HC Deb 24 July 1990 vol 177 cc287-8
10. Mr. Ashley

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he is taking any steps to introduce anti-discrimination legislation for disabled people.

Mr. Howard

The consultative document, "Employment and Training for People with Disabilities", which was published on 29 June, sets out various options for encouraging the employment of disabled people. I shall be considering what action to take in the light of the comments that we receive.

Mr. Ashley

Is the Secretary of State aware that good intentions and guidance may influence good employers, but will not affect bad employers who discriminate against disabled people? That is why the United States Government are enacting legislation outlawing unjustifiable discrimination. As many disabled workers in Britain suffer discrimination, why cannot we have the same legislation?

Mr. Howard

We see considerable difficulties in the way of following the path that the United States Government have chosen, but that is one of the matters on which we have consulted in the document, and I certainly should not want to prejudge the result of that consultation in responding to the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon.

Mr. Thurnham

Will my right hon. and learned Friend expand the numbers of sheltered placement schemes? Is not the success of the Government's voluntary schemes demonstrated by the fact that nearly 1 million disabled people are in jobs?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The sheltered placement schemes represent one of our great successes. There have been huge increases in the numbers on those schemes in the past few years and we look forward to an expansion of the schemes as resources allow.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Do not the disturbing figures for unemployment and low pay from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys point to widespread discrimination? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the major disability organisations accept that disability can be relevant to job performance? They are asking not for deaf piano tuners or blind bus drivers, but for the outlawing of unjustifiable discrimination. Is he further aware of the findings of the Spastics Society that job applicants are 1.5 times less likely even to be interviewed if they are disabled? Will he consider the case for legislation? Does he agree that there should be an early parliamentary debate on the consultative document?

Mr. Howard

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point and am aware of the research conducted by the Spastics Society. It has welcomed our consultative document, which canvasses a wide range of options. We shall consider the responses to that document with great care.