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Lord McCarthy: Before the Minister sits down, would he not agree that to rely, as he does, on the Labour Force Survey is somewhat naive? That survey asks 40 or so questions on a household basis. It could not ask any detailed questions; indeed, those concerned would have to ask respondents questions like, "Are you disabled?" or, "Do you regard yourself as disabled?" If the Government rely upon the Labour Force Survey and nothing else and will not accept the amendment, what they are really saying is that they cannot find out how many people are disabled.

Lord Inglewood: I am extremely pleased to be able to reassure the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, on that point because he clearly did not hear exactly what I said. I said that the Government would rely on a variety of methods, including research conducted by the Government and others, and through regular surveys such as the Labour Force Survey. Therefore, the Government will be flexible in the manner in which they approach the problem.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: I am rather envious of the feeling of warmth felt by my noble friend Lord Ashley. It is not a feeling that I have as yet experienced whereby the Minister agrees with me. However, I look forward to that day, although I thought that this might be it. I thank all Members of the Committee who spoke in support of the amendment. I should say straightaway that the contributions from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, were both helpful and, indeed, extremely realistic.

As regards the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, as to why people do not register, perhaps I may put forward my small experience in the field while representing people at work. Such people would quite often not want to register because they were afraid that they would be discriminated against in employment, in job training, in promotion and, indeed, in all kinds of opportunities. Even if they were working for a good employer where they would not be discriminated against, such people felt that if they left that employment, or if there were redundancies and they lost their jobs, they would have no chance of gaining other employment if the disability label was attached to them.

I do not suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, proposed that for that reason the amendment should not be accepted; rather the reverse. Education of employers is a key factor, whether in the public or private sector.

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I hope that at the end of the process we are now going through we shall have an Act which will make it illegal to discriminate against someone on grounds of disability. It will also provide individuals with an opportunity to rectify discrimination in a court of law. I hope that that will encourage people to recognise that they have rights. Those rights may have always existed in some areas but not in others. They will be backed up by law and by due process.

The Minister said that there was nothing between us. There is a big gap between us if we agree on the problem but cannot agree on the means of rectifying it. It will be a major problem if there are no public statistics on which one can assess how we are progressing and what policies should be put in place.

I accept the Minister's view that a code of practice will encourage employers. The public sector is a major employer. How helpful it would be if the public sector—local authorities, health authorities and national government, which are covered by the amendment—was required to keep records. Government support for what we propose would send an important message to the private sector.

The Minister says that it would be wrong to be prescriptive; if what was required was set out on the face of the Bill there would be no flexibility. We recognise the problems that exist and that there are different problems in different sectors. We also recognise that there needs to be consultation. Equally, we recognise the overwhelming problem of confidentiality. That is why we have proposed in the amendment that this be set out in regulations. I do not see that that should present a problem.

The Minister relies on voluntaryism. The voluntary system did not work in relation to sex discrimination and we had to have a Sex Discrimination Act. The voluntary system did not work in race relations in Britain and we had to have a Race Relations Act. I suggest that, unfortunately, when too much water has passed under the bridge, we shall find, if the Bill remains as it is, that the voluntary system and the code of practice will not work when it comes to equality of access to employment and training for people with disabilities.

It is clear that the Minister is not prepared to budge from his position. That is extremely disappointing, not only for me but for the people who hoped that this measure would be in the Bill to protect them. It is therefore with a great deal of regret that I seek the leave of the Committee to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34 [Amendment of Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944]:

9.15 p.m.

Lord Gladwin of Clee moved Amendment No. 137:

Page 23, leave out lines 41 to 43.

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 137 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 138 and 139. All of the amendments are designed to protect severely disabled people who are either in employment or seeking employment.

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As we have already discussed, the 1944 Act gives the Secretary of State for Employment powers to provide facilities for and to subsidise employment for people with severe impairments who would otherwise find it difficult to get jobs. This is a supported employment programme which takes two forms. The first is supported factories such as Remploy and the British Legion poppy factory and sheltered workshops run by local authorities and voluntary organisations. The second takes the form of a sheltered placement scheme in which a local authority or a voluntary organisation acts as a sponsor employing people with severe impairments who are then placed in "open" employment with host employers who pay the sponsor for the work done. Those sponsors are subsidised directly by the Employment Service.

However, the 1944 Act prevents the Government from providing funding for supported employment in companies which distribute profits. Clause 34(3) removes that prohibition. That sounds acceptable, but there is anxiety that it could lead to discrimination against more severely disabled people. For some time now supported employment providers have been under pressure to act more like commercial enterprises, and there is anxiety that those pressures are forcing them to recruit employees with less severe impairments and not recruit severely disabled people. If "not-for-profit" organisations feel constrained to discriminate against more severely disabled people, the pressures on dividend distributing companies will be even greater.

The issue was not discussed in the other place. The only reference was made in this House when the Minister responded to a question by my noble friend Lord Ashley of Stoke about the future of Remploy. I ask the Minister therefore for an assurance that there will be no reduction in the number of jobs provided for severely disabled people under the supported employment programme.

Secondly, at col. 889 of the Official Report of 22nd May, the Minister stated that before using the power provided, he would consult,

    "relevant organisations, particularly those representing existing supported employer providers".

Can I be assured that he will also consult representatives of the workers in supported employment establishments?

There is anxiety about the possibility of creaming off. There is concern about the kind of jobs which will be provided by profit distributing companies for people with severe disabilities. There is concern that the money used to fund supported employment in dividend distributing companies will not be new money but will be funds diverted from existing providers of supported employment. Will the Minister confirm that that is not the case?

Amendments Nos. 138 and 139 seek to retain the statutory register for disabled people and the quota scheme. I appreciate that it is difficult to argue that the quota scheme has been a major success, but we all know the reasons for that. We have discussed them in the House.

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A number of noble Lords have experienced, as I have, the reluctance of many disabled people to register because they regard registration as a stigma and because they fear that it could affect their prospects of employment and promotion. In other words, they are afraid of being discriminated against.

My experience encompasses two different situations. Like my noble friend Lady Dean and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, on many occasions I have sought to persuade members of my organisation to register. On the other hand, I used to deal with factories in which every single employee was registered disabled. It is those people about whom I am particularly concerned.

The provisions of the Bill should remove the anxiety that disabled people will be discriminated against. But how will we know that it is removed if we abolish the register? Therefore the first argument for retention is monitoring. We have already discussed that.

Secondly, registration is an effective method of assisting the more disabled people to obtain jobs through the supported employment programme. The White Paper states that the ending of statutory registration will require new arrangements for identifying severely disabled people who should be eligible for supported employment. Why invent new arrangements when we have the register? If, after consultation with supported employment providers and representatives of disabled employees, the registration scheme needs modification, then so be it. But do not abandon it. Do not throw out the baby with the bath water.

On the question of the quota, I agree with the view put forward at Second Reading by my noble friend Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde and the noble Lord, Lord Rix; why not follow the suggestion of the Employment Select Committee in another place and allow the quota scheme to run concurrently with the new employment right for a period of up to five years?

In his reply at col. 887 of the Official Report of 22nd May, the Minister said:

    "I do not believe that it would be practicable or reasonable to overlap the quota provisions with the new provisions in this Bill, even for a year".

I believe that both employers and disabled people seeking employment would find it both practicable and reasonable to retain the registration quota scheme until we are sure that the new legislation is working in the way that Parliament intended. I beg to move.

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