Look Left – Tory MP says disabled should work for below minimum wage

A Conservative MP sparked outrage today by saying employers should be allowed to hire disabled people on less than the minimum wage, £5.93 an hour; Shamik Das reports.

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• A Conservative MP sparked outrage today by saying employers should be allowed to hire disabled people on less than the minimum wage – £5.93 an hour.

Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, also said this second-class status should be applied to people with learning difficulties and mental health problems. He made the remarks in a Commons debate on the Employment Opportunities Bill, prompting anger from opposition politicians and charities alike.

Anne Begg, chair of the work and pensions select committee, said:

“These comments are utterly 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.”

While Sophie Corlett of Mind added:

“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.

“People with mental health problems should not be considered a source of cheap labour and should be paid appropriately for the jobs they do.”

On Left Foot Forward tonight, Jos Bell points out that Davies’s remarks and attitudes are not as isolated as we’d like to think, and provide a much needed wake-up call.

His remarks may not have come as too much of a surprise to seasoned Philip Davies watchers, however. He has a record of outlandish, outrageous views, many of them closer in spirit and substance to the BNP than David Cameron’s Conservatives.

Only last month, he described Britain’s contribution to international aid as “stark raving mad”. More Griffin-esque were his remarks that there was “nothing offensive” about ‘blacking up’.

He said:

“Why it is so offensive to black up your face… I have never understood this.”

The Tory leadership have distanced themselves from his remarks today, yet a Tory MP he remains – for now.

• Earlier this week, at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, David Cameron and Ed Miliband clashed over the treatment of cancer patients.

The Labour leader told the House that as a result of the Welfare Reform Bill, the government would stop contributory-based employment allowance for recovering cancer patients after one year – resulting in 7,000 of them losing £94 per week.

He was supported in his claims by MacMillan Cancer Support, whose spokesman Mike Hobday said:

“We think it was a really important issue for Ed Miliband to raise. It is quite clear the government haven’t realised it will have a big impact on cancer patients who would like to work but aren’t yet ready to do so…

“There are 7,000 people this will apply to. Those who are recovering will be hit, those who want to work but are not quite ready yet because of the treatment they receive – they will be penalised to the tune of £100 a week.”

MacMillan’s chief executive Ciarán Devane added:

“Many cancer patients will lose this crucial benefit simply because they have not recovered quickly enough. The majority want to return to work as it can represent a milestone in their recovery and a return to normality, in addition to the obvious financial benefits.

“This proposal in the Welfare Reform Bill will have a devastating impact on many cancer patients. We are urging the government to change their plans to reform key disability benefits to ensure cancer patients and their families are not pushed into poverty.”

In response to this evidence, there followed a vicious right-wing backlash against Hobday, a former Labour Parliamentary candidate, and MacMillan, with wild accusations of a conspiracy between Labour and the charity. Utter nonsense of course, especially when you consider that not only MacMillan but 30 – yes, thirty – cancer charities oppose the government on these cuts, as revealed by Political Scrapbook.

As PSBook say:

“Are we to believe [all] these charities, rather than representing the interests of cancer patients, are pursuing some form of party political vendetta?!”

• Moving on from welfare reform to the health reforms, the government unveiled its long-awaited changes to the Health and Social Care Bill on Tuesday.

It followed the culmination of the 12-week “listening exercise” (pdf) and the publication of the NHS Future Forum report – yet despite the u-turns announced by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Andrew Lansley, the public remain sceptical, according to an ITV News/ComRes poll this week.

It found:

• 56 per cent do not believe he will keep his word on the NHS;

• 51% agree the Tory party’s plans for the NHS are just a way to privatise parts of the service;

• 54% disagree that the NHS is safe in David Cameron’s hands;

• 49% think the government should scrap the current proposals for NHS reform and start from scratch.

In response to the poll findings, shadow health secretary John Healey said:

“After a year of confusion and mishandling of the health service, this poll shows the public know they can’t trust David Cameron with the NHS. People see the prime minister breaking his promises and have rumbled his plans to open up all parts of the NHS to private companies.”

