In Depth

Iain Duncan Smith ridiculed over '£53 a week' claim

Minister branded 'smug' and urged to prove he could live on minimum amount paid to benefits claimants

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since this story was published, Greg Clark, a junior Treasury minister, has tried to 'soothe the situation' by saying that living on £53 a week was far from easy.

MORE than 130,000 people have signed an on-line petition calling on Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to prove his assertion that he could live on £53 a week.

Duncan Smith made the comment on BBC Radio 4's Today programme yesterday as he defended the Government's shake-up of the benefits system. Asked if he could live on £53 a week – the amount paid to one claimant – he replied : "If I had to, I would."

An on-line petition calling on the minister to prove he could live on the equivalent of £7.57 a day had been signed by more than 130,000 people by this morning. It is believed to be the fastest-growing petition ever placed on the British version of the Change.org website. One signatory, Carrie Dunn, wrote: "Multi-millionaires telling the very poor how easy it is to survive on such a limited income need to put their oodles of money where their mouth is."

The minister's comments drew a mostly sceptical reaction from newspapers with The Mirror pointing out the "smug" minister earns £134,565 a year as a member of Cabinet. The Daily Telegraph adds that housing is not an issue for Duncan Smith who lives in a "£2 million Tudor house on an estate in Buckinghamshire dubbed 'mini-Chequers', with a swimming pool and tennis courts."

The New Statesman's Alex Hern delves even further into Duncan Smith's lifestyle. According to his parliamentary expenses, he spent £110 – "two weeks' worth of benefits" - on a Bluetooth headset for his car, and another £12.42 on a USB cable. Writes Hern: "His monthly phone bill has been over £53 every month in the latest financial year, so that's another week each month he can't eat, travel, heat his house or really do anything."

For Sunny Hundal at the Liberal Conspiracy website, the minister's claim is "perhaps the best example of how removed this cabinet of millionaires is from the experiences of ordinary people". Writes Hundal: "Let's see him put his money where his mouth is. If there was any evidence he doesn't understand reality, this is it."

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