Debate: After Iain Duncan Smith said he could live on £53 a week, should he have to back his claim up in practice?


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The Independent Online


What's going on?

Iain Duncan Smith yesterday 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.

Do you think he should have to back his claim up in practice?

Case for: Experience

If IDS really thinks £53 is a reasonable amount to live on, he should prove it. We want to see a budget outlined with what could feasibly be spent where. It’s easy for someone with no financial concerns to comment – he has about five times this amount every week after tax – but politicians are clearly so far removed on how difficult living on a tight budget is in the current economy (especially during this long cold snap) . Of course you could just eat lentils and sit in an unheated home all day every day. But would he be happy doing so?

Case against: No time

Cabinet politicians spend their careers making decisions that effect other people. There is neither time nor reason for these MPs to pose as benefit claimants or any other section of society in order to justify the decisions they make. Living on £53 for a week would simply be a popularity stunt on the part of IDS; in practice it would distract from his job. What could possibly be gained from the week on benefits anyway? It's highly unlikely IDS would return to the business of government a changed man. He's paid a lot because he has huge responsibility. Let him get on with it.