Mr. Barnes: Is not the atmosphere of a small firm rather than a larger one often more suitable for a person with learning difficulties? A small group of people who link and work together, as one hopes happens in the best small firms, creates that important atmosphere. The small firm would seem especially appropriate for people with learning difficulties rather than the larger, perhaps more impersonal firm, which might be more difficult to handle. The assistance to which my hon. Friend refers is therefore justified.
Dr. Godman: That is an important argument. In small firms, others people can guide the person with disabilities, acting as protectors and mentors. The same may also happen in large firms in which relatively small teams of employees work together. Research has shown that it is not difficult to introduce a person who is physically
Column 721impaired into such a team. However, my hon. Friend makes the important point that, in a small firm, other employees will willingly, indeed happily, look after someone with disabilities.
We all know that, when a person leaves the social security system for full- time employment, the person and their family benefit immediately and there is a self-evident benefit to the state. There are other benefits, too. When people with disabilities are employed in small or large firms, there is the psychological benefit of finding full-time employment; an immediate boost is given to a person's self-esteem. A person knows that he or she is part of the community in a much more comprehensive and more rounded way when in full-time employment.
We should not lose sight of the fact that there are benefits to an employer in taking on someone who has found it immensely difficult to find work in the past. Often people who are handicapped in one way or another become loyal, hard-working employees. Some employers do not deserve that type of loyalty, but that is another matter. In terms of costs and benefits, therefore, a small firm can indeed benefit from taking on people with learning difficulties or people who are physically impaired.
I visited a company in my constituency recently and spoke to a person who is physically handicapped, who has been confined for much of his life to a wheelchair. He said that, even though the terms and conditions of employment were not so good in that company--and by God, they are not, in comparison with those offered by many other local employers--the fact that he was in employment for the first time in about 15 years gave him enormous self-respect and lifted the burden from his family of having to care for someone who, I think, had been psychologically bruised by his constant rejections by local firms when seeking employment.
Now here he is, earning what I regard as a poor wage, but nevertheless he is out every morning, going to his job, he is highly regarded by his workmates and he is delighted to be in work. I believe that that example could be multiplied many thousands of times.
The small firms sector--which is very important in the west of Scotland and elsewhere--has a role to play. Some small firms in my constituency would not require the regulations that implementation of new clause 16 would impose, but I believe that others would need such regulations because they would seek to exploit disabled employees who were not members of a trade union.
I believe that the Government should certainly accept, if not new clause 16, then new clause 6, in order to defend rightly and properly the interests of those who are often unable to defend themselves. Disabled employees often do not have trade union representation and therefore cannot avail themselves of a formal collective bargaining system. The Government must accept that firms which employ fewer than 20 people should not be able to dodge the external checks and balances which protect the interests of those who, in many instances, are unable to defend themselves.
Column 722new clauses standing in the names of my hon. Friends, and hardly any voices have been raised against them. The hon. Members for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam), for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) and for Croydon, North-East (Mr. Congdon) have joined the hon. Members for Rochdale (Ms Lynne) and for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) and many of my hon. Friends in supporting amendments to the legislation that will ensure an end to discrimination in employment against disabled people. It will come as no surprise to hon. Members to learn that I support new clause 16, which would remove the 20-employee limit and would assist firms with the undoubted difficulties that they may face in some circumstances. I attended Committee sittings for several weeks. To be honest, at the beginning of the Committee process I did not think that the Government would accept any amendments from the Labour party during consideration of the Disability Discrimination Bill. As it happens, the Government did not accept any amendments from the Labour party during consideration of the Bill, so perhaps I was justified in feeling jaundiced.
However, I came out of the Committee sittings feeling better than when I went in. I think that--I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State for Employment, the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice), will prove it in his winding-up speech--the Under-Secretary and the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People impressed all members of the Committee with their sense of fairness. I genuinely believe that they wish to end discrimination against disabled people, and tonight they will have the opportunity to do just that.
The Bill will not end discrimination against disabled people in employment. There is the potential for disabled people to be discriminated against if they work for firms that employ fewer than 20 individuals. That will create a two-tier source of discrimination, which flies in the face of the aims of all hon. Members who have spoken in the debate and of everyone who has responded, and who intends to respond, to the legislation as it progresses through the House.
