabilitation centres years ago. The South Wales centre at Talygarn has a fine name. Men were treated there and then, if at all possible, sent back to the industry. I speak with some authority on this matter, because I have been associated with these men in South Wales for many years, having gone to Talygarn on many occasions.

What retards the progress of these men is that when they begin to get better they begin to worry about whether they will be able to get a light job. That anxiety constituted a problem for the medical men. I do not have many nice things to say about the coal owners, but I will say for them that in the later years they began to rally round and find employment for these men, and that process was speeded up in later years. The welfare associations have continued their work and since nationalisation thousands of men have gone back to the industry.

I join with hon. Members in complimenting the Ministry of Labour resettlement officers, in South Wales in particular, who have done a good job, but I dread to think what would have been the position in South Wales had not men suffering from pneumoconiosis been reemployed in the industry—we had thousands of such men unemployed. The Ministry of Labour, with all good intentions and with the best will in the world, could not cope with the position. There were demonstrations in South Wales, but the Ministry could not cope with the colossal figure.

As a result of advice from the Medical Research Council in South Wales, it was found that if men were taken in the early stages of the disease, then the industry could find employment for them in dust-free conditions or approved dust conditions underground. Even certified men might, in certain circumstances, be allowed to return to work in the industry and in South Wales today there are between 5,000 and 6,000 men suffering from pneumoconiosis and working underground. Their re-employment has eased the position. Of those injured who attend for treatment at rehabilitation centres, under the National Health Service, 91 per cent. are miners and are being re-absorbed into the industry.

Reference has been made to the serious position which still obtains in South Wales due to the fact that, in spite of all that has been done. we have still a number of men suffering from pneumoconiosis and other industrial diseases who are unemployed. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary—after all that has been achieved and all that has been done by the mining industry, and bearing in mind that we are enjoying conditions of full employment and that there is no depression—is it not possible to find employment for these men numbering just over 4,000, and including ex-Service men?

The toll of pneumoconiosis has been reduced because of the activities of the mining industry, but there are still about 600 unemployed miners in South Wales who are partially disabled because of that disease. Surely it is possible for the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us that some measures can be taken to help these men. The Ministry is not now faced with a task of the same magnitude as faced the Ministry of Labour during the period of the Labour Government. It is only this hard core which still continues. In my own constituency there are 200 or 300 men who have been on the Labour Exchange for a long time. A lot has been said about good employers and it is true, but some employers are reluctant to take on these disabled men and I think that matter deserves serious attention.

Henry Ford once said that there were far more jobs in his factories which could be tackled by disabled men than by fit men. There are some factories in South Wales where employers say that disabled men do a good job of work. The Parliamentary Secretary need have no qualms about going to employers who depend on the mining industry and saying to them, "You may have your 3 per cent. of disabled workers, but your industry depends on the mining industry which has borne the brunt of this problem, and it is not too much to ask that you as outside employers should take on more of these people."

As I go about my constituency I am dissatisfied to see able-bodied men doing jobs which could be done by disabled men. I think it is a tragedy that, in these days of full employment, we cannot find work for 4,000 men. These men get depressed. My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery has done a good service in calling attention to their plight. When the period of their unemployment benefit expires these men have to fall back on National Assistance. What is being paid to them in National Assistance could be paid to Remploy and work could be provided for these men, even if Remploy lost money in taking on the extra men. That would be better than putting them on National Assistance. The present problem is far less than that which faced the Government a few years ago. Have not the Government strength enough to make that extra push and provide some hope for these 4,000 men?

3.35 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)

I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary must have been impressed by the speeches of my hon. Friends from the Welsh mining valleys. Those of us who have been at the Ministry of Labour know that this type of problem has always been very much in the forefront of the Ministry's work.

I know that there was a period when Remploy over-reached itself, developed too rapidly and there was need for a certain amount of marking time. But I am not too happy about the progress which has been made recently by the Ministry in regard to Remploy. The number of factories is almost similar to what it was in 1951. I do not place too much reliance on that, because I know that the size of a particular factory can vary a lot.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) and other hon. Members who have spoken referred specifically to areas where far above the average number of people are receiving the assistance of Remploy. I should like to feel that in those areas, where the problem is confined to the hard core of people who cannot find work, the Ministry will increase the number of factories. My hon. Friends have paid tribute to the work of the resettlement officers, and I join with them in my admiration of the great work which they are doing.

