My Department has continued to develop the wide range of mainstream and specialist services that can help people with disabilities to get and keep employment. From this April, we have given unemployed people with disabilities priority access to four of our main employment and training programmes. In April, we also announced changes to improve the effectiveness of our specialist disability services and our local and national advisory bodies.
Notwithstanding those steps, is the Minister aware that disabled people suffer from serious discrimination in the jobs market, although they are entitled to the same protection under the law as has been enjoyed by ethnic minorities and women for the past 15 years? The United States has introduced wide-ranging and effective anti-discrimination legislation; when will we follow suit?
We have attempted to deal with that problem through, for example, the quota system, which has been in place for some 40 years but has not proved particularly effective.
The Department does not believe that the introduction of the legislation described by the right hon. Gentleman would be effective in combating discrimination, but we are doing a great deal to help people with disabilities. In 1989–90, the most recent year for which we have all the figures, about £400 million was spent to assist people with disabilities. That is a considerable increase on the spending of past years.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the increased opportunities that are being given to training and enterprise councils for training the disabled. Is he aware that the main colleges that train people with disabilities for industry—colleges such as St. Loyes in Exeter—rely increasingly on TECs to provide the necessary input? Will he give his full support to the pilot scheme that has enabled some regional TECs to come together to ensure that that input is provided?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is very important for TECs and colleges—and, Indeed, others representing the interests of disabled people—to work closely together. It is interesting that 11 per cent. of the total spend on employment training carried out by the TECs goes to people with disabilities.
Can my hon. Friend confirm that nowadays every disabled 16 and 17-year-old youngster has an opportunity to take up a training place? Can he also confirm that such opportunities were not available to disabled youngsters when Labour was last in power?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Disabled young people in the age group to which he referred benefit from the youth training guarantee, which was not available when the Labour party was in office. Furthermore, youth training was not available then, either. Only 6,000 young people had training places in 1979, compared with hundreds of thousands today.