David Cameron ordered the welfare reform minister Lord Freud to issue a full apology after it emerged he had said that some disabled people were “not worth” paying the minimum wage.
Ed Miliband revealed at prime minister’s questions that Freud had recently suggested that people with mental disabilities could be paid as little as £2 an hour.
The prime minister asked senior officials to tell Freud to apologise or risk the sack.
Within 90 minutes of the order from the prime minister, after Miliband had challenged him over Freud’s remarks, the minister said in a written statement: “I would like to offer a full and unreserved apology. I was foolish to accept the premise of the question.
“To be clear, all disabled people should be paid at least the minimum wage, without exception, and I accept it is offensive to suggest anything else.
“I care passionately about disabled people. I am proud to have played a full part in a government that is fully committed to helping disabled people overcome the many barriers they face in finding employment. I am profoundly sorry for any offence I have caused to any disabled people.”
But disabled groups remained unhappy. Clare Pelham, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability, told the BBC: “That final sentence in his apology when he apologises – if he has caused any offence to disabled people – is him slightly missing the point. He’s offended everyone; everyone is offended by the idea that disabled people are not worth a full wage.”