Responding to the substance of the reforms, meanwhile, Liberal Democrat activist and executive member of the Social Liberal Forum, Dr Prateek Buch, wrote on Left Foot Forward:

“Reading through the government’s response to its ‘listening exercise’ on NHS reforms, three things stand out.

“Firstly, it’s clear that the reforms proposed by Andrew Lansley in the Health and Social Care Bill will be significantly amended, in response to the grave misgivings expressed by both healthcare professionals and Liberal Democrats at our conference in March…

“Secondly, it’s clear that in its response to the NHS Future Forum report, the coalition has left some questions unanswered.

“A key demand of both clinical professionals and Lib Dems was that the duty-based role of the Secretary of State be restored; although the government announced yesterday that this role would revert to having ‘ultimate accountability for securing the provision of services’, it remains unclear whether this amounts to retaining the secretary of State’s statutory ‘duty to provide’ a comprehensive and universal service enshrined in the NHS since its foundation…

“Thirdly, yesterday’s pronouncements will not be the yardstick by which the NHS reforms will be judged. To fully assess the extent of the turnaround, we must await the amended legislation as it returns for parliamentary scrutiny at committee stage.

“Beyond this, we must judge the coalition government’s record on healthcare not just on procedural and legislative details, but on the outcomes these bring about on the ground…

“Mr Lansley’s position is either fatally weakened or immensely strengthened depending on who you speak to – either way his reforms will be diluted not ditched, and the Tories have huge questions to answer over the shambolic way they’ve handled the politics of NHS reform.

“As for the Lib Dems, Baroness Williams and Nick Clegg have been very clear – the amendments to the bill reflect most of the demands we made at conference, and can be seen as a clear victory for the party.”

Progressive of the week:

Northern Ireland local government minister Alex Attwood, who this week called on councils to put aside their sectarian differences and practice a “new order of politics”. He issued the warning amid claims that relations between elected members on councils like Limavady and Belfast City had significantly deteriorated.

Attwood told the Belfast Telegraph:

“I get disappointed when anybody clings to the past… We need a new order of politics. That needs to prevail and deepen in all political institutions in the North. When people rely upon majorities, where parties try to do local deals to frustrate the popular wish, I do not agree with that.”

There is more on Mr Attwood in the Week Outside Westminster below.

Regressive of the week:

LBC presenter Nick Ferrari, who appeared on the BBC’s This Week programme last night and said weekly bin collections were a bigger priority than overseas aid. Yes, you read it correctly, that’s exactly what he said – that he’d rather the government broke its promise to the world’s poorest than failed to collect his garbage.

For a defence of overseas aid, in particular aid to India, see this Wednesday’s Left Foot Forward article from Anas Sarwar MP, a member of the international development select committee.

Evidence of the week:

The retail sales figures (pdf), released yesterday, that showed a 1.4 per cent drop in May, more than reversing the 1.1 per cent rise in April, when sales were boosted by a number of special factors, namely the good weather, the timing of Easter and the Royal Wedding.

Left Foot Forward’s Tony Dolphin explained:

“Putting aside the latest monthly volatility, what is striking is that sales have increased by just 0.2 per cent over the last year.

“The biggest factor behind disappointing sales is higher inflation – particularly for food and energy. If other factors were mainly responsible, then we would expect both sales volumes and sales values to be weak. But, sales values are up 3.8 per cent over the last year – a little below par, but no worse.

“In fact, given that average earnings have increased by around 2 per cent over the last year, and even allowing for an increase in the number of people in work and earning, what is most surprising is how much faster than household incomes sales are growing.

“This means one of two things. Either consumers are cutting back on other spending – on services which they regard as less essential – in response to higher food and energy prices, or they are saving less and borrowing more.”

Today, there was further bleak news for the high street, with a survey in this morning’s FT (£) showing almost a quarter of main high streets failing:

“In 83 towns, ranging from Bootle to Dunstable, the spread of empty shops has begun a ‘downward spiral’ on high streets as consumers rein in spending amid fears for jobs and the economy…

“Another 42 of the 365 retail centres surveyed are deemed to be ‘degenerating’. More than a third are categorised as stable.”

