I beg to move. That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill amends the 1944 Disabled Persons (Employment) Act. It arises from the Piercy Committee on the Rehabilitation Training and Resettlement of Disabled Persons, which was appointed in 1953 and reported in 1956. The purpose of the Bill is to implement the few recommendations of the Committee which are concerned with employment and which also require legislation for their implementation.
It is quite a small Bill. In a sense it is a minor Bill, but that should be a cause for satisfaction and congratulation, and not for any other emotion. The reason it is a small Bill is that the Piercy Committee, having exhaustively examined the whole field of our services for the disabled, came to the conclusion that the statutory framework was basically satisfactory and needed little, if any, amendment. To use its own words, the Committee's recommendations centre upon a more effective use of the services, and their interweaving, so that full advantage can be taken of them. In the sphere of employment for the disabled the Committee recorded its view that the existing services are comprehensive and well established, needing little change or development.
Although it is a small Bill we should regard it as another welcome landmark in our progress in the service of disabled people. That is a service in which, as we have developed it, we can justly take pride. The Bill is a further step in following up the tradition that we have established that the best service that we can render disabled people is to find them work—not to give them other help, but to enable them to participate in the full life of the community and earn their own living by means of their own resources and their self-reliance.
I want to explain as briefly as I can the main contents of the Bill. Clause 1 is concerned with industrial rehabilitation and vocational training. It changes the minimum age at which boys and girls can become eligible for rehabilitation and training courses. At present the age laid down is sixteen, and there is therefore a gap between the normal school leaving age of boys and girls and the age at which they can be given these courses. The Clause amends Sections 2 and 3 of the 1944 Act, which lay down the age of sixteen, and substitutes for it the school leaving age. If the Bill becomes an Act the benefit of training and rehabilitation courses will be available for boys and girls immediately upon leaving school.
We do not expect that this will take in many people at the moment, but even if there are not very many the ability to provide these courses immediately upon leaving school will be a valuable help. I am sure that the House will agree that the Clause serves a useful purpose in providing this service.
Clause 2 deals with the registration of disabled persons and makes two small changes in the present scheme. Under the 1944 Act the disability must be expected to last for at least six months if the person is to be eligible for registration. The Piercy Committee thought that that was too short a period and that someone who was disabled for only six months did not really suffer a sufficiently substantial handicap to justify registration. It suggested that the minimum period should be raised from six months to one year. Subsection (1) amends Section 7 of the 1944 Act accordingly. If the Bill becomes law it will be necessary for the disablement of a man or woman to be expected to last for a minimum of twelve months before he or she qualifies for registration.
We cannot say how many people will be affected by the Bill. All we know is that at the moment a doctor merely says, "This disablement will last for more than six months" and does not have to specify any period. From inquiries we have made we do not believe that many people will be affected, and in any case we agree with the Piercy Committee that this is a right change to make. Under this clause the new minimum period of expected disability will become the same as the minimum period for which registration can last, and to that extent it will be more logical and tidy than the present arrangement.
The second change dealt with in subsection (2) is another minor one, which clears up an existing anomaly. A characteristic feature of our system of registration is that it is voluntary; no disabled person can be compelled to register. At the moment the rather extraordinary position exists, however, that, while the act of registration is voluntary, once a person is on the register he cannot voluntarily withdraw himself from it. We see no reason for that; nor did the Committee. We think that this anomaly should be cleared away, and the subsection accordingly makes it possible for a person to have his name removed from the register upon his or her written request.
Clause 3 contains the main provisions, and has to be read in conjunction with the Schedule. I am afraid that the Clause, and especially the Schedule, must appear to the House to be extremely complicated. The object is quite simple. The length and intricacy of the wording may make it appear as if we wanted to move mountains, but in fact all that we want to move are the relevant powers and duties of local authorities, from the Statutes under which they are held at present to the Bill, thereby placing them under the formal supervision of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour instead of the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Clause 3 and the Schedule make no material change in the nature or extent of the powers and duties which are now in the hands of local authorities. I am assured that this simple operation could not have been carried out in any less complicated manner, although I wish that it could have been, for the sake of the House—and, indeed, for my own sake in trying to explain the ramifications of the Clause and the accompanying Schedule.
The best way to explain the Clause is to remind the House of the powers and duties of local authorities that we are transferring from the jurisdiction of the two present Departments to that of the Ministry of Labour. These powers and duties fall into two categories. The first are contained in the welfare provisions of the National Assistance Act, 1948, under which local authorities have permissive powers to provide for the welfare of all categories of severely disabled persons.
In this sense "welfare" can include the provision of sheltered employment. So far these permissive powers have been little used in connection with sheltered employment. In respect of one important category of disabled people—namely, the blind—the powers of which I have spoken are not permissive, they are obligatory by virtue of directions given to the local authorities by the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland under the National Assistance Act. The arrangements made by local authorities in the fulfilment of their duties to provide for the welfare of the blind include provision of sheltered employment in workshops for the blind.
The second category of local authorities' powers falls under the after-care provisions of the National Health Service Acts. Under these, local health authorities have a general duty to provide for the after-care of the tuberculous. As part of this provision, a few local authorities in England have established sheltered workshops for tuberculous disabled, although there is no statutory obligation upon them to do so. Those are the categories, powers and duties of local authorities which we are transferring from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and the Scottish Office to that of the Minister of Labour and National Service by this Bill.
When reviewing the present arrangements the Piercy Committee emphasised the need to draw a clear distinction between those disabled who are capable of some form of remunerative employment and those who are not capable of gainful employment. The Committee recommended that the power of local authorities to provide sheltered employment for the former class—whether in workshops or in the home, whether for the blind or the sighted—should be separated from their welfare and after-care powers.
The Committee recommended that these sheltered employment powers should be transferred to the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act and exercised in future under the statutory guidance of the Minister of Labour and National Service. The Committee also recommended that the provision of sheltered employment for the blind should continue to be the duty of local authorities but that in future these powers also should be given to them under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act. That is what is done in effect by paragraph 3 and the Schedule.
Bearing in mind the clear distinction to which I referred a moment ago, the Piercy Committee recommended that those who are so severely disabled as to be out of the employment field and capable only of diversionary work should continue to be dealt with, as at present under the welfare provisions of the National Assistance Act and the National Health Service Acts. Therefore, in transferring the sheltered employment powers, as we are doing in this Bill, we had, as it were, to disentangle them from the general welfare powers as they at present exist. This new separation of statutory responsibility for welfare and sheltered employment is one of the reasons why Clause 3 and the Schedule are so long and complicated. I thought that the House was entitled to some explanation of this length and complication of wording to achieve a relatively simple purpose.
Having tried to explain the background, I should like to outline the way in which Clause 3 and the Schedule achieve this object. Subsection (1) gives all local authorities power to provide sheltered employment and training for severely disabled people—the Section II cases as we know them—registered under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, 1944. It also gives my right hon. Friend the power of direction similar to that which the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland now have under Section 29 of the National Assistance Act.
Subsection (2) cancels the existing powers of local authorities under the National Assistance and the National Health Service Acts so far as they are replaced by the new powers given them under subsection (1). Subsection (3) gives the Minister of Labour responsibility for the general guidance of local authorities in the exercise of these powers and requires local authorities to exercise them in accordance with the statutory schemes in the same way as they have to do now under the National Assistance Act.
Subsection (4) applies and adapts for the purposes of this Bill a number of provisions in the National Assistance Act, details of which are set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Schedule. Subsection (4) must definitely be read in conjunction with the first two paragraphs of the Schedule. Here the object is to secure that when the powers to provide sheltered employment have been transferred, they will still be subject to the same regulation as before in matters such as the statutory procedure for the submission and approval of schemes; the making of regulations by the Minister and the exercise of default powers by the Minister if any local authority fails to discharge its functions.
Subsection (6) provides for the whole of Clause 3 to come into force on 1st January next year, thus allowing time for discussion with the local authorities concerned and for other administrative arrangements which have to be made before the provisions of the Clause can be implemented. It was obviously necessary in the carrying out of this transfer of powers to preserve the validity of existing schemes of local authorities approved under the existing law, and also to ensure, in accordance with the recommendations of the Piercy Committee, that the duty of providing sheltered employment for the blind should continue to rest with the local authorities. These and other transitional provisions are provided for in paragraph 3 of the Schedule.
I hope that I have given the House some idea of the scope and purpose of Clause 3 and the Schedule and shown where they are inter-related.
There is one point about the effect of the provisions of Clause 3 to which I wish to refer; and that is the financial effect on local authorities. I wish to make clear that with one exception, which I will mention, the provisions do not affect the present arrangements for the payment of grants to local authorities which are providing these services. The reason is that the Ministry of Labour and National Service already provides financial assistance for these services under the 1944 Act, and will continue to do so on the same basis in the future.
The one exception concerns the small number of workshops for the tuberculous disabled provided by a few local authorities in England under the National Health Service Acts. Here the position is a little complicated. Under the present arrangements, approved costs of training facilities in these workshops are already met by a grant from the Minister of Labour and National Service. Employment facilities in these workshops however are grant- aided by the Ministry of Health under the National Health Service Acts. In future, when this Bill is on the Statute Book, it will be the Ministry of Labour and National Service which will give grant aid for the employment as well as for the training facilities. We propose to give this aid on the same basis as that which we already use for other types of sheltered workshops.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the basis to be used for giving aid for employment facilities of sheltered workshops for the tuberculous is different from that used under the National Health Service Acts as at present operated for these workshops. This different basis may make some difference to the size of the grants. Until we have gone into the position in more detail than has been possible at the moment, I cannot attempt to forecast what this effect may be, but I wanted to draw attention to that point.
I hope that what I have said has proved a reasonably clear exposition of the purpose and contents of the Bill. If, as I expect they will, other points arise with which I have not dealt, perhaps I may ask for the leave of the House to reply to them shortly at the end of the debate. I thought it would be more convenient for the House if I did that and kept my remarks in moving the Second Reading mainly to the exposition of what is in the Bill.
