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Fury as minister says people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis can work longer hours

The comments come against a backdrop of soaring inflation, rising energy bills and high prices at the petrol pumps.
Fury as minister Rachel Maclean says people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis can work longer hours or get a better paid job to help pay the bills
  • Safeguarding Minister Ms Maclean made the comments in  car crash media round this morning
  • They came against a backdrop of soaring inflation, rising bills and high petrol prices affecting millions
  • Home Office minister also got into a muddle over changes to stop-and-search powers introduced today
  • Also appeared to contradict PM on mandarins ending working from home, saying they were 'still delivering'

By David Wilcock, Deputy Political Editor For Mailonline

Published: 09:36 BST, 16 May 2022 | Updated: 12:31 BST, 16 May 2022

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A Government minister was slammed today for saying people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis will be able to work longer or simply get a better-paid job.  

Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean said that long term the Government wanted people to be able to find better-paid work, or take on extra hours to make more money.

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

In a car crash media round this morning the Home Office minister, who earns a combined salary of £106,000, got into a muddle over changes to stop-and-search powers unveiled by the department.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has extended the length of time the extra tough measures can be in force, from 15 to 24 hours. But Ms Maclean stumbled on LBC, suggesting it was 12 hours and blamed a lack of coffee.

She also appeared to contradict Boris Johnson's demand that civil servants return to the office, saying those working from home in her department were 'still delivering' and not shirking.

Discussing the cost-of-living crisis on Sky News this morning she said: '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.'

It came as a Boris Johnson loyalist Tory urged the Chancellor to uprate benefits now, rather than in the autumn. Litchfield MP Michael Fabricant said: 'People on the breadline cannot afford to wait until later this year.' 

Labour shadow cabinet minister Ian Murray said the 'ludicrous' advice from Ms Maclean appeared to hark back to Margaret Thatcher's era of government. 

But No 10 today accused reporters of trying to 'twist the words, unhelpfully', with the PM's spokesman saying: 'People's circumstances will vary, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.' 

Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean, admitted the idea would not work for all households, but said the solution for some people could be to look for additional work.
Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean, admitted the idea would not work for all households, but said the solution for some people could be to look for additional work.

Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean, admitted the idea would not work for all households, but said the solution for some people could be to look for additional work.

Activity dipped 0.1 per cent month-on-month in March, with revised figures showing zero progress in February

The Bank has now raised interest rates to 1 per cent and is predicting headline CPI inflation will top 10 per cent this year
The Bank has now raised interest rates to 1 per cent and is predicting headline CPI inflation will top 10 per cent this year

The Bank has now raised interest rates to 1 per cent and is predicting headline CPI inflation will top 10 per cent this year

She also appeared to contradict Boris Johnson's demand that civil servants return to the office, saying those working from home in her department were 'still delivering' and not shirking.
She also appeared to contradict Boris Johnson's demand that civil servants return to the office, saying those working from home in her department were 'still delivering' and not shirking.

She also appeared to contradict Boris Johnson's demand that civil servants return to the office, saying those working from home in her department were 'still delivering' and not shirking.

WFH is woeful for your health: A fifth of those working from home exercise less, a third are eating more 

It could take years for the nation to recover from the negative health impacts of working from home, a report warns.

The lingering effects of the pandemic mean a fifth of those working from home exercise less while a third are eating more, according to research.

Half of people have not visited their GP in the past year and 60 per cent have not had a dental check-up, the findings reveal.

Experts warn it 'may be some time' before the UK returns to pre-pandemic levels of physical and mental health.

The risks of a sedentary lifestyle are well-documented, with previous studies suggesting that inactivity can be as harmful as smoking while spending more time sitting down is associated with an higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and blood clots.

The Wellbeing Index, by healthcare insurance company Bupa, is based on a survey of more than 8,000 adults in the UK in March.

About 15 per cent said they are still drinking more alcohol compared to the start of the pandemic while the mental health of 34 per cent has declined due to lockdowns and the impact of increased remote working.

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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.' 

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.

'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.'

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.'

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.'

Bills price can could be reviewed more often to help struggling families 

The price cap on household energy bills could be reviewed every three months under new plans mooted by Ofgem on Monday.

The energy regulator said that it might insert two new reviews a year, one in January and another in July.

