HC Deb 28 January 1971 vol 810 cc785-7
3. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many employers were prosecuted during 1970 under the Disabled Persons Employment Acts for failing to take or maintain their quota; and if he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)

None. Neither of these things by itself constitutes an offence under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Acts.

Mr. Molloy

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is grave feeling in the organisations for the disabled that employers are dodging their responsibilities? Some Remploy officers feel this, and the disabled themselves feel that this is a most disgraceful state of affairs which is getting worse. Can the Minister give us an assurance that he is prepared to examine my claim that there is evasion, and that some employers are not taking up their full quota?

Mr. Smith

Yes, Sir. Many employers fail to reach their quota because of the unsuitability of those disabled people who are available. But I accept the genuine concern on both sides of the House and I am taking urgent steps to extend our enforcement procedure in this matter. In future, it is proposed to inspect the records of employers much more frequently. We are also looking at other measures by which we can perhaps stimulate greater activity in the employment of the disabled.

Mr. Scott

I am grateful to hear that my hon. Friend is seeking to improve the Department's enforcement policy, but this is a question not only of enforcement but of trying to persuade employers that to seek to fill their quota is a responsible attitude to take, to try to improve the deplorable record we have in the employment of the disabled.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I also hope to initiate talks with leaders in various areas of commerce with just this aim in view.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is the Minister satisfied that the present quota of 3 per cent. is enough, against the background of an unemployment figure in excess of 11 per cent. for employable disabled people? As he is a ware, this is a deeply sensitive human problem. Does he agree that we should have a Green Paper on the whole question of the employment problems of disabled people, including the very important problem of access to places of employment?

Mr. Smith

We are looking at all aspects, and perhaps in due course we shall be able to make an announcement. As to whether the quota of 3 per cent. is right, of course the figure could be increased, but we must be realistic. As my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) said, the important thing is encouragement to get the right response. If we can fill the 3 per cent. I think that we shall be making very good progress.