The Bill's provisions are illogical. If I were the managing director of a firm that employed 21 people, I could not discriminate against disabled people on the ground of their disability. However, if I were the managing director of a company that employed 19 people, I could discriminate on that basis. Where is the logic in that? Conservative Back Benchers who wish to speak in the debate may allude to the cost associated with employing disabled people. If I am the managing director of a company that employs 21 individuals, I must bear the cost associated with their employment. However, if my company employs 19 individuals, I can discriminate and choose not to bear that cost. We could dispute--as we have done today-- whether there is a cost to be borne, but, if there is, the situation is totally illogical.
If there is a cost associated with employing disabled people--we would dispute that claim--why should a highly profitable company that employs 10 people discriminate against disabled people, when perhaps a company that does not make a profit but employs 25 people cannot? There is no logic in the Government's position to date.
If Government Members were to say that they proposed to amend the race relations legislation to include an exemption for small firms, that might justify the
Column 723Government's position in this instance. If Government Members were to say that they intended to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1976 to include an exemption for small firms, there might be some justification for the Government's current position. However, the Government will not do that. Under the Government's legislation, it will be legal to discriminate against disabled people if a company employs fewer than 20 people, although it is not able to discriminate on the basis of race or sex.
According to the current legislation, it will be legal for hon. Members to discriminate against those disabled people who might apply to work for them. We would not wish to sanction that sort of situation, but there could not be one law for those outside the House and another for hon. Members.
The Government's position takes no account of that well-known expression "downsizing". Many companies in my constituency have downsized considerably --notably, the steelworks at Shotton, which has downsized from 20,000 to 1,000 employees under a Tory Government. Some companies will employ fewer than 20 people for part of the year and more than that number at another time. According to the Government's current proposal, some companies will be able to discriminate against disabled people in January, but not in February, or perhaps in March, but not in April. There is no logic to that position. It is a person's right not to be discriminated against, and that inalienable right should be protected in every circumstance. The small firms sector, which we have been examining in detail today, accounts for one in six workers in the United Kingdom. That figure is far higher in rural areas. Both Ministers represent, as I do in part, rural areas. The hon. Member for Caernarfon and I represent constituencies in Wales. Wales comprises large rural areas where most people are employed by firms with fewer than 20 employees. Therefore, many disabled people in Wales face potential discrimination in their place of employment.
The Bill will ensure that disabled people will not be able to apply for jobs in large areas of my constituency without the fear of discrimination. In the agriculture sector, a small, rurally based business may be the sole employer. Large firms may not be appropriate in that area.
My constituency covers a large part of the north Wales coast. The holiday resort of Prestatyn is in my constituency and it attracts many thousands of visitors each summer--I hope that many hon. Members will visit it this summer. Businesses in Prestatyn face the same difficulty as many others in rural and coastal areas of Wales: they have temporary and seasonal employment. Companies may employ fewer than 20 people for part of the year and at other times more than that number. As a consequence of the legislation, different laws will apply to the same companies depending on the time of year and on how many people choose to visit Prestatyn for their summer holidays. They cannot plan.
The Bill will impose burdens that my hon. Friends' measures would remove. Eighty-four per cent. of firms in Northern Ireland have fewer than 10 employees, so it is reasonable to assume that 90 per cent. of them have fewer than 20 employees. How will a disabled person be free from fear of discrimination when the Bill will make it legal to discriminate in 90 per cent. of cases in Northern
Column 724Ireland? Small businesses are a fast-growing sector of the economy and we must encourage them. At the same time, we must ensure fairness and justice across the board.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) made great play of the various representations made. Only one company wrote in favour of the exemption and only six employer associations did so--hardly an avalanche. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) said, the consultation document may not be fulsome and detailed, but it shows strength of feeling. Individuals usually tell the Government when they are fearful of something, but they have not done so in this case. That has not been done either by the Confederation of British Industry, the Employers Forum on Disability or the Institute of Directors--God bless it. The institute stated: "if the Government believe that disabled people should have the right, it should apply equally to all employees."
What a marvellous organisation--and I never thought that I would say that. One down and a few more to go.