May I ask whether the problem of expanding Remploy may not be arising in this way. I know that the great problem which we were up against was the supply of work from Government Departments and local authorities. We made strenuous efforts to obtain more of that work. We were, however, in the greatest competition with the Home Office, which was more concerned about its prisoners and matters of that kind. We were concerned about getting work from those Departments for Remploy. What progress has been made in that direction? Is it that the Government Departments are not forthcoming enough in their supply of work? If that is so, I would ask the Minister to make a further effort to ensure that adequate supplies of work are available in order to permit the further expansion of Remploy.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

Is my hon. Friend aware that a similar problem is arising in regard to workshops for the blind? There is a complaint at the present time that the Government are encouraging competitive tendering as between blind workshops, Remploy and ordinary industries, and that this is making things very difficult for the organisations which are trying to help disabled workers who are blind or otherwise disabled.

Mr. Lee

That is a most important point. I know that the Government have been playing about with actuarial calculations, and I hope that they will not cause expansion to be retarded because of a set of figures which show that there is no economic basis for expansion. The problems which Remploy have to meet cannot be solved by economic computations of that kind.

Whenever this subject is mentioned one cannot help recalling such names as Ernest Bevin and George Tomlinson. I am sure that the House, which, in the past, has paid great tribute to these former Members, would feel that it was bordering on letting them down if any steps which we could take were left untaken because of financial calculations. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary can satisfy my hon. Friends on the points which have been raised.

I am not prepared to die in the last ditch in choosing between the Motion and the Amendment if one can get a principle established. I do not know whether it is my hon. Friend's intention to accept the Amendment, but if the Government are prepared to accept what would be the Amendment plus what is left of the Motion, I would advise him to accept that rather than have the whole Motion rejected.

3.40 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Robert Carr)

Forty-eight hours ago I had never addressed the House from this Box. I now find myself doing so for the fifth time in three days, and I hope that it will not be thought that we in the Ministry of Labour are in any way trying to establish a closed shop for the occupancy of this position. I also hope that the House will be a little tolerant with me in as much as this is the fifth different subject on which I have had to speak in that short time and it was very difficult to brief myself with all the facts and figures as I should like to have done.

I finished my last speech one and a half hours ago by saying that I thought one of the most important things in raising the quality of our society was to make work a satisfying part of our life instead of merely a means of material reward. That is what for years the disabled lacked.

Of course, it was some good to provide them with financial assistance, but it was not half as much good as giving them some useful work to do so that they might become satisfied and active members of the community. That is why I feel that the work which we do in this country in that direction, incomplete as it may still be—and I agree that it is incomplete—is one of the greatest and most constructive parts of our social services.

The hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) referred, from his own knowledge when he occupied my position, to the great attention paid and the high position on the Ministry's list of work, given to these disabled people. The hon. Gentleman also mentioned, as did other hon. Members, the high tradition and example set by previous distinguished Members of this House when they held office at the Ministry of Labour. Both my right hon. Friend and I feel that we have a high example to follow, and we shall do our best to do so.

I know that hon. Members representing South Wales constituencies speak on this subject with particular sincerity and passion and with a detailed knowledge. I understand and appreciate why they do so. Hitherto, of course, I have had the chance to get to know about these things only by reading about them. Therefore, what I say may, perhaps, seem a little dry and a little untouched by the human feeling which comes from personal knowledge. I can only say that I shall make it my business as soon as possible to pay a visit to their part of the country, when I hope they will help to show me some of the things about which they already know so much.

When I read this Motion, I assumed that it was mainly concerned with the severely disabled or what, in technical terms, we know as the "Section II disabled." The hon. Member for Abertillery (The Rev. LI. Williams) dealt at some length with disabled people as a whole—Section I people as well as Section II people. I can only refer to them in rather general terms, but I should like to say something.

We have to look at the problem in two ways. We have, as it were—and I certainly do not complain about it—to maintain something of what I might call righteous indignation about what has still to be done. But we must also—and this was really the object of the Amendment—keep right in the forefront of our minds and in the mind of the country what has already been achieved.

The Rev. LI. Williams

The hon. Member really ought to admit that I paid tribute to what has been done during the last ten years.

