Many Tories have never agreed with the notion of a minimum wage. Let’s face it, protecting the low paid has never been something that the Conservative party has cared too much about.
But right wing backbencher Philip Davies has taken callousness to a whole new level.
He stated in a House of Commons debate that the £5.93 per hour minimum wage may be a “hindrance” to those with learning difficulties or mental health conditions when they seek work and argued that they should be allowed to work for less and undercut other workers to access jobs.
Those who have barriers to employment need additional help and support to access the few jobs that are actually available. They need action to stop the stigma and discrimination that still exists. What they don’t need is Tory MPs making absurd suggestions like this one.
Even some of his fellow Tories felt that the odious Davies had gone too far. Edward Leigh MP told him, “Forget the fact there is a minimum wage for a moment. Why actually should a disabled person work for less than £5.93 an hour. It is not a lot of money, is it?”
Sophie Corlett, a spokesperson for the mental health charity Mind said, “It is a preposterous suggestion that someone who has a mental health problem should be prepared to accept less than minimum wage to get their foot in the door with an employer.
“People with mental health problems should not be considered a source of cheap labour and should be paid appropriately for the jobs they do.”
And Labour MP Anne Begg, chairman of the Commons’ Work and Pensions Committee, spoke for many. She said, “These comments are utterly outrageous and unacceptable. To suggest disabled people should be treated as second-class citizens is shocking and shows just what a warped world some Tories demonstrate they inhabit.”
Davies has an unusual background for a Tory MP. Despite attending a posh boarding school he did not manage to get into Oxbridge, studying instead at Huddersfield University. Prior to entering Parliament in 2005 he managed a bookmakers shop before working as a customer relations manager for Asda.
Davis though does not have to worry too much about the impact of the minimum wage. As an MP he earns around six times the sum that he thinks is too much for disabled people.
Plus expenses of course.