A Conservative MP last night sparked outrage after suggesting disabled people could be paid less than the minimum wage in order to get into work.
Philip Davies, a senior member of the powerful Tory backbench 1922 Committee, claimed people with disabilities or mental health problems could not get jobs because they had to compete with able-bodied candidates.
The MP for Shipley told the Commons that because employers were less likely to employ disabled people because they were "less productive" they should be able to pay them lower than the minimum wage.
He said that during a visit to the mental health charity Mind, he spoke to people with mental health problems who were "absolutely upfront" that when they went for a job and there were other applicants who did not have mental health problems, it was inevitable that they would not get the job.
Mr Davies added: "Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, can't be as productive in their work as somebody who hasn't got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that given that 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, and that was doing those people a huge disservice."
But Mind was outraged by his remarks. "People with mental health problems should not be considered a source of cheap labour and should be paid appropriately for the jobs they do," said the charity's director of external relations Sophie Corlett.
"It is a preposterous suggestion that someone who has a mental health problem should be prepared to accept less than minimum wage to get their foot in the door with an employer."
Labour's Anne Begg, who chairs the Work and Pensions Select Committee, said: "These comments are utterly outrageous and unacceptable.
"To suggest disabled people should be treated as second-class citizens is shocking and shows just what a warped world some Tories inhabit."
On October 1, the adult minimum wage rate will increase from £5.93 to £6.08 an hour. The youth rate (18 to 20-year-olds) will rise from £4.92 to £4.98, and the rate for 16 to 17- year-olds from £3.64 to £3.68.Reuse content