May I conclude by repeating that this is a modest Bill, but this modesty is, I think, while not a ground for complacency, nevertheless a cause for some satisfaction in that it shows the completeness of our employment services for the disabled. It is also a tribute to those who laid the foundations of those services, particularly the late George Tomlinson. I think that all of us who are concerned in this matter could wish for nothing better than that one day we might achieve the name and reputation for helping the disabled which George Tomlinson achieved.
If this Bill concentrates only on streamlining the machinery and concentrating the authority in one place rather than on introducing any dramatic new policies, it will, I believe, make that machinery more efficient and so enable us over the years in a small but significant way to put still more power behind our effort to help the disabled. That is our purpose in bringing the Bill forward and it is with that purpose that I have moved its Second Reading.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman a question? I listened carefully to what he said, and if he answers this question it will probably avoid the necessity of my having to speak in the debate. The disabled person who is able to go into the sheltered workshops will be registered in future under the Ministry of Labour. Other disabled persons will be registered under the welfare scheme of the local authority, doing diversionary work. If such a person becomes proficient or well enough to go into a sheltered workshop, how will the transfer be effected?
I feel certain that one of the values of local authority work is that local authorities can link welfare with employment and therefore can bring people from the stage at which they are not up to Section II standard, up to that standard. I am sure that there is nothing in the Bill to stop that transfer and, if I have the opportunity to reply later to points which are made in the debate. I will deal with the point about the machinery. I will make inquiries about the machinery, but I am sorry that I have not the answer ready at the moment. I will try to deal with the point in detail.
I am glad that the hon. Member has raised that point. No doubt failing to mention it was an omission of mine in moving the Second Reading. Before we accepted the Piercy recommendations and before we drafted the Bill we had very close consultations with the local authorities.
I am expressing the feeling of my right hon. and hon. Friends when I say how grateful we are for the very warm tribute which the Parliamentary Secretary paid to a very beloved Member of this party who did such a great deal to bring forward the claims of the disabled. During the Parliamentary Secretary's speech the name of George Tomlinson constantly crossed one's mind, carrying one back to the time when he and the late Ernest Bevin did such wonderful work in what I call spreading the bounds of manpower during the war, when they discovered the high potentialities of disabled persons and made their employment and, indeed, their betterment much more effective.
If one were to follow the very pleasant tone of the Parliamentary Secretary, especially his opening sentences, one would have to sing a panegyric on the achievements of this country in the welfare of the disabled and other social fields. This might well be so. I yield to no one in my admiration of the work which has been done in this country and in our efforts on behalf of disabled persons. Having spent a lifetime in that work, I know very well the great advances which have been made during the last half-century. But I am sure that if we on this side of the House did that we should be led into a spirit of complacency which would serve the purpose neither of the debate nor of the Bill.
It would be idle of me to deny that we give only the most perfunctory welcome to the Bill. In the Gracious Speech of Her Majesty in opening Parliament on 5th November, we read:
A Rill will be introduced to improve the arrangements for the industrial rehabilitation, training and resettlement of disabled persons.
I, for one, read that sentence with a great deal of pleasure, anticipation and hope. We naturally hoped that the Government would put into effect the main recommendations of the Piercy Committee. May I remind the House that the Piercy Committee was set up at the instance of both the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health as long ago as 1953. It reported in November, 1956. One would have thought that by now a comprehensive Bill dealing with the main recommendations of the Piercy Committee would be before us, but even now one cannot discover the Government's attitude to these recommendations, except for the rather complacent acceptance by the Government that all is well. Many of us think that all is not as well as it ought to be
or as it could be. I hope that in time we shall be able to find out what is in the back of the Government's mind.
The Government have initiated no debate on the recommendations since the publication of the Piercy Committee's Report. We have not even debated an innocuous Motion asking us to take note of the Report. All we have had is a short discussion on the Adjournment Motion, opened in a very sympathetic manner, which we all appreciated very much, by the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) in June of last year, and a debate last December on a Private Member's Motion. The latter was a most fortuitous circumstance. It happened that I was able to move that Motion because I won the Ballot. It was the first time in my life I had ever won anything. It gave us the opportunity to discuss the implications of the Piercy Committee's proposals and the Government's proposals in respect of the welfare, rehabilitation and resettlement of disabled persons.
The Minister was good enough to remain in the Chamber throughout that debate. It was a long debate, which opened at 11 a.m. and continued until the Adjournment. It evoked a great deal of interest. One would have thought that the fact that the Minister was here and that the Parliamentary Secretary representing the Minister of Health was also here—and we are glad to see him again this evening—showed that in the House there was a tremendous interest in our disabled friends.
I am not saying that those debates were not valuable. I think they were valuable, but they did not disclose what was in the Government's mind or what were the Government's intentions in this wide field. I think that, five years after the setting up of the Piercy Committee, we should have been able to introduce a much more comprehensive Measure which would not only have consolidated these little tag ends which have been lying about for a long time—and I am all for tying up loose ends—but would have enabled us to debate the whole of the implications of the problems of the disabled.
There are those people who get hardly any real, direct services—not only rehabilitation, but resettlement services. In spite of the 1956 recommendations of the Piercy Committee, and those of the voluntary welfare societies, the local authorities and the Ministry's own advisory committees, all we get is this tidying-up Bill, dealing only with a few administrative problems, though those are, nevertheless, all the better for clarification.
We have a Bill of three Clauses and a Schedule. The Ministerial mountain has truly laboured and brought forth a little mouse—a three-legged one, with a long tail. We are entitled to know what are the Government's intentions. The local authorities want to know, and so do the hospital services and the voluntary societies. We want a Bill based on the whole purview taken by the Piercy Committee, and something that will remain the glory, as other Measures on the Statute Book have proved to be, of our welfare services.
I deplore the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary has taken for granted that conclusion of the Piercy Committee which, in effect, said, "All is well. All you need do now is to put a few odd phrases in the Statute—make these amendments." The Committee's recommendations are wide-ranging, and although one would not expect the Government to accept them all—I differ from many of them myself—they do form the basis of valuable development and reform. One has only to read through the chapter headings of the Report to see how much can be done, and how much further we can go.
Some of the recommendations will need legislative action, in spite of what the hon. Gentleman has said. We should like to see definite plans for the extension of these services, with mandatory powers given to local authorities—
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. He knows that he and I think very much alike on this, but can he tell me what recommendations need legislation? I do not know of any.
And that can only be done through legislative action. If it requires statutory implementation, let us have the Statute, but why, so long after the National Assistance Act of 1948, are most of the welfare Sections still only permissive? It is due, I suppose, to the fact that the local authorities will not do this work unless they get the money, and unless there are grants for these welfare services we cannot compel local authorities to undertake these obligations. That is one matter to which the Government should address themselves at once.
Recommendation 12 of the Piercy Committee stresses that as strongly as it is possible for anybody to stress anything. It says:
It therefore recommends that local authorities should be grant aided by the Exchequer in their expenditure on services provided by them under Section 29 of the National Assistance Act. Any such grant should be available without distinction between the type of disabled person or of services concerned, but the rate of grant would need to be calculated having regard to the extent to which services have already been provided in some fields.
It is a sad fact that, today, 30 per cent. of the local authorities have not submitted schemes under the National Assistance Act, and part of the scheme in that Act is to be taken over by this new Bill.
This is not the time to make anything like an exhaustive examination of the omissions from the Bill. We can only hope for something much more tangible later one. I should have liked to have seen a tightening up on quota regulations. We need something much more drastic. During our debate last December we found, to our horror, that one of the great national boards was employing less than the 3 per cent. quota, Clause 2 might do something in that respect, because it makes registration available only to those whose disability is likely to last for twelve Months. That will bring matters more into line with the statutory definition of the disabled contained in the National Assistance Act—"permanently and substantially disabled."
I do not say that employers would do it intentionally; but they have the excuse at present to take on a man with a slight disablement, who will be a very much more effective worker, perhaps, than one more seriously disabled. If the man can get rid of his disability in six months, there is the danger that his employer will still regard him as being on the quota. I think it a very good thing to extend registration only to those whose disability is likely to last for twelve months. There is a great deal more that could be done in the setting up of the industrial rehabilitation unit, and there is also the question of the disablement resettlement officers.
Clause 1 is quite valuable. It gets rid of the gap between school-leaving age and eligibility of the disabled lad or girl to go in for vocational and industrial training. That step is a very serious one in any young person's life. It is difficult enough for a lad with all his faculties, and brimming over with enthusiasm and health to take the big step from school into employment. It is very much more so for a disabled lad or girl. That gap of a year between school-leaving age and eligibility for the scheme can cause a good deal of frustration, and, indeed, apathy. It is quite possible for a boy, hanging about waiting to be absorbed into one of the units for training, to lose all hope and desire to better himself and to sit down, as it were, under his disability.
Turning to Clause 2, we agree that there is reason in the argument of the Piercy Committee, and I am glad that the Government have agreed with that recommendation as is shown by Clause 2. This has been discussed very fully and sympathetically, I think, in paragraph 161 of the Report, and one wonders why the Government did not follow this up by accepting the Committee's suggestion to extend the maximum registration period to more than five years. If a man has lost an arm, or has had a leg taken off, or is blind, there is not much possibility of his getting better in five, twenty or a hundred years' time.
I know that one of the answers is that it keeps the man on the live register all the time, and that, otherwise, the statistics might get distorted. However, that is only a minor point, after all. The permission given to a man to remove his name is sensible. A man whose name is on the register may feel that he would like it to be taken off. Perhaps he could get a better job, or the fact that he is on the register may be a hindrance to his marriage prospects. I dare say that a good many girls would turn up their noses at a fellow whose name is on the disabled register.
What we must do is to ensure that the quota system is not abused by keeping persons on the register within the quota and at the same time keeping them in full employment.
Clause 3, as the Parliamentary Secretary has explained lucidly, is the important Clause in this very small compendium of Clauses. I think it is a good one. I can well remember, when we discussed the welfare Clauses of the National Assistance Bill, that there was this chance of the duality of responsibility and, indeed, of function between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour and National Service with respect to the sheltered workshop.
There is some doubt in my mind how far Clause 3 (1) of this Bill makes the provision of sheltered workshops by a local authority mandatory. At present I imagine that the welfare provisions are permissive, except with regard to blind persons, of course. I should like them to be mandatory. Perhaps the Minister will explain and clarify the position.
