Sally Ann Hart, the Conservative candidate for Hastings and Rye, caused uproar at an election hustings this week when she defended an article saying people with learning disabilities should be able to work for less than the minimum wage.
“It’s to do with the happiness they have about working,” Hart said to jeers and outrage, proposing a “therapeutic exemption” to the minimum wage to encourage bosses “employing people with learning disabilities”.
Her comment that "some people with learning difficulties, they don’t understand money” did nothing to win over her critics.
But VICE can reveal that she is not the only Conservative to make questionable comments about disabled people and work.
In 2018, high-profile Tory Iain Duncan Smith told a packed meeting at Conservative party conference that employers should hire disabled people because “once they’re in work they actually produce more than most able-bodied people around them. They’re also loyaller [sic] to the company and they often work longer hours and they forego quite a lot of holiday because they love the whole idea of being in work”.
In other words: disabled people are more easily exploitable in work because they’re just happy to be there.
Have a listen here:
Iain Duncan Smith was addressing a fringe meeting of the Centre for Social Justice at the 2018 Conservative Conference in Birmingham on the theme of “making work pay”.
The meeting was funded by pub chain Wetherspoon. All the 150 or so delegates attending the meeting were given free glasses of prosecco courtesy of the pub chain. Iain Duncan Smith, a former Work and Pensions Secretary and an influential backbencher, was joined on the platform by Cabinet Minister Esther McVey and Tim Martin, Chairman of JD Wetherspoon. The meeting was organised by the Centre for Social Justice, a right-wing think tank Iain Duncan Smith founded to "put social justice at the heart of British politics”.
Iain Duncan Smith was answering a question on how employment rates for the disabled could be increased. Duncan Smith said he drew his lessons from a Department for Work and Pensions scheme for employers called “Disability Confident” that he launched back in 2013. “Disability Confident” was widely criticised for being based on publicity rather than funding, and failing to get disabled people into work.
Despite speakers acknowledging the deep problems of low and stagnant wages and poor career progression, the tone of the meeting was against what Duncan Smith called too much “regulation and restriction” on business.
Iain Duncan Smith is fighting for re-election in Chingford and Woodford Green in a close contest with Labour's Faiza Shaheen.