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Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I wish to raise one point on which I touched at an earlier stage. I am in favour of monitoring in the public service as far as possible and I agree that there should be confidentiality. However, we face the difficult problem of why disabled people did not register under the quota scheme, which still continues.
It has been suggested by RADAR that whether or not an individual is prepared to indicate his disability in a survey is in part an indication of the confidence that he feels that his employer will not treat him less favourably on that basis. It is a measure of a disabled employee's trust in his employer. I believe that it is a very small part. There are varying reasons why disabled people do not register. That is something with which I have been involved over the past 40 years. Most of them are not employed. They are unemployed and should be on the register. Therefore, it is no reflection on their attitude towards a particular employer. The fact must be faced that some obviously disabled people do not register and do not want to be included in the category of disabled. That may be obstinate. They appear to have conscientious objections to being put in that category. That has been one of the problems which has made the quota system so difficult to operate. Therefore, I hope that that point will be addressed. I would encourage all disabled people to register; indeed, I have always done so. I hope that, under any monitoring in public service departments, or elsewhere, such encouragement will be given.
However, I recognise that there are certain people who are, as I say, conscientious objectors in the field. My question is: would they automatically be included? For my own part, I agree with the proposals that disabled people should identify themselves for confidential monitoring purposes. I would be against pressing such people to be included if they conscientiously objected to the process.
Lord Addington: My Lords, I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, down that stony path. I totally agree with him that there has been terrible trouble with the registration system due to the fact that people will not register. However, we must try to move away from that position. If we are to take active help forward, we must have something along the lines of the amendment for the simple reason that knowledge can be turned into action; in other words, knowledge of a problem can be turned into an action to resolve it. Therefore, as I said, the amendment proposed, or something very like it, is required.
Further, the advantage of this fairly limited amendment is that it would deal with local authorities, health authorities, government departments and government agencies. Perhaps we should try to convince disabled people that, if they admit to a confidential registration, it will not go any further than becoming a statistic. After all, when all is said and done, we are all statistics. If such people can become part of a list without having a name attached to them, they will try to help themselves and others. Surely that is something that we should encourage.
I do not know whether the amendment proposed is the best one for the purpose, but certainly something along those lines should be included. We must try to get our hands on the facts, and government-related activities are probably the best areas in which to start looking for such information. As regards conscientious objections to being monitored, the same argument could be applied to national insurance numbers and beyond. Therefore, that really is not an argument which should prevent monitoring and the collection of such valuable information.
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, it is possible that some people do not know whether or not they are classified as disabled. Perhaps there should be more information available. Certainly most people will come forward if there is a benefit, a carrot or a point in so doing. But, if there is not, they may think there is no point in being registered; indeed, it may be a disadvantage to be registered as disabled. Therefore, more clarification is needed in the matter. For example, is someone who has diabetes classified as being disabled? There are so many different disabilities. It is quite complicated. Perhaps a solution can be found to the problem.
Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Baroness stated that we debated a similar amendment in Committee and that we discussed it for quite a long time. I have to say that I believed we debated a more or less identical, if not identical, amendment (bar the rubric), at considerable length in Committee when my noble friend Lord Inglewood answered for the Government. I am not
I certainly understand what the noble Baroness is seeking to achieve by way of her amendment. Its purpose is to introduce a provision which will compel the specified bodies that she namedlocal authorities, health authorities, government departments and government agenciesto monitor in a prescribed fashion their employment of disabled people and, by so doing, set an example of good practice for other employers to follow.
The Government can, of course, and do already, arrange by administrative measures, for government departments and agencies to monitor their employment of people with disabilities. Under the Civil Service Management Code, government departments and agencies are required to monitor the numbers of their staff and applicants who are disabled. Moreover, the Cabinet Office has recently taken steps to reinforce that requirement by promoting a "Programme for Action to Achieve Equality of Opportunity in the Civil Service for Disabled People". The amendment that we are now debating covers a very much wider range of bodies on which I do not believe it would make any sense to impose such a uniform approach.
The noble Baroness asked me about the disability symbol, something with which, I have to say, I am familiar from my earlier days in the Department of Employment and for which I am most honoured, in returning to the department, to reacquire responsibility. I can tell the noble Baroness that the code of practice which is to be brought forward under the Bill will obviously encourage employers to introduce a wide range of good practices including monitoring the number of disabled people whom they employ. We hope that many employers will look to establish such systems as the code may recommend.
The disability symbol is increasingly being used by employers; indeed, I understand that the figure stands at over 1,400 at present. When I left the department a little over a year ago, a mere 900 employers were involved. Therefore, we have seen quite a dramatic increase over the year. That gives some indication of those employers who have made a positive commitment towards employing disabled people. I can give the noble Baroness an assurance that I shall certainly be doing my bitas indeed will the Employment Service and the department as a wholeto encourage employers to continue to use the symbol and to continue to develop policies so that they can acquire it. Obviously the commitment made by employers who use the symbol will need a degree of review in the light of the provisions in the legislation. However, any requirement for monitoring will continue to be voluntary.
The amendment would impose a bureaucratic and rigid monitoring system which would be unable to take account of the different needs, circumstances and requirements of those bodies that it would affect. As I have made pretty clear, the Government accept the case for encouraging employersmost certainly encouraging those in the public sectorto monitor the numbers of people with disabilities whom they employ. We believe
As the noble Baroness will be aware, we will be bringing forward the code of practice under powers laid down in the Bill. It will encourage employers to implement a variety of good practices, including monitoring the numbers of disabled people they employ. But its guidance on monitoring will set it firmly in the context of employers' own policies on disability. Information gathered by employers will be of value only if it suits the needs and circumstances of the individual employer and his employees.
I believe that a prescriptive system, such as that proposed in the amendment, would be inflexible and that, frankly, the results would be questionable. With that explanation, I hope the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment on this second occasion.
Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and for responding to the two particular questions that I put to him. I am alsoI hope, rightlyassured. The noble Lord said that when he left the department 900 companies were registered and that a year later the figure had risen to 1,400. Well, if the Minister is committed, let us hope that that record will be doubled over the next year. I would certainly suggest that the code of practice and its content may or may not be an encouragement for such numbers to rise. Therefore, we shall be watching the progress of the code of practice closely.
The Minister said that collecting numbers is no use if the employer is not committed. However, I suggest that, if the employer is not committed and numbers are not collected, that would lead to an even worse situation because you cannot assess where you are or consider the policy which is applicable.
I thank the noble Lords, Lord Campbell of Croy and Lord Addington, for their support. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, is particularly exercised by the concern that disabled persons have as regards registering. He made that point on a previous occasion and I have reflected on it. I believe that is not just an indication of the way they believe that employers will view them but also an indication of the way that people with disabilities believe that everyone in the community views them as individuals. Obviously I am disappointed with the response. I have no regrets at all for having brought this measure forward a second time. I hope that the Minister will take note of the desire on this side of the House that there should be proper statistics on this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.