Mr. Carr

I readily admit that. I did not wish to suggest the contrary. In 1950–51 the number of unemployed Section 1 disabled was still nearly 52,000. By 1954–55 that figure had dropped to about 39,500—a reduction of between 12,000 and 13,000 in four years. I am glad to say that the month by month figures during the 1955–56 year show that, subject to some fluctuation, that reduction has been continuing. The number of disabled unemployed today is less than it was twelve months ago. The trend is continuing, although I agree that there is still a long way to go.

In mentioning the question of designated employment, the hon. Member for Abertillery said that his constituency had neither a car park nor a lift, so there was no scope for that kind of employment. He wondered whether the range of designated employment could be widened. This question has been gone into very carefully by the National Advisory Council on more than one occasion. It has been difficult to think of any suitable new types of employment, and the Council has also raised the question whether it would be a good thing to extend the range even if it were possible. We do not want to establish too many low grade occupations which are reserved for the disabled. I do not think that that would be good for them. We do not want to make them a class apart any more than we can help.

The hon. Member also mentioned the Piercy Committee. I agree that it is taking a long time to report, but it has had a great deal of evidence, both written and oral, to accumulate and digest. The Committee has also paid visits to hospitals, employment exchanges, rehabilitation centres, and so on. The information I have is that we can expect the report of that Committee during the summer.

The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) referred to Mountain Ash. He warned me yesterday that he would refer to this matter. I am afraid that I have not managed, in the time available, to obtain sufficient information to enable me to talk about it now. If he would like to meet me, together with one or two of my Department's officers, so that we can discuss the subject, I suggest that that would be better than if I tried to deal with the matter here and now. He also asked about the need for a co-ordinating committee, and referred to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Bidgood), in his maiden speech last July. My reply is that we have already set up the National Advisory Council on the Employment of the Disabled, and that Council has a special committee dealing with sheltered employment. I suggest that the Council, through its committee, is the body to do the necessary co-ordination and to arrange for any necessary publicity and information.

The hon. Member also asked about incentives to industry. It is difficult to know what they should be. The giving of special tax incentives for special purposes is a very slippery path, which has been heavily resisted by the Treasury and Chancellors of the Exchequer for a long time, regardless of party. Under the Grenfell Factories system we do offer some incentives, because industrialists are given favourable terms if they will go into a factory building and set up work there, on condition that they employ disabled people.

I was glad that the hon. Member for Abertillery paid tribute to many of his local employers who are employing a greater number of disabled people than they are statutorily bound to do. It is not easy for employers to do this, but many of them put themselves out not merely to fulfil their minimum statutory obligations, but to go beyond them. I assure the hon. Member for Abertillery and the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) that our specialised officers in this field will do all they can to try to persuade employers to employ as many disabled people as they can, and not merely to be satisfied with the statutory minimum.

Mr. D. Jones

Can the hon. Member say something more about the degree of disability in heavy industrial areas? I am not now thinking particularly of South Wales, but of a part of the country that I know a good deal about. Teesside, where there is a heavy concentration of steelworks, marine engineering and coal mining. There is very little diversified industry, with the result that there is a bigger proportion of disabled people and no alternative industry to absorb them.

Mr. Carr

That is a valid point. In those areas over a number of years there has been a great improvement in the diversity of industry, but for which it would have been impossible for the results which I am able to report today to have been achieved. That is true in South Wales and in the other heavy industrial areas. It still remains that there is a most difficult problem, because however much new industry we bring in we are still dealing with a higher percentage of disabled people.

It is all very well for the hon. Member for Bedwellty to say, "We have got down to these comparatively small numbers. One more push and we have finished it". That is so in one way, but, viewed in another way, we are getting down to the hard core of difficult cases, perhaps elderly and perhaps scattered. I am not saying that it is impossible to deal with, but it does mean that these fewer people are not easier to place and to provide for than when the number was larger.

I turn to the Section II unemployed, the severely disabled, for whom sheltered employment is necessary. As in the case of the less severely disabled the number of unemployed has shown a steady fall over the years, from 8,704 in 1950–51 to 4,610 in 1954–55. In January of this year it fell to 3,950. In about five years, the number has been about halved. That is an achievement of which this country can justly be proud but there is still a remaining problem.

