To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he intends to change the 3 per cent. quota provision for the employment of disabled people.
All aspects of the quota scheme are being considered in the review of services to people with disabilities which my Department is undertaking. We expect to publish next month the consultative document giving the results of the review.
Is the Minister aware that 250,000 disabled people who are able to work and available for work have no jobs? That is not because of the failure of the quota system, but because of the Government's failure to enforce it. Will the Minister study the West German system which imposes a 6 per cent. quota and a levy on employers who evade it? Will he stop making excuses about disabled people not being available and follow the West German example?
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the consultative document will discuss, among other things, the quota system. Registration as a disabled person is voluntary, and only 1 per cent. of the work force have registered as disabled. So, by definition, it is not possible to meet the 3 per cent. quota. That will be explored in the document and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will wish to contribute to the discussion that follows its publication.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the ability of the disabled to take up the available jobs is as important as the quota? Does he agree that the employment premium for the disabled will be of enormous help, but that training is vital? Training for the disabled often involves a greater ratio of trainer to trainee than for the rest of the population. Will my hon. Friend ensure that that is taken into account when considering training for the disabled?
That is being and will be taken into account. That is also the reason why the Government consider it especially important to provide special aids to employment to get people into employment in normal workplaces. That has the general support of the community.
Does the Minister accept that the fact that there may be weaknesses in the present quota system is not an argument for doing away with it altogether, but an argument for overcoming the weaknesses to ensure that disabled people are helped into employment? In that context, will he ensure that as the training and enterprise council system develops, enough money is earmarked for the needs of disabled people so that they can have adequate training without any negative effect on the targets set for those running TECs?
We very much look forward to the hon. Gentleman's comments on the consultative document on issues such as those he has outlined. I am sure that they can be explored within the context of the document. There are many different views and it is important that we move towards a better understanding of the arguments on every side. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I know from my discussions with many TEC directors that they take their responsibilities for the disabled very seriously, and that is recognised in the contracts signed with the TECs that have gone operational.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that as the number of registered disabled people has declined in recent years, the number of disabled people obtaining work has increased? Will he say whether during his current inquiries he has examined the ability of Government Departments to meet the quota figure?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have been fairly successful recently in helping people with disabilities into jobs. Last year, for example, 77,000 people with disabilities were helped by jobcentres to find jobs, and that compares with 66,000 three years ago. On Government Departments, I assure my hon. Friend that my Department tries hard to recruit and employ disabled people; 2·7 per cent. of the Department's employees are disabled.
To return to training for the disabled, if the Minister is telling the House that the Government intend to maintain the quality and the guarantees, why did the Spastics Society recently withdraw from the employment training scheme because of underfunding and why are Share Community and Lambeth Accord likely to follow suit? If such providers are lost, where are the guarantees and the quality of training, and who will train the disabled?
There was an increase in expenditure on helping the disabled from £220 million in 1986–87 to £350 million in 1988–89—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman should listen to the facts. Participation in training courses increased from 11,800 in 1983–84 to more than 19,000 last year. That is the record.