HL Deb 18 January 1982 vol 426 cc409-11

2.39 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made in consultations about the recommendations of the Manpower Services Commission to replace the quota scheme for the employment of disabled people.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, the Government have now received the views of a range of interested organisations and individuals on the Manpower Services Commission's proposals. We are anxious to give full consideration to the points which have been raised. This is bound to take a little time, but my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment will make a further Statement as soon as practicable.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Is he aware that many disablement organisations are still reacting against the commission's report, because they are alarmed at the prospect of losing the quota scheme? In these circumstances, are the Government taking action to promote rational discussion of alternatives? It is not enough that the commission should be carrying out consultations, because they are naturally regarded as being predisposed in favour of their own recomdations.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that may well be so. But, of course, the representations will be made to the Secretary of State and he will take into account all those representations before he makes his further Statement.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that, even if there are amendments made to the quota system, what has always perturbed the disabled is the fact that there has not been enough enforcement of what Parliament has decided? Could this also be discussed with the organisations and representatives who might be meeting the Government?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, of course such points will be taken into account. But the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, will be aware that the quota system refers to 3 per cent. disabled, which used to be the case some years ago. The fact is that there are now under 2 per cent. disabled and so, in fact, it is impossible for all firms to keep to the 3 per cent. quota, simply because mathematically it cannot he done.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl which other EEC countries have safeguards for the employment of their disabled people?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, so far as I am aware, each country has different legislation with regard to its own circumstances.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, would the noble Earl agree that the record of the Civil Service in employing the disabled could be improved?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, if the noble Lord would care to write to me saying in which way, I will certainly take it into account.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, would the noble Earl also consider that when we are talking about the handicapped we must also remember those who are suffering froms sensory handicap? More often than not, when we speak about the handicapped, we are referring to those who are physically handicapped. I do not want to take away any of their advantages, but the blind and the deaf also need some special consideration.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I think that they would be covered under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, which defines a "disabled person" as one, who, on account of injury, disease or congenital deformity, is substantially handicapped in obtaining or keeping employment, or in undertaking work on his own account, of a kind which apart from that injury, disease or deformity would be suited to his age, experience and qualifications". I think that that would cover the noble Baroness's point.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that one of the problems about carrying out the scheme, which has now been operating for nearly 40 years, is that many severely disabled people refuse to register for this purpose?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, my noble friend is entirely right and that is one of the difficulties of the scheme. But it is also true that that is one of the points which my right honourable friend will be taking into account before he makes his further Statement.