Ed Jacobs’s Week Outside Westminster:


As Carwyn Jones formally launched the Welsh government’s legislative programme, Plaid Cymru spent the week assessing where it goes from here having found itself out of power following May’s Assembly elections. Writing for the Western Mail, former Plaid MP Adam Price, still seen as a potential future leader, argued that the party had “slipped into reverse gear”.

He said:

“We behave – to borrow an analogy from another context – like ‘closet nationalists’, frightened of people’s reactions to who we really are and what we believe. This convinces no-one and leaves us looking weak and even devious, which is worse.

“It’s time we came out and said it: our dream is Welsh independence. For that dream ever to become reality then the biggest problem we must solve is economic.

“As Gerry Holtham argues in an extremely perceptive piece in the current edition of the Welsh-language monthly Barn, we should place our economic policy four square at the forefront of our political programme.”

On the party leadership, and Iuean Wyn Jones’s plans to step aside, he added:

“A leadership election can be a source of renewal, but in the party’s current state I fear it might be something of a distraction. The problems the party faces are much deeper than one of personnel.”

The Plaid leader himself used an interview with BBC Wales to warn his party against falling back to a “core values” strategy and that it needed to widen its appeal across Wales.

Meanwhile, Welsh universities lobbied to be allowed to charge up to £9,000 a year for tuition. They did this as the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales rejected bids to do so without substantial changes to their plans to encourage poorer teenagers to enter higher education.

Education minister Leighton Andrews responded:

“We’ve made bold decisions regarding the future of tuition fees in Wales which have been widely welcomed and supported. Higher education should be on the basis of the individual’s potential to benefit, and not on the basis of what they can afford to pay.

“On that basis I believe the new system we’re putting in place is the fairest and most equitable we’ve ever had. It is imperative that we stick up for our students and help them wherever we can.”


The UK government announced the Scotland Bill will now include additional financial powers for the Scottish government and parliament, including the ability to borrow more money, issue bonds to access cash from capital markets, and protect itself from sudden changes in spending levels.

Scottish secretary Michael Moore argued:

“Along with other measures in the Scotland Bill, these proposals will allow Scotland to shape the economy we want and generate the jobs we need. They will do so within the framework of a strong and stable UK.”

Whilst welcoming the move as a step in the right direction, Scotland’s finance secretary, John Swinney, explained:

“We will be providing the Secretary of State for Scotland with six papers outlining this government’s proposed changes to the Scotland Bill. We will be presenting the UK government with our papers on borrowing powers, the Crown Estate, excise duty, an enhanced role in Europe, corporation tax and broadcasting in due course.”

Elsewhere, Left Foot Forward reported calls by Minister for Parliamentary Business, Bruce Crawford, for reforms to the way Holyrood operated amidst fears the Parliament simply isn’t geared up for majority, single-party government.

Scottish Labour’s business manager, Paul Martin, argued:

“These suggested reforms don’t change the fact that by dominating every committee and then electing one of their own as Presiding Officer the SNP are already acting as judge, jury and executioner.”

Northern Ireland:

The minister responsible for local government, Alex Attwood, called for an end to the sectarian divisions that have emerged on a number of local authorities, and said councillors should embrace a “new order of politics”.

Mr Attwood told the Belfast Telegraph:

“While I do not have any time for political intolerance I do have understanding for those that find some things difficult to accept. Local and central political leaders need to have the needs of victims more central in what they do and how they conduct themselves.”

Meanwhile, the Committee on the Administration of Justice published a critical report into the work of Northern Ireland’s Police Ombudsman, dubbing the body “not fit for purpose”.

Aideen Gilmore, deputy director of the CAJ, said the report had:

“…uncovered a range of very serious concerns and questions in relation to the efficiency, effectiveness, independence and transparency of the current office, which lead us to question whether the office is fit for purpose in relation to historic investigations.”

