The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service and Science (Mr. Robert G. Hughes):
My Department recently launched an equal opportunities programme for action for disabled people, which provides a framework for Departments and agencies.
Does my hon. Friend agree that we need an efficient and well-managed civil service which encourages disabled people to play their full part on merit, and that the deputy Leader of the Opposition typically betrays the best interests not only of taxpayers and civil servants but of disabled people when he calls for an inefficient and over-manned public sector?
I certainly agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of selection on merit. That is why the civil service Order in Council was altered to permit encouragement and assistance in the process of selection to be given to disabled people so that their many merits can be brought out.
Would the Minister be kind enough to tell the House the precise budget and the number of staff that he is making available for the programme for action on disability? In particular, will he give an undertaking that all buildings leased by the civil service will have the necessary facilities to enable current and future disabled people to work safely therein?
First, may I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new responsibilities in the Opposition team. I am not able to give him an answer to his first question and I will tell him why. It is not possible to give an answer because we want action to be taken by people responsible for personnel matters and equal opportunities inside every Department and every agency. So the number of people involved, the amount spent and the amount of action that will go into the programme should be enormous. I want it to be enormous. As for buildings, a review is being carried out at present which I asked my officials to start so that we know which buildings are accessible and which are not.