We know that this Clause is the result of recommendations 27 and 28 of the Piercy Committee. There follows, particularly in the synopsis of the recommendations, a warning about augmentation, and I hope that under the new régime there will not be too rigid a test or standard of attainment before men are accepted into sheltered workshops. It is of the highest value to a man, whatever his earning capacity, that he shall be able to work with his friends and be able to earn money. There is nothing more stimulating. It has a high therapeutic and psychological value, and I am afraid that the recommendations of the Piercy Committee in this respect go much further than is necessary.
We know very well that people do not like paying money in augmentation, and I do not suppose that the disabled person likes to feel that he cannot earn as much as anybody else. But if we are putting these men back, taking them out of sheltered workshops and putting them into the lower or easier form of manual work, such as making fancy articles and things which are not factory-produced, we are lowering their morale and their desire to do better things.
I repeat that we on this side of the House would like an opportunity to have a full-scale debate on all the recommendations of the Piercy Committee. I am sure that as a result of such a debate the Government would find a great deal more that they could do in this field. For what this Bill is worth, we on this side of the House wish it well.
My first note was to thank the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) for having initiated the debate in this House last December, and I do so in spite of the very ungenerous and, to some extent, inaccurate speech which he has made today. I still feel that we are indebted to him for having raised this subject and given us the opportunity of a five-hour debate last December following the previous debate in the same year. When we count the two or three hours of this debate, Parliament will within twelve months have given a good deal of time to this subject.
For the hon. Member to say that the Government should have allowed a day for a debate on this subject is out of proportion and is an uncalled for criticism. I do not believe there is any substance in the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that were Parliament to debate this matter for another eight hours, all kinds of things would appear from the Piercy Report or from the minds of hon. Members which would suggest deeper or better legislation than the present. That is simply not the case.
I did not suggest that there should be a full day's debate. I suggested that the Government should give us some time to discuss all the implications of the Piercy Committee's Report. One could discuss the Piercy Committee's Report for a long time and it would have a very educative effect on the general public as well.
I will confine myself to my original intention to thank the hon.
Member for Lowestoft for having initiated the debate last December which lasted five hours and which gave us such a fine opportunity to discuss the admirable recommendations of the Piercy Report.
There are all sorts of things which we can still do for disabled people, but Britatin can be proud of the way in which during the last fifty years she has looked after disabled people. I will not make invidious distinctions by citing other countries, but there are countries—many fully-developed, civilised and rich countries—which do not do as well as we in Britain have done.
This movement started in the voluntary agencies in this country before the First World War—as far as the blind are concerned, in a Resolution of this House as long ago as 1914—and after the war in the development of St. Dunstan's and Lord Roberts' workshops, as well as the voluntary scheme for finding preferential employment for disabled ex-Service men and in many other schemes. This movement was then given the impetus of Parliamentary power and influence by the Blind Persons Act, 1920, and the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, 1944.
I think, looking back, that it is right that we should praise the promoters of those Acts for having started a way of thought about disabled people which, during the last thirty or forty years, has borne fruit in such a great variety of directions. The 1944 Act was the child of Mr. Ernest Bevin. I was in the House at the time it was passed. I well remember the earnestness and keenness with which he and his Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Tomlinson, brought those proposals to the House. They worked very well. The suggestion of the hon. Gentleman that this Bill is only a meagre effort and therefore to be received with, I think he said reluctance—
I think that, on the contrary, it is a testimony to Mr. Ernest Bevin and those of that day, in all quarters of the House, that the Act has worked so well and that there is not left any large statutory Measure which could be taken to help the disabled. It does not follow that there is not much to do for them, but it can be done with existing legislation brought up to date and made more streamlined with this small Measure.
Not much is changed by this Measure, for the very good reason that the 1944 Measure and all that Ministers have done under it was, and is, so good. This is no pat on the back for this Government or any other Government, but for all hon. Members and, particularly, for the civil servants and staff who work the schemes at the lower level. There is, for instance, the obvious example of the sixteen-year provision, which is of great help in enabling children to go straight on without a gap.
The provision whereby persons shall not enter vocational training establishments or sheltered workshops unless or until it is certified that their disability is likely to last for twelve months has been justified by the Parliamentary Secretary on one ground, by the hon. Member for Lowestoft on another, and I want to justify it now on what I regard as an even more important ground. It is a profound mistake to start teaching anyone how to be blind or how to be disabled until one is absolutely sure that he really will be. The worst thing possible for any young person, or indeed, for any person is to be taught how to be blind or how to be disabled while there is still a very good chance that he will not be.
Many disabilities have very little effect indeed upon a man's capacity to carry on in an ordinary job in an ordinary way. For example, if a man happens to be a farm labourer, he can go on being a farm labourer until he is almost blind. All he needs to know is which end of the cow the milk comes from, and he needs a very small amount of sight for that.
He needs to see just enough for that; it is very obvious, is it not? If he is a railway engine driver, on the other hand, a vey small degree of disability puts him out of that particular job. It is good, therefore, that the best possible information should be had on the question whether a person really will be disabled for twelve months or for a substantial period of time—one must take some period of time—before he is sent off to be specially trained.
The assumption that disabled people are best cared for in sheltered workshops or in special conditions must not be exaggerated. I am glad to read that the Piercy Report itself says that the best thing for the disabled is to get them out of the sheltered workshops into ordinary industry. In this connection, I welcome the suggestion that the Ministry should take over the supervision of these vocational training establishments and sheltered workshops. The work will all come into one hand, a hand which has managed the care of the disabled very well for many years now, the hand of the Ministry of Labour and its successive Ministers and staff. I know that they will continue, as they have in the past, to impress upon those concerned with the training of the disabled and their employment in sheltered workshops that the best possible thing for the disabled is to get them out of the sheltered workshops as quickly as possible and into ordinary industry.
I have no particular criticism of the quota provisions. If there is here and there a corporation, company or employer which does not keep up to the obligations of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, there are plenty of powers which may be applied, without new legislation. It is simply a matter of putting down a Question calling attention to it, and gingering up the Minister of Labour, whoever he is, to see that the Act is carried out.
Let us remember that the success of the disabled persons legislation depends more upon the good will of thousands of employers, large and small, and of the trade unions, than it does upon any large measure of compulsion. Compulsion is there, but it would be a mistake for the Ministry of Labour to become a snooping policeman in this matter. It would very quickly undo some of the good will which has been such an important factor. It is not enough to compel people to employ the disabled. The best thing is to sell them the idea that the disabled can make extremely good servants and can work very well in the office, in the factory, or in other walks of life. It is by no means true that the severely disabled must look in vain for girls to marry them, as the hon. Member for Lowestoft suggested. Just as girls love a sailor, so one often finds that they love a disabled soldier or sailor, and it is not true to suggest that a disabled man will be bereft in that respect. Nor is it true that the severely disabled can be employed very seldom or rarely.
There are many very badly disabled people who can be, and are being, employed in open industry if the goodwill of the trade unions and the employers is sought; and it is sought. I know of a great many men, very severely disabled, who are employed in factories where, in order to help them along, most of the rules and customs of the trade unions are quietly blinked at or abandoned in their case. When redundancy comes, it is often the disabled man who is kept on, put on to some little out-of-the-way job by the shop steward or by the foreman so that he will still be there when better times come. We ought to be very grateful to employers, to the trade unions and to the men in the shops themselves for the way in which they give this help to disabled people and make a success of the 1944 Act.
There ought to be some liaison between the hospital and the sources of vocational training and employment. One of the recommendations of the Piercy Committee was to just that effect. The Minister did not touch on it, presumably because legislation is not required to provide for it.
I should have been aware of that, perhaps. The Piercy Committee stresses the importance of what it calls a joint conference between doctors, employers of labour and representatives of the trade unions, considering a man's case at the time when he comes out of hospital, discussing with him what he can do and how best he can be fitted in. The placing of disabled persons is an individual job, and the extent to which doctor, employer, and trade union official discuss with the man how he can best be placed, what he can still do, where one can find a round hole into which the round peg can fit, determines the degree of success one can achieve in the business of placing.
I should like to express my warm praise of what the Ministry of Labour has done since 1944, under all Ministers, and of what has been done in Remploy and the various vocational training establishments, whether voluntary or Governmental. The greatest encouragement should be given to them. I stress once again, however, that they should be used as means of getting disabled people into ordinary industry or ordinary jobs. That is where they are happiest, and that is where they can be most easily absorbed. As my final word, I repeat my thanks to employers and to the trade unions for the way they have helped in overcoming the difficulties of finding employment for disabled people.
The Bill is another indication of the realisation that society in general, through the State, has an increasing responsibility for the care and welfare of the disabled. Any Measure brought before the House which seeks to co-ordinate the work of Government Departments or to increase the power of local authorities or the Government in this respect should have general support. In so far as the Bill seeks to bring about a better system of co-ordination between Government Departments, it is welcomed. Reference has already been made to Clauses 1, 2 and 3, which are desirable and can be supported from this side of the House. However, the Bill touches only the very fringe of the problem. The Parliamentary Secretary rightly said that it is a modest Bill.
I join the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) in complimenting and thanking the voluntary organisations which have operated for many years to assist those who have been disabled as the result of war, in industry or from other causes. These organisations have performed yeoman service over the years. Similarly, in the education and training of handicapped and mentally deficient children many local authorities have in recent years done a good job of work. My own county council has done a great deal in that respect. These experiences have assisted the Ministry in dealing with the problems of the disabled. Particularly since 1941, when a number of Acts passed by this House have been administered, there has been a growing desire on the part of the community and hon.
Members to do all they can to assist the disabled in that way.
I compliment the medical men, the officials of the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health and all the others who throughout the years have done so much by way of treatment, rehabilitation and training for injured persons. Great advances have been made in treatment and rehabilitation; wonderful work has been done which has been of great assistance to disabled men, particularly those in industry. I join with other hon. Members in thanking the individuals and organisations which have done so much for many men who cannot help themselves.
