The Government are determined to tackle the under-representation of disabled people in the whole civil service. To that end, the Government have set a target to have people with disabilities comprising 3 per cent of the senior civil service by 2005.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and I welcome the fact that a target of doubling the number of people with disabilities in the senior civil service has been set for the next five years. To my knowledge, there are no senior civil servants based in my constituency, but there are civil servants, and people with disabilities are conspicuous by their absence from their ranks. Does my hon. Friend agree that more needs to be done to increase the proportion of people with disabilities at all levels in the civil service? Can he give an indication of when the commitment to require Departments to set targets at all levels, which was set out in chapter 6, paragraph 25 of the White Paper, will be achieved?
I agree with my hon. Friend that we need to improve the representation of disabled people throughout the civil service. At present, all Departments and the lower echelons of the civil service are setting targets that will be achievable by those Departments, and those targets will be made public in the near future. To encourage a positive attitude to people with disabilities, the Government are supporting the two ticks symbol, which has been awarded to the Cabinet Office today.
Given that sufferers from multiple sclerosis are today staging an important rally in Parliament, backed by—among others—the all-party group on the subject, will the Minister take this opportunity to confirm that the victims of that appalling degenerative disease will invariably find Government Departments to be model employers?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I can confirm that there is no sense in the Government setting targets for disabled people within Departments without having the will and the money to adapt offices and machinery to enable disabled people to work there. That certainly applies to people who are suffering from multiple sclerosis.
Will my hon. Friend consult the Disability Rights Commission, whose presence we all welcome, for practical advice on issues such as hearing loops, Braille and physical access? Will he seek to ensure that Government Departments become a beacon for best practice for the whole of British industry and commerce, in both the private and public sectors?
I agree with my right hon. Friend that the Government should be a model employer to set an example to the whole employment sector. There is often much good will towards people with disabilities, but employers do not always know how to make it possible for people with disabilities to enter the work force.
Although the Disability Rights Commission will not be up and running until 1 April, we shall certainly be taking advice about adaptations, as my right hon. Friend suggests.