Ed Miliband is in huge trouble, he is deeply unpopular within the country and even within his own party there are many calls for him to go. So he is desperate. And his behaviour yesterday at PMQs shows exactly how desperate he is. At a time when we have an Ebola crisis, when ISIS militants are bringing mayhem to a swathe of the Middle East, when the Russians are invading their neighbours and when we are trying to fix our constitution to restore English rights, all Miliband can do is make political capital by prevaricating and equivocating.
Miliband’s criticism of Lord Freud was disingenuous. What Lord Freud said was in a private meeting where policy was being debated. It was not a public ministerial speech. Miliband took Freud’s words totally out of context and utterly misrepresented them. Miliband was playing politics. No wonder David Cameron got annoyed.
Miliband quoted Freud as saying that some people “are not worth the full wage”. This is a true fact. If someone can only do half as much work they should not be paid the same as someone who does the full amount. Any employer would quickly go bust if they paid people for doing less. The second Miliband quote of Freud was “something we can do if someone wants to work for £2 an hour”. You can see straight away that Freud is trying to help “something we can do” is the big clue. And when he says £2 and hour he is talking about the employer paying that. Whilst the government pays the rest. This is called a disabled wage subsidy. So the disabled person gets the full wage, but the employer doesn’t have to pay out for someone who can’t work as hard as a full bodied person.
What we are talking about here is decency and compassion in society. What Lord Freud was discussing was how to give a group of disabled people back their pride and purpose. By allowing them to have a job, even if they aren’t up to doing it properly. By the government paying a disabled wage subsidy.
The core of this whole matter is the disabled wage subsidy a mechanism for the government to pay part of the wages of disabled people who cannot do a job as well as a full bodied person. This mechanism is already used by many countries. A quick look on Google throws up Sweden (apparently all the Scandinavian countries do it), Ireland and Australia.
Let’s look at the Irish website, it is very clear in its wording: Sometimes the nature of a disability can restrict an employee’s productivity in comparison with other staff, irrespective of his or her ability to do a job. In situations where this restriction results in a loss of productivity for the employer, the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) allows the employer make up the shortfall through grant assistance. This is exactly what Lord Freud was talking about.
What the world should be asking is why does Ed Miliband think that this is a bad idea.
Lord Freud 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”