If the rate of progress in the provision of suitable work for the disabled had been as great as that in respect of treatment and rehabilitation, I should feel a great deal more satisfied. My complaint about the Bill is that it does not go far enough in making some definite provision of suitable work for disabled men. If after all the treatment and rehabilitation a man cannot find a suitable job and cannot mix with his fellows at work, he becomes depressed and deteriorates and becomes hopelessly despairing.
I would call the attention of the Parliamentry Secretary to an inquiry into pneumoconiosis cases in South Wales some years ago. At Llandough the Medical Research Council examined hundreds of men disabled by pneumoconiosis. The object was to ascertain why the disease progressed so quickly in certain cases where it was only in the early stages. There was a certain amount of agitation. It was felt by many medical men that pneumoconiosis sufferers who were fit for light work could return to their employment. There was also the feeling on the part of some others that they should not do so because it might lead to a deterioration in their condition.
From this thorough examination of hundreds of men there emerged the fact, according to the information and advice which was tendered, that deterioration took place at a quicker rate when pneumoconiosis sufferers were not in employment. Although such men were to some extent exposed to dust on the surface or underground in certain conditions, it was found that on average their condition did not deteriorate to the same extent as that of pneumoconiosis suf- ferers who remained idle for a number of years. The outstanding feature of the examination was the discovery that men who remained unemployed suffered a greater worsening in their condition than men who had suitable employment in the industry. If a man is unemployed, his condition will deteriorate, he will lose interest and he will cease to take the interest in society, his work and the locality which he should do if he had employment.
The figures are alarming, and I cannot see how the problem can be properly dealt with by local authorities. There are about 50,000 disabled unemployed in the country at present, and of these 4,000 still require sheltered employment. That is a large number of disabled men. How can the local authorities, even under this modest Bill, cope with that problem? It may be that in certain parts of the country the number of unemployed is not very large, but in industrial areas, particularly South Wales, hundreds of men in one locality may be out of work. How can any local authorities, unless considerable financial assistance is provided, set up schemes to provide such men with suitable work?
They are not beyond employment. They are suitable for employment. Four thousand of them require sheltered employment, but the others are fit for other forms of light work.
This is not a local problem. It is a national one. How can local authorities, which are bound by rates and hamstrung by boundaries, hope to cope with a situation of this kind? They can be given assistance. I approve of the Bill if it will give additional power to local authorities to help them in this respect, but I do not want to deceive myself by thinking that if we pass the Bill we shall find employment for the thousands of men who are still disabled. The problem must be dealt with in a far more comprehensive way than is proposed.
The machine already exists to some extent. I think that, given the assistance, Remploy can do the job. Remploy has had wonderful experience in commercial activities and the training of men. It knows precisely to what extent disabled men can perform certain types of work. It has not been able to employ men to the extent that we desired. More could be done. It was originally planned that it should employ 12,000 persons. It at present has just over 6,000, which is a rather unsatisfactory state of affairs.
It must not be thought that Remploy can be run to make a profit. We cannot possibly get a profit in that way. The profit to us is represented by the fact that we are giving men a new life. I have met some seriously disabled men employed by Remploy, and the fact that they are working has made a wonderful change in them. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary has in mind that local authorities can do something with Remploy. If he can say that he is prepared to ensure that local authorities are given sufficient financial assistance to act with Remploy we shall look upon the Bill with a greater degree of satisfaction. Although we support the Bill, it will not solve the problem of the many men who are fit only for light work but who are not in a position to get it and who have no hope of getting it.
There are other numerous irritations for the disabled. When a man shows that he can earn over £1 a week, or £52 a year, he cannot get unemployability allowance if he becomes idle. That is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. A man who cannot earn £1 a week must be in very bad shape. Some employers will employ a man for a day or two a week to help and encourage him and will pay him, perhaps, £2 10s. or £3 a week, but if after two or three weeks he goes back for his unemployability allowance, he cannot get it. There are similar restrictions concerning National Assistance when a man is earning more than £1 a week. I agree that there must be a ceiling to what a man can earn, but that £1 a week should disqualify him for benefit is unreasonable. All these factors deter a man from taking employment.
Similarly, there is the old workman's compensation Act. In the coalfields, there are thousands of men who are idle and who receive compensation, but immediately they take a job at a fair wage their compensation is reduced. Often, we have to explain to them that the liability is with the employer, but it is difficult for a man to understand why his compensation should be wiped out. I agree that this does not apply under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, but it does apply to workmen's compensation. All these things create suspicion among the vast numbers of disabled men. The Parliamentary Secretary should look at some of these problems with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance to see what can be done to be more accommodating in the treatment of injured men who may earn a few pounds a week by light employment.
Reference has been made to the quota. A man invariably desires to return to his old employment if he possibly can. When an employer is unable to employ him again, he should say so to the Ministry of Labour in writing. Let us have some means of checking up all these cases. I know that many employers have been accommodating to many of these men, but there are others who have not.
If a man is disabled or meets with an accident in the course of his employment, he naturally looks to his employer to return to work of some kind in the industry in which he has been employed. The employer may, of course, have legitimate reasons for not employing him; the man may be so seriously disabled as not to be a suitable employee. Let us have it in writing and know the position of the employer. The information would be valuable for the Ministry of Labour. We could then check up the attitude of the employers. The Parliamentary Secretary, however, has said nothing upon these lines and there is no comprehensive method of checking up these cases.
I have met many men who have said, "I have had an accident. There is no chance to go back to work and I am finished. I must seek work from the employment exchange." I know that the divisional officers of the Ministry of Labour have done a good job, particularly in South Wales, but nevertheless a man in this position seems isolated and finished.
One other matter to which I should refer is the troublesome cases of men suffering from dermatitis. I am sorry to see that the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance does not appear to be represented on the Front Bench. Dermatitis is a classic example of a disease of the skin due to handling dust or liquids, perhaps underground, in a factory or in a workshop. For a time, the disease is severe, but in lightens and passes away temporarily, but when a man takes a job it becomes active again. There are scores of men in the coalfields suffering from dermatitis who simply cannot get a job. If they return to work underground, the dermatitis recurs. Other employers are afraid to employ them and they are left isolated. It is true that they get medical treatment.
A great deal is done by way of rehabilitation as far as possible, but work is not provided. These men are up against a stone wall. I know a skilled engineer in my constituency who has given his life to engineering but who has dermatitis and is no longer wanted. Employers would like to employ him, but some say that it is an infectious disease. There is a reluctance on the part of the employer to give him even the lightest of work. The result is that his life is dwindling away on unemployment benefit.
These are the problems. It is all very well to talk about rehabilitation, training and treatment. All these things have been done very effectively. The provision of work, however, is not being tackled in the same way. That is why I am disappointed with the Bill. I welcome it only in so far as it gives some power to help us to treat the disabled men, but we must still tackle in a bolder way the provision of suitable work. Where the employer finds it impossible to provide work, the responsibility rests upon the State. Whether it is done by Remploy or by the local authorities, it should be done in a more comprehensive manner than is suggested in the Bill.
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) on two matters. In the previous debate initiated by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans), I raised the question of unemployability allowance, and I repeat again the hope that we will get some change in the present system. I suggest to the hon. Member that the numbers he quoted were spread over a large area. My own city has a considerable number, but I think that when the Bill becomes an Act we shall be able to cope with a great many of those who are in need.
To the hon. Member for Lowestoft, in defence of my sex, I would say that I do not think women have any fears of marrying men who are at all disabled. The hon. Member may remember that before the war, during the time when there was a lot of unemployment, it was even suggested that blind men who had a stable pension were not getting the most desirable women to look after them. Women took them as husbands because they knew, unfortunately, that they had a stable income.
As a member of a delegation to Germany, I was interested to find that the Germans, who have had a study group for eight years, consider that the methods used in this country are the best in the world, with Sweden coming next and the United States third. I think they have a chance of giving an unbiased opinion.
I welcome quite a number of the proposals in the Bill, but I have a question arising out of the Title, where are the words:
provision by local authorities of employment or other work under special conditions.
I am not quite certain what the special conditions are. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would be kind enough to go into more detail about that when he replies to the debate.
Clause 1 says that for the words in the principal Act
'not being under the age of sixteen years' there shall … be substituted the words 'being over compulsory school age for the purposes of the Education Act, 1944 …
I am glad at this provision, but I should like to be assured whether there is any possibility of keeping a young person at school over the compulsory school age, if there is a chance of his going on to a grammar school. I understand that, according to the Act of 1944, the Minister of Labour has power to enable fees to be paid to the local authority and the school, and as many of these young people are backward because of physical disability, I am sure that it may be more beneficial to keep them at school even after reaching the school-leaving age.
I do not necessarily agree with that. I have seen how for such children, quite a number of them, including blind children, and not only in this country but in Colonial Territories where I was working, it is often very beneficial for them to be at school. After all, we say we wish them to become normal, despite their disabilities, and I have in mind several cases of children who have gone to grammar schools and made good there.
Clause 2 says:
In subsection (2) of section seven of the principal Act … for any reference to six months there shall be substituted a reference to twelve months.
I should like to know why it is necessary to have any stated time. Would it not be possible to take every case on its merits? I should have thought that that would have been far better.
I am not altogether in agreement with the proposal for voluntary removal from the register, and I should like some assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary about this. Suppose an individual takes his name off the register and, therefore, is no longer registered as disabled and is not included in his firm's quota of disabled, and suppose that he falls down slightly on his job because he is not as physically fit as he thought. Will he be liable to be sacked because he is not on the quota of disabled people because his name has been removed from the register? I am not at all sure I like this provision, even though this can be done voluntarily, for I think that sometimes people may, perhaps, regard themselves as having recovered more than they really have. I am afraid that there may be a set back to them in their employment, or that it may be detrimental to their employment.
By Clause 3, local authorities have power to provide certain workshops. I should like to support an argument made by one hon. Member opposite about Remploy, that where there is a Remploy in an area any sheltered workshop there should be attached to the Remploy. I think that one central organisation and administration has the necessary know-how, and I hope that it will be augmented. The local Remploy would be helpful in selling the goods, and we do not want two organisations trying to compete with each other.
