Shipley MP then goes on to describe criticism of his remarks as ‘leftwing hysteria’
A Tory MP sparked anger by suggesting that disabled people should work for less than the minimum wage to increase their chances of being taken on by employers. Philip Davies told the Commons: “If an employer is looking at two candidates, one who has got disabilities and one who hasn’t, and they have got to pay them both the same rate, I invite you to guess which one the employer is more likely to take on.
“Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, cannot be as productive in their work as somebody who has not got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that, given the employer was going to have to pay them both the same, they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk.
“My view is that for some people the national minimum wage may be more of a hindrance than a help. “If those people who consider it is being a hindrance to them, and in my view that’s some of the most vulnerable people in society, if they feel that for a short period of time, taking a lower rate of pay to help them get on their first rung of the jobs ladder, if they judge that that is a good thing, I don’t see why we should be standing in their way.”
Mental health charity Mind dismissed the Shipley MP’s comments as “preposterous”. Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope, said the MP had got it “seriously wrong”. “This reveals a lot about how we value disabled people – and what we think they have to offer when it comes to work,” he said. “In fact disabled people can contribute as much to a workplace as anyone else.
Davies has a history of making controversial statements out of sync with his party high command. A Conservative party spokesman said: “These comments do not reflect the views of the Conservative party and do not reflect government policy.” In the debate, Davies was challenged over his remarks by fellow Tory MP Edward Leigh, who told him: “Why actually should a disabled person work for less than £5.93 an hour. It is not a lot of money, is it?”
But Davies said criticism of his remarks was “leftwing hysteria”. He said he had talked to people with mental health problems when he met recently with the charity Mind and he said they agreed with his analysis. Labour’s Anne Begg, chair of the work and pensions select committee, called the remarks “outrageous and unacceptable”. “To suggest that disabled people should be treated as second class citizens is shocking and shows just what a warped world some Tories demonstrate they inhabit,” she said.