HC Deb 03 December 1974 vol 882 cc396-7W
25. Mr. Ashton

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will introduce legislation to increase the penalties for employers who do not employ their full quota of disabled workpeople.

Mr. Harold Walker

My right hon. Friend does not contemplate such legislation as it is not an offence for an employer to employ less than his quota of registered disabled people. However, as my hon. Friend will know, the future of the quota scheme is at present under review, and my right hon. Friend is not yet in a position to say what changes, if any, he may propose.

Mr. George

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what measures he is taking to reduce the number of registered disabled who are unemployed in the Walsall area.

Mr. Harold Walker

I am taking immediate steps to enforce the quota scheme for disabled people more strictly in Walsall and in five other selected areas—Ayr, Cambridge, Middlesbrough, St. Helens and Wrexham—where the employment position of disabled people is particularly serious or compliance with the quota by employers is particularly low. I am writing to all employers in these areas with quota obligations to ask them to make sure that they are satisfying all the requirements of the quota provisions of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Acts, and that they are doing everything possible to employ more registered disabled people. Inspectors from my Department will shortly be starting a more comprehensive programme of inspections in these areas. I have told employers in my letter that a grave view will be taken of any action, or inaction, which appears to infringe the requirements of the Acts.

I am taking these steps because the proportion of employers who fail to employ their quota continues to increase; because many unemployed registered disabled people could be found jobs if all employers took their obligations under the quota scheme as seriously and conscientiously as some do; and because I am anxious to ensure that employers are not led to believe that the present long-term review of the scheme, on the basis of the consultative document published by the last Conservative administration, which has raised difficult issues and on which it may be a little time before decisions can be taken, is a reason for paying less attention than they should to their quota obligations.

I shall be watching the effects of this selective programme of stricter enforcement carefully and will take it fully into account in coming to conclusions about the long-term future of the quota scheme.