I should like to give some facts about South Wales. Although the position in that area is worse than over the country as a whole—it is no good attempting to deny that—I am glad to say that we have seen the same trend. In fact, the proportionate reduction in South Wales has been higher. While the number of severely disabled unemployed has just about halved over the country as a whole, in the period of which I have been speaking, in South Wales it has been reduced to almost a third. Even though the proportion, expressed as a percentage of the population, may be higher in South Wales, actually the amount of the reduction has been greater than in the rest of the country.

Now I come to the number of those employed. As the Amendment makes clear, there are more than 12,000 severely disabled people in sheltered employment. That number has been going up steadily although not so fast as the number of unemployed has been coming down. We might imagine that as we reduced the number of unemployed the number of sheltered employed would go up in proportion. It has not been so. That is one of the great successes of our disablement policy. By virtue of the training and employment given to the people in sheltered employment they have been made fit to go out into open employment. That is the final triumph of our policy. That is why the number in sheltered employment has not risen as much as the number of unemployed has come down. At the moment the figure is almost 13,000 in sheltered employment. They are split up, roughly half and half, into Remploy on the one hand, and all the other organisations on the other. I should like to say something about the other organisations, but it is quite clear that I have only time to say something about Remploy.

When we had the debate last July, there was, quite rightly, a great deal of concern about the cutting down of recruitment, and I should like to say something about the present position. Treasury meanness was mentioned, I remember, on the last occasion, when we in the Ministry of Labour were told that we ought to fight a tougher battle with the Treasury on the amount of money provided for Remploy. We can always fight a tough battle with the Treasury, and they are pretty tough people to do battle with, but I want the House to be quite clear that there is much more involved in this matter than any question of Treasury meanness.

There was a danger of Remploy outgrowing its strength, and its fundamental object of giving the severely disabled good productive employment. One of the genuine objects of the past year was to enable Remploy to reconstruct itself and to get on to a sounder basis. There has been some action as a result of the report of the inquiry which was referred to last summer. Two business men, Mr. Dowty and Mr. Zealley, were appointed to the board, the latter as the vice-chairman. A full-time sales director has been appointed, and a production director will shortly be appointed. The types of trades carried on have been reviewed and measures suggested for improving the efficiency of the Remploy organisation generally have been adopted. More recently, one Remploy factory has been sponsored by a local firm which is supplying the factory with materials for manufacture at a stated cost while Remploy is supplying the management and the labour. That is the sort of scheme which may be more widely used, and a number of other measures have been taken to improve business and production.

On the financial side, an agreement has been made between Remploy and the Ministry which will give them something like a quinquennial grant. For five years. they are assured that they can run to an annual deficit of up to £2½ million, which can be varied if there are inflationary and deflationary trends, raised if the cost of living varies, and they may, in addition, have a grant for capital expenditure. They now know for five years ahead what they can do, and will therefore be able to plan their run and development much more efficiently.

On the subject of Government contracts, I would inform the House that in 1952–53, Remploy had Government contracts to the value of £870,000. Last year, the value of contracts had gone up to £1,320,000, so that Government contracts for Remploy have been increasing. I should like to take this opportunity to emphasise the need for local authorities to make a contribution in this respect, and I hope that hon. Members also will use what influence they may have in their various areas.

There are many more things I could say if time allowed, but I should like to conclude by reiterating what I said at the beginning, that sheltered employment is valuable and necessary, and this country can be exceptionally proud of what it has done. Open employment is best of all, and one of the most encouraging signs has been the use we have made of sheltered employment in fitting the severely disabled for open employment. About 250 from Remploy alone are expected to move out to open employment each year as education and experience in industry grow. It has been proved possible on an increasing scale to provide open employment direct for people who only a few years ago would have been considered fit only for sheltered employment. By a curious coincidence of figures, in 1955, there were 1,955 of what we previously thought of as cases for sheltered employment, who went out into open employment straight away.

I believe that we are making great progress, and I think there is more to be made. I assure the House that we will do our best to see that it is made, and I therefore hope that the House will agree to the Amendment.

Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question, put and negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put and agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House notes with satisfaction that the number of severely disabled workers unemployed in 1955 was lower than at any time during the last 10 years; that some 12,000 such workers are in employment under sheltered conditions, and that a considerable number have been found work in outside industry; and calls upon the Government to continue its efforts to ensure that progress is maintained.