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to give an assurance about the voluntary organisations, because many of them have done a considerable amount of work in the past. We do not want to see local authorities giving all their grants to sheltered workshops of their own, perhaps to the detriment of the voluntary organisations. There are at the moment in several places—I am particularly interested in one—organisations of disabled people themselves who are in the process of setting up some form of sheltered workshops, including handicraft sections. I hope that nothing in the Bill will deter local authorities from supporting those organisations.
I am disappointed that provisions for motor cars and tricycles for disabled people are not mentioned in the Bill. It is a great pity that the granting of this form of transport comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health. When a person wishes to have any form of tricycle or motor car he has to be medically examined. The decision is left with the Ministry of Health which then has to confer with the Ministry of Labour on whether the person needs that form of transport for purposes of work. Obviously, there must be a medical examination, but it should be for the Ministry of Labour to recommend directly whether the individual should have a motor car or tricycle to attend work, because the Ministry finds the employment and, therefore, is in a better position to judge the need.
At present, there is far too much delay in securing these vehicles for the individuals concerned, and sometimes an employer cannot wait for the disabled person to take up the employment. Therefore, I should like to see action taken whereby gradually all disabled people would come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labour.
As has been emphasised already, these people may be physically handicapped but they are mentally normal, and the more they can be brought into the ordinary walks of life the better. Several hon. Members of this House are disabled, but they take a very active part in the business of the House. We never think of them as having any form of disability. My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) is a case in point. We should begin to consider the rest of the disabled people in the country in the same way.
Some workshops originally set up for the blind are becoming almost empty owing to the decrease in the numbers of blind persons. Would it not be possible to provide that other disabled people should be able to take up work in these workshops? I know that some fear is expressed that the blind, who have always had a special call on our sympathies, might have some work taken away from them, but I think that this arrangement could be very well carried out. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will advise that, wherever possible, other disabled persons should be taken into workshops for the blind which are not at present fully occupied. I believe that such an arrangement would be beneficial to all concerned.
I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for his explanation of the Bill in his opening speech. I wish the Bill well, and I hope it will bring much happiness to the many people with whom it is concerned.
This subject is, of course, of very great interest to me and it would be expected that I should say that the Bill does not go far enough. I should like to see the whole problem of handicapped people treated comprehensively, but that does not prevent my saying that the Bill should be welcomed—because it is another step in that direction. We on these benches cannot expect more than one step at a time from those who occupy the benches opposite.
There is a great deal of truth in what the hon. Lady the Member for Devon-port (Miss Vickers) has said, and there are aspects of this problem which have yet to be very deeply considered. I am completely in sympathy with one thing said by the hon. Lady. Whilst I was Chairman of the Ministry of Education Advisory Committee on Handicapped Children, I used what influence I had to secure that every child who could benefit from education in a normal school should be placed in one.
This weekend I had the honour of opening three special schools in Birmingham. It is wonderful what the community there is doing for handicapped children. In my speech I pointed out something that needed to be said, namely, that it is possible to do too much for handicapped children. The reason for that is that the handicapped child or adult is in a mental state of constantly reaching out to attain. On the other hand, normal people desire always to rush in and assist the handicapped person. Parents are guilty of this to a great extent, not realising that what is wanted is an encouragement of the effort of the handicapped person to reduce the gap between the handicap and normality.
Remploy factories are good. I have been in them and I have seen the wonderful work done by them. Handicapped people do good work because they feel that something more than ordinary efficiency is expected of them. What is more, a handicapped person usually has not the outside interests of the unhandicapped. I believe that those responsible for teaching operations in Remploy factories often do too much of the work themselves, not leaving enough for the handicapped person; whereas an instructor who was himself disabled would not be as soft as the normal instructors, and the individual would respond to the stronger test and would be the better for it.
I like Clause 3 of this Bill. Indeed, about the time when my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) introduced his Motion into the House, I was presumptuous enough to write a pamphlet. In it I questioned whether or not the local authorities should play a part in the provision of sheltered workshops. We are sometimes tempted to look at the origin of the handicap. In the case of physical handicaps there are congenital cases and there are others which are the result of accident or of disease. The local authority already has welfare powers. Everybody who is interested in these matters knows that a wonderful job can be done in the special schools for the handicapped child. When the child reaches adolescence and is no longer the responsibility of the education authority, if the local authority is also the education authority the case can be followed through by the same people.
Here the local authorities will be able to determine whether the degree of disablement is such that the individual can work only in a sheltered workshop. I happen to represent one of the constituencies referred to which, although the Parliamentary Secretary may not know it, has an after-care workshop for tubercular people. It was opened during the war and has proved successful, not merely in teaching and training, but also in the high quality of its products. Remploy factories could not use this type of people because they are chronic or long-term cases. They are not rushing to their death, and they are able to do a job of work at times. Their day must be a shortened one, however, because they must not be under pressure. It is the type of sheltered workshop which is able to take into consideration every aspect of the individual, and because of that it is doing a great job of work. I am pleased to see a reference to that type of workshop in the Bill.
It is sometimes said that we cannot afford to lose £9 a week on those for whom something can be done and who are employed in Remploy. However, that loss is a tribute to the success of Remploy. Remploy is something more than a sheltered workshop. People go to Remploy in order to become proficient enough to go outside into normal work and earn their own living. The success of Remploy is in the fact that it cannot retain the people who would make it economic. Those people go into ordinary employment.
The way in which our social services have evolved makes it impossible for us to avoid some anomalies—for instance, the separate authorities, the education authority responsible for the special schools, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour, since the implementation of the Tomlinson Report, under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, 1944. I was in the House when that Measure was discussed and I took some part in the debates.
Of course, it would be perfect organisation if we had the machinery revolving around one centre. The truth is that man himself is too diversified for that, so that in all probability it is impossible. What is possible is to correlate the activities of the authorities. For instance, throughout the country there are thousands of patients who are benefiting from occupational therapy.
I know of a man who attended a sanatorium and who had been earning a few pounds a week as a railway goods porter until he went down with tuberculosis. After treatment, he became convalescent and had occupational therapy. He then discovered that he possessed an aptitude about which nobody had known before. As a consequence, he was sent to the Egham Training Centre to learn light metal work. He finally went into industry as a watchmaker earning three times as much as he had earned when he was healthy.
I do not say that that is an invitation to anybody to become T.B., but it is an indication of what can be done by various Government Departments. Here was the hospital with its occupational therapy—and reference is made to diversional work, which is another name for occupational therapy—then the Egham Training Centre, which comes under the Ministry of Labour.
There is no reason why there should not be a bridge between the various Departments ultimately responsible, provided that we find the means whereby an individual can be seen to be taking certain definite steps towards a certain conclusion. The Bill will help in that respect. If the Bill had meant that this procedure would take the place of Remploy, then it would have been a bad Bill. If it is in additon to Remploy, however, it can deal with a type of patient which Remploy cannot so easily handle, namely, the person who has come through the welfare services and is recognised as a welfare case. This type of person may have been dealt with as a child in a special school, by a local education authority, and then passed on to the welfare authority.
The Bill is not as good a one as I should have liked to see. I should have liked to see a comprehensive Measure, which ensured that wherever an individual could not earn his living by any means he should receive a handicapped person's allowance, rather than have to obtain National Assistance. Such a person is 100 per cent. handicapped. When a soldier is assessed as being unable to earn his living he is given a 100 per cent. pension, so why should not the civilian who is in a similar position have a recognised allowance, and not merely National Assistance? It may be asked, "What is the difference?" There is a very great difference. The allowance is a payment, as of right, to somebody because of his condition and not because of his misfortune in being poor.
Notwithstanding the criticisms which can be levelled at the Bill because it does not go the whole way, it can, however, be said that it points the way, and if it is one step nearer our goal it means that we can take further steps, until we bring complete emancipation to disabled persons.
Those of us who are interested in health and welfare matters tend to follow each other with almost monotonous succession in these debates. On the last occasion when I heard the hon. Member for Tottenham (Sir F. Messer) speak I thought that he made a thoroughly alarming and almost mischievous speech on the National Health Service Contributions Bill. But today I though that we heard from him a most wise, mature and philosophic speech, which became him extremely well.
I was one of those who read the pamphlet written by him, and to which he has referred. Only yesterday the national Press carried a quotation from a speech made by him when he opened the three schools which, he told us, were so dear to his heart. I am glad that it was he, with his sensible, moderate and constructive approach to the Bill, who delivered a gentle rebuke to the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans), whose rather carping attitude so belied his normal one in these matters.
I welcome the Bill and wish to draw attention to only two things. First, as I have said before, the Bill comes from the recommendations of the Piercy Committee, and that Committee must never be separated in our thoughts from the Percy Royal Commission, because both mean an enormously increased sphere of responsibilities for local authorities. It can never be said again that local authority activities can be dull or limited in scope; there is room for greater initiative and work in both voluntary and local authority bodies in putting into action the dynamic and almost revolutionary concepts of the Piercy Committee and the Percy Royal Commission.
In the Bill the Government have done very much better than they have allowed us to know. As the hon. Member for Tottenham has said, much of the benefit for the disabled must depend upon the co-ordination of all the separate and autonomous services in the field. Many of the recommendations of the Piercy Report were, in fact, addressed to this matter of co-ordination. It follows that many of the recommendations involve no extra expenditure but simply the better use of existing services.
There were in the Report forty-six recommendations, several of them were merely exhortatory. Many of the both exhortatory and more direct recommendations would not reach unanimous agreement. We heard the hon. Member for Lowestoft say that he, for one, did not accept some, and yet the hon. Gentleman rebuked the Government for not having enforced them all. Six of the forty-six recommendations that are not merely exhortatory have already, so far as I can see, been accepted by the Government; three on previous occasions—two of which affect disablement resettlement officers, their selection and training, and one which affects the survey which was a recommendation of the Percy Royal Commission—and three in this Bill.
Fourteen of the recommendations affect either hospitals or the Ministry of Health, and I was getting rather dolorous about these and what had happened to them when I looked at page 130 in Part I of the Report of the Ministry of Health which says that the Report of the Piercy Committee
published towards the close of the year said in describing the welfare services of local authorities: 'It is clear that only the fringes of the field have yet been touched.' It summed up the responsibility of local authorities as being (a) to cater for the social needs of disabled in the employment field and (b) to meet social and occupational needs of other disabled persons.