I never fail to be surprised by the strength of feeling evident among organisations in my constituency when they suspect that the House is acting against their interests. Licensed victuallers, newsagents and other small shopkeepers, chambers of commerce, chambers of trade and others are all employers or represent them and they often bang on my door about urgent issues--but they have not done so over the need for exemption. The Law Society and other organisations had the opportunity to make representations to hon. Members but did not do so.
I look forward to hearing the Under-Secretary's justification for retaining the exemption and legalising discrimination against disabled people in companies with fewer than 20 employees. The new clauses and the amendment will not bring any onslaught against small businesses. In Committee, the Under-Secretary said:
"The Government are trying to strike a balance between the desire to eliminate discrimination and the desire to ensure that over-burdensome regulations that might jeopardise small businesses' primary functions are not put on them."--[ Official Report, Standing Committee E , 14 February 1995; c. 252.]
Are the Government really worried about imposing burdensome regulations on small businesses? If the Under-Secretary is concerned, perhaps he will tell the House what would be the cost to small businesses if the exemption were lifted. How many small firms would go out of business? How many people would be made unemployed? What burden would be imposed in this instance that does not exist in respect of race relations or sex equality legislation?
I hope that the Government will be positive, end the exemption and give small businesses help from the Employment Service and other organisations in respect of good practice, to assist them to meet their obligations under the Bill as amended by the proposed measures. Scope, for which I worked for eight years prior to entering the House, suggested that a personnel pack should be produced, to inform firms how to comply. It could illustrate good and bad practices, provide information and give practical support.
Would it not be more positive for the House to abolish the exemption, say that it believes in ending discrimination in employment and acknowledge the value of a programme of help for small firms--rather than to allow companies to evade their responsibilities and to make disabled people face discrimination in their daily
Column 725lives? I hope that the Under-Secretary will respond positively, and I look forward to his acceptance of the measures.
Mr. Colin Pickthall (Lancashire, West): The hon. Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) and my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson) mentioned the employment problems confronting disabled people living in rural areas. Several organisations pointed out that the 20-employee limit will dramatically affect such people. In Committee, the Under-Secretary responded to my questions about the difficulties confronting would-be disabled workers in agricultural areas, which may be more graphic than those facing disabled people in urban areas.
I must not touch on other clauses, but I shall place that matter in context. The much lower density of population in rural areas leads to greater isolation, less access to disabled groups and support groups of all kinds, and more remoteness from usually concentrated local authority services. The decimation of public transport in recent years also makes it harder for disabled people in rural areas to seek work. Their choice of school or college is limited by travelling distances and the lower density of such institutions. The Bill does not address any of those problems.
Changes in the nature of agricultural employment and practices have already massively reduced the number of people working in that industry. Most farms are little more than family employers. The encouragement of diversification in the countryside has introduced small firms, most of which have fewer than 20 employees.
The Bill will exclude most disabled people living in rural areas from the right to challenge discrimination in employment. We have no reason to suppose that a smaller proportion of rural residents than urban dwellers are disabled. In fact, given the dangerous nature of agricultural work, with tractor and machinery accidents, chemical accidents with substances such as organophosphates and the danger of using pesticides in greenhouses, it may be that country areas have a higher proportion of disabled people. Certainly the figure will be no lower.
The chief employment characteristic in horticulture is its seasonal nature, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn referred in respect of seaside resorts such as Prestatyn--or, in Lancashire, those of Blackpool, Morecambe and Southport, which purports to be in Lancashire. Incidentally, Blackpool has the worst unemployment rate in Lancashire.
Such areas are also characterised by large numbers of part-time workers. In Committee, the Under-Secretary helpfully told us that the Bill made no distinction between part-time and full-time workers. That is to be welcomed. He also said that it would be the time when discrimination occurred that mattered, in terms of a challenge to a tribunal, not the time when an accumulation of incidents of discrimination provoked a disabled employee into making a challenge. That comment, too, was helpful and clarifying.
I am still very worried, however, about the practical oddities that will be created by the figure of 20. They were mentioned by the hon. Members for
Column 726Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) and for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). The latter pointed out that a business may employ more than 20 employees one year, but fewer employees the next. That sort of thing could happen quite often. Even more important, some firms change the number of their employees month by month, or even week by week. In horticulture, probably the largest source of employment in most of my constituency, for much of the year an employer will have only a handful of workers--four, five or six--but for several months of the year he will have well over 20, and perhaps as many as 60. For the sake of argument, let us suppose that for half the year the employees will be covered by the Bill's discrimination provisions, but for the other half they will not; that, of course, includes any disabled person who happens to be one of the core of permanent employees. For half the year, a disabled person will have the right to challenge discrimination--not so for the other half.
