HC Deb 10 December 2001 vol 376 c579
4.Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston)

If he will abolish the small firms' exemption from the employment provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.[19144]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Eagle)

We are committed to ending the exemption of small employers from the employment provisions of the DDA in October 2004.

Mr. Clarke

I welcome my hon. Friend's excellent announcement. Has she evidence on whether small businesses agree with me that ending the exemption is a challenge and an opportunity for people with disabilities, or does she share the view of the Government who took the DDA through the House, who said that employing people with disabilities in small businesses represents an unacceptable burden?

Maria Eagle

My right hon. Friend has a long and fine record in the House of supporting people with disabilities and promoting legislation to assist them. There is no evidence that small firms with under 15 employees consider the DDA a burden; and during recent research by the Disability Rights Commission on employers with fewer than 15 employees, two thirds said that they welcome and are in favour of the DDA. Hardly any expressed a negative opinion, so this is a measure whose time has come. We are determined that it will be properly implemented by October 2004.

Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford)

Can the Minister advise the House of the cost of abolishing the exemption? If not, will she commit to publishing a full regulatory impact assessment before making any change?

Maria Eagle

The hon. Gentleman is relatively new to the House. Had he been aware that the announcement was made in our response to the disability rights taskforce document "Towards Inclusion", he could have looked up the draft regulatory impact assessment in the back.

Mr. Prisk

The cost?

Maria Eagle

The cost is £3.92 per business, on average. The hon. Gentleman ought to realise that reasonable adjustments to enable disabled people to access employment require thought more than cash.