Duncan Smith says he could live on £53 a week

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has said he could manage to live on £53 a week 'if he had to'. He had been challenged on the BBC's Today programme by a market trader, David Bennett, who said he was forced to survive on that amount – his net income 'after paying rent and bills'. (The current level of jobseeker's allowance is £71.70 a week for those aged 25 or over.)

Following the programme, an online petition gathered 460,000 signatures, in the space of ten days, calling on Duncan Smith to prove his claim in practice.

The Daily Mail carried a vigorous defence by Duncan Smith of his statement. He said: 'I don't need any lessons from people about living on a low income and making ends meet. I have done it twice and I know what it's like to have to been made unemployed and to struggle. I've been there, done it. I have never taken anything from anybody else. I'm proud enough to believe I get on and make my own bloody way in the world. I don’t believe in having anyone else do it for me. That's why I want to reform the system because it leaves people feeling helpless. This ridiculous nonsense is a stunt, and it's a stunt to avoid the reality that we inherited a bust system – financially bust and morally bust'.

The Daily Mail explained: 'Mr Duncan Smith, who earns £134,000 a year and lives in a £2 million Tudor country house with wife Betsy, a member of the aristocratic Fremantle family, said he had lost his job at a property company when interest rates soared after Black Wednesday in 1992'.

Source: BBC Radio 4 Today programme, 1 April 2013
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