The Police Ombudsman’s Office responded by arguing the report:

“…does not include a balanced view of the issues surrounding the investigation of historical matters, nor reflect the structural changes implemented to allow the Office to deal with the doubling of historic cases in the past three years.”

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35 Responses to “Look Left – Tory MP says disabled should work for below minimum wage”

  1. Jenny Stalker

    Look Left – Tory @PhilipDaviesMP says disabled should work for below minimum wage: http://bit.ly/lQzCzn reports @ShamikDas

  2. lizzie barnett

    Look Left – Tory @PhilipDaviesMP says disabled should work for below minimum wage: http://bit.ly/lQzCzn reports @ShamikDas

  3. Mark O'keegan

    Look Left – Tory @PhilipDaviesMP says disabled should work for below minimum wage: http://bit.ly/lQzCzn reports @ShamikDas

  4. Jamie Laverty

    #Tory showing his true colours #conservative fascists http://is.gd/2AIfnU

  5. Darren Cadwallader

    Look Left – Tory @PhilipDaviesMP says disabled should work for below minimum wage: http://bit.ly/lQzCzn reports @ShamikDas

  6. Alex Michie

    Look Left – Tory @PhilipDaviesMP says disabled should work for below minimum wage: http://bit.ly/lQzCzn reports @ShamikDas

  7. George McLean

    Did I miss the bit in Philip Davies’s speech where he also called for a lower minimum wage for women and black people who are also discriminated against?

  8. Michael Williamson

    Er, discrimination law, anyone?? RT @leftfootfwd: Look Left – Tory MP says disabled should work for below minimum wage http://t.co/w3HMkdV

  9. Lee Healey IncomeMAX

    RT @DavidJones_dpaj #philipdavies "Bill led by Christopher Chope (Ringleader). The 'jackboot' bill failed today" info: http://t.co/UkkhF60

  10. Robert

    I’ve spend ten years with numerous Job providers, and after ten years I’m yet to be offered a job interview. This year I’ve seen every single disabled friend who have been in work getting made redundant, mainly from Asda but also the NHS,

    The simple fact is I cannot do the same as an able bodied person, and to be honest giving me a wage for what I can do is well charity like it or not.

    I get get a job working without pay on a trial, I spent a week so they could see me and I could see them after two days they said it was obvious to them and obvious to me I simple was unable to do the job, they were right and if they had given me a job it would be duty to feeling sorry for me.

  11. James Stover

    The Guardian Look Left – Tory MP says disabled should work for below minimum wage Left Foot Forward • A Conservative http://t.co/TbUCACH

  12. daniel vazquez

    Look Left – Tory MP says disabled should work for below minimum wage: “It is a preposterous suggestion that some… http://bit.ly/mnYuUu

  13. mr. Sensible

    I will comment on Davies’s disgraceful comments in more detail on the subject, but Robert I do not think wages should be cut in the name of job creation.

    On Northern Ireland, as I said on Wednesday I fully agree with Mr Attwood; all sides need to turn away from the past, and then Northern Ireland can move forward as we all want it to.

    On the NHS, the government’s proposals and in a mess, and this exercise will be judged on outcomes rather than warm words from Cameron.

    Perhaps nick Ferrari might tell us how his priority fits with localism? I think it is a disgrace that the right want the aid budget cut, and the sooner Cameron legislates for 0.7% the better, as foreign aid is not the reason why services and being cut.

    Shamik, I was surprised to see no coverage this week of the complete incompetence at the Department for Education over academies and academy funding. Michael Gove has no blueprint for the academies program short of making every school an academy, which I think would be a serious mistake. And now he’s been forced to look again at academy funding in the light of legal threats from local authorities.

  14. mr. Sensible

    BTW Shamik, where have some of these new tags, such as ‘Clean POlitics’ come from?

  15. 13eastie

    I do not pretend to defend any suggestion that disabled people should not enjoy the same rights as the able-bodied (and this goes way beyond mere employment law).