This is an immensely difficult situation for employer and employee alike, and it lends itself to possible abuse by bad employers. I do not want to exaggerate, but there will be employers who use these circumstances to get around the Act.
Where would the criterion of reasonableness come into all this? Ironically, many occupations in horticulture lend themselves to workers with, say, mobility difficulties. Many groups from the horticultural industry, recently giving evidence to the Select Committee on Agriculture, strongly asked the Government to allow more foreign students into the United Kingdom to take up the extra work during the summer. That clearly shows the seasonal need for workers; at least some of the jobs could be taken up by disabled people living near the horticultural enterprises.
Every means of persuasion to get rural employers to engage disabled people who can do the jobs, and to treat them equally once they are in work, should be adopted--but the Bill does not set the requisite framework for that. The application of the rights of disabled people in firms with more than 20 employees to smaller employers would serve as a backstop in the process.
Obviously there are difficulties and imponderables that need sorting out. The CBI documents make some intelligent references to that fact, but a clear benchmark in law, coupled with help and guidance for small employers, could make an enormous difference to a significant number of disabled people in rural areas.
The Under-Secretary must also explain how he hopes to deal with the franchising problem mentioned by the hon. Member for Exeter, and with contracting out. The splintering of large firms into smaller firms, using these methods, may already be a way of getting around the legislation, and it will prove even handier for the purpose in future.
Areas such as mine face other problems, too. The town of Skelmersdale has been badly clobbered by two recessions in the past two decades. Agencies of all kinds--for instance, Lancashire Enterprises--have scurried to put up small industrial units, which usually can accommodate only between four and 10 workers. Hopes for the future of the town lie very much with these small firms, which occupy an ever greater part of its economy. It is quite possible that the exclusion of small firms under the 20 employees proposal will effectively exclude disabled people in Skelmersdale from the town's economic future, which the small firms are trying to build.
Column 727I cannot understand why the Under-Secretary might object to this group of amendments. I candidly admit that they are not measures that I would have chosen to table. New clause 6 states:
"It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to have regard to the needs of employers"--
"have regard" is rather woolly--
"and to take such practical steps as he deems appropriate". Again, it states:
"The Secretary of State may make regulations specifying the circumstances under which adjustments may be considered reasonable for employers".
The new clause is full of conditionals, qualifiers, maybes and perhapses. New clause 16(3) is in the same vein:
"Regulations under this section may make different provisions for different circumstances and different sizes of employer and specify different periods within which different adjustments shall be made; and regulations made under this section may be varied by subsequent regulations."
What could be more accommodating than that wonderful sentence for any Minister wanting to please everyone and get away with murder?
Mr. Paice: I begin by dealing with an issue not directly related to the Bill but mentioned by at least two hon. Members--Remploy. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) will know that clause 7, to which the new clauses relate, does not directly concern Remploy; but the decision to end the priority supplier scheme was taken only because of clear legal advice, since endorsed by the European Commission, that it contravened European legislation. The amount of £147,500 which the hon. Gentleman quoted is not a UK-derived figure; it is a European figure, and the figure put into the new special contracts arrangements reflects that.
Remploy is facing competitive pressures, especially in textiles. I do not think that it expects to win every contract for which it bids, but it is competing hard for MOD contracts, and we hope that it will win some. In the meantime, it is doing everything it can to diversify into the commercial retail clothing sector, where perhaps it will find greater scope.
Several Members referred to the benefits of employing disabled people. I hope that those who served on the Committee with me will take my word for it that I entirely recognise that disabled people have a vast amount of skill and expertise to offer the businesses which employ them now and which will, we hope, employ them in the future. Over the past few months, I have been excited by the number of places where I have seen disabled people working and fulfilling a useful role for themselves and their employer. Let no one be in any doubt that we recognise the benefits that derive from their employment.
