Lord Freud is is an unpaid Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. He is a great grandson of Sigmund Freud. He had a very successful career as a journalist and in the city. In 2006 Tony Blair appointed Freud to provide an independent review of the British welfare to work system. Many of his recommendations were implemented. Then in 2008 he produced a white paper for James Purnell, the Labour Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. In 2009 he joined the Conservative party and became a shadow minister for welfare. A subject he is obviously a great expert on. In the current government he is in charge of reforms to the benefit system. His ideas have been massively successful and are partially responsible for the mass return to work of vast numbers of former benefits claimants. Everybody in Britain should be grateful for his work, the country wins enormously from having people working instead of existing on benefits.
At the Conservative Party conference earlier this month Lord Freud was involved in a fringe meeting. I have been to these and enjoy them a lot, they are a great opportunity for everyone in the party to get stuck in to the nitty gritty of finding great policies to make Britain work better and to look after everyone in society.
The discussion was about what to do for the relatively small number of mentally ill people who are capable of doing something, but not capable of the work involved in a proper job. It would be really good for their self esteem if they could find a task to do and maybe it would also help their long term condition. The idea being floated was that they could be paid a wage lower than the national minimum wage by an employer with the Government making up the difference. So they would still get the minimum wage. Thus an employer would be able to employ someone with very low productivity who would not otherwise by economically viable to have in the business. All excellent stuff and typical of the caring, compassionate Conservative party. Remember that the Prime Minister had a disabled child so has an emotional engagement in this area.
Someone tape recorded the discussion and then made part of it public. Here is a transcript:
“You make a really good point about the disabled. Now I had not thought through and we have not got a system for, you know, kind of going below the Minimum Wage. But we do have, you know, Universal Credit is really useful for people with the fluctuating conditions who can do some work – go up and down – because they can earn and get…and get, you know, bolstered through Universal Credit, and they can move that amount up and down. 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”
As you can see this is all very good stuff. A Government minister doing his best to find a compassionate and sensible solution for this small group of people. Every educated person in Britain would approve wholeheartedly of what he is trying to do.
But not the Labour party. They saw a political opportunity to use these disadvantaged people as pawns. To selectively quote Lord Freud completely out of context. To be nasty and evil. As you would expect.
This was sprung on Cameron at PMQs and he said that the language used was not acceptable. Lord Freud has apologised to the House of Lords for any offence cause. But, let’s face it, nobody was really offended. The only people “taking offence” were Labour opportunists trying to embarrass the government for electoral advantage. And who care not one jot for the poor people who would benefit from a great idea.