Lord Freud the Tory welfare minister has been urged to resign after he suggested that disabled people were “not worth” being paid the full minimum wage.
This is not the first time he has come under fire in recent years. It was he who used the term ‘bedroom tax’ instead of the Coalition approved ‘spare room subsidy’.
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Earlier this year, it was even claimed the DWP had spent £75k on media training for the Lord.
At a Tory party conference fringe meeting, replying to a question about the national minimum wage and the disabled, the peer was recorded saying: “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 … “
The Huffington Post Reports: Labour leader Ed Miliband confronted David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions over the Tory peer’s “very serious” remarks, asking if he agreed that “disabled people should not be paid the minimum wage”.
“Surely if someone holds those views, they can’t stay in government?,” he said, concluding: “In the dog days of this government the Conservative party is going back to its worst intincts – unfunded tax cuts, hitting the poorest – the nasty part is back.”
The Prime Minister shot back, referring to his late disabled son: “I don’t need lectures from anyone about looking after disabled people … instead of casting aspersions why doesn’t he get back to talking about the economy?”
He also distanced himself from Lord Freud’s comments, saying: “Those are not the views of the government ,those are not the view of anyone in this government.”
Speaking on the BBC’s Daily Politics, welfare minister Esther McVey distanced herself from Lord Freud’s remarks, saying that “those words will haunt him”. She made clear that her fellow ministerial colleague would “have to explain himself”.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman later said: “I’m sure that Lord Freud will explain how he shares the Prime Minister’s view.”
Update: Lord Freud has now issued a ‘full and unreserved’ apology in a satement issued by the Department for Work and Pensions
“I would like to offer a full and unreserved apology. I was foolish to accept the premise of the question. To be clear, all disabled people should be paid at least the minimum wage, without exception, and I accept that it is offensive to suggest anything else.
“I care passionately about disabled people. I am proud to have played a full part in a government that is fully committed to helping disabled people overcome the many barriers they face in finding employment. I am profoundly sorry for any offence I have caused to any disabled people.”
Freud issued his statement after Mencap called on him to consider his position and Downing Street distanced itself from the minister by saying there could be no exceptions to the minimum wage.