Work and pensions secretary can't say if she could live on £5.84 furlough wage

Therese Coffey

Therese Coffey - Credit: Sky News

The work and pensions minister has sparked outrage after refusing to say if she could live on the £5.84-an-hour wage paid by the government's new furlough scheme.

Under the chancellor's new proposals those earning minimum wage - currently £8.72 for those over 25, would only receive two-thirds of what they are normally paid.

But asked whether she could survive on the figure paid out by government, Coffey dodged the question.

“In terms of £5.84 an hour, I think you’re suggesting that’s two-thirds of the minimum wage. Of course if people have potentially that level of income coming in then they can turn to Universal Credit, they may be eligible for that depending on household income.”

MORE: Government minister fails to say if he could live on new furlough wage while backing MPs pay rise

Pointing out that a number of factors decided whether they would be eligible for further support, presenter Kay Burley pressed the minister again on whether she could live on that.

Coffey continued: “I think the question is the welfare safety net will actually help top that up through the Universal Credit system. If that’s your sole source of income then that will be the way to try and get support.”

After being told again that many will not be able to get that extra support, she was asked the question again.

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“£5.84 an hour is an amount that is there that can be topped up by Universal Credit".

She added: "Well I think if people have more than £16,000 savings that is true, Universal Credit wouldn't be open to them. But there may be other benefits if they have been paying National Insurance, which again they could also access."

Hannah Jane Parkinson shared the clip on Twitter, commenting: “Therese Coffey really does lower the bar every single time doesn’t she.”

Labour's Angela Rayner tweeted: "So out of touch. Give me strength."

Shay Perera wrote: "I believe the sentence she is looking for is 'no, no one can.'"

Earlier this year Coffey was criticised for a "truly heartless" response to an asylum seeker's death and a "tone deaf" response to Marcus Rashford's plea for government to help underprivileged children.

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