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Baroness Miller of Hendon: I would never pretend that the Minister is anything less than courteous when he corrects what he says is my mistaken view of the matter. However, I do not believe that I made a mistake. I believe that my interpretation of the situation is correct. However, I shall read carefully what the Minister has said. At this stage I shall withdraw the amendment but I shall probably return to it on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 119 not moved.]

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 120:

After Clause 44, insert the following new clause--

Exclusion of incapacitated persons and employment for therapeutic purposes

(" .--(1) The Secretary of State may, after consultation with the Low Pay Commission, make an order exempting incapacitated persons from the provisions of this Act.
(2) An order under subsection (1) above shall provide for the issue of permits by the Secretary of State to those persons whom he believes to be incapacitated and may make provision for--
(a) the procedure for applying for and issuing such permits;
(b) the procedure for establishing the minimum wage to which each permit holder shall be entitled (being less than the single hourly rate prescribed under section 1(3) of this Act);
(c) the appointment by the Secretary of State of suitably qualified persons to assess such applications; and
(d) the procedure for appealing against a refusal to issue such a permit.
(3) No person shall be guilty of an offence under this Act in respect of an employee who holds a permit issued in accordance with an order made under this section.
(4) For the purposes of this section, a person is incapacitated if he is so affected by physical injury or mental deficiency or infirmity due to age or any other cause as to be incapable of earning the national minimum wage.
(5) A person whose employment is primarily undertaken for the purpose of therapy and whose employer is a non-profit-making organisation does not qualify for the national minimum wage in respect of that employment.").

The noble Baroness said: Clause 44 of this Bill, which deals with voluntary workers, was numbered Clause 41 when it was discussed in Committee in another place. It was a bare 10 lines long. After debate in Committee the Minister of State properly said,

    "It is important that the Government reflect ... and that we ensure that our proposals take into account the complexities of the issue".
The result of that further reflection was the present Clause 44, which is now some 47 lines long and deals more fully with voluntary workers and those persons

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and organisations they help. In the light of the reasonable way that the Government have dealt with this kind of problem, it seems churlish to point out that there are still two serious omissions which must be dealt with.

First, I refer to severely incapacitated persons and, secondly, to persons carrying out therapeutic work while in the employment of a non-profit-making organisation. I shall deal with the proposed exemption of severely incapacitated persons in the proposed new subsections (1) to (4) of my amendment. I believe these provisions speak for themselves and need no explanation. I should like to think they are acceptable to the Government without argument because the party opposite claims to be the party that cares, particularly for the sick and for the infirm.

These four proposed new subsections have been carefully drafted so as not to constitute a licence to unscrupulous employers to exploit vulnerable persons by paying them too little. The Committee will notice that the proposed new subsection (2) provides for the Secretary of State to lay down procedures for the exemptions that I seek. I stress that there will be no blanket exemptions. Each case will be decided on its merits after an individual application has been made and will be granted only after the approval of a suitably qualified assessor. I assume this would normally be a doctor, as is the case with regard to claims for disability allowances. But, again, the Secretary of State will have discretion here.

I have already suggested that I should have thought this part of my amendment would be acceptable to the Government without argument. However, I have been given no indication that the Government will accept it. Therefore I point out what I believe to be the implications of a refusal. We all realise that unfortunately and regrettably there are many persons whose disabilities make it difficult for them to obtain employment. These people want to work as best they are able. They do not merely wish to earn money or to have some occupation. It is even more important to them to enjoy some measure of independence and a feeling of self-reliance and self-respect.

I quote from a paper published a few weeks ago by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an organisation whose views the Government usually approve. The paper states,

    "Disabled people may have been affected by a much wider and systematic shift in employment patterns. As the supply of labour has expanded faster than demand, employers have become more selective in their choice of staff. Marginal workers such as disabled people have been excluded ... Preliminary evidence suggests that very few found a job".
I believe this refers to those who lost incapacity benefit after the rules were tightened up.

The Low Pay Commission in table 3.1 of its report states that,

    "16 per cent. of the long-term disabled currently earn less than £3.50 an hour".

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In its evidence to the Low Pay Commission the Royal National Institute for the Blind stated, on page 39,

    "Blind and partially sighted persons face bleak prospects in employment ... Significantly, blind and partially sighted people are concentrated in lower paying, semi-skilled and routine manual occupations ... Many blind and partially sighted people are therefore caught in poverty even when they are in work".
I do not doubt that the same difficulties in obtaining work, discrimination in the workplace and low pay affect persons with other disabilities. It is simplistic to suggest that the solution to their problems will be to increase their pay entitlement. On the contrary, we believe that such action would increase their problems. It would make employers even less inclined to employ disabled people so long as they can employ able-bodied persons to do the same work for the same pay, possibly at a higher rate of productivity.

What are the implications of a refusal by the Government to allow such persons the opportunity to go to work and to earn their own money after the most stringent inquiry into their individual circumstances as set out in the proposed new subsection (2)(c) of my amendment? The implications are that the Government, in pursuit of their policy of universality, will tell those people, "You may not work. You must simply live on government hand-outs in the form of disability allowances". Convicts will be allowed to work for less than the national minimum wage but not honest people who have committed the crime of being disabled. I cannot believe that the Government could reject an amendment with such important social implications.

I now turn to the part of the amendment which deals with work carried out for therapeutic purposes. We are all familiar with the British Legion's poppy factory and with various forms of work carried out in workshops of the Royal National Institute for the Blind. I have no idea what these and similar organisations pay their workers but I am sure that they are as generous as they are able to be and may well already pay more than the wildest estimates of what the national minimum wage will be. The principal purpose of this kind of work is not to earn money for the organisation or necessarily to pay a living wage to the employee. It is to help the employee--who is suffering from some form of disability, including, for example, the loss of sight or of a limb, or some mental incapacity--to enjoy the dignity of following some useful occupation or simply to enable the employee gradually to recover a lost faculty.

I recently paid a visit to community housing for people of a whole range of ages with learning disabilities. They run a pottery shop producing the most amazing range of vases, bowls and so on. I was presented with a beautiful vase as a souvenir of my visit. The person who made the vase had the benefit of passing time doing a practical job while at the same time having the satisfaction of knowing that he was doing something worth while. The person concerned receives full board and lodging, nursing and training, and receives a small personal allowance. He would receive the same even if he were capable of doing only very little, or indeed nothing. It cannot be right that such work should be treated as employment for the purposes

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of this Bill, or that a charity, which has to scramble for every penny, should be forced to make a commercial payment for providing what is, after all, treatment for someone who is a long-term or probably permanent patient.

There are enough problems with this Bill, because the Government have a rigid, unbending desire to achieve universality. However, the Government have to make the concession that we seek simply to prevent what they see as an injustice to low-paid workers being replaced with another injustice to persons whose needs are no less important. I beg to move.

Viscount Bridgeman: In supporting my noble friend's amendment, I must apologise for not being able to be in my place at the beginning of the debate. I understand the desire of the Government to have as great a degree of universality as possible in the Bill. However, there have been exceptions. My noble friend referred to prisoners and share fishermen, and there are other special pleas. Surely this is a worthwhile exception.

My noble friend reminded the Committee that under Clause 2 there are safeguards for disabled people. Employers, however lofty their motives, will in some cases be discouraged from taking on people from whom, through no fault of theirs, they cannot achieve the same degree of profitability as from fit people. I very much hope that the Minister will give careful consideration to this very reasonable amendment.

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