It would help pass on savings from a potential fall in gas prices to customers more rapidly, Ofgem said, and also protect under-pressure energy suppliers from being damaged by the cap.

'Today's proposed change would mean the price cap is more reflective of current market prices and any price falls would be delivered more quickly to consumers,' said Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley.

'It would also help energy suppliers better predict how much energy they need to purchase for their customers, reducing the risk of further supplier failures, which ultimately pushes up costs for consumers.

'The last year has shown that we need to make changes to the price cap so that suppliers are better able to manage risks in these unprecedented market conditions.'

After a consultation, Ofgem hopes that the changes could come into force from October, meaning the first change under the new system would be made in January.

The energy price cap - currently at a record £1,971 per year for the average household - is reviewed every six months and changed in October and April.

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Meanwhile, Mel Stride, who chairs the Treasury Select Committee, has said 'there is a case' for a windfall tax on energy giants to help families deal with the cost-of-living crisis.

It comes after Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on Sunday he would be opposed to the idea as it would deter new investment.

Conservative MP Mr Stride told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: 'I think you have to take a balanced view of all these things, Kwasi's absolutely right that, in principle, putting up taxes unannounced, effectively, retrospectively, just puts a large sign up that says, ''it's not a good place to invest'', and we don't want to do that.

'At the same time, we are in extraordinary circumstances, the supernormal profits that these companies have made are vast, and I personally think there is a case now for looking at a one-off windfall tax and channelling that money in towards those who are really struggling and are bearing the brunt of these cost-of-living challenges.'

Last week Boris Johnson began a personal battle to get millions of Britons back to the office full time as he declared working from home just doesn't work.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail the Prime Minister issued a rallying cry to businesses to help boost post-pandemic productivity and revitalise the UK's town and city centres.

Mr Johnson even admitted that his own struggles with working from home - including 'forgetting what it was you're doing' when you go to the fridge or struggling with Zoom calls - convinced him that Britain's workforce is better off out of their spare rooms or kitchens and back at their desks. 

He said: 'We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office. I believe people are more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas, when they are surrounded by other people.

'My experience of working from home is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee, and then you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you're doing'.

It came as Mr Johnson revealed plans to cut 91,000 civil servant jobs and use the £3.5billion to help pay for tax cuts to ease the cost of living crisis. 

Today Jacob Rees-Mogg warned that union pressure to allow working from home as standard will drive investment out of the UK.

But Ms Maclean came out to bat for mandarins in her department today. 

She told Good Morning Britain civil servants are 'working really hard' and that they 'are still delivering' when working from home.

'A lot of them are back at work and we certainly have civil servants in the Home Office - when I go back there today, they will be back at their desks,' the safeguarding minister told ITV's Good Morning Britain programme.

'I think the economy as a whole has moved to a more hybrid working pattern, I'm quite relaxed about that.

Modelling by the New Economics Foundation think-tank suggests that on average, price increases have pushed up the cost of an essential basket of goods and services by £2,300 a year. The rise in costs for the poorest half of families is nine times larger than for the richest 5% as a proportion of income. Even for families in the middle of the income distribution, the rise in costs is six times larger than for the richest 5% as a proportion of income
Modelling by the New Economics Foundation think-tank suggests that on average, price increases have pushed up the cost of an essential basket of goods and services by £2,300 a year. The rise in costs for the poorest half of families is nine times larger than for the richest 5% as a proportion of income. Even for families in the middle of the income distribution, the rise in costs is six times larger than for the richest 5% as a proportion of income

Modelling by the New Economics Foundation think-tank suggests that on average, price increases have pushed up the cost of an essential basket of goods and services by £2,300 a year. The rise in costs for the poorest half of families is nine times larger than for the richest 5% as a proportion of income. Even for families in the middle of the income distribution, the rise in costs is six times larger than for the richest 5% as a proportion of income

The big three supermarkets in the UK have all raised the prices of value range products by significant amounts in the past month
The big three supermarkets in the UK have all raised the prices of value range products by significant amounts in the past month

The big three supermarkets in the UK have all raised the prices of value range products by significant amounts in the past month

'I think it is for employers to consider how best to achieve their outcomes. It is actually about performance and delivery.'

Asked whether she was 'at odds' with Government efficient minister Jacob Rees-Mogg on the issue of working from home, Ms Maclean said: 'Not at all.'

