Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, in a letter to David Cameron sent this morning, said:
Dear Prime Minister,
Your Minister for Welfare Reform has said that he believes some disabled people are “not worth the full wage”. Despite outrage on all benches, including from senior Conservatives, and from charity leaders, you have failed to act.
Lord Freud’s remarks were completely unacceptable, and it is also unacceptable that someone with these views remains in charge of such an important post in your government.
It is now vital that you publicly confront the following issues.
After learning of the comments, your spokesman said you would “want to hear what Lord Freud is going to say”. Can you confirm that you have personally not spoken to Lord Freud to discuss his views, and yet you have given him a clean bill of health?
Lord Freud said in relation to disabled people being paid less than the national minimum wage that he was “going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally”. It is essential that you now release details of all work which has been commissioned within the Department for Work and Pensions and other government departments relating to this issue in the last 12 months. Will you now publish all details of such work, and will you release all internal papers which cover this topic?
Finally, Lord Freud was today supposed to be speaking in the ‘Social Justice Strategy’ debate in the House of Lords, yet he has been ‘pulled’ in a sign that you do not in fact have full confidence in his position. Given he is a government minister and a peer, it is only right that he be subject to public accountability. Will you and your Leader in the House of Lords therefore join me in calling on him to today come to the House of Lords and make a full statement to explain his comments, what action he has taken in this policy area and respond to the many questions parliamentary colleagues will have?
If you cannot agree to this people will only conclude that your government has something to hide, that you cannot publicly defend your position in relation to disabled people’s entitlement to the minimum wage, and your inaction will haunt you.
Charities yesterday said that Lord Freud’s comments were offensive and shocking. Mencap said that he should “reflect on his position”. It is unclear, however, how far a member of your government would have to go in offending disabled people in order to lose their job, when in many other walks of life the comments by Lord Freud would have led to a resignation.
You said in the House of Commons yesterday that Lord Freud’s views are “not the views of anyone in the government”, and yet his continued presence in the DWP suggests otherwise.
Rachel Reeves MP
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary