Welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith: I could get by on £53 a week

Online petition calls on the Work and Pensions Secretary - who currently takes home £1,581 a week after tax - to prove it

Iain Duncan Smith has claimed he could get by on £53 a week - the amount some benefit claimants live on.

The Work and Pensions Secretary currently earns £1,581 a week after tax.

But when asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme if he could live like that, he said: "If I had to I would," and defended the legion of benefit cuts taking effect this month.

He said: "We are in an economic mess.

"We inherited a problem where we simply do not have the money to spend on all the things people would like us to do.

"What I am trying to do is get this so we don't spend money on things that are unfair."

An online petition has now been set up, demanding that: "The current The Work and Pensions Secretary, to prove his claim of being able to live on £7.57 a day, or £53 a week.

"Iain Duncan Smith would be called upon to live on this budget for at least one year. This would help realise the conservative party`s current mantra that 'We are all in this together.'"

It shot to 1,000 signatures in 23 minutes, and over 29,000 by 5.30pm.

He urged critics to get the issue "in perspective", arguing that there was already no funding for extra rooms when people received housing benefit to rent privately.

"They are exactly the same group of people," he said. "The reality is taxpayers are subsidising people to live in these homes. They need to be reassured."

He said his target was "restructuring the culture so that people always find that work pays".

"Full-time work is where you break free of the welfare system. That is the critical element," he said.

His stance is part of the coalition government's fightback as 660,000 social housing tenants deemed to have a spare room began to lose an average £14 a week in what critics have dubbed a "bedroom tax".

It is part of a package of tax an welfare changes which will hit the poor and vulnerable this month.

Changes to council tax benefit will see bills for an estimated 2.4 million households rise an average £138 a year with two million paying for the first time, an anti-poverty group said.

On April 6, working-age benefits and tax credits will be cut in real terms with the first of three years of maximum 1% rises - well below the present rate of inflation.

Two days later, disability living allowance (DLA) begins to be replaced by the personal independence payment (PIP), which charities say will remove support from many in real need.

And later in the month, trials begin in four London boroughs of a £500-a-week cap on any household's benefits and of the new Universal Credit system.

Labour claims the impact of the measures and other coalition policies have left the average family almost £900 a year worse off.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said that, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the poorest 10% of households will lose an average of £127 under this year's changes, while the richest 10% will gain almost 10 times that, or £1,265.

And families with children would be hit harder, Mr Balls said, with the poorest 10% losing £236 a year and the richest 10% gaining £3,654 a year.

"It's appalling, it's shocking, it's immoral, it's shameful, it's a disgrace, it's inhumane, it's just upside down," he told the Daily Mirror, adding: "The bedroom tax is possibly the worst, most cack-handed and massively unfair piece of policy-making I've ever seen."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?