Welfare reform minister Lord Freud told a Conservative fringe conference on 30 September that some disabled people are ‘not worth the full [minimum] wage’ and that he would think about a way that they could ‘work for £2 an hour’ if they want to.
The full transcript of the remarks were released by the Labour party today and were the subject of a heated exchange between David Cameron and Ed Miliband at prime minister’s question time.
Freud was responding to a question from a Conservative councillor, David Scott, who told him:
"The other area I’m really concerned about is obviously the disabled. I have a number of mentally damaged individuals, who to be quite frank aren’t worth the minimum wage, but want to work. And we have been trying to support them in work, but you can’t find people who are willing to pay the minimum wage.”
And then you make a really good point about the disabled. Now I had not thought through, and we have not got a system for, you know, kind of going below the minimum wage. But we do have… You know, Universal Credit is really useful for people with the fluctuating conditions who can do some work - go up and down - because they can earn and get...and get, you know, bolstered through Universal Credit, and they can move that amount up and down. Now, there is a small…there is a group, and I know exactly who you mean, where actually as you say they’re not worth the full wage and actually I’m going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally, and without distorting the whole thing, which actually if someone wants to work for £2 an hour, and it’s working can we actually…”
David Cameron has denied that these are the views of the government and, in an apparent reference to his late disabled son Ivan, angrily told Miliband:
“Let me tell you, I don’t need lectures from anyone about looking after disabled people. So I don’t want to hear any more of that.”
Lord Freud has yet to comment.