She added: 'We've had a pandemic, things have changed, people work differently.

'If people work from home, it is incumbent on their managers and ministers, such as myself, to make sure they are still delivering. And actually, that's what we are seeing in the Home Office.'

Bank of England chief faces anger of MPs in hearing TODAY for failing to head off soaring inflation earlier and ease the cost-of-living crisis

Bank of England chiefs are facing a roasting from MPs today amid a backlash for failing to act early enough on soaring inflation.

Governor Andrew Bailey is giving evidence to the Treasury Committee as senior Tories voice frustration about his response to spiking prices.  

Threadneedle Street has been urged to admit a 'mistake' in holding off earlier action, having insisted for months that inflation was 'transient'. 

There have been claims of Cabinet unrest about the performance of the Bank, which has now raised interest rates to 1 per cent and is predicting headline CPI inflation will top 10 per cent this year. 

Some have even suggested a rethink of its independent status, as Britons are hammered by rampant price rises and Rishi Sunak comes under huge pressure to offer a bigger bailout. 

Andrew Bailey is giving evidence to the Treasury Committee later as senior Tories voice frustration about his response to spiking prices
Andrew Bailey is giving evidence to the Treasury Committee later as senior Tories voice frustration about his response to spiking prices

Andrew Bailey is giving evidence to the Treasury Committee later as senior Tories voice frustration about his response to spiking prices

Mel Stride, who chairs the Treasury Select Committee, was asked on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme if the Bank of England had failed on inflation.

The Tory MP stressed that the UK was not 'unique', pointing to the shock of the Ukraine war.  

'Undoubtedly if you look at the headline figures having a target of 2 per cent and moving up to beyond 10 per cent this autumn as is forecast is not a good look,' he said.

'It's fair to say we are not unique in that position - there are a number of countries around the world, US and Spain and Eurozone have worst inflation than we do at the moment.

'The area where you can really criticise the Bank..is around what's happening in the labour market which has become very overheated and I think we are now in the foothills of a wage-price spiral with wage chasing higher prices leading to higher wages in turn.'

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admitted yesterday that the Bank missing its two per cent inflation target was 'clearly' an issue.

However, he argued that Mr Bailey was 'doing a good job in difficult times'.

'It is a matter of fact that when the Bank of England became independent in 1997 they had an inflation target of two per cent,' Mr Kwarteng told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday show.

'And inflation is running almost into double digits now, so that is an issue clearly.

'But I think Andrew Bailey is doing a good job in difficult times.

'These are completely unprecedented times, we've had the Covid pandemic, we've had a huge spike in economic activity after the lockdown restrictions were eased.

'And then, of course, you've got this war in Europe for the first time in 70 years with tanks rolling into European territory.

'So all of these things mean it's a very difficult time and I think he's doing a reasonable job.'

One Cabinet minister was quoted by the Sunday Telegraph as saying government figures were 'now questioning its independence'.

They said the Bank's handling of inflation raised 'fundamental questions' about the Bank's 'preparedness and how match fit some of these institutions are'.

Mr Sunak was also put under pressure to take greater steps to hold the Bank to account.

Lord Forsyth, a former Cabinet minister and the chairman of the House of Lords' economic affairs committee, said: 'The first thing the Bank needs to do is acknowledge they made a mistake and say what they are going to do about it.

'One has the impression they are rather ostrich-like.'

Mel Stride
Mel Stride
Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

Mel Stride, who chairs the Treasury Select Committee, said the Bank's changing inflation forecasts was not a 'good look'. Separately, Rishi Sunak has said a windfall tax for energy firms is 'on the table'

Mr Stride also said 'there is a case' for a windfall tax on energy giants to help families deal with the cost-of-living crisis.

Mr Kwarteng poured cold water on the idea yesterday, even though Rishi Sunak has said it is 'on the table'.

Mr Stride said: 'I think you have to take a balanced view of all these things, Kwasi's absolutely right that, in principle, putting up taxes unannounced, effectively, retrospectively, just puts a large sign up that says, 'it's not a good place to invest', and we don't want to do that.

'At the same time, we are in extraordinary circumstances, the supernormal profits that these companies have made are vast, and I personally think there is a case now for looking at a one-off windfall tax and channelling that money in towards those who are really struggling and are bearing the brunt of these cost-of-living challenges.'

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