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Volume 547: debated on Monday 25 June 2012

Within the commercial process Remploy has encouraged any proposals for the businesses, including bids that are social enterprise models. I, and DWP officials, have met social enterprise organisations, and I have also announced that funding of up to £10,000 is available to support employee-led proposals, including social enterprises. That money can be used for expert advice and support, including legal and accountancy support.

Many social enterprises feel as though they have been totally excluded from the consultation at Remploy. The consultation period has been an utter shambles; it has been chaos and confusion from day one. As a result, will the Minister consider restarting the consultation period in the best interests of the disabled people at Remploy?

The hon. Gentleman and I have a shared objective of wanting to make sure that we work together with people affected by these announcements, and I do not think he would want to create any situation where we had to continue with this period of uncertainty for any longer than we already have. He is wrong to say that we should rerun this consultation; it is going forward in the way that it should. We have received 65 expressions of interest for Remploy businesses, and I am looking forward to working with those individuals and those organisations to see how many of those bids we can take forward.

Will the Minister advise the House as to how many organisations have been consulted so far and how many people were involved in that consultation?

The process that we have been undertaking involves all the individuals affected by the announcements that we have made. I have made it plain to the Remploy board that communication through this period of 90 days is very important; we have put a great deal of emphasis on that. Under the previous Administration, 29 factories were closed and none of them was taken forward outside Government control, whereas we are working hard and we have received 65 expressions of interest for Remploy businesses to move outside Government control. The House should welcome that.

Does the Minister recall that the Sayce review stated clearly that there was “total consensus” among disabled charities and organisations that Remploy factories were

“not a model for the 21st century”?

Does the Minister agree that placing a concrete cap on the aspirations of disabled people, as some Labour Members wish to do, is morally wrong?

I have to applaud my hon. Friend for saying things that Labour Members sometimes do not agree with. He is very courageous in that. The Government have set out their commitment to equality. It would not be right for us to see an increase in the amount of money being spent on segregated employment if we have equality at the centre of our thoughts—and we do.