Tory welfare minister Lord Freud has been urged to resign after he suggested that disabled people are "not worth" being paid the full minimum wage.
In response to a question about the disabled and the national minimum wage at a Tory party conference fringe meeting, the peer was recorded saying: "Now, there is a small…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 ... "
Labour leader Ed Miliband confronted David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions over the Tory peer's "very serious" remarks, asking if he agreed that "disabled people should not be paid the minimum wage".
"Surely if someone holds those views, they can't stay in government?," he said, concluding: "In the dog days of this government the Conservative party is going back to its worst intincts - unfunded tax cuts, hitting the poorest - the nasty part is back."
The Prime Minister shot back, referring to his late disabled son: "I don't need lectures from anyone about looking after disabled people ... instead of casting aspersions why doesn't he get back to talking about the economy?"
He also distanced himself from Lord Freud's comments, saying: "Those are not the views of the government ,those are not the view of anyone in this government."
Speaking on the BBC's Daily Politics, welfare minister Esther McVey distanced herself from Lord Freud's remarks, saying that "those words will haunt him". She made clear that her fellow ministerial colleague would "have to explain himself".
The Prime Minister's spokesman later said: "I'm sure that Lord Freud will explain how he shares the Prime Minister's view."
Shadow leader of the Commons Angela Eagle wrote on Twitter that the Prime Minister should sack Lord Freud "if he had the guts" for his "disgraceful comments" about the disabled.
If he had the guts PM would sack Lord Freud for his disgraceful comments about the disabled #PMQs
— Angela Eagle (@angelaeagle) October 15, 2014
Shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn said: "Having just been disowned by the Prime Minister, why is Lord Freud still in his job?"
Having just been disowned by the Prime Minister at PMQs, why is Lord Freud still in his job ?
— Hilary Benn MP (@hilarybennmp) October 15, 2014
Tory councillor James Scott, whose question to Lord Freud resulted in the controversial answer, reportedly asked: "I have a number of mentally damaged individuals, who to be quite frank aren’t worth the Minimum Wage, but want to work. And we have been trying to support them in work, but you can’t find people who are willing to pay the Minimum Wage.
"We had a young man who was keen to do gardening; now the only way we managed to get him to work was actually setting up a company for him, because as a director in a company we didn’t have to pay the Minimum Wage, we could actually give him the earnings from that. How do you deal with those sort of cases?"
Lord Freud once worked as an adviser to James Purnell as work and pensions secretary in the last Labour government, before going on to join the Tories as a life peer. He previously admitted that he "didn’t know anything about welfare at all".
The Tory peer has caused his own share of controversies as a coalition minister, after attacking people for pursuing a "lifestyle" on benefits,, insisting there was no link between benefit cuts and an increased use of food banks, telling families hit by the bedroom tax can "go out to work or use a sofa bed", and likening benefit claimants to corpses.
The Huffington Post UK also revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions spent nearly £75,000 on media training for officials, including Lord Freud.
Labour MP Teresa Pearce, member of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, told HuffPostUK that the DWP's £75,000 bill for media training was a "waste of money".
In response to the revelation that Lord Freud was among those who received training, Pearce said: "I hope he kept the receipt."
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