UK Politics

Lord Freud faces Commons vote after disabled worker comments

Lord Freud Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lord Freud issued an 'unreserved apology' for his comments

The Labour Party says it will force a Commons vote on the future of Welfare Minister Lord Freud over his recorded comments about disabled workers.

The Conservative peer issued an "unreserved" apology after suggesting people with disabilities could be paid less than the minimum wage.

Labour has called for him to resign and plans to table a motion of no confidence in him.

The vote is expected to take place later this month.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said the prime minister's failure to remove Lord Freud was "astonishing".

She added: "Labour will table a motion of no confidence in Lord Freud because we believe it's completely unacceptable that David Cameron has failed to sack his minister for welfare reform."

Offensive

When Labour leader Ed Miliband raised the comments during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, David Cameron said they were not the views of the government.

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

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the comments were offensive but did not call for his resignation.

Lord Freud was recorded during a fringe meeting at the Conservative conference last month.

'Foolish'

He was responding to a councillor who said some "mentally damaged individuals" who wanted to work were unable to do so because employers would not pay them the £6.50-an-hour minimum wage.

The minister said there "was no system for going below the minimum wage".

But he added: "You make a really good point about the disabled... 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..."

Lord Freud, who also advised the previous Labour government and has been a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions since 2010, then released a statement apologising for his comments.

"I was foolish to accept the premise of the question," he said.

"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."

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