    But this story does bring the concept of the minimum wage under scrutiny again.

    Is there not something deeply unpleasant, uncomfortable and paternalistic about an argument that says anyone seeking to make a genuine contribution, and is willing to work for £5.92/hr should be statutorily prevented from doing so and forced instead to remain at home, forbidden even from doing meaningful voluntary work, and expected to be grateful for a pittance in tax-payer funded ‘benefits’?

  16. Mason Dixon, Autistic

    Beastie, as it is even those not on minimum wage still need their incomes topping up with benefits, effectively subsiding not just struggling small-businesses but big successful ones that could easily afford to pay more. That is a burden spread among all tax-payers; a minimum wage makes sure employers take up more of a fairer share of it.

  17. Adam Pogonowski

    Tory MP says disabled should work for less than min wage: http://t.co/Tb6HRHU #vile This is utterly unacceptable, and sickening.

  18. Gary Bush

    Tory MP says disabled should work for less than min wage: http://t.co/7V5ggX8 #vile This is utterly unacceptable, and sickening.

  19. Pyrmontvillage

    Tory MP says disabled should work for less than min wage: http://t.co/Tb6HRHU #vile This is utterly unacceptable, and sickening.

  20. 13eastie


    First, your sweeping generalisation is incorrect. My mother, before she retired, worked for years on minimum wage and never claimed a penny from the tax-payer.

    Second, ‘as it is’ there are people who do not work because the law does not allow them to do so for £5.92/hr. Even if the notion that employers can ‘easily afford’ to pay to support these people were true, I do not see how this is happening if their would-be employees are sat at home.

  21. David Ogden

    Tory MP says disabled should work for less than min wage: http://t.co/7V5ggX8 #vile This is utterly unacceptable, and sickening.

  22. :::

    RT @leftfootfwd: Look Left – Tory MP says disabled should work for below minimum wage http://t.co/uB3IBrC

  23. David Ogden

    Tory MP said disabled +those wth learning & mental health,work below min wage.Hope employers #MeltonMowbray never do this http://ow.ly/5kNNy

  24. Amanda Ramsay

    Look Left – Tory @PhilipDaviesMP says disabled should work for below minimum wage: http://bit.ly/lQzCzn reports @ShamikDas

  25. Rachael Harkins

    Disabled people should work for less than minimum wage according to the tories http://t.co/NK7P7S4

  26. mr. Sensible

    We can’t just allow employers who cannot meet their responsibilities to get away with it.

  27. Selohesa

    I thought all he was saying that if somebody’s contribution was not worth 5.92 per hour to employer then if the chose to work for less then fine – surely that is better than being unemployable and made to feel useless. There are some people in the world who would rather make a contribution however small rather than live entirely on benefits. They put those who live on benefits as a life style choice to shame,

  28. Mason Dixon, Autistic

    I didn’t spot any ‘sweeping generalisation’ but ok and I can’t speak for your mother except that I know bugger all about her circumstances or how she managed. You know that, so why use an example that can’t be discussed?

    Regarding the rest of your post, you’re not talking any sense.

  29. Dave Citizen

    I think I spot an underlying assupmtion in comments that are somewhat sympathetic to Davies’ line: that gainful employment is something offered to individuals by employers almost like doing them a favour. You either do what’s needed or the employer rightly gets rid.

    I think those of us who are so shocked by Davies see the role of employers in a different light: employers are enabled to run successful businesses by society. They are supported and protected by society because we recognise they are of wider benefit (just like our schools, hospitals, police etc.). Once an employer sets themselves apart, as if they are somehow no longer part and parcel of the wider community but separate and able to act in ways that undermine the community then serving their interests no longer makes so much sense.

    So, Robert, my approach to employing people of different capabilities would be that this is something for the community as a whole to deal with, not simply be left to private business. Communities pick up the tab for unemployment so why not get involved in getting beneficial work out of everyone that private business can’t currently ustilise.