There are positive advantages for businesses in employing disabled people. Ultimately, we want employers to be willing to employ disabled people without any thought of legislation, and without knowing that they might have to employ them because otherwise they will be taken to a tribunal. We want employers to employ the disabled because they want to employ them, because they believe that they have something considerable to offer to their business.
Column 728If that is our long-term objective, I suggest that legislation must be couched in a way that has the support of employers, not their resistance. If their first approach is cynicism-- doubts and resistance to legislation--the battle to change their hearts and minds and consequent behaviour will be that much harder.
Successive Governments have recognised that small businesses need special help to survive and prosper as well as protection from over-burdensome regulation. Hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber have said during the debate that small-scale employers do not necessarily have specialist staff easily available to them, staff who have knowledge of the more detailed aspects of employment law. That was recognised by the Labour Government, who introduced the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. The approach of race and gender legislation is different, of course, from that of the Bill. The 1975 Act introduced a small-firm threshold of five. In recognition of the unique difficulties of small firms--for example, the extra costs of providing separate washing facilities and cloakrooms--the threshold had to be abolished through an EC ruling. The Labour Government's objective was notable, however.
The threshold was provided for in a relatively straightforward piece of anti-discrimination legislation to eliminate employment discrimination on the ground of sex. There are no ifs, buts or degrees. We all know that people are men or women. I understand that one or two have doubts about where they stand, but the majority know clearly where they are. Everyone understands that.
The Bill is far more complex than previous legislation. We have heard the argument that reasonable adjustment would cover the difficulties faced by small firms. I do not agree. I am not convinced that that is so. The small- scale employer, who is usually the owner of the business, will have many issues on his mind. It is unrealistic to expect him or her to know what might or might not be reasonable, to take advice or to follow case law as it develops, especially in the early years of an Act's implementation.
Recruitment of new staff in small businesses is often a rare event or infrequent. That means that employers of small businesses will be unable to learn quickly from experience. I suggest that the recruitment of new or extra staff would be even less frequent if small-scale employers had to spend ages before making each appointment genning themselves up on the latest employment legislation.
The point is amplified by the fact that such businesses have not hitherto had to deal with disability legislation. As we all know, small firms have been exempt from the quota legislation for about 50 years. It is a fact that, for those 50-odd years, no Government have attempted to change the threshold. Accordingly, the figure of 20 has not been plucked from the air. It reflects precisely current legislation.
Inevitably, new anti-discrimination legislation takes time to settle down. Practice needs to be established, and case law has to be developed from tribunal deliberations. It will be burden enough on large firms that have resources sufficient to enable them to cope. It will be
Column 729much more difficult for small businesses without specialist knowledge to keep up with what is happening in the early years of implementation.
Mr. Wigley: The Minister is suggesting that, as time goes on and experience is garnered, it might become easier and more acceptable for small companies to live with either a lower threshold or to be brought in, as it were. Government amendment No. 122, which we are considering with the new clause, refers to
"`a different number (not greater than 20) for the number for the time being specified there.'"
Will the Minister confirm that the number could be zero, and that that would be within the purview of the proposed legislation?
Mr. Paice: I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear with me. I shall talk about the amendment to which he has referred in my later remarks. Several hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber have referred to the apparent lack of support from employers' organisations and other bodies for the exemption for small businesses that we propose. It is a novel event to hear Opposition Members--I think they had difficulty in swallowing it--putting forward the views of the Institute of Directors. I am glad, however, that they have recognised that the institute is usually worthy of note.
The hon. Member for Erdington referred to the Institute of Directors and the Confederation of British Industry as representing the top 100 companies.
Mr. Paice: All right, the Employers Forum on Disability. Even so, the CBI, the institute and the forum are not renowned for representing businesses with fewer than 20 employees. Probably very few of the businesses they represent have fewer than 200 employees. They are not speaking on behalf of small businesses.
By contrast, the Federation of Small Businesses speaks specifically on behalf of small businesses. It has issued a statement, which reads:
"The Federation is particularly concerned with any amendments aimed at bringing all employers, irrespective of size, within the remit of the legislation."
It urges Members to
"vote for the retention of the exemption rule for small employers with under 20 workers. Adding further burdens to this wealth-creating sector of the economy will seriously damage its potential for job creation."
Those are the views of an organisation that clearly represents small businesses.
