Theresa May has denied Philip Hammond claimed an increase in disabled workers was responsible for lower UK productivity rates.
The chancellor was heavily criticised last week after he told the Commons Treasury select committee: ”“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.”
Asked by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas at Prime Minister’s Questions if she would make him apologise for the remark, May said Hammond had made no such claim.
Lucas said: “Last week I tabled a written question to the chancellor, asking for the evidential basis for his suggestion, to the Treasury committee, that disabled workers are responsible for the UK’s productivity problem.
“And last night I received his answer; there is, of course, no such evidence.
“Somewhat disgracefully, the chancellor has so far declined to express any regret. So will the prime minister now take back control, and order the chancellor to withdraw his remark and apologise?”
With Hammond sitting at her side, the PM replied: “Actually, the chancellor did not express the views that she has claimed he was expressing.
“This is a government that values the contribution that disabled people make to our society and to our economy in the workplace.
“This is a government that is actually working to ensure we can see more disabled people getting into the workplace. We’ve had some success, there is more to do, but we will continue to work to ensure that those disabled people that want to work are able to do so.”
Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams, along with several charities, called for Hammond to make a public apology for his claim, but the chancellor has so far remained tight-lipped.
Mark Atkinson, chief executive at disability charity Scope, said: “The chancellor did explicitly link increased participation of disabled people in the workforce with productivity.
“We wrote to the prime minister last week to request an explanation for these unacceptable and derogatory comments. There hasn’t been a reply.
“The chancellor still hasn’t withdrawn his comments, or offered a full apology. He has to do this now, before further doubt is thrown on to the government’s policy to get more disabled people in to work.”