§ Mr. Hannam
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what has been the outcome of consultations on the proposals by the Manpower Services Commission on the future of the quotas scheme for the employment of disabled people; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Tebbit
The commission's proposals, published last July, to replace the existing statutory quota scheme for the employment of disabled people by a code of practice backed by a more general statutory duty, met with broadly three types of response. A considerable body of opinion supported the commission's approach. Others took the view that a code of practice would best be promoted by entirely voluntary means, with no statutory requirements. A third and substantial group wanted the existing statutory scheme maintained or strengthened in various suggested ways. Many in this last group nevertheless supported elements of the commission's ideas, notably the proposal for a code of practice.
The Select Committee on Employment in its report on the matter recognised that the commission's proposals could offer considerable attractions to the disabled, but considered that the commission needed to give further thought to certain aspects before the Committee could make a recommendation. It also suggested ways of improving the existing scheme should that be retained.
Against this background, and to allow more time for debate, the Government have decided not to seek any change in the basic legislation for the time being. Since, however, there was wide support for a code of practice in some form we are asking the commission to press ahead with the drafting of a code, in consultation with interested parties and taking account of the comments received. This will enable its usefulness to be tested on a purely voluntary basis without prejudice to its ultimate status. We are also asking the commission within the framework of existing legislation to consider further the ways suggested by the Select Committee and others for improving the effectiveness of present arrangements. More generally, the commission will continue to develop its services for disabled people so as to secure the most effective use of available resources.
The Government will keep the matter under review and I shall make a further statement in due course.