“Hapless former Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, suggested that old age pensioners be put to work on the UK’s fruit farms. He even had the cheek to say that because they would probably be a bit slow, they should be paid less than the minimum wage so as not to waste the farmers’ money.
Paterson’s army of silver haired and grimy finger nailed serfs would have replaced some 20,000 (mostly youthful) Bulgarians and Romanians who had been employed seasonally under a scheme which preceded the total opening of the jobs market to the eastern European countries.
The proposals have been revealed by former Liberal Democrat minister David Laws, in a book about the uneasy coalition that saw the Lib Dems attempt to co-exist in government with David Cameron’s Conservatives from 2010-2015. Laws’ own time at the cabinet table was beset with controversy – he was forced to resign after only 17 days for improperly claiming over £40,000 in housing expenses, only to be welcomed back to the fold two years later.
Paterson himself was eventually given the hook from his environment role following a string of gaffes, such as turning up with no wellies to inspect the Somerset floods; saying: “the badgers are moving the goalposts” in reference to the cull of which he is such a supporter, and, crucially, appearing to have no interest in the environment. He was replaced by the less outspoken but equally inept Liz Truss. But this fresh revelation reveals just how cold-hearted and out of touch Paterson and some of his ilk are. …
… According to Laws, when Paterson voiced his plan for pensioner fruit pickers, it was a step too far for his colleagues in government. A civil servant apparently “tried, unsuccessfully, to stifle a laugh”. Sanity prevailed at that time but, if we allow the Tories to continue their destruction of society unchecked, how long before we see OAPs forced to earn their pension by spending 12 hours a day in the fields?”