HC Deb 03 March 1987 vol 111 cc721-2
10. Mr. Ashley

asked the Paymaster General what percentage of disabled people are unemployed compared with the national average rate of unemployment.

Mr. Lee

Figures on unemployment among handicapped or disabled persons are not available from the unemployment count. However, the 1985 labour force survey showed an unemployment rate of 23.4 per cent. among those whose work would be limited by health problems or disabilities, compared with a rate for all persons of 10.6 per cent.

Mr. Ashley

Will the Minister acknowledge that the rate of 23.4 per cent. is shocking and disturbing and is a clear sign that the Government's reliance on purely voluntary policies is grossly mistaken? Does he recognise that Western Germany has a tough, realistic and statutory provision which is enforced and which works? Why can there not be the same kind of legislation for disabled workers in Britain?

Mr. Lee

The problem with the labour force survey is that, essentially, it is a self-assessment of health problems and disabilities and is not very satisfactory. We do not favour a legislative approach. We much prefer a code of good practice and specific help. Government are spending about £118 million a year on specific programmes for the disabled.

Mr. Thurnham

Does my hon. Friend agree that far too many employers are unaware of many of the excellent schemes available—for instance, the £6,000 in grants to adapt premises and the £45 a week for the job introduction trial scheme?

Mr. Lee

I agree with my hon. Friend that many employers are not aware of what is available. The MSC is conducting major research into the numbers, characteristics and attitudes of the disabled work force and will also take into account the attitude of employers to the quota.

Mr. Haynes


Hon. Members

Speak up.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I want to hear too.

Mr. Haynes

Is the Minister aware that so many disabled people are unemployed simply because big business will not take them on? Is the Minister further aware that there is a firm called Metal Box in my constituency that does very well in employing disabled people? I suggest to the Minister that he gets off his backside in his Office and goes into the Paymaster General's Office and does something about employing the disabled, instead of sitting around a table with the Paymaster General organising the unemployment figures to be announced in here.

Mr. Lee

Although that question may well have been in character, it really was unworthy of the hon. Gentleman. I could not comment on Metal Box and its approach, although I will look into that case. I repeat that the Government are spending something like £118 million on specific measures to help the disabled into employment.