I have visited many Remploy factories while I have been a Minister and I will certainly consider doing so again when a suitable opportunity arises. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will be visiting the Remploy factory in Bolton next Friday, and will be opening a new factory in Brixton in March.
Whilst I appreciate that reply, is the Prime Minister aware that people working for Remploy—in fact, all disabled people throughout the country—will be damaged by the Government's refusal to disclose the number of disabled people registered by local authorities and the amount spent on them? Does he realise that some local authorities are lazy, indifferent and criminally negligent towards the interests of disabled people, and that although the register is not perfect it is a valuable guide to the shocking disparities between local authorities? Will he kindly undertake to reconsider his answer?
I do not think that I have anything to reconsider in the answer I have just given, which is that I will visit a Remploy factory and that a new one is being opened. Remploy is handled by the Department of Employment, which looks after the interests of the disabled there. I know the hon. Gentleman's view on the local authorities. My right hon. Friend is doing everything he can to persuade them to carry out all their obligations and to be as helpful as they can. But there is a difference between the actual fact of registration, which is voluntary—some may and some may not want to register—and the amount that local authorities do. I am sending the hon. Gentleman another full reply to the points he has raised with me.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, welcome as he always is in Suffolk, we should very much like to have a Remploy factory to show him next time he comes there, since there is none nearer than Southend or Norwich?
Will the Prime Minister give the current percentage rate of unemployment among employable disabled people and tell the House what he is doing to reduce this appalling figure? Will he take very seriously the important points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley)? Is he aware that the dragging of feet by local authorities can hurt many of those who have no feet to drag?
I have already said to the hon. Gentleman, and my right hon. Friend has told him, that the Department of Employment is doing everything it can to ensure that the local authorities carry out their obligations. I cannot without notice give the hon. Gentleman the exact figure for which he asks. What I can tell him is that unemployment among the registered disabled has risen proportionately less than general unemployment.