Cameron quip over Auschwitz backfires

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David Cameron is embroiled in a row over school trips to Auschwitz after describing government support for the visits as a "gimmick". The remark drew a furious response from ministers and the Holocaust Educational Trust, which organises the trips.

The Conservative leader was criticised by the HET chairman Lord Janner, who urged him to retract the accusation. "The Jewish community will be deeply hurt and offended by this," the Labour peer said. "It is a low form of politics which David Cameron must already be regretting. I think it is very, very important that he apologises."

The Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, also seized on Mr Cameron's criticism of 26 "short-term gimmicks" under Prime Minister Gordon Brown, including "trips to Auschwitz".

The Tories insisted that their leader's remarks were directed only at government funding arrangements and not the visits themselves. In particular, they claimed that £4.65m set aside to fund visits by two students from every further education institution in Britain would not meet all the costs.

Schools will be required to pay £100 towards the cost of each student's trip to the Nazi death camp – a top-up the Conservatives have promised to scrap.