'Tone deaf and condescending': Tory minister condemned for saying people should 'move to better paid job'

Watch: Minister says people should work more hours or move to better paid job

A government minister has been branded "tone deaf" and "condescending" for saying people struggling with the cost of living crisis should consider taking on more hours at work or moving to a better-paid job.

Rachel Maclean, safeguarding minister at the Home Office, was widely criticised for her comments on Monday, which came against a backdrop of soaring inflation, rising energy bills and high prices at the petrol pumps.

She told Sky News: “I think what we need to focus on now is over the long-term.

“We do have these short-term pressures on us that we’re all aware of … but over the long-term we need to have a plan to grow the economy and make sure that people are able to protect themselves better, whether that is by taking on more hours or moving to a better-paid job."

Home Office minister Rachel Maclean said people should consider working more hours. (Gov.uk)
Home Office minister Rachel Maclean said people should consider working more hours. (Gov.uk)

Maclean said she was not “suggesting for one moment” that such an option would work for everyone, adding: “It may be right for some people, they may be able to access additional hours, but, of course, it is not going to work for people who are already in three jobs."

Read more: Food bank Tory MP trebles down and calls on families to batch cook meals

Labour MP and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy tweeted that her comments were "tone deaf, out of touch and condescending in a cost of living crisis".

Inflation is at the highest level seen for decades in the UK (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/ONS)
Inflation is at the highest level seen for decades in the UK (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/ONS)

Labour shadow cabinet minister Ian Murray said: "It’s so out of touch with reality that I’m sure the minister knows how ludicrous it is, but they’ll defend Boris Johnson at all costs.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, who is calling for an emergency budget, said: “Working people don’t need lectures – they need help.

“Millions are working flat out but are still struggling to cover the basics.

“It’s a bit rich for ministers to tell people to find better-paid work – especially when they have presided over an explosion of low-paid and insecure jobs.”

McLean later said her comments had been "misrepresented".

She said the measures were not short term answers, adding: "I did not say this and I clearly set out all the immediate help provided."

Speaking later to LBC, Ms Maclean said “nothing is off the table” when it came to extending support to the public through the current crisis.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “The minister was clear in what she said, people’s individual circumstances will vary.

“That’s why we have a range of measures available to people, some are quite broad, changes to income tax, there’s also more tailored support like the doubling of the household support fund.

“So it will vary, the minister was clear, she said it was not going to work for people already working in three jobs, and that’s why we have the other measures we are putting in place.”

Pressure is growing on the PM to provide further support with the cost of living crisis, with experts and opposition MPs calling for a windfall tax on oil giants' vast profits over the last year.

Having previously ruled it out, the PM has hinted in recent days that the idea is now on the table.

Watch: Boris Johnson refuses to be drawn on action to tackle cost of living crisis