George Osborne has defended his decision to use cuts in disability benefits to fund tax breaks for the middle class.
Appearing on the Andrew Marr show, he was asked about his decision to cut Personal Independence Payments currently made to over 640,000 disabled people in a bid to save some £1.2bn.
The cuts come as the Chancellor of the Exchequer seeks to raise the threshold at which people start paying 40p tax in the pound to £50,000, reducing the amount of tax paid by thousands of well-off families. The average annual income in the UK is around £27,000.
Many of the hundreds of thousands of people who currently receive PIP are unable to wash themselves, clothe themselves or use the toilet unaided. They face losing up to £150 a week, as the amount of "points" awarded for mobility problems are reduced.
"You're taking money out of the pockets of some of the most vulnerable people in this country, disabled people," said Mr Marr. "These are the people who can least afford the sacrifice, the people with the weakest shoulders.
"And you're changing the rules to hit them. Is that really your priority?"
Mr Osborne argued that the Conservative government was "increasing spending on disabled people", claiming: "Controlling welfare bills is part of what you need to do if you’re a secure country confronting the problems in the world."
Mr Marr continued to press the Chancellor, saying: "At the same time as you're raising thresholds to help middle-class tax payers, it's going to seem a very callous set of priorities."
However, Mr Osborne maintained the swingeing cuts were necessary to improve the economic conditions in the UK. He said: "Yes, times are tough. The fiscal situation is a difficult one. All Western countries are not productive enough."
He argued that investing in roads, railways and skills training would make the British economy more productive. This would improve living conditions for people across the UK, he said– including the 640,000 disabled people who are funding his tax cuts for the middle classes.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies