HC Deb 04 July 1978 vol 953 cc215-6
8. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is his estimate, for each of the last five years, of the numbers of firms with over 20 workers which do not employ their 3 per cent. quota of registered disabled people, which do not have Government permits and which may have taken on any new workers who are not disabled.

Mr. John Grant

I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that it is not possible to say which firms have taken on workers who are not registered as disabled without inspecting the quota compliance records of all the employers who are below quota and without permit.

Mr. Ashley

Why cannot this information be given? Is my hon. Friend aware that I estimate that thousands of employers are now breaking the law? Does he agree with that estimate, and, if so, why cannot such employers be prosecuted in the same way as any other law-breaker? Why cannot Government Departments which are failing to fulfil their quota also be brought into line?

Mr. Grant

The reason why it would be difficult to take this step is simply that it would require a large increase in manpower. The resources that that would take up are better spent in trying to back up the positive policies programme which has been set up to try to get more disabled people into employment. I know my hon. Friend's views on this subject, but I must repeat that all the independent advice we have received suggests that the approach I have outlined is the best method of getting more disabled people into jobs. It would be wrong to jettison that approach now, but the Manpower Services Commission is committed to review the operation of the system. In that review it will certainly consult, among other bodies, the all-party Disablement Group.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

How does a firm which employs 20 people employ 3 per cent. disabled, which appears to be 0.6 of one person?

Mr. Grant

I do not wish to bandy statistics with the hon. Gentleman, but the facts are that if all the unemployed registered disabled people were spread around it would still be possible for employers to reach only 2.2 per cent., because over the years there has been a considerable fall in the number of registered disabled people.

Mr. Terry Walker

Does my hon. Friend realise that his reply will cause much disappointment? Could not regional officers do more to monitor the system in regard to companies? Could they also examine the practice in local authorities, because they are not complying with the law either?

Mr. Grant

The public sector figures have been published for two successive years. I agree that they leave a great deal to be desired. On the point about inspection, we asked the MSC to concentrate its inspections on firms which are below quota and without permit. The investigations are producing some interesting results. It is difficult to find what could be described as flagrant breaches. It is only in cases of flagrant breaches that prosecution is merited. Where flagrant breaches occur, prosecution is considered.