Mr. Alfred Morris: Will the Minister address the point about the artificiality of selecting the number 20? He as a Member represents employers with fewer than 20 employers and employers with more than 20. He is a great expert on horse racing. As the House knows, there are in the Newmarket part of his constituency people in that industry who employ fewer than 20, and others who
Column 730employ more. Why create this fundamental difference, as it seems to many, between employers in the same industry?
Mr. Paice: With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, whose commitment to the cause of the disabled is renowned, I do not think that he was in the Chamber a few moments ago when I specifically said that we have opted for 20 because that reflects the quota legislation. That was why we chose 20.
I shall continue with the thoughts of outside organisations. In the light of the remarks of the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry), I shall read the comments of two organisations. One writes:
"The cost of adjustment could fall disproportionately upon smaller firms, especially in the early years of new legislation, before suitable premises and equipment become more generally available."
The second quote reads:
"Small businesses face particular difficulties in interpreting guidance and advice from central and local government. They seldom have the personnel expertise available to a larger company, and each decision as to whether to introduce modifications to work practices or the premises must be weighed carefully against the impact on company viability."
There is ample evidence that some organisations that represent small businesses clearly recognise the problems that small businesses face.
Mr. Berry rose --
Mr. Berry: Will the Minister acknowledge that small firms made similar comments about the Sex Discrimination Act and the Race Relations Act? Will he please acknowledge that the lack of a personnel department in a small firm is as much a problem in abiding by those Acts as it would be in this case? Why on earth should disabled people yet again be treated as second-class citizens?
Mr. Paice: No. I would contend, as I tried to earlier, that it is not the same to compare directly the gender and race legislation with the proposed legislation, because of the complexity. The other pieces of legislation do not contain the concept of reasonable adjustment. They are much more simple, straightforward pieces of legislation, and are much easier for a small business man to grasp than the implications of the proposed legislation.
Mr. Paice: The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), for whom I have immense respect from our long acquaintance with each other, says from a sedentary position, sotto voce, "What about the tax legislation?" to which the hon. Member for Erdington also referred. There are special arrangements for tax legislation--the VAT threshold, for example. [Interruption.] There is no exemption from tax. Perhaps many wish that they were exempt. The lower rate of income tax and VAT clearly recognises that small businesses deserve special judgment.
Having said everything that I have, I want to stress to the House, particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam), who moved the new clause, that of course we do not want small firms to discriminate against disabled people--any more than we want large
Column 731firms to discriminate against them. Many small firms do employ disabled people. I can assure the House, as I have before, that we will encourage them to follow the new code of practice. To that end, they will be consulted in drawing up the code.
We have always emphasised that there are benefits in employing disabled people. We have always said that it is in an employer's interest to have access to the widest possible pool of talent, but we do not believe that it is possible to produce an accurate estimate of those benefits. So when the hon. Member for Kingswood challenged me on why we do not put the benefits on the equation, it is simply because we have not been able to find a way of financially measuring the benefits. We recognise that they are there and, as I have already said, we see considerable benefits in employing disabled people. Several hon. Members referred to the Americans with Disabilities Act and its exemption for small firms. The figure was originally 25 when the Act was introduced, but it was subsequently reduced to 15. Unlike our Bill, that figure of 15 cannot be lowered further. Our Bill brings in the flexibility.
I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne), who referred to a pizza parlour--I assume that it was a small employer--and to the fact that it would need to install a minicom and so on for customers, saying what a wonderful company it was and how much new business it had gained. That is precisely what we propose in part III of the Bill--the goods, facilities and services aspect. She did not address a single comment on the pizza parlour as an employer, but spoke of the service that it was providing its customers. I can wholeheartedly go along with everything she said about the benefits to a businesses of being seen to welcome disabled people as customers.
Small firms are also eligible for help from the Employment Service and from our specialist advisers, as well, we hope, as becoming users of the disability symbol "Positive About Disabled People". Already, some 10 per cent. of symbol users are firms employing 24 or fewer employees.
Much has been said this afternoon about figures. The hon. Member for Kingswood, of course, paraded his use of figures from the Red Book, of which he showed himself a master--at least of how to read it, if not how to interpret the figures--when the Bill was being considered in Committee.