HC Deb 25 February 1971 vol 812 cc827-9
8. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will arrange a meeting with the Trades Union Congress to discuss methods of reducing unemployment among disabled workers.

Mr. Dudley Smith

The Trades Union Congress would normally offer advice on such matters through the workers representatives on the National Advisory Council on the Employment of the Disabled. It however, the Congress has any further suggestions to make, I shall be very glad to consider them.

Mr. Ashley

Would the Minister agree that the present machinery is not functioning properly or is incapable of dealing with the problem, because the present rate of disabled unemployed is running at over 12 per cent.? Would he consider calling a special conference of representatives of the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. to discuss the best means of tackling the problem?

Mr. Smith

The high rate of unemployment among disabled workers is related very much to the high rate of general unemployment, and that has always been the case. My Department is carrying out a fundamental review of the whole working of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act. When that is completed we shall see whether any revision of the present machinery is necessary. In these circumstances, although we are happy to have representations from the T.U.C. or the C.B.I., or anybody else, a conference at this stage would not necessarily be helpful.

Mr. Mudd

I would draw my hon. Friend's attention to the problem in West Cornwall, where there are high rates of unemployment locally among able-bodied workers, which adds to the problems of unemployed disabled in finding work. Would he consider undertaking a special review of such areas which clearly create social and economic problems and hardship?

Mr. Smith

This is one of the things I want to look at. If the House will release me, I hope in a fortnight's time to go to West Cornwall to see some of these problems for myself.

Mr. Marten

Would the hon. Gentleman consider asking the Civil Service to take more disabled people because that is a suitable occupation for the disabled?

Mr. Smith

I do not know whether I accept the underlying feeling behind that supplementary question. It is not for me to defend the Civil Service.

Mrs. Castle

Why not?

Mr. Smith

Civil servants are quite capable of defending themselves. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] I withdraw that remark. It was intended facetiously and there was no implied criticism. I believe that the Civil Service has a very good record in the employment of disabled workers. I am sure that it is conscious of its responsibility and is setting an example to private industry.

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