HC Deb 24 February 1970 vol 796 cc992-5

3.41 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide that each industrial training board shall allocate a certain percentage of its financial resources towards the training of the disabled within its own industry. I am glad that so many hon. Members are present to hear me ask leave to present my Bill. On 6th June, 1962, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who was then Lord Privy Seal, came hot-foot from Brussels to open a debate on the Common Market, and on that day it was my fortune, good or otherwise, to introduce a Ten-Minute Rule Bill. All that that proves is plus ca change, plus c'est la mênne chose, and hon. Gentlemen opposite now have to wait until I do precisely the same thing.

The last Ten-Minute Rule Bill which I introduced dealt with lost deposits at elections. I had thought of making that my choice of subject again today, but I came to the conclusion that I wanted a Bill——

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member must not raise the Bill which he is not asking leave to introduce.

Mr. Lewis

I came to the conclusion that it would be better if I chose a Bill which was simple, practical and, I hope, non-controversial. I put the Bill forward because I have always been interested in industrial training and because a member of my family is interested in the training of the disabled.

The House of Commons, under the last two Governments, has done a great deal about industrial training. We have the Industrial Training Act, which was put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber). We have the Industrial Training Bill which is now going to a Committee upstairs. It is my aim today simply to add modestly to those Measures. If the Government wish, they can take my modest Bill and tie it in with their Bill upstairs, and I may even assist them by putting down an Amendment though I am not a member of the Committee considering that Bill.

The original Industrial Training Act does not lay an obligation on training boards to assist with the training of the disabled, and I think that is an omission. Nevertheless, I believe that it would be possible, by means of an order issued by the Minister, to request the training boards to undertake the training of the disabled. My Bill would certainly help them to do just that.

Why do I think that the training boards should be provided with this opportunity and given this obligation? First, there are 28 training boards in the country, and they are spending about £150 million of Government and industrial money. They are considered now to be the best vehicle for industrial training. If that is so, they ought to involve themselves in training the disabled. If they are not the best vehicle for industrial training, then, clearly, we are wasting our money.

Second, training for the disabled is at present a mixture of Government and private resource. The Government rehabilitation centres deal only with basic training. Some training of the disabled is undertaken in Government training centres, but very little. Then there are the great voluntary organisations such as the Campden Village Trust, the Papworth Enham Workshops, the Council for the Disabled, blind and other charities, and Remploy. They all do splendid work, and it would be wrong to cut out or diminish in any way the work that they do. My objective is to try to assist them to expand their work.

There is great scope for the training boards, representing as they do a wide spectrum of industry, to help these voluntary organisations, most of which are in need of additional resources. At present the Papworth Enhem Workshops, under the chairmanship of Lord Harlech, is making an appeal for money to do its job.

The disabled unemployed represent 11 per cent. of the total unemployed in the country—a very high percentage. In addition, many of the 650,000 registered disabled are capable of doing a much more skilled job than they are given the opportunity to do. They lack the training to do those jobs. Further, there are many disabled people who are not included in the register.

The ladder which the disabled may climb should not be shortened by a lack of complete opportunity. Their handicap is enough. Sophisticated industry, with its technological processes, could, and should, increase the scope for the intelligent disabled to play a part. The old mentality that a disabled man or woman could do a simple job and nothing more —a job as a lift attendant, or in charge of a car park—is now outdated.

There are two things which the boards should do, and which my Bill would enable them to do. First, they should adjust their grant schemes so that employers are encouraged to train the disabled within their own works, and to ensure that they have training upwards in skills. Second, training board finance, great as it is, should be used for supporting both residential sheltered workshops and the voluntary organisations about which I have spoken.

If an employer employs 20 or more people, he has presently an obligation to see that disabled people account for 3 per cent. of his staff. Many employers do not do this; and perhaps this is because they cannot do so. Perhaps it is because the skills needed in industry today are greater than they used to be, and that skilled disabled people are just not available. If we are getting rid of unskilled people, and increasing the number of skilled workers, it seems necessary that the disabled themselves should be given the opportunity of acquiring these new skills.

The disabled are not involved, as many of us and the population as a whole are, in the race towards affluence. They can hardly be so. Efficiency and change is the motivating force behind affluence. Yet what is affluence or change in moral terms, once we get it, if efficiency has left behind those whose disabilities hold them back?

The disabled know that they are different, and yet they want to belong. They do not want to be set apart. They should not be left in this century while we hurl ourselves forward into the next. Because the disabled want to belong, I have always supported my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) in his constant campaign to get cars for the disabled accepted as the normal kind of motor car instead of the special kind of car which we provide for them. So, also, training for the disabled should be set within the normal training activities of industry as a whole. This is why it is important that the training boards should be involved. Here is a job for them to do which will add humanity to their search for efficiency.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Kenneth Lewis, Mr. Marten, Mr. Dodds-Parker, Mr. Scott, Mr. Osborn, and Mr. Speed.