Philip Hammond was condemned today for claiming the UK’s grim productivity figures were caused by more disabled people joining the workforce.
The Chancellor made the jibe during evidence to MPs and was immediately branded ‘appalling’ and ‘ignorant’.
Disability charities today piled pressure on the Chancellor to apologise for his remarks.
British workers’ productivity – the value of work done by each worker – has been in the doldrums since the financial crisis and prompted huge downgrades to growth forecasts at last month’s Budget.
Mr Hammond was challenged on why productivity was stubbornly low during an evidence session at the Treasury select committee yesterday.
He said: ‘The consequences of high levels of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, will be felt for many, many years to come.’
The Chancellor then added: ‘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.’
Select Committee member John Mann said the Chancellor’s comments were ‘appalling’ and ‘ignorant’.
He said: ‘My experience of employing disabled people is that they are brilliant employees.’
Fellow member Alison McGovern took to Twitter to say she was ‘pretty shocked actually’ while Labour front bencher Marsha de Cordova branded his gaffe ‘disgusting scapegoating’
Just last week ministers announced plans to get 1 million more disabled people into employment over the next decade.
There are seven million people of working age in the UK who have a disability, or health condition but only 47.6 per cent of disabled people have a job, compared with 79.2 per cent of non-disabled people, the latest figures show.
According to the Office for National Statistics, productivity per hour fell by 0.1 per cent between March and June this year, despite people working more hours.