Disability charity Scope called on Philip Hammond to withdraw his “totally unacceptable and derogatory comments” after he said Britain’s sluggish productivity could partly be blamed on more disabled people in the workforce .
In Wednesday’s treasury select committee, the chancellor was asked about low economic productivity levels, which he had reported during the autumn Budget last month.
At first, he responded saying that high levels of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, “will be felt for many many years to come”.
He then added: “It is almost certainly the case that by increasing participation in the workforce, including far higher levels of participation by marginal groups and very high levels of engagement in the workforce, for example of disabled people – something we should be extremely proud of – may have had an impact on overall productivity measurements.”
Anna Bird, the director of policy and research at Scope, said: “These comments are totally unacceptable and derogatory. They fundamentally undermine the government’s policy to get more disabled people into work, and the ambition set out by the prime minister just a week ago.”
She added: “The chancellor must urgently withdraw them and offer a full apology.”
Pretty shocked actually https://t.co/Z2fUrlwjE9— Alison McGovern (@Alison_McGovern) December 6, 2017
There are 7 million people of working age in the UK who have a disability, or health condition but only 47.6% of disabled adults are employed, compared with 79.2% of non-disabled people, the latest figures show.
This is despite the law being clear that people with disabilities should not be discriminated against when seeking employment.
Several MPs voiced their shock at Hammond’s comments, including Labour MP John Mann, who is a member of the committee and said the chancellor’s remarks were “appalling”.
On Twitter, he said: “Chancellor just linked low productivity growth to the labour market and specified the increased employment of disabled people.
“My experience of employing disabled people is that they are brilliant employees. The chancellor’s comments are ignorant.”
Shocking that Philip Hammond is trying to blame disabled people for low productivity! Disabled people contribute enormously and disability employment gap has barely changed since productivity started to stall. Disgusting scapegoating! https://t.co/1BpOF4i0nf— Marsha de Cordova MP (@Marshadecordova) December 6, 2017
The shadow minister for disabled people, Marsha de Cordova, also complained on Twitter. In one of a series of tweets, she said: “As a disabled person, I am shocked and appalled that Philip Hammond is trying to blame me and other disabled people for the Tories’ economic failure.”
She added: “He should apologise immediately for this disgraceful comment.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, productivity per hour fell by 0.1% between March and June this year, despite people working more hours.