Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud has suggested that some disabled people are “not worth” the full minimum wage
Lord Fraud, the Conservative behind the controversial bedroom tax policy, was recorded making the comments at a Tory party fringe event two weeks ago.
The recording was leaked by Labour today, leading to an angry exchange at Prime Minister’s Questions.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said the remarks showed the “nasty party is back”.
In the recording the peer is heard answering a question from a Conservative councillor.
Lord Freud said: “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...”
In noisy exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron said he did not need “lectures from anyone about looking after disabled people”.
Launching his attack, Mr Miliband said: “Let me ask you about a very specific issue about disabled people and the minimum wage, which goes to the issue of living standards.
“In response to a question at Conservative Party conference, Lord Freud, the Welfare Reform Minister, said this: ‘You make a really good point about the disabled. There is a group where, actually, as you say, they are not worth the full wage’.”
Addressing Mr Cameron, the Labour leader said: “Is that your view?”
Mr Cameron replied: “No, absolutely not. Of course disabled people should be paid the minimum wage and the minimum wage under this Government is going up and going up in real terms.
“It’s now at £6.50. We will be presenting our evidence to the Low Pay Commission, calling for another real-terms increase in the minimum wage.”
Continuing his questions, Mr Miliband said: “To be clear about what the Welfare Reform Minister said, it’s very serious. He didn’t just say disabled people weren’t worth the minimum wage, he went further and he said he was looking at whether there is something we can do, if someone wants to work for £2 an hour.
“Surely someone holding those views can’t possibly stay in your Government?”
Mr Cameron replied: “Those are not the views of the Government, they are not the views of anyone in the Government - the minimum wage is paid to everybody, disabled people included.”
In his final question, Mr Miliband said: “I suggest if you want to protect the rights of disabled people you read very carefully what your welfare minister has said because they are not the words of someone who ought to be in charge of policy relating to disabled people.
“In the dog days of this Government, the Conservative Party is going back to its worst instincts -unfunded tax cuts, hitting the poorest hardest, now undermining the minimum wage.
“The nasty party is back.”
Mr Cameron said: “I can tell you what is happening under this Government: inflation is down, unemployment is down, the economy is growing, the deficit is coming down.
“We face some tough and difficult times in our country but we have a Government on the side of hard-working people.”