Tory sorry for ‘working class breeding’ gaffe
New Conservative peer Howard Flight apologised yesterday for attacking Government welfare cuts which he suggested would encourage the poor to have more children.
Mr Flight said he wanted to withdraw the comments minutes after Prime Minister David Cameron said he expected him to say sorry and disagreed with his stance.
“I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused and would like to withdraw the remarks,” he said in a statement issued by the party.
Mr Flight told London's Evening Standard that taking child benefit away from top-rate taxpayers would mean they were “discouraged from breeding”, while benefit claimants would have “every incentive”.
Mr Cameron announced only last week that Mr Flight — who was sacked as an MP in 2005 for outspoken comments about spending cuts — would be given a seat in the Lords.
Asked if he would now prevent him taking his place in the Upper House, the Prime Minister said: “I don't agree with what he said and I am sure that he will want to apologise for what he has said, and I think we can probably leave it at that.”
Mr Flight told the Evening Standard: “We're going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it's jolly expensive, but for those on benefit there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible.”
The comments by the ex-party vice-chairman, who is yet to take his seat in the Lords, sparked angry responses from Labour and the unions and Downing Street swiftly rejected his words.
Speaking to the BBC in the immediate aftermath of the interview's publication, Mr Flight insisted his reported comments were “out of context”, adding: “I really have nothing more to say.”
But soon afterwards Mr Cameron, at a Downing Street Press conference alongside Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, was challenged to say whether he would reverse the peerage award. Within minutes, Mr Flight issued his apology.
The Westminster return of the right-winger, who was barred from defending his Arundel and South Downs seat at the 2005 election by then leader Michael Howard after being taped suggesting the Tories had secret plans to cut spending, has surprised many observers.