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Work more or get better paid jobs to afford rising prices, says minister

Safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean said people should consider working more to pay for rising prices (Aaron Chown/PA)
Safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean said people should consider working more to pay for rising prices (Aaron Chown/PA)

People struggling during the cost-of-living crisis should consider taking on more hours at work or moving to a better-paid job, a Government minister has said.

Rachel Maclean, safeguarding minister in the Home Office, admitted the idea would not work for all households, but said the solution for some people could be to look for additional work.

The comments come against a backdrop of soaring inflation, rising energy bills and high prices at the petrol pumps.

Ms Maclean 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.

“These are long-term actions but that is what we are focused on as a Government.”

Ms Maclean said she was not “suggesting for one moment” that such an option would work for everyone.

But she said those with extra capacity could visit job centres to apply for either more hours or better rewarded employment.

She added: “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.

Home Office minister Rachel Maclean
Home Office minister Rachel Maclean (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament)

“That’s why we need to have the other measures, such as all the help we are putting into schools, the help with the local authorities … and that’s where we are going to target help to where it is most needed.”

Labour shadow cabinet minister Ian Murray said the “ludicrous” advice appeared to hark back to Margaret Thatcher’s era of government.

The shadow Scotland secretary said: “Sounds like the Norman Tebbit ‘get on your bike’ instructions from the 1980s.

“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.”

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy branded the comments “tone deaf”.

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.”

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.

She was told that, even after £22 billion of support from central Government had been accounted for, food banks were facing increased demand and child poverty was predicted to rise by the winter.

“You will know that the Chancellor always keeps everything under review in terms of the fiscal response,” she replied.

“What we want to do is make sure we are protecting families and help them to weather the storm, and you have seen that response coming into place, you have seen it all the way through the Covid pandemic.

“Nothing is off the table and we will make sure we do everything we can to protect families.”

Downing Street said there was no “one-size-fits-all” approach that would help every household.

Support on offer included changes to the tax system but also targeted measures like the household support fund administered by councils, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“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,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman added: “People’s individual circumstances will vary, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”