John Docker: It’s time for the debate to begin

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Oh dear, my comments about minimum pay for disabled workers seem to have rattled a few cages – well one at least, but no doubt there are more out there who share John Morgan’s criticism of my column on 24th October (Letters 31st October). Good. Let the debate begin. It’s what we need to solve this highly sensitive dilemma, rather than political point scoring or dogmatic diatribes.

I have absolutely no desire to see lower wages for anybody - disabled or not. But I stand by my belief that, badly presented though it may have been, recorded without knowledge and taken out of context as it was, Lord Freud’s comments stemmed from a reasoned, well-intentioned response to a question about sensitive disabled employment issues.

Much of our growing economic recovery is due to the efforts of thousands of small employers in the private sector. They are not “dodgy” or “dishonest” as Mr. Morgan suggests. The vast majority are extremely hard-working and many take home far less than the minimum wage whilst taking huge financial risks in the process of building their business.

When reaching the inevitable point of requiring additional staff and bigger premises, it is crucial the business does not spend more on overheads than it can support - including wages. Hence the dilemma. Can they afford to pay even a minimum wage to someone - however deserving, who through no fault of their own cannot achieve the same output as an able-bodied person?

Would it not be preferable to allow them to offer jobs at a rate commercially viable to the business, always provided the difference is funded by the government? Would this not create more employment for the disabled, enabling them to enjoy greater purpose in life rather than total reliance on benefits and helping more employers absorb them into the business without financial risk? Of course there are people out there who would try to abuse the system – employers and employees, but surely they are in a minority and in any event some form of policing must be possible.

This is a vitally important social issue which shouldn’t be allowed to become swept under the carpet or buried by a welter of pre-election rhetoric. The more debate the more likelihood of change for the better. So why not write in with your own opinion – especially if it is an issue which directly affects you, your family or your local business.

Finally, Mr Morgan’s accusation that I spent “more than thirty lines of concentrated abuse aimed at anyone who might disagree” is ludicrous. I don’t recall “abusing” anyone – except maybe upsetting that noisy cockerel from Derbyshire and ruffling a few political feathers. As for the inference I find low pay a “laughing matter,” I certainly don’t. I haven’t lived all these years without experiencing hard times. As the saying goes, that’s life.