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Jeremy Hunt defends '£100k isn't a huge salary' comments

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has defended comments he made last week that £100,000 "isn't a huge salary", telling Sky News it "doesn't go as far as you might think" in his Surrey constituency.

On Thursday Mr Hunt posted on social media about a call he had received from a female constituent in Godalming with the title "constituency calls".

He wrote: "I spoke to a lady from Godalming about eligibility for the government's childcare offer which is not available if one parent is earning over £100k.

"That is an issue I would really like to sort out after the next election as I am aware that it is not [a] huge salary in our area if you have a mortgage to pay."

He was later criticised by opposition MPs and commentators, who pointed out that the average UK full-time salary was last estimated by the Office for National Statistics at £34,963.

Asked whether the comments "sounded right" by Trevor Phillips on Sunday, Mr Hunt said he was talking to a constituent who said what "sounds like a large salary" doesn't go as far as many people think when average local house prices are £670,000.

He added: "If you've got a mortgage and if you've got childcare costs, it doesn't go as far as you might think. And she's right."

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In his recent budget, Mr Hunt increased child benefit payments, making them available to families where one parent earns £80,000 - instead of the previous £60,000.

Qualifying parents receive £24 a week for their first child and £15.90 for each of their other children. These sums will rise to £25.60 and £16.95 a week next month.

The policy change will help 170,000 families with children under 16, or under 20 if they are in full-time education or training.

Mr Hunt said on Sunday: "That's why I want to help families."

"We weren't able to afford to fund childcare for people on the highest salaries, but I was simply saying, that's something I'd love to be able to look at in the next parliament, but we can't afford to do it now," he added.

'Majority would dream of earning that'

Speaking on Thursday, Jonathan Ashworth, Labour's shadow paymaster general, said: "The chancellor has again revealed how desperately out of touch the Tories are with working people when he claims someone earning £100,000 a year is not a 'huge salary'.

"The overwhelming majority of working people in this country would dream of earning that, yet they are all being made to pay the price of fourteen years of Tory failure.

"It is staggering for the chancellor to complain about mortgage costs when it was the Conservative government which crashed the economy with their kamikaze budget and sent mortgage costs through the roof."

Paul Follows, who is the Lib Dem standing against Mr Hunt in the new Godalming and Ash constituency at the next election, said: "If even those people on £100,000 salaries are struggling, especially with mortgage costs, he should perhaps look to his own actions and that of his government.

"But the basic point - that if people on that sort of money are struggling - how about the vast majority of people who earn much less and are struggling with the same issues of mortgages and rent costs and spiralling childcare costs?

"What has he done either as chancellor or as an MP to help those struggling with the cost of living crisis? Nothing."