Tracey Crouch, the sports minister, told The Spectator of the need to “try to help people to support themselves” and individual cases of hardship where people “haven’t realised some of the savings that they need to make themselves”. The MP for Chatham and Aylesford and her sister were brought up by her social worker mother after their parents divorced when she was eight.
Labour immediately condemned the remarks as “out of touch” and “insulting”.
They follow former Tory Chancellor Ken Clarke in the Guardian labelling the top-up benefit for low-paid workers a “taxpayers bung on top of their pay”.
The Chancellor has come under fire repeatedly this week over the policy he has pledged to reform, and will give details at the autumn statement in a fortnight.
Tax credits architect Gordon Brown, the Tory-dominated work and pensions select committee and Conservative MP Stephen McPartland have all criticised the policy this week.
Speaking to The Spectator magazine, Ms Crouch, said: “I think it’s about communication. We will be discussing this, and I’m sure that (the Department for Work and Pensions) are looking at all of these issues, in great detail.
“But I think at the end of the day one of the kindest things that we can do is try to help people to support themselves and work around their finances: some of my most heartbreaking cases are those that come to me saying that they are struggling and then you go through with them their expenditure and income – I’m not generalising at all, I’m talking about some very individual cases – and actually they just haven’t realised some of the savings that they need to make themselves, you know it can be… things like paid subscriptions to TVs and you just sit there and you think you have to sometimes go without if you are going to have people make ends meet.”
Speaking to the Guardian, Mr Clarke described tax credits as a “stupid name”. “It is just a taxpayers bung on top of their pay,” he said.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s Shadow Treasury Minister, said: “Another day and yet more evidence of out of touch Tory MPs insulting working people in low pay in what has been a further torturous week for George Osborne on tax credits.
“It is just offensive to describe the money millions of hard working people rely on just to get to the end of each month in the same language used to describe corruption in football.
“And it’s outrageous for a serving minister to claim that working families simply need to ‘go without’ in order to make ends meet. Losing £1,300 a year isn’t about cutting back on luxuries, it’s about families being able to pay the bills.
“What a bung really looks like is a Tory party funded by rich bankers and hedge funds giving tax breaks to a few millionaires while cutting tax credits to over three million working families by £1,300 a year.”
But Ms Crouch said later: “I apologise for causing any offence. I’m sorry for giving the impression of a lack of understanding of the financial pressures many families face – nothing could be further from the truth.”
TAX CREDITS: THE IMPACT
Tax credits are welfare payments to families raising children and working people on low incomes.
More than three million families would lose an average of £1,300 a year from April under the previously announced plans.
The cuts will deliver £4.4bn of the Chancellor’s planned welfare cuts by reducing the earnings level at which tax credits start to be withdrawn from £6,420 to £3,850.
The Government says eight out of 10 would be “better off” overall from a package which also includes increases in the minimum wage for over-25s, rises in the income tax threshold and extended free childcare.