It continues—and here is why I read this short extract—
Reference to action taken on the Committee's recommendations concerning local authority services will be made in next year's Report.
So that towards the autumn of this year, we can look forward to hearing from the Ministry of Health what has happened to the fourteen recommendations affecting the Ministry. I do not expect the
Government to debate or enforce them all. It is possible for the Government to disagree with some of the Piercy Committee recommendations. If the hon. Member for Lowestoft can disagree, why should not the Government?
Then there were six further recommendations addressed to the Ministry of Labour. It seems that these recommendations, which do not involve legislation, involve little money. Indeed, one recommendation is to consider circulating to all general practitioners information about the rehabilitation services available in each area. One asks them to consider extra medical assistance to industrial rehabilitation units; one requests part-time training of tuberculous patients and one a survey into whether more facilities are needed to make unemployed ex-T.B. patients fit for work. One of those does involve a different form of future expenditure, namely, the experimental comprehensive rehabilitation unit.
One thing on which I am sure all hon. Members would agree is the interest of both the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. We have had the Minister sitting through an Adjournment debate of five hours initiated by the hon. Member for Lowestoft and right through today's debate. Many of us know the interest shown by the Parliamentary Secretary, not only in this Chamber, but in activities outside in connection with this work. In all these debates we have had present a representative of the Ministry of Health and this interest is not indulgent. Why not publish a systematic review of those Piercy Committee recommendations which require no legislation and are non-financial and mainly in the co-ordination field? May I commend that suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service who has shown such great interest in this matter. Apart from the interest we all must feel in the recommendations which have not yet come before us, I add my voice to those who welcome this modest Bill which, as was said by the hon. Member for Tottenham, is another step in the right direction.
In spite of the narrow nature of the Bill, it has enabled us to have an exceedingly useful debate, in which we have had contributions from hon. Mem- bers who are expert in their field and from others who are animated by an extreme sympathy for the handicapped people. We are all agreed that the disabled should not be segregated from their fellow beings more than is absolutely necessary by the nature of their disability, and I certainly take pride in the fact that we have abolished the word "cripple" from our vocabulary. In referring to these people at one time that was the word commonly used, but now we have abolished it, and as we make progress I hope that we shall also be able to get rid of the word "disabled," because it implies something substandard for these people.
It is better for the disabled that where they can be usefully employed they should work in the general field of employment and not separately, but that does not alter the fact that there are considerable numbers of people who find it impossible to obtain work under normal conditions, and it is therefore essential that we should find sheltered employment for as many of them as possible.
The work in providing sheltered employment has had to be limited by financial considerations. Perhaps we have gone a little too far in interpreting the original purpose of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act which was an exceedingly good welfare Act and has been changed, perhaps, too much into a book-keeping account. Nevertheless, one understands the reason for that.
I want to ask one or two points about the quota. I want to know how it is working and whether the Minister is satisfied with it. Under conditions of full employment, it is not too difficult for any firm to take its quota of disabled people, but in a situation in which employment is becoming more and more difficult it may be that, unless we are particularly vigilant, the quota may lapse and, because of their low standard of efficiency, the disabled people may be the first to go. I ask the Minister to keep a special eye on this situation and to safeguard to the utmost the employment of the disabled under the quota system.
May I turn to the Clause dealing with sheltered employment? The principal question which I want to ask arises from the fact that the position was not absolutely clear from the Parliamentary Secretary's speech. Is it intended under the Clause to bring into being additional sheltered employment or is it just a machinery Clause to transfer authority from one body to another? The success of the Bill will be judged, I believe, on whether it finds one more job for one more disabled person. The more jobs we can find for disabled persons in sheltered conditions the more successful the Bill will be. Is the Bill looked upon as an incentive to local authorities to establish more sheltered factories than they have established hitherto? I know that there are some factories for the tubercular and some for the blind, but as far as I know there is none for handicapped people to find industrial employment.
I believe that the local authorities have a stake in this. It is right that they should be asked to find sheltered employment for these people who are their citizens. I should also like to know, however, whether it means in any way a duplication of the work of Remploy. Where Remploy exists we have a natural field for expansion and if we are trying to expand the services in any town where Remploy exists at the moment, by far the most satisfactory way of doing it is by encouraging Remploy to expand.
Are the restrictions on Remploy which have been operated over the last few years still being enforced as strictly as they were? Is Remploy now able to take more people, to expand and to build more factories? I am particularly glad that the Ministry of Labour has taken over supervision, as I believe that this will lead to an improvement of standards. The standards of Remploy are excellent, and I think that, with its vast experience of its rehabilitation and resettlement schemes, the Ministry will be able to give the local authorities the guidance and help that will enable them also to achieve better standards.
Clause 3 (5) states that for the purposes of this Bill the local authorities are the county councils or the county boroughs. I have a particular interest in this, as a representative of a non-county borough that is perfectly capable of carrying out these functions, and which, in fact, has an excellent Remploy factory. I hope that in Committee the Parliamentary Secretary will consider making these powers directly available to those non-county boroughs that desire them and that are capable of using them properly. In certain cases, the county authority is a little remote, and this is an exceedingly personal service. I should have thought that a non-county borough with a population of over 60,000 would be perfectly capable of carrying out this work.
There is the question of finance. I understand that the work will be grant-aided, but is this grant to be part of the new block grant, or is it to be a grant especially for this purpose? If it is to be part of the block grant, then, as with education, I am a bit dubious about the extent to which it may be used by an authority that, perhaps, wants to save the ratepayers money. It would be much better if this grant were specific, with a percentage relation to the work done by each authority.
Registration has caused me considerable worry over the years. People come to us in our constituencies who are more or less permanently disabled through industrial accident or through illness but who have a real fear that by being registered they are, as it were, putting themselves out of the chances of getting a job rather than putting themselves in. I know that, at the beginning, the whole purpose of registration was to improve a man's chances of finding work but, particularly in the heavy industrial areas where there may be possibilities of unemployment, some of them feel that if they are registered as disabled their prospects of employment are lessened.
I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary could give some guidance on that point. Personally, I believe that these people should register. I believe that the Ministry has the machinery to help them. Nevertheless, there is still this lurking fear that some of them have, that by registering they are putting a label on themselves and that some employers will not look at them. That attitude should be discouraged, if possible.
We can help in two ways. This is a machinery Bill, perhaps, but we already have great powers, if we make use of them, and if there is more initiative and drive, to press on with solving these problems. I would have thought that the Government themselves, and the local authorities concerned, could be encouraged more and more to place work in the way of the sheltered factories, whether local authority or Remploy. I know that the Government are doing a considerable amount in that way, but I would like still further help to be given on those lines.
As I said at the beginning, the real test of the Bill is that it has to find a job for one disabled person, or for ten, or, we hope, for a thousand disabled persons over a period, and it is because I believe that this Measure will give some inducement to local authorities to act more vigorously than before that I give it my support.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that this is a very modest Bill, and I do not think that there is any doubt about that. It does not appreciably improve the services for the disabled, but changes the machinery by which they are carried out. I agree that in the last fourteen years a very great deal has been done for the disabled, and it may be that those other things that both sides of the House agree remain to be done can be done by administration and without additional legislation. If so, let us all hope that they are carried out as soon as possible.
Of the three Clauses, the one that I should like to commend to the House most strongly is Clause 1. It is a good thing to get rid of the waiting period between leaving school and starting training for work as a disabled person. I am particularly glad that it goes back only as far as the school leaving age because it would be a disaster if occupational training were started too soon. Undoubtedly it is most important that medical training should be carried out in school, for spastics and children with similar disabilities, but I feel that in the case of the disabled more than in any other a broad education is necessary.
When the ordinary child leaves school he has the world before him. He can enjoy most active games. But many of the disabled have a very limited sphere of interest and, therefore, they should have a broad education, in literature and science, for example, and not exclusively an education for work—not only for a means of living, but also for a means of life.
I am not so happy about Clause 2. It suggests that before a person is entered on the list of disabled it should be stated that the disability is likely to last not merely six months but at least twelve months. That is a medical point. I would say as a doctor that the most difficult thing we have to do is to forecast the future—and the most dangerous, too. One of the first things a medical student learns is that it is very dangerous to tell a person or his friends that he is not likely to recover. If the patient does not die the doctor has made an enemy, not only of the patient but of his friends and relations as well.
It would not be a disaster if the doctor were wrong and said that the disability would last for six months, and that a certain amount of training should be given to the person concerned. Clearly if such an individual did get better he would in most cases want to return to his original occupation rather than the occupation for which he was trained. An example was given of the watchmaker. I imagine that that is a very exceptional case. After all, in so far as watchmaking is more skilled, I do not think the community is at any disadvantage because a person has changed from a less skilled trade to a more skilled trade.
I want to speak most on Clause 3. This Clause drops the pilotage of the Ministry of Health and takes on the direction of the Minister of Labour. At the moment we have a Minister of Labour who has the exceptional advantage in that he has been Minister of Health. But this state of affairs may not last for ever. I wonder whether the outlook of the Ministry of Labour as a whole will be as health-conscious as that of the Ministry of Health.
The problem of the disabled is, to a very large extent, a medical one. This is admitted again and again in the Piercy Report. Recommendation 17 says:
Since assessment for acceptability for work will often turn on medical evidence, specialist medical opinion should be available to reinforce or advise disablement resettlement officers and Disablement Advisory Committee panels".
That is one recommendation. The same sort of view is repeated elsewhere.
Although I appreciate that the change may be for administrative convenience, I wonder whether it would not be to the advantage of the disabled if there were a watching brief on health always available for them. I do not stress this—perhaps there are very good reasons against it—but I do feel that we should stress throughout that, in the training of the disabled, in the selection of occupations for them, and in the supervision of their progress, recovery and capacity for new work, medical considerations must always come in. I hope that, under the new arrangements, this will not be forgotten.
We have had a very useful and informative debate. I think that every hon. Member who has taken part has been an expert in the subject under discussion, and I suppose that I shall be about the least expert of all who have taken part. As a disabled man myself, I am very sincerely concerned in this subject from the point of view of disabled ex-Service men generally.
