Philip Hammond blamed sluggish productivity on more disabled people in the workforce in today’s treasury select committee.
Responding to high high levels of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, he said: “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.”
The chancellor has been criticised by disability charity Scope who have called for him to withdraw his “totally unacceptable and derogatory comments”.
Anna Bird, the director of policy and research at Scope, said: “These comments are totally unacceptable and derogatory. They fundamentally undermine the government’s policy to get more disabled people into work, and the ambition set out by the prime minister just a week ago.”
She added: “The chancellor must urgently withdraw them and offer a full apology.”
There are 7 million people of working age in the UK who have a disability, or health condition but only 47.6 per cent of disabled adults are employed, compared with 79.2 per cent of non-disabled people, the latest figures show.
Susan Daniels OBE, Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society said: “The Chancellor’s comments are deeply worrying. As the profoundly deaf Chief Executive of a leading charity, I’ve ignored everyone who ever told me to limit my ambitions and rein in my expectations.
“Given the right support a deaf person can do anything a hearing person can, yet we know that 56 per cent of deaf people have experienced discrimination at work and 25 per cent have left a job as a result.
“In its words and actions the Government needs to show complete commitment to breaking down the barriers to employment for deaf young people and others with disabilities. Anything less is unacceptable.”