HC Deb 25 June 2001 vol 370 cc381-2
16. Mr. Tom Levitt (High Peak)

What measures he is proposing to take to implement the programme outlined in the Government's response to the final report of the disability rights taskforce. [458]

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

Our consultation document "Towards Inclusion" sets out the wide-ranging action that the Government are already taking to improve civil rights for disabled people in all areas of life. That includes the recent introduction of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001. We will end the exemption of small employers from the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in 2004 and make the other improvements to the DDA when parliamentary time allows.

Mr. Levitt

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. She follows in the tradition of Ministers with responsibility for disability rights in this Government who have a strong record of delivery. I am sure that the document to which she referred will be the basis for continuing that tradition. Will she evangelise on the subject of the employers' threshold, which she mentioned? 'The threshold was a major demand of the disability movement for a number of years and is one of many aspects of the document "Towards Inclusion" that deserve taking forward and preaching from the highest rooftops so that not only disabled people but employers know what we are promising.

Maria Eagle

I have been asked to do many things in my life, but evangelise is not one of them. None the less, I shall undertake to be extremely positive, because it is important to take everybody with us as we approach 2004, including small firms and business in general, to ensure that the measure can be properly implemented. One thing is for sure: there is no point in having rights if they cannot be enforced or obligations if they cannot be met.

Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry)

I, too, welcome the Under-Secretary to her post. Does she feel that, important as disability rights are—we are not arguing about that—the greatest wish of up to 750,000 disabled people today is for a viable job that they can manage to discharge? In that connection, will she undertake to examine the much better record of private sector insurers in providing rehabilitation in a package alongside disability benefits and so getting people quickly into or back to employment?

Maria Eagle

The hon. Gentleman identifies an important issue that relates to getting people who have just become disabled back into work or to keeping them in their job. That is an important consideration which I undertake to look closely at as I find my way around my new responsibilities.

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