The Parliamentary Secretary told us that the best service we can do is to find work for the disabled. We all agree about that. Although the hon. Gentleman said that the Bill represents another step in that direction, one does not feel quite so sure that it is a Bill to find work for the disabled. We were told by the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) that there had been a carping attitude on the part of some Opposition speakers.
We have always regarded the problem of war pensioners as a matter outside party politics, and I think that we should, as far as we can, regard the problem of the handicapped and disabled generally as being outside party politics. However, that does not preclude us from making our legitimate criticisms of proposals brought forward either by the Government, as they are now, or by my party if it were on the opposite side of the House. The very quality, experience and knowledge of those who have taken part in the debate so far is, surely, a guarantee that what they say is said not in a spirit of carping criticism but in an attempt to find the best solution of the problems with which we are faced in caring for the severely disabled and handicapped. The reduction to the school-leaving age has been welcomed by practically everyone who has taken part in the debate.
We regret that the Bill deals only with the severely disabled. Some unemployment figures have been given. I have with me the reply given by the Parliamentary Secretary to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Shore-ditch and Finsbury (Mr. Collins) on 26th February. The hon. Gentleman said:
In December, 1957, there were 43,731 wholly unemployed registered disabled persons classified as suitable for ordinary employment, of whom 16,702 had been unemployed for six months or more."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1958; Vol. 583, c. 348.]
Now we have the position that among the severely disabled there are about 3,800 unemployed. More than 2,000 of these persons live within easy reach of Remploy factories, and I support my hon. Friends who have pleaded for Remploy to be considered in dealing with more of these unemployed severely disabled. It can deal with some of them better and at less cost than local authorities can. We must be careful not to duplicate the work for the severely disabled. If Remploy can do the work we ought not unnecessarily to ask local authorities to set up workshops in direct competition with it.
I know that Remploy is not a profit-making organisation. The Minister might reply that it is a loss-making organisation. Figures have been quoted to show that the financial loss is about £9 per week per person. However, when we bear in mind that the persons being trained in the Remploy factories are in the main the severely disabled and that because of their training and their association with their fellows they become so self-reliant, self-confident and self-sufficient that they can find employment in the open labour market, it is £9 per week per man well spent. It means that disabled men are put on their feet and able to feel that they are independent and are making their way in the world.
I suggest that there is need to revise the medical and other tests so that more disabled people can be classed in Section (2) as severely disabled. There is a strong case for enlarging the area from which we draw the people who will be classed for the purpose of the Bill as severely disabled, so that more may enjoy the benefits of the Bill.
As has been emphasised again and again this evening, the great need is to make work available for the disabled, and we should like to know the Government's plans. What we do about rehabilitation and retraining for employment is all to the good, but unless we have jobs available for the men when they have been rehabilitated and retrained, much of our labour will have been in vain.
I also am concerned about the quota. In the past, I have asked questions about what happens when a firm is recognised as having its quota of disabled persons but they either leave or come off the disabled persons register yet continue to be shown on the books of the firm as part of its quota. Is there a systematic examination of the books of firms to ensure that the people who comprise the quota are genuine registered disabled persons? Are there any firms which, for reasons of wastage or dismissal or through people leaving from other causes, are not, in fact, employing the number of persons in accordance with their quota? There is also the important point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd). We are operating the quota today in conditions of full employment. What safeguards will there be if we try to operate the same quota in a period of unemployment?
In spite of being told that some of the speeches from this side of the House were carping, I must say that we are to a great extent disappointed in the Bill. We do not oppose it—we know there is good in it—but we have a right to say that we are disappointed. Eighteen months after the publication of the Piercy Report, the Government have succeeded in making a molehill out of a mountain of recommendations. The Bill is a little molehill concerned with machinery, tightening up a screw here and loosening a nut and bolt there. Of the forty-six recommendations, the Bill deals with a further three, making half-a-dozen implemented to date. I hope that before we part with the Bill, the Government will tell us their intentions concerning the remainder of the Piercy recommendations. It may be that they do not require legislation, but at least we should know the Government's intentions. If it is a matter of administration, let us know what administrative action is being taken to ensure that the full spirit of the Piercy Report is being brought to bear upon the problem of the handicapped and the disabled.
By bringing the care and welfare of the disabled and the handicapped under one Ministry, the Government have, on the whole, acted wisely. Probably the Ministry of Labour is the best Ministry to deal with the problem and to co-ordinate all the action which is desirable. There are, however, a few safeguards and guarantees which might be necessary before we give unqualified approval to control by the Ministry of Labour.
One hon. Member spoke about motor cars and motor-propelled tricycles for the disabled. This used to be a matter for the old Ministry of Pensions. Then, it was handed over to the Ministry of Health and, as far as I know, it is still a matter for that Ministry. The point made by, I believe, the hon. Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers) was that the Ministry of Labour should have the direct approach to whoever is responsible for allocating the cars. The Ministry of Labour should cut out all the frills and passing the buck from one Department to another and should have a direct approach, so that these people can be provided with this form of locomotion to enable them at the earliest possible moment to obtain and retain employment.
When last I made inquiries about the provision of these vehicles, the position was that only disabled ex-Service men were entitled to the cars and that the motor-propelled tricycles were available for the disabled of both civilian and ex-Service categories. The last I heard was that the number of cars provided six years ago when the Labour Government were in office has not been increased at all. Some of the replacements for cars are a little behind schedule at present. I believe the motor-propelled tricycles are coming off the production lines now at a quicker rate.
Dealing particularly with ex-Service disabled men, I know that very often men with artificial legs find it impossible to carry on with their jobs when they have to travel to and from work in overcrowded public service vehicles and have to stand. They often find themselves good for nothing by the time they reach work. A much wider interpretation should be placed on the qualifications enabling disabled persons to get this form of mechanical conveyance to and from work, so that they may hold their jobs once they have got them.
What of the welfare staff? Are their functions, under the Bill, to be undertaken by the disablement resettlement officers? Is the present staff adequate? If not, what steps are to be taken to recruit and train additional staff to carry out the obligations laid down by the Bill?
There is one doubt I have about the concentration of this responsibility in one Ministry. I have had this doubt before. It is that a big Ministry becomes all machine and no soul. I digress for a moment to recall that the welfare staff at the old Ministry of Pensions were doing a very fine job for the war disabled. They had the training, the aptitude and the human approach so essential for this kind of work. One feels that since the merger the spirit has been swamped by the machine. When I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions I gained a very favourable impression of the disablement resettlement officers at the Ministry of Labour. They always worked in amicable co-operation with our own welfare officers. It was a joy to see the way in which they co-operated to assist the war disabled.
As I understand the Piercy Report, today the disablement resettlement officers are just maids of all work, shifting from one department in the Ministry to another, never settling down, never having the opportunity to make their job a vocation. I should like an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that under the new dispensation under this Bill the selection of these and other officers dealing with the handicapped and disabled will receive very special attention.
I understand that their training at present is very skimpy, that it is done in just a few days. That really will not do. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that their training should imbue them with patience, tact, kindliness and humanity. That cannot be done in just a few days. Their training should impress them with the fact that they are not just civil servants dealing with forms and papers but are specially chosen men and women dealing with human beings. I know from both personal and Ministerial experience that dealing with the handicapped and disabled is often a very difficult job.
Being a disabled man I am sometimes difficult myself, and I know how handicapped and disabled people can be difficult. Some of us wonder how people who have had to deal with us for as many years as some of us have had to be dealt with have put up with us for so long. It is because I know the problems that I feel strongly that the men and women selected for the job should be people with a vocation.
The material which they handle is difficult, but the potentialities are enormous. Latent qualities of character have to be nurtured, tended and developed and the emphasis placed upon ability and potential achievement rather than disability. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that we are not dealing here with material for the industrial and social scrap-heap, but with valuable and delicate instruments in need of re-adjustment. Therefore, those who handle them must be craftsmen.
Most of my experience has been with the war disabled. Out of a total of 798,000 on the register in 1956 no fewer than 449,000 were the war disabled of the two world wars. Therefore, this is still largely a problem of the war disabled finding employment. I know the difficulties, especially for the disabled of the First World War, because we are all now getting on. We are all 65 years of age or thereabouts, but even the 65s would prefer doing a job to rusting away, in spite of their disability. This is one reason why we have to be so careful about the kind of people we have in an official capacity to deal with these men and their problems. As a disabled man myself, I regard this human aspect of the problem as being of the utmost importance, and I ask the Minister to give his closest attention to the selection of the right personnel in implementing the Bill as far as it affects his Ministry.
It appears that the local authorities will be under a duty to exercise their powers under the direction of the Ministry of Labour. The financial aspect of this has been raised in debate. Will the local authorities receive direct grants, or are the handicapped to be further handicapped by being fed on the crumbs that fall from the table of the municipal block grant? This is an important point which ought to be cleared up before we part with the Bill.
Once the municipal "economaniacs" get on the warpath at local government elections and scare the daylights out of Tory councils, the social services will be sacrificed to lower the rates. I remember fighting an election in Birmingham in my very early days on the question of an increase of 6d. in the rates. I fought it on that issue because, as a result of a reduction in expenditure on the sanitary and health services, the infantile mortality in my ward in the previous twelve months had increased by 5 per cent. If local authorities are to be asked to deal with the problem of sheltered employment for the disabled and handicapped without having adequate Government financial support, the job will not be done. Unless adequate financial provision is made to local authorities, the Bill will be a dead letter before it is on the Statute Book.
As we recognise the war disabled as a national responsibility, so in equity we must recognise all disabled people as a national responsibility. They are such, whether they are disabled as a result of congenital disease or deformity, as a result of sickness or industrial injury, or as a result of services given to the country in war. The nation should take a wider view of these problems than do some of the narrow-minded people one finds in some local authorities. Tonight's Evening Standard reports that in one select part of a place called Bexhill—and I do not know exactly where that is—there is a proposal to build a holiday home for spastic children. The local people there, and I think that they must be a "toffee-nosed" lot of people, are objecting because, according to the paper, they say
… the property is unsuitable for the purpose and would reduce the value of their own properties …
That is the kind of thing we are up against in dealing with these great human problems. If we leave the local authorities at the mercy of the narrow minded, who can see only as far as the parish pump and cannot see the wider horizons, I do not hold out much hope of this Bill being effective. We must have an assurance that adequate direct grants will be made to local authorities in order that the Bill can be fully implemented.
