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Lord Gladwin of Clee: The Minister did say "additional", did he not? The anxiety is that by doing what the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, suggested earlier and by opening it up and becoming more flexible, there will be no more money and the current providers, such as Remploy and the other sheltered workshops, will wither on the vine. That is the fear. I want to be absolutely clear that the Minister is saying that that is not the intention and that the intention is to have more funding for more places for the severely disabled. If that is the case, we are on board.

Lord Inglewood: I think that the noble Lord has jumped further than we have. At this stage, all that the Government are seeking to do is to acquire the power to be able to do that. There is a considerable amount of consultation to be done before anything actually happens. I cannot give a commitment about funding levels some time in the future. It would be unrealistic to do so. If noble Lords opposite were in the same position as I am and at this Dispatch Box, they would not do that either. As I have said, we are committed to the scheme and to trying to provide the best form of placement that we can. We believe that it could be the case that something along the lines of what I have described could assist disabled people, which, after all, is the purpose of the Bill. We seek that power and, as I have explained, before we exercise that power we shall

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consult to try to identify (with a greater degree of precision than I have been able to do this evening) what we have it in mind to do.

Lord McCarthy: With great respect, surely the Minister could at least say whether it is the Government's present policy and intention to run down the subsidies for Remploy.

Lord Inglewood: As I said, we are committed to Remploy. There is no policy of deliberately running down Remploy or of deliberately promoting Remploy. The positive policy is to try to ensure that the best provision and the most cost-effective provision can be provided for as many severely disabled people as possible. As I explained, there are a number of ways of doing that and we wish to have a portfolio of options in our pocket so that we can do what is best for people.

Baroness Seear: I should like to get this point quite clear because it is very important. If there are to be new opportunities in the private sector, helped by Government funding which I understand is the idea, will that mean less money for Remploy or is that to be in addition to the money that already goes into Remploy? That is the crux of it. If it is additional money, we are all for it.

Lord Inglewood: We are talking about some time ahead and, as I explained earlier, I am not in a position to give or to talk figures. We do not even know yet exactly what we are going to do. We have to reserve our position in order to be able to do what we consider to be the best for the various people concerned. I do not want to say things which will subsequently be played back at me—albeit that I may do so with the best intent in the world.

Lord Gladwin of Clee: I am sorry to be persistent, but the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, said on Second Reading:


    "As regards profit-distributing organisations, we are committed to the supported employment programme which provides jobs for nearly 21,000 severely disabled people. The new power will enable us to fund supported employment in dividend-distributing bodies".—[Official Report, 22/5/95; col. 888.]

That is the new element. All that I and my colleagues are asking is whether the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, in saying that, meant that as well as supporting Remploy and as well as the 21,000 jobs that already exist, the intention is (for the flexible reason that is described in a later paragraph in Hansard) to provide more. That is the worry. That is what is concerning a lot of people not only from Remploy but many other people in sheltered employment. For people who cannot get jobs in the open market and who need sheltered employment, the question is whether it is the Government's intention (in line with the philosophy behind this legislation) to increase the number of opportunities. It is a simple question.

Lord Inglewood: I have nothing to add to what I said earlier, but let me try to explain it slightly differently. Remploy remains an integral part of the supported employment programme. The Government's continued commitment to the company is demonstrated by the £94.2 million that will be allocated this year to

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compensate for the cost of employing severely disabled people. As the Committee will be aware, that represents about 60 per cent. of the Government's total allocation to the supported employment programme of over £153 million. Furthermore, spending plans for the supported employment programme, including Remploy, are already published in the report of the Department of Employment. They show that we propose to maintain funding for Remploy throughout the planning period to April 1988. That date is stipulated because it is the current timescale for the Government and the departments' public expenditure bids.

I return to the point I made earlier. In the foreseeable future, the position is clear, and I have explained it. But what happens beyond that must inevitably depend upon the circumstances at the time. When faced with the circumstance of that time, we want to be able to respond with the maximum flexibility. I cannot see anything contentious in that approach, even if one disagrees about the particularity of some of the detail.

I should like to touch briefly on matters to do with quota. It has been agreed on all sides of the Chamber that the scheme is not working as originally intended. There may have been varying degrees of support for it, depending upon an analysis of how effective people felt it to be. It is not working as it should have done, and that has been recognised. It is impossible for all employers to meet the 3 per cent. quota because only a third of those in the workforce who are eligible to register do so. That point has been touched on, but perhaps the logic of the position was not spelt out. However, research indicates that employers would, on average, meet the quota if all those disabled people, who were eligible to do so, registered.

In its recent report on the operation of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944, the Employment Select Committee described quota as a system which classes disabled people as a problem. I agree with that description. Quota sends, in our view, an entirely wrong signal to employers about the abilities of people with disabilities. In effect, it is saying, "Here is a group of people who are unable to get work by their own efforts. You, the employer, must therefore reserve a proportion of jobs for them." That is patronising. We should therefore take the opportunity provided by the introduction of the new right not to be discriminated against in employment to repeal the quota scheme.

I know that it has been argued that we should perhaps retain the quota scheme for a time in tandem with the new employment right. That would be wrong. It would serve only to confuse employers and people with disabilities alike. If one looks at the two schemes, they represent two separate and different ways of dealing with the problem. Not only that; the quota scheme itself is not effective. It is narrow in scope. After all, it covers only recruitment and dismissal phases of employment. It places no duty on the employer to help employees in matters such as training, promotion, or adapting jobs so that individuals can cope better with them. It entails criminal offences which we believe to be inappropriate in today's employment situation. It has no effective provision for a disabled person to be compensated or reinstated.

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We believe that quota is a poor second best to the new rights we want to introduce. Moreover, it would sit oddly alongside them. I find it hard to reconcile the right not to be discriminated against—that is to say, being treated in the same way as other individuals—with the special treatment of jobs being allocated preferentially to people with disabilities and where a burden on the employer would be entailed in keeping both systems. In effect, employers would have to follow two incompatible management styles simultaneously. That cannot be right.

We believe that the quota scheme is outdated. I urge the Committee to replace it with something better, which is what the Bill does—something which focuses upon individuals rather than groups and which we believe will be more effective than quota in dealing with the type of employer mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ashley. At the end of the day, we are talking about individuals who are disabled. It will be poor consolation to a particular person under those circumstances if an employer says to him, "I have met my target. It doesn't matter any more, does it?"

The point about our approach is that it is necessary to deal with each individual as an individual, taking into account his or her particular disability problems.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Would the Minister care to comment on a case of someone seeking employment as a teacher who begins to suspect that he or she is not being shortlisted whereas other people with similar qualifications are? If that person takes action because of a feeing that he or she is being discriminated against, the person will not obtain a job in the locality if it is a fairly small area in which to seek employment. Surely during the period of overlap we need the belt and the braces. The belt will provide that the school governors need to record the trends. With all the caveats and the recognition of what is happening, there is a need to record the trends. Far too many people may be hurt during the changeover period because of the Government's failure to recognise what is happening.


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