HC Deb 16 January 1990 vol 165 cc144-5
4. Ms. Ruddock

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how he intends to improve the working of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944.

9. Mr. Corbett

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what additional measures he will introduce to enable disabled persons to participate fully in the work force.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Michael Howard)

My Department already maintains a com?prehensive network of services to help people with disabilities find and retain jobs. Measures to encourage the employment of more people with disabilities and the operation of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944 are among the matters being considered in our current review of services for people with disabilities.

Ms. Ruddock

Given the low level of enforcement of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act and the low morale in the disability advisory service, is it not time that the Secretary of State learnt from other countries such as West Germany, where the 6 per cent. quota is vigorously enforced, unlike the quota in this country?

Mr. Howard

I do not accept the hon. Lady's allegations of low morale. She asked about West Germany. There are many differences between the approach taken there and the approach that we take in this country, and the basis on which comparisons are made is frequently misleading. All those matters will be taken into account in our review and I hope to publish a consultative document shortly.

Mr. Corbett

In the review, will the Secretary of State consider extending the number of sheltered industrial units to enable the severely disabled, with reduced work output, to work alongside their able-bodied colleagues, but to get a subsidy via his Department from a sponsor organisation? Does he accept that that could improve the job prospects for about 370,000 registered disabled?

Mr. Howard

The part played by sheltered industrial units is certainly among the matters being considered in the review, and I shall ensure that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is taken into account.

Mr. Rowe

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that it is a pleasure to see him at the Dispatch Box in his new role? Will he ensure that employers throughout the United Kingdom, particularly in areas such as mine, which now has virtually full employment, are made aware of the very good record of job loyalty that the disabled bring to their employment? That is an asset to employers when the labour situation is tight.

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words of welcome. I entirely agree with his observation. People with disabilities have a great deal to offer employers and it is important that employers should have full regard to their potential.

Mr. Thurnham

May I give a warm welcome to my right hon. and learned Old Petrian Friend in his new responsibilities? Will he confirm that he will continue to increase the number of disabled persons being helped into jobs, and assist in the rapid introduction of the proposed new disability employment credit?

Mr Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words. The Government's record of encouraging and helping disabled people into jobs is excellent and we want to ensure that it continues and improves further.

Mr Ashley

Is the Secretary of State aware that the good intentions expressed in his response to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) run counter to the statements in his Department's internal review, which said that work for disabled people had little status and less priority in the employment service? Is he aware that his own Department does not know how many employers have completed their employment policy questionnaire and that two thirds of Britain's disabled persons have no job? May we have a changed attitude from the right hon. and learned Gentleman in his new job, to which I also welcome him?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his welcome. I shall look into the matter of the questionnaire, but the general matters that lie behind his question are at the heart of the review that is currently under way.

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