Miliband attacks welfare minister

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud has suggested that some disabled people are “not worth” the full minimum wage, Ed Milband claimed today, as he questioned whether he could stay in David Cameron’s government.

The Labour leader said the remarks, made at the Tory party conference earlier month, showed the “nasty party is back”.

Responding at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron insisted it was not the view of the Government, adding that disabled people should earn the minimum wage and ministers were pushing for a second above-inflation rise in the minumum wage rate.

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?”

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: “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.”

Speaker John Bercow intervened to calm the rowdy Commons before Mr Cameron added: “Let me tell you I don’t need lectures from anyone about looking after disabled people. I don’t want to hear any more of that.

“We pay the minimum wage, we are reforming disability benefits, we want to help disabled people in our country, we want to help more of them into work.

“Instead of casting aspersions, why don’t you get back to talking about the economy?”

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.

“You came here and told us about the forgotten paragraphs in your speech; I’ve got a copy of them … they came under the heading of hard truths. I’ve a hard truth for you: you are not remotely up to the job.”

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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