HC Deb 25 February 1971 vol 812 cc842-3
Q4. Mr. Ashley

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to a Remploy factory.

The Prime Minister

I have done so on a number of occasions in the past and I shall be glad to do so again when a suitable opportunity arises.

Mr. Ashley

I appreciate that reply, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, despite the efforts of Remploy and a number of other firms, the rate of registered disabled unemployed is now five times the national average? Is he further aware that the number of firms which are evading their responsibilities to employ 3 per cent. disabled people has now risen to the astonishing figure of 57 per cent.—that is, 36,000 firms evading their legal responsibilities? There is strong circumstantial evidence that some of them are breaking the law. Would the right hon. Gentleman convene a conference between the Law Officers of the Crown and the other Ministers concerned to see what can be done to persuade the more irresponsible employers to fulfil their obligations?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the figures for the percentage of disabled unemployed are comparable with the normal unemployment figures, because it is well known that a considerable number of disabled who are employed do not register. It is, therefore, not possible to compare them, but I accept that the figure is high. On the second point, I am aware of the very large figure which the hon. Member has given of the number of firms not employing their quota of disabled. There may be a variety of explanations for this, but the Secretary of State for Employment will now extend his inspection of employers' records to examine this position and see whether further action needs to be taken.

Mr. Lamond

Does the Prime Minister accept the suggestion that when one takes into consideration the saving to the community in social security payments and unemployment benefit, the cost of employing 7,500 people in Remploy factories is nothing more than the effort required? If he does agree with that, will he investigate the possibility of considerably extending the activities of Remploy, so that it may employ many of the disabled people who at the moment cannot obtain employment?

The Prime Minister

The average cost of employing a person in Remploy today works out at about £700 a year. I should like to check the comparison which the hon. Gentleman makes, but that means that it is a substantial sum. Remploy at the moment provides employment for nearly 7,500 people, and is expanding this to 8,000 people by, in particular, building three new factories and providing extensions.