Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries has been accused of being detached from “the real world” after she claimed the Universal Credit cut will not push anyone into poverty.
The 20-a-week cut to millions of families’ incomes risks moving 500,000 people in the UK into poverty, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has estimated.
And the Legatum Institute – a right-wing think tank led by Tory peer Baroness Stroud – has warned that just over 800,000 people are at risk of falling below the poverty line.
But Ms Dorries claimed “nobody” in Britain would be made poor by the government’s decision to axe the £86-a-month uplift.
Asked by journalist Owen Jones at the Tory conference how many face poverty, Ms Dorries said: “Nobody. Nobody is … No, no, no, because no, Owen – of course not.”
“Because what we’re doing, what we’re doing is giving people a step out. By lifetime skills guarantee, by all the money being invested,” the culture secretary added before being pulled away by an aide.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said Ms Dorries’ comments “show just how far away the Conservative Party is from the real world”.
The opposition MP added: “Charities and foodbanks have been warning for months that taking £1,000 away from millions of families in the midst of a Conservative cost of living crisis will push children into poverty.”
It follows outrage over a video showing work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey singing (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life only an hour after the £20-a-week cut came into force.
The benefits minister was filmed partying at a Conference Party conference karaoke event in the wee small hours of Wednesday – the day her department began cutting the incomes of five millions households.
He cabinet colleague Nadhim Zahawi said on Thursday that it was “unfair” to link the minister’s karaoke session and the unfortunate lyrics of the power ballad to the cutting of Universal Credit.
Labour called the timing of her performance “a disgrace”, but the education secretary told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that “parties and dance-offs and singing” is a feature of all party conferences.
Mr Zahawi added: “I think (it’s) slightly unfair to sort of link this with what we’re trying to do to help the most needy with that half a billion that we announced just as we were getting to party conference.”
The Universal Credit row comes as a Tory MP defended branding politicians’ £80,000 pay packets “really grim”.
Sir Peter Bottomley has been criticised for comments made in an interview with the New Statesman, where he claimed it was “desperately difficult” for newer parliamentarians to survive on the amount they are paid.
But he told radio station LBC on Thursday that he stood by his remarks, before claiming that those who make money as “a good teacher, a good social worker or a good trade union official” would be “significantly worse off” if they went into politics.