HC Deb 23 October 1973 vol 861 cc962-3
12. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will undertake a review of the employment difficulties facing the physically and mentally handicapped; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

My Department is currently undertaking such a review and is publishing a series of documents as a basis for consultation with my National Advisory Council on the Employment of the Disabled, and the many others concerned with these problems, on how the present arrangements for helping disabled people to get and keep suitable jobs can be improved.

Mr. Judd

Can the Secretary of State assure the House that in that review the Government are not only examining the importance of compelling employers to fulfil their quotas, but are looking at all the environmental considerations and problems confronting the physically and mentally handicapped and the blind in modern industry? Is he examining ways of strengthening, in terms of both staff and resources, the specialist sections of his Department and examining the feasibility of extending the number of sheltered workshops for the handicapped where these would be appropriate?

Mr. Macmillan

The first document was published in July last year on the resettlement service, and a series of trials have been put in hand to test, among other things, ways of improving vocational assessment facilities for disabled people. There are plans to improve the disablement resettlement officer service which we are discussing with the national advisory council. A second consultative document on the quota scheme was published in May this year. We are to publish a third document on sheltered employment in December, and a fourth and last document on industrial rehabilitation and vocational training early next year. This should enable a full range of consultations and review on the lines the hon. Member suggested to be completed by early summer.

Mr. Stallard

Is the Secretary of State aware that in reply to an earlier Question on this very problem the Minister gave the impression that, because the law is being reconsidered, now is the wrong time to be talking of enforcing it? If that is a valid argument and the Industrial Relations Act is being reconsidered, will the Government now take a similar view in relation to the Con-Mech dispute?

Mr. Macmillan

I listened to my hon. Friend's answer, and I do not think he suggested that it was the wrong time to enforce the law. We are enforcing the law. What I have to accept is that if all the people who should have a given quota of disabled were to have that total, the number would exceed the total number of disabled. It is, therefore, possible for people quite genuinely not to have suitable work for disabled people. There is a second problem, that quite a number of disabled people are employed and are not of their own choice registered as such. The Government do not wish to put pressure on employers who are employing unregistered disabled people to force those people to register in order to fulfil their quota when the disabled people may not wish to do so.