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?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea