Rachel Maclean

Safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean. Labour said the comments by safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean were "disconnected from the realities of people's lives" after she said the government has "already taken action to help people with energy bills and there's more help coming".
A government minister has suggested that people struggling with the cost of living could take on more hours or move to a better-paid job.

Rachel Maclean, the safeguarding minister, told Sky News' Kay Burley that those were some of the ways households could "protect themselves" as prices soar.

Downing Street defended her after opposition parties sharply criticised the comments.

Ms Maclean said that every minister was looking at the issue as consumers face "short term pressures" such as high energy and food bills - and added that there was "more help coming".

Comment: Short term pressures? Says who? Because the Bank of England governor just warned of 'apocalyptic food shortages', and Germany is warning of a global famine that could kill millions. And any help the government has to offer will likely be too little, too late, because they had the chance when farmers and businesses warned them of a collapse in the supply chain but absolutely nothing was done to ameliorate the situation; and worse, the government has actually been paying farmers to 'rewild' their arable land and has been arming the neo-Nazi's in Ukraine whilst sanctioning Russia, cutting the country off from two of the world's largest suppliers of wheat.

But she 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."

Comment: We need to 'have a plan to grow the economy'?? Who'da thunk it. Surely it's because of revolutionary ideas like these that she rose to the rank of safe guarding minister.

Pressed over evidence that some people were working three jobs but still having to visit food banks, she added: "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.

Comment: It's not that individual, actually, millions of people are sliding below the poverty line; particularly those who are in work. As for the work coaches, the advice they have to give is much like that of the minister, except they're also empowered with the ability to sanction job seekers; previous scandals include asking a paraplegic if he's still unable to work, and deeming a man fit to work who then died of a heart attack on the way home.

"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."

Help being given to schools and through local authorities would target assistance "where it's most needed", she said.

Ms Maclean added: "We've already taken action to help people with energy bills and there's more help coming."

Those comments echoed a hint made by Boris Johnson last week about more cost of living support - though this was swiftly followed by the Treasury making clear that there would be no emergency budget.

That followed an announcement in February by the chancellor that most households would be given a £150 council tax discount while consumers would also be given £200 to help with energy bills this autumn, to be repaid over five years.

Labour's Peter Kyle, shadow Northern Ireland secretary, criticised Ms Maclean's cost of living comments, describing how he recently met people at a food bank who were in work but having an "extremely difficult" time including a single mother with two jobs.

He told Sky News: "The idea that she could work longer and therefore not spend more time with her family - I think it's just disconnected from the realities of people's lives."

Mr Kyle also referred to recent comments by environment secretary George Eustice, who suggested people struggling with higher shop prices should buy value brands.

Comment: This kind of stunningly detached and condescending thinking has been rampant in politics for decades, but now people are really beginning to suffer, and en masse.

The Labour MP said: "What we need ministers to be doing is solving the economic problems that families have because of the economic problems our country faces.

"Their jobs as politicians aren't just to tell people to work harder, work longer and go for a promotion.

"It's actually to accept the reality that because of the decisions they are making in Westminster, people are no longer able to eat a decent diet."

Comment: Labour are no better, in recent years all the major parties have proven that they're aligned with the establishment agenda and will readily betray voters if it benefits them personally and politically.

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain said: "So the Conservatives' answer to the cost-of-living emergency is that people should just earn more? This shows just how out of touch they truly are.

"Millions of families have had to make huge cutbacks and taken on extra work in order to weather the cost of living crisis. They simply cannot do any more."

The prime minister's official spokesperson said: "I think the minister was clear in what she said that people's individual circumstances will vary. That's why we have a range of measures available to people.

"It's entirely right that as a government we want to find ways to help more people get into work and just get into secure higher paying salaries as well"

Ms Maclean later claimed in a tweet that her comments about "a longer term plan and options for some people" had been misrepresented.