MP Nigel Mills faced hard questions about proposed cuts to housing benefit for the under 25s from a young woman who says she only made it to Cambridge University because of state help.
The Amber Valley MP was quizzed by Poppy Noor on Channel 4 news last week, following Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement that cutting the benefit is his next priority.
Ms Noor, now 23 and working in local government in London, told how she was made homeless at the age of 16 because it was unstable and dangerous for her at home and she says she had no option but to leave.
She moved through six different hostels and bed and breakfast accommodation, and was housed amongst mentally ill and very vulnerable people while she studied.
Mr Mills said: “I think she is a good example of what you can achieve. We should be careful to explain what the PM was thinking about. We have got 350,000 people under 25 on housing benefit at a cost of £2 billion a year.
“I recognise that there are some people in vulnerable situations who do need that help - so there are no plans to take off every benefit in that situation.”
Mr Mills was then asked by Cathy Newman the presenter if he thought there would be lots of exemptions to the new ruling, as half the people under 25 on housing benefit are parents and 4,000 are homeless.
He said: “I guess half a £2 billion saving is worth having. A lot of young people leave university, get their first job and have to live at home with their parents. If we want to make a situation where life on benefits is the same as life at work we could give everyone a house in that situation.”
He was asked: “How do you propose to make sure that the people who really need the benefits get them?”
He said: “I guess you end up with some kind of severe hardship test.
“I accept that’s not an easy situation to have.
“But I think we’re still spending £80 billion a year on welfare.”