HC Deb 27 July 1993 vol 229 cc812-4W
Mr. Alfred Morris

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment he has made of the effect of the recession on the willingness of employers to find extra money to employ disabled people.

Miss Widdecombe

[holding answer 23 July 1993]: We are pleased that employment of people with disabilities has held up well during the recession; the Employment Service placed more than 40,000 unemployed people with disabilities into jobs during 1992–93, well ahead of its target. However, we recognise the difficulties encountered by disabled people in the employment market. It is for reasons such as these that we have special employment provision for disabled people and give disabled people priority for a place on our main employment and training schemes.

Mr. Clapham

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans he has to improve the employment prospects for people with disabilities in Yorkshire and Humberside; and if he will make a statement.

Miss Widdecombe

[holding answer 26 July 1993]: We will continue to encourage employers to provide opportunities for disabled people through programmes of education and persuasion, backed by practical help, in Yorkshire and Humberside as elsewhere throughout the country. Through jobcentres, people with disabilities have access to local placing assessment and counselling teams to provide advice to people with disabilities and their employers.

Three examples of innovative initiatives in Yorkshire and Humberside are a pioneering programme run by Bradford training and enterprise council to help graduates with a disability to pursue a career in management; worklink, a specialist advisory and counselling service for people with disabilities run by Barnsley and Doncaster TEC; and in Shipley and Keighley the Cellar project, supported by the Employment Service, provides disabled people with advice, guidance and support to help them obtain work placements and workshop places. From 1 April 1994 the new access to work initiative will be introduced to meet the employment needs of people with disabilities nationally.

Mr. Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment for what proportion of its activities Thames Water Utilities Ltd. is exempt from the requirements of the regulations governing the employment of disabled persons; what are the terms of exemption permit held.; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

[holding answer 26 July 1993]: Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Employment Service agency under its chief executive. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from M. E. G. Fogden to Mr. Harry Cohen, dated 27 July 1993:

As the Employment Service is an Executive Agency, the Secretary of State has asked me to write to you direct to respond to your Parliamentary Question to him about what proportion of the activities of Thames Water Utilities is exempt from the requirements of the regulations governing the employment of disabled persons; and what are the terms of exemption permit held. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of the Agency.

Thames Water Utilities Limited is, like other employers with twenty or more workers, subject to the Quota provisions of the Disabled (Persons) Employment Act 1944. It may help if I explain those provisions.

The Quota Scheme was established by the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944. Under the scheme, employers who have 20 or more workers have a duty to employ a quota of registered disabled people. The standard quota is currently set at 3 per cent. of an employer's total workforce. It is not an offence to be below quota. However, when in this situation an employer has a further duty to engage suitable registered disabled people, if any are available, when vacancies arise. A below-quota employer must not engage anyone other than a registered disabled person without first obtaining a permit to do so from the Employment Service.

The issue of a permit does not provide employers with exemption from their duties and obligations under the 1944 Act. A permit allows an employer to engage a person who is not registered as disabled. The 1944 Act sets out the criteria under which a permit can be issued, which include regard to the nature of the work, and the availability and suitability of registered disabled people.

Employers who are below quota can apply for "bulk" permits in advance to authorise a specified number of engagements over a limited period, based on the employer's estimated requirements. Bulk permits were introduced in order to keep a minimum the administrative burden for employers and the Department, whilst protecting the interests of people with disabilities. These are issued by the Jobcentre and will consider sympathetically and suitable registered disabled people who may become available.

Information about the quota or permit position of individual employers is not disclosed without their prior consent. This has been the policy of successive governments. I cannot, therefore provide the specific information you request about Thames Water Utilities. I am sorry that I cannot be of more help on this occasion.

As decided by the Administration Committee of the House of Commons, Chief Executive replies to written Parliamenatry Questions will be published in the Official Report, I will also place a copy of this letter in the Library of the House.