employedWork and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has been criticised after remarking that people without a disability were “normal” while speaking in the House of Commons.

The Conservative minister made the remark in a debate when he was defending the government’s record on getting people with disabilities back into employment.

“I think the figure is now over 220,000, which I believe is the highest figure since records began, in proportionate terms, but the most important point is that we are looking to get that up to the level of normal, non-disabled people who are back in work,” Duncan Smith said. “Those with disabilities have every right and every reason to expect exactly the same support into work that everybody else gets.”

Duncan Smith’s remarks come soon after he announced plans to reform Employment and Support Allowance and the Work Capability Assessment, which defines people’s eligibility for the benefit, to focus more on getting people into whatever work they can do.

Vicky McDermott, chief executive of Papworth Trust, condemned the remarks: "We are surprised and shocked that someone in Iain Duncan Smith's respected and high-profile position would describe non-disabled people as 'normal',” she said.

“This implies that people with a disability are not normal. I can assure Mr Duncan Smith that nothing could be further from the truth.

“At a time of such sensitivities around the future of sickness benefits and the Comprehensive Spending Review, Mr Duncan Smith should have chosen his words far more wisely. We would be happy to help him better understand disability issues if he would like to visit us again.”