The Treasury has been forced to deny Philip Hammond’s controversial claim that more disabled people working could be a factor behind Britain’s low productivity rates.
The Chancellor has been criticised for not apologising for the claim, after an answer to a written question conceded there was no evidence for it.
Green MP Caroline Lucas asked Hammond, in a written question, to explain the evidence that linked the two.
MP Andrew Jones, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, wrote back: “There is no evidence of a relationship between aggregate productivity measures and an increase in workforce participation of people with disabilities.”
Lucas castigated Hammond for not apologising, saying: “Why does sorry always seem to be the hardest word for ministers in this shambolic government?”
Labour has called on Hammond to apologise to MPs and said he should be fired if he does not.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams wrote to both the chancellor and prime minister, describing Hammond’s claim as “profoundly concerning” and called for him to offer a personal apology to the Commons.
“Philip Hammond’s lack of remorse following his disgraceful comments yesterday which tried to scapegoat disabled people for a productivity crisis created by the Conservatives’ failed economic policies, is unacceptable,” she told HuffPost UK.
Several charities, including Scope, have called for the chancellor to retract the comments he made before the Treasury Select Committee on December 6.
“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,” he said.
Susan Daniels, 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.