Disability Benefits and Social Care

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:37 pm on 20th June 2012.

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Photo of Duncan Hames Duncan Hames Liberal Democrat, Chippenham 2:37 pm, 20th June 2012

I have already given way and I have moved on to the subject of Remploy. It is worth noting that of the 6.9 million disabled people in the UK, fewer than 2,500 are supported by Remploy’s enterprise businesses. As we heard from the Minister, changes to Remploy are not cuts. Every penny of the £320 million budget that we are discussing will be reinvested in getting disabled people into work and supporting them while they are there, and rightly so. [Interruption.] I heard that clearly, and I am sure we will hear more about it later.

It is worth remembering, although the shadow Secretary of State found it difficult to do so, that Labour closed 29 Remploy factories as a result of a decision in 2008. Perhaps it was because the answer was “not more than 30” that the shadow Secretary of State was not able to bring that answer to us earlier. [Interruption.] Indeed. The figure was 29. Clearly, the Labour Front-Bench team did know the answer to the question.

The consultation referred to in the motion is still in progress, and it is not appropriate for us to deliver a verdict on it before it is completed. Proposals for commercially viable factories are still being considered, which may mean that redundancies will not be as extensive as has been reported. To call for a re-run of an ongoing consultation is premature and unwarranted.

There are some key areas on which I hope the Minister will be able to shed some light. What discussions has she had with unions and Remploy managers to ensure that those disabled people who are made redundant are made aware of, and are able to utilise, the support packages—almost £8 million, I believe—that are being made available? Will the Minister ensure that details of the bids to continue and sustain Remploy factories via other means are made public as soon as is reasonably possible in order to give some reassurance to those Remploy workers who will benefit? What discussions has the Minister had with the Remploy board and with voluntary and community groups about how to facilitate organisations wishing to continue Remploy factories as social enterprises? We have heard a great deal of sound and fury in this debate, but Members in all parts of the House need to support disabled people.