  30. scandalousbill

    13 Eastie,

    You say,

    “Is there not something deeply unpleasant, uncomfortable and paternalistic about an argument that says anyone seeking to make a genuine contribution, and is willing to work for £5.92/hr should be statutorily prevented from doing so and forced instead to remain at home, forbidden even from doing meaningful voluntary work, and expected to be grateful for a pittance in tax-payer funded ‘benefits’?”

    I am not sure to which statute you are referring to, it has not been my experience that such a situation exists, most particularly a statute where disabled individuals are “forced instead to remain at home, forbidden even from doing meaningful voluntary work”

    What I do find deeply unpleasant is that a member of parliament would be that bigoted to automatically equate a disabled individual with non productivity in an employment situation. I can find no reputable studies or expert opinion that supports this position, and it was made clear by the people at Mind that they in no way put this position forward to Mr. Davies.

    If, when you say,” the concept of the minimum wage” is ” deeply unpleasant, uncomfortable and paternalistic” in this case, you seem to be referring to the position advocated over at the Coffee house blog by Peter Hoskin, who self righteously cites the Ohio based example quoting the praise an anonymous mother, ( I suppose he has yet to meet yours”).
    “But there’s also an observation by the mother of an autistic worker: “He has a place to go and a reason to get up in the morning. I don’t care about the money.”


    So if this example is reflective of your notion of disabled persons seeking to make a genuine contribution” as opposed to “people who do not work because the law does not allow them to do so”. You should also consider the level of underpayment this employment practice has produced.

    “More than 80 percent of the low-wage work force earns an hourly wage of $3.70 or less, with about 35 percent of them — or 5,200 workers — making less than $1 an hour, the newspaper reported. Nearly 1,000 make less than 25 cents an hour.
    The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour”


    While Hoskin and the anonymous mother may care little for the money, a quick calculation, particularly with the lower tiers of the cited scales, reveal nothing short of a deliberate and serious policy of abject exploitation of the most vulnerable.

    Are you prepared to provide a convincing argument that your mother would have fared well under these conditions?

  31. Leon Wolfson

    13eastie – No, there’s something unpleasant about the spectre of “disabled” (of any degree) people being forced by the government to take extremely low-paid jobs, replacing properly paid workers, or lose the low rate of benefits they currently have.

  32. Clare Fernyhough

    Ironic isn’t it? You really couldn’t make it up. The disabled of the UK, some in work, some not capable of work are about to face the biggest cuts to their income that will leave all those who do not have private means in abject poverty, but according to this crack pot, if they were to work, then they wouldn’t get paid the statutory minimum!

    Reading comments on websites concerning this during the last few days has made me sad, not the least because many disabled people said that they were so desperate to get a job that they wouldn’t mind being paid less. It says more about the integrity of these disabled people than anything, but perhaps it also points to disabled people’s ideas with regard to their self worth.

    It’s obviously silly to even consider such a move, and it received little support in parliament, but it has succeeded in planting seeds of doubt in public consciousness, almost like a ‘eureka’ moment when they start to consider that some disabled people do not perform similarly in comparison to their non disabled work colleagues, and so do not earn their slave wages.

    Yet another way to put pressure on disabled people in work or not which has gone on for a long time. When I was in work, people I knew, some who I considered friends thought firstly, that the government shouldn’t have given me DLA since it gave me a financial advantage compared to my working colleagues, and secondly, that the government shouldn’t have provided me with transport costs or other support via Access to Work. Now that I’m incapable of work, they feel I shouldn’t get any support at all. Well, that’s OK, because post 2013 I will be homeless and living in abject poverty: will they be happy then or will they be moaning about the scandal of all of these homeless disabled people begging on their streets?

    Best just put us all into work camps then we can earn our keep eh? Out of sight; out of mind.

  33. Selohesra

    A little bit of an over-reaction there I think Clare

  34. Huhne attacks "Tea Party Tories" – who on Earth does he mean?! | Left Foot Forward

    […] first is his belief disabled people should be “allowed” to work for less than the minimum wage. Presented as a way to allow people to take a lower rate of pay […]

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