Minister suggests people struggling with cost of living “take on more hours”

Katie Neame

A government minister has suggested that people should be “taking on more hours or moving to a better-paid job” to protect themselves from the cost-of-living crisis.

Rachel Maclean told Sky News this morning that “every minister” is looking at the cost of living and the “particular costs that are impacting on the areas that they are controlling” and considering where “savings can be made”.

But the safeguarding minister added: “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 – and these are long-term actions, but that’s what we’re focused on as a government.”

Put to her that many people using food banks already work multiple jobs, she said: “We have often heard in the past when people are facing problems with their budgets that one of the obstacles – and it may not be for everybody – is about being able to take on more hours or even move to a better-paid job.

“Of course, it’s an individual situation, depending on that particular family’s situation, but that’s why the job centres exist, that’s why the work coaches exist, that’s why we’ve put the support into those job centres – to work with individuals on their own individual situation.

“So it may be right for some people – they may be able to access additional hours. But of course it’s not going to work for people who are already working in three jobs.”

Tulip Siddiq described Maclean comments as “ridiculous” and argued that the government “could not be more out of touch or out of ideas”. She also criticised the Prime Minister’s refusal to back a windfall tax on oil and gas companies.

The Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury added: “Tomorrow, Labour will give this Conservative government another chance to support our windfall tax. Britain needs a government that is on working people’s side. Only Labour can tackle the cost-of-living crisis and deliver the stronger economy we need.”

Labour will call for a vote on a windfall tax on the excess profits of oil and gas companies on Tuesday in an amendment to a Queen’s Speech debate. Ed Miliband described the refusal so far to introduce a windfall tax as “shameful” on Sunday.

The Shadow Climate Change and Net Zero Secretary urged Tory MPs to back Labour’s amendment, saying: “You’ve got the choice now. You can vote for a windfall tax or you can explain to your constituents why you are refusing to provide them the help that they need.”

Reacting to Maclean’s comments this morning, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Working people don’t need lectures – they need help. Millions are working flat out but are still struggling to cover the basics.

“We need an emergency Budget now to get families through this cost-of-living crisis. And we need action to tackle precarious employment.

“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. The government could be fixing this problem, but instead refused to bring forward an employment bill at last week’s Queen’s Speech.”

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