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Thursday 16th
posted by Luke James in Britain

Tory minister told conference fringe meeting that disabled people are only worth £2 an hour

LABOUR demanded David Cameron sack Tory minister Lord Freud yesterday after the PM’s welfare adviser argued disabled people are “not worth” the minimum wage.

The Welfare Reform Minister said he was “profoundly sorry” as he scrambled to save his job after Labour leader Ed Miliband exposed his comments in Parliament.

A Labour spokesman warned that his “attempt at an apology is not the end of the matter.”

And even Tory Employment Minister Esther McVey admitted “those words will haunt him.”

Mr Cameron was left shamefaced when Mr Miliband ambushed him with the former banker’s comments during Prime Minister’s questions.

The Commons heard in stunned silence how, at a fringe meeting, Lord Freud answered a question from a Tory councillor about disabled people and the minimum wage.

Lord Freud was recorded saying: “You make a really good point about the disabled. There is a group, and I know exactly what you mean, where actually as you say they’re not worth the full wage.”

The minister who cooked up the cruel bedroom tax then suggested disabled people could “work for £2 an hour.”

Lord Freud — who Mr Cameron had described as his “welfare supremo” — promised party activists at the meeting on September 30 that he was “going to go and think about that particular issue.”

The PM insisted: “Those are not the views of the government, those have never been the views of the government.

“The minimum wage is paid to everybody, disabled people included.

“Let me tell you, I don’t need lectures from anyone about looking after disabled people.”

But the Labour leader said Lord Freud’s attitude proved “the nasty party is back.”

“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,” he said.

Lord Freud said later that he was “foolish to accept the premise of the question.”

He added: “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.”

A Labour spokesman added later that Lord Freud’s non-apology left the Tory leader with no choice but to fire him.

“If David Cameron continues to keep Lord Freud in his government we will have yet more proof of how he stands for just a privileged few at the top,” he said.

Work and pensions select committee chairwoman Dame Ann Begg said the Tory wanted to use disabled people to undermine the minimum wage.

“What other groups might not be worth the minimum wage and why single out disabled people?” she asked.

And the Labour MP, who uses a wheelchair, said the peer’s comments would deal another blow to the confidence of some disabled workers.

She said: “A lot of disabled people already feel very vulnerable with a lot of the welfare changes, many of which have been instigated by Lord Freud, particularly deciding whether they’re fit to work or not.

“I think his comments might undermine their confidence that some people think that they’re not worth the payment of the minimum wage.”