§ Mr. Steinberg
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps are currently taken by his Department to encourage and recruit disabled people into the civil service; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Waldegrave
The civil service is an equal opportunities employer, with recruitment to the service through selection on merit on the basis of fair and open competition. My Department, the Office of Public Service and Science, takes the lead in developing, monitoring and 1013W reviewing implementation of this policy throughout the service, but each department and agency is responsible for implementing policy within its own organisation.
A civil service code of practice on employment of people with disabilities has been in use since 1985. This lays down advice and examples of best practice on all aspects of the employment of disabled people from recruitment to retention and career development. In line with steps already taken in respect of women and people of ethnic minority origin, this code of practice is shortly to be upgraded to a programme for action. In addition to general guidance, this will contain action checklists which will enable departments and agencies to address specific areas of disability policy and to draw up their own action plans.
While there is no room for complacency, the civil service position on the employment of registered disabled people—1.5 per cent.—compares well with that of other employers in both the public sector more generally and the private sector—both 0.8 per cent. In common with other employers, the civil service also employs many more disabled people who choose not to register.
I am confident that the upgrading of the code of practice to a programme for action will represent a significant step forward.