HC Deb 10 December 1970 vol 808 cc664-5
Q7. Mr. Alfred Morris

asked the Prime Minister what representations he has received for the recommendation of the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the employment problems of disabled people; what reply he has sent; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

Only from the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) to whom I replied on 2nd November.

Mr. Morris

While thanking the Prime Minister for the statement he has made to me by letter, may I ask him whether he is aware—I am sure he is—that the incidence of unemployment among the employable disabled, which is now in excess of 11 per cent., is a deeply serious human problem? Is he aware, as I am sure the whole House is aware, that many disabled people want nothing more than the dignity of ceasing to be supplementary pensioners and becoming taxpayers?

The Prime Minister

I agree absolutely with what the hon. Gentleman has said. I have given very careful consideration to the question of establishing a Royal Commission to inquire into this matter, but I find that a great deal of work is being done by the Department itself. We are also expecting the results of the Social Survey of the Handicapped and Disabled in Great Britain organised by the Government. I do not think that anything further would be gained at this stage by setting up a Royal Commission to examine the subject. When we have the results of the Department's work to hand, I hope that we shall be able to do more for the unemployed disabled.

Mr. Ashley

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that the disgraceful aspect of this problem is that, even with relatively full employment during the previous Administration's term of office, the disabled have suffered from a higher rate of unemployment than other sections of the community? Unemployment among the disabled is five times greater. When unemployment rises this winter, as the Prime Minister knows it will, the disabled will suffer from an even greater rate of unemployment. This is a matter of acute anxiety and urgent action should be taken to deal with it.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right when he says that the percentage of unemployment among the disabled is much higher than it is among other sections of the population. At the last count it was 11.7 per cent. This is why the Department is doing a great deal of work in studying the particular problems of the unemployed disabled. But if we were to set up a Royal Commission, I do not think that we would gain any more information or advice than we already get from the Adviory Council and from the bodies doing this special work. Therefore, I do not propose at this moment to set up a Royal Commission.

Captain W. Elliot

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that selective employment tax bears on disabled people and that its removal would greatly help their employment prospects?

The Prime Minister

I think that that is perfectly correct.