We on this side of the House will co-operate in expediting the passage of the Bill through its various stages, and so speeding it on its way to the Statute Book, from the pages of which its puny form will be a standing reproach to us all until, either by legislation or administration, this problem is dealt with in a really comprehensive manner.
By leave of the House, Mr. Speaker, I will reply to some of the points which have been made during the debate. It has been an extremely wide one, much wider than the contents of the Bill. I hope that the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans), who made some complaint about the lack of a wide debate on this subject, will feel somewhat consoled by what has taken place.
The debate has been so wide that it would be intolerable—if not impossible—if I were to try to cover all the points that have been made. I have been invited to discuss everything to do with the disabled in reply to various points made on both sides of the House, from a full account of Remploy down to all that has been done by my Ministry, by local authorities, voluntary associations and the rest. Obviously I could not possibly do that in a reasonable time. However I assure those hon. Members whose points I do not deal with that my Ministry will consider most carefully what has been said, and where other Ministries are concerned with the points, I am sure my right hon. Friends will also study the report of this debate with care.
Whilst I feel strongly that this subject should not become one of party politics, as it never has been—and the debate has not taken that form tonight—nevertheless I was disappointed with the rather uncharitable reception which, to my surprise, the hon. Member for Lowestoft gave the Bill. His attitude tonight surprised me because, as I know from experience of other debates in this House, the hon. Gentleman knows a great deal about this subject and has contributed greatly to it, not only by words in this House but by deeds outside it. So I was surprised that he was not more generous and more accurate in what he said.
The hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) fell into the same error. He asked if the Bill was all that could come out of the mountain of recommendations of the Piercy Committee's Report. I would have thought he would realise by reading the Report that these are the only recommendations on employment which need legislation. Therefore, it is nonsense to talk about this Bill being a mere mouse, because we are legislating for all that the Piercy Committee's recommendations require us to legislate about. Not only are we legislating, but legislating in the very first Session of Parliament after the publication of the Piercy Report. Of how many reports that have been published on various subjects can that be said? There are not many cases in which the recommendations of reports are implemented by legislation in the very first Session of Parliament after the reports are published.
The rest of the recommendations did not require legislation, and so the Bill is not all that we are getting in this field as the hon. Member for Lowestoft suggested. This is only a small part. We had a debate on the subject in December, and I then gave the House a full account of the progress we were making in implementing the Piercy Committee's recommendations, and at that time the House seemed far more generous towards the progress being achieved than it appeared to be tonight.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) suggested that we might publish a report bringing together an account of progress made in implementing all the Piercy Committee's recommendations. He himself referred to a number upon which action had been taken. I am sure that we have done far more than hon. Members opposite would appear to realise, and I will certainly give careful consideration to my hon. Friend's suggestion.
If I appeared ungracious, I am sorry. I did not mean to be ungracious. I meant to be a little grateful, but the hon. Gentleman will agree that this is the only opportunity which those of us on this side of the house have to examine the implications of the Piercy Report and how the Government will react to them. Unless the Government make a statement or give us an opportunity to discuss the Report, we are justified, if not in being a little querulous, at least in putting questions to the hon. Member.
I will not disagree with that. I disagree with what the hon. Member appeared to say against the Bill, when he said that it ought to have done a great deal more. The Bill does all the things that the Piercy Committee said it should do. That was the only point I was trying to make.
The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) had some rather critical things to say and suggested that we were not being very active over a wide range. I am sure that he is mistaken. I am sure that we cannot provide the jobs which he wants provided merely by passing Bills. We can pass Bills which will improve the machinery which enables us to bring disabled men most efficiently to the jobs available for them, but we cannot create jobs for them by passing legislation. The Bill is an attempt to make the machinery as up to date as possible.
I do not disagree that there is always a need for more work for disabled men. I hope that the hon. Member for Bedwellty will not overlook what has been achieved and what is being achieved. For example, between February, 1957, and February this year, unemployment among registered disabled decreased by about 1 per cent., from 51,200 to 50,600. That is still a large figure, but it is continuing the decrease which has been so typical of the last few years. The latest decrease in the last twelve months has taken place at a time when overall unemployment has increased. While overall unemployment has been increasing, unemployment among disabled has continued to decrease.
The hon. Member for Brierley Hill and the hon. Member for Tottenham (Sir F. Messer) mentioned Remploy. Let me take this opportunity, although it is hardly necessary, once again to reaffirm our belief in the work which Remploy is doing and to assure the House that in this Bill we are in no way seeking to set up anything in competition with Remploy. As the hon. Member for Tottenham made clear, there is scope for both. I note what the hon. Member for Devon-port (Miss Vickers) and the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) said about augmenting Remploy establishments where they already exist. That is something which we will keep in mind, but in this respect the hon. Member for Tottenham was right in saying that there is scope for both systems and that there need be no direct competition between them.
On previous occasions, I have dealt at some length with the Remploy position. The hon. Member's own Government were the first to limit its growth. We also felt it necessary to limit it, but, as I have previously explained, we have been accompanying our measures to check the growth by other measures to make it more efficient and to create a better managerial structure—which are two things necessary with a company of that size, even if it were not employing disabled people. Remploy has grown in a few years from scratch to an organisation employing 6,000 people in ninety factories and a period of consolidation is essential. Anybody studying Remploy's latest report will realise that progress is being made. At the same time we have given Remploy information as to what it can expect for a number of years, so that it can plan on a long-term basis; this has been an important step in helping it to make future progress.
The question was raised of the medical tests for the standards relating to Section (II) of the Disabled Persons Register, I have taken note of the suggestion made, and I am meeting a number of hon. Members tomorrow to discuss the subject. It is not our intention to be ungenerous in that matter; we watch our standards the whole time.
The question of the quota was raised by the hon. Member for Brierley Hill and the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees. We are not aware of any trouble in maintaining the quota, but we shall watch the position carefully. We try as far as we can to see that firms are keeping up to their quotas although it is not an easy task. The hon. Member for Lowestoft drew attention to a difficulty of this kind some months ago, and if any hon. Member hears of further cases I can say that my Department is always ready to take action. On the whole we are successful.
The hon. Member for Brierley Hill referred to the need for humanity. I hope that in taking over this work the Ministry of Labour will apply to it its fairly long and good reputation for humanity in dealing with people. Our disablement resettlement officers are noted for their humanity, and the hon. Member can be reassured about their training and selection. We have already implemented one of the Piercy Committee's recommendations; we have increased the period of training which disablement resettlement officers receive.
The hon. Member for Brierley Hill and the hon. Member. for Stockton-on-Tees also raised the question of finance in connection with the employment services dealt with in the Bill. They wanted to know whether they would now be part of the block grant or would remain direct grant-aided. I can reassure them instantly; they are to remain direct grant-aided.
A factor is being included in the calculation for the general grant in order to take account of the welfare services. As the hon. Member knows, that is outside my field and I cannot go into more detail. As to his second question, the present position about making these services mandatory upon local authorities remains unchanged. My right hon. Friend will still have the power to make further services mandatory, just as his right hon. Friends have under the present provisions.
The hon. Member for Tottenham asked about the machinery for transfer from the welfare category to the employment category. I said that I would make sure of the position, and I can now assure the House that the Bill makes no change in this respect. It is up to the welfare authority to approach my Department's D.R.O. whenever it has somebody in that category whom it thinks is coming up to employment standard, and he can be registered as a Section II case. The transfer is perfectly smooth and need cause no difficulty.
A number of questions were asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport, and I must ask her to excuse me from answering many of them. This Bill does not affect the present position regarding keeping children at school beyond fifteen. It is not our intention to use the Bill to try to get children away from school at that age when otherwise they might have stayed longer. The only purpose of the change in age is to catch those few cases of children who leave school at fifteen and thus bridge the gap between fifteen and sixteen which is the age at which we are able to offer them these facilities under the existing provisions of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act.
I can tell my hon. Friend that some local authorities are filling unoccupied places in workshops for the blind with other disabled persons, but I must also tell her that there is a difference of opinion among local authorities regarding the wisdom of doing so. She may, however, be comforted by the knowledge that some local authorities are doing this, and this will give us an opportunity to see how it works. It would be a great pity to have vacant places in workshops while there are disabled people needing vacancies.
The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees put a number of points, and I have dealt with several of them. The hon. Member asked whether we should encourage people to register. Some are reluctant to do so, because they fear that it may put a label on them and they lessen their chances of getting a job. We should encourage disabled people to register. I am convinced that the special disablement services available to the registered gives them greater help than they would normally receive. Anyone who is in doubt should be advised to register. However, I am sure that it is right to maintain the voluntary principle. I do not think any person should be made to register, but I think that the fear that by doing so a person attaches a label to himself is rapidly disappearing.
The hon. Gentleman asked a fundamental question, whether it was the purpose of this Bill to create more sheltered workshops or just to alter the machinery. At this stage, the purpose as is stated in the Bill, is clearly, to alter the machinery. We are doing so with a future purpose in mind. The Piercy Committee recommended the altering of the machinery, because the Committee thought that would make it more effective. As I said when introducing the Bill, we should be able to have more effective machinery over the years ahead and to put more power behind the development of these services. That is the ultimate intention of this Bill.
I wish to acknowledge the tributes paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) the hon. Member for Bedwellty and other hon. Members to the officials of my Ministry for the work they have done in aid of the disabled people; to Remploy; to the local authorities and the voluntary organisations. We owe them all our thanks, and it is right that we should thank them publicly. I was glad that many hon. Members paid tribute to the principle of giving work to the disabled. The hon. Member for Bedwellty gave an example of the fact that people suffering from pneumoconiosis held out against the progress of the disease better when they were in work than when they were out of work, which is a striking proof of the rightness of those who believe in giving work to the disabled. That is the spirit in which this Bill is moved, and in which we shall try to implement its provisions. I believe that our work for the disabled is a small but significant part of the whole work of social policy to break down the barriers within our community and build our society into one nation.