Conservative peer Howard Flight has been accused of showing “the Tories' true colours” after he said that reforms to child benefit would encourage "breeding" among people on benefits.
The Prime Minister David Cameron struggled to distance himself from the remarks by Flight, a former MP who Cameron recently appointed as a Tory peer. His comments come only days after another Tory peer, David Young, was forced to resign as a government adviser after saying that most people in Britain had “never had it so good”.
Flight was criticising government plans to axe child benefit for higher earners. The policy has been widely seen as one of the few cuts that will hit the more affluent rather than people on low or middle incomes.
He said, "We're going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it's jolly expensive. But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible."
Plaid Cymru's welfare and pensions spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP, hit back, saying, “ To make such contemptuous remarks really shows the Tories’ true colours. The Conservatives clearly have no understanding of the lives of ordinary people.”
David Cameron insisted, “I don't agree with what he said and I am sure he will want to apologise for what he said. And I'm sure we can leave it at that.” Flight later apologised, but Cameron resisted calls to block his peerage. Flight has yet to take his seat in the House of Lords.
But Williams said that, in the light of the gaffes by both Flight and Young, “It could not be made plainer how out of touch these people are with the lives of real people”.
He said, “Quite frankly I am horrified at this blatant display of contempt by high-profile Tories for those with less money than themselves”.
Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Douglas Alexander, questioned Cameron's judgment in appointing Flight to the Lords.
"Last week one of the Prime Minister's senior advisers told us we'd never had it so good and now his latest hand-picked peer comes out with these comments,” he said.
Howard Flight was removed as a Conservative parliamentary candidate in the 2005 general election when he said that the Tories would make deeper spending cuts than they had admitted if they came to power.